Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Top 10 Lists - Books

It's going to be tough to choose 10, but here we go (in no particular order)...

First, a couple of books on money...

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis
I've continued to be intrigued by the financial crisis, especially as it pertains to real estate lending.  A great documentary on this topic is Inside Job, and I also recommend the movie Too Big to Fail, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Money - Master the Game, by Tony Robbins
As long as you can deal with a little hype ("what I'm about to share with you in the next chapter is going to change your life!!!"), this book is really good.  I still haven't finished the entire book (it's almost 700 pages long), but I've put into practice several things...and it has changed my entire life!!!

Next up is fiction.  I read, or listen to, pretty much everything that John Grisham, David Baldacci and Michael Connelly put out, but I thought I would add two books from new-to-me authors.

The Martian, by Andy Weir
I purchased both the kindle and audible books for this, and during our California/Oregon Adventure I went back and forth between reading and listening.  The movie is great, but the book is even better.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
I can't remember where I first heard about this book, but I'm glad I read it.  The two themes of the book, the 80's and video games, are not themes that I'm really into, but I couldn't put the book down.  Armada is his second book, and it's great as well.

Gay Marriage is a pretty divisive topic in our culture today, and our church has continued to wrestle with how to be love and walk with our gay friends.  I've read a lot on these topics this year, but these two books were the most helpful.

Redeeming Sex, by Debra Hirsch
Quite possibly the best book I read this year.  I'm excited that Debra is going to be in Memphis at the end of February!

People to Be Loved, by Preston Sprinkle
I just finished this book.  I appreciate his posture in writing.  He's very humble and doesn't back away from the challenging questions that the church must wrestle with.

Here are two books I heard about while listening to podcasts...

We Learn Nothing, by Tim Kreider
I heard about this book from Tim Ferriss' podcast.  It's a book of essays, and it's hilarious.

Everything that Remains, by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
These guys, aka the Minimalists, were interviewed by Rob Bell on his podcast.  This is their story.  I also recommend this more practical book of essays.

These two books were most helpful for sermon prep...

A Fellowship of Differents, by Scot McKnight
I just finished up a five month series called Church=Family.  This was one of my primary influences.

The Story of God, the Story of Us, by Sean Gladding
I'm getting ready to start a series on the grand narrative that is the Bible.  This will be the book that I recommend to our folks at NC.

Bonus:  These last two have probably influenced me more than any others.

The Power of Vulnerability, by Brene Brown
So this is not a book but a workshop, but if you've never ready anything by Brene Brown, this is a great place to start.  It covers material from her first three books.  Her writing continues to shape me in pretty profound ways.

The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning
A year ago I felt that I needed to start 2015 off by re-reading this book, and I'm so glad that I did.  I wanted to go back to the message of grace, and I feel that I've been coming back to it throughout the year.  This is one of those books that I feel like I need to read every few years.

2015 Top 10 Lists - Moments

2015 was a great year.  These are some of my top moments.  As I reflect I'm truly grateful to God for all that He's done!

10.  Bella - 2015 marks our family's first full year with a dog since we had Jack.  We love her.  She's such a smart and loyal dog, and the boys take turns sleeping with her each night.

9.  House - We built a 250 sq ft screened porch this summer, and it is fantastic.  It became my primary office for much of the fall, and I'm looking forward to the many memories we'll have in that space through the years to come.

8.  Travel - This summer we spent two weeks in California and Oregon.  We started with a week in Oakland & Yosemite, then drove north for a week, in the process making stops in Mendocino, Etna, Ashland, & finally Portland.  It was definitely an adventure.  And this fall we all went to Washington D.C.  Micah was still a little young to truly appreciate it, but it was perfect for Adam.

7.  Music - For a long time making music was a part of my job.  Now that it's not, I am finding myself having so much fun.  I'm in my fourth year with the Memphis Men's Chorale, I love playing at NC under Kirk Smith's leadership, and I just played in the band at our fourth annual Wassailing for Water Party.  We also love having a piano in the house.

6.  Work - I've been a real estate agent for over five years now, and as much as I love it, this year I got to try my hand at renovating two houses in my neighborhood.  My partner Rob and I brought new life into century-old houses, gave meaningful work to our crew, and have added two awesome families into the Annesdale-Snowden neighborhood.  Hoping to do more of this in 2016.

5.  Neighborhood Church - NC turns 8 years old in a few weeks, and I am so grateful to be a part of this family.  We continue to wrestle through the challenges of how to be a faithful witness in our culture today, but I continue to be grateful by what God is doing.

4.  Turning 40 - There are definitely some negatives that go with this (such as how sore I was the other night after playing basketball for an hour with 5th and 6th graders), but overall I've loved the start to this new decade.  I feel more "comfortable in my own skin" than I ever have.

3.  Micah - Not a day goes by that this little guy doesn't make me laugh.  I love his personality and creativity, and I can't wait to see how it continues to develop!  While at Kanakuk this summer Micah decided that he wanted to give control of his life to Jesus!

2.  Adam - Earlier this fall Adam and I started a weekly tradition of having breakfast together.  Adam normally picks the place (his favorite is Bob's Barksdale), and we read a chapter from this book.  I want to create rites of passages for the boys, and this is how I'm starting.  This has been a really cool transition year for our relationship.  I think Adam and I are going to be good friends.

1.  Mandy - We celebrated 16 years of marriage this summer, our 20th Christmas together, and we're about to celebrate 10 years in Memphis.  There's no one I'd rather share these milestones with!

Honorable Mention - Star Wars

BONUS - Mandy has put together a video with highlights from our year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Top Ten Lists - Music

Another good year for music!

First up...two of my favorite bands released new albums this year.  They never fail to impress!

Mumford and Sons


Next up is one of my favorite artists of all time.  Mandy and I got to see him live this year at the Orpheum.  I haven't been as much of a fan of his last few albums, but this one is great.  Sorry there's no video.

Harry Connick, Jr.

Did you see the movie Chef?  It's a great movie for so many reasons.  The soundtrack is one of the main ones!  Once again no video.


Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me is an incredible song.  Bon Iver's cover (with S. Carey) is even better.

Bon Iver

I discovered this next band on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series.  I'd really like to see them live sometime.

The Family Crest

S. Carey started out as Bon Iver's drummer.  Now he has his own gig.

S. Carey

I'm not sure how I heard about this next guy, but I've played his music as much as anyone else this year.

Olafur Arnalds

My favorite song we sang at Neighborhood Church this year was United Pursuit's Simple Gospel.

United Pursuit

The last two songs (and yes, I know this makes it a Top 11 List, but who's counting!) feature the human voice and the human voice alone.  First, a choral piece by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo.


Finally, a cover of Cover of Mumford and Son's After the Storm

The Swingles

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

2015 California & Oregon Family Adventure

We are getting ready to head to the Portland airport and return to our lives in Memphis.  It's been a great two week adventure, and here are some of my highlights...

Weather - I hear that it’s going to be 100 degrees for the next few days in Memphis.  That’s so sad.  The weather here on the west coast was wonderful.  Crisp and cool in the morning.  Sunny but not too hot in the afternoons.  And most of all, NO HUMIDITY!!!

Books - As someone who has purchased primarily kindle books over the past several years, I must say that after spending some time by myself at Powell’s last night, physical bookstores are great.

Food trucks - I look forward to living in a world where there are great food trucks in every city.  Mandy isn’t quite as fond of food trucks as I am, so I shall pray for her.

Memphis - I know that Memphis has a bad reputation in many parts of our great country, but I have to say that there were times in Oakland and Portland where I was more cautious walking around than I am in Memphis.  Case in point:  yesterday we saw a man walking on the street, yelling and with a paper bag over his head.  Never seen that in Memphis.

Friends - While in the bay area we got to catch up with friends.  Grateful that even though years have passed and we're separated by 2000 miles, we can pick up like no time has past!

Walking - Mandy was tracking our miles walked.  She said we walked around 60 miles over the two weeks.  For Micah and his little legs, that’s got to be the equivalent of over 100, right!  And speaking of mileage, Mandy says that we logged over 4000 miles of driving this summer.  No wonder I’m tired of driving.

Creation - our family’s verse for our two week trip was Psalm 19:1 - "The heavens declare the glory of God.  The skies proclaim the work of His hands."  We all memorized it while at Yosemite, and throughout the trip we recited it back to one another.  During our time I was reminded that our God loves beauty.  Whether it was the granite rising up thousands of feet into the sky at Yosemite, the canopy of Redwoods we saw driving to Mendocino, the ocean crashing against rocks as we curved above on Highway 1, looking up at the stars (and even a planet) from a meadow in Yosemite, or seeing Mt. Shasta and Mt. Hood peeking above the clouds as we drove on interstates, my response each time was one of awe and gratitude.  This trip was so good for our souls.

Family - Finally, the four of us made some great memories that we’ll hopefully never forget.  We laughed a lot.  We rested (a bit).  Mandy and I broke up the occasional fight between the boys, but for the most part they did great together.  The boys got to experience culture in ways that they normally don't.  I’m grateful that we could spend this time together!