Some time ago, we were out with some friends on New Year’s Eve, and each person shared their “Top 10 of the year.” It took me a while to accept that it was a category-crossing activity, which doesn’t fit too kindly into my brain’s organizational abilities. But it has since become a personal tradition, and yet another helpful way to reflect on some of the defining moments and influences in my life. This year I decided to further the reflection with some explanatory thoughts below each number.
In the late fall of last year, Marisa and I consumed a new book by John Mark Comer called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. We were left in deep consideration over a number of topics, but our chief takeaway was the application of a weekly Sabbath. Every Friday evening, we shut off our phones for 24 hours, feast on Marisa’s homemade pizza, get outside as a family, take naps (most notably me and 4yo Owen), and take time to intentionally drink in the present riches God has given. After pizza and before we dive into our skillet cookie & ice cream, we hold hands and sing a prayer together:
We remember how You rested, and we want to be like You
So when we’re tired and we’re tested, may You find us to be true
We slow down, and we breathe deep *sigh*
Cos when we look around, we have all we need
Hear our Sabbath Prayer; make us more aware
Thank You for the love we share
- The Beatles
One day this spring, my son asked me who was the best band ever. I nonchalantly answered, “The Beatles.” I did not anticipate that, for the next five months, John and Paul’s tunes would be dominating the Chud family soundtrack and cartoon time (thanks Beat Bugs); my kids would be correcting my lyrical shortcomings, and we’d be having philosophical conversations about whether or not all you really need is love.
- Kansas City Chiefs
Growing up in Alaska, you tend to have your pick of professional sports teams, and it’s based largely on who is most dominant at the time. I still feel a faint affection for the Bengals dating back to Boomer Esiason’s left arm. But I earned legitimate loyalty stripes for the Chiefs through 8 meager years living in Kansas City, and my buddy Joel and I defended them in Boston bars while being taunted by drunk Pats fans. Then Patrick Mahomes happened. You can’t not love this guy, who plays the game like a true idealist and shatters records like it’s a side hobby. There were so many magical moments throughout the past season, but the Wasp call on Super Bowl Sunday was one of the more legendary. I’ve made a superfan of my 6yo, who requested a Chiefs-themed birthday party, enjoys casual conversations with Alexa about useless postseason stats, and cries every time the men in red prove themselves human. I’m afraid my boy has peaked too early with these Super Bowl Champions, and while he may very well live out his childhood in the days of the dynasty, he, just like Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce, will eventually grow old. I can’t help but imagine my son mumbling to his own children about the good old days of the 2020 Chiefs.
- Principal Certification
I started an online principal certification in January and wrapped it up during the opening months of the 2020-21 school year. It’s helpful to self-reflect as a student myself and find new depths of empathy for the kids I teach and advise. I realized afresh the difference between a good grade and actual learning. And while I couldn’t have planned it, studying leadership in the midst of a surprise worldwide pandemic made for some insightful observations (along with the recognition that everybody is faking like they have a clue what they’re doing). I finished with no greater urge to rush into administration, but I’m grateful to have gleaned more intentionally under my remarkable principal’s guidance and to now entertain the option of school leadership in the years ahead.
- Adam’s 40th
I received a request for some words that might be shared at a dear friend’s 40th birthday party, and while COVID had stalled just about any travel plans, I made an exception out of the deep urging in my heart to be there in person. A wise sensei once told Marisa and I to pay attention to who God builds our lives with. He said that who we were called to be with was just as important as what we’re called to do. Half a lifetime later, I have found few mantras to be more true. The trip was brief (shorter, in fact, that my required quarantine upon return), but it confirmed the truth that my greatest wealth is found in my closest relationships.
- Jayber Crow
Wendell Berry is a wonder, and this landmark novel is too. Hands down, my favorite book of the year. It does not capture you with an enthralling plot, but rather it is meant to be sipped like a fine whiskey with a slow burn. The order of the author reads similar to that of Mark Twain’s prior to Huckleberry Finn, and it sums up much of the book’s outlook:
Persons attempting to find a “text” in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a “subtext” will be banished; persons attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise “understand” it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers.
- American Church Politics
In 2016 I was disheartened with the American Church, and in 2020 I sadly found myself a bit disillusioned. It began with a deep lament over George Floyd’s murder and crescendoed as the presidential race finished (or didn’t, depending who you’re talking to). Throughout it all, I argued, bit my tongue, rebuked, and repented. I questioned – and continue to question – what seems to be a declining likeness of Jesus in the Church that claims to represent Him. It has become far too normal that we trade our heavenly allegiance for an earthly one. And while I don’t understand the unwavering, unapologetic loyalty of evangelicals to Donald Trump, I also don’t want to be found claiming to have a corner on the unpredictable, untameable, boundary-breaking Jesus myself. Ultimately, I think I just want to ensure that my integrity is intact, and that the Church’s is too.
- Liverpool FC
Liverpool have entertained over the years, and 2019 saw them back at the top of the world having won the Champions League. Nonetheless, I was still in single digits when they last conquered England. Under the management of Jurgen Klopp, at once the most passionate and the most fatherly of coaches I’ve seen, the Reds have inspired at unprecedented levels. Sharing the moment of their historic EPL victory with my elder brother, who made me a supporter in the first place, was a special one.
- Mountain Biking
I invested in a “proper” mountain bike this spring, and countless summer evenings saw me blissfully weaving through Alaskan trail systems. I managed to pop only one tire and run into only one bear, but the moments where I tasted the abundant life were many. It’s similar to tearing down the edge of a freshly groomed trail on quiet night of skiing. It’s like finding the pocket with a collection of musicians that are all much better than me. And it’s flying between the trees of Matanuska Lake or down Lost Lake toward Seward, just slightly beyond my control, soliciting an unprovoked, joyful, and longing filled groan from deep to deep. I’m hopeful this coming year I’ll be able to share a bit of this magic with my son.
I remember seeing Lin Manuel Miranda’s mixtape origins at the White House and thinking it was something unique… but I couldn’t imagine how much more he could write. Once I finally saw the fully recorded show, I was repeatedly – and blissfully – dumbfounded. I have cried at the soaring, smooth melodies of “Helpless,” pondered the brilliance of our founding fathers (and grieved the self-centeredness of our current leadership) through the insight of “One Last Time,” and sat with my sons in the long-parked-in-the-garage-minivan explaining the notion of forgiveness after Eliza shows Alexander just that. Besides, who doesn’t love hearing their toddler stumble around cluelessly rapping “how does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore…” History has its eyes on all of us.