Top 10 of 2021

The soundtrack for the Chud world in 2021 has been set (check it out and tell me what I missed), and now it’s time for some other hallmarks of the year. Drumroll please…

  1. A Touch of Wonder
    I savored this book for the simple fact that I knew it would one day end. I do not remember the last time I was so moved by the power of a good story told even gooderer. The basic premise is that those who appreciate life the most will be given the most to appreciate. Gordon underscores this idea with poignant and romantic writing through bite-sized story-telling, making it a very convenient read. I was brought to tears from the earliest pages and throughout multiple chapters, breathing in deep the wonder of this gift of life. It was a bonus joy when my mom saw it on the coffee table and let me know that it was one of my dad’s favorite books as well.

  2. Ted Lasso 
    The abundant nationwide love for Ted Lasso makes me reluctant to further praise it here, but let’s face it – it’s beloved for a reason. The humor + the humanity + the optimism = pure magic. It also doesn’t hurt that the setting is a fumbling American in a properly un-American football environment. I would love to be in the writing room for the unfolding of these episodes of glory. As a side note, I appreciated Apple TV’s release of one episode each week, which undoubtedly made them more money but also made me slow my intake, almost like TV when I was a kid.

  3. Jesus & John Wayne
    Du Mez fundamentally argues that Trump was not a surprise, but rather a fulfillment, of evangelical desires. She wrote this book with patience and precision, crafting a historical narrative that read more like a thrilling piece of fiction, making it hard to put down. The scary thing is that this storyline is not made up. It is a history uncomfortably intertwined with my own, with many of the names and events being landmarks in my journey as a lifelong church kid. I thoroughly enjoyed the follow up series of podcast interviews with Du Mez via the Holy Post as well.

  4. Long weekend on the Peninsula 
    We spent 5 days as a family on the Kenai Peninsula, and the weather showed up to show off Alaska at its absolute best. Boating with friends, sleeping on an island, bear hunting, camping at Marisa’s childhood stomping grounds, lazy walks and naps and rock collecting on the beach, campfires, stunning hikes and wild boys to ensure our riches. What a gift of a state this Last Great Frontier is.

  5. The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill
    This was a painful listen, but one that was equally addictive to explore. I can’t believe how quickly the long-form episodes passed. In the end, I found myself both stunned and grieved at the way the Church that claims to represent Jesus to the world has so hated and abused itself. It was timely in a season when the world and the Church alike have forgotten the art of effective, generous disagreement. I finished The Rise & Fall sobered and keenly aware of our fragility and the need for a much greater humility if we have a prayer of honorably and accurately representing Christ.

  6. Marisa’s 40th & MSHF
    My wife continues to stun me (and the world for that matter), but this year took on new significance. 40 years on the planet. 20 years married. Taking on new ventures of servanthood and significance in the community. Marisa is unencumbered, undeterred, and unrestrained. She has constantly moved me and everyone who has encountered the force that she is, blending a childlike freedom with a seasoned tenacity. The boys and I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with her and enjoy living in the wake of her confident exploration of these days on planet earth. This girl is on fiahhh.

  7. A Burning in My Bones
    My goodness, what a read. I delayed taking in the last few pages because of the inevitable finish, but I loved the journey Collier took me on of Eugene’s life. I was enraptured from the beginning with the way he captured the Flathead Valley, where I too spent many a childhood summer. The first three quarters of the book were storyline, and while the final quarter continued the trend, more of Eugene’s belief system was articulated in those pages, and it packed a punch after hearing such a well-lived life. Collier meandered through Peterson’s high and low points, weaving in journal entries and excerpts from his abundant personal letters and describing his constant wrestle between a practical theology that could bridge the university and the butcher shop. Challenging and insightful insight poured out of every story and stage, and I finished with a renewed faith in the complicated yet simple Church and a strong desire to be a more devoted disciple of Jesus.

  8. Jesus, I Have My Doubts
    Jon Foreman has long been a profound influence on my life and thinking, so I’m aware of the bias that informs my opinion every time he releases something new. But I remember sitting quietly with these lyrics a few days after the events of January 6th at the Capital, thinking he must have written them during those days:

    Jesus, what a week we’ve had
    Jesus, has the world gone mad?
    Jesus, feels like the world’s in pieces
    I’m sure You’ve got Your reasons
    But I’ve got my doubts
    Jesus, I’ve got my doubts

    I so appreciate Jon’s willingness to keep singing his song in a foreign land. His pursuit of questions beyond questions is always a place of equal comfort and conviction.

  9. Lincoln Starting School at Cottonwood Creek Elementary
    Since when did choosing a Kindergarten start feeling like choosing a college? (Pensive nod to an honorable mention on this list, the Coddling of the American Mind.) Even as an educator myself, I couldn’t have anticipated the complex emotions and excitement that would come with a choice of how my firstborn spends his 9-3:45. The process was (and is) utterly exhausting, exposing all-the-more that second-guessing is my default setting. As Rachel Held Evans says, “parenting is one big exercise in changing plans.” And after it all, he has ended up at the same place I entered first grade some 35 years ago.

  10. New AP Role
    I made a shift into school leadership this year. Although I have long felt there to be an overemphasis on the concept of leadership itself, I have also entered into many of the stereotypical struggles of one such position. All in all, I have enjoyed myself immensely, and it has felt like a natural fit. That is due in no small part to phenomenal elders and mentors who have run their race well and wisely encouraged me as I enter a new phase of my own journey. “Never have I let my schooling interfere with my education,” said Mark Twain (probably).

Bring it, 22.

Honorable Mentions: