Life Lessons of 2022

  1. Allow your self-praise to outweigh your self-criticism (hat tip: Carla Chud). Last year, this was a guiding principle in my approach toward others, but I never considered showing myself the same grace. For there to be any integrity or successful application of this idea, it needs to first be solidified within me. I have come to realize just how important it is for me to be in control of my own narrative, which requires me to strive for an unhealthy perfection and favor the voice of inner critic rather than the voice of my Maker.

  2. The world tilts toward an extrovert ideal (hat tip: Suzan Cain). I have been mindful of this truth for some time, but Cain’s Quiet (which I finally got around to reading) illuminated the full impact of the world’s arrangement in accordance with more outgoing personalities. The educator in me has been particularly challenged to ensure that I value and cultivate a learning environment that values the 50% of humanity that too easily remains unseen.

  3. Creativity, in all its forms, is core to human purpose. Long before the Fall, God created and made little creators in His likeness. As Annie Dillard says, “The question of agnosticism is, ‘Who turned on the lights?’ The question from faith is, ‘Whatever for?’ ” Fundamentalist Christianity has built walls around a core set of beliefs, and somewhere along the way, it has lost the context for why such beliefs exist. “In building for the kingdom come, we must move beyond the goal of fixing things and instead set our hearts on the art of making” (Makoto Fujimara).

  4. Knowledge is understanding what’s right; wisdom is understanding when it’s right  (hat tip: lots of wise folks, but most significantly, Lincoln Chud). I’m not sure where I picked up this definition, but it has been the one that has been solidified this year, often in corrective discussions with my eldest, currently knowledge-driven son. As Adam Welcome has said, “if Alexa can answer it, we need to be asking different questions.” There is a significant distance between knowledge and wisdom, and I want to be found chasing after the latter. There were other great takes that stuck with me, like Adam Grant’s: “If knowledge is power, then wisdom is knowing what you don’t know;” and Richard Rohr’s: “Wisdom is the ability to hold onto the good of order alongside the good of disorder;” but I have found the timing element to be wisdom’s most significant mark.

  5. Beware the promise of abundance without dependance (hat tip: Andy Crouch). In this core thesis, Andy Crouch brilliantly ties together the dangers presented by modern consumer culture, technology, and individualism, which I see at deep work in my life and world. Core to the preservation of our shared humanity is work of ensuring we don’t eliminate the need to be needed (and known) by one another.

  6. Everyone grieves differently, and every situation requires a different approach, so be slow to offer answers and quick to offer presentness. The past 3 months have been uniquely full of grief among some of our closest relationships, and there have been many days spent questioning what responsibility is ours to bear. If nothing else, I have gone deeper in the conviction that most people just need to know they are not alone in their sadness. I love the way Oswald Chambers articulates it: “Never make a principle out of your experience. Allow God to be as creative with others as He is with you.”

  7. Be compassionate to all, but reserve true empathy for your inner circle (hat tip: David Blackwell). Sometimes hasty kindness is not the most loving gift, and it can subsequently produce unhelpful expectations. We realized this year that the length of our relational “B List” was probably creating more bad than good. Clarifying circles of priority is painful work, but it produces fruit that can actually endure.

  8. Trust your instinct over your intellect. I first wrote this line in 2006 as a summary of Bono’s biography. This year I have felt the stronger, more consistent challenge to resist over-analyzing and simplify my approach. As Steinbeck hypothesizes, “Laws change, but got-to’s don’t.”

  9. Live the questions (hat tip: Ralf Neumann). Increasingly, mystery becomes less an intimidating stranger and more a welcome companion. I am coming to believe the ongoing acceptance of unresolved places is simply a mark of maturity. Here it is worth quoting Rainer Maria Rilke at length: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

  10. Don’t take so much responsibility on yourself that you don’t have any room left to be yourself (hat tip: Justin Lebeau, Philip Chavanne). All men would do well to pay better attention to the boy inside their souls, but I probably do even more. The Heath brothers warn against the “soul-sucking force of reasonableness.” I must design and protect moments where I am responsibility-free and spontaneity-full.

Top 10 of 2022

  1. Welcome to Wrexham, Episode 17: “Wromance”
    This series wonderfully captures the unique, multifaceted meaning of a local football club to a small British town. But as the season itself began to build toward a climactic end, episode 17 took a pause to offer commentary on the influence of sport on male relationships – firstly of co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, then “bromance” in general (including an exploration of that very term) before eventually aiming full focus at father-son dynamics. The episode concludes with a tear-jerking montage of Wrexham-connected fathers and sons to the tune of Cat Steven’s aptly named “Father and Son,” and it has made its mark each of the equally significant times I’ve viewed it.

  2. Sheldon Chalet
    “Oh, we don’t need models; we just need some decent looking people to take pictures of.” And thus began our three-day stint as not-models at the Sheldon Chalet, a private luxury resort perched on a nunatak just 10 miles from the summit of the tallest mountain in North America. There may have been a fake tear or two along the way for effect (#modeltalk), but the absolute wonder was absolutely real, and we were floored by God’s Alaskan majesty and the still-unfolding legacy of Don Sheldon.

  3. Chiefs Bills playoff
    We were vacationing in Kona when the Chiefs played their divisional playoff game against the Buffalo Bills. Our boys worked over the patrons of the Royal Kona open-air bar, making the rounds for high fives each time Kansas City scored (and there were plenty of chances). When all was said and done, there had been chairs and sandals and full cups thrown, strangers embraced like long-lost family, sons squatting in time out against brick walls facing the ocean in the opposite direction of the TV screens, voices lost to screaming cries, and 13 seconds of Mahomes magic that made not only the greatest playoff game of all time, but also a family memory that will be hard to replace.

  4. Fingernails
    Sometime in early summer, I was driving and felt something stuck in my teeth. After rummaging around a bit (as you do), I realized I had chipped my front tooth. I set the little morsel aside and purposed to schedule a dentist appointment before going back to the thoughtless task of chewing my fingernails. I immediately realized the primary location of my chewing was now half a tooth. At that moment, I decided I was done chewing my fingernails – no light task for someone who has spent the past 30+ years doing so. And yet, here I am 6 months free, the self-decided poster child of nail-free-teeth. Not sure if I’m old just yet, but you can most definitely teach a forty-year-old dog a new trick or two.

  5. Vipers in NO
    A decade or so ago, three of my dearest friends and I drove from Kansas City to Vegas, and we were not confident we could ever top it. This year, against all odds, we met in Atlanta and made our way to New Orleans… and top it we did. The friendships you make in those formative twenty-something-years are golden, and when there are tears shared in both heart pain and absurd laughter, you are reminded of that irreplaceable truth.

  6. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
    This book was highly recommended from a friend I highly respect, and I cherished it throughout the fall months, typically reading bite-sized portions on Sabbath mornings. There were times Dillard’s writing was too scientifically detailed for my liking, but the authentic nature of her own awe profoundly stirred mine as well, and without her specificity, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. Each time I finished a section, I caught myself staring out the window paying attention to the earth and its Creator with a rejuvenated delight and determination.

  7. Sailing to Catalina
    Took a trip on a catamaran with a group of quality blokes – both old and new lads, for Justin’s birthday. I realized the night before I flew to LA that I had very little clue what we were doing, and packed my passport wondering if we were going to Mexico. A few nights of sleeping on a net over the water and under the stars, a few scooter rides, a few bogeys, a few dolphins, a few pivotal conversations with a few good men… and my heart was alive in ways I had forgotten. As I’ve confessed elsewhere, while all men would do well to pay better attention to the boy inside them, I probably do even more. The Heath brothers warn against the “soul-sucking force of reasonableness.” I must design and protect moments like this one where I am responsibility-free and spontaneity-full.

  8. Yellowstone
    At its worst, Yellowstone is a shamelessly disreputable mobster show. At its best, it’s an intriguing commentary on the ways the past, present, and future clutter and coexist. And at its absolute best, it’s a window into the finest scenes God dreamed up for the planet, and if you let it, you’ll be brought back to sweet simplicity in all the right ways. It has lingered with me far more than I would have initially expected. A conversation between John Dutton and a fading elder cowboy in a recent episode captured the sentiment well:

I’ve come to believe that perfection only lives in little moments… it can’t be sustained over hours, just instances. Little wisps of time. Then the world becomes imperfect again. But this day damn near proved me wrong… 

Well John, if it wasn’t perfect,  it was damn close. The governor of Montana sleeping on the side of a mountain with his boots on… This world may have a chance yet. 

  1. Counseling & Coaching
    In an effort to keep up with routine maintenance on the things that matter most (thanks for the nudge, Bryce), I experienced some coaching and counseling this year, some alongside Marisa and some on my own. Although there are moments I still wonder if we are just poking a beehive toward the inevitable creation of a new problem, the various sessions have offered meaningful insight into core places I (and we) are still being formed.

  2. Solo Birthday Retreat
    On my 40th birthday, my wife and friend surprised me with a 24 hour, personal fly-in retreat. The heart of the time was spent on the front deck overlooking Knik Glacier, sipping whiskey by firelight, pouring over the wisdom of people who have loved and challenged and formed me into my current self. I started a song when I was twenty, wrote a second verse at 30, and finished this last one during my retreat in that sacred space: 

10 more pages turn
And I have come to learn
That I don’t write this script
Pretend adulting still but
Filled with children and greater consequence
I raise my kids inside the
Story where my own story began
Gray haired hints of wisdom
Show when I’m good not knowing the plan

Here I am now, half the way through
Perusing second mountains
Viewing all these riches, singing
Master, who am I?
To be honored as a son
To be trusted as a father 
To announce the kingdom come
And bring it now

Honorable Mentions: 

  • Ben rector “The Joy of Music” 
  • Kristine Dimarco “The Field”
  • Intentional Family Podcast 
  • Andrew Peterson & Andy Crouch