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My 5 Favorite Books of 2017

December 8, 2017 • By

Leaders are readers, and readers lead. At least that’s what I’ve always been told.

For 2017, I decided to make it my goal to read 15 books. I’ve read 17 so far and I’m working on number 18. I felt pretty good about myself for that, and then my wife told me she just finished reading her 40th book this year. (Insert comical wah wah wah wah trombone sound here.)

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you the five books that had the greatest impact on me in 2017. In no particular order, they are as follows:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
In this book, Greg McKeown walks readers through the process of eliminating the non-essentials in life and work so that our efforts and energy have greater impact. It’s definitely one I’ll read again every year or two to keep the concepts fresh.

 

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing
Dr. Joy DeGruy does an amazing job of explaining the impact that hundreds of years of slavery has had on American black culture. If you’ve ever scratched your head wondering about racial tension this is a great place to start.

 

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Ever struggle to concentrate for more than a few seconds? Cal Newport writes about creating the conditions conducive to strong focus, problem solving, and life free from distractions. I’ve recommended this book to more people this year than any other.

 

How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
N.T. Wright explains the gospels in a way I’ve never considered before. Incredible insights on the Kingdom of God, the coming of Jesus, and the role of the believer today. It might hold a personal record for most highlighted book!

 

Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You
Here John Eldredge shares a pathway to manhood for a generation where Godly fathers were in short supply. Really helpful for understanding where you are along your life’s journey, and how you can make a contribution to the development of other.

 

That’s my list. If you have a book or two that were particularly impactful to you this year, would you mind sharing them in the comments? I’m building my list for 2018. Thanks!


life, Personal Growth

4 Benefits to Having Uncomfortable Conversations

November 15, 2017 • By

I was recently invited onto a podcast to be grilled by the host for an hour.

I don’t know why, but conversations like this have always been difficult for me. I don’t answer questions “on the spot” very well, and I tend to freeze if the topic isn’t something I’m very knowledgeable about.

When I was younger, there were people in my life who would ask me questions about my faith, not in the spirit of exchanging ideas, but to try to make me look foolish. I honestly don’t know why your neighbor’s son was hit by a car, I’m not sure what happens to people who have never heard the gospel, and I have no idea if God can create a rock so heavy that even He can’t lift it.

Truth be told, I’m not much of a theologian. I’ve been reading through the Bible, over and over again, for around 30 years, and I’ve been in ministry for over 20. But I’m a Bible College dropout, and I’ve only read a small handful of books on theology. I know other people who are able to answer difficult questions much more concisely, and with greater confidence than I can.

Fortunately, the podcast was produced by a friend from our church, and it was done in the spirit of honest conversation, rather than an attempt to publicly debate me. Nonetheless, it was very uncomfortable. But, as I’ve been mulling the experience over for the last week, I’ve come to realize that there are some benefits to engaging in uncomfortable conversations.

They force you to really think. A lot of times, we just adopt our beliefs without giving much thought to them. We were taught certain things, they sounded good, and we accepted them. What we believe about God is the most important thing about us, yet we give more thought to the shoes we buy than the faith we buy into.

They make you dig deep. Let’s face it, most conversation we engage in is pretty shallow. It doesn’t take much thought, and doesn’t challenge us. But an uncomfortable conversation is like a workout. We have to search our memory for information we’ve read, observations we’ve made, and evidence we’ve accumulated. This is especially true if you don’t want to give answers like, “because the Bible says so” or “just because”.

They challenge you to decide where you really stand. I know that it’s important to pick your battles wisely. However, it’s also important to know what you believe, and not be wishy washy on certain issues. That doesn’t mean we become dogmatic or inflexible. It just means we move toward becoming established in our beliefs about what is important to us.

Lastly, uncomfortable conversations are humbling. I mean this in a good way. If you approach an uncomfortable conversation in the right spirit, you have the opportunity to learn what you don’t know, and you can start growing in that area. In the instance of the podcast, I was inspired to do some reading on the issues we talked about. I don’t want to merely postulate or philosophize. I want to actually know what I’m talking about.

If you’ve been avoiding uncomfortable conversations, I would encourage you to kindly engage in one in the near future. They are, well…uncomfortable, but so is exercising and learning new skills. Give it a try!

If you’d like to listen to my uncomfortable podcast conversation, click here.