21 Great Books To Read In 2018

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More books and less binge-watching will transform your life!

The following books are in no particular order and speak to various areas of thought. From fiction to faith, I would encourage you to read widely and discerningly. Most people today read within a small circle of authors that they like and agree with. If you are only reading authors who think like you, there is limited growth happening in your soul. Read authors who come at things differently, think differently and even believe differently. Release your fear, you are stronger and more discerning than you think, and who knows, you just might gain some new insights or see things from a different perspective.

  1. The Go-Giver
  2. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
  3. Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
  4. Sabbath As Resistance
  5. Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked
  6. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness: A True Story
  7. Why You Think The Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews From Rome to Home
  8. Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God
  9. Man’s Search For Meaning
  10. 1984
  11. Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
  12. A Prayer For Owen Meany: A Novel
  13. The Sparrow
  14. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
  15. As A Man Thinketh
  16. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  17. Pilgrims Progress
  18. Eager To Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi
  19. Disunity In Christ
  20. The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Volumes 1 & 2
  21. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

I’d love to hear what books have and are impacting you!

Please leave your recommendations in the comments.

Teachers That Make A Difference

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Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. ~Benjamin Franklin

Since this week is teacher appreciation week, I took a moment today to think about and pray for all the teachers that impacted my life, helping me to grow into the person that I am today. No one is a “self-made” person. I realize that many people think they are, but the truth of the matter is that we are all products of our biology and biography.

When I speak in public, my father’s friends hear my dad.

When I play the piano, the inspiration of Keith Green paved the way.

When I write, an army of dead biblio-mentors sing through my words.

So, in more ways than we know, we are products of the investments, good and bad, of other people. Teachers make a sizeable investment into the forging of our lives. Here are a few of the teachers that I thought of today:

1. Mrs. Stein, my first grade teacher. Yes, truly she was my first crush. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. The most talented woman in the world. The best at just… everything! Many smitten school-boys would find themselves accidentally hanging out near her house. Luckily for me she lived in the neighborhood. 1st grade is a crucial year. First grade teachers help us become students, little humans, entering into the journey of learning. Thank you Mrs. Stein.

2. Mr. Grady, my 7th – 12th grade band teacher. More than any other teacher, Mr. Grady, or JW as we called him, impacted my life. He was a true renaissance man. He wanted us cultured, savvy, engaged and involved in the music. He challenged me more than any other teacher…forgave me more than any other teacher…frustrated me more than any other teacher…and invested in me more than any other teacher. My continued involvement with music to this day is because of his investment in me. Music has not merely been a thing I do, but truly, a core piece of who I am. Of all the teachers that I have had, he is the one that I hope is proud of who I have become. Thank you Mr. Grady.

3. Ms. Itig, freshman literature teacher. Ok, maybe another slight crush here (you see the pattern right), but, for the first time in my life I developed a love and hunger for reading. It all began with the book “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and today you might say I have a reading addiction. Thank you Ms. Itig.

4. Mr. Kelly, US History and World Civ. teacher. Mr. Kelly was also my church league basketball coach when I was just a little guy, so I thought I would have an easy go of it in his class…not so much. Mr. Kelly was an incredible teacher, and my time with him opened my eyes to justice issues, government structures and problems as well as skills in navigating the civilization in which we live. Mr. Kelly introduced me to Leo Buscaglia who in turn opened up a beautiful concept of love that was beyond my experience. He seemed tough on the outside, but I could tell he cared for all his students. Thank you Mr. Kelly.

The teachers that I remember the most are the ones who went beyond teaching a core curriculum and involved me in something bigger.

Jean Piaget tells us that:

The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.

Education is so much more than test scores and memorizing data.

It is about the curation of the soul…

It is about the formation of the heart…

It is about the unleashing and expansion of the mind beyond the understanding of the previous generations…

In many ways education is a dance between student and teacher as they discover the music that each bring to the process. In an article titled “Uncommon Core” my friend Steve Peha writes:

Education is a deeply personal endeavor. Just as every learner  is unique, so is every teacher. Educators have many things in common, but at their core each possesses something uncommon: their individuality. What makes us unique can’t easily be defined. But in education, it often has to do with the strengths, affinities, and experiences that educators bring to their work and that students bring to school with them each day.  This is the uncommon core. It’s not just what makes us unique, it’s often what makes us uniquely successful. When we tap our strengths, we find the talent to master our challenges. When we tune our attitudes, we connect with a purpose larger than ourselves. When we turn to our affinities—the things to which we are naturally attracted—we unleash our passions and discover our dreams. (check out his web site teaching that makes sense)

The teachers that make the greatest impact are those who have integrated their passion and their understanding together to create a learning environment. In this sense, the best teachers are artists not just information portals.

The art of teaching is a gift, and can easily be lost when we measure the wrong things. In his book “The Courage To Teach” Parker Palmer notes: “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” 

So, to all the teachers out there:

  • Thank you for the long hours you put in most days beyond the contract…
  • Thank you for investing your own money into the lives of your students when the funding doesn’t cover it…
  • Thank you for lovingly caring for a classroom full of kids that lack grace and manners…
  • Thank you for seeing the gold in our children that most people miss…
  • Thank you for creating a world of learning and not just regurgitating the information in the book…
  • Thank you for teaching our kids how to think, not just what to think…
  • Thank you for choosing a career that doesn’t always get many thanks…

This week teachers, may you be reminded of who you are:

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” ~Robert Frost

Graduation: SN Quotes 6/3/12

As we enter graduation season, schedules are getting full, stress is high, and the future is being discussed by an expanding number of people. Who will our graduating young men and women become? Will they pursue their passion and purpose or will they be forced into a mold someone else designs for them?

Will they become Planet Changers, or will they become Planet Dwellers? My prayer is for our young men and women to realize their potential and move in a direction and path that unleashes their soul in creativity, beauty and transformation.

Here’s to our graduates. Some inspiration and thoughts to help them break the mold of the mundane and ordinary. To escape a “good enough” life or a”settled for” life. Dream some God sized dreams that are larger than you and have the capacity to push humanity closer to our potential, free of the influences that would strangle passion, creativity and love…

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!


The fireworks begin today.  Each diploma is a lighted match.  Each one of you is a fuse.
~Edward Koch


You are educated.  Your certification is in your degree.  You may think of it as the ticket to the good life.  Let me ask you to think of an alternative.  Think of it as your ticket to change the world.
~Tom Brokaw


[I]t is clear the future holds great opportunities.  It also holds pitfalls.  The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o’clock.
~Woody Allen, “My Speech to the Graduates,” Side Effects, 1980


Wherever you go, go with all your heart.  ~Confucius


Spread joy.  Chase your wildest dreams.  ~Patch Adams


Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.  ~Albert Einstein


If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.  ~Vince Lombardi


You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands.  Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.  ~John Updike


Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.  ~Judy Garland


It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.  ~Edmund Hillary


The important thing is not to stop questioning.  ~Albert Einstein


Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.  ~Roger Babson


If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.  ~Milton Berle


What we are is God’s gift to us.  What we become is our gift to God.  ~Eleanor Powell


Graduation is only a concept. In real life every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life. If you can grasp that, you’ll make a difference.  ~Arie Pencovici


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.  ~Steve Jobs


Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  ~Mark Twain