Here are 16 things I learned in 2016:

  1. The Difficulty of Finishing Large Projects– This year I finished my dissertation. That is about 180 pages, about 250 footnotes, and a 17-page bibliography. It was a major undertaking. To get it done, I had to keep pushing, doing a little every day, and not get overwhelmed by the size of it.
  2. The Challenge of Managing Projects– This past summer my church put in a vertical platform lift (think small elevator) so that people got get into our church and switch floors more easily. It was a pretty big expense and had a lot of working parts including architectural drawings, permits, a contractor, a lift company, and the work of keeping the building project from interrupting the work of the church. I had to be there almost every day to walk the deck, talk to the workers, and handle challenges or questions. Even though I was not building, I had to take a lot of time to manage the project.
  3. The Value of Vacation and Sabbath Time– This year I did two great trips—one to Orcas Island with my wife and one to Disney World with my family. They were both total escapes from normal work and life and were incredibly refreshing in a busy year. I learned that I need to have these kind of vacation (though maybe less expensive and closer to home) for my own health and well-being.
  4. The Weight of Constant Pain– This fall I tore my labrum—a part of the shoulder that helps keep the ball in the socket. It was a lot of pain that travelled down my arm and across my back. The other shoulder also get very sore as I compensated for the bad one. I have not had a lot of constant pain like that many times in my life. The only thing close was a month with shingles a few years ago. It was totally draining, and I have a different kind of sensitivity now for people that live with chronic pain.
  5. The Importance of Deep Friendships– This year I got a different appreciation for my close friends. There was not a particular moment or experience that led me to this. I have just really enjoyed my friendships this year.
  6. The Writing Bug– I figured out that I really like writing. Part of my dissertation was an academic essay on my topic. The other part was a book proposal and the start of a book about my answer to my topic. It is a book I am titling The Story Pastor. I did not enjoy the academic writing near as much, but I loved starting that book. I see a lot more writing in my future.
  7. The Difference between Writing and Editing– As part of the writing process, I also had to edit. My first instinct was to edit as I wrote. I learned that this slowed me down. I found it was better to write very fast with my screen covered so I could not even see what I was writing, then I could go back and edit the work later. I have started to do the same things with sermons. Get them on paper as fast as I can and go back and clean them up later.
  8. The Strength of Outsourcing– I hired and editor for my dissertation. This was not an insignificant expense, but it was an essential one. I am not a good editor. I can read a sentence 20 times with the word was instead of want because I am reading what I meant to say. I am getting better, but I learned that sometimes it is best to get someone else to do what they are good at and you are not.
  9. The Fun of Getting a Puppy– We got a golden-doodle puppy this year. His name is Geppetto but we call him Jep. He has been a fun addition and a great companion to the family.
  10. The Importance of Celebration– When we got to the end of the capital campaign and building project at my church, I talked my church leaders into doing a big celebration and dedication for the lift. We rented a tent for the front lawn of the church and had a big picnic outside. I learned that day the value of celebrating the big wins in life. That celebration made everyone feel really good and gave us momentum to finish the year.
  11. The Value of Reading Fiction– I finished the Harry Potter books this year and started into the Grantchester mystery novels. I have never been a huge fiction fan, but I have loved the escape and the fun of getting into fiction. I think it refreshed the mind and also stimulates the imagination in a way that television does not.
  12. The Relationship Between Exercise, Health, and how you Feel– Because of business and especially because of my torn labrum, I did not exercise as much this year or make physically healthy choices. I have felt the difference as I get tired and grumpy more easily. I want to get back on track in 2017.
  13. The Importance of a Soundtrack– I did a lot of research on story and film for my dissertation, and one of the things I learned in that study is how important a soundtrack is to a movie. I have tried to be more intentional about using music to set my own mood and productivity. It has made a big difference for me.
  14. The Human Struggle for Hope– I preached a sermon about faith and politics in September and I watched people’s response to the election quite closely. Some were ecstatic by the result, others were terrified. What amazed me was how many people are trying to find their hope in politics. We have a song that says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” We all struggle for hope, and I have seen too many people put their hope in something far less than Jesus.
  15. 15 The Brevity of Life and the Fleeting Nature of Time– I did six funerals in 2016 and went to viewing hours for at least three others that I was not doing. We don’t like to think about it, but we are all going to die someday. Life is short, and I am amazed at how fast it goes by. My son turned 11 this year. He is only going to be in my house for 7 or so years. I think this understanding reorients my priorities quite a bit.
  16. The Excitement of Expectation– It is strange to see 2016 leave. I am finishing up my dissertation and my doctor of ministry program. The program has consumed a lot of my time and energy for the last 2 ½ years. I am left to wonder, what is next? What does God have in story for me in 2017? At the same time, it is exciting to move on to other writing projects, new ideas at the church, and new adventures with my family.

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