2016

For the 38th time in my life, I have witnessed one year giving way to another. As I find myself quickly approaching the time of life that is most often described as mid-life, I have come to appreciate the rhythmic nature of life. This past New Year’s Eve I must have asked Mary Beth four or five times, “Has it really been an entire year since we did this last time?” We are not the first to experience this speeding up of time that growing older perpetuates.

The calendar has turned, the time for reminiscing past, and wide open spaces await. Before marching too quickly ahead, however, I wish to ruminate for just a moment on some of the fonder moments of the previous year. 365 days ago (366 days to be exact – wasn’t last year a leap year?) I stood at the base of the Rocky Mountains for the first time, and hiked among the majestic Garden of the Gods.  In March we walked the grounds of The Hermitage in Nashville and were able to appreciate one of the best maintained Presidential homes in the United States. In the summer, we took our family on an unforgettable tour of the Northeast with stops at Niagara Falls, Cooperstown,  NY, and the eventual destination of what has become one of my favorite places in the world – Acadia National Park in Maine. Our kids loved camping under the stars, hiking the rugged ocean shoreline, and eating our lunch from the rocks atop Cadillac Mountain. On the way home, we stopped to explore New York City for one day, and our children were able to experience the extremes of our world: sleeping in a tent one night to riding on the subway the next.

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Mary Beth and I were incredibly blessed with the opportunity to spend two weeks at the end of the summer in Ireland, England, and France. It was our second trip to Europe, but this trip was even better as we got to spend the entire time with friends. I’m sure that Mary Beth will never forget spending her birthday in an Irish pub as the entire pub sang happy birthday to her. We hiked along the rocky coast near Howth. We walked the largest sand dune in Europe. We ate fresh oysters from the bay at Archechon after we swam. We watched a Parisian rugby game. We got to enjoy playing with our favorite French couples’ little girl. The memories will last a lifetime.

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When we returned to the States, we didn’t even have time to catch our breath as school had begun and the slow pace of our two-week break was overcome by the hyperdrive of sports schedules, work, and the responsibilities of home. Just as things began toward a tolerable pace, my favorite baseball team had an incredible run into the World Series. I went to four World Series games in 2016. Even as I write that I am having trouble believing that it really happened. The Series was all that sports is supposed to be – unspeakably fun and joyful but overwhelmingly heartbreaking.

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Of course there were so many parts of 2016 I left out. Seems like we had a baseball game, soccer practice, a dress rehearsal, or a softball game every night of the year. There were youth group trips and church camps, sermons preached, Bible classes taught, articles written, family events attended – it’s all rather overwhelming just how much is accomplished in 366 days. And in this world of capturing every picture, sound and video clip – every moment – how do we even have time to look back and revel in what was? Even now, I have not seen most of the pictures we took throughout our travels last year.

I read books in 2016. Clementine and I finally finished reading the Harry Potter series. What a testament to one woman’s creativity. I have kept on plodding through the works of Stephen King. He is helping me think more about the way I write. Mostly I envy his incredible vocabulary, vivid ability to tell stories, and uncanny way of inviting the reader into his world. If I could steal one person’s ability for myself . . .

I spent the better part of the first half of the year reading It for the first time – it ended up being timely as the crazy clown epidemic invaded the East at the end of 2016, and with the upcoming movie, I couldn’t be more exciting. King is at his best when he has time to develop a group of characters as he does in The Stand and It. Those two stories are head and shoulders his best (though I’ve many more to read!) 2017 will begin with my moving on to Needful Things – long one of my favorite novels. I have yet to read one of his stories that I just hate.

I read more fiction than nonfiction in 2016 – maybe for the first time in my life. That is largely because I read with my kids – Harry Potter, Clementine, and I go back quite a ways, but Cecilia jumped into the party with the Baudelaire children and Lemony Snicket – proving also to be timely with Netflix’s upcoming series. But not only the kids, I’m learning how much better I preach when I have been captivated by a story. Preachers are, after all, storytellers, so how better to learn to preach than to read stories?

I watched television and movies as well. As far as horror movies go, the Stitches movie on Netflix is right up my alley. Weird, gory, and hilarious. I remember squeezing that one in at some point and enjoyed it. Mary Beth and I spent our anniversary watching the new movie Manchester by the Sea. I have not watched a movie that was more raw and emotional than that one. It has one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in any movie embodying sorrow, pain, and desperation than maybe any I’ve ever seen. Really, really memorable. We got caught up on House of Cards over the break – still a very engaging drama about politics.

It is freeing to just write again. In the summer of 2016, I signed a contract with Wipf and Stock Publishers to turn my dissertation into a book under their Cascade Books imprint. I was just hitting my writing rhythm as the holidays picked up. As this year begins, I will be focused intently the first six months on completing this book project. I am excited for the opportunity, I believe passionately about my subject, and I hope it will continue to open doors for more people to talk about the all-important subject of sports and faith.

I hope to have the manuscript completed by June 1, and expect that the book will be published sometime in 2018. I will to move to the marketing side of things once the manuscript is complete, and that, hopefully, is going to include providing a lot more attention and effort to this blog.

As I continue writing I will need breaks from the book, and plan to use this blog in the coming months as a sounding board for some of what I’m working on in the book, but also to get far afield from the topic and give my mind a rest. I will plan to post more on the book in the next few days, as this entry has become a rather lengthy entry to start 2017.

 

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