2015 Year In Review

This year of 2015 is coming to the end.  2015 was very similar to the last couple of years.  There were good moments but it had its struggles as well.  It was a tough year but hopefully it was a learning and growing experience of a year.  I hope that your year was good.  If it wasn’t, I can relate and hope that 2016 is better for you.  As is tradition for me, I liked to look back and review the year.  Here is the year in review starting with the final book list of books I’ve read this year (which saw the most books I’ve read since 2012).

Final reading list for 2015:

Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer
Wrestling for My Life by Shawn Michaels
Scary Close by Donald Miller
Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
Follow Me David Platt
Pop Goes the Church: Should the Church Engage Pop Culture? by Tim Stevens
Bigger on the Inside:  Christianity and Doctor Who by Gregory Thornbury and Ned Bustard
More Than a Season: Building a Championship Culture by Dayton Moore
The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight
Connecting in Communities:  Understanding the Dynamics of Small Groups  by Eddie Mosley
Jesus Is _______: Find A New Way To Be Human  by Judah Smith
Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
Star Wars: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka

This is the 11th year of keeping track of books I’ve read. Here’s the number breakdown:

2005: 19

2006: 20

2007: 18

2008: 22

2009: 29

2010: 24

2011: 15

2012: 14

2013: 9

2014: 7

2015: 13

2015 Year in Review

Highlights of the year: The highlights were the following:  the start of a new podcast that I help co-host, board game nights with friends, trip in April to Ohio to preach, road trip to Illinois to visit my friends Kyle and Emily and preach in Kyle’s church, the joy of writing for this blog, getting to interact and make new friends and being able to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens with my family.

Five things that 2015 taught me:

1) Even though it’s tough, sometimes all you can do is take things one step at a time, one day at a time

2) I’m better at being patient than I thought I was but I still have a long ways to go to being a patient person

3) Friendship is a valuable thing and truly worth appreciating

4) Laughing is helpful especially in the tough times

5) A kind word has a tremendous impact not just on those you share them with but to yourself as well

*Five personally significant events of 2015:  (Well this year it was three so that’s an improvement from last couple of years)

1) I celebrated the 2 year anniversary of this blog

2) Had opportunity to preach several times at my home church and at several other churches

3) Helped to start a podcast

4) ——————————————–

5) ——————————————–

Ten things I want to do in 2016 (in no particular order):

1) Continue to grow in my walk with the Lord

2) Find a full time job in ministry (would love it to be campus/college ministry related but would be happy serving wherever and doing whatever God has for me)

3) Hopefully find and be in a relationship with a girl that is honoring God

4) Continue to pray for my friends around the world

5) Be content with where and what God has in front of me

6) Find time for recreational reading

7) Travel to see friends

8) Be an encouragement to those around me

9) Learn as much as I can from the experiences I have

10) Smile every day

Five things I don’t want to do in 2016:

1) Grow weary in doing good

2) Not appreciate the blessings God has provided for me

3) Forget where God has brought me and where he’s taking me

4) Hurt people and lose friendships because of my actions

5) Grow angry and bitter at my circumstances

Five things I love beyond all reason currently:

1) God

2) My family and friends

3) Opportunities for the future

4) Reading

5) Writing

Five things I hate with good reason currently:

1) My sinful nature

2) Frustration about circumstances beyond my control

3) Being lonely

4) Being hurt

5) Bad attitudes

I hope that 2016 will be a better year than 2015.  That is my prayer for me and for you.

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My Favorite Films of 2015

As we’re coming to the end of 2015, I thought I would share my list of favorite films of 2015.  They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan is the story of two people each at their own crossroads.  Ryan (played by Ben Barnes) is a vagabond musician who rides the rails and stops to make some money playing music.  Jackie (played by Katherine Heigl) is a newly single mom who is trying to rebuild her life after a divorce.  The two meet and each help the other to find the direction that each needs to take.  It wasn’t a well known movie but I really enjoyed it. (Technically this film debuted in Venice in 2014 but wasn’t released in the US until 2015 so it counts as a 2015 movie)

I Am Big Bird

I Am Big Bird

Probably the best documentary of 2015, I Am Big Bird tells the story about the life of Caroll Spinney.  He is best know for his role as Big Bird (as well as Oscar the Grouch) on Sesame Street.  With classic footage, some pretty cool animation as well as interviews from people who know Caroll best (as well as from the man himself), it is a great film and one that any fan of Big Bird and Sesame Street.

I’ll See You In My Dreams

I'll See You In My Dreams

I’ll See You In My Dreams stars Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom) as a widow who in her former life was a musician and songstress.  She is kind of stuck in a rut until she encounters and befriends a young man who fixes pools as well as an older gentlemen (played by Sam Elliott) whom she falls in love with.  Those two relationships help her to see that there’s still more to life and to enjoy the people she is with including her daughter and her close best friends.  I love a good story and this film tells a good story.

Love and Mercy

Love And Mercy

Love and Mercy is the biopic of the co-founder of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson.  The film tells his story in two parts switching back between young Brian Wilson in the 1960s (played by Paul Dano) while he was with the band and the success that he had and older Brian Wilson in the 1980s (played by John Cusack) while he was in the midst of dealing at his lowest point with his mental health and how he helped to overcome that.  Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti also have strong roles in the film.  I’m a fan of a good biopic and this was a really good one.  (This was also a 2014 film with premiere in Toronto International Film Festival but didn’t get released until 2015)

When Marnie Was There

Marnie

When Marnie Was There holds the distinction (for the moment) of being the last Studio Ghibli film to be released (now granted Only Yesterday will finally get a English dubbing & theatrical release in a few months but this so far is the last new feature).  It is adapted from a book by the same name and tells the story of Anna, a 12 year old girl who goes to live with some relatives in the summer to help deal with her asthma.  While she’s there she meets Marnie, a young girl who helps Anna to learn more about herself and that she is truly loved by her family.  I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan and I really enjoyed this film. (Yes I know this is a 2014 film released in Japan but the English dub of the film released this year so it counts)

Inside Out

Inside Out

One could say now we’re getting to the “big time” films.  Inside Out was the first Pixar film of 2015 and in my opinion was the better film.  It tells the story of a young girl named Riley and the “emotions” that are inside her head.  These emotions (Happy, Sad, Fear, Anger, Disgust) interact and help shape Riley as she grows up.  When a move from Minnesota to San Francisco changes things for Riley and her family, there a lot of changes.  These changes also include the emotions learning to change and grow as well.  It is like many Pixar films in that they work on multiple levels.  I loved it and it’s in my top 5 of favorite Pixar films of all time.

Furious 7

Furious 7

I love the Fast and the Furious series of films all the way back to the first one.  So I was excited to see this film as well and it didn’t disappoint me.  This film, like it’s predecessors, is your blockbuster action type movie.  It was a finale of sorts because of the death of Paul Walker which meant his character’s story arc was ending and they did a good job of finishing that story (without killing the character off).  I know there will be a few more films in this series and hopefully they will do as good a job of sticking to what they’re good at with the series.

Ant-Man

Ant Man

Out of the two Marvel films and all the superhero films that released in 2015, Ant-Man was my favorite.  I loved the story of Scott Lang and how an unlikely guy like him became a superhero.  Paul Rudd did a great job as Scott and was a big fan of his in the film (and like me, Paul is a huge Kansas City Royals fan so it was a very good year for him).  The rest of the cast was great too with Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Judy Greer, Corey Stoll and others.  It had a great mix of comedy and drama and I think sets itself up well for what’s going to happen in Phase 3 of the MCU.

The Peanuts Movie

Charlie Brown and Snoopy

I am a huge Peanuts fan.  I grew up watching the cartoons and reading the comic strips.  My first dog I ever had was a beagle named Snoopy.  So I was super excited for this film to release.  Probably out of any film not named Star Wars, I had the most expectations on this film.  And it didn’t disappoint at all.  I loved this film.  It told a story that is very Charlie Brownesque.  It was a Peanuts movie through and through.  It was a classic story told with 21st century technology (CGI animation).  They got it right with the tone and story and it is an example of what people who are telling new stories of classic franchises should do.

Creed

Rocky and Adonis

Speaking of films that get it right of telling a new story with a classic franchise, Creed is another great example.  It is a spiritual successor/sequel to the Rocky franchise.  It tells the story of Adonis Johnson (played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan) and his journey to become a boxer.  It’s also the story of how he accepts being the son of Apollo Creed, combatant & friend of Rocky Balboa.  Rocky himself is really the only connection to the previous films (there are a few references and mentions and Apollo’s wife is in the film but a different actress [Phylicia Rashad] plays her in this film) and Stallone does a great job of being the Mickey to Adonis’ Rocky in this film.   It mirrors the first Rocky film but also tells its own story.  To me I feel this film deserves at least a Best Director nomination and at best a Best Picture nomination.  It was the best film not named Star Wars to me in 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens

This was the most anticipated film for me for 2015.  I am a huge Star Wars fan and been one since I could remember.  This was the first film of the franchise that I walked into the theater and had no idea what was going to happen (because I was born the year The Empire Strikes Back released and I was 4 when I saw Return of the Jedi and by the time I saw the Special Editions when I was a teenager I had seen the films numerous times and the prequels I had some kind of idea given that they were prequels).  I loved this film.  Like Creed, this film was it’s own story but yet is connected to the films that came before it.  It had great characters (both new and old) and had a great story.  I am interested in seeing what is in store and hope that Disney and Lucasfilm continue to build on a great start to the next trilogy of the Star Wars saga.

So that’s my list of favorite films of 2015.  What is your list?  Do we have similar films or are there other films that you have on your list?  I’d love to hear what your films are.  I’m looking forward to seeing what good films there will be in 2016

Sunday Devotional: “When The Morning Comes”

“1 Trials dark on ev’ry hand,
and we cannot understand
All the ways that God would lead us
to that blessed Promised Land;
But He’ll guide us with His eye,
and we’ll follow till we die;
We will understand it better by and by.

Chorus:
By and by, when the morning comes,
When the saints of God are gathered home,
We will tell the story how we’ve overcome;
We will understand it better by and by.

2 Oft our cherished plans have failed,
disappointments have prevailed,
And we’ve wandered in the darkness,
heavyhearted and alone;
But we’re trusting in the Lord,
and according to His Word,
We will understand it better by and by. [Chorus]

3 Temptations, hidden snares
often take us unawares.
And our hearts are made to bleed
for some thoughtless word or deed.
And we wonder why the test
when we try to do our best,
We will understand it better by and by. [Chorus]” (“When The Morning Comes”)

As I was thinking about what to share for this devotional, the last of 2015, I thought about this hymn.  I sung it in church this morning.  Given the last couple of years and the struggles I’ve went through I was reminded of the words of this song.  Anytime we go through loss and pain, we struggle with why we go through these events.  And sometimes we don’t understand why we go through it.  But the good thing is that we serve and follow the one who has all the answers.  The one who knows what we’re going through.  The one who loves us and cares for us, Jesus.

So whether this year has been a great year or whether it has been a tough year, remember that God is faithful and He loves you and someday we will understand why we have went through those tough times.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 1:46-55

“And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

These words were shared by Mary after hearing from the angel Gabriel, who told her about the part she would play in God’s redemption plan.  She would be the one who would give birth to the savior of the world.  Upon hearing this news, this was her response.

The first thing she does is praise the Lord.  Our response to whatever comes our way is to remember and praise the Lord.  She also mentions how the Lord has remembered Israel and her people.  For 400 years or so there was no word from the Lord but now here was God’s response.  And that response has been such a blessing to us as well.

This Christmas season, let us remember the gift that God has given to us through Jesus and let us give thanks throughout the year because of it.