Once again the past year delivered in terms of lovely surprises. In our family, we celebrated three weddings and no family funerals. We survived the after effects of getting flu, COVID, and shingles shots all on the same day. (Note: We don’t recommend this.) We were blessed with people to love and work to do.
For all we might dread or fear in 2023, one thing is assured: there will also be glorious discoveries. New authors. New stories. New relationships. New insights. Here are my favorites from the past year:
- What Pastors Can Learn from Santa Allen. The Christmas edition of This American Life from December 16, 2022 features a former corrections officer (i.e. someone well-acquainted with The Naughty List) who becomes a professional Santa. While there are many sweet moments when you’re a professional Santa, you must also be equipped to deal with the terrible parts: what do you say if a child asks for their parents to be home for Christmas (from prison, deployment, heaven)? There’s even a piece of wisdom about an “it” factor for pastors and counselors.
- Alex Edelman. His stand up routine is the second story on the same This American Life episode listed above. You can listen here. He was voted Best Newcomer at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Festival, but I’m often slow to pick up on the newest thing in pop culture.
- Give Impact, founded by Liz Ward in Charlotte, N.C. Every city, town and village needs something like this. Give Impact is an advisory service that matches available land and buildings (like church property after a congregation closes) with other non-profits and for-profits who need land and buildings, bringing their own ideas, staffing, and financial resources to the table. Our Presbytery hired them to help us discern what to do with a valuable piece of property that we didn’t necessarily want to sell to developers. Our goal: to figure out how to use that property to address the needs of our community. Friends: unlikely partnerships are the future of professional ministry.
- Imani Perry. Princeton University consistenly has one of the best African American Studies faculty in the world. I especially treasure Renaissance People like Dr. Perry who is not only an amazing writer; she is also affiliated with Princeton’s programs in Law and Public Affairs, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Jazz Studies. She wrote one of my favorite books of 2022 South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation which won this year’s National Book Award for Non-Fiction.
- Leidy Klotz book Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less changed my life in 2022. He’s another Renaissance Person who ponders engineering, leadership, behavioral science, and design at the University of Virginia.
- Cole Arthur Riley’s This Here Flesh is so beautiful I could weep. Do yourselves a favor and buy this treasured first book by the Teacher-in-Residence of Cornell University’s Christian House. Riley is a brilliant “household storyteller.”
May all of us be inspired by new stories in 2023 – especially our own. Happy New Year!