Reflections on the year that was

So 2017 is in the rear view mirror and the road of 2018 is nearly all before us. I spend most of my time (as I think we all should) looking forward. If we stick with the driving analogy, by far and away the safest course of action is to keep your eyes on the road ahead and not the one behind.

Yet given that life doesn’t actually have roads and is instead more akin to crossing an uncharted territory then looking back is also useful to see how well and how far and how straight you’ve travelled. It provides the opportunity to see whether you’ve gone off course and what corrections might be needed.

A couple of years ago I clarified into four areas, the things I wanted to focus on and invest in – writing, running, reading and leading. I still find that so helpful and have no plans on changing that any time soon. So some brief comments under each of those headings.

Writing

I continue to make at least some of my living through writing and editing. I continue to edit the devotional Voice of Hope for Premier Radio and I write press releases for a Swedish tech company. I also continue to help my family of churches Relational Mission in producing book resources.

This year we are pleased to have produced a re-issue of Mike Frisby’s book Reaching the Nations which is an excellent resource in preparing, sending and supporting cross-cultural workers.

I also helped produce the Dutch translation of Mike’s book Relational Mission

This blog also represents a big part of my regular writing and it’s now in its 11th year. I think I made some steps forward compared with 2016 writing more than twice as many posts (a good number of those being The Curiosity Index) but I’m still looking for a greater consistency. I noticed I had some sizeable gaps over the summer (due to long vacations) and in the autumn (due to overwork). In terms of views and visitors 2017 was my second best year since 2010 with over 42,000 views and 29,000 visitors. That sometimes feels like a lot but really it isn’t. I sometimes think I’d like to invest more time into growing the readership but that really only happens when I write more quality original content.

In terms of posts – the most visited where neither written in this past year nor original to me but these two posts on communion (Scriptures for Communion and Invitations to the table).

I’ve been asked a couple of times this year whether I will write my own book this year but I’m not convinced I really have an audience and you need that these days to successfully publish a book. Writing a good book is hard work and I think I’d want the darn thing to be read by some people. We’ll see.

Goal for 2018: In addition to my regular editing work I’ll be collaborating with Mike Betts again on a new book on corporate prayer which I’m excited about so that will be a big project. In terms of this blog I really want to carve out more time to write down my own thoughts and find again my own voice, rather than simply linking to good stuff that other people have written.

Running

In terms of running I would say that it was a step forward from 2016 but I’m still lacking the consistency I need. My average runs are too short and I could do with upping the mileage if I want to get back to the levels I was at a few years ago. Having said that I’m enjoying my regular Parkrun and have found a training partner which is a great encouragement. Here are my Strava stats.

Goals for 2018: Run 1000km; sub-46 10k; sub 21 5k; sub 1.40 half-marathon

Reading

I managed to read 36 books in 2017 which is one more than last year but short of my goal of 40 books. Again I would say there was a missing consistency with books, I would read in spurts and then find it would be weeks since I picked one up. I think if I can find that consistency then I’m going to enjoy my reading again this year.

I’ve loved reading stories with my kids and it’s been such a joy to introduce them to Narnia, Middle-earth and other adventures. I’ve also finally got into listening to audiobooks (again mostly through doing that with the kids) and I’ve listened to several books this year. I don’t think I’ve done as well at reviewing books this year but notable books of the year would include:

  • When Breath Becomes Air is an incredibly moving account of the author’s battle (which he lost) to cancer. It will help you face your mortality and learn how to live & die well.
  • The Tech-Wise Family is such a helpful little book for our times. Full of honest wisdom about how not to let technology disrupt, distract or even destroy your family.
  • The Coach Model was a really helpful book in my journey to add coaching skills to my leadership abilities.
  • Who is this man? by John Ortberg was a really helpful reminder that you shouldn’t get too comfortable with your own idea of who Jesus is.

Honourable mentions to Parenting, Cultivating a life for God, David & Goliath

Goals for 2018: Read & review 45 books

Leading

This is always the toughest one for me to evaluate – there isn’t a tracking app or a stats plugin to measure how well I’ve led my family, myself or our church this past year. However I believe that on the whole, it’s gone OK. Having listened to my wife and children, I’m generally happy with the past year and feel broadly speaking confident of the things we’ve in place for the coming year. If you’d like to read our end of year newsletter you can find it here.

As for Grace Church, well it started out challenging and I’ve found it a bit of a bruising year in lots of ways. I’ve taken quite a lot of flak and after a while that can take a toll if you don’t know how to process criticism. I also think I probably took on one or two too many things and found myself too tired at the year-end.  Some things felt unavoidable and others could have been managed better. Isn’t that always the way?

So mistakes made and hopefully lessons learned. Some people have left that i had hoped would stay and for some it was the right move on. I also think though that we’ve made great progress. New leaders have emerged, new focus and unity, new people, new nations, hope, fun, family, new locations, and fresh hope for the future. I’m looking forward to 2018 not with a sense of needing to consolidate but instead I hope that we can press forward together.

Goals for 2018: See new community & discipleship groups started in Grace Church.  Do a better job of saying ‘no’.

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