As we reach the end of another year, I become reflective. Looking back at things I’ve learned, seen and done in 2022. I thought I’d put a little collection of some of my favorites from the year. This list is more for me than for you (no offense) but you may find it interesting, or it may inspire you to do a similar list of your own. I’ve included lots of links, each with a brief description, so you can check things out if you’d like. Praying for an amazing new year.

Favorite Place Visited: Island of Crete: Greece

We had the great privilege this year of visiting several of the Islands of Greece. We were there to watch our daughter play water polo with some international competition. We saw so many amazing things like the Acropolis and the deep blue waters and sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, but our favorite stop was Crete. The combo of beauty and history was amazing and we loved the food. Here are Kim and I right on the water eating octopus and other delicacies.

Favorite books I read:

I’ll keep this to a handful …

  • Bullies and Saints by John Dickson – this was such an honest and readable look at church history. I loved that he started with the Crusades and then went backward to go forward.
  • Making Faith Magnetic by Daniel Strange. I liked this one so much I preached a series on it. It is a great modern approach to apologetics and evangelism.
  • Future Church by Will Mancini and Cory Hartman. Even though Mancini has since had a moral failure – this book was a spark that will shape our church as we look to the next chapter.
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear. One of the best books I’ve ever read.
  • A Burning in my Bones by Winn Collier. This biography of Eugene Peterson was deeply moving and challenging to me as a pastor.
  • The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. I experimented with some old prayer methods that were new to me. This book and it’s three companion books were very helpful in providing a practical framework.
  • The Road to Character by David Brooks. I read this in preparation for a course I taught. It was insightful and very well-written.
  • Power in Weakness by Timothy Gombis. This book about Paul’s leadership transformation after his conversion was transformative for me.
  • 1984 by George Orwell. This hit too close to home tbh.

Favorite Local Food Joints:

If you aren’t in or around Erie, PA you can skip the next couple of categories.

  • Every Friday, I head down to pick up a couple of loaves of fresh sourdough and maybe one of the incredible pepperoni and cheese pinwheels at Majestic Baking Company. They have been baking bread since 1915 in one of the oldest wood fired brick ovens in the region.
  • Another one of my regular stops is at Urbaniak Brothers Quality Meats. Local produce abounds but I’m there for the meat. They have butchers available to give any cut on any meat that you like. There are a few other gems inside that I must point out. I have gotten the homemade pierogies that are to die for. But in the front corner is another local bakery with some amazing treats (Herb and Honey) and there is a freezer near the produce section that has Pot o Gold ice cream. It’s from a local dairy farm and is some of the best we’ve ever tasted.

Favorite Local Restaurants:

  • Our go-to for any special event is Bar Ronin. Chef Dan Kern has been recognized as one of the best in the country. The atmosphere and vibe and playlist are second to none, but the food will knock your socks off.
  • Then for a more grab-and-go options, Dinas Authentic Dominican Kitchen, is one of my favorites. I love the pork and rice and sweet plantains. And if Dina is making empanadas that day – you’ve hit the jackpot!
  • Finally, I’ve used Federal Hill Smokehouse to cater some special events this year as well as just some family dinners. They’re open until 3 pm but usually sell out before that. Their beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey is all incredible. You can watch them bring it in from the smokers and cut and wrap in front of your eyes.

Favorite Grace sermon series to preach:

Both of these were incredibly difficult for different reasons and maybe that’s why they were so rewarding.

  • In June, Pastor Sarah and I preached through the book of Ecclesiastes in a series we called, What is the Point? It has long been one of my favorite books of the bible because of its sheer honesty.
  • Good Grief – this fall I was certain that God had prompted us to address this subject. I did it kicking and screaming because it was way out of my expertise and was pretty heavy to process through. The response was incredible and may have been our most shared series ever.

Favorite Podcast Episodes:

I didn’t provide links to all of these – if you’re interested you’ll have to look them up yourself! I use mostly Apple Podcasts on my iPhone but a couple are only on Spotify.

  • Tim Ferriss – Episode 577: Hugh Jackman on Best Decisions, Daily Routines and the 85% Rule
  • Holy Post – Episode 511 – Andy Crouch – America’s 400 Million Guns and Saving Humanity from Technology –
  • Truth Over Tribe – March 30, 2022 The (De)Meaning of Marrieage in the New York Times
  • Leaders in Living Rooms – Episode 55: Larry Osborne – Focus and the Mindset of Potential
  • Live No Lies – Oct 6, 2021 – Nancy Pearcey on Loving Your Body, Human Rights, and Secularism’s Low view of Sexuality and Gender
  • Live No Lies – Oct 13, 2021 – Jon Tyson on the World as a Formation Machine, the Temptation of Project Self, and the Importance of Family
  • Kinda Christian – Dec 1, 2021 – Erwin McManus – The Genius of Jesus
  • This Cultural Moment with John Mark Comer – all of them
  • Lex Friedman – Episode 267 – Mark Zuckerberg: Meta, Facebook, Instagram, and the Metaverse

Favorite Worship Songs:

  • Is He Worthy by Chris Tomlin makes my cry just about every time I listen to it. I don’t know if it’s the call and response format that carries some sentiment for me, or the fact that I came across this song when I was preaching through Revelation a few years ago, but it leads me into God’s presence every time I hear it. There are two versions I love. Here’s the Chris Tomlin Version, and Andrew Peterson Version is visually really gripping with how he builds the crowd in the room.
  • In terms of songs that we’ve done at Grace. I love the song Jireh based on the name for God which means “The Lord Provides.” The lyrics provide a great response on our part to His provision. Here is the Elevation and Maverick City Version
  • I’m also a sucker for a well-done hymn. This Audrey Assad Version of Be Thou My Vision has been a spectacular companion. In a season for the church when God’s vision seems elusive to me – this song has been a source of great encouragement.

Favorite funny short video:

  • This one hits close because I’m very particular about the dishwasher and this is how I imagine Kim and/or all out kids loading it when I’m not around! Where did this kid learn to do dishes

Favorite Vinyl Album:

James Taylor Greatest Hits is an album I grabbed this year and it’s been on repeat. Every song has a calming effect on my mind. Makes me feel like I’m on vacation every time I listen to it!

Best source for news:

I subscribe to Breaking Points podcast with Saagar and Krystal. They also have a YouTube channel if that’s more your cup of tea. They provide a politically left and right approach to key news stories but both have some sympathy toward the common-sense-political middle.

Favorite Passage of Scripture:

I’ve been obsessed with Romans 8 this year. We’ll be preaching a 9-week series on this one chapter in March-April of 2023

Favorite Audio Book:

All Quiet on the Western Front – I devoured this book. Some of you read it in high school back in the day. I never did. It’s about 6 hours long (faster if you listen on faster speeds like I do). It includes some of the most gripping and moving writing about war I’ve ever read. A profound take on World War I from a German perspective and insightful and controversial commentary on the causes of war that is sadly still relevant today.

Favorite Quote:

Pride is the oldest and most common of sins. Humility is the rarest and most beautiful of graces. – J.C. Ryle

Favorite Family YouTube Channel to Veg Out To:

We have enjoyed watching this family from Azerbaijan cook in their remote countryside home at the Country Life Vlog.

I hope you do some reflecting on 2022 and have a great start to the New Year!