2012 Top 5 Lists


  1. The Most and Simple Life by Tyrone Wells. We have a 1a and 1b situation…The Most describes the first half of our year and finding healing in the midst of deeply personal tragedy, and Simple Life is where you land on the other side of that healing. Great songs by our new friend! Killer lyric: how do you start again, when the whole world ends, there’s nothing that makes this right, but I’m on my way tonight, I’ll be here, when you need me the most (The Most)
  2. Handwritten by The Gaslight Anthem. My favorite band of the past couple of years. This whole album is about how we connect through music and this song is the best example of that in my mind. Killer Lyric: Pull it out, turn it up, what’s your favorite song? That’s mine, I’ve been crying to it since I was young, I know there’s someone out there feeling just like I feel, I know they’re waiting up, I know they’re waiting to heal.   
  3. Below My Feet by Mumford & Sons. The new album was everything one could hope for in a follow-up to “Sigh No More.” Big, anthemic, and slightly darker, Mumford proves they are not a passing fad. Killer lyric: Keep the earth below my feet, From my sweat my blood runs weak, Let me learn from where I have been, keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.
  4. Born and Raised by John Mayer. Mayer had almost completely fallen from the graces of the music cognoscenti…to the point where he was essentially a punch line. Many may still feel this way (especially now that he is dating Katy Perry), but I dare you to listen to this album and not feel the pain of someone who has screwed up royally and who is looking for redemption. Here’s the secret music snobs: it’s really good. Killer Lyric: So line on up, and take your place, And show your face to the morning, Cause one of these days you’ll be born and raised, And it all comes on without warning
  5. Give Us Rest (the whole album) by the David Crowder Band. This was it…the swan song, the finale for my favorite “christian” artist, and they didn’t hold anything back. Too many great moments to name here, but I think my favorite tune is “Our Communion.” Killer lyric: all of them.

Books (required)

  1. Simply Christian by NT Wright. Wright continues to prove that he is the most helpful scholar for the layman around right now. Simply outstanding.
  2. The Road Trip That Changed The World by Mark Sayers. The first half of this book was so good, such great cultural exegesis, that I said out loud, to anyone listening: “this is the most interesting book I’ve read in years.” The second half (more conclusions than descriptions of the problem) were good, but not great and certainly not up to par with the first half. A fascinating read nonetheless.
  3. Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel. I picked this book up because I thought it might be helpful for another guy on staff. I think it was, but it definitely made me think too. A lot of this book was a repeat of what you can find in many other “emergent” reads, but his emphasis on listening to your life and trusting your gut as a leader was challenging and affirming.
  4. The Anxious Christian by Rhett Smith. This is more than a “hey you struggle with this, here are some tips” book. Rhett tells us his story, which is pretty powerful, and then weaves several biblical texts into the mix to show how anxiety (really tensions of all sorts) can lead us to new places in life and faith.
  5. Emergence Christianity by Phyllis Tickle. This works builds on a previous book, The Great Emergence (which I would recommend over this title), and helps shed some light on the various expressions of Christian faith popping up around the world. If you care about where the church might be headed in the next 20-30 years you should read this book.

Book (non-required):

  1. Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry. This is the hardest top 5 list I’ve made in a while. Most of the compelling reads for me this year fall into this category. Barry wins for making an extremely boring, and unimportant, baseball game absolutely fascinating and thrilling. Joe Morgan (not that Joe Morgan) became one of my all-time favorite leaders because of this book.
  2. Life by Keith Richards. Richards is crazy. We knew that already. But what surprised me about his story (much in the same way Ozzy Osbourne’s autobio surprised me) is just how grounded he became once he found himself in a stable marriage. Like Ozzy, Keith’s marriage literally saved his life. I find that endlessly interesting.
  3. Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Another book with leadership lessons in abundance. And another book that demonstrates the importance of a strong and stable marriage. Riveting, you won’t be able to put this one down.
  4. Quiet by Susan Cain. Quiet made a lot of “best of” lists this year, and for good reason. Her argument is lucid and well-researched. I, personally, found the book to be very affirming and illuminating of some of my frustrations with our extravert-tilted world. I continue to search for the restorative niche.
  5. My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe. Funny and touching with great insights into race and class dynamics, this book is another in the same theme: leadership principles from unlikely sources.

If you’d like to see my previous lists check them out here: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006


Why You Should Care About Collegiate Ministry

Final reflection piece for the year. Will have another marina pic and some top 5 lists, but regular blogging won’t happen again until 2013.

This post reflects a little bit of my journey over the past year…I wholeheartedly believe in the work we are doing here in Boston: here’s why…


Confession: a pet peeve of mine is the minimizing of the importance of collegiate ministry. Our field has not always done a great job advertising our awesomeness (probably because campus ministers are too busy to do marketing). But, in my lower moments, I find the misunderstandings of our work to be aggravating.

Some look at college ministry as intellectual youth ministry. Others dismiss it as a mere “life-stage” ministry. Some deride it as an unhelpful “parachurch” organism/parasite. I get asked about once a month: “so when are you going to become a ‘real’ pastor.”

There are many people who get it and who invest in it and who think what we are doing is important. And that is beautiful. But the misunderstandings still drive me crazy.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to hang with people from other ministries all over the world. When I asked them to tell me the story about how they got interested and inspired to do their work they all started with this:

“When I was in college…”

That phrase has been difficult to get out of mind over the last several weeks.

Collegiate ministry may not be directly addressing poverty, or dirty water, or whatever other issue or cause you might care about, BUT it will have an impact on all of those things.

If you care about the fact that church attendance is declining rapidly in the remerging generation you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

If you care about issues of class and race and poverty that affect our cities and the education of our young people you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

If you care about global missions you should care about collegiate ministry (for two reasons: US students will be called at this point in their lives to go abroad and international students studying in the US will take the good news of Jesus back with them).

If you care about sex-trafficking, human slavery, and other rights-based issues you should care about collegiate ministry.

If you care about the direction of technological advancement, research, medical and scientific developments, and the progression of philosophical thought and practice you should care about collegiate ministry.

If you care about politics you should care about collegiate ministry.

And, at the risk of exploiting current events, if you care about the deep, deep brokenness in our country you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

I had the opportunity to meet with some Boston University officials at the end of the Spring semester and they revealed a startling development:

During that semester the school, for the first time that anyone could remember, made more hospital calls for students struggling with mental health issues than for alcohol related incidents.

Among emerging adults there is a profound crisis centering around questions of meaning and being.

The shootings in Newtown and other communities are the extreme expressions of a culture that is failing miserably to answer these questions in any kind of meaningful way.

We don’t know how to talk about truly significant things like evil, life, and ultimate meaning.

Most of the people (men? boys?) committing these unthinkable shootings are between the ages of 18 and 25.

Over the next couple of weeks and months we will hear about gun control and mental health reform, and both are important and needed conversations.

But, neither get to the heart of the issue. President Obama got us there for a moment in his speech on Sunday when he asked: “Why are we here?”

This question and other questions of meaning and being (what is a human? what does it mean to be human? is there purpose and meaning and importance to life and the universe? etc, etc) are at the center of our national crisis, a crisis that impacts our young people (specifically college aged students) more than anyone.

And if you care about this, if you care about how we answer and will answer these questions as a nation and a culture, then you should care deeply and passionately about collegiate ministry.

Pain Deepens Love

“It is true that in a technocratic society all human relationships are reduced to the level of things, and general apathy is spreading on an epidemic scale. It is true that in a world of high consumption, nothing is so humanizing as love, and a conscious interest in the life of others, particularly in the life of the oppressed.

“Love leaves us open to wounding and disappointment. It makes us ready to suffer. It leads us out of isolation and into a fellowship with others, with people different from ourselves, and this fellowship is always associated with suffering.

“It [love] changes the world, in so far as it overcomes the death urge which turns everything into a possession or an instrument of power.

“It is right to follow Jesus at the present time in the specific activities of love, suffering, and revolt…His suffering contains more than merely the necessary suffering of love which becomes a reality in following him, the ability of love to be wounded and disappointed. When the pains of love are accepted, they deepen love.

– Jurgen Moltmann

‘Cakes for a Cause

At the beginning of November I challenged a few of our leaders at BU to think of throwing a christmas/advent conspiracy/fund-raiser/cause related event to end our semester. I gave some parameters and guidelines for how to plan out an event 6 weeks out, and then left the rest up to the team.

They pulled off a GREAT event. ‘Cakes for a Cause was held Wednesday night (12/12/12!), and raised $400 for Amirah Boston. If you’ve been reading my posts recently you’ve seen this name/cause pop up a few times now. SojournBU continues to do well in its partnership with this organization, and lots of great stories are coming from it.

I am proud of our leaders for several reasons. I’m proud of Bridget for setting the vision and the pace for this event…she’s stepped up her leadership game big time: taking risks, calling others to action, and inviting, inviting, inviting. I’m proud of Stef for her ongoing involvement in several of our causes and for championing Amirah. She’s set a strong personal example and is inviting others into that. I’m proud of Rebecca for her work on the details and the design (she’s got skills people). I’m proud of Faith for her help on the design too, for all of the risks she is taking in inviting people to Sojourn events, and for her servant’s heart on Wednesday night. I’m proud of Ruben for his willingness to do the dirty work and the worst jobs, and for reaching out to people during the event (and for making awesome signs). I’m proud of Jack for doing anything and everything to make the night run smoothly and for always being relational. I’m proud of Anna and Dorsa for all their help in planning, their endless promotion of the event, for being willing to look silly at the hot chocolate table, and for bringing people! (Special credit to Dorsa for photo bombing several pics).

One final shout outt: we are super grateful for the folks who donated money to help us supply the actual pancakes (mix and toppings) for the event so that all the money we raised could go to Amirah. We expected to get school funding and were rejected at the last-minute, so thank you so much for your generosity which helped make the night a huge success.

Enjoy the pics!

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SojournBU Being Awesome

As college students recover and discover the good news of Jesus we hope that they begin to shape their whole lives in response. This looks like everything from inviting friends to events, to stepping into roles of servanthood and leadership, to investing in neighborhoods and causes that help increase shalom in the world.

One of our students at BU, Stefi, has been responding to good news in this very way this semester. I had the opportunity to brag on her a bit in my last teaching at REUNION. The short story is that she read the book Half the Sky (also hugely influential on Amy and her decision to practice to women’s health physical therapy), and wanted to get more involved in efforts to combat the trafficking of women (especially for sexual exploitation). She has become an ambassador for Amirah Boston (you can also hear more about this in my REUNION teaching).

Stefi invited the BU crew to Amirah’s celebration dinner and it was a privilege to be included in this night of hearing stories of how God is at work bringing rescue and restoration to women through Amirah’s work (and the work of volunteers like Stefi). Good stuff!