The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Page 2 of 123

Reading and Walking in 2019

In April 2013, I started walking laps around the church auditorium while studying or reading. I found this helped me to focus better, and also it was a good way to be a little less sedentary while at work.

Each lap around the auditorium is approximately 74 yards:

2019 was a year of transition for me, as we moved midway through from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Searcy, Arkansas. Not only did this transition lead to a lot of busyness, affect my routines, and alter my reading (and walking) habits somewhat, it also changed the size of the auditorium that I walked around, so moving forward, my number of laps will be much smaller. The total mileage remains a constant measurement, though.

Without further ado, here are my totals for the year:

Total Laps, January–May 2019: 5,075 (approximately 74 yards per lap)

Total Laps, June–December 2019: 3,217 (approximately 118 yards per lap)

Total Distance in 2019: 429.1 miles

Total Distance to date: 2961.1 miles

In 2019, I went from Lake Placid, New York down to Syracuse, out to Buffalo, and finally stopped in Erie, Pennsylvania.

My rate of walking decreased slightly after moving, but this also reflects the time of year: I always get less walking done in the summer because the schedule of youth ministry has me out of the office more during that time. On the whole, though, I did less walking in 2019 than in 2018, and I think that was just a reflection on having to devote more time to other tasks.

My goal for 2019 was 500 miles, which I did not reach. I think that is a good target to aim for in 2020.

Reading in 2019

Regular readers of The Doc File know that I keep track of what I read each year, and that I enjoy chronicling that here on the blog and offering some reflections about my favorite reads from the previous year.

Without further ado, here is my list from 2019:

  1. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
  2. The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story From the New Testament World, by Bruce W. Longenecker
  3. Enter the Water, Come to the Table: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in Scripture’s Story of New Creation, by John Mark Hicks
  4. Success Sparklers: A Treasury of Quips, Quotes and Sparkling Sayings for the Positive Person, compiled by Ivy Conner
  5. The Honorary Consul, by Graham Greene
  6. Small Group Strategies: Ideas & Activities for Developing Spiritual Growth in your Students, by Laurie Polich and Charley Scandlyn
  7. Walking Away From Idolatry, by Wes McAdams
  8. The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis
  9. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, by Eric Metaxas
  10. The Hidden Harbor Mystery, by Franklin W. Dixon
  11. Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander
  14. Selected Stories of O. Henry, Introduction and Notes by Victoria Blake*
  15. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
  16. Beyond Atonement: Recovering the Full Meaning of the Cross, by N.T. Wright, Gregory Boyd, and Ruth Padilla DeBorst
  17. The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It, by Lawrence S. Ritter
  18. God, Guys, and Girls, by Derry Prenkert
  19. Sabbath Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, by Walter Brueggemann
  20. Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring our Best When the World is at Its Worst, by Ed Stetzer
  21. How To Lose a Kingdom in 400 Years, by Michael Whitworth
  22. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  23. The Cross & the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants, by Kenneth E. Bailey
  24. Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki
  25. I Am A Church Member, by Thom S. Rainer
  26. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, by Robert Alter
  27. That’s Why We Sing: Reclaiming the Wonder of Congregational Singing, by Darryl Tippens
  28. Fire Upon the Earth: The Story of the Christian Church, by Norman F. Langford
  29. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore
  30. Family Worship, by Donald S. Whitney
  31. The Shepherd’s Ring, by Whit Jordan
  32. The Yellow Feather Mystery, by Franklin W. Dixon
  33. The Clue in the Embers, by Franklin W. Dixon
  34. Murder at Wrigley Field, by Troy Soos
  35. Visions of Restoration: The History of Churches of Christ, by John Young
  36. New Day: Restoring the Revolutionary Mission of Christ’s Church, by David M. Young
  37. Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
  38. The Greenest Island, by Paul Theroux
  39. Disrupting for Good: Using Passion and Persistence to Create Lasting Change, by Chris Field
  40. The Secret Agent on Flight 101, by Franklin W. Dixon
  41. Jesus for President, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw
  42. Discipeshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples, by Jim Putnam & Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman
  43. Faith Unraveled: How A Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions, by Rachel Held Evans
  44. Practical Wisdom for Youth Ministry: The Not-So-Simple Truths That Matter, by David Fraze
  45. 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
  46. The Fourfold Gospel, by J.W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton
  47. Prayer, In Practice, by J.L. Gerhardt
  48. It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff, by Peter Walsh
  49. Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing—and How We Can Revive Them, by Jonathan Merritt
  50. D2: Becoming A Devoted Follower of Christ, by Phil McKinney II
  51. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
  52. One Loaf and One Cup: A Scriptural and Historical Survey, by Clinton De France

A few observations before I talk about my favorite books of the year:

  • My reading total decreased from 54 books in 2018 to 52 in 2019. I was pleased with this number considering that we moved in the middle of the year, my life was crazy busy preparing for that move and adjusting to it, and my reading time was (probably) somewhat less.
  • For the last several years, I have been between 48-54 books per year. This really seems to be my sweet spot.
  • This was my first full year removed from grad school, so I wondered how that would affect my reading. I still read a lot, with a decent amount of reading still geared toward faith, ministry, discipleship, biblical studies, etc.
  • I enjoyed my reading this past year. There were some books I didn’t love, but really, no major disappointments.

I want to share my Top 10 books for the year, but before I do so, I wanted to offer some brief thoughts on a few books that didn’t make my Top 10, but I still wanted to comment on:

  • The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It, by Lawrence S. Ritter: this was a great book of memories of baseball players from the early 1900s. As a huge fan of Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball, I was delighted to recognize that this book was a major primary source for many of the quotations for that series.
  • Family Worship, by Donald S. Whitney: This was a very short, yet very convicting, read. Christan parents, we really don’t have a good excuse for not having regular worship or devotional time at home with our families. If you want motivation, guidance, or conviction related to this, read this book.
  • The Shepherd’s Ring, by Whit Jordan: This was a novel for children written by a friend, and I loved it. It is currently unpublished, and I read an early draft. I can’t wait to hold the real thing in my hands and tell you about it.
  • Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith: This is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it frequently. It doesn’t make my Top 10 list because that feels like cheating. Otherwise, it would be there almost every year.
  • Faith Unraveled: How A Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions, by Rachel Held Evans: RHE was just a couple years older than me, and tragically died from an illness earlier in 2019. I am not really the audience for this book, but I listened to the audio version (read by the author) and am so glad I did. I disagree with Evans on a variety of issues, but she is incredibly likable and it is clear that she genuinely loved God and other people, and wanted to remove barriers that prevented people from knowing the God she loved so much. It was good for me to read.

My favorite books from 2019.

Regarding my Top 10 books for the year, here are some brief thoughts on those (presented in order of when I read them, not ranked 1-10):

  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs: This was a fascinating and tragic true story of a man who grew up in the rough neighborhoods of Newark but managed to find his way out and graduate with honors from Yale, only to end up back in his former neighborhood where he ultimately was murdered in a drug-related crime. This story was well-written and gripping, and also filled with impending dread, as you knew from the title that it would not end well. Memoirs are not the best way to analyze complex social issues, but this book did provide for thoughtful reflection on racial issues (which, between this book, The Other Wes Moore, and The New Jim Crow {described below}, was a repeated focus for me in 2019).
  • The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story From the New Testament Worldby Bruce W. Longenecker: Longenecker, a well-known biblical scholar who specializes in the origins of Christianity, writes this epistolary novel that consists of a series of letters between several characters, including Luke the Evangelist. What results is a moving story that helps to illuminate the New Testament world including aspects such as honor-shame culture, patronage, the nature of letter writing, and Roman persecution. It took a little bit for me to get into it, but by the end, I absolutely loved it.
  • The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expeditionby Caroline Alexander: This was a fascinating account of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition complete with penetrating character studies and amazing photographs. This is simply an incredible, unbelievable tale. I really didn’t know what to expect going in, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • The Nightingaleby Kristin Hannah: I have discovered that I love reading fiction set in WWII, and this is a good example of this. This novel tells the story of two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France, and the very different ways they seek to survive and resist during a very difficult time.
  • The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentaryby Robert Alter: Alter is a world-renowned expert on the Hebrew Bible who gives special attention to its literary features. This is his own translation along with commentary, which I used for my daily Bible reading early in the year. I don’t know Hebrew well enough to evaluate how great his translation is, but it was certainly readable, and I found his commentary to be frequently insightful.
  • New Day: Restoring the Revolutionary Mission of Christ’s Church, by David M. Young: I mentioned this book, and Young, in my recap of this past year’s Harding Lectureship, where I heard him speak three times. The short version of the book is that Churches of Christ (and really, churches across the spectrum) are declining in the United States, and the solution to this problem is to get serious about prayer, making disciples, and planting churches. If you have come to suspect that church should be about more than a social gathering, worship wars, and a consumeristic buffet of programs catering to the whims of members, this book is for you (wow, that was a little preachy!).
  • Disrupting for Good: Using Passion and Persistence to Create Lasting Changeby Chris Field: I did not have high expectations for this book, but I really liked it. Basically, it is a book about how to bring about culture change: you have to find a problem that really bothers you, and then attack it with creativity and perseverance. Most of the book is a series of inspiring vignettes of people who did exactly that. This was a really encouraging book for me.
  • Practical Wisdom for Youth Ministry: The Not-So-Simple Truths That Matterby David Fraze: I already reviewed this book here on the blog, so I don’t feel the need to say much here, other than the fact that this is now one of my favorite youth ministry books (I read a lot of them), and I plan on using it from now on with all of my youth ministry interns.
  • 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaosby Jordan B. Peterson: Although I have friends who are big fans of Peterson, I was not a fan, and actually began to read this book with a great deal of skepticism. Peterson’s breadth of knowledge is so vast that I found it difficult to evaluate at times (Is this brilliant? Is this nonsense?). At other times, when he crossed into areas I could better evaluate, I was blown away: his handling of the biblical text, especially the Book of Genesis, was very impressive (he is a little shakier on the teachings of Jesus—on a very deep level, I don’t think Peterson knows what to do with Him). Ultimately, what I would say is that each of Peterson’s rules range from helpful to profound, even if I don’t fully agree with all of the reasoning he uses to arrive at them. I “read” this book in audio format, and will likely reread it, soon.
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindnessby Michelle Alexander: This is not a fun read. On the contrary, it was devastating. Alexander has two basic arguments in the book: (1) the American criminal justice system disproportionately punishes people of color (specifically through the War on Drugs), relegating a large chunk of African American society to being residents of an “undercaste”, and (2) this has been done intentionally. Although I don’t believe she established her second argument (to be fair, I don’t want to believe it), her first point seems absolutely clear to me. For those who do not understand (or worse, deny) the reality of systemic racism, this is a great book to read.

That was my reading for 2019. For comparison’s sake if you are interested, you can see my reading lists from previous years:

As always, I have a bunch of books lined out to read in 2020, and can’t wait to get into them.

What are some of the best books you read this past year?

*Books that I did not read in their entirety, but read significant portions of.

Spiritual Growth in the New Year

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for people to make goals and resolutions, and I think this is a good and healthy practice. If you are a resolution-making type of person, I hope you have included some spiritual goals in your plans for self-improvement in 2020. Briefly, I wanted to point you to a few resources that I have used or am currently using to help with my own spiritual growth this year.

Bible Reading

Making a habitual practice of reading Scripture is a tried and true method of spiritual growth. Of course, Christians do not read the Bible just for information, but for transformation: God’s Spirit works within us to bring about His fruit in our lives.

This is the Bible Study Plan that we are using in 2020 at the Cloverdale Church of Christ. It only a few minutes of time each day, but by the end of the year, it will take you through the entire New Testament. This plan encourages you to find a partner with whom you will spend time each week discussing and reflecting on what you have read.

The Read Scripture app is another great way to develop the practice of reading your Bible daily. This can all be done on your phone, and in addition to providing a reading plan and the text of Scripture itself, it also includes awesome videos from The Bible Project that help to overview and explain each biblical book as well as other important biblical concepts. This is a really great tool for helping to increase your understanding of Scripture.

Prayer

Prayer is another incredibly important practice for people of faith. Speaking for myself, I struggle with doing as well at prayer as I do reading my Bible, and this is a growth area that I am trying to emphasize in 2020.

Prayer, In Practice is a really good and practical resource that I read through at the end of last year that I am planning to use heavily in the new year. It is a workbook that teaches different ideas and methods of prayer and then has you do those, right then. I highly recommend it.

Biblical Worldview

This last category may sound strange compared to the other two, but the basic point is this: in our current day and age, we are constantly bombarded by messages from TV, social media, print media, and other sources. We are “plugged in” almost all the time. The vast majority of these messages are not from a biblical worldview, and rather than filling us with the peace that passes understanding, they fill us with fear, anxiety, and outrage.

I have become personally convinced that I need to be careful about the content of the messages I am taking in. The reality is that I am not a hermit and cannot cut everything negative out, but I can intentionally take in as much edifying, helpful, and faith-strengthening content that I can. Part of that is accomplished by reading Scripture, but finding helpful things to listen to while I drive or exercise has been a huge blessing for me, and I want to recommend two podcasts that I think you will find interesting and which will certainly help to keep you centered on a biblical worldview.

The Bible Project Podcast has been a game-changer for me. Tim Mackie has become one of my favorite biblical scholars, and I learn so much from the podcasts and videos. The general format of these is that they will tackle a biblical topic in several parts, but will focus specifically on what the Bible teaches, the important cultural and historical contexts of the teaching, and how these teachings affect our lives.

I started listening to the After Class Podcast more recently, but have really enjoyed it so far. Put out by three professors at Great Lakes Christian College (and thus, my Restoration Movement cousins), these guys bring a lot of biblical knowledge, a generous spirit of dialogue, and a lot of playful banter to the table. Their podcast tends to be topical as well, and they generally discuss the different issues from their own scholarly backgrounds (in Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and theology).

It is such a worthwhile practice to reflect on ways we need to improve in our lives and make plans to do so, and this is especially true when it comes to our lives as disciples of Jesus. May 2020 be a year of rich spiritual blessings for you.

2019 Blog Review

Today is the last day of 2019, which means it is a time for reflection, and I generally (at least, when I remember to) like to reflect on my year of blogging here at The Doc File.

This was, I believe, my least voluminous year of blogging since I started writing in this space, way back in 2006. I lamented last year that I had only blogged 20 times in 2018, but that number decreased even further in 2019, to just 17 posts. This is disappointing to me, but also, in many ways, not surprising. In February, I announced that we were moving to a new city where I would begin a new job, and the reality is that the transition process has been very busy and this was reflected in my blogging output: 7 of this past year’s 17 posts were written within the first two months of the year before I got caught up in the transition process. In addition to that, I had a lot of technical issues with moving the blog between different hosting services, and so much of the time I did devote to The Doc File this past year was to ensure its continued functionality rather than produce content.

With that in mind, I am hopeful to do better in 2020. There are so many things that I want to write about; the key element will be carving time out in my schedule to do it (blogging falls under the important category but not the urgent one, and so sometimes, gets pushed aside for other things).

By traffic totals, here are my most-read posts during 2019:

  1. Moral Evil and Natural Evil, February 24, 2015
  2. The Role and Character of Elihu in the Book of Job, December 3, 2010
  3. Creation and New Creation: Connections Between Genesis and Revelation, April 25, 2017
  4. One Piece of Advice from a Youth Minister, August 21, 2019
  5. Lessons from David: Sin Has Consequences, March 17, 2014

Four of my top posts this year were not written this year, and three of the five (Evil, Elihu, Creation/New Creation) were in last year’s top posts as well. I am not sure why these remain so popular, but I am glad they are being discovered and hope they are useful to people.

The most popular posts from this year:

  1. One Piece of Advice from a Youth Minister, August 21, 2019
  2. A New Chapter, February 25, 2019
  3. The Full Tomb, April 19, 2019
  4. Reading in 2018, January 4, 2019
  5. The Story of the Bible, February 15, 2019

I am glad that the “One Piece of Advice” post got a good deal of traction, because it was something that was near and dear to me as a youth minister. Similarly, “The Full Tomb” was a piece I was proud of because I thought it contained an important message that is sometimes lost in the triumphalism of the Easter season. “A New Chapter” was a personal announcement about my family’s job transition, so it wasn’t surprising to me that a lot of people clicked on that. Every year I share about books that I read the previous year, and people tend to be interested in that sort of thing, and rounding out the top five was an announcement of a free resource that we had produced at Farmington that I made available on the blog (people like free stuff!).

As I hinted out above, there are a lot of topics that I would like to write about in 2020, and I am looking forward to seeing what the new year brings. I want to conclude by thanking everyone who reads, and especially to those who give me feedback, whether online or in person. May God bless each of you in the coming year.

Book Review: Practical Wisdom for Youth Ministry

Recently, I was taking advantage of a sale from Leafwood Publishers when I happened upon David Fraze’s Practical Wisdom for Youth Ministry: The Not-So-Simple Truths that Matter, and decided to buy it. I am so glad that I did! Simply put, this book was outstanding; it is the youth ministry book that I was planning to write one day, and now I don’t have to (which is good, because Practical Wisdom for Youth Ministry is better than what I would have produced!).

The book is split into 22 chapters of different concepts and aspects of youth ministry that matter. It is a diverse list, including topics ranging from The Bible, to Office Hours, to Sexual Purity, to Volunteers, and beyond. Each chapter is short, and contains three sections: “Why?”, “How?”, and “Now?” In the “Why?” section, Fraze discusses why a given topic matters, engaging the biblical text and providing theological justification for his point. In the “How?” section, he then offers practical tips to improve your ministry in that area, and in the “Now?” section, he offers first steps for improvement moving forward.

There were a lot of ideas in the book that I found to be very helpful, but here were some of my favorite quotations:

“Adult involvement is a key factor in measuring youth ministry success. In fact, adults are one of the main reasons students stay involved with the church after graduation.…To be most effective, youth ministers need to work to get the entire congregation involved in youth ministry.” (43-44)

“Marriage is intended to be a reflection of the intimate love, devotion, and sacrifice Christ has for the church. Therefore, a youth minister’s marriage is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, testimonies and tools he has to impact the lives of teenagers with the gospel of Jesus.” (80)

“Regarding Mondays after a weekend trip, most of the jobs your parents and adult volunteers work at expect that office hours be kept with excellence and responsibility. Regardless of whether they sponsored a weekend you retreat, they will be at work, on time, the next day. I expect the same type of office hours out of my employees. If it is not a day off, then get to work, on time.” (101-02)

“If your students and adults do what you do, would there be any outreach happening in your student ministry?” (121)

“While important, the events of youth ministry in and of themselves do not possess the life-changing power often bestowed on them by youth ministers. The events possess life-changing power to develop and support relationships with God’s people. The relationships are what matter.” (136)

It is really hard for me to overstate how much I enjoyed this book. While it does not offer an in-depth look at any of the topics included, it is an excellent introductory work for youth ministry. It would provide an invaluable resource to new youth ministers, but also is a helpful refresher for youth ministry veterans like myself, and also a way for me to reflect upon and improve in areas where I am weaker. I strongly recommend this book for anyone involved in youth ministry work (youth ministers, youth ministry students, youth deacons and elders, youth volunteers, etc.).

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2020 The Doc File

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑