This has been a whirlwind year for me. With moving across the country, buying and renovating a house in rural NH, planting a church, and taking on the role of senior pastor, I did not read as much as I have in years prior. I’ve also started working out, watching the Celtics, and tackling more projects at our home. This year has also been one of continuing lament and grief as I try to make sense of life here in NH without Mom. I foresee my reading goals shifting in the years to come and will probably set a goal of 30 books instead of 60. I need to slow down, read bigger books, better books, prioritize my Bible reading, and overall, pursue a more balanced approach. I was playing catch up after seminary, but now I’m ready for a more ordinary and sustainable reading plan.
Thank you all for being here. Your presence is a tremendous source of comfort to our family and a testament to the fact that Mom invested her life in people. You are all here because Kathy LeDuc touched your life in a profound way. I know Mom would not be comfortable with us making much of her this morning. She would only want Jesus Christ to be glorified and made much of. But I hope to do both.
“I’m going home, back to New Hampshire. I’m so determined; I’m so determined.” As a sojourner in CA for eight years, I maintained a certain soundtrack to my life. I listened to songs that reminded me of and made me reflect on home. One of my most-often-played and most-often-listened-to songs was “New Hampshire” by Matt Pond PA—an eerily beautiful song about regret and nostalgia.1 When some people on the West Coast had the audacity to tell me I would never go back, this one line became my prayer, my manifesto, my stubborn anthem that I sang along to. The line resonated with my heart and reinforced my deepest desire. Returning home was my burning passion and most cherished dream.
There are countless books out there on the topic of productivity—religious and secular. I have read many of them. They sit heavily marked up on my bookshelves. I have my favorites; and I refer to them often. Each one has its own distinct philosophy and presuppositions, its own unique set of values and goals, as well as its innovative purpose and plan. Whether the focus is on self-improvement, time-management, goal-setting, better efficiency, or guaranteed success, the push for productivity is most often driven by a self-focused and utilitarian ethos. But Redeeming Productivity is different.
Emily Dickinson once wrote, “I can wade grief, whole pools of it, I’m used to that.” On one hand, I can relate as I have been literally wading grief my entire life. I lost my birth mother at two years old and just lost my adoptive mom a year ago. It’s been a constant, lifelong journey—subconscious at times, palpable at others. Yet on the other hand, I can’t quite relate to the last part because grief is not something you get used to in this life. It is ever present—yes—but it is never normalized. Even in the ubiquity of tragedy, we wrestle and reckon with it, but never actually come to grips with it. The hurting and aching following loss will always remain in our hearts on this side of glory. Through the grieving process I’ve found comfort in Scripture and in songs, but I’ve also found it in great books.
If you’ve lived long enough in the big hard world under the big hard sun, you’ve experienced the crushing pain and unbearable weight of tragedy and loss. You’ve encountered shocking sorrow—jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching, life-changing news. The phone call that leaves you breathless on your knees feeling heartbroken, forsaken, and hopeless. And when this kind of trial comes your way, you invariably ask the same line of questions—
Two months ago, I moved back home to NH from eight years of studying and serving in CA. And four weeks ago, a small group of us launched a brand new church (Grace Church of Dover) in one of the most secular regions of our country. This church plant was the culmination of two years of prayer, planning, special providence, and personal relationships.
Waiting might be one of the most challenging things in life. No one likes waiting. Waiting is miserable and often agonizing. Waiting can be suffering. In his book Christ and Calamity, Harold Senkbeil writes, “We’re fearful in the face of tragedy and the unknown because we’ve never passed this way before; the terrain is unfamiliar, and the perils are formidable . . . We wonder what’s to become of us.” We all have plans that we grasp so stubbornly. We build our lives around our own version of what we think is best and will make us most happy. But we are not omniscient to to know what’s best, nor are we omnipotent to make our plans come true.
Well, this year resembled last year in a lot of ways. It was definitely busier as ordinary life and ministry picked up pace, but there was still much quality reading time to savor. I’m glad I set a goal and stayed ahead because I have been bogged down by various trials these past two months and haven’t had much time or energy to read. Here are my top ten books that I read this past year—
Pandemic. Revolution. Political polarization. And, oh the memes! With trace levels of dystopia, this year has been a cataclysm of catastrophe, chaos, conspiracy, and civil unrest. But aside from my unmet expectations, constant disappointments, and myriad frustrations, this year hasn’t been explicitly difficult or substantially challenging for me (some things were actually easier). However, there was this underlying uneasiness that persisted as a result of . . . well, change and abnormality.