December 24, 2013
We’re getting ready to say goodbye to the year 2013. I’ve always liked the end of a year. It provides a chance to think, to reflect and to evaluate. All good things, in my thinking, anyway. So, I’m dedicating my last two blogs of 2013 to my list of random things from this past year. The following are mostly things that have impacted me, amused me, moved me, or influenced my thinking. I hope you enjoy.
A lot happened this year. Some of it mattered and some of it didn’t. As usual, the news covered everything from natural disasters (Philippines) and government shutdowns (US) to royal births (welcome, Prince George) and the death of Nelson Mandela. And of course the media never missed an opportunity to tell us what Miley Cyrus was up to. Here are my top 5 news picks:
- New Pope: (Mach 13) I’m not Catholic, but I recognize the influence of the leader of the Catholic church – an organization that includes 1.2 billion people. The new pontiff, Pope Francis, is a different breed. He won’t live in the papal apartments, preferring more humble surroundings. He is more loving, more inclusive, more tolerant and more accepting. Some say too accepting. Doctrine, truth, righteousness, love and acceptance are blurring together.
- Massive NSA Spying Exposed (June 5) The Guardian and The Washington Post with the help of leaker, Edward Snowden, revealed massive NSA efforts to collect data from phone companies and internet providers from unsuspecting citizens in the US and around the world. People were not pleased, not the least of which was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was one or many targets. The lines between national security and personal privacy are being reevaluated.
- Egyptian President Morsi Ousted: (July 3) The June 30th protests, the July 3rd army take-over (or democratic street-election, depending on who you’re talking to) is an event that will impact the Middle East for a long time. Currently Morsi and some members of the Muslim Brotherhood are on trial for their role in Egypt’s 2011 uprisings. Some of the charges could result in death sentences. Currently, freedom for anyone to protest anything has been limited by Egypt’s interim government. Ousting your first democratically elected president doesn’t bode well for democracy or the future of radicalism in this part of the world.
- Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack (August 21) Syria’s civil war has been raging for almost three years. On August 21st, 1429 people were killed in a chemical weapons attack near Damascus. President Obama had said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line.” The problem was that no one could agree on who actually used the forbidden weapons. Obama did nothing. Russia’s Putin stepped up his influence in the region. The big winner? Syrian President Assad.
- Obamacare Rollout: (October 1) Healthcare is important. Too important to mess up this badly. I mean, it seems almost impossible to accidentally mess up something on this grand of a scale. It’s sort of like offering someone a refreshing beverage and accidentally giving them a punch in the mouth. And somehow I feel like the worst is yet to come.
I love music. These are some of the songs I liked this year. Not all of them are well-known or big hits. Some aren’t even current, but somehow each came across my radar this year for one reason or another. I think I discovered I have a “sad bent” when it comes to music – it’s a bit of a “Prozac and razor blade list.” 🙂 None of these songs will change the world, but all of them sort of change me when I hear them.
- “Say Something” (A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera) – From time to time there are relationships that are just over your head. Parent/child, romantic, friendship, it doesn’t matter – relationships can be hard. This is the most honest song I’ve heard in a long time regarding that moment when you realize there’s nothing more you can do. My favorite song of the year – at least until radio overplays it and cover versions ruin its authenticity.
- “How Mercy Looks from Here” (Album) (Amy Grant) – I’ve followed Amy Grant’s career for a long time. This is an album from someone who understands life from a mature viewpoint – who has lived, stumbled, gotten up, gained wisdom and continued. So much of life is about putting things in perspective and moving forward. Parts of this album of it will break you with its honest look at life and sustaining faith.
- “Fear” (Blue October) – For anyone who’s ever been damaged. “Fear will real you in and spit you out.” There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (I John 4:18)
- “Face the Sun” (James Blunt) – I don’t want to hear anything about this choice. We’re all allowed a guilty pleasure or two. And yes, he sings like a girl.
- “You’ll Never Find” (Michael Buble) There are so many variables in life – so many qualifiers. This song is the definitive declaration of someone saying, you will simply not find anyone who cares as much as they do. No expiration date needed for this promise.
This is a hard list to narrow down – so many interesting books have crossed my path this year. Here are a few of the books that I would recommend for those who want to understand the world, truth and impact. They weren’t all written this year, but I read them this year. 🙂
- “Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East” (2013, Scott Anderson) – Endlessly fascinating and reminds you of how what seems so insignificant at the time, can change the world in profound ways.
- “Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America Pakistan and Afghanistan” (2012, Ahmed Rashid) – Ok, it was written in 2012, but it’s one of the best, most balanced books I’ve ever read on the topic. And with the US withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and our shaky relationship with Pakistan, it is definitely worth reading.
- “My Name is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize” (2013, Jody Williams) I will always be fascinated by stories of people foolish enough to try to change the world and disturb the universe. Some actually succeed.
- “Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language & Charisma” (2012, Patti Wood) There is a small window to make the right impression. Or the wrong one. Either way, the impression will last longer than you expect. (
- “The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization” (2011, Vishal Mangalwadi) And intellectual, credible look at the soul of the modern world.
Part two coming soon – I’ll talk about movies/documentaries, my view of travel and where I’ve been and why, this year’s influencers and my final thoughts for 2013. Stay tuned!