Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


What Will Really Matter in 2018?

Jan 2, 2018

“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

Over the final week of a given year, it’s very normal to look back on the past. The change of pace gives many of us the space to consider all the previous 365 days have included.

Modern technology makes nostalgia and reflection even easier.

In the few days proceeding this article’s release, nearly 2 million people have posted on Instagram using the hashtags #bestnine or #BestNine2017. BestNine is a software which pulls the top 9 most liked photos from a given Instagram profile into a single collage image.

Like millions of other people, I had fun seeing these photos and revisiting these moments when I took part in this experience.

nostalgia clock 2018 preview


Next-Level Nostalgia: My Top 17 in ’17

I had one hangup with #BestNine though. Something didn’t sit right with the idea of letting the responses of other people determine my “best moments” of 2017. So, I decided to take my reflection to another level.

Since it was 2017, I spend about an hour one evening scanning through the photos I’d taken in 2017. I identified my 17 top moments and posted those on my Instagram and Facebook profiles over the final days of 2017.

Narrowing down the hundreds of photos and thousands of moments proved to be tougher than I expected.

The process forced me to revisit and reflect on the previous year. It’s a process I heartily recommend to you if you haven’t done any reflecting yet.

I was reminded of how I don’t celebrate enough.

I don’t think I’m alone in that struggle. When we look back at our lives, it’s more often out of regret than joy. Like any year, we have moments that we regret – decisions we wish we could undo and opportunities we wished we’d taken.

But identifying these 17 moments led me to celebrate the previous year in ways which I hadn’t up to that point. And after the worst December our family has ever had, I needed some celebration.

When we look back at our lives, it’s more often out of regret than joy.

2017 fireworks

What Mattered in 2017

As I posted each of those photos (annoying the people whose timelines I was blowing up), I remembered what mattered in 2017 for me. I believe what mattered most in 2017 may have mattered to you, too.

Significant Relationships

Each of those 17 moments involved people. My wife Danalyn. My prayer partner Jimmy. My savage competitor Tyrann. My generous friends The McCullochs. My faithful and encouraging staff. Those relationships grew stronger this year and they matter more now than they did a year ago.

Shared Experiences

Every experience I posted about was shared with someone. None of them were solo moments.

The game of catch on the Arizona Cardinals field with my family. The epic concert with one of my best friends. The conference with my team. The best burger ever with a friend who walked through fire with me.

I believe the best experiences in our lives are meant to be shared. And what matters most is having someone to share the highs and lows of life with, whether that person was born into our family or we chose them as our family.

Consistent Habits

None of my wishes or aspirations showed up on the list. But the products of consistent habits did. The small group we started and met with twice a month. The writing success after hours of pounding away on a keyboard.

The breakthroughs and success you experienced this past year came because you didn’t give up either. You kept showing up, doing the work, and believing in the power of compounded effort.

Courageous Risks

Whether it was submitting articles, traveling to Zambia, or asking my church to experiment with me, this year involved courageous risks which made me uncomfortable and left me exposed.

The moments which mattered involved the leaps of faith and the times where it felt like your heart was going to beat out of your chest.

The kinds of risks which make us feel alive and foolish yield the kind of stories we tell for years to come.


The Grace of God

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the grace God extended me this year.

Difficult conversations became places of transformation. A move and big changes led to a healthier family and a stronger marriage. And a dinner with friends became a holy moment. Each of these moments was a gift of grace.

If we were sitting down over a cup of coffee, I’m sure you could share your own “grace gifts” this year. The moments where you couldn’t imagine a way forward or the times where you felt like giving up. Those moments became the places where God’s grace sustained you, even if God felt distant and silent in the moment.

When we think of all the moments which mattered, we begin see other moments in a different light.



What Didn’t Matter in 2017

I left a lot of pictures, tweets, and text message conversations where I got all fired up about stuff which really didn’t matter. Maybe you can relate to some of these.

The daily crisis on Twitter or cable news? There was another one the next day.

Responding to every email in 15 minutes? None of my fast-replies changed anyone’s life.

Having all the answers to people’s questions? Knowing it all mattered less than someone knowing I cared about them and would work with them to figure them things out.

Making zero mistakes? What an impossible expectation!

Watching every movie or show “everyone” is talking about? Nope.

How your life compared to other people online? Such a waste, especially considering what you know now which happened off camera.

Feeling inadequate because of what God called someone else to do or be? A distraction away from who you are and who God called you to be.

The saddest part about 2017 is we spent a lot of time and energy on things which didn’t really matter.


blank notebook fresh start 2018 preview

How a Bunch of Photos Can Change Our Approach to 2018

After seeing many friends’ post their #BestNine collages and posting my photos over four days, I’ve decided to approach this new year in light of what matters most.

I’m sharing the following list as a means of accountability to actually live this stuff out. With the hope these might encourage you, I’m posting this list to help you not get caught up in what doesn’t matter this year.

Here’s how those 17 photos impacted my posture towards a new year.


I set new goals which scare me.

In his best-selling book, The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson wrote, “If your prayers don’t scare you, they probably insult God.” Now I think Batterson is overstating things here, but his point is well-made. Our prayers should match our view of life, especially God. And I view every goal pursued as a prayer.

This year, I set 9-10 goals, some of which intimidate me. These goals will stretch me, require personal growth, and take seriously the brevity of life along with the nature of God’s gifts to me.

I want to look back on 2018 without regrets that I spent my days on things which didn’t matter.


Commit to habits which actually put my significant relationships first.

I want my best moments this year to include the people who matter most. I compared my #BestNine collage from 2016 to my collage from 2017.

Instantly, I noticed more pics of my wife than the last year. Our marriage improved this year and I think this is because of our intentionality. Living in a new place, I became more and more intentional to develop new and deeper friendships this year. My goals include habits which make significant relationships…well, significant.


Live today in light of my distant future.

One of my favorite motivational gurus is Gary Vaynerchuk. He cusses like a stereotypical New Yorker, so I’m not taking that cue from him and he’s not for everyone. But many of his messages as a businessman and social media maven have been helpful to me.

Gary talks often about the tension between hustle and patience. In light of a lifespan of 80 years or more, we need both hustle and patience, giving all we have to this moment but recognizing we may a longer window than we realize.

I often get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent. It’s hard for me at times to keep my eyes on what’s important and not divert to what’s simply on fire now.

This year, my goals include habits and plans based on where I want to be in 30-40 years. I will take actions this year to set me up for those years.

In our 24/7, always-connected, what’s-trending-now world, turning your eyes to the distant future feels foolish or even revolutionary. It’s a move we all need to make.


Write with hope

I ended 2017 by writing this article calling 2017 “the year of fear.”

As I reflected on my words and the events of this past year, I recommitted to the words which appear next to my face at the top of this page.

will not be a voice of fear; I will be a voice of hope.

I refuse to succumb to the temptations to be cynical or afraid. I will not merely write what people want to hear. I will write what people need to read.

I’ve always been moved by the words of an old preacher who said his calling was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I want to write with a hope which encourages those battling despair and unsettles those who have become stuck.


How About You?

I’ll be writing more about my word for 2018 in the weeks to come.

But in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you.

As you look back on this past year, what mattered most in your life? (Not what “should have” mattered, but be honest about what really mattered to you.) And what will matter in the year to come?

I’d love for you to share a comment below or if you feel intimidated to do so, drop me a line at




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