100 Things That Made My Life

       I am a man of lists, and I’m proud to say it. I love making lists, whether shopping lists, to-do lists, books I read lists, books I want to read lists, miles I’ve run or biked lists, summits I’ve hiked, blood pressure and heartrate measurements, body weight, passwords, calendars, goals and dreams lists, and, as you can see, lists of lists.

       For me, having a list is relaxing, because once something is on my list I don’t have to fret about remembering it. I can let my mind wander off into something fun and creative knowing the list will do all the heavy lifting.

       This is my fourth year to make a list of things that made my year. It is a practice I learned from Austin Kleon. I don’t do it to brag about life, but to remind myself of the best that happens.

       The world we live in is scary enough; we don’t need to be reminded. It’s easy to remember the worst that happens because we had to deal with it, survive it, expend energy and money because of it, to overcome it.

       But we do need to remind ourselves of the good things that happen, the grace-filled things, the influential things, and the things that make us human. Not just because we’re lazy or forgetful, but because the Enemy steals them from our memory.

       Living with gratitude is the secret to a meaningful life, and this exercise of listing people, events, and things that made the year better is a powerful move toward having a habitually thankful heart.


       For me, the best things that happen are often small and subtle – an insightful quote, a new practice, a particular slant of light at just the right time. I want to remember all of those. I want them to continue influencing me. So I make this list.

       I encourage you to put together your own list, and don’t stop until you can identify at least 100 things. You may have to find help in order to remember the best, so dig out your journals, comb through your calendars, review your reading lists and music purchases, and ask those who are close to you. It won’t be easy, but it’s worth the effort.

       And when you do, I hope you share. A big part of embedding gratitude in your life is making it known.


       (By the way, this list has been randomly sorted using the mathematical magic of Excel. Trying to decide which item is more important than the others is paralyzing.)


1.       Holding hands with Cyndi

2.       James Corden’s interview with Paul McCartney

3.       Rabon Bewley’s talk at Iron Men FORGE retreat: Practicing Faith

4.       Cyndi playing the congas

5.       Reading and writing on our small private dock near the early-morning glass-smooth water at Lake Granbury

6.       Goal: “I want to age like Billy Graham aged. With every passing year he got better, more forgiving, more loving, more global, more grand.” - Leonard Sweet

7.       The Christmas parade in Granbury

8.       Warning: “I am convinced that every time a worship leader deletes “Ebenezer” from “Come Thou Fount,” an archangel sharpens his sword.” - Russell Moore

9.       Quote: “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)

10.    Book: The Art of Practicing,  Madeline Bruser

11.    Backpacking with Cyndi

12.    Movie: The Martian ("If we are going to have a secret project called "Elrond", then I want my code name to be "Glorfindel".")

13.    Movie: Joyeux Noel

14.    Bill Britt with Integrity Massage – he keeps me straight

15.    Base Camp Gathering in Colorado

16.    Kissing Cyndi “Happy New Year” under the fireworks in Guatemala City

17.    Iron Men FORGE retreat in Junction

18.    John-Mark Echols and The Field’s Edge ministry with chronically homeless in Midland

19.    Watching the movie Muppet Christmas Carol November 1st

20.    The band: Lawrence

21.    Cyndi Simpson in yoga pants

22.    Dinners with Britt and Patti Pyeatt

23.    Book: The Old Ways, by Robert McFarlane (“Caminar es atesirar – to walk is to gather treasure”)

24.    Book: Will: Parenting at the Crossroads of Disability and Joy, by Clark Moreland

25.    Playing in the FBC orchestra with Cyndi

26.    Grandkids in the pedal boat on Lake Granbury

27.    Regular phone calls from my brother, Carroll

28.    Two days talking mountains and ministry with Dan Ainsworth

29.    Walking the pond across from our house. (Wallace Stevens wrote, “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake.” (we need this on a plaque near our front door))

30.    Book: Deep Survival,  Laurence Gonzales

31.    Playing Words With Friends with Cyndi, Byron, and Joe

32.    Book: Ghosts of the Firegrounds,  Peter Leschak

33.    Cycling mountain highways near Durango Colorado

34.    Salvation Army bell ringers

35.    Playing with MC Jazz band

36.    My life verse: “For what I have received I passed on to you as of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3)

37.    Storyteller Willy Claflin’s description of his dream career, for his high school yearbook: Serendipidist

38.    Ouch: "Religion is like a swimming pool---all the noise is at the shallow end." - theologian William H. Vanstone (1923-1999)

39.    Shopping for adventure books at Whole Earth Provisions on Mockingbird in Dallas

40.    Using my new iPad Pro with ForScore and AirTurn pedal to read band and orchestra music

41.    Chile rellenos at Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen in Santa Fe

42.    Family ski trip in Utah

43.    Bear Trap Ranch

44.    Quote: "I stole everything I ever heard, but mostly I stole from the horns."- Ella Fitzgerald

45.    Quote: “There is a God; He’s up to something good; it will take some time.” – Larry Crabb (via Gary Barkalow)

46.    Book: The Rider, Tim Krabbe

47.    The peace that comes from not watching 24-hour TV news stations

48.    My Panama hat

49.    Books: The Hobbit, Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien

50.    Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, my summertime reward for each bike ride greater than ten miles and 95*

51.    FBC Men’s ski trip – combining two of my favorite things, skiing and teaching

52.    Celebrated 40 years of running

53.    Doobie Brothers in Midland

54.    Bob Hartig playing Be Thou My Vision into the Colorado Rocky Mountains

55.    “Mountain pilgrimages on sacred peaks is the best of practices.” - eighth century Buddhist text

56.    Hiking McKittrick Canyon with David Hurta

57.    My new backpack, an Osprey Atmos 65 AG

58.    The sign inside the Santuario de Chimayo said, “Turn off your cell phone and connect with God” (Apaga to movil y conectate a Dios)

59.    Reading my Daily Bible

60.    Writing at riverside in Durango, Colorado

61.    Midland Storytelling Festival

62.    Watching our son Byron patiently teaching his nieces how to fish

63.    Verse: “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. (Colossians 3:15 MSG) (this should be the prayer of all marching bands) 

64.    Granddaughter Madden Noss making her first solo airline flight

65.    Sharing my cartoon collection on Facebook

66.    Cyndi flirting with me.

67.    Book: A Praying Life, by Paul E Miller (“Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart.”)

68.    Remembering Ed Todd

69.    Book: My Best Friend's Funeral, Roger Thompson

70.    Reading in my rocking chair outside on our piazza when it’s raining

71.    Daily writing practice (“Writing by hand on paper is becoming a revolutionary act.” - Lynda Barry)

72.    Book: Subversive Kingdom,  Ed Stetzer

73.    “I don’t want to carry gratitude in seasons. I want to carry it in my bones, I want it to rest on my tongue like it is a language that I never stop speaking.”  – Arielle Estoria

74.    Movie: Arrival

75.    Wrangler Relaxed-Fit jeans

76.    Green Chile Stew at Bumblebee Grill in Santa Fe

77.    My Whataburger Yeti mug

78.    Theme: “God loves you. God is on your side. He is coming after you. He is relentless.” – Leif Peterson, describing the life-message of his father, Eugene Peterson

79.    My new trombone mouthpiece (first change my gear since 1976)

80.    Andre Moubarek in Midland

81.    Summited Guadalupe Peak for the 19th time … 3rd time with my new knees

82.    Hiking to Music Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Dan Ainsworth

83.    Book: Spaceman,  Mike Massimino

84.    Talking about engineering, music, theology, and family, every day with Bob Liem

85.    Cyndi’s homemade apple pie at Thanksgiving

86.    Hiking Wheeler Peak, highest summit in New Mexico

87.    Cyclefest

88.    Quote: “A disciple of Jesus is a lifelong learner. A disciple’s hunger for truth is never satisfied. A pilgrim never quits the pilgrimage.” - Leonard Sweet

89.    Book: North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail, Scott Jurek

90.    “Remove from us everything that hinders love.” - Mike Bickle, International House of Prayer (via Robert Kirk)

91.    Movie: Dan in Real Life

92.    Verse: “On your feet now—applaud GOD! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.” (Psalm 100:1-2 MSG)

93.    Joining Daryl Jensen on top of Guadalupe Peak

94.    Cycling North Texas hills near Glen Rose

95.    Tributes to Eugene Peterson and George W Bush, men I want to be like when I grow up

96.    Playing trombone with Denver and the Mile High Orchestra

97.    Attending a Natalie Goldberg writing workshop in Santa Fe

98.    Booths at Whataburger for writing and reading

99.    Energel Liquid Gel Ink Metal Tip 0.7mm ball pens

100.  The Kindle app on my phone that has revolutionized all my waits




“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32