Here we are at one of the weirdest, most beautiful times of the year.
I call it weird because it’s as if time stops, the days of the week all blur together, and it can feel like everything is in a holding pattern, just waiting to be restarted in the New Year. I also call it beautiful because these days of peace and quiet can be a tremendous gift to rest, recharge, and refocus. For me, these days between Christmas and New Year’s Day are a time to think back on the past year and look ahead to 2022 with hope and creativity. I’ll probably throw together a list or two of things I’d like to explore, and they’ll most likely match the lists I’ve already made throughout the year. But I’m always curious if some new idea will make an appearance and light some new kind of fire under my simmering embers.
Joys of this past year have included:
A lot of baseball games—on TV and in-person.
Listening to 80’s music.
Getting to know people where I live and go to church.
Starting this weekly(!) Substack essay on May 13th with the post: “Christianity is Suffering An Identity Crisis” - other favs include “Jesus Doesn’t Fix Everything,” “What It’s Like In A Cult,” and “Sadness.”
But PHOTOGRAPHY has been, by far and away, the year’s greatest gift. It is such an honor to be able to capture someone’s portrait, and reveal their beauty. I’ve literally been brought to tears several times while shooting because I’m so overwhelmed by the whole experience.
Highlight: Having this photo of Paul (from my very first shoot) chosen to be in the Fine Arts Exhibition of the Minnesota State Fair is an honor I’ll never forget.
Here are a few more of my favorites! Click to enlarge. (Thanks to Lynn, Paul, Hannah, Darrell, Liz, and Cole, clockwise from top left)
It’s OK to Love Jesus and Have a Therapist
I continued meeting with an incredible therapist to work through lots of things…but I’m particularly grateful for the freedom I’ve gained by understanding that I don’t have to seek my worth and value from other people.
Read my post about “A Year Without Applause” here!
I’ve been living a lot of years aiming to be awesome—making my life a performance to get people to like me, love me, affirm me. Not to mention, trying to please God. And if you’re similar to me at all, you understand that no quantity of affirmation from other people (especially strangers) will ever be enough. Also, there’s nothing I can do to change the incredible amount of love God already has for me. I believe the same for you!
Stepping back from the actual performance aspect of my life—touring the country doing concerts—has been an incredible opportunity to learn how to love who I am. Things like: how I love others, the choices I make, and the things I accomplish—apart from the confusion that comes from seeking approval from others.
I’m literally free for the first time in my life. I have nothing to prove to anybody. And I have nothing to lose. Hallelujah!
The Incredible Importance of Hope
I’ve been reminded over and over this past year that hope is such an important thing to hold onto when strange, out-of-control circumstances are swirling all around us. I’m committed to being a voice of hope and love however I can, seeking creative ways to inspire myself and others to be grounded in faith, fueled by love, and guided by vision. It’s a vision that asks us to take our eyes off our ourselves, and focus on those around us who need to be reminded how loved they are (in my estimation, that’s everybody!).
After six and a half years in production, I’m launching a new-and-improved version of my Live Hope Minute. Some of you have read the one-year devotional book (thank you!), but have you heard the audio version? This one-minute daily radio feature is heard on approximately 250 radio stations around the US and Canada, and we’re working on expanding that. Starting January 3rd, you’ll be able to hear the brand new version (I’m super excited about how it turned out!) on the Live Hope Minute mobile app (FREE for all phones and tablets), or you can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. ALSO: Facebook has just added Podcasts to their “business” pages (only while using your mobile device, for now) — so you can visit the Live Hope Minute on Facebook, click on the Podcast tab (again, just on phones or tablets), and listen, comment on, and share any minute you’d like! Isn’t that cool? I’d appreciate any sharing you’re able to do to help spread the message of hope. Thank you!
Here I Am, Now.
I’m literally resting in the in-between right now. And I hope you are able to do that as well. I’m looking back with incredible gratitude for all I’ve been given and all I’ve experienced. And I’m looking ahead with great anticipation. But for the first time, I have no expectations of how the future should look. It’s a place of rest and freedom being right here in the middle of the past and the future—some call it the present.
I call it the best present.
I wrote a song called “Something Good” to capture the feeling of Christmas just being over, and looking ahead with wonder and hope to what might be ahead. It was on my very first Christmas album, and captures the essence of hope as I see it!
It’d be super duper encouraging if you shared this or any of my posts here on Substack, and invite people to subscribe, as well. Thank you!
Mark, thank you for sharing your life and your faith with us. I truly believe you are one of the most genuine voices of Gods love and hope in our world today. Your self- reflection, lessons learned and wisdom gained from your life journey resonate with integrity, humility, and love. Love for us. Love for Jesus.
Your "tender voice" speaks to the places of our hearts that need reassurance. Your "courageous voice" helps us identify those that may lead us astray. Your "honest voice" speaks to our weaknesses, of which you often humbly share as your own. Your "compassionate voice" clearly yearns for us to find what we are all looking for: which is Peace.
Thank you for showing us a Jesus kind of love Mark. Keep it coming. You are making a difference.