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2017 in Review

As has become my habit over the past few years, it’s time to take stock of the year that was on this blog. And the best way to do so is, of course, to determine which posts had the most eyeballs roll over them over the past 365 or so days. Here are the five most viewed posts of 2017 along with a brief description of each.

When the Truth Gets in the Way of the Story You Want to Tell

This piece was based on an episode from Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History Podcast about how we tell stories. He examined the story behind the famous “Foot Soldier of Birmingham” statue. It is an icon of the Civil Rights movement, but while it stands as an appropriate symbol of a broad period of American history, it doesn’t exactly tell the whole truth of the incident it was based on. It can be a risky business, speculating on why certain posts generate more traffic than others, but if I were to hazard a guess on this one, it would be that it tapped in to the roiling racial tensions of the last few years. Also, I tried to hold up a mirror to our all too human tendency to tell stories in ways that serve our interests rather than as they really are. Sometimes people don’t like this.

I’m Sorry, Christian, But You Don’t Get to Make That Move

This post continues to stun me. I wrote it a few days after the photo of little Alan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach in September 2015 catapulted the Syrian refugee crisis to the front of our collective cultural consciousness. It was meant to be a call to Christians to examine how we speak and think about those we (rightly or, more often wrongly) consider our “enemies.” Predictably, with the benefit of hindsight, the comment section rapidly came to be characterized by considerably more heat than light. Within hours of publishing this post, it became quite easily the most viewed post of anything I have ever written (by roughly half a million hits). Clearly it tapped (and continues to tap) into very palpable hopes and fears and anxieties and angers about the present geopolitical state of affairs and how the gospel of Christ might call us to respond.

Selling Sex

The death of Playboy icon Hugh Hefner provided the occasion for this reflection on how what our attitudes toward sex and pornography are doing to us culturally. Some considered the ending a bit insensitive given that Hugh Hefner was still a dearly loved child of God, loved. Critics were surely right to remind me of this, but I chose to leave the ending as it was. I think the sex industry that Hefner stands as a symbol of is so profoundly toxic and degrading and destructive to human souls, that the strong language was and is warranted.

Jesus Didn’t Dance, Did He?

The high traffic on this one in 2017 is a bit of a head scratcher as I wrote it over five years ago. I can only assume that the title pops to the top of certain Google searches or something. Perhaps there was an algorithm change in my favour somewhere along the way. Anyway, the post was a challenge to reconsider who Jesus was and is and to embrace the many ways in which he bewilders and unsettles us. It is we who must learn to dance to Jesus’ tune, not vice versa.

The Word of God

How do we read the bible? This question is probably at the heart of nearly every issue that vexes Christians. This post was based on a conversation with my teenage daughter who was talking with friends after a Bible survey course about what it means to call the bible “the word of God.” Which parts should be read contextually? Which parts are timeless? What do we do about the parts that are offensive or violent or just plain old bewildering? I tried to convince her (and, by extension, my dear readers) that the word of God (written) exists always and only to point to the Word of God (in flesh). And that the latter trumps the former. The jury is still out on how convincing she finds this argument. 😉


On the off chance that numbers don’t tell the whole (wouldn’t that be crazy?!), here’s my own “Top Five” of 2017 (without commentary). These posts may not have generated the traffic that the five above did, but I’m rather pleased with each of them in their own way and for their own reasons.

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Human Being

God’s Maniac

On the Occasion of Your Sixteenth Birthday

You Are Welcome to Come Near

God on God’s Terms


So, there are the “top fives” from 2017. As I’ve said before, though, the main benefit of compiling these year-end posts is to provide an opportunity to thank you for actually reading what I write here. I am grateful for the engagement and connections that take place in this space. I wish you all the best in 2018.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kevin K #

    So this is the place where we post our Top five favourite posts from your blog this past year right?…

    You Don’t Know Me –
    Favourite Quote: “I wish that this man did not have to howl and hurt himself like this, that there weren’t so many unseen enemies for so many to fight.”

    What stayed with me: the dignity you gave this man as you shared his story.

    The Scaffold Sways the Future –
    Favourite Quote: “This crucified king has arguably been more influential throughout history than anyone else. The one who refused to respond with force to force, the one who willingly laid down his life, the one who embodied the deepest truth our planet can ever know, that the Creator God’s very identity is self-giving love—this is the one who has shaped history. And God still hovers in the shadows of our violence and our hunger for more impressive heroes, swaying the present and the future, keeping watch over his own.”

    (Actually) Favourite Quote: “…my wife tells me that I’m not supposed to be antisocial so I went along for the ride.”

    What stayed with me: A timely reminder that this Jesus still speaks and rules in His way, even through the out of-the-way poems shared by a run-of-the-mill saint.

    Save the Pigs –
    Favourite Quote: “Our appetites routinely exceed our need. Oh boy, do they ever. We love the show and will do almost anything to be kept entertained and impressed. And power? Well, what really needs to be said? We have always loved to get our way, and to force others to bend to our will… Jesus knew all of this, of course. He knew it in the wilderness, and he knew it as he went out to teach and heal and love and forgive and live and die and live again for the salvation of the world.”

    What stayed with me: A reminder that God builds his kingdom in the out of the way places for out of the way people like me.

    The Church: What do we See? –
    Favourite Quoted Quote: “I hope to trust that whatever comes—next year, next decade, or the one after that—that my course is firmly entrenched not upon my personal success or the success I experience in the church of which I am a part, but rather to the one who is comfortable with dying and brings eternal life to the places and people we least expect…”

    What stayed with me: Sometimes God uses the old way of doing things (writing letters, going to church on a Sunday morning) to intimate something entirely new within us, something worth sharing and cherishing.

    Fifty Years –
    Favourite Quote: “His eyes mostly stay fixed on the floor as he tells me his story. And what a story. The kind of story that can send an existential shudder deep down into your bones. The kind of story that there aren’t really words for. Just slack-jawed, barely comprehending silence. The right response probably. Like Job’s miserable comforters before they got a few bright ideas in their heads about what they should say. As if words were the right kind of thing for a man in the ashes.”

    What stayed with me: I particularly appreciate your storytelling voice… you wrote this post entirely in that voice, and I was blessed. You write well (which is to say, in way that is helpful, insightful, interesting, entertaining, funny, surprisingly short on spelling and grammatical errors)… but it’s this voice I value the most. When you write in this voice I feel you’re at your best. You have a way of seeing the humanity of others with the grace of God, and when you share their stories with this voice you share hope with all who read. This is your gift.

    Honorable Mention(s):
    A Stone or a Kiss –
    When I Grow Up I want to be a Human Being –
    Farther Along –

    Favourite Paul Johnston Quote:
    “At my age now, 60 years old, I have come to believe without equivocation that, “dying to self” is the only context wherein the question “Have I come any further along?” matters. The only context where this question is a true one. Helpful to the discovery of and living in, truth.” From: Farther Along –

    Thanks for writing Ryan. Looking forward to what’s to come in 2018!

    December 30, 2017
    • This is really kind, Kevin, and I very much appreciate the comment. It’s very gratifying to know that some of what I write here connects with others. I wish you and your family all the best in 2018.

      December 30, 2017
  2. Fred Pauls #

    I have been reading your writing in Rejoice this week.
    I appreciate your love for the people and places around us.
    I have been attending more funerals these last couple of years and have been angered and saddened to listen to people who use that as a time to evangelize!
    What has caused some MB’s to go so far off the path? I appreciate your comments today

    January 3, 2018
    • Thanks very kindly for this, Fred.

      January 3, 2018

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