Friday, February 12, 2016


It's my wife's birthday today. I'm one lucky dude. Met her back in 1993 on a bus we were traveling on while doing promotions for our university's music department. Took me several years to convince her that I was worth her time. But by 1997 I had worn her down and she agreed to marry me. I have been blessed to have her in my life.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


So last night I attended my first Ash Wednesday Service. I'm sure I've been to church on Ash Wednesday before, but never to a service expressly dedicated to the receiving of ashes. I found the service very refreshing and relevant. The community recitation of a Church Confessional from the Methodist Hymnal was particularly moving.

We've now been attending a Methodist Church for six weeks and have found that I really enjoy the liturgy of our church services. I realize that every Methodist congregation may go about liturgy in different ways. I also know that even though my Nazarene experience did not usually include a lot of liturgy I do know that many Nazarene churches in recent years have begun to incorporate more traditional elements into their services.

I think this may be a reaction to the casual big screen format of many contemporary worship services of modern mega churches. These modern services can be quite moving. I've attended these type of churches over the years and even though there were times of great emotion I often found myself wanting more after awhile. I wanted something with more spiritual heft, something deeper. I think a lot of Gen X Christians are searching for authenticity and a connection with the historic church. For many who grew up in the casual worship styles of the 80's and 90's, liturgy provides an element of mysticism that is sometimes lacking in Praise and Worship services. P&W services can be very emotional but sometimes they lack spiritual depth.

Now, obviously this is coming from the perspective of someone who grew up outside of high church liturgy. I'm sure for many born and bred in it some of these rituals can be just that...rituals. Maybe after I've been a part of this style of worship for awhile my attitudes may change. I doubt it, but I realize it's possible. The church we're currently attending does sing a modern song each Sunday along with a traditional Methodist hymn. But the worship director has done an excellent job of using songs that complement each other rather than an artificial mashing up of old and new just to appease different demographics.

So far, our new church has walked a very nice line of feeling casual and modern yet incorporating traditional liturgy in ways I find inspiring. Right now I am enjoying the recitation of the Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, singing the Doxology and Gloria Patri. The acolytes coming in with their candles at the beginning and extinguishing them at the end of the service gives real poignancy and power to the moment. Communion every Sunday has had greater emotional impact for me than singing lots of rousing choruses over and over and over again. Personal preference I guess.

I'm going to enjoy this liturgy as long as I can. I hope it continues to move me. I feel a greater connection to my historic Christian for-bearers. As someone who traditionally has drifted towards rationality and dry intellectual spirituality, I find myself drawn to these mystical elements of the Christian faith. They have led to a revival of my spirit after a rough time and I am embracing them fully.

Thursday, February 04, 2016


Wynton Marsalis. You want to study Black History? Or American History? Or Human History. Marsalis will teach you through jazz. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Black History Month. Coltrane. A Love Supreme. Out of this world.

Monday, February 01, 2016


First day of Black History Month. Throughout this month I would like to recognize contributions from African-Americans in history who have inspired me and influenced my thinking. 

Kicking off with Charlie Parker. Bird. From Kansas City. Definitely on the Mount Rushmore of Jazz with Louis, Duke and Trane. Check out some of his stuff...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Kansas Day!

Man, I'm always a day behind. Happy belated Kansas Day y'all. 155 years man. You don't look a day over 100. Hope yesterday was great!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Where were you?

Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of the Challenger explosion. For my generation that would be a moment we would forever remember exactly where we were when it happened. It was similar to previous generations knowing where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked or when JFK was shot or more recently, the September 11th attacks.

I was in 7th grade band. Our principal, Mr. Rockledge, came on the intercom to tell us the news about the loss of the Challenger and the seven crew members aboard. His voice was breaking as he talked. After he was done there was stunned silence in the room. It was hard to comprehend.

My current students do not have a similar moment to point to where a whole generation can remember where they were when something happened. My students were, at the oldest, toddlers when the September 11 attacks occurred. My freshmen weren't even born yet. This is a good thing. These events are easily remembered because they are tragic and shocking. It's harder to remember where you were on a generational level when good events happen. For some reason it's easier to remember the bad stuff. That was a very sad day.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Utah Again

Finally received my invite this morning to the AP World History Grading this June. AP World History teachers around the nation were getting a bit anxious because this is the latest they've been sent out. Last year it was January 22nd which was the latest ever. This year even later. All the other subjects had received theirs two weeks ago.When the hundreds of emails finally hit the inboxes there was a collective sigh of relief this morning around 10 am. Lots of texts and facebook messages going back and forth to confirm that friends would see each other once again this summer. It's kind of like summer camp actually.

I will be a Table Leader again this year. Guess I didn't mess up things too badly last year on my first go around as a TL. Being a TL means you have to go three days earlier than the rest of the graders. But the pay increase is substantial and makes it worth it. I was nervous going into it last year, teachers can be hard to handle believe it or not. But this year I'm feeling good about it.

This will be my ninth year to grade. Four summers in Ft. Collins, Colorado and five in Salt Lake City. I'm also very happy to finally fly out of Love Field again. Since they moved the grading to Salt Lake I've had to fly out of DFW. But with all the Wright Amendment restrictions finally gone, Southwest Airlines can fly direct out of Dallas to Salt Lake City from Love Field. And Love Field is so much better than DFW in almost every way. Much smaller, much less chaotic, lots less traffic and it's 20 minutes closer to us than DFW. I've missed flying out of there right over the tips of the downtown Dallas skyscrapers.

My memories of last year's grading are bittersweet. The day I arrived in SLC last year my father had to be rushed to the hospital. I found out later that he looked so bad those first few days that my wife almost had me return to Dallas immediately. I had some difficult conversations with my worried uncles about Dad's future and his health loomed large over my stay in Salt Lake. I really wanted to head back home but they all assured me he was making slow and steady progress. He came through that particular bout and was back home about a day before I returned to Texas, eight days he spent in the hospital. I was gone ten days.

Well, that wouldn't be the last hospital day of that difficult summer and fall. He'd actually have to go back a couple of more times for week long stays. And he didn't get better. And he would pass away in September. I'm sure I'll be thinking of him quite often during my time in Utah.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Not Me.

I promise that's not me. Different guy. Although I live just five miles from this precinct I live across the county line. Nope. I'm not running for any office. Promise. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Low Tech

Last night was the first class of my last "real" class at SMU. All that remains after this is a capstone project which I will begin next semester. The professor of this class was the professor of the very first class I took in this Masters program. When I saw the course schedule I thought it would be fitting to end with Dr. Swaim who I admire very much. He's a true inspiration. Nice way to bookend the program. Not sure what I'm going to do with all my free time after this class is over. I will probably take a break for awhile although they are already recruiting me to continue on in the department for a doctorate. It may be a long time before I have that kind of energy again. 

Side note: We met in a fully modern classroom in the Life Sciences Building on campus. This class, like all the others I've had in different buildings at SMU, is outfitted with LCD projectors, sound systems, retracting screens, computers, charging stations, the works. Weirdly enough there was an overhead projector in the corner. Don't see those in use much anymore. I've got one in the corner of my classroom but haven't used it in years. It's just a decoration. 

But weirdest of all was that there were no white boards. On the wall was a very nice set of overlapping wood-framed chalkboards. Extremely retro. I have a center white board in my classroom but I have stubbornly kept all my wall chalkboards as well. I love my chalkboards. I have refused to let maintenance take them away and replace them with shiny new white boards. I have heard that when we move to the new building next year there will be no chalkboards.

So I texted the picture above to my principal and said look, chalkboards are still being used in the most advanced settings. Can I keep mine for the new room? He texted back "absolutely!" I think he may be joking. I am not. I want to keep my chalkboards.