Thursday, October 20, 2016

A New Prairie Home Companion

I didn't make much time over the last couple of decades to watch Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. It was hard to find the time to dedicate two hours to a radio variety program every Saturday night. I would catch it here and there, usually while traveling on the road. Still, it gave me comfort that this show was on the air. I remember as a kid listening to it off and on. As a kid I didn't get it. I didn't get the humor or appreciate the music. As I grew up I gained an appreciation for bluegrass and roots music. And I began to catch the wry subtlety of Keillor's dispatches from Lake Wobegon.

Even though I didn't get to listen to it much it still gave me nostalgic comfort that there was still a place on the radio that every Saturday people could listen to homespun humor and Americana music.

Well, Keillor finally hung it up. He retired after over four decades as the founder, director and host of the show. And surprisingly he turned over the reins to one of my musical heroes, Chris Thile. I've been listening to Chris Thile for over ten years ever since I first saw him on Austin City Limits. He and his group, Nickel Creek, blew me away. Then he later formed the amazing band, Punch Brothers. He is a virtuoso on mandolin, a great singer and composer. He even once received the MacArthur Genius Grant.

Thile took over this past week as the new permanent host of Prairie Home Companion. I didn't actually listen to it on the radio. I watched it. I live streamed it on my TV via YouTube Saturday night. It was a fantastic debut show. Great guests like another of my heroes, Jack White and the band Lake Street Dive. Thile's monologue was spot on and the radio bits were good. The show is going to focus more on music, which is fine by me.

I may not always have two hours each Saturday night to give it a listen or a watch. But I'm going to give it a shot. The show is a relaxing way to end the week. It takes me back to a slower, more relaxed time which may or may not have actually existed. But it's nice to think there was such a time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


So Sunday we became Methodists. Officially.

This wasn't as easy as it sounds. Kimberly and I both grew up in the Nazarene denomination. We met at a Nazarene university. Without the Nazarenes I would not have met my wife. My son would not be here. My Dad was a Nazarene pastor. It's the only denomination each of us has ever known. And it's a great denomination.

Guess the tribalism instinct is a powerful force.

Yes the Nazarene church has its issues. Too many in the denomination are too cozy with one particular political party. There has been some political mis-management which almost led to the dissolution of the Nazarene Publishing House. There's the usual petty turf wars and policy battles. You find these in all denominations. I am aware of the serious issues within the Methodist denomination. These issues were not why we left.

We love the Nazarene Church.

But today we officially entered into membership with Heath First United Methodist Church. We are excited about this new journey. We started attending Heath UMC this past January. We quickly felt welcomed. The music is great. Our Pastor is a fantastic guy. He's an inspiring speaker and has a real vision for what this church can do in Heath and the surrounding area. The congregation has been wonderful to us. It's not a big church, but it has a big mission. The neighborhoods around the church are exploding in growth and there are great spiritual needs to be met.

So yeah, I'm excited.

But also a little sad. We didn't split from the Nazarenes. There was no doctrinal dispute or political issue that drove us away. We just could no longer attend the church where my Dad had pastored the last twelve years of his life any longer. It was too difficult and sad. His memory was everywhere. We needed a fresh start. And the other closest Nazarene church, where Kim grew up, where we got married, was also a part of our past. We really didn't feel moved to return there.

We really didn't know what to do. Doctrinally we knew we were pretty much on the same page as the United Methodist Church. I have a strong Methodist heritage on my maternal side of the family. But still, it's a strange thing to leave something you've known for so long...your entire life. But God led us to this little church. This little church that's going to grow. This church has already helped us immensely. They don't even realize how much they've helped us heal after a difficult season.

So we're Methodists. It's just a name really. We are followers of Christ. And as our pastor says, we are sowing the seeds for a great awakening.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

18th and Vine

I moved to Dallas, Texas nearly twenty years ago. And I have been searching for barbecue as good as my hometown Kansas City ever since. As much as I searched I could never find anything that was close to Kansas City BBQ. And I was a bit surprised. Texas is proud of their barbecue. There are some good places. I went to dives all over DFW and North Texas. But I could not find one that just hit the right spot. Until now.

Last year I heard about some Kansas City natives who had set up a BBQ catering business and hoped to soon open up a KC style BBQ place. Soon, a few months later, 18th and Vine BBQ opened up on Maple Street near the hospital district. In Kansas City, 18th and Vine is where you find Arthur Bryant's BBQ...the godfather joint of Kansas City style barbecue. 18th and Vine was also where the great jazz clubs were in the 1930's.

About a week ago we went and finally checked it out. And it was amazing. Just like home. I had ribs and my wife had pulled pork. They were most excellent. The place has photos of famous KC jazz musicians on the walls and even Charlie Parker on the kid's menu. It's a perfect place for KC expats to hang out.

The opening of this place has made me so happy! Finally, after all these years, I can have true KC style BBQ in the town where I live. Upstairs they have a music venue called The Roost where they feature live jazz. I hope to check out The Roost very soon.

Of course the place has burnt ends. Fantastic burnt ends.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Claiborne at White Rock

I had the privilege last week to see one of my favorite authors speak in Dallas. Shane Claiborne is a writer, Christian activist and one of the founders of the New Monastic movement. He spoke at White Rock United Methodist about his new book Executing Grace. 

Executing Grace takes on the issue of capital punishment from a Christian perspective. After a 30 minute talk, a panel discussion was conducted to discuss the death penalty. 

I left inspired. The refreshing thing about Claiborne has always been the fact that he walks the walk. He lives his message in the real world. His life is the anti-thesis of the ivory tower. 

That night I picked up his new book, Executing Grace. The first few chapters have been excellent. Claiborne always motivates me to put the book down and live the truth I'm reading.