Category Archives: Blogging

Where’s that draft coming from?

I’ve been trying to write.

Really. TRYING.

But I’ve got post after post that I’ve started and stopped and come back to and labored over and just seem to be going nowhere. A little germ of an idea that seemed good at the time, but just won’t develop and resolve itself.

I’m open to tips from any writers out there. I know I’ve got plenty of you are friends on Facebook, journalists and bloggers alike. Do I give up on those microorganisms? Do I just let them simmer for a while? Do I fight through and just post and fake it til I make it?

My background is journalism. It’s what I studied in high school and college, what I did for a living after college and what I’ve taught for the past 12 years. Hence the lack of an Oxford comma in that sentence.

I read a lot of columns and tried to be a columnist for a while. I marveled at the ability of our paper’s sports columnist who cranked them out almost daily for year after year. They weren’t all gems, but he always met his deadline and did so coherently. And he could really dazzle at times. But I felt the weight of always having something to say, all by my lonesome. The degree of expectation I felt was brutal.

That’s what this feels like. Except for the fact that I don’t have any editors requesting copy and only a handful of folks will ever read this. But I sit and work and write and look at what I have at the end of the day and think, what the hell am I trying to say? Where is this coming from? And where is it going?

It’s got to be more than just an exercise. I teach my students to write for their audience. To write to communicate. But there has to be a message.

I was never much of a columnist. I had my moments here and there but it was never consistent. I’d like to try it again, but I’d like to try something else too.

My favorite pieces to read and to write were never columns. They were what we call in the journalism business, “features.”

My friend Ben hates that word. He says it doesn’t have any meaning for anybody but journalists and certainly not the audience. He writes narrative non-fiction, or even more clearly, stories. And he writes them well.

Here’s how it works. You meet somebody. You have a conversation. You find some things that really compel and fascinate you and you dig into that, in the hopes that someone else will feel the same way about it as you do. And then if you’ve found the story, and it’s really grabbed you, you pour yourself into it. You have to tell it. You have to get it out. Then you move on to the next one.

I love teaching kids to do that. And not all of them can do it. But some of mine do it exceptionally well. But I also love to do it. I was decent at writing those types of stories back in my newspaper days. I’d hope that teaching the practice for the past dozen years would make me at least a little bit better at it now. Actually I reckon that it would improve me a lot.

I want to get back to telling people’s stories. And there’s a specific type of story that I’m interested in telling. It came to me on the drive home after work last night. I’m still bouncing it off some people and trying to work out the details, but I hope it happens. If it does, you’ll find out about it here.

Thanks for reading. Share your wisdom if you’ve got it.

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Nothing to see here people… for the moment.

Yeah, I’m failing a bit as a productive blogger on this site. I’ve had a lot to think, write and reflect on lately, but I just haven’t done much with it.

However, I am getting more regular (insert your fiber joke) on my photo blog which you can see here. So that’s something, write right?

I do have another sweet little niece on the way, courtesy of my sister-in-law Leslie, so I’m already looking forward to welcoming her via blog, like I did in 2007 and 2010.

But until then, if you’re looking for a regular and rewarding read, direct your attention to writings of this exceptional young woman. You’re welcome.

12 for 12: January’s theme – Renewal

Image: arkorn /

I spent some of my first lucid hours of 2012 at Fellowship Church in Jacksonville, Texas, listening to my brother preach on “Putting First Things First.”

He laid out the text, Matthew 6:33 – “a Biblical resolution for the new year,” and then identified three obstacles that keep us from the goal.

  1. Earthly interests are here and now.
  2. Sin has skewed our view of the world.
  3. It’s easy to be mastered by stuff.

It was a well-chosen message for the new year, but the second point really caught my attention and got my imagination working.

“Our minds have been seriously damaged by sin,” he said. “That’s why they need to be renewed. Believers need to be renewed on a daily basis.”

I’ve always liked the idea of a new year. A fresh start. A chance to reset and begin again. To remember and reaffirm promises and plans of the past. To empty out a vessel and prepare to refill it. I think it’s an ideal time to think about the topic of renewal.

In an attempt to be more intentional about this new year than I have in years past, I’ve decided I’m going to try to approach each month with a theme in mind. Twelve themes for twelve months for Two Thousand and Twelve. I want to take each month’s theme and focus on it – in what I read, the songs I listen to, the conversations I have, the movies I watch, the photos I take, the words I write, the prayers I pray.

And so, in January, I begin with the theme of RENEWAL. I’ve got some potential themes for the coming months as well, including love, friendship, identity, acceptance, perseverance, hope, joy and thankfulness. But I’m always open to suggestions. And I definitely would appreciate suggestions for movies, songs, books, activities that will help me focus on renewal.

That’s the way it works in my happy little fresh new year’s brain of course. You know, the one that hasn’t yet been ground up by a million and one deadlines, projects, time-wastes, sick days, setbacks and the general craziness of life.

So here’s what you can do in all this… pray for me, encourage me, advise me, engage me, even join me. And let’s see what kind of year this can be.

Walking the line between faith and fear

I had a talk with a close confidant yesterday, and we spent most of the discussion about the contrast of faith and fear. We talked about how those two concepts are opposites of each other and how deep self-deception can run when fueled by fear. I don’t have time to go into more detail now, and I’m still fleshing out all my thoughts on the subject, but it was a very enlightening conversation.

And it reminded me of the song below by the Old Crow Medicine Show. Not sure if I know the exact sentiment behind this song, but I love to play it on repeat when I’m driving or just working around the house. It’s a slow tune with a weary end-of-the-trail quality to the lyrics, but there’s hope beneath it all. I think that’s my favorite sort of song.

Yes, this is my first post of 2011. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. I just haven’t been exactly sure about how to say it. More to come…

We’re all in this together – Old Crow Medicine Show

Well my friends, I see your face so clearly
Little bit tired, little worn through the years
You sound nervous, you seem alone
I hardly recognize your voice on the telephone

In between I remember
Just before bound-up, broken-down
We drive out to the edge of the highway
Follow that lonesome dead-end roadside south

We’re all in this thing together
Walkin’ the line between faith and fear
This life don’t last forever
When you cry I taste the salt in your tears

Well my friend, let’s put this thing together
And walk the path with worn-out feet of trial
‘Cause if you wanted we can go home forever
Give up your jaded ways, spell your name to God

We’re all in this thing together
Walkin’ the line between faith and fear
This life don’t last forever
When you cry I taste the salt in your tears

All the hour there’s a picture in a mirror
Fancy shoes to grace our feet
All there is is a slow road to freedom
Heaven above and the devil beneath


We’re all in this thing together
Walkin’ the line between faith and fear
This life don’t last forever
When you cry I taste the salt in your tears

When the idea of authority is shattered…

I enjoy reading, though I don’t read novels nearly as often as I should. I really enjoy a well-turned word and phrase, but even more, I love the authors who can take a really difficult, abstract subject and make it easy to understand. I’m much better with the short and simple. It’s the same for photography. I love complex compositions, but I don’t seem to have an eye for them myself.

A few nights ago, I started the first chapter of All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I’d never read this World War I novel written from the perspective of a group of German soldiers. Other people I’ve spoken to have vague recollections of this book being assigned in the 9th or 10th grade. It would have been completely wasted on me at that age.

I chose to start it a little late in the evening… and fell asleep. I picked it up again the other day and was really impacted by the following passage.

I think Remarque is doing what Roy Peter Clark calls “climbing the ladder of abstraction,” but I could be wrong. The context: the soldiers have just mentioned that someone in their group received mail from their old schoolmaster, Kantorek. He was the one who really pushed them to “do their duty” and enlist to serve in the war. Even Behm, the one student to resist, eventually conceded to Kantorek’s appeal to his masculinity and bravery.

Strange to say, Behm was one of the first to fall. He got hit in the eye during an attack, and we left him lying for dead. We couldn’t bring him with us, because we had to come back helter-skelter. In the afternoon suddenly we heard him call, and saw him crawling about in No Man’s Land. He had only been knocked unconscious. Because he could not see, and was mad with pain, he failed to keep under cover, and so was shot down before anyone could go and fetch him.

Naturally we couldn’t blame Kantorek for this. Where would the world be if one brought every man to book? There were thousands of Kantoreks, all of whom were convinced that they were acting for the best– in a way that cost them nothing.

And that is why they let us down so badly.

For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture, of progress– to the future. We often made fun of them and played jokes on them, but in our hearts we trusted them. The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs. They surpassed us only in phrases and in cleverness. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces.

While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that we were no mutineers, no deserters, no cowards– they were very free with all these expressions. We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through.

On one hand, this makes me think of my role as a teacher. It makes me give more consideration to the words I say to my students, the charges I give them. They are listening even when I think they aren’t. I’m always surprised at the things I’ve said that resonate with them years later.

On the other hand, it makes me think of the nature of authority. We all reach that point where we realize that all of our teachers and mentors and guides are just men and women like us, subject to all the natural forces of this world and all the chaos and hurt and pain that a life here can hold. And when we see them as they are, fallible and feeble and flawed – just like us, our hope can be shattered. And that’s where I believe we reach a fork in the road, a point of decision.

One choice is to abandon hope in any kind of authority and fall into a life of self-reliance with trust placed in what you can reason from your own experiences.

The other is to acknowledge that the problem is not with hope itself, but where it’s been placed. To realize that there is “a greater insight and a more humane wisdom” though it’s not found in any human authority. That the only thing worthy of full trust, faith and hope in this world is the being who created it. To realize that even the people who believed and spread the message of the Creator were themselves not to be respected as the authority, but only as rough, imperfect signs to point to Him. Incidentally, it’s also when we do this, that we are able to see other people in a different light, without all the expectations that we had previously shackled them with… we see them as we should see ourselves, as creatures bearing our Creator’s resemblance. At this point, I think we become truly free to love them.

Faith and trust and hope in Christ is the other path, and it’s not an easy one to follow. It’s not even difficult. It’s impossible without divine assistance. But if we trust the words of Jesus in the Bible, then we can find that divine assistance there for the asking.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.       – Luke 11:9-10

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.     – Jeremiah 29:13

For, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”     – Romans 10:13

That’s the way I see it. Two paths you can take when the idea of authority is shattered. Trust in yourself. Or trust in Christ. I’ve tried to choose the latter. Partly because I’ve come to know Him, and partly because I know myself all too well.

I don’t do it perfectly, but that’s not the point. His perfection is demonstrated in my weakness and it’s taken me 33 years to realize what a beautiful thing that is.

All of this is a departure from the plot and theme of the novel, sure, but it’s where my mind was led.

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New (ish) photo blog.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

My bucket list will pail in comparison…

Texas Monthly - March 2010

I haven’t seen the movie, but it seems like “bucket lists” are becoming more common all the time.

In March I got the new Texas Monthly featuring “63 things all Texans should do before they die.” I’m encouraging my newspaper staff to put together a  similar list of things around the area that all of our students should do before they graduate.

Then Donald Miller retweeted a link to this blog from Lindsey Tipple, a graphic designer in Ohio. Lindsey created a list especially for this summer, before the season kicks the bucket (included: canoeing, riding a hot air balloon, cooking a feast for her grandparents, and my fave – do a cannon ball).

She has two rules: 1. Don’t include anything you already had planned (my book list is out). And 2. If you cross an item off the list, you have to document it.

I’m on board and my list will be posted soon, most likely after school finally dismisses on Thursday.

In the meantime, what do you think I should add to my list? What would you put on yours?

Holy crap! It’s just hot out there…

iPhone screenshot... we could have record heat tomorrow. Yes!

It ain’t no joke. The back of the heat is very scrong indeed, 96 degrees at 5 p.m. tonight.

So… I have one more week of school left. After I squeeze in about two weeks of work into that one week, I should be ready to begin my summer vacation.

Every year I get the same question: What are you going to do this summer? And every year I had the same answer – just a combined shrug and sheepish look. (Actually I had a quite different answer at one point for this summer, but that’s a whole nother story… it’s back to shrug, sheepish look).

I know that I will be trying to continue with my diet and exercise (down about 35 pounds since rejoining WW in December). I know that I’ll be working on a reading list developed from the 100 books every man should read from the Art of Manliness (see my new tabs for more information). And I know that I’ll have a few gigs at least with the band.

Past that I’m not sure… though I was looking at some possible travel options the other day – maybe a road trip to Santa Fe and Flagstaff, or possibly Colorado Springs might be in order.

I haven’t ever taken a trip like that solo. I’m not sure how much I’d enjoy it, but also not sure who else would want to come with me.

If you’ve got some insight into the world of solitaire vacationing, please share. And if you’re interested in taking a road trip with me, please don’t turn out to be creepy.

Either way, I hope that I’ll spend a little more time blogging this summer.

Time to leave and face the heat… here’s a shot from outside my window!

Catch some rays!

Kiwi, hold the keys

I was blessed today to share what might be my last meal with a good friend, at least perhaps the last North American meal.

I met my friend Paul James and his brother Mike at Weck’s for lunch. I’ve known Paul for a few years, one of several great people I’ve met through several incarnations of a homegroup at the Village Church. I once drove him to Dallas so he could get his eyeballs laser-beamed or something like that. He’s actually come to hear my band play more than once. We’ve even jammed some together with mutual friend Adam in my living room.

We drifted apart a bit when he moved to Tyler a while back, but we’ve always kept up via technology, blogs and texts and Twitter feeds. And this is the second time in the past six months that he, Mike and I have gotten to meet at Weck’s and share what’s going on in our lives over a plate of tasty goodness.

In a little more than a week, Paul is hopping a plane and moving to New Zealand. He’s in love with a girl named Lydia who lives there. I’ve never met her, but she must be pretty great, because Paul is one of my favorite people on the planet.

He’s sold his car, and is boxing up everything but some clothes, his Mac, a digital camera and a baby Taylor guitar, which will accomany him on his flight to the land where they filmed the Lord of The Rings, and to a lesser extent, Xena: Warrior Princess.

During our lunch, he noted that when he checks out of his apartment in Tyler, he won’t own a single key.

“Do they use keys in New Zealand?” I asked. “Or do they just scan your thumbprint?”

“They used to have them in Old Zealand,” he replied quickly. “But they left all that behind when they came to New Zealand.”

I love this guy.

The rest of the conversation was good – with goofy jokes about putting a video evidence on YouTube of how New Zealand toilets flush backward, and good affirming talk about both of our struggles to feel accepted and loved by our Creator. I left feeling so thankful for the time together, for the friendship, and for the guidance that seems evident in each of our lives.

We paid and said our goodbyes… Paul gave me the heads up to go ahead to start looking for a plane ticket to NZ so I could come visit him. I told him I’d do my best. I gave him a semi-awkward but totally sincere hug. And then we left… both heading the same direction because we had parked near each other.

“Isn’t it awkward when you say goodbye to someone and then have to walk with them to get to your car?” Paul said.

“Don’t say goodbye again,” Mike added.

“Don’t even make eye contact,” I chipped in, laughing.

It was a great way to leave a guy whom I’ve always felt on the same wavelength where sense of humor is concerned.


Thanks for Paul and Mike. Thanks for a great meal and conversation that ran deep and full. Bless him as he leaves the States. Bless he and Lydia and whatever you have in store for their future. Thanks most of all for loving all of us with a love so big and wonderful that we can lose ourselves completely in its midst. And give us the grace to do just that.

In Jesus’ name,


Thanks Armchair Anthropologist!

My church has embraced the blog. And for a lot of the staff, it seems the iPhone as well.

In the “creative” blog, Unearthe, a staff member who goes by the tag of the Armchair Anthropologist shared this handy little technique for using the iPhone to aid in scripture memorization.

I’d been searching for a scripture memory app, but this little appropriation of a couple of existing apps should work just fine.

If you’ve got an iPhone and are so-inclined, let’s experiment together and see how it works. Let me know what you think.