Archives For Personal Adventures

Saturdays can mean many things. Mine usually mean a day off to recharge and refresh in various ways. This is often through reading, which is what is mostly on tap for today.

It can also mean letting my body recover from the week, something I need after going back to a more strenuous workout routine. I posted on this a few times already (here and here), and can’t promise this won’t be the last diet and exercise related post. On the other hand, I’ll try to not turn this into a fitness blog. At this point, I figure if you do workout, it should be interesting. If you don’t, it is a New Year and sometimes that’s when people give the old gym membership a go.

Anyway, since what I did this week will be fairly stable, I’ll probably only update each week if what is listed below changes radically in terms of exercises or weights involved. Normally, I would either do what’s on Friday below in two separate days (shoulders Thursday, arms Friday), but for me, combining them wasn’t all that difficult. Here’s how the first week went, and I’m looking forward to two rest days before tackling the next!

Monday

  • Chest Press (100 each arm) 5×5
  • Incline Chest Press (100 each arm) 5×5
  • Machine Fly (190) 5×5
  • Triceps Press (140) 4×10
  • Decline Dumbbell Fly (50 each arm) 4×10

Tuesday

  • Underhand Row (100 each arm) 5×5
  • Lat Pulldown (165) 4×10
  • Bent Over Row (90) 4×10
  • Seated Row (150) 4×10
  • Hammer Grip Pulldown (170) 4×10

Wednesday

  • Leg Press (250) 4×10
  • Quad Extension (110) 4×10
  • Calf Extension (350) 5×5
  • Leg Curl (110) 4×10
  • Squats (90) 5×5

Friday

  • Barbell Curl (60) 2×21
  • Skullcrusher (60) 2×21
  • Hammer Curl (45 each arm) 5×5
  • Shoulder Press (120) 5×5
  • Chin Raise (90) 5×5
  • Arnold Press (60 each arm) 5×5
  • Shoulder Fly (35 each arm) 5×5
  • Triceps Pulldown (90) 5×5
  • Overhead Cable Curl (40 each arm) 4×10
  • Bent Over Shoulder Fly (25 each arm) 5×10

Earlier this month, I mentioned that I was doing the 2017 Reading Challenge. I should be clear that I think this time I’m approaching it as less a challenge and more a good categorical list that helps pick books to read. For me, reading 100 books isn’t that challenging, but reading wider is. Whether that’s you, or whether you’re just trying to read a bit more than usual this year, I have a suggestion.

If you look at the lists in the challenge (see here), you’ll notice this time around there are several “your choice” options. Nine of them to be exact. You’ll also notice several other categories get repeated:

  • Christian living (6)
  • Theology (5)
  • Church history (2)
  • History (2)

In addition, there are several other potentially overlapping categories, such as:

  • A book about holiness or sanctification
  • A book about spiritual disciplines
  • A book about prayer

Anything there would most likely also be considered a book on Christian living as well. So, there’s essentially 9 christian living options, 9 free picks, and 9 books potentially about theology (because of other categorical options, you’ll see them when you look at it). For the eager theological reader, you could always co-opt these and use my theological add-on from last year.

On the other hand, there are several missing categories. I would add these:

  • A book of philosophy
  • A book about philosophy
  • A book on sociology
  • A book on neuroscience
  • A book on psychology

In case you’re curious, the main distinction I have in mind between “of” and “about” would be that “of” refers to a primary source. So, a book by Kierkegaard rather than about Kierkegaard. Certainly there are other categories one could add, but these are what jumped out at me this time around.

In the coming months, I think we’ll find that books on sociology come in handy. I’ve been on a David Brooks kick (who is more popular) and have several sociological titles in my queue. I’m also hoping to do more reading in the science of decision making and other topics in neuroscience. And I shouldn’t forget psychology.

Also, I would suggest an “ad fontes” approach for the free picks in reading. That is, go back and read some primary sources. If you’re used to reading theology and biblical studies frequently, try to not read anything new for a change. Have you read any Aquinas? Start here. What about Augustine? Surely you’ve read his Confessions? I could go on, but you get the idea.

Basically, the way I think we get the most out of this challenge is to read outside of our normal drifts. If you tend to read more newer popular theology and biblical studies, still keep the categories, but go back to classics and sources that have stood the test of time. Pick some authors that have been around for centuries and proved their worth. I can’t promise that I’ll do this as much as I could this coming year, but I’d like to actually strive for it and encourage you to do the same!

When I posted about the TheoFit cut last week, I almost went on a tangent about workout routines. But, I realized it made sense as its own post. Hopefully, if you’re not doing the cut, some of what follows will still be of interest and/or help.

For a bit of history, I started working out regularly about 12 years ago. It was in response to going away to college for 2 years and coming back with a gut (it has made a comeback in recent years, btw). Once I moved to Dallas, I was able to start working out at a gym. This was thankfully because the powers at be at Dallas Seminary didn’t want to perpetuate the fat preacher stereotype so they gave us all a free membership to the Tom Landry Fitness Center at Baylor Hospital. It was a glorious 4 years.

During that time, I was fairly consistent at 3 days a week, mostly upper body (and abs) workouts. I tended to do 3 sets of 10 and maybe 7 or exercises (so 7x3x10). I also did these exercises in a circuit with as little rest as possible in lieu of cardio.

I continued this when we moved to Florida, but with some minor adjustments. I began to alternate pushing and pulling exercises in order to move through the routine faster. I still did roughly the same number of exercises and sets and reps. Then, I did a bulking phase and switched to heavier weights and did 4 sets of 5. After a few weeks, that would become 4 sets of 6, then 7, then 8. Then I would add weight and reduce back to 5 reps.

Then, in an unfortunate act of hubris, I ending up tearing my left pec and biceps tendon. That put all significant lifting to a halt for about 3 months, and then meant starting over with most basic exercises. I’ve just now regained that strength from 2 years ago.

During the rehab phase, I started doing an exercise routine that was similar to the one Paul suggests for the cut. It started as a 4 day split and then after 4 weeks moved up to 6 (two leg days). It also had 30 minutes of cardio tagged to the end (barf) and typically had you doing 4 sets of 8 for 7 exercises (7x4x8). You were also, by the time you got to weeks 5-8, supposed to be doing 80% of your max on those sets. If you’re trying to figure out your max, you can use this calculator. As an example, if you can curl 40 lbs for 10 reps, your max is 53, and 80% would be 42.

All that to say, you have some options in the lifting department. I think if you do the cut, and you’ve previously been lifting regularly, you should stick to the 5x5x5 setup (5 exercises in 5 sets of 5). Ideally, you do 5 days, but for time constraints might do 3.

If you want to do a variant, think in terms of total load. So for instance, I can do 5 sets of 5 Arnold Presses with 60 lbs dumbbells. That’s a load of 1,500 (insert appropriate unit of measurement here). If instead I did 3 sets of 10 with 50 lbs dumbbells, that’s technically the same load, but it works your muscles differently. Because of that, I’ll alternate every few weeks. The last few weeks I was doing 8x5x5 (or 7x5x5), but this past week I’ve been doing 5x3x10. Before I did that crazy day split workout, I was doing 10x4x10. You get the idea.

The goal, that I think is clear is that you have a plan and are consistent. I can do a 5x5x5 workout in about 30 mins, which means a 3 day a week plan is 90 mins in the gym. That’s not too bad. I’m gonna try to shoot for the 5 day deal as part of rebuilding my morning routine. Today is chest day, and I’m about to head over to Planet Fitness. I’m gonna try to hit it hard until the end of March because at that point, a trip to California will crash both the diet and the workout.

After that, not sure what I’ll shift to, but I’ll be sure and have some before and after pictures to post no matter what.

Over the years, I’ve actually written quite a bit about New Year’s Resolutions. I am generally a fan, although not in a completely uncritical sort of way. I find it helpful to use the break over Christmas to re-evaluate my life and make changes were it seems appropriate. I’ve realized that this involves habit building rather than rule making. In some cases, it may just be one resolution to rule them all (hint: get up earlier). In others it may involve adding integrating a new habit into an existing one (like adding the 7 minute workout to the end of lift session).

No matter what, it’s important to keep in mind what I’ve said elsewhere:

Remember that New Year’s resolutions are entirely optional. You’re not a bad person if you don’t make them, and perhaps more importantly, if you don’t keep them. I imagine many people have good motivations for making resolutions, have thought through a plan for keeping them, but then fail miserably. Failure can be instructive, but it can also be tempting to despair of guilt when this happens.

Such guilt is well-placed if your New Year’s resolutions are attempts to be your own Lord and Savior. If that really were the case, you would bear the sole responsibility of becoming a better you. Do more. Try harder. Resolutions become a means to an end. It may be too easy to get stuck in this cycle, longing for a verdict of “righteous” that never comes.

Thankfully, the gospel proclaims that our justification before God is grounded not in what we can do but in what God in Christ did. As we are constantly reminded of this, we should reorient our own resolutions away from self and social pressure to resolve from a place where we enjoy the justification that matters most.

We can glorify God in whatever we do, and New Years can be a time to examine if our life habits are doing just that and make adjustments accordingly. For me, this has led to New Year’s resolutions aimed at being a better steward rather than a better savior. When it comes to habits of health, if I’m approaching them as steward instead of savior, I’ll likely be more realistic about what I can accomplish. In addition, I’ll revisit my habits on a regular basis instead of only once a year (or even less).

With that helpful theological caveat in mind, here’s several things I’d like to enhance this New Year:

  • Bible reading
  • Prayer
  • Fitness
  • Writing
  • Discipleship

For each, there are already baseline habits in place that either need expansion or revision. I’ll post about each in the coming weeks, but one in particular that I wanted to draw your attention to is TheoFit. Paul Maxwell put it together and is running what’s called a “cut” starting January 15th. If you’re curious about what a “cut” is, here’s his short explanation:

If this is something you’re interested in, sign up and check out the rest of his videos.

I’ve already been doing something close to the workout that he talks about. On Monday, I’ll explain some variants I think are worth pursuing. I think the lifting is flexible, but the diet part is not. If you really want it to be a cut, then lower calorie and higher protein intake are key. Working out helps build muscles but also raises your daily caloric threshold. Because I workout regularly and am fairly muscular (but also have a gut), I can safely eat 3000+ calories a day and not gain weight, I know that from experience, but also from using this calculator (see Paul’s note). However, if I don’t reduce that, I shouldn’t expect to lose weight, no matter much I work out or how much cardio I might do (or think about doing).

That being said, if you’re looking to establish some better health habits in the next few months, consider joining us. You’re not necessarily making a New Year’s resolution, you’re making a 8-12 week commitment that might help you reshape your eating and exercise habits for the long term.

You may have seen my monthly posts throughout 2016 about Tim Challies Reading Challenge (see my year end post here). He made some changes to the overall plan to make it more flexible and is continuing it in 2017. You can download the plans here.

This time around, I’m planning to be a bit more strategic. I want to continue to read more broadly, but I also want to be more selective with the books I read in my usual genres. I am generally a completer when it comes to reading, so I’m trying to break that habit.

Along those lines, you may have wondered how I was able to read so many books last year (or in previous years). Part of the answer is found in Challies post on how to read 100 books in a year. I don’t typically set a goal for how much I want to read, but if you’re not in the habit, that’s a good idea. Also, his tips for constraining entertainment usage are helpful for time management.

Typically, I am able to read so much for a few reasons. First, I read 900 words per minute (on average). This comes in handy when reading so much within the biblical studies and theological studies genres. Often, you notice that many of these writers repeat themes and ideas. As an example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across an explanation of creation-fall-redemption-consummation in biblical theology. It is rare that an author says anything that adds to the discussion of those topics, so reading through that section of his book goes quickly.

Second, and this goes with the quicker pace, I don’t read every word (that’s part of how you do 900). I am reading primarily for comprehension, not necessarily absorbing each and every word. In non-fiction, the prose isn’t always that great anyway, and unless you’re reading a book by Kevin Vanhoozer, you’re not missing any clever turns of phrase or literary allusions. I’ll adjust my pace to compensate based on who I’m reading, but many things are easier to plow through if you’re primarily after the argument and comprehension. An extension of this is learning when to not finish a book, but that’s a topic for another day.

Third, I set aside specific times to read. For me, this is first thing in the morning after Bible reading, and then for a good chunk on Saturdays. I have two established reading spots (one morning and one afternoon) and will resurrect a third in the coming weeks (the beach). Having specific places and times to go read helps prime you for the task. Also, I bribe myself with beverages on both occasions.

Fourth, I read multiple books simultaneously. I guess “concurrently” is better. I only read one book at any one time, but I cycle back and forth between several. One reason for this is that I like to jump around on tasks. Another is that you can actually read more if you switch out books between chapters. I use bookmarks and chapters as naturally stopping points. In a typical morning session, I might read 2 chapters in one book, and then one in another. Mentally, this is actually easier than trying to focus on one book until you finish it. If you can learn to have several books going at once, and switch between them when you read, you’ll actually be able to read for longer stretches of time.

Lastly, reading is something I enjoy doing, so it comes easily. That being said, a downside to reading so much last year is that it means there are other things (like writing) that I didn’t do with the available time that I had. I was also reading a lot to escape, which is not a good thing in the long run. I am hoping to be more engaged in my relationships this year, and so that means less reading. I would rather have a balance ultimately, so this isn’t something I am reluctant to do. Ironically perhaps, my New Year’s resolution is to read less and relate more. As the months of 2017 pass, I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes!

I did quite a bit of reading in 2016, just over 48,000 pages to be exact. I participated in Tim Challies 2016 Reading Challenge (see below for month by month lists) and will probably do so again in 2017. I didn’t complete it, but that’s because I didn’t feel totally constrained to read in the categories he offered. I liked the tweaks he offered for next year in that regard.

As I reflected on all that reading, I thought a “Best” list wasn’t the “best” way to recap things. “Best” can mean a lot of different things, and in some sense is an subjective judgment masquerading as an objective one. Tim Challies noticed that many of the same books appear on multiple lists, and he offers a roundup list of the lists. Often, “best” means “books I liked the most.” Occasionally, it means “books that are objectively speaking, the most well-written ones that I read,” but I don’t think that is often the case.

In that spirit, here are my end of the year lists that I think are better (not best) assessments of my 2016 reading.

Books I Most Enjoyed in 2016

Notice anything about this list? Mostly non-theological. But, in terms of pleasure reading, these were the books I couldn’t put down. These were not necessarily un-thought provoking, but mostly just really fun to read. You should perhaps notice the irony that these are my “most enjoyed book” but they are outside of the stream of books I normally read. The bulk of what I read is theology and biblical studies, yet they don’t feature in this list.

They do however feature prominently in this one:

Book That Most Influenced My Thinking in 2016

These are books that I felt I needed to discuss and process more than others. They either contribute to my own personal development or class discussions, or sometimes both. Some of them I still need to write on, so look forward to that.

An original iteration of this next list was “Most Important Books I Read in 2016,” but I quickly realized that is a difficult category to pin down. Instead, I opted for a list of books I’d recommend, but that didn’t appear in the previous two lists. These are books I think are important, and helpful, even if they didn’t make my most enjoyable or most beneficial list.

Books I Read in 2016 That You Should Too

All of these are books that I thought were interesting, and would be beneficial for many people that similar reading interests as I do. Some of them are already well known, others deserve wider recognition. Several of them I’ll hopefully post more about in the coming weeks. You may notice some themes embedded (e.g. books on the Trinity, apologetics), as well as recurring authors. In that vein, here’s a list of authors that I read multiple books by this year and am glad I did. I would say each is also an example of someone who not only communicates important thoughts in writing, but does so well. In other words, I’ll make a case that these are the best writers I read this year.

Authors I Most Benefited From in 2016

  • Andy Crouch
  • Eugene Peterson
  • Tim Keller
  • Peter Leithart
  • Kevin Vanhoozer
  • Oliver Crisp

I briefly contemplated ending this group of lists on a negative note (Most Disappointing Books I Read in 2016), but 2016 was enough of a downer for most people without me pointing out what books fell flat. There were several, some surprising, some not. A good chunk of 188 books I read were simply “blah.” Not horribly written, but not super interesting either. Maybe important and game changing for some readers, but either redundant or slightly boring for me. That list would be too long to include here. I’ll explore reasons why that happens in a post next week. I would say perhaps I should cut back on my reading, but we both know that probably won’t happen.

Oh, here’s the month by month list of reading:

Since 2003, I have regularly driven I-75 from east Tennessee to central Florida. I wish at this point I had kept an accurate count. I could probably crowd source that information, but as a guess, we’re looking at about 9 times between 2003-2007, and then from 2011 until now, at least twice a year (yesterday being the first half of one such trip). This of course isn’t counting times when I drove Dallas-Orlando-Knoxville-Dallas. So easily 20 times both ways, and maybe another half dozen one way or the other.

It is a 650 mile stretch of Interstate that I have mostly memorized in terms of exits and amenities. I’ve driven across Georgia early in the morning and late into the night. Occasionally, I’ve driven it through the middle of the night. My personal point to point record is 8.5 hrs, but on average we’re talking 10 plus whatever traffic in Atlanta adds to the time. I’ve done it in one stop once, but that was before I started drinking coffee (and you have to make at least one stop because you know, gas). Perhaps more remarkably, I have never been tagged for speeding (in Georgia at least).

As I was making this drive yesterday, I kept thinking of helpful tips and tricks I could share. The temptation was to tweet or put them on Facebook in the midst of driving. Instead, I’ve opted to collect them here for your reading enjoyment. Most of this applies to driving across Georgia, but you could use some of the principles for any all day road trip. I am somewhat serious, but mostly tongue-in-cheek. You’ll have to figure out the dividing line.

General driving tips

  • Plan stops ahead and stick to them. I aim for just inside Georgia at exit 5 going north, and then again in Kennesaw after beating Atlanta. Going south I try to make it to the Macon bypass.
  • Gas up on both stops and remember that gas in north Florida is considerably more expensive than most anywhere in Georgia.
  • Take the bypass around Macon. In all the times I’ve driven, I’ve always taken I-475. No need to see Macon unless you’re Nelson Muntz.
  • Turn Waze on, not for navigation, but for the audible notifications of “Police reported ahead” and “Hazard reported ahead.” Make sure it comes through your speakers so you don’t miss them.
  • Maintain awareness of your travelling companions. You should generally be aware of whether you can make a sudden lane change when you come upon that hazard that was reported ahead.
  • The drive time (if you’re not trying to break land speed records) is 9 hours. Whatever you stop adds to that. Aim for the middle of nowhere exits that have a lot on them. Easier in and out. It’s Georgia so there will either be a Zaxby’s or a Chick-fil-a almost anywhere you stop.
  • Check Google Maps frequently with the traffic layer turned on. Unless a wreck just happened or construction project just started, you’ll know where the backups are miles before you get there.
  • Unless a back-road runs mostly parallel to the Interstate, it is probably not faster to get off and try to get around traffic. But sometimes it is, and it is totally worth it. Also, scenic detours can be fun!
  • If you take videos or pictures while driving (not recommended, but I do it), make sure you do it blindly and hope for the best (see below). Eyes on the road, not on the screen.

On speeding (or not)

  • Go with the flow of traffic for the most part, especially through downtown Atlanta (speed limits don’t matter there). Your mantra is “neither impede nor exceed traffic.”
  • Along those lines, north Georgia and north Florida are essentially race tracks. South Georgia is a giant speed trap. Plan accordingly.
  • Constantly monitor your rear-view mirror. You should never be surprised if a state trooper breezes past you because you saw him already.
  • Know what state troopers and various county police look like throughout Georgia. Be able to recognize headlights in your rear-view if you drive in the early morning or late at night hours.
  • Observe the cars on an overpass as you approach and glance back at the on-ramp when you pass under. You’ll thank me when you spot the cop hiding there.
  • Remember that every blind curve and slight rise in the road provides a place for a state trooper to hide. Left off the gas as you crest hills. Don’t try to pass in the left lane if you’re approaching a bend in the road.
  • Generally avoid the left lane (but see below). Let other people appear to be the fastest car on the road. Also, drive a black nondescript sedan.
  • Realize that speeding tickets are incredibly expensive in Georgia if you are going over 70 (which is what you’ll be doing if you get one there), but you’re probably safe setting the cruise control on 75 through south Georgia and doing whatever the middle lane allows in the rest of the state (I still practice hyper vigilance out of habit).

On Atlanta

  • Drive straight through. Don’t use the bypass, same traffic, but more miles.
  • Leave early or late enough to avoid peak Atlanta traffic (7-9 am or 4-6 pm). I aim to drive through Atlanta between 10-12 (regardless of direction travelling).
  • Hug the left lane through downtown. HOV if you can (you need a buddy for that). It minimizes your potential to be caught in a lane changing fiasco.
  • If you’re going north though, you’ll need to be in the far right lanes to avoid accidentally ending up on I-85. I enjoy the challenge of having to change 5 lanes in heavy traffic in under a quarter mile. You do you.
  • Without fail, there will be an accident south of Atlanta in Macdonough. It’s worse if you’re going south, so plan accordingly.
  • If you’re doing it right, Atlanta is about the most excitement you’ll have on the whole drive, so savor it.

Certainly more could be said, but you get the idea. I hope that on Monday I maintain my streak of not being noticed speeding in Georgia. In the meantime, here is the aforementioned video I made yesterday, chronicling the trip. It is boring, but it takes 3 minutes instead of 9 hours to watch so it’s basically like time travel.

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Ever since I was in seminary, I not only frequented the Dallas Seminary Bookstore, I made online orders to Westminster Bookstore in Philadelphia. Once I started posting about books more frequently, I entered their referral program and thanks to your clicks have gotten many gift certificates through the years.

Recently, they sent an e-mail to their partners about their financial situation (you can read more details here). The key ways you can help, if you’re so inclined, is to:

  • Pray for them
  • Order some great books (see below)
  • Donate your change at checkout
  • Spread the word about their ministry (watch the video below)

As for the books I mentioned, they have a list of great Christmas ideas. For a general list, click here, but they also have great Bible deals, books for children/teens, books for men, books for women, and obviously, books for pastors/theologians.

A few items of note in those are:

Obviously I gravitated toward a certain list but you get the idea. Their overall prices are competitve with other online retailers, but you’re helping a ministry sustain itself in this case. If you’re planning to purchase some books for friends and loved ones this Christmas, consider doing so through Westminster Bookstore

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In high school I drove my parents mini-Van when I needed to get somewhere. Well, realistically this was just for a 7 month period after I got my license but before I got my own car. That hunter green Camry would last until the December after Ali and I got married when I totaled it on the way to take a final exam in seminary. It was supposed to be a quick trip from the apartment to campus but the black ice had other plans. The impact to the back of a Toyota Highlander was enough to destroy the front end of my car but not set off the airbags. Somehow, the insurance check was well above the value of a 10 year old car with 285,000+ miles.

I’m now on my second Camry and still putting miles on it like there’s no tomorrow. Which is to say, I know a thing or two about road trips. For the past 13 years, I’ve regularly driven from central Florida to East Tennessee, so much so that I think I have I-75 memorized. I’m also pretty good with I-20 from Birmingham to Dallas, I-10 from Louisiana to Jacksonville, and I-81 through Virginia. Not to mention all of I-4.

What I was less familiar with is any driving in California. Or at least until recently. I awoke the first morning in San Fransisco and immediately struck out on my own. We were technically staying in a suburb called Burlingame. It has a small downtown square area which my senses (read: app) told me had a Starbucks. The whole trip took about 15 minutes, but it was my first solo excursion.

I returned to have the first of many continental breakfasts, and then through the process of natural selection, be paired with 6 high schoolers for the remainder of the trip. Ali went through this process as well, and end up paired with a mixed gender van. I had six 17-18 versions of myself, which is to say boys who liked my taste in music, could talk or just be fine staring out the window, and would spend a fair amount of time reading or thinking during our coming days of driving. I even had an INTJ riding shotgun most of the time.

Of all the mini-vans, mine was the only non-neutral color. Whereas everyone else had Kia’s, Nissans, or Toyotas of muted grays and blues, I had a red Dodge SXT. This would fortunately not prove problematic and I successfully logged many miles without a state trooper incident. It also meant I never lost the car in a parking garage. In contrast to the black 2003 Camry I drive, it was a nice change of pace. It was also, oddly like high school all over again, since that was the last time I consistently drove a van.

While I realize time travel is not technically possible (even if you allow for wormholes), this trip was certainly close. I was going back to places I had only been as a high schooler and was now doing so with other high schoolers who barely existed on my last trip.

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In a way, this made up for the previous four years. I try to not count my first year teaching, but if we start the chronology my second year, when I actually began teaching Bible, this was my first class. Not technically since 1st and 2nd period were 11th graders. But, they were freshmen and I had them before and after lunch. And they were the worst.

They weren’t all bad. But they were a nightmare for an introvert that just wanted everyone to sit quietly while he talked about the Bible. Also, the introvert was homeschooled, grew up basically an only child, and was generally calm, cool, and collected throughout much of his own high school experience (minus church trips).

They, on the other hand, wanted to almost literally bounce off the walls, which was a bad idea since the back wall was technically just a partition. Midway through the school year we’d move to our own building. It was on a property that had ironically been my wife’s elementary school, where she was taught by my current principal. Because of that, they were Facebook friends and to make a long story short, that was how I ended up getting hired at the school in the first place. This all happened a couple of months after relocating from Dallas, but technically before I graduated. I started out teaching science, but then the Bible teacher left and we all breathed a sigh of relief as I took up his mantle instead.

Freshmen start out with Old Testament, before moving to New Testament the sophomore year, then Theology (with a capital T), before finishing up with Apologetics/Ethics. I taught the first three for my first two years as a Bible teacher, before only teaching OT and Theology the following year. This current year I replaced the out-going senior Bible teacher. Though I have never taught all four years of Bible simultaneously, I did teach this current senior class all four years of their time in high school. And, as a bonus, I actually had every kid in the high school in one class or another this past year. Neither feat will likely happen again.

This particular class and I have always had a kind of love/hate relationship. Hate is probably a strong word, but I guess so is love if you really mean it. I like them all individually, but they have an oft putting corporate character. That is, unless you’re on a road trip in California for a week. Then they’re a blast.

Given my history with them, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into the trip. I was definitely stoked about getting to basically go to California for a week for free, crazy kids or not. I asked about Ali going, and it turned out she could, but we’d have to buy her ticket on our own. Or rather, we’d have to use our Southwest points to get a ticket for $11. Checkmate atheists.

April is Ali’s birthday month and her twin sister was coming in town and I had two concerts to go to, but hey let’s go to California for a week if we can, ok? And so we did. On the 7th, I finished up a semi-normal day of classes (except for the afternoon ones which were deserted because those are the senior Bible classes), went home, changed, and then a student’s mom picked us up and got us to the airport in the nick of time. Actually, several people were late and we were all getting there super early so it didn’t really matter.

My pit stains were out of control before we even got in line for security so I knew it was going to be a great night. I had a bag of protein powder in my backpack so obviously I got searched. We then rode the train to our terminal so we could buy some over-priced Asian fusion before making the final trek to our gate.

We boarded around 6:30 pm. Or at least, boarding group A started at 6:30. We were all C except for Ali, since her ticket had been purchased separately. She was able to snag a window seat and saved it for me (best wife ever). The rest of the unfortunate high school souls on this first flight had to pick which middle seat they wanted. Now they know the true value of a loving spouse.

We flew to Denver and landed around 9:00 pm local time. Which is to say 11:00 pm in East Coast mind time. This worked out well though because pretty much all the shops were closed for the night so the kids couldn’t buy any pot. Unfortunately it meant I couldn’t buy that Denver Broncos Super Bowl champion shirt either. But, as Ali always says, “You don’t need any more t-shirts.” Little does she know at this point that I won’t rest until I’ve bought about 10 on this trip. The last of which I technically ordered on Amazon somewhere airborne over Texas and it was delivered before I unpacked my suitcase so it technically counts. But she was right. I didn’t need a single one.

Disappointed, I headed back to the gate, had a brief conversation with a local pothead, who must have noticed my bloodshot eyes and thought he’d found a kindred spirit. I informed him of my chaperone status on a senior class trip, and he said the token “woah dude” a few times. Thankfully, this conversation lasted about the same time a vape cloud does, and boarding started. We would land around midnight local time. We all disembarked in a daze (not a haze) and made our way through an empty airport to the rental car counter. Seven mini-vans later we on the way 5 minutes south to our Holiday Inn Express. It was somewhere between 1:30-2:00 when I finally went to bed, which is to say it was when I would normally be getting up on a Friday morning. Thus began an uneasy relationship with Pacific Time that would last about 10 days.