Thursday, July 31, 2003

If you're going to watch television, and you're going to purchase cable channels, is there a better channel than "The History Channel?" Of course, The Discovery Channel runs a close 2nd (for those of you that know me, Nick scores high, too, primarily for their discovery and development of SpongeBob Squarepants).

Last night they ran a program called "The Big House" featuring Alcatraz and interviewed former guards and inmates. I was riveted.

Anyway, something that piqued my interest was the fact that they put the most hardened criminals in the cells that faced the Golden Gate or the skyline of San Francisco. The rationale was that it would break their spirit to see those symbols of their former freedoms continually and be powerless to benefit from them. The guard they interviewed said if the wind was blowing just right, you could smell the chocalate factory or even hear families talking on the docks.

There is obviously something to the idea that the loss of hope will break your spirit...

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Just for fun, let's assume that Francis Schaeffer was right...

Forty years ago he was cranking out some thoughts on how ideas move from the writings of European university philosophers, which then affects the art community, which affects the musicians (eventually moving through the other academic disicplines) and, eventually, the average Joe changes the way he thinks. Then, the mores and behavior of a society change. These changes take place over time (about 30 years to influence behavior in the US), across geography (starting in Europe and then over to the US, which speeds things up worldwide) and through disciplines (and yes, those disciplines influence each other in a "two-way street" kind of thing). That's the Reader's Digest version, so before all you Francis Schaeffer fans (both of you) send me hate mail...

Knowing this, I asked some Dutch Christian teens about whether it was harder have a worthy walk with Christ in Holland or in America. One person said, "Holland, definitely. Because in America, people at least pretend to be Christian and hold to Christian values, theoretically. In Holland, we've stopped pretending."

So, some coffee house (American no marijuana) questions for the day: Are we "pretending" in America and what changes await our society if we stop? What is the average Christian's response right here, right now?

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

My neo-hippie pierced and tatooed friend is going through a minor dilemma: She's having to change Bibles after a decade or so. The dilemma is found in the fact that much of her growing up is tied to this book. She went through trials of dating, major techtonic-plate life shifts, college debates, personal wrestling matches with God, etc., with this book.

I went through something similar with my old baseball glove. I know, it's a guy thing. Anyway, this glove had been a part of my life, from winning and losing important games to being on my hand all afternoon while I threw tennis balls up against the house for hours after my dad died, to my friends having to move it over when they got in the back seat on high school joy rides, to fraternity softball, to playing catch for the first time with my daughter. It was MY glove and we'd been through a lot together. Then, I misplaced it after playing catch with my daughter. I had to get a new one.

So, I completely understand the attachments people have to some of their things. We actually bond with them.

I had a Bible that I went through the first 10 years of ministry with. Seminary and sermon notes were it. The "plan of salvation" meticulously written out on the inside cover so I'd make sure not to forget it at crucial moments. Some of the back pages were messed up because a little girl with crayons sat next to me in church and drew on them while we stood to sing. Highlighted verses you knew you'd use in discussions with teenagers...I bonded with it, too.

Then one day an elderly gentleman in my Sunday School class at my old church overheard me telling someone what my idea of the user-friendly Bible was. He happened to have seen one very similar at a bookstore earlier that week and he surprised me by purchasing it and presenting it to me (including a very cool Irish blessing he wrote on the inside front). I was touched by his gesture and it was indeed what I was looking for, so I reluctantly made the switch.

Now, after 5 years, I've bonded with this new Bible. It has my trademark blue pen (black is simply too morbid a color for such a joyful book) notes in the wide margins, the small tear in the binding from being carried in the backpack everywhere, the really cool book charts at the end of each chapter and way better introductory notes and maps than the other one. I plan on leaving it to my girls when I die.

So, just like my new glove has already won a softball championship and had my daughters see their dad play for the first time and now serves as a serious teaching tool for a daughter who can play the game pretty well herself, the new Bible has it's own stuff working, too. And, it is cool to see one of my teenagers who forgot their Bible at Bible study using the old one (and picking up the maps after they fell out when he pulled it off the shelf).

So, Kristen, to help ease your transition, remember that this new one will have "Rudd" on it (and the inherent memories of years 2003--2052 or so you'll have together), and will probably have a page or two with dog-ear rips from baby fingers getting to it as you slow due to age (ha!), and will sit on your lap during late night readings (in which you will redefine "living and active" when you see verses you read to Judah as a child become realities in her life), and you'll still wrestle with God and man with it...but it will wind up being uniquely you. Maybe Judah can have your "old" keep it close.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Okay, so today, I woke up in Alkmaar, Holland. Two trains, two planes (and a nightmarish connection time through customs in Chicago...the next time your travel agent says it's no problem to make a one and one half hour layover, don't believe it.) and a van ride home and I'll be in my own bed almost 5,000 miles later. That still boggles my mind.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Two quick things today: First of all, I appreciate excellence in all it's forms. Salutes to Lance Armstrong, 5-time winner of the Tour de France. Cycling isn't my thing, but here in Europe it's the talk of the day. They said it takes a year off your life to train for this Tour and ride in Impressive.

Second, the team from Pennsylvania has arrived to relieve the mission in Holland. We fly out tomorrow. It's time...and speaking of excellence, salutes to a fantastic group of teenagers and adults that came with us. Mission accomplished.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

So, one of the teenagers here in Holland picked up a 3 CD set of Johnny Cash's greatest hits for about $10 U.S. How cool is Johnny Cash?

Friday, July 25, 2003

I am a firm believer in the daily miracle that is a newspaper, and thankfully, there's a media shop here in Alkmaar that has copies of the New York Times Europe and the good old McNews USA Today. The paper gets me on the on-ramp to the freeway of my day, with coffee for fuel.

Anyway, even the USA Today has a European slant to it, and there was an article about the "obesity" of the US citizens and our general lack of cardiovascular activity. There were a couple of ideas that I liked, though. Primarily, it involves the size of our meal portions and the speed with which we eat those well as the time we eat them. Maybe we should consider a full-blown breakfast, lunch and dinner hour (which would be at home as often as possible, or with friends/family if you're out and about). I wonder if the relationships built around the meals helps with health, too...

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Today, we're off to the Corrie Ten Boom home in Haarlem. If you don't remember the story from your middle school required reading, it's the home a leader of the WWII Dutch resistance...she cleverly hid Jewish people from the Nazi regime, and helped them escape Holland. Two things I like about the story of The Hiding Place: First, that Corrie Ten Boom was a devout Christian being salt and light to the world in the face of incredible cruelty and personal sacrifice (she nearly died in a concentration camp, and her sister did die).

Secondly, I'm drawn to the "underdog." The person/team that is up against all odds and manages to fight and scrap and accomplish great things. I have no idea why I admire revolutionaries, but I'm drawn to them...and aspire to be one. Whether it's personally revolutionizing who I am or what I'm about, or whether it's just "burning bridges of convention and safety and lighting up the sky in the process." (stolen from a Mark Rosenthal quote)

Here's to all the underdogs, doing great things for The Kingdom...

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

So, I'm thinking today about all this peacekeeping the United States is doing these days. Seeing that so many of our troops are required to do the work in Iraq of just post-war maintainence, will we have to reinstitute the draft? Policing requires people...and if you don't have enough people...

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Started today with a bike ride along a canal in 55 degree weather...lots of time to think and the thought that came into my mind is that the effects of legalism--spirituality based in following rules--are crushing to the spread of the Gospel, particularly in this "post-postmodern" world. For the Christians, the end result is disillusionment. For the unbeliever, following a list of rules (and, let's face it, most of the stuff on those lists of spiritual behaviors aren't "fun"/interesting and that list of "not-to-do's" can actually be enjoyable) hardly produces a true spirituality. The end result for them is disinterest.

Anyone have any ideas why living a grace-based life and letting others live one is so hard to do? Why is it so difficult to live our lives before Christ alone and give others the freedom to do so as well?

Monday, July 21, 2003

I'd just like to kick some shouts out to Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church in California. There was an article from the European edition of the USA Today about him and I'd just like to show you a few facts from his ministry. Since the church's inception in 1980 they have baptized 15,594 new members. They've founded 36 churches. 80,000 people access sermons each week. Over 300,000 pastors have been trained at their conferences.

I've heard a few evangelicals criticize his church/mininstry/writings/preaching style...whatever. Big picture: He is affecting the world for Christ and His Kingdom the way God created Him to do it. Rock on, Rick. May your tribe increase!

Sunday, July 20, 2003

I preached a sermon today in Europe. I'm still floored by the idea that God will use me, someone who showed little promise or gifts to do such things as a young man, to do that. Very humbling, and tough to get past that fact.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

On Monday, my girls are off to spend a week with my sister in San Francisco. Since they won’t be getting that rustic, romantic summer camp experience this year, we’ve started calling this holiday “Camp Aunt Jill.”

I’ve always liked my sister, too. Of course, we had debates on exactly where the middle of the back seat was or if you could cross that line into the air space as long as you weren’t actually TOUCHING her…the “get out of my room/get off the phone/get out of the bathroom or I’ll torch your stuffed animals” kind of stuff went on, too…but I always liked having her around…still do. A few notable reasons why:

Her sense of humor. I’m a “Three Stooges” kind of guy. She always finds the intelligent observation and funny just happens. I think this is why all her friends are so interesting…like Larry the Jet-Job Fundraiser Golfer, Shane the Barnstorming Pilot, Paul the Never-Finished Interior Specialist, Jill the Model Who Never Modeled, Sharon the Hometown Girl…

Her “carpe diem” sense of time. If there’s an experience to be had or fun to be done, she goes full-throttle. Even at the age of 5 she would fake sleep, make mental note of the end of Santa’s visit and go play with the toys when the coast was clear…only to come back to bed, and let Mom take the required video preservation of the moment a few hours later. Now, if you have to leave one sightseeing trip early and overpay for hard-to-get Broadway show tickets, you just do it…NOW…because we don’t know if we’ll have the chance later. You can sleep later and pay things off over time, but don’t miss the moments. It rarely occurs to me to do things like that.

Her wanderlust. I’m a homebody. She has lived in 4 different major cities (6 if you count the ones in Alabama) and will travel at the drop of a hat. She loves to see it all and, in fact, at this point, she’s done most of it. My passport stamps are all work-related.

She’s a risk-taker. She gets it, that to win big, you gotta enjoy the high-risk, high-reward stuff. I like to hedge my bets and keep the cards close to the vest. For me, you picked a college, you went there, you finished in four years, you got a job. For her, you sent your transcript from the last semester to the new school and dropped out to work with some friends in the early stages of their business, knowing that college would always be there and you can always get another job if things don’t go according to Hoyle.

I could go on…but you get the point. In my opinion, sibling relationships get better with age…and, as the Senior Counselor at Camp Aunt Jill, try putting this kind of stuff in the camp curriculum, wouldja?

Friday, July 18, 2003

Today is the famed Cheese Market in Alkmaar. People will come from all over to watch blocks of cheese get weighed on balancing scales and carried out to the square for purchase by nattily dressed folks. They’ve been carrying on this way since 1642 or some such…at least that’s what it says in the 400-year-old bricks inlayed in front of the scale housing. I can’t imagine that is pure hype.

While the locals tend to roll their eyes at all the tourists and ho-hum this weekly event, deep down it’s truly a source of civic pride. To be KNOWN for something, to have an identity in something, to have others ascribe worth to your something, must be ingrained in us all.

I grew up in the Deep South, U.S.A. It’s college football, and we do it better than anyone else (of course that “barefoot & illiterate thing” is one of those skeletons we’ll just keep in the closet for today, okay?). I currently live in Dallas, Republic of Texas. They still hang their 10-gallon, boot wearin,’ gun-totin’ image on that whole Alamo/Wild West attitude, even if it’s somewhat cartoonish. New Yorkers, San Franciscans, Navajos, African-Americans, (insert your own subgroup here)…we all have our somethings.

And you know what? How we view ourselves is a powerful motivator. It affects our behavior. It affects how others perceive us. So…here’s to all the “somethings” you guys have. Enjoy them, celebrate them, and revel in them…even if the other locals roll their eyes and gripe about their effects. Happy Cheese Market Day, ever’boddah!

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Here in Holland, bicycles are the primary mode of transportation for the populace. It’s flat here. The weather is nice enough to pleasantly do that, and the government helps out as well with the laws and labor to provide bike paths that can get you across your neighborhood or into other countries. Plus it’s traditional…from generations ago. It works here.

My question is why doesn’t the IDEA of public transportation work in Dallas (or the majority of America, for that matter)? Public transportation is the great equalizer of capitalism. I mean, if you want to get a better job or whatever, you aren’t limited because of your inability to purchase/insure/maintain your own vehicle, or risk doing so on credit. So the idea is good in and of itself.

Then there’s the start-up/maintenance expense of public transport…but wouldn’t that be balanced out by simply not expanding the highways and interstates and channeling the money to the? Man, if Disney can have a public transportation system that’s free (okay, maybe they hide it in the $5.00 soda in the souvenir cup) and the trains run on time, couldn’t a city.

It’s better for the environment…and if you wanted to rent a car for the week for personal trips away or vacations or whatever, the money you save each MONTH in INSURANCE alone would provide you with resources to do those infrequent rentals.

And, while you’re commuting, you can read. Or converse with friends. Or think.

I guess when it’s all said and done, the reality is that Americans prefer convenience/accessibility to common sense. Which, when you think about it, also explains the popularity of country music…

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The short-list: The first kiss at New Year, 1987, Orlando, Florida. The joyful hugging each other and jumping up and down after Lawyer Tillman’s reverse beat Alabama. Laughing together and watching Cosby every Thursday night when that night was a TV event. Her “trying not to laugh” eye rolls at my idiot friends. The smile on her face when she said “yes” to an unemployed seminary drop-out. While I’m at it, that same smile now. The naps we used to take on Sunday afternoons (before kids). How beautiful she looked when she was eight months pregnant. For helping me through her 18-hour labor and delivery. The way she put so much love into making our first house a home, complete with a smooshed wallpaper border teddy bear in the nursery corner no one looked at. The pure joy on her face holding our infants. The fun we had sharing our children’s first words/rolls over/crawls/steps together. The dates we had at Huffman and Hewitt-Trussville events…and the teens we both fell in love with when they invaded our home. The way she held my hand and looked in my eyes when Kelsey went to the emergency room, and Shelby to the hospital. The confidence she displayed when we took the biggest step of faith of our life together. The support she’s given me to put me through school and the crap she’s put up with because of my job. The crap she’s put up with because of me. The way she makes every family vacation something memorable. The way she just KNOWS what’s best for our children, and the way she still sees them as a blessing from the Lord. The way she understands that raising children and a clean, quiet house rarely mix…while still making our house cozy. The way she understands that being married and a clean, quiet husband rarely mix…while still making me feel cozy. The way she still actually enjoys teenagers coming into her home. For choosing to be a dog person even though she’s a cat person. The way she never said anything during the TLC days, even though she had every right to. That special group of teens and those special duplex neighbors during that same time frame. The way she tolerates my quirks. The way she sees how important it is to be home for the holidays. The way she puts our children in situations to grow spiritually. The way she puts me in a position to grow spiritually. The talent she has for photography, and the eye she has for art…whether it’s a Van Gogh or one for the refrigerator door. The way she enjoys the Crossroads days we’re in right now, and the way she enjoys being part of a church body, using her gifts and talents. The way she loves this group of teenagers as much as the first. The way she says it’s okay to be on a mission trip to Holland for our 15th anniversary.

I have been loved more than I have loved ;)
And now I know that God lets angels fly this low ;)

I love you, Tracy. Thank you for 15 wonderful years.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Deep thought for today that came in very handy yesterday (check out to see a more full explanation):

"What is wrong with the world is God's business. It is a business in which you will have a part, come morning when you get your assignment. Meanwhile God is giving help at a far deeper level than any of your meddling will ever reach."--Eugene Peterson.

I guess the reason for all the quotes is that I have lots of time to read...we are without television. When Karl Marx (I'm hoping at this point it wasn't Lenin, since I'm putting it out there) said that religion was the opiate of the masses, it was obviously before television was invented.

Monday, July 14, 2003

If you've ever heard "Watching The Clothes Go 'Round" by the Pretenders, then you know my day yesterday. A church service with our Dutch friends (with translation) was good, and it's always enjoyable for me to see church worship take place in different environments (when you work for a church, you tend to see your own a LOT)...but let's say that European laundromats are virtually non-existent and the ones that are have small washers and dryers, and it took four hours. So, anyway, here's something provocative I read:

"Mark this: God will never call you to something you can do. Period. If you can do what God has called you to without the new power God alone provides...then you missed what God called you to. God calls us only to that which requires Him." How about that, quote fans? Even more importantly, would you have the guts to pray a prayer asking to do something so bold for the Kingdom that those who see it would have no choice but to proclaim the glory of God? I'm still thinking about it, frankly.

It's in a book by Dwight Edwards, entitled "Revolution Within" if you're interested...

Sunday, July 13, 2003

I just pushed the red button on the coffee pot and was trying to choose the best early morning CD to get the day started off right. So, stealing a scene from the movie "High Fidelity" I will now give you my top 5 songs to play when you wake up to get the day off on the right foot:

5: Moby, "We Are All Made Of Stars"
4: R.E.M., "Can't Get There From Here"
3: Talking Heads, "Once In A Lifetime"
2: Sheryl Crow, "Every Day Is A Winding Road" (all apologies to the Mosaic generation who won't understand why this is here and I won't be able to explain it, but to us aging GenXers she is, as my grandmother would say, the bees knees)
1: U2, "Beautiful Day"

P.S. Did anyone catch how I just threw three generations together in one sentence?! Unintentional, but I was pretty pleased with it during the editing!

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Yesterday I stood in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The architecture (the display walls were all canvas and the stark white, lots of glass and opennness, etc.) added to the experience as well. The arrangement of the art carried a message with it, too. The influential artists and contemporaries of Van Gogh stood on the first floor, and the two floors above held the various works, which show his "rank" above them...and then those he influenced are held in a special travelling exhibition "beneath" him in the basement. Very cool. There's something inspiring and undescribable standing three feet from a priceless painting.

And, only adding to the experience, was the fact that I got "hit on" by this guy handing out the brochures. His pick up line: "Hi. How are you today? Did you bring the weather with you? Because it's beautiful!" Needless to say, the teenagers I was with have not let me forget it, either. On two counts. The first is that I'm married, for cryin' out loud...and the second because they've been using the pick up line in jest on each other for the better part of two days.

If any of you happen to be in Amsterdam and you aren't with teenagers (which will allow you to skip the Hard Rock Cafe, although I'll kick some shouts out to them for ice in Coca-Cola and free soda refills), check out the Trivoli Italian Restaurant. Wow.

Best T-Shirt I Saw In Amsterdam: Jesus Loves Everyone, But I'm His Favorite.

Friday, July 11, 2003

We went to go see the movie "Bruce Almighty" last night, and I was pleasantly surprised at the major messages and minor incidents in the movie...the girl Grace (played by Jennifer Aniston), prayed meaningfully in one scene; the idea that God is God and I am not and that submission to His will usually happens when you come to the "end" of yourself; the question Bruce asked of God on how to get someone to love you when you can't tamper with free will; the scene where Bruce almost falls to temptation (did anyone else notice he was leaning on a Golden Calf right before he did?)...I could go on and on. Typical silly Jim Carrey moments (which, hey, let's face it, ain't all bad either) but much more provocative than most things Hollywood is cranking out these days.

Before we left the States, there was minor discussion among the local churches of whether or not a boycott of such a movie should take place. These discussions happen often in the Christian church (re: Harry Potter, The Last Temptation of Christ, Eminem, Disney, etc.) but I'm reminded of Francis Schaeffer's thought in the book "True Spirituality" (from memory, but I don't think I'll be too far off: "If the Christian Church is to be effective in the last half of this century, we must speak boldly and with authority to those areas in which the Bible speaks boldly and with authority. We must remain silent where it is silent." Amen, Dr. Schaeffer. Amen.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Last night, I tied an untied shoelace I've been walking around with for almost three years. The last time I was in Holland I met a young man named Cor and things didn't end well between us. He came back to visit when he found out our team was staying here and suffice to say the new millinnium hasn't been kind to Cor. I presented the Gospel to him in a highly relational fashion. He listened. Last time, he argued. When author Eugene Peterson wrote, "Spiritual formation is a slow business," I'm not sure I realized what that meant when I first read it, but I think I'm beginning to get it. I see it in myself and I see it in others almost daily, but rarely with the clarity I see it in this case.

My pastor's wife (who has been "voted off the island"--e.g., "relegated upstairs for sleeping purposes because of snoring"--by her all-girl bunkies) made a statement last night that I wish other churches could honestly say. Upon hearing my frustration in communicating what our church does well, she chimed in, "Crossroads isn't a church, it's a culture." That's true, too. I believe that...even if our website doesn't communicate that effectively.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

This morning I'm thinking of why it is so easy to spend a year in training, raise almost 30 thousand dollars, travel over 4,000 miles to wake up and ask God to bring someone to you so you can bring them to Him so He can glorify Himself...and why it's so difficult to simply get out of bed and do the exact same thing.

(Some of you reading this may not know I'm a youth pastor by trade and am currently in Holland on a mission trip with them)

Best story from yesterday: There were three teenagers at the basketball court at the same time some of our teens went over to play. They asked one of the teens what he was reading. His answer, "The Bible." While he was smoking pot. Naturally, our teens jumped on the discussion after he said that he didn't believe it but it had great stories. Best question he asked our teenagers: "So...if there are no works that can cause you to be saved, isn't "faith" a "work?" Stew on that for a moment, evangelism fans.

That's why I'm a firm believer in trips like this, besides the inherent nature of "going forth." Our teens are getting real world experience...and responding well, I might add. They sat up last night talking about that question.

Open statement to Mike Messerli: If our website at isn't working you may want to give Mike Bascue a call as we know he has all our stuff from our most recent upload...and feel free to give this site to anyone who wants to check out what we're doing in the meantime. They can simply hit "comment" to respond and we can hear from them. And, by the way, Mikey, the Gospel has been presented here three times in three days!

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Get this: I'm in a library in Alkmaar, Holland trying to blog. That's honestly a sentence I never thought I'd write.

One thing I'm learning about God is that what He really wants from us is to give glory to Him. Seems that several of the books I'm reading and several of the sermons I'm hearing and discussions I'm having seem to involve that topic...not that that particular piece of information is new to many of you, but it's more the application of such that's provoking my thoughts as of late.

I see that so much in this culture. Evangelism as Americans tend to do it simply isn't very effective (and the problems caused by years of others doing it this way are numerous) or in the U.S. You simply have to BE God's workmanship (see Ephesians 2, and substitute "masterpiece" for workmanship and I think you'll be closer to the intended meaning), and allow others to see the fruit of the Spirit in you.

If any of you figure out how to do that in your personal lives...I'm all ears. Very interested in learning from you guys on this.

Two things by way of closing: First, Rob actually presented the Gospel to a guy last night...God is at work here. Second, I got an e-mail apiece from my daughters today. One of them closed with the phrase, "Dress happy, think happy, be happy." That's a wonderful way to close a letter.

Monday, July 07, 2003

The trains ran on time! With one minor mistake by the travel agent that was relatively quickly rectified, we arrived in Alkmaar in time to greet our hosts at the lunch hour. After one very exhausting day, we all had a good night's sleep in our building. Today has been filled with shopping and getting the house ready for our three week stay. I promise I'll fill you in as soon as keep checking the blog for more substance.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

The stamps in my passport stink. 6 from Juarez. 1 from Port-Au-Prince. My wife has only 1 stamp, but it's from Greece. But today (actually tomorrow), I'll get my second one from Amsterdam. Off to Holland, I am. And I enjoy the lack of pressure in packing for Europe. If you forget the typical things you forget when you pack, you can simply buy them there. In Haiti, you just do without it.

Things I like about Holland: A public transportation system that works, an excellent public education system, a populace that accepts others lifestyles and mindsets, and a health care system based on making sure everybody has access (granted, it's highly flawed, but profit should be a by-product, not a motive, in health care/coverage). Oh yeah, I also like July highs of 63 degrees (F). In Texas, we have had 63 days in a row over 100 degrees before. Working windmills.

The thing I dislike about Holland: A series of factors that have caused a population to dismiss God as a failed idea and/or a crutch for the weak. That's why I'm going. In the three weeks I'll be there, I won't see much of that populace...but hopefully, the ones I come in contact with will provide me with the opportunity to talk about high minded ideas like an ordered universe, and absolute truth based in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ. That's why I'm going. I can't imagine leaving my wife and kids for three weeks for anything less.

So, after a long day of travel, my next post will come from The Netherlands. A public library won't be open until Monday and even then I gotta find out what Internet access rates are so I can keep my posts coming with some degree of frequency. Also, some of you will be interested in our student ministry website to see how the trip is going...and we'll have 14 blogs on it. I'll post the address in my next blog here...Slap Lekker! It's Dutch...look it up.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Since it's the Fourth, here are four Independence Day haiku's for you:

The Fourth of July
Barbequed meat followed by
Dexatrim diet

Idealistic words
Resulting war begs questions
Was that war a sin?

Wimbledon tennis
All-American final
A Williams sister

Hancock, Jefferson
Morally just idealogues
Rousing the rabble

Sorry to bring all of you into my first attempt at haiku's, but I hope you have a great Independance Day and hold those truths to be self-evident.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

I have nice in-laws. In fact, I'm able to journal (albeit later than usual) because my father-in-law and I just went and purchased a new modem...sending us screaming into the late 1990's. I know, I know. But I just can't justify a cable modem.

Anyway, my sister-in-law came along as well, with my neice and nephew in tow. They've been here a few days...all in our house.

It's safe to say that if some other group of people were in my house for a holiday week that I'd be going crazy. But, my father-in-law is a genuinely nice guy, my mother-in-law is sweet, my sister-in-law is fun, my nephew is a riot and my niece is adorable. I'll actually miss them when they leave on Saturday.

And I'm realizing it's a blessing to be able to say that. Not everyone can.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Section NN. Row 1. Seats 1 through 4.

The best seats in the house at Rickwoord Field in Birmingham, Alabama. They cost 5 bucks each. The Barons weren't selling you frills...they were selling you hopes and dreams of young guys trying to make the bigs (and we wanted to see them do it, the next year we could lie to each other about how we knew before everybody else that that guy had the stuff). There were no dot races, no fireworks after home runs, no "diamondvision" screen or dopey mascots racing kids around the bases between innings. All you got then was watching the game and listening to people around you talk about the game and which guys were going to play the game in the major leagues. The experience was the thing.

Section 102. Row 27. Seats 3 through 10.

Average seats in the house at The Dr. Pepper/7UP Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. They cost 7 bucks each. The RoughRiders were selling you frills...and lots of them. Good ones at that. There was a horse race that actually took place on the outfield fence, a couple of home runs to set off fireworks, a diamondvision with guys roaming the stands getting kids to dance and couples to kiss, and the kid thrashed the mascot to home plate. The experience was the thing.

Lots of romantic drivel has been written about baseball...even more romantic drivel about minor league baseball. My daughter Kelsey got autographs from guys that were happy to give them. My daughter Shelby rolled down the grassy knoll (okay, sorry for the easy Dallas reference) in the outfield with her friends. My cronies did the Hokey Pokey and MEANT it, if putting whatever body part "in" was truly what it's all about. After much discussion, we decided that the center fielder and the second baseman actually have a shot at the bigs. If you don't get the romance of baseball, I can't explain it and won't try.

The experience was the thing. Even if the minors have gone corporate and gotten digitized, there are very few great experiences you can have for 7 bucks a head. And I hope Ramon Nivar gets his shot, too. Now that it's in writing, I can say that I told you guys LAST year this kid was going places.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Last night I had an enjoyable chat with my neighbors. Nothing major or profound...just getting caught up on jobs and children and such. It was the first time in months.

In my childhood neighborhood, we knew all the neighbors. Knew them well, in fact. We knew that Mr. Stokes had two major dislikes: 11 year-olds making divots in his yard when we practiced golf (we'd never even played golf "for real" so I have no idea why we were practicing) and 11 year-olds ogling his 18-year-old high school cheerleader daughter. We knew the Bailey's grandchildren came over every Sunday. We knew about Mrs. Lawyer getting a divorce. Everybody knew us and we knew everybody.

Of my current neighbors, I don't even know any of their last names. Sure, Alabama was WAY less transient than suburban Dallas but I believe times have changed...and not to come down with a case of "Good Old Days Syndrome" but I think two things are primary in this shift: Architecture and Pressure.

Regarding architecture: The homes where I live are designed with 8 foot privacy fences, no front porches, and two car garages on the front of the house. One of my neighbors comes and goes from a day at work and is never seen. She pops out of her garage in her car around 7AM and pops back in around 6PM (I'm not sure I could pick her out of a police line up, but I could report her car to the cops with amazing detail). We're adjacent to four backyards and you can't see what their dog looks like. I read somewhere that parents taking chairs to their children's soccer practices constituted "America's New Front Porch."

Regarding pressure: With Americans working so much all they want to do is come home and cocoon. Simply spending time with family or just vegging out or even working more after a day at the office are all things that can be done inside.

Seems to me that the Judeo/Christian mindset of relationships being primary above all else has been lost. I enjoyed reclaiming a bit of that by hanging out with my neighbors last night...even with the muggy weather and mosquito bites. I like the idea of community in whatever forms it takes.