Wednesday, December 31, 2003


I have no plans for New Year's Eve which isn't really all that unusual as most of our friends are more spontaneous people. In past years, we've made plans shortly after lunch.

But, am I a loser if what I really want to do is cacoon with a good DVD, a good beverage or two, grill something and hang with my family?

My New Year's Eve desires appear bi-polar: It's either the full-throttle ultimate deal of Times Square (and absolutely no other major metropolitan attempt to recreate that will suffice) or a quiet home happening.

Although, with the right people, ringing in 2004 over Taboo or Trivial Pursuit or Uno is nice in it's own way...we'll see what happens after lunch.
I'm Starting To Believe In The Concept Of Karma

My oldest daughter has been inspired by Katherine's ability to rap the song "Unbelievable" covered by Thousand Foot Krutch and wants to imitate said behavior. We went on a mission to find the CD yesterday and came up empty-handed and I can't decide if that's good or bad. I mean, I'm all for artistic expression by my children and understand that everybody loves to fire up a good song and sing it wholeheartedly (likely into a hairbrush)...

...but the thought of my new year being brought in by the CD changer on "repeat" and listening to that same song during the learning process isn't too thrilling.

It could be worse. It could be the strains of Shania Twain reverberating from my youngest daughter's room as of late.

I think in my oldest daughter's situation it's my Karma coming around from all those years of Kiss, Ozzy, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Motorhead and a succession of forgotten punk bands that came from vinyl while I was in my air-guitar phase.

I have no idea what I did that has caused the awful Karma about Shania.
Reality Check?

I went away on a week's vacation and there was not one single voice mail on my office phone. On one hand it was a joy to avoid sitting there with a pen in hand and some Post-It Notes jotting down about 20 numbers. On the other hand, have I become irrelevant?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003


While I generally enjoy travel, I think deep down, I'm truly a homebody. Simple pleasures today: Waking up in my bed, a shower in my shower, coffee made in my pot my way, going out to my driveway to get my hometown newspaper layout, blogging in my chair, with my family in their beds with my dogs nearby. (Singing like U2: "It's a beautiful DAY"--bomp BA bump bummm--then singing some unintelligible language for the words I don't know that follow)
Computers, Ugh

No new software. No new hardware. No changes to the desktop. Nothing. Now, the software that opened my digital photos from my camera is telling me that my hard drive is full...something about a "scratch disk" and all that. It worked for six weeks with nothing added. What the heck?

Monday, December 29, 2003

Bomp BAAAA bah bomp ba da da da Bomp BA bah da da daaaaaahhh

(that's the introductory theme song from the hit show "Dallas" that I tried to phonetcially reproduce try it)

I ran 4 miles this morning...just a "recovery" run from the 11-miler on Saturday. We leave in about an hour to drive 689 miles. Ugh. I'm glad it's not the other way around, though.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

The Brilliance of Al Franken

Back in the days when Saturday Night Live was funny (the writers of the early shows had the motto, "Go for smart observations, and funny happens." Now, it's a combination of 8th grade guy humor and frat house hijinks...although that's really six of one and a half dozen of the other.) Al Franken was a highly underrated cast member. The "Me Decade" was genius and his Stuart Smalley was brilliant...and his reports during the "Weekend Update" were always hits.

Now, he mostly writes political satire...but it's laced with those smart observations we saw in his early SNL days.

From his most recent book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, for example: "The right-wing media tells us constantly that the problem with the mainstream media is that it has a liberal bias. I don't think it does. But there are other, far more important, biases in the mainstream media than liberal or conservative ones. Most of these biases come from something called 'the profit motive.' This is why we often see a bias toward the Sensational, involving Scandal, and hopefully Sex or Violence, or please, please, pleeeze, both...

And there's the Easy and Cheap to Cover bias which is why almost all political coverage is about process and horse race and not about policy...

And there's the "Get it First" bias...

...Pack mentality. Soft news. The Don't-Offend-the-Conglomerate-That-Owns-Us bias. And, of course, the ever present bias of Hoping There's A War To Cover."

Smart observations and funny just happens. I'm laughing and thinking all at once, which is nice when you're on the last (non-driving) day of vacation.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Leading Pop Culture Indicators

Very nice article in the Dallas Morning News religion section that provokes thinking. It starts like this:

"You can tell a lot about people if you know what they like to do, right? Certain habits and tastes suggest certain values and behaviors.

Well, what would you guess about someone whose four favorite CDs of 2003 were by 50 Cent, Norah Jones, Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks? Or whose favorite movies this year were Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix Reloaded and Bruce Almighty? Or whose top TV episodes of the year included the finales to Joe Millionaire and American Idol and more than a dozen hours of CSI?"

The guy even quotes Whitman, for crying out loud. And, by the way, the shows/music/movies listed are all leaders for the whole country.

What do these say about me?

My favorite CD purchases were R.E.M.'s "In Time" (which was a greatest hits over the last five years), followed by an old "Live" CD called "Throwing Copper" and then a punk music compilation.

My favorite TV shows are Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns. I watch sports and the news, but the only weekly shows I catch with any regularity are "Friends" and "C.S.I. Miami" but neither of those are priorities.

My favorite CD purchases were all silly comedies, none from 2003 (except I did pick up Bruce Almighty): Office Space, Animal House, Dumb and Dumber, and Spinal Tap.

I guess the only way to find out what it says about me is to type it into Amazon and then have it give me suggestions for purchases...that thing is usually dead-on accurate...but I have no idea what they say about me other than I like comedies and music that's off the beaten path.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Christmas Review

Best Gift That Wasn't On My List: A 4-CD compilation of punk music entitled "No Thanks." It's a virtually exhaustive history of the music I loved as a teen and very few others have heard of any of the bands on it. It's good to have music that your children raise their eyebrows at.

Gift I'll Use The Most: The "Late Night with David Letterman" coffee mug that is just like the one his guests drink out of.

Most Unique Gift: I got a deal that has a combination of flashlight, emergency siren, thermometer, AM/FM radio, compass, and 5-inch black and white television built right in. It's also blue and has the Auburn University Tigers' logo on it...I can't imagine what kind of fix I'd have to be in to need all that stuff at once!

Gift That Requires An Open Mind: My sister-in-law loaded down one of my daughters with a couple of country music CD's. While I think this borders on abuse, the pendulum swings both ways when you're trying to expose your kids to whole spectrum of the arts.

Best Stocking Stuffer: How can you go wrong with a fancy-schmancy executive travel kit? It's got razors and toothbrushes and combs and clippers that all come apart James Bond style and plug into this very small silver James Bond type briefcase.

First DVD Shown: In the year of the DVD, we had about 10 choices ranging from "A Knight's Tale" to "Dumb and Dumber." We chose "Seabiscuit" on the premise none of us had seen it. Since we knew that the people we were buying DVD's for had newly acquired surround sound, we made a couple of purchases based on cool Dolby features (FYI: Jurassic Park and Twister rated high on sound, as did Pirates of the Caribbean).

Best Kid Gift The Grown-Ups Pirated: A table-top basketball game with plexiglass backboard that uses ping-pong balls you try to bounce in the hoops. Thus far, I'm unbeaten.

Best Inspirational Gift: A tie. Kelsey got a "Auburn Athletics" t-shirt that has "softball" in the rectangucircle sandwiched between the large letters. She also got an incredible art-supply set and some lessons to see what else we can get out of her budding art brain.

Best Overall Result: Only three exchanges need to be made out of the smorgasborg of gifts and two of those are CD's.

So, today will be spent in recovery mode...that melancholy feeling of "it's over" and there's a certain amount of stress relief. It should make for great napping.
The Knife Cuts Both Ways

I wonder if those same people who were asking, "How could a good God let this happen?" on September 11, 2001, are now saying, "What a good God we have!" for the recent preemptive security measures taken in Paris.

Just between us: Both incidents have more to do with free-will than with God Himself.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

The Bottom Line

"And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2: 10-11.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Figuratively Sitting On Santa's Lap

In my home, we still have one person who hears the bell ringing (vague Polar Express reference, but for those of you who know my family you understand the necessity of talking in code at the moment) hence we will make a mall trip today to visit Santa.

If I could get some serious time with St. Nick I'd tell him what I want what I really really want (did the Spice Girls song pop into your head when you read that?)...

It isn't much as I'm a content human on this terrestrial ball, but here goes:

*For my wife to truly feel like she's got the best husband in the world, and that she would have more confidence in her artistic talents.
*For my children to truly believe and know deep in the fleshy part of their heart that their dad loves them more than anything.
*The courage to come to the blank page and write the dang book.
*My credit-card balance at $0.

When I think about it, that's what I really, really want, Santa. And none of those should be that heavy to put in the bag and lug around, either. And, I'll leave some cookies and milk out, just in case.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Merry Effing Christmas...Where's The Tylenol?

My higher-order life-liver sister Jilly had one of those Clark Griswald "jelly of the month club instead of Christmas bonus" days know, those days where everything could be infinitely worse and you're blessed and all that but a chain of events simply goes askew? Keep in mind that this is the abridged version:

She had to take friend to the airport very early, which can be a hassle to simply drop off one guy in these orange alert days. She then got about 15 seconds of earthquake as a San Francisco treat. Then her fridge was in that limbo between a $12 part and a $700 overhaul, and on those days you just know where that pendulum will swing. She has a friend who was depending on her to take her to a doctor's appointment (and this friend is on "suicide watch"--whatever that is) who she had to tell to wait until her delayed refrigerator repair person got the job done. Hmmm. So, while the refrigerator repair person was working she figured she'd track gifts she'd sent designed to arrive by Christmas Eve for our family celebration on Wednesday. Her FedEX tracker told her they were here:

She had to e-mail us what we would've gotten if the purchased bounty hadn't been on this incinerated plane. Hopefully today will be better for you, Jilly! Hang in there!

Monday, December 22, 2003


I have a beautiful niece who toddled around last night, even as tired as she was, doing all the cute things toddlers do. There's something cool about watching people you're related to grow matter what their age.
Long Drive

Our family has made the 689 mile drive (driveway to driveway) from our cozy home in DFW to Birmingham probably 10 times since we moved there. We've gotten to where we do it relatively well, too. TV/DVD player, Nintendo, books, CD's...we even know the best places to stop that have clean restrooms and where the exits with the most food choices are.

But I think that makes the drive seem longer, too. Driving that far wears me out mentally. Maybe it's because there just isn't that much to see in East Texas, Northern Louisiana, Central Mississippi and West Alabama, but 12 hours looking at pine trees with four inches of water around the bottom is difficult.
Oranger Terror Alert

Is it me or does anyone else feel creepy about the government raising the terror alert this time of year?

Sunday, December 21, 2003

In Birmingham They Love The Govnah...Oooh Oooh Oooh

Vacation begins today. Off to Birmingham to see the family for Christmas. Don't worry...they have internet there. I should still be at full blog strength.
Sometimes, I Out-Finesse Myself

I don't care what anybody says, running 10 miles at one time is an accomplishment...Even if I don't finish the marathon, I ran 10 miles at age 37. Sorry about the chip on the shoulder but I've been taking heat from my comrades and such.

Saturday, December 20, 2003


On my agenda last night was the wedding of a former student in my ministry. It was in the living room of his childhood home, with close family and friends in attendance. There was a dinner beforehand, too, for everybody.

The bride was beautiful in her dress. The groom was emotional in his suit. The father of the groom performed the ceremony. They played punk rock on the CD player after they kissed. Everybody had a camera and used it. There was cake and punch and champagne and toasts and the whole deal...they threw red glitter when the couple left.

It made me wonder why the BIG CHURCH WEDDING tradition started. With all the money for caterers and florists and tuxedos and bid old reception halls and all that jazz.

The nicest weddings I've been to are the smaller, more intimate affairs, and I'm just thinking out loud, but they're just as married and will have nice memories of their wedding day no matter how much money they spend as long as they're with people they love and enjoy.

Resolved: No matter how much money I spend (or don't spend) on my daughters' weddings, they should be long on the things that last and short on frills and fru-fru.
Progressive Dinner

Last night, the student ministry that I serve had their annual progressive dinner. You know, where you have appetizers at one home, soup & salad at another, and the main course at "banquet" location.

And, the get dressed up, too...girls in dresses and guys in at least a shirt & tie.

The college students from our church come back to serve (along with moms and dads) as waiters, cooks, kitchen help or drivers...all in all it's a fun time. Kinda old school, but a genuinely good time is had by all generations involved.

But, there was one reality that I noticed that I couldn't really get past: The senior girls involved in my ministry are stunning, both spiritually, intellectually and physically. Sure, I enjoy something about all my teens--no matter the age or gender--which is what makes my "job" fun...but these young women are the real deal. And that makes my job satisfying...just being a small part of their growth.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Manners and Common Sense

Why don't people respond to RSVP's anymore? The reason they're requested is because hosts need to make plans. Not responding (or responding to the RSVP late, which defeats the entire purpose) and "just showing up" unannounced happens all the time and inconvenience abounds.

Why don't people read e-mails and announcements and maps that have all the information contained within them before making phone calls and sending e-mails asking questions about the event?

Ultimately, the answers to those questions require that we view ourselves as lazy and selfish. Maybe it's my Southern heritage, but manners consists of serving others and putting them before yourself, and for that reason, we should view them as more important than we do.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The King Returned, Alright

Suffice to say that my prediction was correct. Except this time, instead of a lot of walking, there was a lot of climbing and riding. Frodo looked like he died but he didn't. And the ring made Frodo exhausted. This one was mostly about getting ready for war...and the muppet still had the split personality.

Some observations about the night:

At the movie theatre I attended, there were four 600-seat auditoriums, with shows sold out consecutively on the available half-hours. That's 2400 seats sold twice at $8.50 per ticket. That's $40,800 for the fine folks at AMC theatres. Plus concessions. Not bad.

The audience was expecting great things. When the first commercial came on they applauded. A car commercial. Nice. They applauded the Spider Man trailer. They applauded the reminder to turn the cell phones off. They went bananas when the words "feature presentation" popped up there.

A couple of our party were a bit late in attending so we sent the first 9 to get in the long line, and they wound up in the first third of it. Then we sent four more later, who were in the back third. The last guy and I came in as the line was moving, so we just stepped in with the guys in the last four. Side note: Never, ever, make a hobbit-lover suspicious that he might not get optimum seating even though he's in the back third of the line. And when you try to explain that you'd be happy to move to the back of the line because you had friends in the front of the line saving your seats inside anyway, so there's no appreciable difference, you'll get a lecture on morality and what it means to be a decent, upstanding member of a society.

Three hours is a long time to sit still. Lots of people stood up for a while.

It was obvious that LOTR people have friends who aren't into it because, at numerous parts, half the theatre would lean over to the person next to them and ask things like, "Now, who are those guys and why don't we like them?" or "What's the big deal about that sword again?" They usually had answers they gleaned from reading supplemental books to the original trilogy. Serious people, they are.

The movie ended at least four times...each of which generated thunderous applause. For some reason, we got to see all of what would normally be on the "alternate endings" section of the "special features" section of a DVD.

I still don't get it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Sucked In

The last couple of years my senior guys' Bible study has worked very hard during the semester and they've wanted to take a break from the study the night before finals. They always choose a movie.

This year, the choice is Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

I've seen the first two LOTR take on them:

1) There is a lot of walking.
2) The people that look like they die don't really die.
3) The ring makes Frodo very tired.

The 2nd one was the same except there was a war and a muppet with a split-personality.

My expectation of tonight's flick: The same as the first two but with more wars, a spider and the destruction of the ring (I've read the books).

Suffice to say that three hours of this means that I'm pretty much taking one for the team tonight. I'd rather watch the Dallas Stars play...and this season, that's a statement.
Once Bitten, Twice Shy...

Is it just me, or does anyone else experience a split-second of panic between the time you hit "post & publish" on Blogger and the time it says "publish successful?" I've lost my compositions on occasion.

Maybe it's the rash of make-over shows. Maybe it's all the sales at the stores these days. Maybe it's the fact I've never cared. Maybe it's the fact that my wardrobe is somewhere between (at best) 10 years old and (at worst) 20 years old. Maybe it's because my hairstyle resembles that of an Allman brother. Maybe it's that I'm getting older. I have no idea where all this is coming from.

But if those guys from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy came to give me a wardrobe and makeover I'd actually be pretty fired up about it.

Two caveats: Doc Martin's and jeans remain does long hair.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Reading List

Okay...I'm getting ready for vacation at the end of the week, and I've got a few bucks to spend on some quality literature. I figure I can get two books read with ease that aren't work related. Help me out, kids. Any ideas on what I should read?

Just a "heads up": I've recently completed a couple by Sarah Vowell and the entire Douglas Coupland stuff is off limits. Also finished biographies from Saturday Night Live, Kurt Cobain, Winston Churchill and Thomas Jefferson.
Letterman Still Has His Moments

Last night, Dave had this comment on Saddam giving himself up:

"I heard he had a pistol, but surrendered without incident to the U.S. soldiers. Man, I never thought I'd say this, but, hell, even Michael Jackson put up more of a fight when he was arrested."
Texas Tough

It is very hard here in Texas to get into the Christmas spirit. It's freaking 70 degrees (about 20 centigrade for all my Euro-based readership) here and yesterday there was...get this...a dust storm that blew so much crud in from west Texas that by the time it got to Dallas, it looked like fog. It gets chilly at night, but highs later in the week are getting up to 60 (15 centigrade). No dust storms in the forecast that I'm aware of.

Monday, December 15, 2003


I'm thinking about sounds this morning.

Some I don't like: A thud, followed by a crunching metal sound from a car you're driving. A dog whimpering from pain. Hair dryers. Sirens. A cat in heat coming from your shrubbery somewhere. Breaking glass coming from your kitchen. Anything dropped in a shower. An electric garage door opener at work. Firecrackers. Airplanes from the inside. A mobile phone tone--anytime, anywhere. Lawnmowers and/or leafblowers. Dishwasers. Any appliance malfunctioning. A clunker note on any instrument, but a child's recorder might be the worst.

Some I really like: The first guitar notes from any Rolling Stones song. 2-year-old's belly laughing. The crack of a wooden bat by a major league batter, and the anticipatory beginning roar of the crowd right after that seeing a long fly ball (but before the ball actually leaves the park). Playful screaming when I'm chasing my daughters. The growl of a dog trying to pull a toy out of your hand. The hum of your spouse when pulling away after a really good kiss. The horn at American Airlines Arena after any Dallas Stars goal. A crackling fireplace. Snow skis making a "hockey stop" at the bottom of a run, followed by firmly planted ski poles and the re-velcroing of the gloves. Sand that "barks" when you walk at the beach.
Obligatory Saddam Entry

Okay. We got him. There are still questions regarding the current administration's involvement in Iraq that deserve answers. Here's hoping this turn of events provides some.

And, maybe this gives hope to the brave men and women playing an international game of "Where's Waldo" that their work will result in an Osama bin Laden find in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Sunday, December 14, 2003


Based on some threads of other blogs/comments, I started wondering if it's even possible to be a "Purpose Driven Postmodern."
Falling Apart At The Seams

Yesterday I officiated the wedding ceremony for some former teenagers that I care about a great deal. Emotionally, I almost came unglued as I was in the middle of it. As I was reading verses that we'd discussed I kept thinking about all the conversations we've had and how they've grown and it was really hard to stay focused.

I have no idea why this is, and why those thoughts go through my head at that time, or if even if I should try to "get over this" whenever I do weddings (much less how I would even begin to try) and what not.

Maybe I'm simply a romantic...but my suspicion is that the intense emotion comes from watching the slow business of spiritual growth and seeing God work in the hearts and minds of these young adults through His Word and the Holy Spirit producing fruit. It's at those "life moments" like a wedding that I'm able to visualize the entire process.

And, as long as I'm still having that emotion, I'm figuring that it's a safe bet to stay in student ministry.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Dinner With Friends

Last night I went to a dinner party with friends and their spouses...which, when I think about it, in that room there were some of the most creative and intelligent people I know. An added bonus was that I truly like everyone that was there, too.

Well, during dinner these are the types of people who throw out hypothetical questions and we'd go around the room answering them. Here's the questions:

Who are three people you'd want to meet?

Okay, we started slow with the creativity...but I went with Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and then I lumped Kurt Cobain and Johnny (Rotten) Lydon together. The common thread: highly intellectual rabble-rousers.

What is something you've always wanted to do but haven't?

I didn't get to answer that question because everybody who did had about three or four and we got a new question going, but my answer (which contained three) would've been, in order: Give my wife the honeymoon and engagement ring she deserves and never got either; write the children's book I've got bouncing around in my brain; and finish a marathon (that one may be done in March, though!).

Tell us something we don't know about you:

That was tough because we've all known each other a considerable length of time. My answer would've been that, in college, I actually drove to Columbus, GA (where there was a military base which also lent itself to tattoo parlors) fully intent on getting Mighty Mouse etched on my instep. I had the cash for the outline, but I didn't have enough for the color all my friends got theirs, but man...what's Mighty Mouse without the red tights and blue cape? If I were to get ink done now, it'd be the Lost and Found cross on their Christmas CD and the H.I. McDonough/Lone Biker of the Apocolypse "Woody Woodpecker" tattoo on both my insteps.

We had a great time last night. I love it when people start telling stories and you hear some great lines before they get to the know...those moments when somebody says, "Then, me and Lefty Houlihan went down to the Jackson Brewery..." and the room erupts with, "Hey, wait a had a friend named Lefty?" And the response is, "Yeah, we all had nicknames. Lefty, Dingle, Fat Tony, Heebie. In fact, lots of people didn't even know our real names back then." Needless to say, for about a week or until we get tired of it, one guy is getting called Dingle.

Beats TV or some DVD or some movie anyway...

Friday, December 12, 2003

It's about that time...

Here's Brent's Official Recommended Christmas Television Viewing Guide:

It's A Wonderful Life: Arguably one of the finest motion pictures ever made. And Jimmy Stewart didn't even win "best actor" at the Oscars (TM) that year. Best Moment: The walk home from the dance...the chemistry between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed is amazing. He promised her the moon and she took it.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: Not the Jim Carrey live-action movie but rather the cartoon. Best Moment: When the Grinch is heading down the hill on the sled and his dog/reindeer winds up behind him and waves.

A Christmas Story: I saw an advertisement for the 20th anniversary version on DVD, so it is obvious that this movie stands the test of time. I was in high school working at the theatre when it was released and loved it even then. Best Moment: When the father "wins a major award" which is actually a leg/lamp and places it in the window, which Ralphie, in the narrative, refers to the "glow of electric sex" coming from their living room window. Runner up: The end seen with the waiters at the Chinese restaurant (after Bumphus' dogs next door wrecked the turkey) singing "Deck the Halls." (Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra)

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Sometimes I think that the early criticisms of Charles Schultz's work are on target (rudimentary drawings, poor story telling, etc.) but there can be no question this cartoon is above all those things. Best Moment: Right after all the kids are seen dancing to Schroeder's piano playing during rehearsal and ignoring the director's request to get on with the practice, Linus quotes from Luke 2 and defines the real meaning of Christmas. Americans should all take notes upon which they write: Focus on the Shepherds, not the Wise Men.

See them all...But pace yourselves, kids. Don't O.D. on them all at once, okay?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I'm in one of those moods today, so here we go...

A few things I don't believe are debatable:

It's a shame that Americans, as a culture, have compromised the dinner hour. Slowing down, savoring a meal, and catching up with family is win/win/win.

Suburban-sprawl-living has advantages (quality education, blah blah blah), but the flip-side of that coin is an inherent across-the-board conformity that squelches creativity and rewards vanilla (the very fact that "Neighborhood Association Covenants" exist is scary).

The fine arts, and their teachers and facilities, are all terrific financial investments, even if the payoff isn't in money.

Social Distortion might be the underrated band ever, and Mike Ness, their lead singer, is an excellent songwriter.

Truth-telling is the Achilles' heel of the current presidential administration. Politicians are politicians, no matter what party color they wear.

The current trends in ministry to "Postmoderns" is overkill and overhype. Francis Schaeffer was kicking that stuff around 35 years ago.

Youth ministries who focus on programs may get huge numbers of kids coming, but in the long run, most of them stop going to church by 25 because it isn't fun any longer. Programming focus is ultimately a disservice.

Overseeing a wedding worships service for two people who are growing in Christ, who love each other, who you've been discipling in one form or another, is one of the greatest joys and honors I can imagine.

No retail establishment should exist on any church property.

The trendy knit-cap thing is actually pretty cool.

Joan of Arcadia in an underrated television show.

Well, I'm glad I got this off my chest...

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

My Wife

My wife is a very good photographer. At this time of year our home has been inundated with Christmas card photos and a bridal session with wedding photos coming this weekend (although there has been concern about rain/sleet on Saturday even though we've not been seriously below 50 here in Texas yet)...and while I understand that her perfectionist leanings cause her to critique most of her pictures rather than enjoy them, I really believe she's talented. Moreso than most, too...and only getting better after each photo shoot.

There are times when I look at my wife and seriously thank God that He put her in my life. She's definitely the better half in this deal.

To be so smart and funny and talented and pretty...just such a total package kinda girl. What did I do to be so blessed?
My Sister

My higher-order-life-liver sister is off to New York City today for a vacation. Frankly, her whole life is a vacation...I can't imagine what she's doing that requires a holiday.

But NYC is the greatest of all places...of which the greatness multiplies exponentially during the Christmas season.

She was going to go see a taping of Late Night with David Letterman but her flight got in too late. I'm sure she'll find something to do there, though.

My recommendation: Stomp at the Orpheum Theatre. That never gets old.
Stress During Finals

A number of people I know are in university or graduate studies and they are currently "under the pile" with finals. I remember very vividly the reality that schoolwork you're paying for causes very real and very genuine stress.

So, to all of you stessing during this time...your diligence will be rewarded with a degree you can visually hang on your wall. Hang in there, kiddos, and use your time wisely.

And it stinks for me because all their blog pages remain the same for days during my check-ups. How am I supposed to live vicariously through your experiences during finals?

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Provocative Insight:

I'm reading a book about teenagers that one of my co-workers thought was something I'd enjoy...and while it doesn't tell me anything I didn't already see every day, it is certainly something I could give a layman who wanted to know about this generation of teens (and generations of teens change every three or four years, anyway).

At any rate, the author (Ryan Dobson, son of Focus on the Family's James) proffers some insight as to the popularity of computer surfing, instant messaging and video games among teens:

"I think people plunge into this kind of life because it keeps them distracted...They're probably doing it because they're afraid of what they'll feel if they stop." He later quotes a movie line that extreme behavior happens when these teens try to "punctuate the dreariness."

I'm not so sure that he's correct on the feelings aspect, but in my observation we have a generation of very poor thinkers. There's an intellectual laziness that allows them to make decisions based on how they feel about an issue rather than on rational thought.

And I do see that teenagers don't like dealing with the normal thoughts that simply pop into their heads during any given day. And there's no question that the computer has become this generation's television opiate. They don't like to be alone with their thoughts.

For example, when I tell my teenagers how far I run they ask me what I listen to while I'm doing it. When I tell them that I use that time to think, they all say, "There's no way I could do that!"

Well, I firmly believe that emotions follow thoughts, and if we have a generation who doesn't like to think and simply escapes their way through life, then we'll have a nation of people who are quietly desperate.

And life is supposed to be more abundant. Of that, I am sure.
Holiday TV Show

I was watching a preview for the "holiday classic" Rudolph the Red-Nosed know...the one with the live action puppet-like characters. After watching the preview, I can't imagine why they believe anyone over the age of 4 would want to watch that show.

The image certainly wouldn't attract any of the modern children as the animation fails the test of time.

And, I'm okay with that. Maybe Pixar really should jazz that baby up, though.
Nice Quote:

"When arguing with an idiot, remember that once he drags you down to his level he will beat you with experience."--unknown

Monday, December 08, 2003


Yesterday, I heard a great-grandparent (Kendra, you remember Elna, right?) giving advice on (of all things) how to handle the increasing physical temptations that Wes and Lizzie will now face as they try to honor God in their relationship now that they're engaged (to some of you who read this blog that will sound archaic, but yes, in Christian circles that standard still rings true). She thought it would be wise for Lizzie to move to Canada until the wedding day.

Anyway, I started thinking about my grandparents.

Both my maternal and fraternal grandparents were excellent grandparents.

On my mom's side (Mama Jeannie and Pappy) my grandfather was a highly successful businessman who considered his grandchildren his hobby. He even rented out the entire wing of a hotel and took the entire brood on a vacation to the Gulf of Mexico each summer. We were always spending the night at their house, going out to dinner with them, and having them at all our activities.

On my dad's side (Nana and Grandaddy) they owned a tax business that gave them the resources to get the family together for all sorts of stuff. Nana loved fishing and Grandaddy loved napping so they got a cabin on a river and we spent lots of holidays/weekends fishing and water skiing.

You can tell a lot about parents from their offspring. My dad's parents must've been more "fun" (my mom's side of the family was comparatively staid) with a cast of characters that drank beer and actually wrote songs weekly on...get this...ukeleles. We never really put together that my uncles were tanked and driving a boat pulling children at top speed as we were precariously perched on inner tubes...when you think about it, most of the best times in your life have involved some sort of life risk/reward. My mom's side had daughters who married Naval Academy graduates and cheerleaders and student leaders and the rebellious child was the anomoly.

I guess what I'm getting at is that grandparents have amazing influence. I was blessed in that my memories involve birthday cards with cash falling out of them, getting up early to get doughnuts, or a Christmas Eve with stockings and chaos, or waking up to a small home that authentically smelled like what Cracker Barrel tries to get the idea. Those time investments they put into my life gave them a platform of trust to which I would respond.

They gave me insights on business (both my grandparents stopped down business habits whenever I came into a room--and I had no idea that most people couldn't just stroll past a series of secretaries and assistants right into the VP's office), politics (although the staunch Alabama Democratic Party leanings evaporated with the rise of Reaganism), racism (Alabama...guess...we had much to overcome), college (there were only two to choose from, really), sports (well, football, anyway) and sometimes all of those combined into one big conversation...really on the whole of life. Except one.

They never really talked about a true spiritual life. Or frankly, modeled one. There was a polite nod to church and religion especially at holidays, but no one ever talked about how their religious beliefs affected their moment by moment existence.

Grandparents have amazing influence...and deservedly so. They've lived long enough to glean wisdom from experiences that they understand that 10 bucks in a birthday card is like a million to an 8 year old, that banana splits for lunch won't kill anybody, and that watching a horribly played ball game by kids can be the best use of your time on any given evening.

They tend to major in the majors...and when they use their powers for good and not evil they can affect generations. I wish our society raised grandparenting to nobility like others do...and I wish our grandparents lived out that authentic spirituality enough to earn that nobility...

Sunday, December 07, 2003

"Rock" ON!. The Ultimate Bling-Bling:

When I met her she was a cheerleader. When I first met him he was dating somebody else. She's now an artist/trend-setter/gifted minister and he's a guy intelligent enough to know how to close the deal with an artist/trend-setter/gifted minister.

My friends Lizzie and Wes got engaged last night...and they zipped by the house to let me share in their excitement.

And, it really was exciting. There was nervous energy and mobile phones ringing and flashing of the engagment ring and interupting-each-other-fast-talking-story-telling and forced usage of the word "fiance" and guesstimates on a wedding date and checking of football scores (hey...priorities are priorities) then they were off to spread hysteria to whoever was next on the needs-to-know list.

But make no mistake: Cupid's Hepped-Up Elves spread their Gospel of Joy into my living room last night.

Maybe I'm a romantic at heart. Maybe I thought back to the night my the coolest and most beautiful girl in the world said "yes" to me. Maybe age is making me oddly sentimental.

Maybe it's simply that I love both of them...and it makes me happy both for them and with them.
Recorder Concert Review:

My daughter Shelby belongs to an ensemble of recorder players at her school who call themselves the Prairie Trail Elementary Stars. Well, the Stars have a couple of performances each year and one of the major ones is the Holiday Stroll in "downtown" Flower Mound...which took place yesterday.

Anyway, the atmosphere of the show was great: Live nativity (complete with camels) and a dude who made popcorn in this large kettle, stirring it with a boat oar as well as various holiday-type goings on (re: retail shopping). And, 50 degree weather...which I think is perfect.

Their holiday show was peppered with some Jewish songs about a menorah and some generic songs about letting it snow, and some songs about Christmas but the one I liked most was a Kwanzaa song. I didn't even hear of Kwanzaa until I became an (relatively speaking) adult and come to find out their are actually songs for it. The song didn't really fill me in on what Kwanzaa is really all about but it did have the word Kwanzaa in it a lot, so there must be something to it.

I mean, I have a layman's knowledge of what Hannukah is all about. But I think I need to read more books or something, because I truly have no idea of what makes Kwanzaa songworthy.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

My Intern/Friends:

This week's hosting of a concert at my church was a lot more work than anticipated. The bands were still raving about how well they were treated and how enjoyable their 2-night stay was.

The entire reason for that is the servant's hearts of my friends (it's really hard to call them "interns" or "employees" and I only use those terms for the convenience of others...really) Katherine, Jude, Nathan, Lizzie and Wes...and Lindsey piggybacking for this one event.

Thanks for getting "it" and "me." All of you guys make my life more abundant and The Kingdom more populated and rewarded.
Stuff I'd Rather Do Today Than What I Am Going To Do Today:

I'd rather go Christmas shopping with my daughters than go on my 7 mile run.

I'd rather take a nap than prepare my Sunday School lessons.

I'd rather watch the championship football games than go to our mini-church Christmas party.

I'd rather read a good book I've been wanting to dive into instead of cleaning the house.

But, ain't all bad. We'll trim the Christmas tree as a fam with the Christmas music going and I get to see Shelby in her recorder concert with her friends. I'll be able to get past the venue and manufactured event as our quaint little suburban town tries to artificially generate Mayberry Christmas cheer in their artificially constructed (and failed attempt to establish a) "downtown." My daughter has that kind of power to push me past that GenX-Cynical-Angst view of things.

Friday, December 05, 2003

A Sad State:

As you can tell from the review below, our church is hosting a variety show in which several artists and taking part.

Our church is our "family's house." We have guests. Maybe it's my Southern upbringing, but when you host guests, you try to make their visit as enjoyable as possible. My staff of interns/friends (notably Katherine, Lindsey, Wes, Nathan and Lizzie) provided as best they could to make them comfortable. It wasn't hard. You simply think through the city they came from, the drive they had, and try to anticipate what needs they might have.

Little things. Access to printers. Fax machine use. Backstage items for singers. Laundry access. Shower access. Copier usage. Dinner plans. Directions to hotels or other areas of interest. Like I isn't all that hard.

And you don't get them all and you have to improvise and find a way to serve.

What gets me is that the artists are wowed by our hospitality. Genuinely wowed...and I generally know when somebody's pumping sunshine.

The reason it worries me is that I cannot imagine why the Christian community these people run into every day goofs up hospitality. Okay we're paying for a service, but that service serves our ministry for cryin' out loud.

I simply don't get it.
Extremely Funny T-Shirt Quote: (But you must have an awareness of pop-Christian Culture)

"I prayed the Prayer of Jabez and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

Think about it. It's genius.
Lost and Found Christmas Show Review!

The most underappreciated group on the Christian musical landscape, Lost and Found, came to our church last night. As you can tell by my introductory sentence the review will be positive.

But, what surprised me was the wonder of the true "variety show." They used to come on TV in the 70's and had a plethora of acts, ranging from comedy to music to get the idea. The closest we have these days are late night talk shows.

And that's what we got for our $7 ($5 if you got advance tickets). We got an extremely talented Rachel Kurtz. We got juggling/comedy from The Fittz Family. We got hip-hop/comedy from Dave Scherer. We got Lost and Found leading us in Christmas carols and doing some of their own stuff.

We got variety! And for two hours we had fun. Intergenerational, old-fashioned fun. That is underrated in this day and age if you ask me.

For $7. $5 if you paid early.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Last night, after our weekly in-home Bible studies in which our student ministry breaks up by grade/gender, the senior girls came over to my house to hang out and discuss what we could be doing to make the last semester of their senior year special.

We talked about some things, but I couldn't get past the reality that Cristina, two Heathers, Kristin, Kristy, Becca, Ali, Rebecca, and Meredith are all truly amazing young ladies. It's unbelievable to see such grace in 18 year olds.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Yesterday was one of those days, man...

Every decision was wrong. Every discussion went in directions I didn't want them to go. Every verse of Scripture seemed like trying to shovel sand with hands. Every look was misinterpreted. Every cup of coffee was out of balance. Every teen seemed to make the wrong choice. Every word to my kids was misconstrued. The noises my car made seemed worse than usual. I felt like I was in Bizarro Brent World. I mean, generally speaking, days are good and I'm happy. Yesterday was the stuff bad country songs or great punk music are made of.

I know we all have those days and I know it's just an undertow of life at the I decided to give up and go to bed.

And I woke up wide-eyed at 4:30AM.

I have no idea what kind of harbinger of the day THAT is.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Attention all spammers: I do NOT need Viagra, or any prescription meds, and I'm officially not interested in the Paris Hilton sex video...just thought I'd let you know.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Growing Up Alabama:

I grew up in Alabama...and that comes with all sorts of realities that the movie Sweet Home Alabama pointed out, good and bad. Since I've moved out I've found that people have all sorts of misunderstandings about the presuppositions about this.

So, here's a primer to help all you who didn't grow up there "get" us...

1. The true religion of Alabama is college football. Saturday is the high holy day of worship, with 170,000 attending the games and another 3 million or so watching on television. If you aren't a college football fan, you're subject to ridicule or you fake it.

2. The Bible Belt does indeed buckle in Alabama. I've heard other places make this claim, but it isn't even debatable. Everyone has a church, even if they aren't sure of the theology or why they it is "their church." If you aren't a religion fan, you're subject to ridicule or you fake it.

3. Family is very important.

4. Alabama is always "home." Very few people move out unless it is for business promotions or for academic endeavors. And if you do leave for any reason, your family and friends presume that you will eventually move back. In all earnestness, they ask, "When (not if) are you coming back?"

5. The women of Alabama have a tremendous amount of expectations heaped upon them. They are subject to critique of their cooking, dress, weight and/or appearance, name it. In many ways, the drive of a Southern woman is to reach those expectations. Guilt is a powerful motivator.

6. Conversely, the men of Alabama have a low expectation level. Just like sports and be a good ol' boy.

7. Appearances and impressions are more important than reality. Think of Scarlett O'Hara in the dress made of old curtains. Even in the darkest of moments, an appearance of dignity and grace is much more important than the reality of your home being burned and your nation invaded.

8. Manners and etiquette are important...usually discussed by women at weddings.

9. Politics are based on #s 2, 6 and 7.

10. "Yankees" are viewed with suspicion, and the term is usually expanded to anyone not born beneath the Mason-Dixon line. The cities they are from are usually spoken of in a negative connotation even by people who haven't been to them. The War of Northern Aggression (what most people refer to as the Civil War) still hurts.

11. The fine arts are "fringe." Most art films, plays, art openings, museums, ballets, etc., are far from mainstream, and those that patronize them consistently are few in number. This is changing a bit, though.

12. Racism is alive and well, but I think Alabama gets singled out in this respect because of it's visible history. I don't think it's any worse than anywhere else in the world these days, as even the older generations have learned a political correctness about the whole deal. The attitudes of the young are changing, but among the older, there is still an undertow of attitudes that are beliefs...even if you can't talk about them now.

13. Country music stations lead the radio ratings.

That's all I can think of at the moment...let me know what I left out...

Difficulties in Teaching...

Last night I was teaching my Sunday School class. They are high schoolers, and they had been out of school for a week, they all put off their homework until the last minute, so by the time I got to them they were all trying their best to listen...but the odds were against them.

I had a lesson I was excited about, too. I always feel like "a good teacher would still reach them" so needless to say today I'm feeling a bit frustrated with my abilities. Generally, I'm given to confidence, especially when teaching teenagers, but today I'm doubting myself.

Is it time to write 12/1/03 on our checks already?
A More Objective Nutcracker Review...

Since I gave a decidedly biased review of the Lake Cities Ballet company's performance of The Nutcracker, here's the one from The Dallas Morning News which shows that it's a pretty good performance if they send a writer out to critique it. AND she liked it, too, despite failing to mention the best baker ever in the history of ballet...
Proof #34,091 there's too much money in the world:

Americans will spend $217 Billion on Christmas this year.