Tuesday, August 31, 2004

My Mom And Waiting On Long Distance Phone Calls

My mom's back in the hospital. Things aren't going too well with her chemo and radiation treatment. There's a blur of "dehydration" and "levels" and "electrolytes" and "IV's" all sorts of things I can't get my arms around at the moment. Doctors and nurses are in the loop and excellent medical care is at the ready... CT scan this morning to see if something else is causing the trouble.

The world really doesn't shrink with lightning speed technology. 660 miles might at well be the moon when you're waiting to hear from a doctor using lightning speed technology.
Wondering About Having Two Daughters

I discovered that the average wedding and reception in America costs $3,700 per hour...everything included. Can someone help me out here? I mean, in my role as a "reverend" I perform worship services in which people get married and I can't think of what this money is being spent on.

As I see it, the "automatics" are going to be the church auditorium rental, reception hall rental, dress and flowers. The other big tickets are going to be catering, cakes, photography and video, tuxedos...we all get the drift.

Does all that add up to $11,000? I'm not that strong in math.

Man...Vegas sounds like a serious encouragement I might be giving to my daughters. My higher-order life-liver sister said something about an Elvis Drive-Thru Wedding Chapel. Maybe I can round up some brochures.

Monday, August 30, 2004

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that since Stephanie doesn't have comments and I can't find her e-mail that public congatulations are in orders since I'm pretty excited for her and Geoff that they're going to have a baby late next spring!
...that Lizzie recommended going to see the movie "Garden State" and I may go see a matinee today.
...that if I don't go see a movie that my other options are frisbee golf or a nap (smart money's on the nap).
...my dog Lloyd is the sorriest & laziest animal on the planet.
...that Shelby and I need to get back up to speed on reading "The Chronicles of Narnia" out loud to each other since we've taken like a month off.
...that there's a really sharp youth pastor at an area church that I need to call and get to know.
...I'm really glad the Olympics are over.
...that I need to purchase a new baseball mitt since my softball season starts in two weeks.
...the Texas Rangers current fade in the pennant race, while climbing back into it from earlier season slumps, might actually be for real and there won't be much meaningful September baseball in Dallas.
...I'm going to listen to Auburn's football game on Saturday on the internet (they might win by 50 against some scrub team)
...that on my days off I'm too exhausted to get any meaningful reading done.
...that on my days off I'm too exhausted to get any meaningful writing done, either.
...that I'm really far behind at work and that I might not need to take my day off.
...that I, and not Lloyd, might be the sorriest & laziest animal on the planet.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Only Thing More Boring Than The Opening Ceremonies...

The Olympics end today. I couldn't be more thankful. The sports I like, such as soccer or softball or baseball, didn't get much attention from NBC.

But yet I've seen rowing, field hockey, badminton, rythmic gymnastics, team handball, table tennis, synchronized diving...I could go on, but you get the point. And there was entirely too much swimming and track...which aren't really sports that translate well to television.

And tonight, thankfully, NBC will give us the closing ceremonies. I'd rather help a friend move.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

A Day Every American Should Remember (or, "Tell Them About The Dream, Dr. King.") Going Away From His Prepared Notes at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963...

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Friday, August 27, 2004

New Experiences All Around

It was in ink on my day-planner. Non-negotiable. I'm committed. I'm there. Kelsey's first middle-school volleyball game.

Questions abounded that helped me escape a bit of the day's stresses (see below). Do you have to pay to get in? Is it better to start on the "B" team or ride the bench on the "A" team? Where do you sit to get the best view? Is this how Mia Hamm's dad felt when Mia was in middle school?

Well, you do have to pay to get in. $2 for adults. $1 for students. Well, you have to pay unless you arrived previous to the parental volunteers setting up the table. She started on the "B" team. Sit anywhere but precisely at mid-court. The referee stand will block your view if you sit there. Me and the other dads all had the same questions ("I didn't think my kid was going to make the team, did you think yours would?"; "Is this going to be that rally scoring or is it like when we were kids?"; "Where should we sit?") to which the answer to all of them was "I'm not sure." I think all dads feel the same way: You don't particularly care about wins or losses, you only want your kid to do well. The reality is that if your kid does well, somebody else's kid probably didn't. Empathy abounded.

I can tell you this. There was this blonde-haired (special volleyball "do" involving lots of rubber bands and braids--all hobbies have their own subculture) blue-eyed starter (#4) right smack in the middle of the action of the first set (winning 25-14) and the third set (set 15-8, and match, 2-1, Lamar Longhorns "B" team wins!) who had fun and did comparatively well.

I can also tell you this. I'm pretty proud of her for trying new things and trying to do well in those new things. I can learn a thing or two from that mindset.
Ring Tones

Phone rings. It's for me. Mom's been admitted to the hospital. The chemo/radiation treatments have taken a toll. Dehydration is the leading suspect, but there may be an underlying reason that is causing the severe dehydration. They can't take blood because her blood pressure's so low...so tests will have to wait until later today.

Tracy's mobile phone rings. Father-in-law had some chest pains in the night. Nothing severe, but they'll keep him for observation & testing today, just to be sure.

Two phone calls from 660 miles away can change the tone of a Thursday. News like that stays in the back of your brain no matter what else falls into your lap during the course of the day. Those things that were pressing don't seem so pressing and those items that should be joyful seem tempered a bit.

Today, when the phone rings, I'm hoping for telemarketers.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Using Your Powers For Good And Not Evil

"Little did I realize how much a pastor defines the culture of a church and how that culture would altar my life and the lives of so many others...Some pastors, priests, evangelists and reverends have little clue how deeply of an impact they have on the lives of those in their congregations."--Matthew Paul Turner in The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

I saw it last night at my alleged "small" group (can 26 people constitute a small group?)Bible study. My seniors were used to it, but the incoming juniors, who only know me from Sunday School class, all had a bewildered look on their faces.

It's the annual barrage of paperwork for my study that kicks off the year. The one full of charts and graphs and outlines. It isn't for show. It's my expectation that these guys will ratchet up the disciplines that are needed for spiritual growth. They sensed this new level of expectation and it showed.

And, I knew it was coming. I've seen it before. It amuses me, too.

But sometimes I forget that level of influence I've been entrusted with. I'm glad I was reminded of it before I got too far into this deal.

P.S. I love those moments when somebody puts into words exactly what I've been thinking. I only wish I could put my thoughts into words in anything other than short blog bursts.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

No Politics...Just A Good Story.

Despite my interest in the home team's pennant race which has caused me to pretty much ignore any Olympics (women's softball & soccer, not to mention my enjoyment of the men's basketball team learning a bit about humility) coverage, I've got to say that the best story has come out of Iraq.

There's a team of men from a war-torn country that didn't have the ability to get to the Olympics without military help and had no chance for a medal. No chance according to the people who know about such things.

Anyway, they beat teams they weren't supposed to beat...until yesterday when reality finally caught up with them. They lost to Portugal, 3-1. They now have to play the game of their lives against Italy to win bronze. Likely, they'll go home without a medal. Italians take their football seriously.

But if they go home without a medal, they won't be tortured by Uday and his henchmen. They'll likely get a hero's welcome at the airport, too. People can dance in the streets...women, too...if they win.

WMD's or no WMD's. Just war or unjust bullying. Deception/corruption or honest intervention. Political expediencey or defending rights. Doesn't matter.

Playing a game without fear of torture. Giving people who need it a dose of fun (USA Hockey in 1980, anyone?) and hope. A nation tuned in and emotionally invested in their team.

Sounds a lot like Iraq is gaining a new normalcy. Sounds like it's a better place these days.

Sounds an awful lot like freedom.

And freedom (in all forms) is truly beautiful to experience...and nice to watch others have that experience in small doses even if it's early and awkward. May they have plenty more chances to perfect it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Those of you who read this blog frequently know of my firm belief that relationships are crucial in the presentation of Christ. In other words, we have to truly be living an abundant life in Christ, building relationships with non-Christians, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in the context of those relationships. As a tribe, we desperately need new P.R. Don't believe me? Ask people what they think of Christ. Listen to their response. Then ask them what they think of Christians. Listen again...and note the huge differences and ask yourself why this might be.

Anyway, this quote from The Christian Culture Survival Guide by Matthew Paul Turner, lets me know that others are thinking along my lines...which gives me a small amount of comfort:

"Yet, sadly, we have become a Christian society offering a "fast food" mentality on salvation--get everyone through the line as quickly as possible and hope they order a combo. This isn't evangelism...

If salvation truly is the most important decision that an individual can make, and I firmly believe it is, then Christians need to be wiser about of how we go about telling people about Jesus. The Son of God is the most compelling, attractive and offensive individual to have ever walked on earth and he spent time building relationships with people...

In order to reach people, we need to be authentic lovers of Christ willing to walk through the trenches and meet people in their personal habitat."


Monday, August 23, 2004

When Attempts To Be Relevant Go Awry

I know this will make my (new offical blog nickname coming up) Endearingly Neurotic Gifted Writer friend
Katherine crazy, but here goes:

Church sign. Local neighborhood. Promoting Sunday's sermon:

"Go For The Gold: How To Become A Spiritual Champion."


Maybe I'm 38. Maybe I'm GenX. Maybe I'm overly cyncial. Maybe I'm overly critical. Maybe I should mind my own business. Maybe I'm so far afield from my fellow man that madness is setting in. I dunno. But that sign doesn't do it for me. And the fact that they're trying to do it for me doesn't do it for me, either.

Ugh. Again. Ad infinitum.
And Now...A Pause For Some Fine Arts

Moby, the underrated Grammy winning techno-rave musical genius (and follower of Christ, albeit on the liberal side of the family), has his own web journal. On it, when he's not on some Michael Moore-esque anti-Bush rant, he had an entry from a friend of his who writes poetry while on the New York subways (another reason for public transportation: creativity while in transit). His friend Dimitri wrote this (edited one word for language out of care for my readers in case they might be unnecessarily offended), which I liked enough to put in my space. Enjoy.

I Am Afraid
By Dimitri Ehrlich

I am afraid
Of being unduly swayed
Of getting hosed, conned, jimmied or played
That the tips of my most crucial wires might be frayed
That my flight’s been delayed
Of the rich and the poor and the just underpaid
I am afraid
Of the stuff that kids do when they’re in the 9th grade
Of Jonestown, Guyana and the poisoned Koolaid
That the New Yorker’s forgotten the prose of Jamaica Kincaid
Of counties like Cork, Broward and Dade
Of career arcs that sag like that of poor Dennis Quaid
I am afraid
Of the dark and the light and the cool dappled shade
I am afraid
Of that mullet-style haircut with the one little braid
Of loans, unemployment, stamps and financial aid
Of child molesting priests and the prayers they prayed
I am afraid
Of Mick Jagger’s daughters, especially Jade
That the gleam in our eyes will inexorably fade
Of mice, rats, and men and the plans that they laid
That if I don’t rinse my glass, I’m drinking a trace of Cascade
That the Normans are rising and about to invade
Of the places in China, where the things made there are made
I am afraid
That I broke up with girlfriends when I ought to have stayed
That I’ll wind up like the Partidge Family manager, Ruben Kincaid
Of Vodka-flavored beer and Mike’s Hard Lemonade
That my old baseball cards won’t sell well or trade
That there are questions of import I will not evade
That I can’t swim or paddle, tread water, or wade
I am afraid
That the trees blocking my view of the forest are really a glade
That I’ll be unable to sleep in the bed that I made
I am afeard
Of a one-eyed Egyptian with a long cleric’s beard
That the data I sent off by fax has been smeared

That I was raised just to front, but not properly reared
That by the time I sit down my place will have been cleared
That my work will be liked--but never revered
That my hedge fund’s been sheared
That my breakfast smelled weird
I am scared
That my plans will be snared
That my shame will be bared
That the Boy Scouts aren’t really prepared
Of the dirt in my laundry which has yet to be aired
Of the shrink I once went to who just sat there and stared
Of being the last one left standing when the whole world is paired
That I’ll be uncared
Or someone will kill me just because he was dared
I’m scared
Of the secrets I probably shouldn’t have shared
That the damage I’ve done cannot be repaired
That my child won’t be nannied, baby sat or au paired
Scared that I’ll be made chairman and then get unchaired
I’m scared.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

This is what the end of the 1st week of school looks like...

Shelby, who is dog sitting for a friend--which keeps both dogs up at night playing--at the end of the first full week of school and dance. It was 9PM on a Saturday night, and yes, I know where my kids/dogs are.Posted by Hello
Everybody's Good Enough For Some Change

One sure sign that school is back in session in these parts is that various school groups have fundraisers for their particular interests. One very popular one is working at "car hops" at the local Sonic Drive-In for tips.

Yesterday as I was grabbing some lunch and paying with the debit card I realized that they can't put a tip on the card at this particular establishment. I'm not sure why exactly, but they can't.

So when the teenager took the card to go swipe it for my payment I went into a mad scramble to find some change in my van and after raking the various places change can wind up in a van I was able to scrounge $1.35. That seemed like a reasonable donation to the Marcus Marquettes (for the uninitiated, in Texas, each high school band has a group of girls who can kick really high with precision who generally wear glittery cowboy hats and modified cowboy boots and short skirts who get a few minutes during the halftime show to kick with flair) even though I was unsure exactly why they needed the money. But I'll trust them on this one and joyfully take part in my purchase of say, a container of glitter, to make halftime a happier place.

But on the way home I got to thinking about how much money gets sorta "thrown away" because we don't like change in our pockets. I'd wonder how much extra cash we'd have if we made a concentrated effort to actually use our change.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Congratulations are in order!

My oldest daughter, Kelsey, hauls off and tries out for the volleyball team at her middle school. She's never played volleyball before, but she gave it the old "college try" and survived a series of cuts. She made the team...so, congratulations Kelsey!

So, lemme see, Kelsey...volleyball practice and games; softball practice and games; yearbook; normal school stuff; normal middle-school social stuff. Looks like fall time will fly by because you're having so much fun. See you during Thanksgiving Break! :)

P.S. I hope Shelby gets a "congratulations are in order" blog next Saturday as she has auditions for The Nutcracker.
The Cloud of Stuff To Do

On the agenda today: A meeting at work; wait on response fromSteve-O; finish stuff for work tomorrow that didn't get done yesterday (due to influx of unexpected appointments and meetings-including a Bible study lesson and working on a training meeting); Kelsey to softball practice, lunch and art lesson; mow the lawn.

Sometimes, thinking about what you're going to do creates a sense of dread that is worse than actually doing the stuff.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Fun In New Ways

Yesterday, I had an incredible day because I got to be a small part of the process of watching God at work in someone's life...just sorta watching Him possibly unveiling His plan and the excitment that registers.

It also was fun watching God at work in my life, too. Because what is transpiring in my friends' lives also is part of God at work in me, too.

I know I'm being vague here, but I can't be specific yet. Maybe in a couple of days. But I'm actually seeing God work in the moment, not in hindsight like it usually works for me. And that's really fun.
Britney Update #11

I have no idea why I'm enjoying the train wreck that Britney Spears' life has become. Just goes to show you what a downward spiral you can lead when you start hanging out with Limp Bizkit and Fred Durst.

So, whenever I come across a quote from Ms. Spears that makes me laugh, I like to keep you updated.

Today, she's going to use her marriage to a backup dancer (who recently had a baby with another pop star) to take over the recently vacated spot on Newlyweds since Jessica and Nick are leaving the show after season 3. Her reasoning: "Because I want Kevin to be as famous as I am."

Two thoughts: First, it wouldn't be because your 15 minutes of fame are pretty much over, would it? Second, I guess since fame has worked out so well for you and your life is so well-balanced, then you'd want others to be in on it, eh?

She really makes it too easy. Gotta love her.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Advice From An Expert

This time of year my morning routine involves checking on my beloved Auburn Tigers college football progress. I'm not sure why because I know that my heart will break at least twice this season, and most likely three times. Such is life as an Auburn fan. We're the Cubs of college football when it comes for unrequieted passion for a national championship.

Anyway, I'm greeted this morning by a headline that the upper deck at Legion Field is falling apart, forcing the Evil Empire (read: The Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama) to move three football games from Birmingham to their campus.

So...you've got an 80,000 seat football stadium that pumps millions into the city economy that, because of your lack of ability to maintain, is a cavern now hosting profit-draining high school football games and a struggling NCAA football team that puts about 15,000 people in the seats (while some inner-city high school clashes will draw 30,000).

As the former mayor of SimCity town of McKinneyville who once enjoyed a 70% approval rating by the townfolk (they had a hard time with me for a couple of game-years when I raised taxes to get some cash for that incredible transportation system I put in, but they got the big picture and loved me again once that came to fruition), here's some free advice for the city leaders in Birmingham:

Give up on your stupid MegaDome idea and build a state-of-the-art soccer arena and get after getting a Major League Soccer team. I mean, the men's and women's past history of soccer support and hosting the 1996 Olympic soccer games gives you some street cred. Put that arena near the city center (like that warehouse district on 1st Ave. N east of I-65). Revitalize downtown...and let that be the crown jewel. Have your monorail system hub around there, too (hey, if Disney can make it work, you can, too) so it can service your world-class hospital and nice university which drives your economy.

You are what you are, Birmingham, which is a potentially incredible 2nd-tier city that is in danger of becoming 3rd rate(read: Shreveport without the casinos). Stop trying to be Atlanta-West and be an excellent 2nd-tier city. You have aestetics and a lot of civic pride to play on.

And extending that monorail down 280 should be a high-level priority, too.

It's kind of sad to see my hometown goof everything up. People who live there love that city. Make it happen. It really is about vision. Birmingham is begging for it and will support it in droves. They love their city.

The Former Mayor of McKinneyville (who once had a 70% approval rating)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Cell Phones and Human Nature Don't Mix

Schools are now having to establish rules against cell phones at high schools and colleges. In fact, the rules are along the lines of, "If one rings or we see it at any point, then we confiscate it and it costs you $15 to get it back at the end of the day."

Apparently, high school girls are having their pictures taken in the locker rooms and sent to others, or guys are taking a picture of the test and sharing it with friends, or even text-messaging answers to friends...not to mention all sorts of bored chatting to kill time.

Whatever good comes from cell phones always seems to be counterbalanced by loutish behavior with them.
New Blogger Navigation Bar

Apparently, the good folks at Blogger (who power this page for free...so, shouts out to them) have added a navigation bar that comes in "four stylish colors." Fine by me.

The only problem is that this bar apparently covers up the title of my blog. Not that it really matters, I don't guess. But apparently templates that come from outside sources don't jibe with this Blogger freebie.

Any insights on how to rig the template code to fix it, techies? Please remember...I was a liberal arts major, so please keep it simple.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Day Off Yeilded Big Dividends

For those of you who've been reading my blog for a while, you're aware of my mental battle against my garage. For some reason, it had become the general storage/dumping ground for everything that couldn't find another place in our home. The clutter eventually shoved Tracy's van out into the driveway.

6 hours. 6 full lawn-sized trash bags. 22 bags of items to be sorted through to give away/garage sale/or donate to charity. 3 shelves of books to take to Half-Price Books (which will become 1 shelf of different books in trade there). 6 shelves of "iffy" stuff that Tracy will have to make an executive decision on (ice cream maker: stay or go? etc.).

(insert trumpet fanfare here)

The van can return if it wants. I have a clean garage.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Change In The Routine

Ever since my daughters were infants, Saturday breakfast was primary for Dad/daughter interaction. We would get up early. I'd get them ready. We'd go to breakfast even if they were in baby seats. I'd heard somewhere that if you get them in that habit when they're young and make it a priority, they'd just look forward to Saturdays as time with Dad...even when they're teenagers and need it more.

We had to change that, though. Saturdays had become pressed. Sometimes I would be away on a weekend reatreat. Other times ballet lessons interfered, or softball, or art, or weekend sleepovers. When they're teens or pre-teens, they've got their own things workin'.

Well, we decided that my day off and our community's staggered school starts (elementary starts 45 minutes before mid-school, mid-school starts 45 minutes before high school) made for pre-school breakfast dates.

I could take Shelby to coffee and conversation, drop her off at school, pick up Kelsey and do more coffee and conversation then drop her off at school.

Sure, it's tough to get up even earlier after a full-blown Sunday workday. Yes, the Bible study/newspaper reading/slow entry to the day had to be rearranged. Yes, blogging on Mondays will get pushed back to mid-morning. Yes, like the rest of the world, I generally loathe change. And especially change to my 8 year routine.

But coffee and conversation with those two girls might be the most enjoyable change I've ever had if this morning's chats are any indication. And no, I can't tell you details about those.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

This is not forced labor...Kelsey asked me to teach her to mow the lawn, so I let her help me finish up with the back grass. She may regret asking as I could see my 25 year career of lawnmowing coming to an end. Posted by Hello

After the mowing, Kelsey and I decided to watch the baseball game outside on a "tailgate television" my in-laws gave me for Christmas. It was 70 degrees and an event like this is rare in Texas in August. Posted by Hello
It's 10:00 A.M. Do You Really Want To Have This Conversation?

About an hour after I blogged yesterday about the importance of building relationships in sharing your faith, this happens.

A fifty-something tie-clad man knocks on my front door. He's with a 30-something tie-clad assistant. Both have a briefcase. Since they look harmless and they saw me peek through the blinds, I opened the door.

The older man introduces both of them and he tells me he's from a Bible education center and wanted to know if I've given any thought to a "one-world government" in light of "current world events."

Since this very thing, the "cold call" approach to evangelism, was at the forefront of my mind I didn't feel it would be best to invite them in at that point as I'd likely do more harm that good for The Kingdom. I was polite, though, and told him I was spending time with my family and wasn't really interested in having that discussion at the moment.

He was polite, too. He thanked me and told me to have a good day. They left and knocked on all the other doors in my neighborhood.

Here's why his approach (and the other cold-call approaches) doesn't cut it with me: Me and my daughter were in the midst of wrestling for a good spot on the couch. If she got one, my feet were all over her, to which she would become dead weight on me, to which I would force her off me...suffice to say it was escalating one-upsmanship by both parties. My wife was playfully telling us to knock it off because she couldn't hear the announcer talking about the women's soccer game or upcoming fencing event in the Olympics. The dog was concerned and confused and beginning to growl his way into things.


All eyes to the front door.

Game over. Fun over. We tried to pick it back up but the moment was gone. We then focused on Mia Hamm and her friends as they tried to teach the Brazillians a thing or two about soccer.

My point is this: What kind of person genuinely believes that Joe Average guy home for on his weekend who is still in the middle of his coffee and newspaper or mowing his yard or on his way to little league wants to have a deep discussion on world politics and prophecy at 10AM on a Saturday?

Note to the Christian tribe: Cease and desist of all similar activities. Immediately.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Enjoyable Slides

It's cliche in Christian circles. Missionaries and their "slide shows." People go out in the world and then report back to the people who supported them (another cliche: "by giving prayer, time and finances"). It's also cliche in Christian circles to make jokes about slide shows. Not me. If it's somebody I really did support by giving my prayers, time and/or finances, I'm usually pretty stoked about seeing how that investment played out.

Pre-show entertainment: I came home from work to the always enjoyable Rudds (of RearviewWindow fame) in all their former-occupant-of-the-guest-room and pierced-and-tatooed neo-hippie glory. In tow were the low-down peripatetic offspring Judah and the gender-impaired dog Corky. They're uniquely urban missionaries... and I often covet that situation.

The first stop was a reunion of teams from two mission trips to Holland I led in 2000 and 2003. Our host family, the Hays, are really good at keeping us up to speed on the progress of the work we started. Most people don't realize that there are significant changes in mission these days:
The idea that you can go for a few days, hand out some flyers/do some dramas, and have lots of "conversions" are long gone (and I suggest that they're long gone with young people here in the U.S., too). It's all about sharing the gospel in the context of relationships these days, and that process takes time. Good photos, good laughs, good seeds beginning to sprout in the soil in Holland.

We had to leave that meeting early as the next stop was a review of the year Mike and Katie spent in the Czech Republic teaching English, building relationships and living out the Christian life (see the motif developing here?). We saw "slides" and I enjoyed hearing about this experience from them because you could tell they enjoyed the friendships they made and it broadened their horizons in amazing ways. It was even cooler when someone asked them what their current plans for ministry are. They're off to the Pacific Northwest to build relationships and live the Christian life with intent among the natives. Seed planting. Again. Dig it.

I also got to see another missionary, Lizbuddy, at that meeting. She spent a large portion of her summer in Africa and filled me in on her ambitions for (maybe) career mission work. I've been over 30,000 miles with Lizbuddy on missions work and that was one of the few she's been on without me involved. She was very kind with words in talking about my influence on how she views what an effective mission trip truly entails. Results of personal seed planting. Dig it.

So, lemme count this up: Dinner with one guy I discipled and his wife who are building relationships and affecting lives. Seeing the results of 4 years of short-term work (not to mention the growth in the individuals on those teams in that span). Seeing two others I discipled heading off with a plan so nebulous God has to be involved in it. Hearing another have very definitive views on what she wants in an organization to work for as a career telling others about Christ.

Hmmm. I'd say it was well worth giving up the free primo seats to the baseball game.

And could someone tell me again why they think I don't have the best job in the world?

Friday, August 13, 2004

Bomp BAAAA Ba Domp Ba Bomp PAHHH Bomp Pa Pa DAH BA DOMP Pa Pa Ba Da Domp Bomp Pa Dahhhhhhh

The Olympics start today. I couldn't care less. Usually, I do, but this year the only things I remotely would like to see are the women's soccer team win the gold and I'm sure I could spend some quality time with my daughter watching the softball team play, but other than that, I'm out.

Apparently, they give out medals for ping-pong and badminton. The only thing more boring than "track" is "field." And I don't think those gymnastics where they dance around with paper on the end of sticks should even be a sport. And NBC pays billions to broadcast this stuff...who watches?
I Caught A Delicious Bass For You. Wanna Play Me?

For a variety of reasons, I needed a reprieve from the emotional demands of my work and my student ministry staff, consisting of Nathan and Steve-O made an offer I couldn't refuse: A post-lunch screening of the movie Napoleon Dynamite.

All I can say is that it was absolutely hysterical and very inventive. In fact, I have my own personal top-5 comedy movie "must own on DVD" list, generally in this order:

1. Raising Arizona.
2. This is Spinal Tap.
3. Dumb and Dumber.
4. Beavis and Butt-head Do America.
5. Office Space.

Suffice to say that, once released, Napoleon Dynamite will bump Office Space and will likely move into the #2 slot. It was that funny.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Okay, so it wasn't exactly the good folks at "Hello" with the problem, it was the good folks at AOL who conveniently placed their update in my spam folder for me. Anyway, here's the girls on their first day of 5th and 7th grades...Shelby on the left, Kelsey on the right. Posted by Hello
The First Day of School

Well, in crime-free Flower Mound, Texas, it's the first day of school. We will now modify all our behaviors and get into a warp and woof that makes us all comfy cozy...except that during certain times we'll have to drive slower on certain streets. If I could get the folks at "Hello" up to speed then I could post the traditional photos of the girls...

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Can't Sleep

I dunno what it is. Maybe it's the pizza I ate for dinner. I mean, I'm getting older and maybe I shouldn't be eating a veggie pizza at 7PM.

Maybe it's that I've been doing a lot of normal office hours and getting plenty of sleep lately.

Maybe it's that I fell asleep by 10:30PM and woke up to get some water and let the dog out.

But now I can't sleep.

Maybe I should turn on the blowhards on some news channel and listen to the drivel about whether or not some dude killed his wife, or flip on poker on ESPN and see if somebody I don't care about gets a diamond on the turn to complete their straight draw, or maybe I should read a book. Unfortunately, as you can tell from the books I've listed on the left, I don't have much fluff to read at the moment. It's all too heady for this time slot.

And it's the most useless feeling in the world being awake at 2:30AM. There's really not a lot productive to do.
Luck of the Draw

My daughter Shelby and I have this tradition where we ride our bikes up to her elementary school and check out the posted lists of her classmates for the upcoming school year. She was thrilled to get her postcard from her new teacher in the mail today, too.

So, I get home from work a bit early and we ride up to the school (getting to ignore most of the traffic laws that will be in place Thursday morning once the string of crossing guards make you walk you bike through the crosswalks).

Lots of kids, some with notebooks, writing down who is in their class. Lots of parents, too. One mom made me crazy when she talked to her child's new teacher and was mentioning that her daughter has been a "reading machine" this summer and "got the accelerated reader list off the internet" and has started reading ahead.

My daughter looked over the list and came away 0 for 4 of good friends in her class. No Lauren. No Kiana. No Alexis. No Samantha. To hear her tell it, she doesn't no anyone in the class. Something tells me drama was the order of the afternoon.

I did what any dad would do: I ordered her favorite food for dinner, and we watched her favorite show (The Cosby Show reruns) together. I might not can fix the problem (nor would I want to, frankly) but I can eat and hang out with the best of 'em.
Sometimes you should call your mom

My mom's not doing so well with her radiation & chemotherapy treatments. Watching her got through it reinforces everything that you've heard about such things: That battle is both physical and mental, and she's got both out of whack at the moment. She had to have an IV dosage of fluids today, and, she can't see the light at the end of the tunnel as she's still got 8 (of 25) radiation treatments and 3 (of 5) chemo treatments left.

Hang in there, mom, even if September can't get here fast enough for you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

21 Grams

I watched the movie "21 Grams" last night. It took a while to get into the groove with all the unique editing that tells the story, but manalive, what an intense movie.

It's a real downer when you have big plans for your day off and then feel under-the-weather the whole day. Nothing really big, just annoying headachy & queasy feeling all stinkin' day...just enough to keep you from napping or reading or doing anything productive or fun the entire day from morning to bedtime.

Naturally, today, when it's time to go back to work, I feel okie dokie.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Time to Think

There are some days I wake up and can't believe that I get to teach the Bible to teenagers. I'm still having as much fun as ever in my "work." I'd imagine you'd have to ask my teenagers if this fun I'm having it translating into effectiveness, but I'd like to think it does.

Anyway, we started doing something at the end of the class that I think should be implemented across the board in churches all over the world (how's that for presumptuous?): We end each Sunday School class with three minutes of silence to allow them to think about what they just heard, and encourage them to pray through specific ways God wants to sharpen them.

I wanted to start doing this because I noticed that at our church, when the senior pastor gives a great message and closes in prayer or with a song, there's an immediate "see you next week" thing and then everybody gets up and starts talking about where they're going to eat or if they're going back to college this weekend or if they want to get coffee at the local coffee shop or whatever.

Seems to me that something so simple as giving people time to think will affect spiritual growth. I'm thinking about putting a planned time of silence before Sunday School, too...

Again, you'd have to ask the teens about effectiveness. But I can't explain this burst of enthusiasm for my "work." It almost bothers me to be taking my day off today, but I will and I'm going to see Napoleon Dynamite as I've heard it's incredible. After my nap.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Dance of the Briggs and Stratton

If you've ever seen the movie "She's Having A Baby" (Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern) you know the story of a young couple from dating to college to first home to baby.

There's one scene in which Kevin Bacon's character, Jake the newlywed, discusses lawnmower models with his two middle-age guys in his suburb. This is followed by Jake envisioning his neighborhood in a choreographed Broadway-esque dance involving yard work and landscaping tools.

At 10AM yesterday it was about 80 degrees, with a breeze. My neighbor Sam and I discussed the trimming of my weeping willow tree and the lovely August weather we're experiencing. I swear 75% of my neighbors were landscaping.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that when your internet/server is down at work, productivity goes up.
...that my mom isn't doing so well with her chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
...that my oldest daughter is REALLY growing up fast.
...that officiating wedding rehearsals are both a hassle and a necessary and fun part of the celebration, especially when you're genuinely excited for the bride and groom.
...that the kids all came back from the mission trip late last night and it was really cool to see them a combination of excited and tired.
...that my missionary friends from Holland have been here almost a week and I haven't gotten to talk to them about anything substantial yet.
...that my youngest daughter is sleeping later and later these days, and this is both good and bad. Good for her rest, bad for our early mornings together.
...that a genuine baseball pennant race in your town is both blisteringly exciting and exruciatingly longsuffering at the same time.
...that I'm getting kinda excited about football season.
...that e-mail has reconnected my friends after the 20-year reunion. At the 10-year reunion, nobody really had e-mail. At high school graduation there wasn't even such a thing as the internet (except maybe in government and/or university circles).
...that it's interesting how a lot of former teenagers (now they're married grown-ups) all wound up in Austin at this point in their lives.
...that my friends Michael and Katie are so much further along spiritually and self-aware than Tracy and I were after two years of marriage.
...that I still need to clean my garage.

Friday, August 06, 2004

I Wish I Had An Answer

After preparing my Sunday School lessons for this weekend, I really wish that I had a response for parents (and myself) when they asked the question, "Why doesn't my child have an interest in a genuine walk with Christ?"

The more I read the Bible, the more I see that there is a tremendous amount of responsibility on the individual for their own spiritual growth. I mean, Jesus was constantly saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." The parable of the soils highlights the message that we are supposed to determine which of the soils we are and act on it. Jesus' Kingdom message of "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" implies that there's a response.

I struggle a bit with the "why's" of why people don't choose the abundant life over a life of lies and deception.

The only answers I have is that they don' t see that life as either lies or deception, or they have a false idea of what that abundant life truly is. Other than that, I'm usually at a loss.
Today's Birthday

Today is film director M. Night Shyamalan's 34th birthday. Let's all celebrate by being around memorable characters, creating a creepy mood in which everything looks normal but isn't quite right, and finishing the day off with a twist nobody sees coming.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Allure of Drugs?

Okay...I've never done drugs so I'm speaking from ignorance here.

However, it is my educated guess that smoking marijuana and the effects that might generate are not worth the millions of dollars that two NFL stars are throwing away because they failed to comply with the drug policy of the company that they work for.

I can't understand what sensory delights are worth what most people throw away to attain. Any insights would be appreciated.
Surprise Visit

Yesterday I got a phone call from Tracy telling me that the fine folks at Rearview Windowwere coming for dinner. We always enjoy a good visit from my favorite pierced and tatooed neo-hippie and her former occupant of the guest room husband. This time, in addition to the expected toddler in tow, we also got their new dog Corky. More on him in a minute.

Baby Judah continues to grow by the minute. She paraded around with the phone and put on some grown up sandals and tried to feed the dogs some sort of "o's." There was debate over whether or not they were Cheerios, or Honey Nut O's or Healthy O's but there could be no doubt that they were O's of some type. What was really funny about that was Judah knew she wasn't supposed to feed the dogs these random O's, because when she did she made a guilty/sad face, which made those in charge of discipline laugh and look away...which made me laugh because I didn't care at all if the dogs got the O's. It's so much fun having a toddler in your house who isn't yours. I mean, having your own is fun, but it's that fun without responsibility that I like. Naturally, when we were going to get a picture, she ceased cute activity.

Over dinner, one highlight of discussion was the possibility of getting Kristen and my old college roommate and blog commenter Hollywood together in the same room. The potential fireworks would be akin to Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken in the same room. Hollywood has size, but Kristen is really scrappy...and I don't think I have furniture or walls strong enough to weather that storm.

Joshua and Tracy began some business card project. Watching two artists try to make decisions on what photo to put on the business card was like feeling you have two correct answers to choose from on some multiple choice test, and you bubble in "A," erase it, then bubble in "C." Repeat process 6 times. Settle on one without full enthusiasm...kind of like agreeing to disagree. But I think that process is what brings out great art, so I amused myself by watching that process.

Corky, their male poodle, which automatically gives him female characteristics. Lloyd, the apprentice to the greatest of all dogs and proprietor of all dog duties at our home (he has much to overcome as he's dumb as a stick), found himself attracted to Corky's female characteristics. What can I say, he's got the hormones of a teenager. It was our own version of the twist in that movie The Crying Game from a few years back. Equally as disturbing, too.

There are few better surprises than getting to hang out with people you love and respect and enjoy on a weeknight. Lots of laughs. Lots of fun. Nice surprise.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Whatever happened to paying your dues?

Sports Illustrated is having a contest, televised, of course. The winner gets her photo in their annual swimsuit issue and a million-dollar modeling contract.

ESPN did the same thing by having a show in which the winner got to be an anchor on SportsCenter for a year and a hefty salary.

The Apprentice. Making The Band. America's Top Model. American Idol. The Swan. The Bachelor. The Bachelorette. I could go on.

Somehow, the idea of getting famous and rich quickly is less romantic in my mind than some rock band slaving away in clubs and finally getting their big break. And since when did becoming rich doing what you love seem to override just doing what you love?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Dripping With Irony

Life is grand when you have a pre-teen babysitter in your own home. It gives you the freedom to haul off and go out with your wife without the normal hassles that keep you home when your children are younger. We get to go out, they get to stay at home by themselves. It's win-win.

So, Tracy and I decided to see a movie which was playing at the local mall. I guess most of the grown-ups were staying home to rest for work the next day, so the mall entrance courtyard was crawling with teenagers hanging out and doing the teenager thing.

I saw something on the way in that made me laugh out loud because they had no idea of the irony:

Two girls, probably 13, in full-blown goth garb with anti-establishment t-shirts standing on the curb. They were then picked up by their dad in his full-blown statement of being the establishment Ford Expidition.

Suburban angst really is tough to pull off well.

Monday, August 02, 2004


I've got two friends who are in the process of moving. That process has highs, like the anticipation of an adventure, as well as lows, like the last hour of packing where every box just becomes "miscellaneous" and stuff just gets thrown in. I also really disliked the final cleaning of the old place for the new owners.

So, I've been thinking about the places we moved into this morning and what I fondly remember about each place.

Our first apartment: I remember decorating it for our first Christmas together. Tracy purchased a paper mache reindeer who had one foot that was shorter than the rest. I also remember that's where I learned that you can really singe your arm hair if you don't pay attention to the charcoal on the grill.

Our first home: I remember we goofed on calculations for the wallpaper border for the nursery and in the corner no one looked at it appeared someone smooshed a teddy bear into it. It had hardwood floors, which we loved, and we redid the kitchen floor in black and white checkerboard tiles and it had PINK walls. Teenagers came over to that house ALL the time.

When we moved to Dallas, we moved into a house that we'd never seen and it was arranged through the seminary's housing office. It was actually okay, but we could only have "outdoor" pets. Buford had to make an adjustment. I remember it primarily because the neighbors were nice. Our neigbhors on one side were cartoonish Texans, complete with cowboy boots as planters on their porch, and they were potty training their kids which included a child's potty on that same porch. They invited us to the dirt track races and tractor pulls and we found out later that Rusty had pirated the cable into our home so he wouldn't get caught pirating cable into his home if we ordered cable from the company.

The next place we lived was a duplex we lived in for only 7 months but it seemed like 5 years. We were great friends with the couple on the other side who had girls the same age as our girls. There were late nights hanging out with friends, teenagers over, it was busy and fun and stressful (jobs and seminary) and warp speed. The only time we've lived on a split level set up. I don't miss that at all.

We moved to Flower Mound and had a rental home for a year. It was nice and had a big backyard for the girls to play in and Buford still had to live outside. We broke the driveway when we moved in because the truck weighed too much and apparently some erosion had taken place underneath it. We still see the repair when we drive by.

Then we moved into our current home. The teenagers came by after school and moved us about two blocks. This has been the place where so much has happened in 8 years with memories that I can't really explain a lot of that here, but the biggest thing that has happened because we haven't moved in 8 years is the amount of clutter that you just keep because you have space.

So, moving like a nomad keeps you a minimalist...and I really should do something about the garage and my closet. Maybe I should pretend I'm moving in a week...

Sunday, August 01, 2004

For Sale or Trade

When I had a choice to purchase my first guitar, I went to a local guitar store with guitars hanging from every inch of wall space. Like most people, I was drawn to the wall of electric guitars.

The guy who went with me, a pretty good player, asked me, "Do you want to play guitar or do you want to be a rock star?" He then took me to the acoustic humidor where the really nice acoustic versions were. I was enthralled with the nobility of higher-order strumming.

Well, suffice to say that after learning to play the guitar on this really nice acoustic, I've realized that all the songs I like to play are all electric. I guess I've realized that I'd rather play the music that makes rock stars. And, not to forget, recognized the limits of my talent.

Hence, if you know of anyone in the market for an acoustic Martin DR-28 that has been babied and well-fed, I'll let them have it (complete with hard shell Martin case) for $500. Firm.

I'll also consider a trade for a brand new Fender Jaguar Stratocaster, American made, with an amp that will handle it, and maybe a footpedal or two.

Just using my blog space as an electronic garage sale today...sorry if I offend the purists among my readership.