Friday, December 31, 2004

My Brain Is Having A Bout Of A.D.H.D. This Morning...And Here's What's Going On In There:

...t-shirts from last night's trip to Sega Gameworks with Shelby & her friend: "Please Don't Feed The Model" and "I'm Up And Dressed. What More Do You Want?"
...our student ministry is having a New Year's Eve bonfire tonight and it's going up to 70 degrees today.
...the college bowl games are a little bit better today, but not much.
...that I can't figure out why our church's concert next Friday night isn't sold out yet.
...that my morning is all out of whack when I blog before I read the morning paper, but I thought I'd get crazy and mix things up a bit.
...David Sedaris is a lough-out-loud funny writer. I actually had to stifle laughing last night to keep from waking up Tracy.
...Lloyd officially rose to "Great Dog" status in the last two days. On both days, I had enough of people and just needed to get away so I took a book and hit my hammock. Lloyd was apparently feeling the same way (he's had a steady diet of visitors, too) and he hopped up there with me and hung out. mom fell a few days ago. She seems to be doing that more that I'm comfortable with. Hmmm.
...The new Nirvana set on CD/DVD has only caused my admiration for them as a musical force to grow. You get to see the evolution of songs, which makes it really interesting to hear a song go from an idea to finished product right in front of you. Kurt Cobain's journals really aren't all that insightful, but they do inspire creativity in me. it strange that I'm thinking that I might need to start listening to National Public Radio? I thought that was for highbrows, not hoi polloi like me.
...when you're in middle school, an overnight lock-in is the greatest way you can imagine to spend your time.
...that when you come home from four hours of Sega Gameworks and you're driving your own vehicle, there's something that goes through your brain that maybe you can drive crazy without any consequences whatsoever other than bonus points.
...that overall, I'm glad to see 2004 go. In my book, it's only been about a C+.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Things I like…
…a mouthful of sunflower seeds and spitting the shells.
…board games like Life and Operation.
…rain, a fireplace using real firewood, and a new book.
…snow skiing in Colorado (eventually, I’d like to do it without chaperoning 70 teenagers to see if it actually gets better than it already is).
…banana splits with my daughters, anytime, anywhere.
…New York City…at least from Manhattan to Times Square and Central Park.
…flannel pants, sweatshirts and Birkenstocks
…my new hammock and the mild Texas weather.
…the quiet of early morning with a good cup of coffee and my Bible.
…getting a new CD you’ve wanted and listening to it while you drive.

Things I don’t like…
…wearing shoes in my house.
…telemarketers and spammers.
…people who are cruel to animals and vice-versa.
…strikes by professional athletes.
…putting the Christmas stuff back in the attic.
…staring at a computer screen knowing what you need to write and then not being able to make that happen.
…exit ramps on the left.
…stupid pet tricks.
…society’s lack of value on public transportation.
…the Bowl Championship Series (not only because my team got screwed but it makes all the other bowl games terrible).

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Things you remember vividly from your childhood regarding grandparents (don’t think about them, just write them down as they pop into your head…ready…GO!):
My Maternal Grandparents:

Candy in a hidden bag that we’d have to find on Friday nights.
Coffee, shining shoes, washing cars and mowing grass on Saturday mornings.
The whole family, cousins and all, eating free and undisturbed in a back room at Joy Young’s Chinese Restaurant because he was good friends with the owner.
An enclosed garage converted into a bar and gameroom, and Uncle Jack avoiding adults there with us kids at every Thanksgiving dinner.
Uncle Irl walking in the house on Christmas with his scotch, dentures, and smelling like cigars.
Catching crawfish in the creek in front of the house.
Going to college football games with the entire family.
Driving to Nashville and Decatur with them when I was little.
Charlie Mae the family maid who was really part of the family.
Individual oil portraits of me and my cousins in the family room, and oil bridal portraits of my mom and aunts in living room.

My paternal grandparents:
The tax business in Bessemer, with framed pictures my cousins and I drew in crayon when we were 4 as the office artwork.
Ski boat, fishing boat and long weekends with the family at the river cabin.
Drinking the 8-ounce Cokes from the wooden crate on her laundry porch and then having long talks on the couch with Nana.
Rain on the aluminum roof of their house and two gardens they cultivated.
A mortgage burning party for a home that had monthly payments of $28 per month for 30 years, and a 40th anniversary celebration in that same house.
My grandmother losing 7 fingers in a “Rosie the Riverter” war effort who fished every summer day and took watercolor lessons at age 80.
A grandfather who always had money in his pockets for us, but never gave it to us until his wife ordered him to.
The torture of waiting to open Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve.
Rocking chairs on the porch that got used an awful lot.
Uncle Jimmy and my cousin Rob singing songs they’d written on ukeleles.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Entertaining The Locals

If I were to have a 45-minute acoustic set of covers at a local coffee shop, this would be my set list:

1) "Hurt" by Johnny Cash
2) "Muzzle" by Smashing Pumpkins
3) "Heart Shaped Box" by Nirvana
4) "I'll Be You" by The Replacements
5) "Listen" by Collective Soul
6) "Shiv" by Stavesacre (creative coffee-shop arrangement by me)
7) "Changes" by David Bowie.
8) "Swinging" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
9) "If Money Talks (I Wish It Would Speak To Me) by Jason and the Nashville Scorchers
10) "Charmed Life/I Was Wrong" by Mike Ness/Social Distortion

If I were to get an encore, it would be "What A Wonderful World" by Louie Armstrong, but I'd do it Joey Ramone's way.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Getting My Comeuppance

The church on whose staff I serve has a Sunday schedule that can be demanding on our pastoral staff. It's two services in the morning and two services in the evening, all identical, and all designed in such a way that our church family can attend one service for worship and either serve the next service or grab another opportunity in our Christian education department.

Basically, what that means is that the average churchgoer comes to either the morning "block" OR the evening "block." Hence, they either sleep in our get the evening to themselves depending on their preference.

The reality is that, as staff, we're there the whole the hour early and hour late, and suffice to say it's a full day in every sense of the word. I'm not complaining, mind you...just giving you some background that Sunday is a full day for us, and to get a portion of it off is like gold.

Staff meeting in early fall.

Youth pastor brings up the idea that when we had Sunday on July 4 nobody came to the evening services and it was really a waste of resources to have so many volunteers and staff and electricity and musicians and singers and board ops and all that jazz for so few people. Youth pastor suggests that since the same kind of thing is taking place on Halloween in a couple of months that maybe we should just cancel the evening block of services on October 31. And, oh yeah, why not on December 26th when we just had 4 Christmas Eve services two days before?

The decision was made to run a normal set of services on October 31. Youth pastor was RIGHT, baby! Lots of resources were wasted. Few came, and even fewer children. Vindication!

Maybe I should bring up Christmas again. Discussion at that staff meeting tabled until right before Thanksgiving so everybody could think about it. Decision is made to run the full-schedule on December 26th.

Christmas Eve services were packed to the gills. Standing room only at the first two, and about 60 percent capacity at the last two...and those numbers add up to about 70% full overall. I'm thinking nobody shows up on the 26th. Looking forward to even more vindication!

Stroll into church yesterday with a smirk of self-importance.

Thinking in my brain about what OTHER days we should cancel night services!
Super Bowl?!
Oscar Night?!
Memorial Day?!

Well, thanks to the good folks at Crossroads Bible Church, who apparently love each other and care about each other enough to come up twice on a weekend and attended on almost a 70% rate yesterday...

...if you need me, I'll be joyfully serving and working all four services until the Rapture.

Why am I continually surprised by the wonderful congregation I'm involved with?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas Review

A nice, relaxing Christmas at my home...daughters excitedly up at 6:20AM ready for action. Got too much. Ate too much. Didn't nap enough. Will fix that today as the anemic Cowboys offense should do the trick. Anyway, my annual gift review:

Gift that caused the most commotion: My daughter Kelsey got a cell phone that takes pictures. Teenage girl. Cell phone that needed to be loaded with numbers and pictures and ring tones and all that jazz. The phone hasn't left her hand today.

Gift that couldn't miss: The girls and I combined financial resources and loaded Tracy down with a nice treatment at a spa. Massage, facial & manicure. Slam dunk.

Gift guaranteed to last the longest: My sister gave Tracy and I a corkscrew that will open a wine bottle in 3 seconds. It's good for 20,000 pulls. So, lemme see. If we drank a bottle a month, it'd last 60 years.

Gift that shows my family knows me: They gave me a hammock with it's very own stand. They even loaded it down with a special cover and pillow that velcros in place.

Gift we could've seen coming a mile away: Our entire family was loaded down with SEC Championship gear from our beloved Auburn Tigers. Shirts & hats.

Gift we couldn't have seen coming a mile away: Our "entire" family included Lloyd the dog. He got a hooded sweatshirt with an Auburn logo on it...and he loved it.

Gift that brought childhood to the next level: When I was a kid, we would play a game called paper football at lunch or during study hall or whenever we were bored. All you'd need was a table and a piece of paper. You fold the paper over several times into a tightly knit triangle and play football by trying to get a portion of the triangle to hang over the edge of the table without falling off to score touchdowns. Well, I got a leather triangle football (with grains like a real football) with the Auburn logo on it...and it came with uprights so you don't have to use your fingers. Nice. It competed with last year's ping-pong ball basketball game, which sits in my office. Football will, too.

Gifts with the best shot for self-expression: Kelsey got canvases in various sizes for painting, and Shelby got hip-hop dancing shoes...which look like regular athletic shoes but have no rubber sole over the arch.

Gift that got combined the quickest: Shelby put on a shirt that says, "Caution: Ballet shoes needed beyond this pointe," (get it? hahaha) fired up the CD player with Shania Twain's Greatest Hits and danced around to "Man, You Make Me Feel Like A Woman." I'm not sure how I feel about that combination yet.

Gift O' Irony: Let's see, the Incarnation of God is the reason for the celebration, and my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly got me a 3-CD set of Nirvana rare tracks and demo tapes (with a DVD of their home videos of early performances of "greatest hits" included) as well as a copy of Kurt Cobain's "Journals." I sat in my hammock and enjoyed them both. Ironic.

Gift that has yet to be taken off: Kelsey got a replica of Texas Ranger Hank Blalock's jersey. It was put on around 7AM and is still going strong. 2nd place is Shelby's ballet shirt mentioned earlier. It went on at 7:05AM.

Gift with the most pracicality: My mom loaded us down with socks. But they're all high quality know, with thick heels and toes. Everybody got underwear, too.

As you can see, it was a very Merry Christmas in our house...and if you think you can take me in "paper" football (or even last year's ping-pong basketball--of which I'm still undefeated)...

...bring it.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Here's Lloyd, the apprentice to the Greatest of All Dogs (who passed away last summer) and is coming into his own. This photo highlights that gotta admire a dog with a huge Napoleon Complex wearing a hooded sweatshirt of the 12-0 Auburn Tigers! Posted by Hello

Here's the girls with various gifts in MY gift! Notice the left over snow in Texas...which will go away soon as the high today is 50. Posted by Hello
The Bottom Line

"And an angel of the Lord said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today, in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Friday, December 24, 2004

Grinch-heart update

I'm really trying hard, ya know? I don't want to be a scrooge. I just am. Some things have been helping, though.

The weather hasn't gotten above freezing in two days, and today will be more of the same. We've had fire in the fireplace and hot soup.

I've cranked up the Lost and Found Christmas CD, which is way more my style (if you missed the comic strip "Non Sequiter" yesterday where the guy had a jam box and a wheelbarrow full of money with more people adding to it, and a sign that said, "Will Not Play Any Christmas Music: $5"...well, I don't like much Christmas music). Think Violent Femmes singing your favorite carols. You don't have to like it...but it's more my style.

I watched an old Christmas show called "A Wish For Wings That Work" and had forgotten what a wonderful Christmas special that is. If anyone can find that on DVD, I'll pay more than it's worth to own a copy.

I accidentally saw a clip from "It's a Wonderful Life" on an advertisement.

I hung out at Starbucks yesterday and ran into about 10 students and former students (in addition to the two people I was meeting there...who had a problem they wanted to discuss, which was difficult, but I think we left with a handle on it) and got caught up with them.

We played our annual joke on Sherry, one of our support in which we hang this silly cherub over her desk from a wire, and this year, we added a spotlight and it's all set for her arrival this morning.

My friend Dave and I made our annual Festivus's a perfect release for pastors who get fed up with the superficial focus of this holiday to expound on the created holiday Frank Costanza made up on Seinfeld. Festivus for "the rest of us" who don't buy into the fake commercial Christmas stuff...and Dave and I have quite a list of additions to the allusions made on Seinfeld.

We have our Christmas Eve planned out. This year, Shelby told me that it's "tradition" that we see a movie on Christmas Eve afternoon. Tracy and I checked with each other to make sure our memories weren't haywire, and no, we've NEVER done that...but we gave Shelby points for creativity and will go see a movie.

I've prepared my Christmas Eve sermon (see
Peripatetics, our student ministry web site Bible study) which always gets me going.

Tracy informed me part of my problem was that I hadn't watched "Christmas Vacation" yet, so that's on the agenda for after church tonight.

I guess what I'm saying is that my Grinch-heart now has the x-ray machine in front of it and is preparing to bust the machine. It took longer this year than ever before (if I'd gone to New York City last week, it would've busted the machine already as there's no better Christmas preparation than just walking around the area near Rockefeller Plaza), but I guess it's better late than never.

So, Merry Christmas and all that jazz...I'm getting there. Slowly but surely.
An Equal Opportunity Critique

For those of you who read The Diner frequently, you know I've been poking fun at a local church's hokey signs. Right now, it cryptically says, "You can't fill that hole with fruitcake." I'm a bit unsure of that one.

But our friends at the area synagogue have this on their sign: "Happy Challah Days."


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Snow Day in Texas?! And, Yet, Still Grinching. Hmmmm.

It was the last school day in our school district yesterday. I dropped Shelby off at school and then headed to coffee with one of my teenagers. On the way, the snow flurries started. By the time school let out and all that, there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground (none sticking to the roads)...soup was made, fire in the fireplace, daughters keyed up...the works.

For those of you still curious, despite wassail at work and more food than one can imagine (I can't get over how many baked goods find their way into the church pastoral offices), and snow on the ground, I would be less than honest if I said my Grinch-heart grew much today. I'm beginning to get concerned...normally, I'm full blown "Jimmy-Stewart-in-It's-A-Wonderful-Life" mode by now.

Anyway, here are some photos from last night and today if you want to see snow in Texas in December:

Our house last night! Posted by Hello

Here's the crepe myrtle (with new "broccoli tops") in our back yard. Posted by Hello

Here's the angel and Santa by our front door. Posted by Hello

Here's the front of our can tell the snow wasn't sticking. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Gotta Stay Focused Gotta Stay Focused Gotta Stay Focused Gotta Stay Focused

I hit the office yesterday with much to do...dropped gifts off for my staffers by placing them on their desks before they got in...dropped off gift for my supervisor in his harassed by my "team" for sucking up to the boss every five minutes or so...people pop into our office with baked goods about every 10 minutes or so...supervisor makes the rounds inviting our "team" to lunch...staffers pop in thanking me for their gifts...staffers need me to sign reimbursement forms...receptionists pop in with tokens of esteem...gotta sign the card for senior pastor's gift...write out "to-do" list for this week & add things periodically during the day while not crossing any of them off...go to lunch with "team" and eat too much and stay too long discussing "how we met" stories about our spouses...straight to staff meeting where there's wassail and appetizers...more people dropped more baked goods off...have staffers tell me that "you may want to stay out of the Dungeon (youth room) for a while as there was an incident" but they laughed...try to talk seriously for 10 minutes about a counseling situation that doesn't seem to have any real answers...stopped down for 10 minutes with a funny forward that we all got into for a bit...

...gave up and left the office at 4PM.

I really do have a lot of stuff to do this week. Suffice to say that the week of Christmas is very difficult to have anything that resembles productivity.

I hope today is better or I'm in big trouble.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Let's Be Careful Out There, Kids. Part 2.

William McKenzie, an editorial columnist, in an article in which he discussed the distaste of poltical hot-button debates this year and "religion's" role within that debate:

"Faiths are being reborn, one person at a time, in some unfathomable way. That's not happening because of some political campaign, that's for sure. Nor through some direct-mail effort or television ranting. For that matter, it's not through electing the right leader, finding the correct judge or passing a particular law. Rebirth comes through something far more mystical yet nonetheless real."

"It's been a long year. And the crusaders can make faith seem so hard and distant."

My friends in the band Lost and Found have a line in their song "The Kingdom" that says, "We know what you fear, but what are you for?" The song is almost apologetic in that so often, Christians push others away from the Kingdom of God because of their focus on things that Jesus never emphasized. The Kingdom's big enough for you, where you are, as you are. (Their words)

And yet, we're often our own worst enemy.

We make the love of God seem so hard and distant.

So, let's all do what we can today to make our faith seem pliable and close, okay?
Let's Be Careful Out There, Kids

True story from today's paper:

High school basketball tournament. All day event during the Thanksgiving holidays at one location. Couple of hours between games.

A couple of cheerleaders decide to become exhibitionists behind the buses for several basketball players.

The basketball players take photos with their mobile phones. They e-mail them to friends.

Sure, suspensions have taken place all around. Justice has been served. At least that's what the Dallas Morning News said.

This really took place. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this event, but I'll let you choose the moral that you want:

A) If you're a cheerleader with time between games, don't use the time to show your body parts to basketball players.
B) If you're a basketball player with time between games, don't be the kind of guy that encourages girls to show you their body parts.
C) If you do indeed choose to take photos of your scantily-clad or non-clad friends, don't e-mail them to your idiot friends for two reasons: Foremost, it objectifies your friends and secondly, e-mail is always traceable.
D) We'd all better remember that, in public, Big Brother really is watching.

Monday, December 20, 2004

An Update From Who-Ville

My Grinch-heart remains unchanged at present...4 sizes to small. In fact, it may have sunk lower.

This is in spite of our youth group's progressive dinner, seeing the college kids back at their party, and listening to (as well as teaching) stories about Christmas at church yesterday.

Maybe it's the fact the weather is 70 degrees. Maybe it's that the progressive dinner didn't run smoothly from my end of things. Maybe it's because my children still have three days of school this week. Maybe it's because Lost and Found (my favorite music group) didn't come to our church with their annual Christmas show. I dunno.

I'm really having severe trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Celebration Intensive

Yesterday I was on the fly like you wouldn't believe. It all started when one of my former students, who I was intensely involved in her discipleship, was having a party to celebrate her graduation from university. I got to visit a lot of friends and such, so that was good, and two thoughts were primary in my mind: First, that every time I get around Melissa, it reminds me that sometimes there really is a "payoff" for your hard work as she's come very far spiritually (not to mention that I've known this young woman since she was 12). And second, that her parents are doing something right as they have three children who have a true heart for God.

Then I was off to our staff Christmas "open house." It's a lot of fun to be around our staff as we have our own little "warp and woof" as a group. No one leaves our staff at all...and there's a reason: Sometimes it's cool to be associated with uber-talented people with amazing gifts who are all working for The Kingdom. We've been together, personality quirks and generation gaps and all, for about 5 years now as a unit (some of us have been around about a decade together) and it really is fun to get together outside of work, with spouses and all.

Next stop was our mini-church Christmas party. They're fun people, too. We did a gift exchange and had a lot of laughs...we meet fairly often and do life together.

Immediately following I stopped by the college/career Christmas party to see former students en masse. I'm floored by what amazing followers of Christ many of them have become. Last night, even though conversation was on engagments/dating/college grades/Auburn football (they cared and noticed!)/our ministry, etc. there were spiritual overtones to everything. I talked with full-time missionaries and soon-to-be full-time missionaries. I talked with engaged couples telling me the story of how they felt God leading them to glorify Him by getting married. I talked about summer ministry experiences they had months ago. I heard about new Bible studies starting. I saw them having fun together with the "warps and woofs" and inside jokes that can only be shared after 7 years of life together.

And on the way home, I thanked God that I serve a church in which life together is normative. And that they are indeed the family of God to me, personality quirks and generation gaps and all. I'm blessed beyond comprehension.
Early Edition

Yesterday, compliments of Larry's Shoes, I recieved a free "early edition" of the Dallas Morning News Sunday newspaper. It was in my yard in the late afternoon. I was hoping that I'd fallen into that TV show called "Early Edition" where the guy got the next day's newspaper delivered and then felt compelled to do something about the tragedies he found in the headlines. My only thought was if I had the early edition, I was off to purchase a lottery ticket.

Alas, it wasn't really that...only a newspaper without news. Only human interest stories where the real news was supposed to be.
The Answer?

I'm not a big fan of the NBA. Okay, I'm not a fan of the NBA at all. But I do watch Sports Center and noticed that basketball star Allen Iverson scored 54 points in one game for his 76ers.

The reason I'm not a fan of the NBA: If Allen "The Answer" Iverson can throw down 54 points against these guys, how come he didn't do it one time in this summer's Olympic games when he represented the good old USA? Maybe because the rest of the world puts as much emphasis on defense as they do on scoring.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Progressive Dinner

Last night was our annual progressive dinner. It's sort of the year-ender for our student ministry...and everybody came dressed up with gag-gifts afoot. They progressed all right. Appetizers in the youth room. Soups and salads in area homes. Main course in our church's cafe/foyer. A good time was had by all.

So, a few observations:

Is it me, or do freshman girls look "older" these days? Even as young as they are, they looked so grown up when they were dressed up...with more make up and hair done up all all that they seem to me that they looked older than their a good way.

Dressed up to a guy means something entirely different than dressed up to a girl. I don't think that changes when you get older, either. To them, sneakers, dockers and a button down was dressed up. All the girls were in nice dresses and shoes, etc.

The food is irrelevant to the experience at this gig.

Some of the college age kids come back to help serve and set up. This year I witnessed two extremes: There were two girls who were engaged and that was very exciting, for them and for me because I think they've chosen well. I think young men are more likely to go in debt for rings these days...very impressive rings for the women they love.

The other extreme was that two of the girls are in their mid-twenties and while the girls younger than they were (in some cases by 5 years) were showing their engagement rings, these girls were jokingly flashing their rings from True Love Waits...a Biblically-based program in which teenagers agree to uphold biblical standards regarding sex until marriage. I'm impressed by their willingness to uphold these standards, even after a decade of going through the course.

Going against societal trends, Christian girls are getting married younger these days. At least in our neck of the woods.

The "white elephant"/don't buy anything gag gift exchange is funny no matter what. It's a slam dunk for teen entertainment. There were belly dancing instructional videos and road cones and SpongeBob toys and trophies from older sister's athletic accomplishments...that teens would actually steal from each other. The hit of the party was an authentic boomerang and a stuffed animal from "Finding Nemo." They were frozen pretty quickly.

It's nice how parents get involved in our ministry...even if they weren't serving, they were attending and excited to be taking pictures of their kids and friends (or their friend's kids) all dressed up. They also knew when to stay in the background.

I'm not sure of the reasons, but college kids serving at this event isn't quite as high a priority as it used to be. Maybe it's the ramping up of communication (namely Instant Message and cell phones), or maybe it's that our college ministry has it's own party now and didn't used to, but there was a time when the kids in their freshman and sophomore years all came back to see everybody and renew their relationships. In fact, we'd have 25 college kids for 40 high schoolers. Last night, we had 10 for 85. It was plenty, and it worked, but it's just the "vibe" that seems to have disappeared.

The days of the RSVP are so far gone it's scary. And I don't think people realize that when they RSVP and tell me they'll pay that night, that we had to turn kids away who wanted to come. Then their kids don't show. They don't pay. And because of their selfishness, some teens didn't get to attend. It doesn't make me mad as those kids who wanted to get in should've signed up earlier, too. But the reality is that youth pastors do indeed keep mental notes on this stuff and do choose not to bend over backwards to help you the next time. You cannot teach class, or manners, or even thoughtfulness and respect...and prestige, money and influence can't buy those things.

You can't have as much for $5 doing anything else. I think everybody had a great time and enjoyed themselves.

Friday, December 17, 2004

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...I need to wear shoes when I go out in the mornings these days. I get my morning paper barefoot and the 5 minutes I'm outside waiting on the dog, well, I'm playing "catch-up" all day with foot warmth.
...that I have no idea what to get my mom and her husband for Christmas and time is running out rapidly since I have to UPS it.
...that I'm glad my daughter Kelsey is off her crutches.
...that the host homes for soups & salads for our progressive dinner might want to be prepared as my goofy teenagers keep having last-minute run-on sentences that go like this: "Please let me come to the dinner even though I've had six weeks to sign up I forgot and I want to bring 11 friends and it's ministry so I know you've got to say yes."
...that I hope the mis-print in this week's church bulletin about me preaching twice on Christmas Eve doesn't affect people's holiday planning.
...that it would bother me more if no one attends the services that the bulletin says I'm preaching.
...that the sense of injustice the Auburn football team experienced in not getting to play for the national championship will turn to anger when they hit the practice field and they might just beat Virginia Tech handily.
...that if your office makes rules about gift giving for the holidays, they should be strictly adhered to by everyone as one breach changes every dynamic.
...that I'm missing the NHL more than anyone else in this country.
...that I'm looking forward to next week at work as so much slows down and I I'll have time to think and be somewhat visionary instead of reactionary to the tyranny of the urgent.
...that really, I'm not at all excited about Christmas yet, and my Grinch-heart is still at least four sizes too small.
...that the cure for that might be to watch "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Story," and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" back to back to back.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Sign #1,857 that I'm aging faster than I'd like:

Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, became a grandfather yesterday. Somehow, this is different than Mick Jagger to me. Maybe it's because I remember very distinctly going to the pharmacy (which for some strange reason sold albums) the day "Toys in the Attic" the day it came out and had every record this band made, but Steven Tyler...

...a grandfather?

Yesterday, my junior/senior guys Bible study chose to see "Ocean's 12" on their night of fellowship. I was truly thankful from the last two year's respite of seeing the newest "Lord of the Rings" offering, but I had to watch "Ocean's 11" that afternoon.

Ocean's 11: Enjoyable movie.

Ocean's 12: Enjoyable movie. Until you get to the last 20 minutes. I won't tell you the plot twist, but suffice to say you will come out of this ending and wonder what went wrong in everybody in charge's brain. It was absolutely horrible.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Okay, Everybody! Chime in on this quote!

From N.T. Wright in The Challenge of Jesus

"It has far too often been assumed that church leaders stand above the nitty-gritty of biblical, and theological study; they have done all that, we implicitly suppose, before they come to office, and now they simply have to work out the 'implications.' They find themselves spending countless hours at their desks running the church business, raising money or working at dozens of other tasks, rather than poring over their foundation documents and enquiring ever more closely about the Jesus whom they are supposed to be following and teaching others to follow. I believe, to the contrary, that each generation has to wrestle afresh with the question of Jesus, not least it's Biblical roots if it is to be truly the church at all--not that we should engage in abstract dogmatics to the detriment of our engagement with the world, but that we should discover more and more of who Jesus was and is, precisely in order to be equipped to engage with the world that he came to save. And this is a task for the whole church, especially those appointed to leadership and teaching roles within it."


Do you agree or disagree & why?

Ready? Go!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

An "Ordinary" Day

It was a very ordinary day in the life of a youth pastor. Sure, it was my day off, but it was very ordinary. There was blogging. There was napping. There was reading. There were chores, namely, mowing the yard (Texas, ugh, grass is still growing on Dec. 12) and replacing all burned out light bulbs on Christmas lights. I did a bit of kid shuttling to dance and to extracurricular events.

Another "ordinary" event happened, too. See, in my world, teenagers just come into my house if our flag is up. They don't knock. They just come in. It's a habit we started some 16 years ago and never stopped.

Yesterday, Kristen popped in with offspring Judah in tow. She was here to borrow some lights from my incredibly gifted photographer wife as she, too, is doing some photography. I didn't disciple Kristen at all, but she married someone I did and got into the habit of just coming in. She's always been good at being who she is, and it's always cool seeing her be good at who she is while who she is is currently being reshaped by wifery and motherhood. It was very encouraging for me to see that.

Then, last night, Meredith popped in with Jordan. Jordan is one of my current students and Meredith is her best friend who graduated last year. Meredith is back from her first semester of taking a year to study God's Word at Capernwray Bible School in England. Needless to say, it was incredible to hear what God is doing in her life at the moment, and she tried desperately to describe it, but I think I was asking her to describe something you just can't describe no matter how hard you try. Think about it...try to describe the most intimate things God is doing in your life and how He is doing it. But she did so well enough to cause me to somewhat envy the opportunity. A year. In a rural environment in England with no TV. Studying the Bible from gifted teachers. Focusing on what God wants to do with us. Manalive.

So, evidences of God at work in hearts and lives of people who will likely do more for The Kingdom than I ever will strolls into my living room. Twice in one day.

And, in my world, that's ordinary.

I have the greatest of all jobs.

And the greatest of all lives.

I lead a charmed life.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Finding Brilliance In Unlikely Places

Last night after teaching 4 times at church in various ways and having one counseling session I was emotionally and spiritually drained. So, I turned on the telly and scanned for some mindless entertainment...frankly, I was hoping for the improvisational comedy of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?

Wasn't on, but since I was already in the high channels on my cable service I hit Comedy Central, who was doing a review of the year 2004.


B-list comedians and comediennes skewering various pop-culture icons such as Paris Hilton, Ashlee Simpson, Janet Jackson, Avril Lavigne, and mocking moments such as the election, sports events and wardrobe malfunctions.

The show combined all the elements of mindlessness. Of course, since I mentioned the Hilton and Simpson sisters, you already knew that.

Anyway, Colin Quinn (speaking of, b-list comedian, and that's being generous) comes out to do his monologue.

He did it in a "beat poet/slam poet" style, if you're familiar with that brand of art...and it was truly brilliant as art.

I don't know if he was trying for funny, but he hit "intelligent" and "ironic" which was humorous, but truly brilliantly insightful into our culture. For example, he was talking about Halliburton and the phrase I remember was "It was a year of power. A year of hate. I might be crooked, but my tie's on straight." There were comments on young people trying to influence the election wearing Che Guevara shirts but they were too busy watching Viva La Bam to vote. Insights like that.

His segment was about 4 minutes long, and the show was on Comedy Central. Last Laugh 2004 was the title. Most of the show is throwaway, but if you can find a clip or a tape of Colin Quinn's segment, you'll laugh as well as be made uncomfortable with his insight into general American Culture. PG-13 warning, too, kids. Some of it is off color.

If I can find a transcript of it (I looked on the web all morning and couldn't find it yet), I'll post it ASAP. But if you've got TiVo or they're going to replay it, make sure to watch that part. You won't regret it.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sneak Preview: Spanglish

For some reason, I don't know why, I think it's pretty cool to go to a "special sneak preview" of an upcoming movie. Maybe it's because of the "first on your block" syndrome. Maybe it's because I buy the hype of "special." Maybe it's just that you don't know a whole lot about it beforehand. Tracy and I ordered tickets on-line, grabbed some dinner and we were off.

We saw the movie "Spanglish" starring Adam Sandler and Tea Leone.

A few observations:

A movie starring Adam Sandler and rated PG-13 is going to draw a few young teenagers. They were all sorely disappointed. My guess is they missed any and all previews.

Those same younger teenagers, when they get bored, check their cell phone messages...and the one kid who didn't get the memo that laser-pointers are so 2001 tried to get a few shots off undetected (to no avail).

There was a theatre representative taking notes or counting heads or something after the movie. She had a legal pad and pen, but I couldn't see what she was writing.

Tea Leoni's character could not have been made easier to dislike. From beginning to end, I couldn't stand her.

Adam Sandler's character could not have been more likeable. His first words in the movie, about 10 minutes in, were funny. He didn't say much in the movie, but when he did it was either funny or insightful. His character was a cross between the guy in Punch Drunk Love and The Wedding Singer.

Needless to say, they were married...and we didn't like it one bit.

Cloris Leachman was funny in her role as Tea Leoni's mom.

The housekeeper was easily likeable. We immediately want her and Adam Sandler to get together.

Anybody thinking this is an Adam Sandler film will be's more of an ensemble cast.

If you go wanting to see a drama with laughs here and there, you'll be happy.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Mallrats on a Friday Night During the Holiday Season

Kelsey, Tracy and I went out for dinner last night and decided to pick up a gift for the annual Angel Tree fundraiser that goes on at our church. Afterward, we decided to do a little window shopping for each other at the local mall across the street.

Suffice to say that my Grinch-heart is still about four sizes too small, despite the fact that the mall has created an actual snowstorm every two hours at the Santa/elf station. Maybe the fact that it's still 65 degrees here in North Texas...well, I wasn't into the snowstorm.

Overall, though, it wasn't too bad an experience. People were nice, traffic wasn't too bad, salespeople were helpful, children were appropriately keyed-up.

Maybe my Grinch-heart is moving to about three sizes too small.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Softball in December?

Due to our softball playoffs being rained out on four consecutive Mondays, we finally played them last night.

Our team, which finished third, won the first round game 12-11. We threw the potential tying run out at third base for the third out to secure the win. It was very exciting, considering that we had to play the first two innings with only 9 players since Wes had a brain freeze and forgot about the game until we called him...he arrived in the third inning, and it really helped out since you have to take an automatic out when that player's spot comes up in the order, not to mention that you have to play with 3 outfielder's instead of 4.

Then, in the championship game, we got smashed by this team of "B" league players. Our league is a combined class "C/D" league, but it's the only league the city of Lewisville has, so they let this other team sign up. They actually used up their allotment of home runs (each team gets 4 per game...our team hasn't hit 4 in 4 years, nor has any team we played against) in the first inning so we didn't have much of a chance. We hung in there for a couple of innings, but in the end, we couldn't match up with them. They actually got outs for the extra home runs they hit.

Anyway, we had a great time...but I'm incredibly sore today. I don't think I'm aging too well, which matters way more than whether or not we got the championship t-shirt.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Utterly Exhausted

I'm getting a cold and took some cold medicine that didn't sit well with me last night...and a combination of that and a dog with a hacking cough, well, I don't think I got 10 minutes sleep the whole night.

I'm that kind of tired where your eyelids feel almost as if they're burning and the blinks are very slow and measued. When I type, my fingers sometimes hit the wrong keys and then stay there for a second while I briefly nod off. My thoughts are like a dream, very surreal things that pop into my head for about five seconds and then I wake back up again.

I'm experiencing either a wakeful sleep or a sleepful waking. No coherent thoughts, and movement seems like slow motion.

And to think I was taking a few more of my many vacation days today and tomorrow hoping to get some writing done. Looks like a wasted day upcoming. Dangit.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Is It Possible The Market Might Be Saturated?

True story told to our staff during our weekly staff meeting yesterday by our business manager, who happened to be answering the phone during the receptionist's break the other day:

[Business Manager]: "GoodafternoonCrossroadsBibleChurchthisisKim." (she tends to talk pretty fast being from Tennessee and all)

[Caller]: "Yes. Hello. I was wondering if you could tell me if your church is currently going through 40 Days of Purpose."

[Business Manager]: "No, I'm sorry. We're actually going through the book of James."

[Caller]: "Could you tell me if you plan on going through 40 Days of Purpose any time soon?"

[Business Manager]: "I don't think that's in our plans. Our senior pastor teaches directly from the Bible each week."

[Caller]: "Finally! That's great! What time are your services on Sundays?"

True story.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

There's Somthing Going On That's Not Quite Right

Nothing really abnormal, just a weird vibe kind of start to the day.

Softball game rained out again last night (rescheduled for Thursday, and the forecast looks good). Good time watching the Cowboys on the big screen last night at a local sports bar. Got locked out of Auburn’s trip to the Sugar Bowl (the Auburn faithful snapped up every hotel and ticket available in rapid time) through “official” channels. Recycling and trash day is today (I have to do Kelsey’s trash duties as she’s still on crutches). My dog Lloyd is making wretching pre-vomit noises (he runs to the back door, though. Considerate, even in times of tummy trouble). The server at work keeps going down after two of the four e-mails get sent, and then some get kicked back to me (I'll have to send them from the office...apparently the internet mail filter is working overtime).

Feeling: Discombobulated.

Monday, December 06, 2004

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I wish I'd kept in touch with more of the guys in my wedding. I'd love to see how they're doing these days.
...that I wish I'd kept in touch with more of my friends from high school, although with the most recent reunion we're doing a better job of that.
...that it's a drizzly Monday again, which no big deal, but the reality is that my disc golf game has been shot (since my day off can possibly lead to that kind of behavior) and that our softball playoff game will be rained out for a 4th consecutive week.
...that coffee with my daughters each and every Monday is a profitable investment of time, although more money to Starbucks and their plan to homogenize America (along with Old Navy, et al) doesn't really do it for me.
...that if it rains out my game tonight, I'm going out to watch the Cowboys game at a new sports bar/cafe that opened in town to see what this HD craze is all about.
...that I'm really easy to buy gifts for.
...that my wife is really difficult to buy gifts for.
...that my time off last week did more for me than I thought as lots of creativity and energy is back in my processes.
...that I'm tired of reading all of a sudden. Six books in 10 days'll do that.
...that I can't believe how young lots of the teenagers I discipled are getting married. When they start getting married their sophomore year of college, no matter how spiritually mature they are, it seems so young to me. Maybe I'm just getting old.
...God is really teaching me lots of things right now, too fast and too deep to process fully at the moment.
...that my garage is already disheveled again.
...that now that the book idea is outlined and all, the excuses are pretty much over for letting the idea wait.
...that it takes more courage to write on a blank page than most people can imagine.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Two Distinctly Different Reactions

Yesterday, my friend Lindsey got married. She was beautiful, the first dance was touching, dad's toast was great, yada, yada, yada. I like weddings because I get to see a lot of the teens I used to disciple and get all caught up on their lives at the reception.

They're all at that time of life where many of their friends are either engaged or about to get engaged or even newly married (there's a trend among Christian teens at present to get married younger than they have in years past).

When the guys found out that about 10 of their peers were in one of the aforementioned states, their reaction was along the lines of, "Man, that's weird to think so many of those guys are engaged. Where'd you get those chocolate-covered pretzels?"

The girls reaction was more like this, "Did you hear that Lori's engaged? Yeah, it was no big suprise. Did you hear how he asked her?" The biggest difference I noticed though, among the set that wasn't in any of those aforementioned states, was there a hint of "Deep down, I wish I was loved like they were loved, and I'm kinda jealous, and I wonder if there's something wrong with me that I'm not near those aforementioned states at present."

And they are all magnificent and wonderful and beautiful and smart and funny and deeply spiritual girls with authentic walks with Christ. In short, any boy would be blessed beyond all comprehension to have any of these girls give them their exclusive attention.

They don't see what a blind guy with one eye could see. And they can't be persuaded, either, by dads or youth pastors or even peers. It's a battle they fight against themselves. And it's hard to watch from a distance, knowing what I know about them.

What I really do know, though, is that it's tough being a girl these days. Especially in Christian circles, where higher-order ideals are afoot and being bombarded with societal pressures of all types.
Have A Holly, Jolly Christmas...It's the best time of the...


I'm officially tired of Christmas music, and there's three weeks left. Ugh.
With The Lights Out, It's Less Dangerous. Here we are now. Entertain us.

Why is it that whenever the rock band Nirvana puts out something "new" (even though the band's demise took place over 9 years ago) there's a trigger that goes off in my brain that says, "I must have it." Newest cause: A 3-CD, 1 DVD set of rare live performances and b-sides and studio versions of different songs. How did two Pacific Northwest GenXers and their hired-gun drummer from D.C. cause my brain to fire in whatever part of the brain that fires to make you want something?
"There comes a time in everybody's life when they're going to get screwed. I guess this is our time. I'm going fishin'."

That quote comes from Pat Dye. He was Auburn's head football coach who led us to SEC titles like crazy in the 1980's. Of course, he also led us to NCAA probation in the 90's but that's another matter. In 1983, Auburn, ranked #3 before the bowls and playing 9 bowl teams that season, won on New Year's Day while #1 Nebraska and #2 Texas lost their bowl games, only to have #5 Miami jump over them to win the national championship. Pat Dye was interviewed that Monday after the polls came out and said those infamous words.

Well, it's Auburn's time again. From today's Dallas Morning News:

"Undefeated and 12-0 Auburn, the big loser in the latest BCS slapdash stab at a title game, has four wins against top 15 teams...Auburn completed a sweep of Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference championship game. A second victory against Tennessee under the pressure of having to win to get into a BCS bowl is far more impressive than a caning of Colorado.

Auburn should be in the championship game by virtue of those high-quality wins and going undefeated in the toughest conference in the country. That will not happen.

Could Oklahoma and USC have done the same thing if given Auburn's schedule? Maybe. Only Auburn actually did it."

I'm going fishin.'

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Oh, Baby! 12 and 0!

Auburn Tigers 38,
Tennessee Volunteers 28

War Eagle!!!

*singing at the top of my lungs*

War Eagle
Fly down the field
Ever To Conquer
Never To Yield
War Eagle
Fearless and True
Fight on you orange and blue
Go! Go! Go!
On to vict'ry
Strike up the band
Give 'em hell, Give 'em hell
Stand up and yell
War Eagle
Win for Auburn
Pow'r of Dixie Land!

*smiling, bigger than life*
Historical Game Face

A guy last night at the movies noticed my Auburn sweatshirt and asked, "So are you hoping Auburn wins tomorrow?"

(*incredulous reaction, but nice because he was just being polite and making conversation in line*)

"Yeah. I've got a lot of investment in this game."

"Oh, you're a betting man?" he asked.

"I wish it were only money. This is about 38 years of my heart and emotions on the line."

And I meant it.

It's been 15 years since even an outright SEC title has been one by my beloved big blue Tigers. It's been 11 since our best season of all time. It's been 47 since a national championship.

Two more games. One today at 5PM.

Game face: On. Big time.

Strange 5AM Sounds

I know I'm blogging later than I normally do today...but I was awakened by a strange noise in my house. Well, it was a strange noise that was actually in a dream about being in my house:

A creaking door hinge.

So I got up and checked out the house. Everything was secure...but while I was laying in bed I listened to my house and heard some strange noises against the quiet.

The ticking of the clock.
The buzzer of the dryer.
The dropping of the ice into the ice container.
The birds hopping in the bird cage.
The dog's tag bumping against his collar.
The bed frame tapping the wall.
The breathing of my oldest daughter in her room.
The creak of the bed when my wife rolls over.
The tick and the gas flow before the heater kicks on.
The scrape of branches against the back fence.

And I can assure you that all of them are comforting compared to when you think somebody has caused your door hinges to creak.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Promised Nutcracker Photo Gallery

Here's the gorgeous girl I was telling you about in an earlier note about The Nutcracker... Posted by Hello

Here's Shelby and her friend Lauren... Posted by Hello

One last one...from the great Lake Cities Ballet production of The Nutcracker: Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Not Just Seizing Today...But Throttling It

The days of vacation are coming to an end today...I have to go to work tomorrow. I've gotten caught up on all my reading, finishing 6 books in 10 days. Family came and went. Nutcracker came and went (pictures to come...haven't checked with Tracy about development yet). My part of Christmas decorating has been done. Yardwork done. Not as much "rest" as I wanted, but a nice diversion from work...the only thing I didn't get done was that I didn't write as much as I wanted in my book, but I did get it outlined and some things down on paper. One more day...what to do, what to do...better get on with whatever it is.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Feeling Like Eustace

If you've never read C.S. Lewis' famous series "The Chronicles of Narnia", you're really missing out on some classic reading. Anyway, I'm currently reading through book 5 entitled "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" with Shelby and there was a section two nights ago that describes my walk with Christ perfectly at the moment.

A bit of background: Eustace, a grumpy boy, was lured and enticed by his own desires into a trap, and the end result involved him turning into a dragon. There was only one cure...and he's now telling his friend about the experience of becoming truly human:

"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

The Lion said--but I don't know if it spoke--'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off...

...Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off--just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt--and there it was lying in the grass: only ever so much thicker, darker and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there I was as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.

Then he caught hold of me..."

Tough day yesterday. The skin I tried to peel off didn't work. The skin He peeled off is off. I'm smaller. I've seen Aslan...and He caught hold of me.