Monday, January 31, 2005

Good Old Days Syndrome, Part 1

Club bands I really dug in college, in order:

37 Targetz
The Extras
White Animals
Mr. Resistor and the Incapacitators
Baby Blue

Music that somehow reminds me of random college days:

"Rock and Roll," by Led Zeppelin, only because my friend Tim Huff and I hosted a Live Aid party, which raised like $500 dollars that afternoon and we (trying to be big shot humanitarians) said we'd give 20 bucks each if Led Zeppelin took the stage...and neither of us had any idea they were on the bill.
"Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna, because my friend Dave imitated her dancing in the video whenever he had too much to drink (he was horrible, but we weren't about to tell him that).
Some early-80's rap song that repeated the words "C'mon C'mon Shake Shake It" from my neo-conservative blog commenter roommate Hollywood's record collection we used to play before parties.
"Kung Fu Fighting" by Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes because my friend Chris (who was given the album by his friend Art) played it all the time.
"Heaven's On Fire" by Kiss, when Mark and Tim would come in the fraternity house, turn up their stereos too loud and repeat Gene Simmons heavy breathing (Huh! Huh! Hah! Huh!) on the beats after a long night of binge drinking.
"Cheeseburger in Paradise" when my friend T.J. had his 168-hour marathon of Jimmy Buffet music and one entire day was devoted to that song.
"Driver 8" by R.E.M. because if you wanted to be cool, you had to listen to R.E.M, and when their album "Fables" came out, those of us who were into them accused them of selling out.

Sure, there was a lot of really good music out there that has stood the test of time from my college days (notably The Talking Heads, U2, R.E.M., et al) but these stupid songs somehow wound up in the background.

Now, if I could just find that Philadelphia Flyers jersey I used to wear all the time...and if I had all my vinyl Good Old Days day would be complete.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Beauty and The Beast

I've been pretty much live theatre intensive this weekend. Last night, it was the Marcus High School production of Disney's Beauty and The Beast. I think this show was different than Suessical's production largely because most everyone in America has seen the movie...and I'd even seen it on Broadway a couple of years ago. People would have some very high expectations this cast and crew would have to meet.

And, they really did rise to the occasion.

My friend Kaylah was in the ensemble which played the townspeople in the villages and it was obvious she was having fun, especially one time when she had to walk by Gaston with flirting eyes.
My friend Meghan was also in the ensemble and she got to play the barmaid in the hunting lodge scenes. The ensemble really got to show their stuff when they did an extended dance with mugs during the "Gaston" song in Act 1. That addition to the scene was truly impressive.
My friend Brandon was ill, so I didn't get to see him perform tonight (and I'd heard he was brilliant as Gaston, and knowing him, he was brilliant as he was literally built for the stage) but he ran the auction like a pro and got a poster signed by the entire cast to go for $450 in large part because he was so funny.
My friend John had the lead as the Beast/prince. He handled a part that required all kinds of stage movement (wearing a full set of makeup as well as a full length cape) on a two-story set, a fight scene and the singing parts like a pro. John, you're eaten up with all kinds of talent, my friend.

Lots of people can come up with a good show, but when you can tackle a beloved cartoon with a live-action play (run with a live orchestra as well...way to go Stephanie!) and not only meet, but exceed, the crowd's expectations, well, that's quite a feat.

*tipping his cap*

Impressive job, guys. Very nice.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Happy 34th, Jilly!

Happy Birthday shouts out to my higher-order life-liver sister, who turns a glorious 34 today!

Let's all celebrate by allowing our dogs to rule the roost, continually redecorating houses and not living in them long enough to enjoy them once they're finished, not being pretentious but actually knowledgable about wines, mildly hiding our obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and retiring from our jobs and laughing at the poor saps who didn't stick it to the man.

Or, if you wanted to celebrate in an old-school manner, you could hook up a Texas Instruments computer to a television set and write basic computer code, trade your Camaro Berlinetta in for a Volkswagon Jetta, put your stuffed animals in a net above your bed, get a set of excuses from the doctor who lived next door and skip nearly half the days your senior year of high school, and, as always, listen to the song "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant while cornering the market on Anbesol.

Happy Birthday, Jilly! I really do love you and am so proud of you!

Friday, January 28, 2005

How Lucky You Are

That's a song I heard for the first time last night at a local high school's production of "Suessical The Musical."

My friend Melissa was in the role of a bird-girl and had a much bigger part than I was expecting.
My friend Russ played a cadet as well as a strong man in the circus.
My friend Rachel was one of the Who's and wore a tiara and ball gown.
My friend Kylie was one of the citizen's of Who-ville and had spiked hair.
My friend Ryan was one of the Hunches who helped Jo-Jo get back to Who-ville.
My friend Anna worked behind the scenes as a make-up designer.

In addition to that, my friends Sue and Donna who happen to lead one of my girls Bible studies as volunteers, attended the play with some of their small group to support Kylie and Anna. They brought my friend Anne who I'm hoping will get involved in leading a Bible study as a volunteer.

On top of all that, my friends Jude and Steve, who I work with, hung out with me as we were sitting near my friends Miles, Samantha and Kim.

Suffice to say that high school plays aren't what they used to be...this one had great costumes, high tech mikes and lights, and it seemed like everybody was so talented. They had a live musical score with the high school orchestra and all that. The crowd cheered loudly at times. The teens took their well-deserved bows.

And then afterward I got to see all my friends and how excited they were. They each autographed my playbill.

One of the themes of the play was never to forget how lucky you are, which the song reprised quite a bit. And I am lucky. I mean, I was at work tonight for crying out loud. I expensed the $8 ticket. Teens have allowed me into their world. I get to serve these incredibly gifted and talented young people FOR A LIVING!

But, you know, I couldn't get past the reality that my friends were involved in a very well done play on a Thursday night. What did your friends do with their night that was so great? I have great friends, and I am lucky.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Vision and The Vow

I finished reading book #5 of 2005 yesterday in the hammock. It's by Pete Greig, entitled "The Vision and The Vow: Re-Discovering Life and Grace." Pretty bold subtitle so I was intrigued.

I can honestly say that this book lived up to the subtitle. It's profound and provocative (which, naturally, you'll disagree with some of the author's conclusions/applications--which I liked, but not sure the application is for "all" Christians but he covered that, too) so you'll have to have your thinking cap on when you're in your hammock reading in the nice Texas weather.

Just a few quotes to get you thinking today:

"Sometimes it is when we stop trying to be relevant that we actually become relevant to a watching world. Our "irrelevance" may well be the very message the world is looking for at this time. Sometimes we will be called to defy the culture--nevery to deify it--by living biblically and modeling a different way of being a student, a musician, a teacher, or whatever world we've been sent to inhabit."

He then quotes Os Guinness: "Never have Christians pursued relevance more strenuously and yet never have Christians been more irrelevant." Later he quotes Guinness when he said that the evangelical community has tranferred authority from "Sola Scriptura" to "Sola Cultura." Wow.

"While my vision--the Christian's vision--is Christ, His vision! His vision is not just some cosmic master plan for benevolent domination, nor is itfilled with those legions of angels about His throne. God's vision is filled with His children, and His greatest delight--His highest joy--is to see us fully alive."

On grace: "Too often we are reduced to trivial debates about how far we can go sexually or how much we should give financially--all the shades of gray in the ethics of obedience. And I suppose if we're adherents to a religious code, then such negotiations are fine and necessary. But if we are caught up in an infatuation of the holy, if this is a religion of living relationship and burning passion, then the impulse will not be to get the best deal, but rather, to give with joyful extravagance."

From the author's work of art he calls The Vision, which inspired the book, on the nature of his Christian community:

"What the vision? The vision is holiness that hurst the eyes.
It makes children laugh and adults angry.
It gave up the game of minimum integrity
long ago to reach for the stars.
It scorns the good and strains for the best.
It is dangerously pure...

...Whatever it takes they will give;
breaking the rules,
shaking mediocrity from it's cozy little hide
laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs
laughing at labels
fasting essentials.
The advertisers cannot mold them.
Hollywood cannot hold them.
Peer-pressure is powerless
to shake their resolve
at late night parties
before the cockerel cries

They are incredibly cool
dangerously attractive (on the inside)
On the outside? They hardly care!
They wear clothes like costumes:
to communicate and celebrate
but never to hide."

You can get more information on Pete Greig's ministry here. May his tribe increase.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The New Kid

My daughter invited a friend to our church's middle school program last night. The kid climbed into our van wearing a Rolling Stones hoodie and asked if it was okay to wear to our church (it is...we have lots of fans of Gramps With Amps at CBC). She's into Tom Petty (her favorite and she saw him in concert when she was 6 with her dad), Queen, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and not a day goes by that she doesn't "have the Beatles playing at some point." She told me she was born two decades too late. She writes all the time and her favorite class is Creative Writing. She lived in a "haunted apartment" once and left a warning note for the new occupants on her moving day. Her dad is in N.A. She claims 8 siblings. The choices she gave her parents for her birthday present were a pony or Napoleon Dynamite on DVD. They didn't give her the DVD because she "quotes it all the time so she doesn't need it" and she's still waiting on her pony. Her coach doesn't like her "because she doesn't run very fast."

She told her small group leader that she liked our church and she might "need more religion" in her life.

I immediately liked this kid.

The kid liked our church's middle school program. Said it was "cool."

I hope it's a long and happy arrangement for both of us. I get the feeling that she wants/needs His love, and I know that The Kingdom would love to have her.

I'm guessing as long as I'm still being drawn to teens like her, I'm in the right business.
Hate The Sin, Love The Sponge

There's been a controversy bouncing around in my evangelical circle of late. Basically, some cartoon characters, notably SpongeBob Squarepants, Barney, Winnie the Pooh and some others, are in a video. This video will be shown in public school systems and highlights tolerance...

...naturally, this tolerance involves race, education and, yes, homosexuality.

Equally naturally and ever more predictably, two large and influential national ministries have come out "against" this video's web site, saying it undermines family values.

I see their point, but sometimes you gotta pick your battles a bit more wisely. There's an excellent editorial on the whole thing here from this morning's Dallas Morning News.

Sometimes I feel very far afield from members of my own tribe.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Nice Day Off

The lovely, predictable Texas weather was at it again. Highs in the 50's yesterday and sunny, and man was my day off nice.

Started out with coffee with Shelby before school. Immediately followed that up with coffee with Kelsey. Gotta love two different schools with two different start times. That's one of my favorite times of the week, just getting caught up with my girls for an uninterrupted hour.

Did a complete round of blog checks. It can take an hour or so, but it's the perfect antidote to teaching three times on Sunday, and three different lessons. Sure, there was a bit of overlap on two of them, but primarily the lessons were different. It's a nice way to decompress, checking blogs of friends and students.

Read for half an hour (more on that book when I finish it).

Napped for two hours.

Woke up, had lunch, returned a computer game for another one for the girls and picked up a "splash guard" for my fancy water bottle since the store that has them was next to CompUSA.

Went to the doctor. No need to hang out a shingle (see yesterday's entry), and no structural damage. We're going to try some stretching and lifting (I've been trying to get well by resting it) and we'll see if it need an MRI to check for cartilege damage, but he wanted to try some special exercises to see if that solves the problem.

Came home, finalized cleaning out the garage (AGAIN, but it's pretty much done now that the charity picked up the bags from the last time). The van can come back in!

Read for a half hour in my hammock.

Loaded the software on the computer with the girls.

Went to the store and purchased dinner supplies and grilled dinner. Cleaned the kitchen and then prepared a lesson to teach to a local middle school's Fellowship of Christian Anybody's (used to be Fellowship of Christian Athletes)...

Watched the news.

Sometimes, you just have nice days. That's what I had yesterday.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Diagnosis, please doctor?

I had to make an appointment to visit the doctor. I rarely do that. I can count on one hand the number of visits to a physician I've made in the last 15 years. I like to think it's superior genetic make-up.

Well, the superior genetic make-up only seems to work if it's an illness that would keep you from a day of work. It doesn't appear to be able to work it's magic if your knees are involved.

I goofed one up two years ago and, as my years of liberal arts education give me license to make such educated decisions, I diagnosed my right knee as sprained and rolled merrily along. I chalked up my ability to predict rain by it's pain as "folksy." Treatment: Tough it up, girly man.

I goofed up my left one playing softball this fall. Self-diagnosis again
revealed a severe sprain. I finished the season and we came in 2nd place, a game from the championship T-shirt. I chalked up the pain that shot into my brain if I tripped or stubbed my toe as "phantom." Treatment: Rest it more.

Seeing as how I neither one will not straighten out without some degree of pain nor bend with a full range of motion, I think it's time that somebody who has been to college for longer than I've been in academia to have a look.

If the treatments have anything to do with toughening up or more rest, I'm going to hang out my own shingle, though.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Yesterday, at the 7-11...

Observations from my two trips to the 7-11 Convenience Store (while waiting on my daughter to finish the S.A.T. test, and I had 4 hours to enjoy):

I took some time to clean out my van. I parked at the trash can farthest from the door of the store. It was a gesture of both practicality and embarrasment avoidance. I feel guilty using gas station trash cans for "bulk trash" dumping and I don't know why. I can't imagine they care.

They have an amazing variety of coffees to choose from, as well as an "additive bar" that included cinnamon, caramel, honey and a wide assortment of creamers and sugars. I thought "Poor Man's Starbucks" and felt as if I was in the right place. This particular store had an plastic faux-mahogony wine shelf with a broad selection, too. I can understand the coffee, but who would want to do fine-wine browsing at a 7-11?

The college student working there was extremely courteous and "by the book." She had excellent grammar: "I'm doing WELL, and you?" as well as "May I please see some identification to verify your credit card usage? On my return trip, she was cleaning the coffee "additive bar" within an inch of it's life, singing to the music playing in the store. "Happy, productive, educated member of the Mosaic generation," I thought. Definitely not a slacker.

On this second trip, a car arrived in the space next to me as I was getting out. I noted she left her 5-year-old daughter in the backseat while she went in the store. In the time I used the restroom, washed my hands, grabbed a bottled water and got in line to pay, the driver-lady had only now gotten behind me in line and only had a 12-pack of Miller Lite. I tried to think of why a grown woman would leave a child unattended for that long and came up with everything from a poor parent to simply ignorant of the dangers of society and about 8 things in-between (most of them negative).

My 7th grade daughter came out of the S.A.T.'s after 4-hours of my listening to 3 sermons, preparing two Bible studies, reading a couple of articles and chapters and journaling a bit. She said she thought it would be harder. I have no idea how to read that statement. We then had a "sit down" lunch and didn't discuss anything hard.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Well, it SEEMS harmless...

Last night, after dinner (local restaurant Pazzo's--good choice) and a movie (Are We There Yet? starring Ice Cube--pretty good family movie choice) in celebration of Shelby, we had to get Kelsey some #2 pencils as she taking the "Duke Test"...selected middle schoolers take the SAT and the results are supposed to help universities spot talent earlier.

Now that I think about it, that's another blog subject, but something happened after we found the pencils:

Tracy spotted a CD entitled, "Michael Jackson: The Number Ones." She earnestly wanted it and I couldn't argue with her when she said something along the lines of, "Well, he may be a freak off stage but these are some really good pop songs. Besides, we know every song on it because of the videos when we were in high school."

Side note: Yes, younger readers, at one time, MTV showed videos of songs.

Anyway, later last year, she wanted to go see Prince when he toured Dallas. Her argument was very similar. The show sold out and we were unsuccessful at getting tickets, so she's not alone...40,000 people over two nights seemed to be okay with it.

She's always been up on pop music so I don't guess it's anything to worry about, but I purchased the soundtrack to Garden State just to balance things out.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Dancing Through My Heart

It was 11 years ago today that I first laid eyes on her. Sure, I'd seen sonogram images (we still have the videotape of that) and felt her move...but on January 21, 1994, in the early evening...I held her. I was thinking she'd be born closer to my birthday, but it was a very pleasant surprise.

I had a job interview that next day in North Carolina. Tracy wanted me to go as there was plenty of family around to help out and take care of her and Shelby. I didn't get the job, but for some reason they took me house-hunting before we at one point I thought they were going to give me the job...they thought so, too.

Anyway, ever since she came into my life, she brought hugs and snuggles. She brought dancing (even to Pearl Jam's song "Go" which she knew how to ask for and often did at age 2) and the arts and flair and an offbeat sense of humor and early morning coffee talks, in short, she brought STAGE PRESENCE to my every day life.

Shelby, happy 11th birthday, my dear. When the standing ovations come because of your stage presence, know that no one will be standing prouder or cheering louder or with a bigger bouquet of flowers than your dad. I'm your biggest fan. I love you!

I always have. Ever since January 21, 1994...give or take 9 months.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

It's An Old Question...

Yesterday, I left my computer's AC adapter at home, so I only had enough battery juice to get through my morning work. My wife said she'd bring it by around lunchtime (and she even brought great is that?) and I had about half an hour to kill before she got there.

I always have loads of youth ministry type magazines laying around (for those of you who don't realize this, youth ministry has it's own professional journals as well as the ones that have games to play with your group), so I was browsing through some of them.

One of the more serious ones started out something like this:

"One time, a good friend of mine asked me that old question, 'If you won the lottery, what would you do with yourself?'

I responded, 'Well, I'd add a workspace onto my home and write that book I've been meaning to write.'

My friend responded, 'Then why aren't you doing that?'"

I either need to get new reading material or write those books. At this point, I'm beginning to think it's bordering on disobedience to God...but, if it makes all of you feel any better, I've got one outlined (yes, on paper) and researched, and I've got another outlined in my head...and there's another that's in the idea phase in my brain.

Why am I not doing that?

What a freaking annoying question in my head all freaking day and starting out this freaking morning.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

So, What You're Saying Is, That Generation X Was Right All Along?

This'll be political, but bear with me.

See, Social Security has been sucking money out of my paycheck since I was 16. Lots of money. My employers have had to match that amount. Over time, it adds up. Supposedly enough to supplement my retirement (like youth ministers get to retire, but since we're in the hypothetical, go with me on that).

Politicians have goofed it up by spending the money in other places. There's not an Al Gore "lock box" like there was supposed to be...and used to be.

Social Security is headed for disaster because, since there's no "lock box" the money that people pay in currently simply flows right out into the pockets of people who spent the money that was supposed to be in the "lock box." It's fine for now as there's enough people paying into the system to keep it solvent.

But anyone can see that it'll cause problems around 2018 when more people will be taking money out than there will be people putting into it. That's 13 years if you're doing the math. Us GenXers have been talking about this train coming down the tracks for years...we've long talked about Baby Boomer retirees who took all the good jobs, got their benefits packages and then stripped our generation of those same things. They're throwing a party and asking us to clean up after it.

I say this because the Dallas Morning News had an excellent editorial on this yesterday (I won't link to it because you're more likely to keep reading, as well as they require a sign in to get archives) entitled "Rescuing Social Security."

Here's the gist of it:

"The raging debate over whether and/or how to fix Social Security has produced much noise, but little else. Frankly, it's hard to hear what anyone is saying amid allthe accusations and counter-accusations.

Well, hear this: Social Security faces a huge shortfall, and the nation's most beloved entitlement program can't go on much longer unless it's shored up. In 2018, Social Security is projected to officially go into debt, meaning that for that year and every year thereafter the government will pay out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes...

...The big divide this time is less political than generational--although politics, as always, plays a signficant role. The president's plan would allow Americans to invest part of their Social Security contribution in personal accounts. How you feel about this has a lot to do with whether you grew up listening to Benny Goodman, Elvis Presley or Eminem...

(the article talks about how president Bush is being attacked on this plan along generational lines)

...Young people deserve a voic, perhaps never more than in this debate. It will be on their watch that Social Security goes into the red, and theyare the ones who will be taxed into oblivion to rescue it. It's disappointed that more politicians and pundits don't seem to care about that...

...President Bush shouldn't be on the defensive. Defenders of the status quo should be."

The Baby Boomers want to know why we disengage from the political process?

We never had a voice. We never had the numbers so we were ignored. We never had representation. It was a quiet tyranny. So, we just went about our business.

And, now, our president is pointing it out and the generation that caused it all is leaving it to someone else to clean it up. They don't like it. So they attack him on this issue (when there are so many others that they could have fun with).

So, lemme get this straight: The so-called "Greatest Generation" raised children who are the most self-centered in American history (politically and socially) who continue to be so in their old age by "defending the status quo," and GenX, who's been pointing this out since we're old enough to vote have a president addressing our concerns and he gets attacked?

Open memo to the Baby Boomers: Those grandchildren you're holding...think of how much tax they're going to have to pay because of your decisions. Then vote accordingly. Please.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Blast From The Past

One of my former students, Dustin, is a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan. In his pursuits, he's spending a lot of time on the writings of David Hume. Picked up a copy of his "Discourses Concerning Natural Religion." It's now a Penguin "pocket classic," (and somehow that moniker is on the best books and they cost the least) which I picked up at Barnes & Noble yesterday and will carry around in my pocket. I'm thrilled to begin discourse with him on this as the last time I read it was nearly 20 years ago...I feel so...

...I dunno...what's the word?...

...un-Alabamian? un-Jockish?

Doesn't matter. I'm pretty excited about all this.
Didja ever read something early in the morning that just describes where you are in life at the moment?

"When Jesus calls us to follow Him, we want clarity: to assess our options, set expectations, and know our boundaries. But God's route from A to C is rarely via B. His voice is rarely unmistakeable. His Word often raises more questions than answers. We ask for guidance expecting a road map, or at least a sign, and He gives us His hand and the dimmest of torches."--Pete Greig.


It isn't so much the "options" that have me dissheveled at present. It's the "expectations" and the "boundaries." I mean, I know (truly KNOW) where I'm supposed to be. I'm just struggling a bit with how that plays out in my day-to-day life.

Yep. Torch in hand. Looking around the next corner or next tree. A bit uncomfortable. But happy I've got the torch and that I'm on the right path.

Yep. That's where I am alright.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The No Agenda Retreat

One teenager said it.

One year we had this very successful ministry event in which there was very high energy worship, small groups in homes, laser tag/bowling/bumper cars/movie/Sega Gameworks...the whole deal. Lots of kids came. Lots of Biblical teaching affected kids lives. The evaluations the teens filled out raved about how much fun they had and what good teaching they got.

The next year only 5 kids signed up. That's about a 90% drop...for a first-time event that I thought built a foundation for a great weekend that would last for a decade or so.

Curiously, I asked the kids who gave positive evaluations why they didn't sign up again. Basically it came down to this: "Why would I pay the money for a weekend to go warp speed like that? I go warp speed all the time and I can do that stuff on my own?"

Hence, we did the opposite.

We scheduled nothing.


Our staff got a bus, rented a camp a couple of hours away that has no TV's, provides beds and prepares meals and some gym space. Other than that, there's an optional bonfire. No staff-led organized Bible studies. No speakers. Just relaxation and fellowship. Hanging out.

Here's a few reasons why I really like this particular weekend as a staple of our high school ministry:

...A teen who hasn't shown too much interest in spiritual things in the three years in our ministry or the one year in my Bible study decided to tell me what he believes God built him to do and his vision for how to make that a ministry. He was passionate about it, too. He needed help refining it and making it a reality so he asked me a few things. I doubt it would've happened on a "high energy" weekend.
...It's cool watching the artist-types in our group do their artist things and then discuss it with those that aren't artist-types, who listen and learn.
...It's cool watching a kid who isn't athletic by nature score a goal or touchdown or basket, and have the team who was scored against high-five the kid, too.
...Watching teens lead their own Bible study is pretty impressive. In fact, you don't even worry about bad theology or anything like that because the effort outweighs the risk.
...Watching adults get into the teen world, and watching the teens let them in, never ceases to amaze me.
...In Texas, you can be outside and this year, for the first time in four years, it didn't rain. Highs in the low 50's and cold enough to have a fire at night.
...When a student suggests that the bonfire "reflection" time on Saturday night never turned into a "reflection" time for a myriad of reasons, maybe instead of watching a movie on the bus we could let everybody share what God taught them this weekend--because "I know what me and my friends learned but I love hearing stories of God at work in people I don't know as well. It helps me get to know them better as brothers and sisters in Christ."--well, you gotta love that.
...Watching teens walk up a huge hill to get a better view of the lake, think for a while, and then come back and tell you what they were praying about and all that never get old.
...Neither does War Ball, or gym hockey. Sarah gets body checked every year. This year after it happened she announced in her Minnie Mouse voice that she was now "completely enraged" so everybody better "watch out," the game had to stop down while the players composed themselves.
...We're spoiled because the staff of Pine Cove Christian Camps is so good at what they do all we have to do is show up. Their camp is a "how-to" of Christian camping for seminaries, and that's as it should be.
...I actually get more sleep there than I do at home.
...When you schedule nothing, you actually get more out of the time than you would have if you scheduled something.

I think we've found our decade-long ministry idea for January every year. There'll come a time when we go back to the high-energy long weekend, but for now, I can't imagine a more effective ministry tool.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Since I'm Off At Pine Cove...

The Diner is on haitus until Monday...

So today I'm thinking...

...about the stuff I have to clear up before the No Agenda (It's really a retreat with absolutely no agenda. All they have to do is hang out in nature with no TV's and such for two days) weekend for my student ministry.
...that my daughters are growing into amazing young ladies.
...that I need to mail the 'thank you' notes my family wrote for Christmas.
...that with the W-4 form, it's tax time again and I feel for how my wife has to struggle through that burden.
...that my wife is really good at photography and I don't have to say it because she's my wife.
...that I can't believe people actually respond to Instant Messages from people that start with things like "I know my dad told me not to talk to you, but I can't help myself. So, here's my website with new pictures."
...I really dig the NFL playoffs after really thinking that the whole world cared about college football as much as I did.
...that just thinking about Auburn's undefeated season can make me smile.
...that I need to make a "punch list" for stuff to get fixed up around the house.
...that I'm not good at fixing things, but I'm good at making lists and organizing and finding people who can fix things.
...that it still doesn't feel much like winter here in Big D despite the fact we had snow before Christmas (it's been up to 80 since then).
...that listening to sermons in the CD player while driving around is a much better way to spend my time than listening to the radio.
...that there's nothing inherently wrong with working for a suburban "megachurch" and there's no more inherent nobility in small-group "house churches"--despite what books and younger people say.
...we're only two weeks into the new year and I've already read three books and will probably have a fourth finished by this weekend.
...that I could do this all day but I gotta go get stuff done.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

For the Fairy Godmother

My last plea to my Fairy Godmother worked out (well, sorta kinda...faithful blog readers will remember that I asked for Auburn to win all their games after the Red Sox won it all. They did...but they didn't win the national championship). So, I thought I'd try it again:

Fairy Godmother, I'd really like to write a book with the characters of Kurt Vonnegut, the wit of David Sedaris, the insight of Douglas Coupland, the simple brilliance of Theodore Giesel (Dr. Suess), the accessability of Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain), and the timelessness of John Steinbeck.

All in all, I really don't think that's asking too much.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Happiness On Patio Furniture

Yesterday, our "team" (our staff is broken into two teams of five) started something new after staff meetings once a month: We read a book together and discuss it.

Our first choice was "Knowledge of the Holy" by A.W. Tozer.

It was 55 degrees yesterday. And breezy. And sunny.

So, our "team" went out on our church's veranda, kicked back on the patio furniture, and discussed Tozer.

I can assure you, it didn't suck. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon, I'd think. And I was on the clock.

Happiness In A Cotton/Poly Blend

It made my day, which was already a good one.

My mother-in-law sent a package to me and upon opening it, out came a bright orange t-shirt with an Auburn University football helmet over a banner that says "perfect season."

Above it, in smaller letters reads the words:

2004 National Champions.

Presumptuous? Yes.
Legitimate? Well, depends on who you ask.

Beautiful? Absolutely. To me, almost magical.

I never thought I'd live to see a t-shirt like that, and knowing that my team has a legitimate argument to put that on their t-shirts...well, it makes my winter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Youth Ministry 101

Tracy and I made a decision early in our marriage that for our youth ministry to be effective, we'd have to open our home to teenagers. It helps build relationships. It helps teens see you in real life instead of only church life. In return, they become part of your life, too. That iron sharpens iron thing. Plus, you get great memories when you look at old family photos and videos and see them littered with teens past and present. They can come in without knocking, too.

They came in without knocking last night and filled up the couch and my chair. They talked about the plays they were in. They talked theology...trying to piece together the rapture and the trilogy ("I mean 'Trinity!" Did I say 'trilogy?'") and Mormonism. They kidded about dating. They talked about their old science fair projects. They made arrangements for the retreat this weekend. They laughed...a lot, with and at each other. They talked about their goals for school and sports and college. They told stories about how they treated their younger siblings. They had parents call because they were supposed to get school supplies for their younger brother...and were staying later than they expected.

And my home had life that only 5 teenagers can bring to it. It never gets old. And it reminds me how beautiful my "job" can be...and is.
On This Date, in 1861...

The great state of Alabama seceeded from the Union. Being from there and studying Alabama history through school, we heard of the glories of the Deep South and Jefferson Davis and all the antebellum wonder in "Gone With The Wind" magnitude.

On this date, in 2005, I'm wondering if at any point the Union regrets letting Alabama back in.

(insert rim-shot here)

Monday, January 10, 2005

Our Tribe


I'm trying to be gracious. I'm trying to look for the good in some members of the tribe known as Christians, to which I am unashamedly a part of. But, like any family, when we have our family reunions, we get all kinds.

I get happy when the family member I like and admire shows up at the "reunion."

One family member I like and admire was at our church staff pre-show dinner with the band "Lost and Found." We asked them a question about their next challenges and how long they could keep doing the "band" thing. Michael, the singer/guitarist, answered, "Well, pretty much any band can do a concert and have kids walk away saying,'What a great band.' We play with the house lights up, interact with our audience before, during and after the show, because we want kids to leave our concerts saying,'Wow. I'm a great kid.'" The point was that they wanted to encourage people that God loves them, and those people on the stage loved them, too. They said they could keep doing the "band thing" as long as they were one of the few bands doing that kind of thing.

Then, there's the flip side, like when the obnoxious, cigar-smoking, scotch drinking uncle shows up (c'mon, doesn't every family have one of those?).

In this case, the "obnoxious uncle" church we try to tolerate is going around the neighborhoods in our community putting these door-hanging ads on front doors. You know, those things that usually have carpet-cleaning ads or pizza coupons on them? Those things. Except they aren't coupons of any type...just an ad for their upcoming sermon series. I'm not making this up, and this is it, verbatim:

"Join us for a revealing new series.

Desperate Housewives
(using the desperate housewives logo, hmmm.)

of the Bible

As a culture we are fascinated by other people's dirty laundry. Today one of the most popular programs on television is a show that exposes the foolish actions of desperate housewives. You might be amazed, but the Bible exposes somewomen who were not always squeaky clean.

Join Pastor _____ _____ as he reveals the profound life lessons learned from these desperate housewives and the impact those lessons have for both men and women. Discover what drives us to choose desperate actions to solve our problems."

The flip side of the door-hanger reads:

"Everyone has a little dirty laundry."

It has a picture of laundry on a line outside a ritzy home. And, if I bring back the ad, the church will give me a "free gift." It's a book called "God's Promises for Women."

Lots of questions for my crazy uncle, and I'm tempted to blast away with the obvious "worldly" thinking their using, but, I think it'd be best to just bloggingly roll my eyes at the obnoxious uncle and go into the next room when they go on their rants.

I guess what worries me is that somebody went to a seminar and they really believe this is a good way to go about Kingdom things...and it also worries me that there's reason to believe that their campaign might actually be relatively successful.

Today, I feel very far afield from my fellow tribesmen...except all the people I ate dinner with on Friday.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Simply put...

I'm exhausted.

The dictionary defines it as "to tire extremely or completely." Yep. That's me today...with a full day of work ahead, too. Ugh.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Simply Enjoyable Day

Yesterday, I got some work done.

Then I got to have dinner with Lost and Found & C.P.R. (see earlier entry) and see their performance at our church. Dinner was great as we got to hear their heartbeat on life and ministry and the show was altogether as steal for the $7 ticket.

I followed this up with a late night IHOP run with Michael,fellow blogger, former student, and Kingdom enhancer. Talked about life and marriage and ecclesiology (look it up) and music.

Some days are just enjoyable. Too bad they seem so few are far between.

Friday, January 07, 2005

My First Bosses

I do more writing than can be considered healthy, and while writing on another website the thought came into my mind about the bosses I've had during my part-time employment opportunities I've had in my life.

The first boss I had was Bill. He was the head greenskeeper at the country club in our community and my mom somehow got me an interview there and I got the job. The job paid $3.35/hour and it pretty much involved cutting grass, raking sand traps and making sure the tees and greens were up to snuff.

Anyway, Bill was the full-time boss of assorted characters who lived in tents or did drugs or got kicked out of the military. What's scary is me and my friends did the grunt work for these guys. Bill never got any of our names right, but he was generally close. Hal (occasional commenter on this blog) was "Howell." I was "Brett." Craig was "Greg." Bo was always "This man right here." Jimmy was "Timmy." A morning would start out with, "Brett, I want you and Howell to take This Man Right Here and fix the tee boxes and sand traps. Timmy, you take Greg and get all the trash cans." He would come out to find us working, and while he was giving us kidding...he would just start peeing while talking to us. He was infamous for sayings like, "Howell, if that's a straight line my ass is a Chinese typewriter." Needless to say, we imitated him and his sayings constantly...even if we hadn't ever seen a Chinese typewriter to know if an ass looks like one. He also painted the greens green to make them look good and used us to get money under-the-table by doing personal work for country club members.

After that, I got a job at a movie theatre...the Hoover Square Six (which was a larger theatre at the time). My first boss was Mary. She was a lesbian who wore Harley-Davidson stuff, a chain smoker, and trusted 16-year-olds with $35,000 worth of cash on the weekends. In addition, she wrote erotic short-stories for publication in pornographic magazines and would read them to us. She was cool as far as letting us break the company rules regarding tickets/popcorn for friends and she'd let us stay late and watch movies before they came out. Needless to say, reading pornography and leaving the office to hang out with the Rocky Horror late-night crowd while the kids balanced the books got her fired in pretty short order.

My next boss there was somebody who got promoted from our ranks, Jeff. He was in his last year of college and a business major who immediately started to apply what he was learning in his new role. The problem was two-fold: First, he was "one of us" before his promotion and used to break the rules as much as we did. Second, he was an effiminate guy, which made it hard for us to take him seriously when he'd get mad at us and really YELL things like, "I don't care if you are about to set the record on Galaga (there was a gameroom in our theatre), you have to go clean up theatre five...A Christmas Story just let out!" Lisp the "S's" and then try to keep a straight face. Later on, he wouldn't hire me back during Christmas breaks because I was notorious for letting people in free and one of the "secret" evaluators was a friend of mine and I let him in free. Ooops.

My last one was Bob, and this was a job at a sports memorabilia store I had to help put myself through seminary. He only came in late in the day to check on sales, but he called about every hour to find out, "What're we up to now?" He said things like, "The customer is NOT always right. Most of our customers are idiots...why else would anyone pay $350 for an autographed poster of Ray "Boom-Boom" Mancini?" Also, be wary of any autographed item you buy because, while we purchased autographed items only from reputable distributors, occasionally the Certificate of Authenticity would get lost. In such cases, he had his own certificates of authenticity, which I wondered why I couldn't just sign stuff ourselves and then authenticate it. My favorite story was when he called me one night late and said, "Brent, I just heard from a friend of mine at the hospital that Mickey Mantle is going to die in the next day or two...get on the distributor Net and buy up to $2,000 worth of autographed balls and photos and anything else you can get. We can make some fast cash if we work this right." He also sucked his teeth constantly.

So, I thought it'd be fun to share some of YOUR first-boss stories...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Some Unsolicited Advice

Not that I really care, and not that they need my help, but it seems to me that Ashlee Simpson might need some different advisors.

If you missed her getting booed by 70,000 people at the Orange Bowl after her awful halftime show...well...suffice to say that she earned every one of them by:

First, you might not want to sing a suggestive song in front of a FOOTBALL crowd of have other songs, dear.

Second, she tried to keep in mind her audience, but the song she wrote (well, you know) she chose to change the words from "I'm like a French Maid" to "I like lemonade."

Third, if you're really a "nice" kind of girl, please don't try to be a stripper dancing (well, you know) suggestively. Be who you are instead of an image.

Finally, Ashlee, if you just recorded your first CD and you've already botched one live performance (re: SNL), you might not want to go live in front of a TV audience of 50 MILLION PEOPLE just yet.

You may have some talent & advantages that get you rich quick, but, because of the people making your decisions, that ticking you hear are the last few seconds of your fame...
Lost and Found & C.P.R.!

Tomorrow night my favorite live entertainment night is coming to our church. The band Lost and Found is showing up with an improv comedy troupe. I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to it, either. Everytime I see them I leave with a headache from laughing so much.

As an aside, if you're one of my youth pastor friends who reads this and want to come (and bring some of your kids), give me a call. I know the producer of the show and can throw a few "comps" your way! Us youth pastors gotta stick together!

I'm pretty pumped about all this.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Couple of Random Thoughts

First, lately, I've been reading a lot of insights into the creative process...everything from Anne Lamott to Stephen King to Kurt Cobain to Kurt Vonnegut. Seems to me that great art is really about moving from "general" to "specific." What I'm getting at is that what happens in great art is that there is an idea, a lot of energy in creative expression of that idea, and finally...

...most importantly...the editing (or refining) of the initial idea. Which can actually take much longer than the creativity itself. So, I'm thinking that great art is really the result of meticulous editing/refinement. I don't know why, but I'd always viewed it the other way around...that you edit and refine and then go for the creativity.

Secondly, no matter how much I try, or where I go, I cannot escape hearing about Will Farrell or Jennifer Garner every day.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

All Too Surreal

Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13.
The final game wasn't that close.
The final game wasn't that pretty.
The final game wasn't that exciting, really.
The final game won't change the voters' minds.

But my beloved Auburn Tigers ran the table.
13 wins. 0 losses.
They have a legitimate claim to the national championship.
I never thought I'd live to see it.
And it's wonderful.

There's something nice about being a fan of a team over the long-haul, living with the ups and the downs and in-betweens, and then having them succeed.

I can't imagine much that would spoil my mood today.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Ready to Attack This Day

Ever have one of those days when you wake up, and a song is going through your head before it even gets off the pillow, and it describes perfectly (or maybe even sets) the tone for your whole day? Or is it just me that has that happen?

Anyway, I woke up with the Stavesacre song "Shiv" in my brain. They're definitely very "Metal" in their music, so I thought I'd share with you the lyrics from their website:

"i'm crawling out of my skin
i hope i get under yours
so many times before
but you still wanna know why
i won't just lay down and die
what did you expect
i think that i could guess
but this weight is lifted and i'm like
back from the dead
and i'm feeling kinda strange
i'm not the same, and i think i like the change

nothing lost, just cut away
nothing left to hinder me
pushing on, stronger every day
leaning into the wind that used to carry me
(nothing left to hinder me)(*backing vocal)
the last shot
nearly killed me
eternity lifted me again
(nothing left to hinder me)
oh, how i want to be
an offense, an unsettling presence in this life

why'd you try to take me out
why try to keep me down?

to get my eyes off me
down each ugly street
too many needs, too many
souls on their knees
and where have i been?
too much is me and mine
too much is wasting time
with the cares of this life and now
i understand and i'm
i'm on my way i feel like a man
and i, i think i like the change

nothing lost, just cut away
nothing left to hinder me
pushing on, stronger every day
leaning into the wind that used to carry me
(nothing left to hinder me)
the last shot nearly killed me
eternity lifted me again
(nothing left to hinder me)
oh how i want to be
an offense, an unsettling presence in this life

why'd you try to take me out, why try to keep me down?"

Yep...that's how I'm feeling today. It'll be interesting to see how this bad boy plays out...

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Strange Days, Indeed...

My New Year's Day, 2005, involved:

Football. Lots of the NCAA on my television.

Followed by...

a barbeque in 70 degree weatherPosted by Hello

Followed by hanging out in my hammock reading Kurt Vonnegut.

I have no idea what kind of harbinger these might be...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Predictably: For 2005,


(*Generally, with phrases borrowed from a speech I heard*)

Rouse the rabble
Burn bridges of convention and safety
avoid a well-worn path to successful mediocrity
be less of a copy and more of an original

(*Specifically, with the idea I'm being less than obedient to God at present*)

...and to at least get rejection letters from one book publisher and two magazine editors.

Can you tell, the new year is only 9 hours old and I'm already on edge? This can't be a good sign.