Thursday, March 31, 2005

Fighting Windmills

*Warning* Reality Check Ahead.

In the April, 2005 edition of Christianity Today there's an article by Andy Crouch entitled "Compliant but Confused: Unpacking some myths about today's teens." His article details a recent study by Smith & Denton that turned into a book that, apparently, all youth ministers are supposed to read.

There's some encouraging news in the study (of which I've seen in my own ministry) such as the reality that there isn't much of a generation gap since teens like and respect their parents, that they like church and wish they could go more often, and that they are not spiritually seeking--they're pretty grounded in their beliefs.

Then the reality check hits.

They have a positive attitude towards the Christian religion, they just don't know anything about it. In fact, the article says, "In spite of their generally positive attitude toward religion, almost no teenagers, from any religious background, can articulate the most basic beliefs of their faith...when the researchers asked them about pop culture or sexually transmitted diseases, they could give sophisticated answers. They could talk about Will & Grace but not grace."

I talked about that on the student ministry blog I write, but let's talk about us now, shall we?

Where do they get this view of spirituality? This view that their parents are nice and so is church and we feel good and do good and feel better about ourselves...

(which, by the way, I'm not so sure I can reconcile with Christ of the Bible)

...let me say it out loud, folks, quoting Smith & Denton:







Apples will not fall far from trees.

What are we going to do about it?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Hyperventilation Begins In Earnest


I’ve been asked to preach in Big Church on April 24. The anxiety has already started.

Any suggestions on what I should talk about? Right now I’m thinking about something on Jeremiah and a “pastor’s heart”…sort of a behind-the-scenes look at our lives.

Got anything better or more timely?
What A Blog By A Pastor Could/Should Be

I know I’m late to the game, but I finished reading the book RealLivePreacher.Com, which is a collection of essays from the blog of a frank, honest & transparent pastor in San Antonio. Very well-written and thoughtful blog for those of you who are used to my inane drivel…


his is what I’d like for my blog to be. Check it out here, but fasten your seat belt. The honesty is disarming.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

You Can Fool A Fool, You Can Con A Con, But You Cannot Kid A Kid

The scene: Local Starbucks.
The reason: Weekly coffee with my daughter.

(After lengthy discussion of school, church, and dance. This question usually wraps up the coffee and allows both of us to get on with our day:)

Me: So, is there any way I can be serving you better? (Usually, this results in some sort of 11-year-old giving me daddy/daughter ego-stroking music to my ears)

Shelby: (Short pause) Well, you could stop working so much.

Me: What makes you think I've been working too much? (Which is true as we've been swamped at work for a myriad of reasons too lengthy to go into here. I've been logging some serious hours these last two weeks.)

Shelby: Because when you're at home lately you don't talk to us as much. You don't stick around after you've kissed me goodnight and get in trouble from Mom for making me laugh when I'm supposed to go to sleep. You don't stay in the hammock and look at stars with me when we finish reading "Narnia." You go to bed too early and don't tuck us in. You just aren't in as good a mood. So, you could serve me better by not working so much.

Me: (For some reason, actually finding rationalizations and justifications for working so much rattling around in my brain that I actually WANT to verbalize. Can you believe THAT?) You're right. I'm sorry and I'll try to do better.

I'm a train wreck of a human.

Note to self: Stop thinking that you're some sort of incarnation of Jesus. You are not so stinking important to people that you can neglect your most important ministry to your family. You are a cog in a machine, and He's the God of the universe and can handle it. Pride is ugly when it manifests itself, so humble yourself, and let God be God.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Don't Go See This Movie!

The family and I hauled off and saw "Robots" yesterday. It might've been the worst movie I've ever paid to see at the theater. Don't's terrible. The worst movie I've ever seen was a horror movie in the 80's called "Chopping Mall." Really, "Robots" was on par with that.

So THAT'S How The Other Half Lives

Our church normally has four services, two in the morning and two in the evening, which makes for a long day on Sundays. Even if you do something in the afternoon, the schedule goofs things up. For example, maybe you'd like to watch the Cowboys game with friends. You can't because you couldn't get there until about 20 minutes after kickoff (the noon starts or the 7:30PM starts) or you'd miss the 2nd half (the 3PM start). You can't take in a ball game or anything like that because you have to be back from 5 to 8PM. I've been working all day Sunday in one form or another almost my entire time at Crossroads since we used to have Sunday School at night and we'd have to clean up afterward.

However, yesterday, with four Easter services in the morning, I had a Sunday afternoon with nothing on the agenda for the rest of the day. We had a very nice lunch (my wife's a pretty darn good cook when she has the time to do it) and good conversation, cleaned the kitchen, went to the horrible movie but had fun anyway making fun of it, dyed Easter eggs (a bit late, but it's fun for us and we'd had a busy Saturday and didn't want to rush it), and Shelby and I read out in the hammock (we'll finish the entire Narnia series tonight). Then I went to bed early (9:30) and woke up late (for me...I slept in until 6:30 today).

Man, that was kinda cool. I can see why people that don't work for churches love Sundays so much.

I Hate To Say I Told You So, But...Really I Don't.

I commented last week about a group of Christians who protested an IMAX theater because they were showing a movie about volcanos that pretty much pre-supposed evolution as the theory of how this planet came to be. I called their protest "an anemic use of the Bill of Rights."

Several people at church pulled me aside to tell me that this protest was "successful" (?) as the IMAX theaters were now pulling this movie from their screens. They seemed pleased that Christians kept this movie from evil societal influence.

Well, I hate to say I told you so...

According to the Dallas Morning News yesterday, IMAX, bowing to "overwhelming public response" will now be adding the volcano movie to their summer schedule.

Picked the wrong battle.

When will we ever learn?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Choose Wisely, Grasshoppah

It's pretty simple really.

Christ rose from the grave or He didn't.

If He didn't, well, I am to be pitied because I live a lie.

If He did, well, then He is precisely Who He claimed to be.

And that demands a response of some type from all of humanity.

If these words are true, "He is not here. He has risen..." then history as we know it has a defining moment.

I firmly believe those words to be true.

Happy Easter, everybody!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Onion Describes Where I'm At Today

It's pouring rain. I dig it, and hope it continues.

There's a ton of stuff I should be doing. There are a gazillion projects I could undertake around the house and need to get done eventually. I could use TLC and their "life unscripted" and ALL of their home makeover shows to come here and give me and my house a complete makeover.

One time in the satirical newspaper The Onion I saw a headline that said, "Clinton Gives Nation Week Off To Get Act Together." The article detailed how much clutter was in the White House and how the former president needed to take a week off, as did the nation, to have garage sales, clean out closets, weed gardens, vacuum cars and stuff like that.

I would LOVE that, but everybody's gotta be in on it...

Who's with me?!

Despite that temporary burst of enthusiasm, there's a high probability that I'll remain in flannel pants all day, read a book and have a nap.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Labyrinth...It's On

In case you forgot, today at my church (CBC), from 6--9AM as well as 6--9PM, we're having our labyrinth...a great way to have a "guided devotion" time going through the Psalms of Ascent in an interactive well as helping you focus on Good Friday.

It only takes about an hour to go through, and as long as you get in the first station by 9AM or 9PM you can take your time and experience it. Maybe we'll see you there...

...and if you went through it, feel free to leave your comments on what you liked or didn't like...
The Moby Quote

The quote I was telling you about yesterday came from this month's "Relevant Leader" magazine (allow me to plug Relevant Magazine On Line Edition here, you won't regret it):

"Moby, the electronica icon famous for the critically acclaimed 'Everything is Wrong' and the enormously successful 'Play,' has never been shy about using his public life to discuss his personal views, but he's admittedly loosened his grip on some of his staunchest ideals over the last decade. He's no longer a Marxist, and maintains awareness of his own capacity to pass judgment. Moby continues to confess his love for Christ, while keeping a candid skepticism about the behavior and attitudes of conservative Christians.

Last fall, in a taping of 'Faith Under Fire' with Lee Strobel, the musician was finding middle ground with his conservative counterpart: 'I assume you and I might agree with this: That after a while it becomes frustrating when, you know, you love Christ and when you consider yourself to be a Christian and people when they, instead of thinking of Christians as people working out their salvation, and quiet, and humility, and going out and doing great works, people think of loud-mouth television evangelists saying how everyone is going to hell. And it just seems that...people's perception of Christianity is so contrary to what the actual character of Christ was and what the teachings of Christ represent.' (EMPHASIS MINE)

With the release of his latest studio effort 'Hotel' in March, we're apt to hear more from Moby, especially since the album boasts 10 tracks in which the artist uses his actual voice, and not a sampling from other vocal recordings. It may be a slight departure, but one thing's for certain: there's bound to be material we ought to hear."

As to those who may wonder how he uses his platform, I'd simply refer you to the "liner notes" of all his CD's. He writes essays (which used to be available on line, but his new site ditched them) on myriads of topics, especially in the CD "Everything is Wrong." In an age where many people steal music, you miss out on the artwork within...and his essay in "Play" went out to 16 million people. Moby is a "poor man's Bono" in cultural/political/social activism.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

No, really...

Moby's new CD, Hotel, is brilliant. Just thought I'd let you know.

As you can tell, not much is going's Spring Break here in our town, so I'm getting a lot done in the office and having great conversations with students and former students...but not much blogworthy is going on. And my church history book I'm reading is interesting, but not blogworthy.

But Moby's CD is really good...and when I get to the office today I'll see if I can dig out a quote I have of his regarding his Christian walk and post it. My preference is when artists make good music and they happen to be Christians, rather than being in a "Christian band." Just seems like you get better art that way...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Stuff I Wrote Down Yesterday

The idea and romance of camping are better than the reality of it.

If you know of anyone who ever refers to themselves as "The Angel of Death" please intervene.

Starvation is a horrible way to die.

Christians picketing an IMAX film that promotes Darwinism is one of the more anemic uses of the Bill of Rights I've ever seen.

Granted, I'm an art idiot, but I don't see how a 100-foot pole with 7 fiberglass people walking up it is "great art."

No Limit Texas Hold 'Em is taking over.

An acquaintence of mine was on a show called Biker Build-Off and when his team completed an absolutely beautiful custom motorcycle, his excited comments when they showed the bike got "bleeped" and I thought that was both genuine (if you know the guy) and funny (because I'd love to get bleeped on a tv show if it was genuine).

Our society values order more than free expression.

God has my attention in spades right now, and I'm learning a great deal about's like God tapped me on the shoulder to tell me something and then wanted to measure His words so I'm standing awkwardly, waiting.

I heard somebody say we ought to do a study on the correlation of energy & resources put into the wedding day and the success of those marriages. I wonder what that'd reveal. In my experience thus far, no one's been divorced that I've done the ceremony, but no one's really done a huge wedding, either.

My friend Becca might be the funniest person I've ever met...although she might be in a tie for first with my friend Matt.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Maybe It's Just My Punk Rock Sensibilities

"And all that I command you, you shall speak
Do not be afraid of them,
For I am with you to deliver you," declares the Lord.

Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, "See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To pluck up and to break down,
To destroy and to overthrow,
To build and to plant."

Jeremiah 1: 7b-10.

Make no mistake. I am not so bold as to claim that the Lord has appointed me over nations and kingdoms. I used this section to highlight that I identify with Jeremiah a great deal at present.

I can't sleep.
My day off was spent resting and praying (although I did work out and run an errand)...and still the thoughts of changing the status quo are buzzing round the clock.
I wish I could turn this off. I really do.
I wonder if this is how Johnny "Rotten" Lydon felt at any point.

But enough really is enough. Something has to be done.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I Just Want To Shake Us Up

Nothing has changed since yesterday. This "edge" I have is partly annoying, and partly exciting. But man, it's making me happily uncomfortable.

Enough is still enough.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Fair Warning

It's starting again.

I can tell.

I get this very Jeremiah-like edge regarding the state of my own walk with God as well as the walk with God I observe in the people I serve. I wish I didn't get it. It would make my life so much easier to be more easily amused and less passionate. I've learned, however,for me, it's inescapable.

I read a book yesterday (yes, I read books in one day) that only fueled the fire. The book wasn't THAT great, but some of author Erwin Raphael McManus' insights were throwing gasoline on my latent Jeremiah-like edge:

"This may be the most extraordinary mark of the Spirit of God within the heart of humanity: the freedom to live out dreams greater than ourselves. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, the church would be the last place most people would go to have their dreams nurtured, developed and unleashed."

"Domesticated Christians are far too willing to abdicate the battle for the soul of the world. Civility focuses our energy on all the wrong places. We spend our lives emphasizing our personal development and spiritual well-being. We build churches that become nothing more than hiding places for the faithful while pretending our actions are for the good of the world. Or we choose political and secular vehicles to try to advance our cultural values, strangely attempting to make unbelieving people act like civilized believers."

"From the parenting end, I've seen far to many kids raised in Christian homes who are indifferent to Christ and often carry a great disdain for the church. Sometimes, it's the result of blatant hypocrisy, but other times it's the result of nothing less than sheer monotony and boredom. We raise our children in the cocoon of a domesticated faith and wonder why they run as far as they can to find adventure."

It's rare that I think about my faithful blog readership when I write, but I'm in a "scorched-earth, shake-things-up, sick-of-the-status-quo" kind of mood today. So, to readers I know, I'm asking for what these quotes stir up in your brains:

Jan (of Sam and Jan fame): How are we going to deal with the 3rd quote as we design a parent's ministry?

Kristen and Joshua, Michael and Katie, Kendra and John, Laura and James, Steph and Geoff, and others listed under "blogs of former students": What do I need to be doing to be more effective given that I'm here (and knowing what I'm up against) and you're all "there?"

Katherine: What does this do in your brain? You're always good for gasoline on my fire and I'm encouraging you to do that PRONTO, sister.

Hollywood: Get the book and read it. It's "The Barbarian Way" by McManus. It'll influence your world and make you wonderfully uncomfortable.

Random CBC parents who check-in daily: Is it okay if I decide to shake all of us up a bit?

Students: Is it okay if I decide to shake all of you up a bit?

Nathan and Steve-O: Let's rock. Show me "how."

Enough is enough.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

This Is A Tough Way To Start Your Day...

Alarm wakes me up.
I turn it off.

And this thought pops into my brain:

"You might always be, and be viewed, as a reservoir of unreached potential."

I wonder if I don't need a vacation...

...and if anyone can explain why that's the first thought to jump into my brain on a Saturday, well, on second thought, I don't think I'd better ask you to do that.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Two Good Reasons Why Government Generally Doesn't Work

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate spent 11 hours listening to overpaid entertainers talk about whether or not they used illegal steroids to enhance their performance and what Major League Baseball intends to do about it. Only one Senator (Bernie Sanders, (I)-Vermont) asked the question that should've been asked: "Don't we have more important issues on which to focus?"

In the Texas legislature, a bill was introduced that will effectively put an end to high school cheerleaders doing "suggestive" dance moves and will remove funding from school districts in which violations occur. The state legislator introduced the bill after seeing a high school basketball game in his district.

I can't imagine either of those need more comment.
I'm Oh So Sorry, But I Couldn't Resist

Please blame Nathan...

Which John Cusack Are You?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

An Answered Prayer That Just Might Change Things

Okay, so the Assistant for Student Ministries at CBC, Steve-O has been pushing my thinking on student ministries lately and he has a vision to open our student area as a coffee shop where teens can hang out after school...maybe get some free tutoring, maybe have an "open-mike" kind of night, maybe show movies...nothing all that innovative, really. But definitely in tune with the youth culture in that he wants to give teens a place to unwind, hang-out and NOT have to pay $4 to do it at the local Starbucks.

The unfortunate reality is that it would cost about $10,000 to get the full-blown stuff we'd need to open it. We could do it on the cheap, with a few breaks, for about $3,000.

The even more unfortunate reality is that church's generally don't have that kind of "extra" change laying around to make that happen...even our church, which tends to be very generous.

So, we started praying for some sort of guidance.

So, we get an e-mail from a coffee shop going out of business in Enid, Oklahoma, who'd just as soon donate their stuff to us and take the tax break since they couldn't sell it and ship it for what they'd like to get out of it.

So, we said we'd be more than happy to come up there and get it.

And, oh, by the way, the total taxable value on all the stuff they're donating to us is in the $30,000 range.

And, oh, by the way, it's the same machines Steve-O was praying for, as was the glass-door refrigerator for other types of drinks. A team of dudes, led by Steve-O, is driving to Enid today with trailers and all sorts of stuff to assist in the bringing of the machine and accoutrements to bring it all to us.

So, don't mind me.

I'll be spending today wondering what God is doing in the midst of our student ministry at present.

And thanking God for His provision.

And smiling.
And I have a genetic link to the creator of this work of art!

My daughter Kelsey's latest's 36"x 36" and unfortunately, the photo can't give you the texture. At the risk of sounding like a proud dad, well, I really think this is one of her best works... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Is It Me?

Last night, right before the teens in our middle school program started arriving, I went into the youth room and couldn't find the leaders. But the office door was closed so I figured they were in there.

So, I open the door and find that Nathan and Wes in front of the office computer watching the movie TRAILER for the latest STAR WARS installment.

Granted, I think I'm the only person on the planet who didn't "get" Star Wars (or Lord of the Rings, for that matter) but I'm not sure what to make of this.

Nathan and Wes seem pretty confident that this behavior is not only normal, but also societally accepted and relatively exciting.

I can't think of any movie that I'd get jacked to track down the trailer on the internet. If anyone can explain this behavior to me I'd be indebted to them.
Soft Targets

Was anyone else given the creeps by news reports talking about terrorist trying to find "soft targets" to attack? Soft targets were defined as small airports, public transportation, movie theatres, schools, churches and the like...

The last 3 on the list really gave me the creeps. Knowing this won't affect my behavior in any way, but still...
Gas Prices

Okay, my family drives two gasoline-drinking minivans, so I really don't have room to talk much.

But filling those bad boys up at the pump to the tune of $45 per vehicle, well...

(insert usual diatribe about effective public transportation here)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Eugene Peterson Rocks My Whole Face Off Yet Again

Yesterday I read an article in a recent issue of the magazine "Christianity Today" that was an interview with author Eugene Peterson. He's a rare mix of highly intellectual author-type who writes insightful and meaningful devotional books.

The title of the article is "Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons: Eugene Peterson talks about lies and illusions that destroy the church" by Mark Galli. For those of you that know me, there's not a snowball's chance in hell I could pass up an article with that kind of title interviewing that guy.

A few selected quotes:

"I don't want to suggest that those of us who are following Jesus don't have any fun, that there is no joy, no exuberance, no ecstasy. They're just not what the consumer thinks they are. When we advertise the gospel in terms of the world's values, we lie to people. We lie to them, because this is a new life. It involves following Jesus. It involves the Cross. It involves death, an acceptable sacrifice. We give up our lives."

"We're after life. We're learning how to live. I think people are fed up with consumer approaches, even though they're addicted to them. But if we cast the evangel in terms of benefits, we're setting people up for disappointment. We're telling them lies...Do we realize almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture? Baal religion is about what makes you feel good. Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it. And of course, it was incredibly successful. The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1. There was sex, there was excitement, there was music, there was ecstasy, there was dance. 'We've got girls over here, friends. We've got statues, girls and festivals.' This was great stuff. And what did the Hebrews offer in response? The Word."

"But this is slow, slow work, this soul work, this bringing people into a life of obedience and love and joy before God. And we get impatient and start taking shortcuts and use any means available. We talk about benefits. We manipulate people. We bully them. We use language that is just incredibly impersonal--bullying language, manipulative language...This impatience to leave the methods of Jesus in order to get the work of Jesus done is what destroys spirituality, because we're using a non-biblical, non-Jesus way to do what Jesus did. That's why spirituality is in such a mess as it is today."

This man rocks my face off every time I read him.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Good Morning, America! Translates Teens

Since I'm blogging later than usual, my wife, as part of her daily on-ramp to her interstate of a day, has morning network programming on in the room I blog in. My daily on-ramp involves quiet and books. Hey, to each their own, right?

Anyway, Good Morning, America! was doing a segment on advising parent on how to establish repore with your teenager. There was surprisingly good advice for parents (like don't jump to conclusions based on appearances of their friends, don't say things like "back in my day" or "it's no big deal," etc.) Turns out, they were promoting a book written by two teenager called "Breaking The Code" and they actually let them talk, and it turned out pretty helpful.

What got me was the attitude of the hosts. Diane Sawyer, in a pre-commercial promo to get us to come back after the break, actually said listening to teenagers was like listening to Swahili. (As if that's not demeaning enough)

Charlie Gibson, the other host, said, "One thing on the list of difficult things of being a parent of teenagers--and the list is LONG, hehehehe--..."

Maybe I should become the condescending host of a show that would help "us" translate "grown-up business jargon."

Don't grown ups use stupid phrases like, "Hey, Bob. How's the "go" going for ya? At work, we've had a shift in the paradigm and my CEO is giving me some pushback on my TPS reports. And don't get me started with the issues I have with the guys in the I.T. sector. One more thing, Bob. Didja catch the Cowboys game? When are we gonna get a quarterback? Well, gotta scoot, Bob. Gotta get back to the grind and put food on the fam's table. hehehehe."

Maybe that's my ticket to fame and a show that ridicules and mocks the station in life grown-ups are in.
Church Signs...Again

Local neighborhood church signs:

"A Day Hemmed In Prayer Will Rarely Unravel"
"Having Truth Decay? Brush Up On Your Bible"
"Don't Wait For Six Strong Men To Carry You To Church"


Somebody tell me again why they think these are in any way helpful...

Sunday, March 13, 2005

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that, after ignoring college basketball for six months, I'm drawn to the excitement & drama of the championship tournaments coming up.
...that you can say what you want about the failings of the SuburbanMegaChurch but, if our Missions Fair on Friday night is any indication, the vision, energy and resources they can put toward missions is encouraging.
...sometimes, sitting in a hammock staring at the stars on a cool night with your daughter is a cure for what ails you.
...U2's new CD is overrated by critics, but two songs on it are brilliant.
..."Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" is smart, innovative & creative and television needs more of that.
...I have a stack of work-related magazines that I need to thumb through because the whole point of periodicals is that they're timely.
...with the mild winter here in Texas I'm already irritated by having to do weekly yardwork in March.
...with the mild winter we had I'm going to be irritated by tons of mosquitos in June.
...I'd really like to go to the SXSW music festival in Austin one of these days.
...While I'm at it, I'd really like to go to Sundance and the Tribeca Film Festivals, too.
...that, in my experience, it really is true that you have more energy if you exercise consistently.
...I'm excited about my daughter's softball season and ballet recitals that fill up my spring.
...that all-in-all, I'm as challenged and excited about the ministry I work for as the day I started.
...that instead of typing about it, I need to go and do it right now.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Some Days...

I'm not sleeping well this week.
I've got a recently-developed mouth ulcer.
My sinuses have an odd pressure thing happening, which is making me question the effectiveness of my superior antibodies.
At work lately, nothing gets crossed off my to-do list and by the time the day is over I've added 3 or 5 items to it.
I feel like I'm not spending enough time with my students building relationships.
I feel like I'm not being effective in helping my students have authentic walks with God, either.
My grass needs mowing and I should change the oil in the mower.
I missed a workout at the gym so I really should go today.
My friends' softball team didn't play well last night and lost.
My stack of books went from nothing in it to five in it in one day.
I had a major answer to a prayer for our student ministry yesterday and all I could think of was how much work it would involve to get it all installed.
God feels a bajillion miles away at present.

As you can see, there's a major focus on the negative. I need to check my head and get my "head right with ball" (coachspeak for "get it together") or as my endearingly neurotic but effervescent friend
Katherine would say, "I've got to rally."

But I don't feel like rallying.

I feel like Alexander in "The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" when he says, "My mom says some days are like that." And then you just gotta deal with it...

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Best Things In Life Really Are Free

Last night there was perfect springtime weather. It was 55 degrees.

Shelby got a blanket.
Shelby got book #7 in the Chronicles of Narnia.
We went outside and climbed in the hammock.
Lloyd, having recently recieved a promotion to "Great Dog" status, follows us out and curls up at our feet on said hammock.
We read two chapters out loud.
We talked about our days.

I'm convinced there isn't a better way to end a day that could've and should've been much better than they were.
The 2nd Track Meet

If you remember, my daughter Kelsey didn't clear the initial height in the pole vault in her first track meet. It was okay, though. She'd only had two days of practice and none of the other girls in her grade cleared that height either.

So, after a week of practice and last week's experience, Tracy and I were a bit reticent when they called her name out to go first.

On her first jump she cleared the entry-level. She was thrilled (the smile on the landing mats gave her away). Tracy and I were thrilled (the unintentional overclapping we were doing gave us away).

On the second jump, six inches higher, she goes up and over with no problem. She was more reserved in being thrilled, but thrilled nonetheless. Tracy and I were less reservedly thrilled, but thrilled nonetheless.

Competitors were already knocked out and it was between her and one other girl. They both missed their first two jumps at the third height, 6' 6". Kelsey missed and was out...and the other girl cleared hers.

Kelsey was kicking herself because she was pretty close to clearing the next height. Maybe next week.

Tracy and were too busy being happy for her and her 2nd place finish to worry about next week. There's something cool about watching your child accomplish something through hard work and seeing them enjoy the rewards of that and you simply can't put that into words.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

"Same Thing We Always Do, Pinky...Try To Take Over THE WORLD"

I know it isn't all that insightful, but I'm acutely aware of Starbucks coffee houses at the moment.

I read an article in the Dallas Morning News today about a band my friend Wes introduced who go by the name The Afters. They're all up-and-coming and from the area, hence the article. Anyway, the lead singer was a barista and they met their band mates at their Starbucks. The guy met his wife at that Starbucks. They are a band in which all the members are Christians (though not necessarily a "Christian" band), so eternal things took place in that coffee shop.

Yesterday, I met with a teenager at Starbucks to talk about something serious. She wants to have a genuine walk with God and had honest questions about that. Eternal things were afoot at the coffee shop.

On other occasions, I meet with other youth ministers at that local Starbucks. Well, with the astonishing turnover rate of youth ministers in our area, I really only meet with one youth minister consistently at that Starbucks...but still, we talk about our ministries and sometimes spend time in the Word together. Eternal things have been afoot at the coffee shop.

I often meet with teenagers who I firmly believe will do more for the Kingdom of God that I ever will at one of two Starbucks locations. They are gifted and talented beyond measure, and they make my life more abundant by being in it. In many ways they are revolutionaries. Eternal things are afoot at the coffee shop.

Please don't construe this as an ad for Starbucks, but I'm intrigued by the idea that God is using a MegaConglomerate for the furthering of His Kingdom...maybe I'm wrong, but maybe there's something eternal afoot at the Starbucks...

Or maybe I just drink to much coffee and have to justify the expense account...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Sorry...Skin Trouble

Yesterday, I was screwing around trying to figure out how to get this mixture of Haloscan, Hello, and Blogger to somehow put my freaking picture in the "index" section of the blog template...blah blah blah. You can see, I haven't figured it out yet, either.

And, Blogger, despite my NOT saving the template (okay, I was trying to find a quick way to get the code by copying directly from Blogger, but still) saved it for me anyway.

I've already had a couple of comments pro and con on this one...does anyone really care?
A Lot Goes On In A Big City

I was just thinking about stuff I heard that went on in Dallas yesterday:

First of all, Mia Hamm was part of an Southern Methodist University program that invites world-class athletes every so often to a luncheon and they speak. There was a big fuss, with radio shows doing live remotes and it made the paper and it was on a couple of newscasts. That's as it should be. When one of the greatest athletes in the world shows up to talk about what she used to do, there should be hoopla. She did give the expected pep talk to girls, but is there any way that she could go through one interview without the reporter asking her about her husband (baseball player Nomar Garciaparra)? I mean, c'mon. Her accomplishments dwarf his, and his are impressive.

Secondly, there was this Zig Ziglar motivational deal for business-types. Get this: We have two arenas here in Dallas as they never tore down the old one the hockey and basketball teams played in, and BOTH ARENAS were SOLD OUT at $225 per seat! Okay, there were special business promotions early-on that got major discounts, but is the state of business motivation so bad that 30,000 folks will spend all freakin' day listening to other people remind you to set goals, write them down, be all you can be, blah blah blah? Okay, you get to play hookie for a day on the company nickel. Let's hope THAT'S the motivation. It reminds me of a high school assembly, ("Don't do drugs! Don't drink at the prom you could die! Love yourself!") only you have to pay $225 to go. The businessperson subculture amuses me to no end.

Finally, an absolutely influential musician nobody's really heard of played here last night: Paul Westerburg. He was the front man for a band called The Replacements who, in effect, made it okay for bands not to be talented as long as you can write catchy songs with an edge to them. He played here, and I really would've liked to have seen that show. Had to work, though.

Even though I rarely get to do this kind of stuff, I like living near a big city. At least that stuff is out there. In fact, I'm seriously considering getting tickets to the broadway touring show "The Producers" this summer. Heard good things...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Some Days It Seems So Ridiculously Clear...

Got off to a late start yesterday after losing a wrestling match with insomnia on Sunday night. Caffiene used to never affect me. Now, I have a Diet Pepsi with my teenagers after Sunday School and I'm up until four in the morning. So, I took my nap earlier in the day yesterday.

Anyway, it wound up being a productive day. Mowed the lawn. Got rid of the old paint cans in the garage according to the town of Flower Mound's regulations. Worked out at the gym. Took Kelsey to dinner and softball practice. I read some of a church history book I've been meaning to get after for quite some time.

I love it when I come across those overtly simple things that, to me, seem so crystal clear and desireable. What's funny is that others see them as opaque and scary and troublesome. Here it is, compliments of author Bruce Shelley, talking about the divisions in the 1st century church in large part based on their Jewish heritage:

"Grace always arises from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Many Christians thought Paul was impossibly optomistic. They were deeply troubled by the decline in Christian morality they felt sure would come in Gentile churches. If you teach justification by faith alone, they argued, people will imagine that once they have accepted Christ by faith it does not really matter how they live.

On the contrary, said Paul, if they really have accepted Christ by faith, they have accepted the way of Christ and the mind of Christ. The man who really loves God can do as he chooses, for if he really loves God he will choose to do the will of God."

Funny. We haven't fixed that reality in 2,000 years. It just seems so clear to me...

Monday, March 07, 2005

I Was Gonna, But Now I'm Not

This entry was going to be one in which I told everyone that I was going to put The Diner on indefinite hiatus.

I mean, I felt like many of you were (and are) pulling for me to write the book. Or "a" book. Or many books.

I felt like this blog was eating a lot of valuable time that could've been channeled elsewhere. Maybe towards writing the book. Or "a" book. Or many books.

So, I was going to inform you that The Diner was going on sabbatical. Haitus. Whatever.

And then I couldn't sleep...and I was alone with my thoughts for a bit.

For some reason, I started to analyze how much time I waste on any given day on stupid stuff. Television. Reading crap. Goofing on the guitar. Listening to inane chatter on talk radio, or sports talk radio. I mean, I burned some time last week watching the commentary on the Seinfeld DVD's of some first season episodes.

I'm not saying that my life is a colossal waste of time, mind you. Let's face it. Sometimes I need to burn some time watching the commentary on the Seinfeld DVD's of some first season episodes.

What I am saying is that blogging isn't the reason that I haven't written the book. Or "a" book. Or many books.

There are other reasons. All of them reveal a bit more about myself than I'm comfortable putting out there for public consumption at present.

The bottom line is that The Diner will stay open for business. Feel free to pray for me as the internal struggle to write the book, or "a" book, or many books, continues.

And continues with a vengeance.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Good Reads, Anyone?

The boxes from Relevant Magazine, which provide youth minister with hours of reading, don't come for another week or so.
The only books I have on my reading list are a book on parenting teenagers and "Rock Guitar for Dummies" which is really guitar lessons so you go through chapters and then practice for a while.
I've got a day off tomorrow and need a good read.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A Blast From The Past

I thought some of you might enjoy this. My sister got a new scanner, and here's a photo of my cousins, Sherry and Scott. I'm next to Scott in the number 43 jersey, and that's my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly on the far right. The photo is circa 1974 or so... Posted by Hello
Not Quite Right

There's something odd about anyone who can use a prison term as a "good career move."

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Interview

My friend Kendra has this idea to interview people on HER blog and they respond on THEIR blog. Here's her questions and my responses:

1. What's one theological topic that you get fired up about? (talking, reading, arguing...)

Funny, but as I've aged, there are very few theological topics that I get fired up about any more. I guess I've learned that most of those discussions aren't really discussions but more of a "position presentation" so we can effectively pigeonhole each other. Frankly, I don't enjoy theological discussions anymore and I rarely, if ever, argue theology anymore.

Now the area that I enjoy reading about is eschatology...the study of the end times. I'm fascinated by Daniel 9 and the past response to prophecy as well as the future Kingdom ramifications and the manner in which all of Scripture weaves it's way into Christ's return. It gets my pre-millinnial, pre-trib (there's my pigeonhole) rapture heart racing! It should get all of our hearts racing, that Christ is really the "once and future King." I'm still floored by that.

Running a distant second: Anthropology. For some reason I'm fascinated by the depravity of man.

2. What is something you have lost recently?

I'm pretty orderly so I don't lose much material stuff (although my daughters have been raiding my CD collection with some regularity). Even in an existential sense, I'm still pretty optomistic and hopeful about even the goofiest and stupid-headed students, and excited about the direction of the church I serve (even if the process is slower than I'd like. I really can't think of anything I've lost lately except my "Wayne's World" DVD. I can't find it anywhere.

3. When you give sermons, rare occasion, what is your routine for preparation?

It usually begins with a lot of excuse-making to my senior pastor about precisely why I can't do a sermon on that particular Sunday. After a very detailed list, he responds with something like, "Everything you are saying is totally irrelevant to me."

I worry about it on my day off on Monday and various ideas spin around in my head. Tuesday I pick out and study the particular passage of Scripture that I'll be using, while avoiding phone calls and other office work. Wednesday I usually spend griping about everything else I have to do and how it's unfair that I have to continue the work of my area of ministry while having this burden added to it...and then I have to teach my Bible study on something else that night. Thursday is usually when I write the sermon itself and think it through and really wrestle with it. That's usually when it goes from some Jeremiah-like diatribe to a more loving presentation. Friday is when I just decide that whatever I have at that point is just what is going to be said and I'm tired of thinking about it and I don't even care anymore so I'll just go with it. Saturday is when the Holy Spirit reminds me that it really isn't my burden, that all I have to do is be faithful and present the Word, and allow the God-breathed Word of God change hearts and minds through His leading. Sunday I preach it four times and the next Monday I sleep for 12 hours.

Really, the process involves focusing on me and my insecurities for five days and then turning it over to God at the 11th hour.

4. What attributes of yourself and your wife do you see in your daughters?

In many ways, my daughters are carbon copies of each one of us. I mean, Kelsey is like me and Shelby is like Tracy. Kelsey is more into sports and enjoys people and school. You can tell more of what mood Kelsey is in by observation of her, and she likes her music hard an loud. Kelsey likes rows and lines and lots of black & white. Shelby is more of an introvert who uses dance to express herself (Tracy uses photography)...and she likes her music classical and loud. Shelby is very amoeba-like and free-spirited, much more mosaic. That's really the essence of it.

5. What is one thing that amazes you about the world we live in?

Well, what amazes me about the world I live in is how plastic and temporary everything is and how seriously suburbanites take that plastic and temporary stuff. It only highlights my belief that the price you pay for your comfort is a collapsed view of God. The bottom line is I can't get over how much we, as a species, trifle with the God of the universe.

Anybody want me to interview them?
The Track Meet

Yesterday, my oldest daughter was in her first middle school track meet. Her even was the pole vault. While she didn't clear the initial height (no one in her grade did), it was pretty cool watching her take part in an event that very few people ever try in their life. I'm glad we videotaped it.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Call Your Representative...

Likely, nothing will come of it, but there's a bill in front of the Texas legislature this week that includes raising taxes. Nothing new there.

Raising taxes on cigarettes. Nothing new there. It's a cash cow.

Raising taxes on automobiles. Nothing new there. Again, cash cow.

Raising taxes on business payrolls. Get this: They want every employer to pay 1.1% of every salary up to $80,000. Something new here.

Raising taxes on bottled water. What the...?

My idea: Tax television by the hour. That'll make up the difference in loss of revenue from lost property taxes (which are being mandated) with room to spare. Just don't enact a hammock tax, or this could get really ugly.
Now THAT'S A Way To Spend An Evening!

Grilled bratwurst with cheddar in the middle.
The movie Bottle Rocket (the tradition continues!).
My junior/senior guys Bible study.
My family room.
Laughing for two hours with them.

Some nights it's just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Reason #34,587 I Lead A Charmed Life...

So last night I got to observe my daughter Shelby in two different dance classes. I saw her in ballet, and then following that a hip-hop class. (I know...suburban kids take hip-hop classes) Anyway, in addition to being able to note how much she'd improved since the last time I'd watched her in class, every now and then she'd peek to see if I was looking. If she made eye-contact with me, she'd smile and wink.

After that, Tracy and I attended an open-house at Kelsey's school. We visited her teachers and they all spent a great deal of time raving about her and complimenting us on our parenting skills. One teacher said there's no perfect book on parenting but that Tracy and I might could've written one.

Yeah. Really.
Sometimes I wonder what I did (or didn't do) to deserve these children...but I don't want to think about it too much. I'll just enjoy it, and whistle while I walk and work.
Hey, It's Lou Reed's and John Irving's birthday... let's celebrate Lou Reed's by learning three chords on our guitar, putting on sunglasses and attitude, and being in a band that very few people listened to but influencing everyone who DID listen to them to form great rock bands.

...we could celebrate John Irving's by writing excellent novels that no one reads, making up some of the most interesting American literary characters, and selling the rights to them for bundles of cash even though the people who buy those movie rights will do horrible injustices to them.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Five on The First

Again, I stole this idea from other blogs, but I wanted to get some "lists" going on the first of each month. Last time, I went with 5 restaurants you'd want everyone to visit.

Today, what are the 5 fondest memories you have with your family (include extended family here and there, too)?

5. Christmas Eve in my paternal grandparent's home growing up. The house was too small, there was too much food and too much family, stockings, an obnoxious uncle and a drunk friend of the family, and an awful lot of love.

4. Annual summer trips to the Gulf Coast with my maternal grandparents. An entire week at the beach with all my aunts, uncles and cousins. There were day trips to "boardwalk-type" amusement parks, playing in the ocean, deep sea fishing, waiting 30 minutes after dinner before we could go swimming...the works.

3. Long weekends at my family's river cabin over most holiday weekends. Fishing and water skiing. Obnoxious uncles drinking a few beers and taking us inner-tubing behind the ski boat. Obnoxious uncles drinking a few beers and grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. Obnoxious uncles drinking a few beers and playing ukeleles. Listening to Atlanta Braves baseball games on the radio while sitting in a hammock on the shade.

2. Playing "hi's and low's" with my family around the dinner table a couple of times a week. It may sound simple, but my most enjoyable family times are hanging out at my house with nothing really on the agenda.

1. The four vacations my family has taken together: Two-weeks at the Gulf Coast in what was the most relaxing time I've had since I started we didn't do anything but swim and sun and eat out for 14 days. A week in Walt Disney World in really is magic that I can't explain. Two different trips to New York City (the greatest city on earth) complete with broadway shows and sporting events and sightseeing and hanging out with my nuclear family and my sister (the coolest family on earth).
Books I Completed in February

Just for record-keeping purposes. Sorry to bother you.

The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis
Soul Seekers, by Judah Smith
Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
Prayer: A Holy Occupation, by Oswald Chambers
The Best Question Ever, by Andy Stanley