Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I Am Not Of This World

I don't have many friends over 25 years of age. It's an occupational hazard, I suppose. Generally speaking, it doesn't bother me much...but there are times when I wonder if I'm just weird or if it's because I'm a pastor or because I'm difficult to pigeonhole or what.

But yesterday our family had the chance to hang out with a few other families over a barbeque. We had the common denominator of being the same age with children in the same age range.

I was having an enjoyable time, too. The guys I knew (and the new guys I met) were interesting. We talked about how musical tastes had changed from our youth, we talked about our near-death experiences as kids, we talked about the challenges of having daughters. We took them to a pool to swim and the enjoyable conversation continued. 90% of the afternoon was extremely enjoyable. They really are fun, funny and interesting guys.

And then the conversation turned: They started talking about their frustrations at work. Apparently, business frustrations all pretty much are the same in that everyone is affected by someone else's stupid decisions and they all realize their work as cogs in big machines ultimately means they're replaceable so they all work harder and harder, etc. They got so excited about all of it, too. The conversation was as enthusiastic as it had been all day...even moreso. They laughed and pointed out ironies and all that jazz. They nodded a lot.

I could empathize somewhat. I mean, I have bosses. But I felt very much like an outsider all of a sudden. They talked in codes and business jargon and about very temporary stuff.

Mentally, I packed up and was ready to go...far afield from my fellow man.

I hate it when that happens.

P.S. The funk continues.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Funk Is Still In Effect

I'm starting to come out of it.

I have learned a few things.

I'm not ready to put them out there for blog consumption just yet.

But the things I'm learning are going to be definitive.

However, I still don't like the full-blown week of funk. It isn't fun by any stretch.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Pomp and Circumstance

I attended graduation ceremonies yesterday for two of the local high schools in my community.

There was pomp.
There was circumstance.
There were cliched-laden speeches and funny moments where the graduates were led into the wrong rows by their teachers.
There were 614 names called at the first one, and 585 at the second.
There were stupid decisions by those in charge who, because of the rain, had the students try to meet their family and friends in the concourse of the arena instead of outside--which only led to grads not being able to see their friends of find their family members (because students cell phones had been confiscated previous to the ceremony).
There was celebration.
There were smiles.
There were hugs.

Sometimes I think we, as a society, don't celebrate often enough...or well enough for that matter. And this is a milestone worth celebrating, if you ask me.

Which is why it bothered me that the principal at one of the schools, ON FOUR DIFFERENT OCCASIONS, mentioned the amount of scholarship money the class (in two cases, the dollar value of a student's college scholarship).

There are other times and places to pat yourself on the back for a job well done...and nobody's denying the job well done. Like the annual senior awards day. Do it then.

But reserve the money aspect for that occasion. Under the circumstances, it looked very pompous.

And, oh yeah...Mr. Principal, maybe you should read this op-ed article from the Dallas Morning News on how worthwhile those dollar amounts truly are. Maybe character and creativity (both of those were a bit short in your remarks and the remarks of the speakers, too) should get a little more play.

Don't mess with me on Day 4 of the Funk.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Funk Continues

There are drawbacks to transparency in a public forum, I suppose.

I guess when you're a pastor at a large church with a "closet" readership (I really didn't know how many people from my congregation read this thing daily) that generally doesn't comment but faithfully reads it...you should expect advice.

And I've gotten it, too. Everything from "just suck it up" to "read this verse" to "hang out with your teens" to "hang out with your children" to "make out with your wife"...well...suffice to say that if everyone who had started a sentence with "I wouldn't want to write this in the "comments" but..." had actually put it in the comments it might've been one of the best days Haloscan ever had.

I appreciate all your efforts. I truly do. I've even gotten phone calls from old friends who read.

I feel this sense of dread I simply can't explain to you adequately. Writer John Irving called it "The Undertoad"--this sense of lurking dread that you can't see but you almost know is out there waiting to pull you under. Maybe it's a mid-life crisis...but it seems a bit too early for that for some reason.

All I can tell you is that it seems like my brain is channeling Eeyore, Johnny Rotten, and Edgar Allen Poe at the moment.

To quote Dr. Suess again, "Sometimes you'll play lonely games too. And they're games you can't win because you play against you."

Thanks again for your concern...but I think I gotta fight through this with just me and God, but don't be afraid to comment with help, either. I maintain that'd be a great set of comments!

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Funk, Day 2

Still having trouble "unslumping" myself and it seems to be getting worse.

Any decision I make forces me to be the bad guy. All my instincts, and choices based on them, appear wrong. I feel marginalized. I am alienated from mankind in almost every perception. On top of all that general worldview angst, I don't have any new music in the CD changer, I haven't seen a good movie in ages, and my brakes are making a series of squeaks that are discomforting.

I got gum in my hair, I hate my railroad train pajamas and my marble went down the drain...my mom says some days are like that, even in Austrailia.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


For some reason, I'm in a funk.

Maybe it's just the end of the year blahs or something. But all my creative energies seem drained. All I want to do is veg out in front of the television. I don't want to deal with people much more than I have to. I'm kinda tired physically. I'm kinda tired mentally.

Even though I don't have much reason to be, I'm still in a funk.

And, as Dr. Suess says, "Unslumping yourself is not easily done."

I wish it were easier to "unslump."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

It's A Small World After All

Well, you'll all be happy to know that the American Family Association has called an end to their 9-year boycott of the Walt Disney Corporation. The conservative Christian group, based in Tupelo, Mississippi, was bent out of shape because of Disney's corporate policy on benefits for gay employees and their parks hosting several special days for homosexuals.

Hey, nice work, AFA!

They still have those policies.

They still have those days.

And, oh yeah, profits rose during pretty much the entire nine years.

Wrong battle.
Wrong methods.
Wrong portrayal of our tribe.

Why did you even bother? Why do you even exist?

But, alas, we can now haul off to EPCOT or the Magic Kingdom guilt-free. Oh wait. I did that in 2004.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

End Of An Era

As a parent, I've noticed that the 2nd child kinda gets ripped off in the realm of experiences.

See, the first child gets a parental enthusiasm...or at least a parental curiosity when it comes to certain events. For example, on the first day of school for the first child, there are ample photo shoots and videos and walking to school holding hands. For the second child, the same things take place, but the "newness" of the experience is over from the parental end of things. The mindset is more of a "we'll do it, but we've been there and done that."

Today, though, I have an enthusiasm for an event for my youngest child that I didn't have with my oldest when she went through it: 5th grade "graduation." Yes, the elementary school has a little ceremony for the end of elementary school. I don't think they should call it "graduation" but there's nothing wrong with a ceremony marking life's little milestones. In fact, we should do more celebrating as a society if you ask me.

Anyway, there will be some singing and clapping and thanking of teachers...my first kid went through it two years ago. But for the 2nd kid going through, I'm actually more excited for her than I was for my oldest.

The reason is that it's the end of an era in many ways. It was fun while it lasted, but contrary to what most parents think, I'm looking forward to having two middle schoolers in the house. I mean, I loved it when the girls were little and on the 4th of July they'd decorate their bikes and we'd go to our town's little bike parade. But I'm glad it's over now. The first two times were cute, but then it got real old real fast.

It's the same for elementary school. It was fun going to the "open house" nights and seeing the art on the wall and the Flat Stanley pictures and all that jazz...but it's time to move on. It was fun while it lasted.

So, Shelby, if today while you're singing and clapping and thanking teachers, you catch your dad very excited to be there, don't be surprised. Being the youngest can also mean that you are the one who takes our family fully--not partially--into new eras and adventures. So, kiddo, take us there. I think we're all ready.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Senior Night

It was a tough hour and 50 minutes.

Our student ministry had our annual ministry celebration of seniors last night in which we allow each one of them 5 minutes to say whatever they want. I'm always intrigued by the things people say.

A few observations:

Several senior girls gave advice to the younger ladies not to "settle" for a boyfriend...but to seek Christ first and trust Him instead of caving in on what you believe so you won't spend Friday nights alone. It's fabulous advice. I wonder how many underclassmen will apply it.

It's always funny when somebody pulls a prank a long time ago, other people get accused over the time frame, and then the people who pulled it off (and, even more astonishingly, kept it a secret for so long) admit it to the group. The looks on the faces those who got punk'd is priceless.

The emotions teenagers exude are easily picked up and transferred to one another. The teens accept each other and respect each other on this night, and if a teen reads a poem or gets emotional or speaks from the heart, the other teens kinda "pull" for the one in the chair. They want to hear them, and give each other an uncommon respect. Very cool.

It's hard being a teenager. Some of the stresses they bring up from an adult perspective may seem trivial and silly, but the stress they feel and the pressure that comes from that is every bit as real as the stress and pressure grown-ups feel. I wish more grown ups didn't dismiss their experiences so quickly, even if years of experience have proven those earlier events so trivial in their own lives.

They quoted movies. They quoted Scripture. They talked of stupid choices (or lack thereof) and lessons learned. They shared inside jokes. They cried. They laughed. They gave out coupons for hugs. They thanked their Bible study leaders. They were nervous and scared and excited and everything in between. They talked about lessons learned and stuff they wish they'd done. The topics, much like the teens, were all over the map during the meeting time. I enjoyed it.

As a youth pastor, I'm always floored by the teens perceptions of me. Granted, the ones speaking had years of interaction with me, but I'm always amazed at how much of my life they zero in on and pick up that encourages them. One last night was even thankful for the reality that I didn't have a stupid Christian bumper sticker on my car like other youth pastors. They're perceptive right down to that level. I see this as good as well as scary.

Speaking of that, this class even gave me a gift. I don't remember making a big point out of it, but one day I quoted something our pastor said in a sermon series on Ecclesiastes. You know, that book that has the oft-quoted section of things like "A time to plant, a time to harvest, a time to dance, a time to mourn, etc." Then our pastor said something like, "Wisdom is knowing what time it is." Hence, they gave me a watch. And not just any watch. It's from the Ten Boom watchmaking shop in Holland...and the Ten Booms were major players during the Dutch resistance to the Nazi regime in WWII. They got me an extremely rare watch (something like only 5 in the world) with the name "Ten Boom" on the face, and it's the kinda thing I'm really into.

But that gift really typified this class. They were teachable. They were learning things in their own unique way, picking up things that helped them that I wasn't aware I was focusing on (or that they were, either), and giving each other the freedom to be diverse. They got to know me...to the degree that wearing a watch designed by descendants of people who were following God and making a difference in their little corner of the world would be precisely the kind of thing I'd be honored to wear. They "got" me. That is cool.

It is time for them to graduate. It's time for them to move on, and grow more in the next four years than they did in the first 18. It's time for others to push them further in their growth and build on my foundation. It's time for them to go.

But I'll still miss my seniors of 2005...precisely because they knew, and know, what time it is.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Two Meetings, Two Results

This morning, we will have a meeting to begin preparing our teenagers for a trip to Mexico in two weeks. The excitement this trip brings to our teens (and adults going as well) is palpable and the logistics of running a trip of 100 people camping out in Mexico for 4 nights (and having to feed & lodge them) gets the adrenaline going. Around lunchtime today I'll be pumped.

Tonight, the students I discipled for the better part of 4 years will each have five minutes to address our entire student ministry. To try to explain all the emotions going through my head seems silly to attempt, but suffice to say it's one of the best and worst nights I can personally experience. Around dinnertime tonight I'll be exhausted emotionally from the ups and downs.

At least I know what I'm in for in both cases...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Batchin' It

Tracy was working until 9PM.
Shelby had a sleepover with friends.
Kelsey was on a field trip with school and wouldn't return until 11PM.

I was a bachelor, in effect...and I found that after almost 17 years of marriage, I don't think I'm very good at it. You tell me:

6PM, right after work, grocery store run. Cheap steaks on special was my choice.
At home, unloaded other groceries, flipped through the mail, listened to answering machine messages, changed clothes.
Grilled petite sirloins and made scrambled eggs to go with them.
Watched the Rangers baseball game in my hammock, flipping channels periodically to check on the Mavericks playoff game.

(Tracy came home in the 7th inning but she had some work to do here after putting up her cameras and stuff, so she let my simulated bachelorhood continue until the Mavs game ended and then I picked up Kelsey upon her return to the school--a temporary lull in the bachelorhood)

Back to the hammock, family in bed, bachelorhood resumes...we have a portable TV with DVD player in it.
Watched part of Animal House on DVD. Skipped to all the funny parts.
Decided to watch Garden State on DVD, fell asleep about 5 minutes in, woke up at 2AM and went to bed.

I dunno. I don't think I'm very good on my own.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

The public school sessions in our community are grinding to a halt. The mid-August starts are yielding to the late May stopping point.

And our little community is responding in kind.

Season-ending tournaments are happening for sports. Yearbooks are now out. Proms are over. Recitals for dance are on the horizon. Students are driving with their windows down and the appropriately full-volume music tends to be more celebratory (apparently Funk is back, baby, if our teens are any indication). Splashes are heard in neighborhood pools. Finals notices are posted on the school signs.

And my little house is responding in kind.

The last checks have been written to the school lunchroom. Field trips are aplenty. Tales of movies in class abound. Tracy's senior photo sessions have ceased...and weddings are ramping up a bit. Softball has one day left. Dance rehearsal is getting intense. Bed times are getting lax. Music is a little more full-volume (although Funk hasn't hit my house yet...it's still a steady diet of Thousand Foot Krutch, Switchfoot and, oddly, Jo Dee Messina). Finals notices are being pretty much ignored. We're coasting.

I need a new grill, but other than that, I'm feelin' it. It's official. I'm mentally ready for summer...which coincides nicely with a Texas summer-like high today of 95, and, our very first official Ozone Alert Day (orange), which I will resoundly ignore by doing yardwork when I get home since it stays daylight til 8:30.

Bring it on.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Daily Scribbles

I keep a small notepad close at hand most of the time and write down little observations and nothing really exciting happened yesterday, but I made a few notations. Here are some:

"I have no idea what a Sith is, or why one might need/want revenge. Many others know both those things, and I don't feel bad that I don't."

"Television weathermen use generalities and scenarios much like the people who write horoscopes."

"My girls came home with a turtle they found in a nearby creek. That stupid SNL song about 'Christmas Time Is Here' popped into my head, except I replaced the first word with 'summer time.'" (that skit is really funny, with Chris Kattan, Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon and Tracy Morgan, dancing, in Christmas sweaters, playing a simple song on the guitar and keyboard singing simple words that sound like they mean something but don't mean anything...but they rhyme...I'm laughing just thinking about it)

"Working for a church is really cool when a large volunteer group has an appreciation dinner catered and we get good restaurant leftovers for free for lunch."

"Ultimate Frisbee is a great game for 'guy-bonding.'"

"The issues really boil down to one solution: Your walk with Christ. Everything after that is workable."

"Yearly reviews on church staff are generally pleasant because people care about me and my personal/professional growth. I don't think I could take them if it were only money at stake."

"Accepting personal responsibility sounds easy, but can be painful and difficult. When I bring it up, I can see people tune out."

"Baseball 'day-games' goof up my evening plans."

"I should prioritizeJohn Cook's latest gallery show on Saturday." (John invited our staff to his latest showing/opening...if you hit the link, click on "events" and scroll down to "John Cook." You won't regret it.)

"If it's true that music soothes the savage beast, the converse is also true = punk rock."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fair Warning

I've been reading Francis Schaeffer again.
I've watched two documentaries on The Ramones, The Clash and The Sex Pistols in the last three days.
I've flipped through Kurt Cobain's journals (which still cause me distress when I do it because I feel like I shouldn't be reading someone's journals).
I've parused Johnny Rotten's autobiography and Bob Geldof's story.
I've glanced over some words of Thomas Jefferson.
I've been on a steady diet of The Simpsons.
I've been reading some magazine articles and two books on what's the matter with the church in America.

So, stealing a page from the government's meaningless warning system...

Brent's "Had Enough Of Mediocrity In Himself And In Others" Alert Level: Orange.

Just letting you know.
Hey Everybody! It's Tina Fey's 35th Birthday Today...

...so let's all celebrate by being being paradoxically "nerd-cool" in horn rimmed glasses, blurting out biting satire on current events, and making people laugh out loud on Saturday nights doing sketch comedy because intelligent-funny still works.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What recovery "looks" like...

I was very sluglike on my day off yesterday...it was an abnormally busy day.

The most "productive" thing I did all day was go to coffee with my daughters. That time has become something I look forward to every Monday. Sometimes I get serious conversation and sometimes we just chat about what's going on, and yesterday was more of a generic check-in.

I came home and touched base with Tracy but she had a ton going on with her quaint little photography business. Side note: Anyone who buys into the myth that starting your own business gives you the right to be your own boss hasn't noticed that your customers are your boss and serving them with excellence can be very demanding. There are devils in details...and my wife is diligent, so she's a pretty busy girl. It worked yesterday because I really needed some time alone.

I hit the hammock, read the paper, came inside and checked blogs, read a few magazines (Moby interview in Relevant this month was very cool...it was on why he likes Christ and dislikes the church--good reading).

And then I took a nap. If you can call a 4-hour hard sleep "napping." It was more like a mini-coma.

Forced myself up to be there when the girls got home from school and goofed around with them some.

We ordered pizza as by dinner time everybody was tired...and then I killed a couple of hours watching the series finale of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and during commercials, checked the Rangers game.

I then hit the hammock, read The Great Evangelical Disaster by Francis Schaeffer--which I'm not sure is such a good read for someone with my punk rock sensibilities. A book that touts phrases such as "Truth demands confrontation. Loving confrontation to be sure, but confrontation nonetheless." (which I think I might make t-shirts with that on it) continually really only throws gasoline on my fire.

Then I went to bed...and I'm back to snuff. If I get 7 hours of sleep, I can guarantee you that my synapses will be firing on all cylinders.


Monday, May 16, 2005

And...Exhaustion Sets In

After the busy weekend of weddings, a graduation ceremony, yard work, prom kids over, dealing blackjack until 4AM, listening to Fiver play a set (one of my students' band), a full day of work (including a meeting in which we have to deal with taking 100 people to camp out for a week for a mission trip--the largest in our church's history), a college graduation party and then in a surprising twist, I got highly emotional at the end of the final teaching of this year's graduating seniors Sunday School class (I NEVER break down in front of my class and very nearly did last night)...

...today, if you need me, well, don't bother. I'll be in my hammock ignoring you. Please don't take that personally.
Flower Mound High School Prom

This year, since our student ministry has so many students that primarily attend two different high schools, their proms are two weeks apart. So, we started having both groups come over, and here are the girls who attended the FMHS prom this year... Posted by Hello

Here are the guys! Posted by Hello

Finally, here's the entire group...except for the ones that ran late (you'd better get it together next year, punks!) Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Wedding #2

I got to the church to discover the bride and groom will have a great wedding day story to tell their friends...turns out that the groom's ride to the church had his car towed and impounded hours before the wedding. Rings were in the luggage in the back, as was the marriage license.

Our functional rectangle of a church has never been more elaborately decorated, and everyone was pleasantly surprised at how pretty it was for the occasion.

No one was surprised at how pretty Lori was for the occasion.

No one was surprised at how low-key Jeremy was for the occasion. He's laid back anyway, but the reality that he was smack in the middle of God's will gave him even more peace than he's usually got.

The string quartet had this annoying habit of finishing every musical piece they started...not breaking off the song say, when the bride and her dad got to the end of the aisle...they just finished it for an annoying 30 more seconds. I wondered if maybe there were more people coming down the aisle I didn't know about. They also failed to stop playing at the recessional...which the wedding coordinator finally sent an usher down the aisle to tell me to just talk over them. It was a cute moment, though. One I imagine they'll laugh at for years on the wedding video.

We had to use replacement rings during the ceremony, but the real ones showed up about five minutes after the wedding.

The reception was somewhat raucous. Lots of dancing and eating and fun was had. Our church family does that well, and this was a case where many in the church had watched these two grow up so it really was the close part of the family, too. It was the first time I've ever heard "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy" played in our church...and I thought it was hysterically funny.

The brother of the bride gave a great toast to his sister.

And it was an honor and a priviledge and a joy to be a part of it.

Jeremy and Lori, may the way your life together started be an indication of how much joy you have during the the whole thing.

*raises champagne flute to toast the couple, "hear, hear!"*

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Wedding #1

I got to sit next to Becca even though I was a bit late...or maybe because I was a bit late. I wasn't the only one, late, either. They held up the wedding 15 minutes as people were still trying to find parking spaces at the small country chapel.

When Amanda walked in, she tried to stop smiling. She failed.
When Grant saw her, he tried to stop crying. He failed.

Their ceremony glorified Christ...it was everything a ceremony should be, too. Short, but not too short. Meaningful, but not too "forced." It was beautiful, but not ostentatious. Formal, but not stuffy. There was mention of holding True Love Waits vows. There was spontaneous applause. There was spontaneous laughter. They played the theme from Indiana Jones as their recessional music.

Then we enjoyed the reception...whichSteve-O, stealing a line from the ceremony, kept referring to as "the covenant meal." We had "covenant punch," "covenant cheese," "covenant pasta," etc. The reception was actually VERY fun. College kids'll do that. Actual dancing, cheering, clapping, conga lines...good DJ, good time, even with the overly sappy and trying-too-hard toasts.

Then the bride and groom snuck out, which I found fitting.

Sometimes, the perfect wedding day for a great couple actually falls into place. It was what I'd like my daughter's weddings to be: Mostly friends of the bride and groom, some very close friends of the parents, and a meaningful ceremony.

Congratulations, Grant and Amanda. If your marriage is anything like your wedding & reception, it'll be a joyful celebration. May it be so.

*toasting, with champagne flute, "Hear, hear."*

Friday, May 13, 2005

No Time To Say Hello (Goodbye!), I'm Late I'm Late I'm Late!

I have no time to breathe this weekend:

Today, I have two meetings, not to mention a full plate at work. If there are any crisis calls today, I'm in big trouble.
Wedding rehearsal 6PM tonight.
Wedding of a former teen I've known for 10 years and his beautiful bride I actually prayed for before she got saved and watched her grow into a devoted follower of Christ.

Tomorrow, yard work needs to get done as the kids from the other local high school will be dropping by at 4:45PM.
Then the wedding of two other teens I've known for 10 years and actively discipled them both.
Followed by dealing blackjack at the other local high school's post-prom "casino night" in which me and several youth pastors will deal the cards from midnight to 6AM Sunday.

Sunday, I've got a 10:45AM meeting to get ready for Mexico, a noon meeting with my seniors for lunch, another former teen is graduating college and I can drop by his place for a nice celebration, 5PM class, 6:30PM class...and then I'm done.

So, I'd better get on with it, eh? No time to waste...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Reason I Love Youth Ministry, #26,793

Last night was my last "official" Bible study with this year's group of seniors. Sure, next week we'll play ultimate frisbee with all the guys, but it was our last time in the Word together. They seemed to have learned a lot over the year about God and themselves, too, which was cool to hear them talk about.

So, there I sit, having been PAID to study the Word all year to teach them, being PAID to be there (stuff I'd be doing anyway if I had a "real job")...

...when in reality I probably learned more from the process of teaching them...
...and they definitely taught me more than I actually gave back to them...

and there they are: Matt, Danny, Miles, Craig, Russ, Nurge, Sean, Brad, Andy and Chad...

...and during our "final" prayer time they thank God for me and tell Him how thankful they are for me.

You've *got* to be kidding me. How did it pan out that *this* is what I actually DO for a living?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Interview of Me, Part 3: The Rants

What do I wish I had known in high school that I know now?

That a walk with Christ is not a list of rules and regulations but rather a genuine relationship…and the specifics that would help me make that happen. The people around me were well meaning and well intentioned, but they inadvertently gave me the short shrift on that reality. I felt like a light bulb went off three years later and I went through a lot of feelings of inadequacy and failure that I didn’t have to had I known what I know now about true spirituality. I use the last two words with extreme measure.

If I could change one thing in my life’s history, what would it be?

I’d have married Tracy and then come back to seminary immediately instead of using our hometown as a “default location” and find jobs and get settled. Why we didn’t begin our life together in Dallas remains a mystery to both of us, but at the time it seemed like we should get jobs and become grown ups. Don’t get me wrong, I valued the time I had with my first ministry but I think I’d have been a better husband, student and, eventually, minister, if we’d just moved out here and been on our own. There’s something weird about the South that makes you feel as if your hometown is where you should stay.

What trait of my daughters do I wish I had?

Kelsey’s artistic abilities. Shelby’s compassion for people. They’re both smarter than I am, too, so I wish I had their intelligence.

What is the easiest/most difficult/surprising part of parenthood?

Easiest: falling in love with your children. It was instantaneous, from the moment Tracy told me she was pregnant with both I was “in.”

The most difficult is letting them make mistakes and get hurt and know you could stop it or fix it but it’s for the best to let it happen and let them learn.

The most surprising is what incredible individuals they both are…I’d like to hang out with both of them even if they weren’t my kids and they’re truly some of the most inspiring and creative individuals I know. I can’t believe they live in my house and have a genetic link to me.

If I were given a week to spend in a city/country, where would it be?

That would depend on the purpose I was going.

If I were looking to be inspired to write, New York City, USA. Not a question there.

If I were looking to spend the time with my wife only, really, it’d be Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama...or perhaps some other beach destination, but that’s the best ones I’ve ever been to. The beach would be her favorite vacation spot, and that woman deserves better than I give her on the vacation end of things.

If I were looking to go with my family, the best time we ever had together was at Disney World. I could do Disney repeatedly with little loss of enthusiasm. Where else do they tell you to go home and go to bed with fireworks and a parade?

What about suburbia makes me want to scream?

There is a book in this question somewhere, so I’ll have to go with the condensed version (as a shorter question to answer would be “what DOESN’T make me want to scream?”)

For starters: Homogeneity is definitely a big player. It’s even reflected in our architecture (five floor plans in one subdivision). The vanilla mind-set that honors mediocrity rather than innovation. The cookie-cutter reality that some vague notion of success is more valuable than creativity. Another big player would be that the suburbs foster a “competition mentality” that is really based in the concept that we love ourselves. The idea that a quality education is a panacea for anything. The lack of public transportation. The non-thinking Republican leanings (which is distinctly different than the thinking Republican leanings, mind you) of the populace. There’s such a resistance to public transportation to the degree that it lost an election with 85% against. The mere fact that “covenant communities” exist scares me. It all really falls into some huge category of self-sufficiency when I think about it…life without God and trusting your own abilities. Do you need more or is that enough?

What about Christians makes me want to disassociate?

Nothing. We have our problems as a tribe and our family is self-centered and silly at times, but it’s strange that no matter how stupid or inane or irrelevant or naïve or hypocritical or stubborn we can be (or are and there’s another book in listing those observances), I still love the Body of Christ and wouldn’t have it any other way. I might can pick on my family, but if you aren’t in my family, you better not pick on my family.

What encourages me most?

I’m guessing that is supposed to be taken in a spiritual sense…and that is watching the light bulb go off in a teenager’s brain. It’s almost magical that I can see it and know what’s about to happen in a teen’s life. It’s what keeps me in this business, and frankly, it happens enough that I’m a pretty encouraged person most of the time. All it takes to change my mood is for a teen to say, “You know, I was thinking about that, and here’s how I see God at work there…” and I’m pretty much jacked for the entire day.

What’s the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make & why?

To leave a ministry that there was nothing wrong with realizing that it didn’t seem logical in any way to do it. Tracy and I left YFC in Birmingham when it was doing fabulously well in almost every aspect (if you don’t count the organization’s finances, but that’s an entirely different story) to come to Dallas to go to seminary. It was hard because we grew up with those teenagers and they grew up with us and we loved them dearly…still do, truth be known. Those times, in retrospect, were unbelievably special. And to walk away was very confusing for those teens…and us.

If I had a son, what top 3 things would I want to do with him that I couldn’t do with daughters?

I’ve been blessed with daughters who like spending time with dad no matter what reason, so I really can’t think of anything I’d do with a son that I couldn’t do with daughters. The top three things I’d share with him would be to follow love your God, love your neighbor, and after that, be a life-long learner, knowing that you aren’t fully mature. Frankly, I’m glad I didn’t have sons. Daughters are the BEST.
Interview of Me, Part 2: Answering A Few Short Ones

Answering the more simple questions from the interview of two days ago:

1. Who first called me “Opie?” It was some guy in the fraternity named Rob who roomed with Jep. It was during pledging, and he just started calling me that. I’ve never been called that before or since.

2. What nicknames have I been called by more than 10 people? The guys in high school called me “B.M.” because my initials also are shared with the nursing term for a bodily function. Greg Smith, my best friend from childhood called me “Roy” for a time but no one got on that bandwagon with him. When I was little, some friends of my dad called me “Little Ed” because of my mannerisms, which mirrored his. I’ve never really had one that stuck other than “Opie,” and that one stuck with a vengeance to the degree that most people in college rarely knew my real name.

3. “Not that you'd count, but give me your scorecard on ministry, estimate if necessary...number of salvations, number of lives turned around, number of students who are now in ministry, other numbers you might think are important in your ministry.”

I truly don’t keep up with those kinds of things…if I did it would keep me from viewing people as people instead of statistics. I have GREAT stories about life turnarounds and the grace of God in people’s lives and would never reduce those to a mere number. Ever. Under any circumstances. I also don’t give out the data on my student ministry attendance because it ultimately leads to either covetousness or pride, depending on the point of view of the hearer. What’s funny is that most of my students wouldn’t have any idea, either. I truly don’t mean to be condescending on this, but it’s not something I can philosophically answer. Sorry about that, Hollywood.

4. In the last calendar year, I have worn a full-blown suit 4 times. Performing of a wedding ceremony three times, and as a lark when I gave a sermon last year.

5. The worst three jobs I’ve ever had? I’ve only had three jobs. Seriously. I worked at a country club (with frequent blog commenter Hal—a.k.a. “Howell”) on the course maintenance crew, a movie theatre and then youth ministry. I guess I babysat the neighbor kids and did lawn stuff, too…and I did drive cars for a car dealership to get my wife’s engagement ring, but pretty much I’ve only had three jobs. The worst was was at the country club, but it was also the one I have the fondest memories and the biggest laughs because it was with all my friends. (“Brett, you and Howell take Timmy and this man right here and weed-eat the creek,” our boss once said, butchering all our names in one sentence, while urinating outdoors FACING US—in high school I don’t know if there could be more laughs after the fact.)

6. My favorite genre of movies: Comedy, the sillier the better. When I watch movies I don’t want to think, I want to escape.

7. What’s my favorite kind of cereal? Lucky Charms, by far and away.

8. My hatred of cats and country music were both instantaneous with my exposure to both, although I’ve become okay with Johnny Cash lately. My loathing of felines has only increased exponentially with each passing minute.

9. If I could be any animated character in a movie, it’d be Bob Parr (a.k.a. “Mr. Incredible). He loves his family, understands his role/place in the world, and submits to authority except when the overriding purpose of good over evil is at stake. He has great friends and great memories. Definitely Bob Parr.

10. If I hadn’t become a youth pastor, I imagine that I’d be a senior English teacher at a high school, maybe coaching baseball. I didn’t prepare for that in undergraduate work by getting an educational degree, but that’s probably where it was headed if I didn’t have a laser focus on youth ministry my junior year in college (a believe it was 5 major changes at that point, so another wouldn’t have hurt).

11. Laura: No, no one has been called statuesque since you graduated. I didn’t call YOU statuesque until someone ELSE called you statuesque back when you were dating S.K.

12. The single most important advice I would tell a guy about a girl actually contains three parts: It would be to honor/respect them, be a continual student of them, and to act with wisdom on the results you find as a continual student of them.

13. What scared me at 4? I have no real memory of four so I can’t say. I do know that I had a nightmare once that terrified me when I was a kid, though…it involved handguns and snakes. I still fear both of those. At 14, it was definitely that my mom would die, too. My dad died the year before and I remember really being scared on the “what if” game regarding my mom. I really feared that. Now it would be similar: The worst thing I could imagine happening would be something happening to my wife and/or kids.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Interview of Me, Part 1

Okay, so I opened up the floor for an interview of me (not that I think I'm really all that interesting, but because it's spring and I'm running low on blog topics--you should know that if I have a blog about revenue sharing in Major League Baseball) in the comments of yesterday's blog, and I promise I'll get to them all and yes, you can still ask questions...

The first one was regarding how I proposed to my wife, Tracy...to which my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly responded and had the major parts of the story generally correct. However, some background needs to be given and some details are necessary as well. Here we go.

I had graduated Auburn in the summer of 1987 and Tracy still had to finish her entire senior year. My mom had some sort of trust fund I was going to school on (due to my father's life insurance and such) and since my sister wouldn't start college for two more years, my mom said I could go ahead a knock out a year of seminary and she could afford it.

So...I head off to Dallas Theological Seminary. Tracy stays in Auburn. We had known each other for nearly four years, and dated seriously for about 7 months or so at that time when I left in August of 87.

We write letters for a couple of months since I only had a dorm floor phone we were supposed to use for only 5 minutes at a time...except late at night. There were huge late-night phone bills and such. In fact, her dad purchased her a plane ticket to come visit in October...joking (but not really) that a plane ticket cost him as much as his phone bill.

So, Tracy flies out. When I see her at the airport the first thought in my brain was, "You have to marry HER." The weekend visit was spent discussing that very thing. What it would be like to be married and in ministry. It was all very intellectual and well-meaning...but we were discussing how to swim without getting in the water. We were talking about what we didn't know about. We left off with the idea we'd probably get engaged around February and then married the following summer.

When she left that weekend I was convinced I should marry her. So, I got this job on Mondays driving cars from one dealership to another and making about $115 bucks once a week doing that.

Later that month there was a stock market dip of some significance...enough that my mom told me that there would be no more money and that I was officially cut off and would have to come home from seminary. This was actually a good thing because seminary and I were butting heads on several issues of behavior that I found inconsistent with what their doctrines were...ahhhh, youth.

The bottom line is that I was going to have to come home from seminary and get some sort of job at the end of the semester. So, here I am, a completely broke and unemployed seminary drop out/cast off, in love, wanting to get married. Well, I wasn't entirely broke...I had saved up about $1,000 to buy a ring.

I didn't want to spend the money without her parent's blessing, which I got (they made it really easy on me, not asking one single thing about jobs and seminary cast-off, etc.)...so I headed off to a prominent Birmingham discount jewelry place called Golbro. I could afford a really good half-carat diamond or a not-so-good three-quarter carat one. The salesman said he could mount the half-carat one high in the setting so it would LOOK like the three-quarter carat one. I bought the salesman's crap, and I bought the ring, for $895 plus tax. I bought myself some sneakers, a tank of gas and some cassette tapes with the remainder. Now I was truly broke.

The next step was the actual asking. Tracy had come home from college and having the engagement ring was like having a loaded gun around the house...I never knew when it was going off, but I told EVERYONE about it. Tracy's entire family knew, and most of her friends (her roommate had even tried the ring on, for crying out loud!) did, too. I don't remember if I told my friends or not, but my mom had prepared my family that Brent would be bringing his fiance to Christmas Eve with them.

So, I had a few days to come up with something cool.

Which I didn't. I just hung out with Tracy, which is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life anyway. The "moment" just didn't seem that important. About the time it did, it was the 23rd of December and all the things I could come up with involved my friends helping out, and none of which could scrape up the time to help out since they had their own family Christmas Eve things going. A couple of good ideas went untested and untried.

Apparently I wasn't very worried because Tracy was coming over to help my mom make deviled eggs and I still had ZERO plan. The night before I did purchase a HORRIBLE sweater, the kind you'd buy on December 23rd at 9PM on a "clearance" table in a department store...thinking I might could use that somehow. It was read and blue and set me back 8 bucks or something like that.

Pretty much by default at that point, I decided Tracy and I would just exchange gifts alone in my room, of all places (which, being a guy, I didn't bother to clean up and it had this "living out of a suitcase" look I had been working on for about two weeks). So, we head up there, and for some reason, my television was on MTV and I never turned it off. Weird.

She gives me a plethora of great gifts (her parents had let her spend a bit more than they had planned, knowing I had gotten her a ring and stuff). I remember a nice watch, which I have no idea what happened to, and a very cool 1980's Kevin Bacon kind of topcoat...which I have never stopped wearing. I love that coat and wore it through the "out of fashion" phase, but now, apparently, it's retro cool among my teenagers. I just like the coat, so I wear it. I'm nothing if not pragmatic.

Speaking of pragmatic, the story continues...

She opens the horrible sweater and tells me how much she likes it, especially knowing that I'm broke (she's nothing if not sweet...but passive/aggressive. she liked the sweater...given the reality I'm broke and gave it my best shot...which means she hates the sweater). But she lied sweetly.

I told her that I did have something else, reached into my bedside table drawer, pulled out a box...and took the ring out. She couldn't see it yet.

More background: I used to do this stupid thing where I would pull quarters out from behind her ears like an grandfather would do to his grandkids...whenever I needed change on dates, say at the movie, I'd just put the $8.00 on the counter...act like I was looking for change, and then pull two quarters out from behind her ears. Keep in mind I have never practiced this in any magical or slight-of-hand sense...it was obviously a horrible maneuver. It got laughs from everybody else around ("Oh, how cyuuute!") and eye rolls from her ("It's not FUNNEEEE anymore.").

So, I took the ring out from behind her ear: "Hmmmmm. What's THIS?" Got down on one knee, and asked her for the honor of being my wife. There's some debate as to exactly when she said "yes" but she said it somewhere amid the hugs and such.

Oddly enough, the popular song "I Got My Mind Set On You" by Paul McCartney was playing on MTV at the time...and since everybody knew, Tracy finally had to call her sorority sister in Florida to find someone who hadn't already heard. Amazingly, everyone kept it from her.

Which gives me the chance to answer another question: If you could change one thing in your life's history, what would it be?

The entire process of engagement and getting married. I would've done something more romantic for her at that time, and saved for a better ring. I would've spent less on the wedding and taken a honeymoon instead of doing lots of stuff on the "cheap." I would've done a better job of being a fiance instead of bitching about the process. I would've spent more of that time in life being more focused on her and our life together. We got off to a naive start, and I've learned you can't go back an undo that time in life...we got off to a pragmatic start and didn't take the time to enjoy that time and be sappy and romantic. Except for the girl, I think I just might change a LOT of those decisions in starting life together.

More tomorrow...

Monday, May 09, 2005


Not trying to be presumptuous that my life is really all that interesting, but there are a lot of people who check my blog daily and comment frequently and such...and since my desire for this is to create "community" by allowing myself to know or be known, I thought this might be an interesting way to do that:

Allow myself to be "interviewed" by the readers.

So, simply hit comment, and ask your interview questions...and I'll compile them and respond in kind over the next few days.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day

I remember...

My mom...
...taking me to the emergency room when I split my chin open on the kitchen counter when I was 7.
...making a decision to stop life-support, and then to have to tell her 13-year-old son that his father would die the next day.
...not making a big deal out of it when she found the copy of Playboy I snuck into my room when I was 14.
...putting Ozzy Ozbourne records in (well, near) my Christmas stocking, ignoring the upside down crosses on the cover and the obvious irony that gift celebrating that holiday.
...buying me a really cool car when I was 16.
...being a good sport in coming to my fraternity house for Parent's Weekend even though she was the only single mom in the deal.
...paying for college even though it didn't take her long to realize that my "experiences" would be more valuable than any financial renumeration based on that investment.
...letting me make my own choices and at least telling me she was behind me %100.

My mother-in-law...
...telling me that she thought "that would be just fine" when I was asking for her blessing to marry her oldest daughter.
...buying my future father-in-law a basketball goal as a Christmas gift the next day.
...never saying a word about her son-in-law's career choices, even though she had every right to question them.
...making me spaghetti and cherry cheesecake for my birthday.
...sending me the copies of the Birmingham News for Auburn football coverage before there was an Internet after I moved to Dallas to go to seminary.
...buying me Auburn stuff knowing that I really want it and not because it's all she can think of to get me.
...cooking the best meals at holidays.
...falling asleep during almost every movie we've ever watched as a family.
...crying in the driveway, saying goodbyes, as her son-in-law took her daughter, 3 year old, and 11 month old granddaughters off to Dallas, and still supporting that decision.
...going above and beyond the call in grandmothering. She's very good at that.

My wife...
...looking truly radiant at 8-months pregnant, truly defining beautiful. Those images are seared into my brain.
...handling a difficult 18-hour labor better than I did.
...for actually enjoying the second, much shorter, more normal labor & delivery.
...taking to the "mom" thing like a duck to water. She was built for it.
...having a mother's intuition that is so dead-on that now I don't even question it.
...letting me go after a job interview in North Carolina less than 12 hours after Shelby was born, knowing that plenty of family help was around and that if her husband didn't get into a church youth ministry soon life would be miserable for a while.
...finding that difficult balance between encouraging her daughter's ballet habit and being a stereotypically asinine "stage mom."
...being supportive of her other daughter's baseball habit and sports passions even though they don't come naturally to her.
...for starting her own business and becoming successful with it while at the same time not missing a beat on being a mother.

So, happy Mother's Day to the moms in my life and for being so good at that area of your lives!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A $200 Million Disappointment

Basically, major league baseball is unbalanced.

A simple explanation is that there's one thing separating this league from other sports leagues is that "local" television revenues aren't divided equally among all the teams. So, for example, after the teams equally divide the money from FOX and ESPN, the local Texas Rangers can keep all the money from television revenues that local channel 27 (or FOX Sports Southwest) pays them to broadcast every game.

But the reality is that say, the Los Angeles Dodgers can keep all the money made from the revenue-rich LA area, and the Cleveland Indians get to keep the money from the Cleveland area. You can imagine the disparity.

Well, the New York Yankees make the most out of everyone...and since there isn't a limit on the amount of money a team can spend on salaries (well, there's a fee if you spend over $110 million, but few teams do that) the New York Yankees can simply purchase the very best players, and overpay them so no other teams can afford those players...hence their 27 World Series Championships.

The local Rangers payroll, if I'm not mistaken, is somewhere in the $75 million range. The Yankees, in the same league, is around $205 million.

It's unfair...but that's life, right. Life isn't fair.

Which is precisely why I can't express to you the joy of seeing the highest-paid team in baseball mired in LAST PLACE with 11 wins and 19 losses...and in a current state of disarray, about to implode.

I mean, I'm absolutely loving it.

And I don't feel remotely guilty, either. A Saturday parusing of the box scores and seeing the Yanks tied with the Devil Rays is a great way to start the weekend.

(P.S. Open message to the Yankees: Those of us here in Texas were used to Alex Rodriquez and his gaudy statistics being padded with meaningless home runs when the team was too far ahead/behind...and the virus he was bringing here putting our team in last place three years in a row. Let's see, he leaves here, our team goes from last to 2nd in our division, and you go from one game from the World Series to being tied with the freaking DEVIL RAYS! Coincidence? I think not.)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Hammock Revelations To Loathsome Little Replicas

Some of you may not be aware of the reality that my wife and children, in a bizarre "Christmas/Father's Day/Birthday/Valentine's Day/Anniversary 2004-2005" gift combination, gave me a hammock. I have discovered that this is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

What I mean is that it's become an escape for me. Away from noise and people (except invited guests, and then only family members and beyond that only one at a time--unless you count Lloyd the dog, making maximum occupancy 3) to the degree that you can get away from noise in the Burbs. There are planes heading to DFW and every now and again the back-door neighbor yells at his kids and dogs bark, but it's relatively quiet.

And I need escapes a great deal because I'm in the "people business." Recalibration is a much needed thing. The only way that my hammock experience could be better would be to follow it up with a "gazebo hot-tub" experience, but I'd imagine such a purchase would ensure that I didn't get to open another actual present until sometime around 2014.

At any rate, last night my youngest daughter was the hammock guest. We've been reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis out loud together lately and since the weather was nice, we read in the hammock.

Sometimes God reveals Himself to me in stark ways. Here's how He did it last night, through the words of demon-leader Screwtape to his apprentice nephew Wormwood:

"One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propoganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself--creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in; He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself; the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct."

Brilliant. God spoke to us. That's my take on it, anyway.

And two "loathsome little replicas" hanging out in a hammock spending 10 minutes talking about our lives and how they are "qualitatively like His own" might be the most effective ministry I was a part of all day. And I'm quite sure that the ministry from "the Enemy" to me was much needed and appreciated.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Stuff I Observed Yesterday

I think it's pretty cool that I can sit in the purple chairs at Starbucks and firmly believe that the teenager sitting across from me is supremely talented. I used the word "supremely" measuredly.

That somedays the reality that you get paid to study God's Word makes me feel as if I've pulled one over on society.

People who serve passionately using their gifts and talents need to be adequately supported and encouraged or they get justifiably frustrated.

My senior pastor might be the most gifted teacher I've ever known.

Emotions always follow thoughts...and that most of Christianity gets that backwards to their detriment. While emotions aren't bad, they need to be evaluated in light of Truth.

That game where you add "in bed" to the end of fortune cookie statements is still funny to me...and apparently to other grown ups who've never heard of it.

Having the Internet in the office is a great way to keep up with an afternoon baseball game play-by-play. The pace of the game allows for work to get done and you can get an update every minute.

My staff is not only good at what they do, they're fun to work with.

Wedding planning takes almost all the fun out of the engagement period...especially once the bride and groom (or the parents) try to get their own way without really considering others in the process.

The junior/senior guys/girls get together (which can get dicey because they can ask questions in an open forum to the opposite sex) we have every year is eye-opening in the best possible ways. My reality is that I see more authentic growing spirituality in my teenagers than I do with adults in our congregation...these people challenge me and encourage me more than I can tell them. Their honesty is refreshing and their desire to serve each other is staggering. They rock my whole face off.

My wife's interaction with people in her photography business is a fantastic study of human nature. I'd imagine any retail business is, but my wife is a very clear thinker and reader of people, and she tells me stories that reveal a lot about how real people get when money is involved.

I feel guilty laughing at South Park after a long day, and that is a proper emotion once evaluated in light of Truth.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Musings of Anne Lamott

One of my favorite writers on the spiritual life is author Anne Lamott. It isn't that she's theological or deep, but refreshingly disarmingly honest about her trials and struggles (think of a female Donald Miller--with a more storied past). See, that's what happens when the average person in the pew (who happens to be a novelist who came to Christ late in life, and her testimony starts with the mother of all curse words). She wrote a book called Traveling Mercies, which is, in Christianese, her testimony.

Well, she wrote another book, entitled Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. I thought I'd let you in on some of her stuff:

"You've got to love this in a God--consistently assembling the motleyest people to bring, into the lonely and frightening world, a commitment to caring and community. It's a centuries-long reality show--Moses the stutterer, Rahab the hooker, David the adulterer, Mary the homeless teenager. Not to mention all the mealy-mouthed disciples. Not to mention a ragin insecure narcissist like me."

(on making her teenage son go to church with her)
"Then why do I make him go? Because I want him to. We live in bewildering, drastic times, and a little spiritual guidance never killed anyone. I think it's a fair compromise that every other week he has to come to the place that has been a tap for me: I want him to see the people who loved me when I felt most unlovable, who have loved him since I first told them I was pregnant, even though he might not want to be with them. I wnat him to see their faces. He get the most valuable things I know through osmosis. Also, he has no job, no car, no income. He needs to stay in my good graces...And there are wors things for kids than to have to spend time with people who love God. Teenagers who do not go to church are adored by God, but they don't get to meet some of the people who love God back. Learning to love back is the hardest part of being alive."

(a graduation speech)
"I bet I'm beginning to make some parents nervous--here I am, bragging of being a dropout, and unemployable, and about to make a pitch for you to follow your creative dreams, when what parents want is for their children to do well in their field, to make them look good, and maybe also to assemble a tasteful fortune.

But that is not your problem. Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to live it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it, and find out the truth about who you are."

(on speaking at San Quentin maximum security prison)
"I was glad to be there for a number of reasons. First of all, because Jesus said that whatever you did to the least of his people, you did to him, and the lifers in penitentiaries are the leastest people in this country...He also promised that God forgives the unlovable and the unforgivable, which means most of us--the lifers, me, maybe you...Jesus made a point of befriending the worst and most hated, because his message was that no one was beyond the reach of divine love, despite society's way of stating the opposite. God: what a nut."

Anne Lamott, even though you'll never read this, your transparency and honesty has encouraged me in my walk with Christ. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Parent's Meeting

Last night there was a meeting at the local middle school. It was for the parents of the incoming 5th graders to get acquainted with the school and the way things operate.

I'm a big fan of the principal as my oldest daughter already attends the school, and the best thing about the meeting was hearing his passion and love for middle schoolers. He's an administrator, and generally, I'm leery of such types. But I guess all I was looking to hear at this meeting was what might be different than when my oldest went through the same process, I was honing in on his love for his work. It came across, and, if nothing else, made the meeting worthwhile in my opinion.

What ruined the experience for me was the parents.

Their cell phones went off several times. When will people learn they have a silent/vibrate function and you can walk out and take the call...or better yet, turn it off and return the call an hour later. The room wasn't full of brain surgeons checking up on patients, I can assure you since I heard several of the conversations. I have another suggestion for cell phones, but that might require surgery by a proctologist.

Anyway, some parents would ask a question and then talk to their neighbors instead of listening to the answer. Yes, some questions were asked twice.

The tone of the questions was scary, too. It was all "advanced placement" oriented or test score oriented...as it every stinkin' sixth grader in the world was destined for M.I.T. and if the events of 6th grade would have a large impact on that reality. Open note to parents: Stop making icons of your children. They've been entrusted to your care for a quarter century. They're blessings from God. They've got a specific "way" they're supposed to go, designed by the Creator of the Universe. But that's true of all of them. Yours isn't the most special and neither is mine. Stop worshipping them and start praying for them...and then trust God to work in their lives. Stop trying to help them manipulate systems to achieve some vague (and usually incorrect) perception of success. To use a quote I never get tired of: "...a well-worn path to successful mediocrity."

I could go on and on but my heart rate is up already...

Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Strange News

Flipping through the Dallas Morning News this morning:

Okay, this big wedding is planned in Georgia somewhere. 14 attendants and 600 people or something like that. The bride gets "cold feet" and then apparently hits Vegas and winds up in New Mexico concocting some story about a kidnapping and such. Hey Jennifer, next time, how about just communicating what's going on in your brain to your fiance so my tax dollars don't have to pay for your first-class flight back to Georgia, free F.B.I. hat and teddy bear they gave you.

Two teenagers went out on their sailboat despite the posted wind warnings for small craft. They couldn't control their craft and spent 6 days on the open water. I'm glad they're okay (a bit of dehydration and severe sunburn), but, fellas, again, a lot of government money was used looking for you both when you could've just stayed in the dock and played X-Box at home that afternoon.

So, this teenager gets arrested for breaking a noise ordinance in Louisiana...his kickin' and thumpin' stereo got him into trouble several times. He gets a ticket, but misses his court appearance. He gets pulled over again for kickin' and thumpin' and the warrant for missing his court date shows up and he spends the night in jail. The judge, brilliantly, gives him a court order to remove all non-factory installed radio parts from his pick-up truck. The kid said, "The sentence isn't going to stop me playing music. I love my music." Nobody said you had to stop playing your music, but I don't know if you know this, Calvin, but if you saw a cop or maybe were in a residential area you could just, ummm, I dunno, turn it down for a few seconds maybe?

The state legislator from Houston, Rep. Al Edwards, is sponsoring legislation that will cut state funding to schools that do not discipline cheerleaders, dance teams, or drama students for performances that were too sexually suggestive. Here are some real, live quotes from him:

"I've been at functions, and I've seen the girls dance provocatively--sexually oriented stuff. What they're doing is unacceptable, inappropriate and it's a distraction from learning, reading, writing and getting a good education." Funny, Mr. Edwards, but, I didn't know that a going to a pep rally, seeing a halftime show or attending a school play were places kids were "learning, reading, & writing." I thought those were more, say, EXTRA-curricular activities designed to give students a more well-rounded education experience.

One more I can't let go: "Our young folk are getting involved with sex very early in life. Our youth are getting infected with herpes, AIDS, they drop out of school, have babies, no education, no way to support themselves, and they take whatever mediocre job they can find. We've been to busy to take the time out to do what we need to do for our young people." Ummm. Mr. Edwards, I'm not sure if you've looked into your health education curriculum, but the last time I checked, cheerleading did not cause herpes, AIDS, truancy, and/or unwed motherhood. Officially, for the record, Mr. Edwards, you're WAY off base here, for a myriad of reasons.

Lesson for today, everybody: Please follow the Golden Rule. It'll save us all a lot of time, money, energy and hassle.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Five on the First

I started asking for five things on the first of the month, so here's today's question:

What are the five funniest t-shirts or bumper stickers you've seen (or somebody told you about, whatever) lately?

Mine are:

5) Bumper sticker. One with a gorilla on it, that said "Rules for the American Jungle" on it and it only had two rules: Play nice, and 'share your bananas.'

4) T-shirt: Stereotypes are a real time saver.

3) Bumper sticker. On a souped-up car that cut me off in traffic: "Drive it like you stole it."

2) T-shirt: I appreciate the Muppets on a much deeper level than you.

1) T-shirt: I'm in a promising local band.
Books I Read

Please bear with me...I'm keeping a record of all the books I read this calendar year, and so you'll have to enjoy my personal record keeping in this public space. Sorry about that!

Praise Habit, by Dave Crowder.
Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley.
So, You Want To Be Like Jesus?, by Charles Swindoll.
and The Next Generation Leader, by Andy Stanley.