Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Being from Alabama, I've seen plenty of hurricane coverage on the news. Mostly it's a bunch of weather reporters screaming into a microphone while being blown by the wind followed by video the next day showing debris everywhere. That's followed by news coverage of relief from the Red Cross and the National Guard.

Most of what I'd seen to date on television was looking a lot like that.

Until last night at around 9:30 (couldn't get to a TV all day because of work) when I sat down to get caught up on the news. The video of what's going on in New Orleans floored me.

The headline on a special section in the Dallas Morning News quotes the words of Lousiana's governor: "It's Just Heartbreaking."

I know words are cheap these days...we use hyperbole so often that the meanings of them get muddied.

But what I'm seeing on the news is just that. Heartbreaking.

Usually, I'm pretty distant from emotion when it comes to news stories. The recent tsunami, fires, earthquakes or mudslides you see periodically on the news really don't get me too worked up.

But the thought of an entire city 12 feet under water and watching people cling to life by sitting on a rooftop and waiting and knowing that people could die because they can't get their medicine or whatever, well...'s heartbreaking.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I still can't explain it

The outer bands of a major hurricane hits the state of Alabama. Lots of rain and winds. Vacation areas flooded, but largely, they dodged a bullet and have some comparatively minor clean ups to do.

News reports covered that in great detail...and mentioned that major roadways and airlines should be good to go for kickoffs at Tuscaloosa and Auburn on Saturday.

I try to tell all of you how passionate that place is about football, and it's simply a part of the culture there. No one thinks anything about that reality, and most people appreciate the information because they've got to travel to the game on Friday.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Proud Dad Alert

My daughter auditioned to be in a ballet company. She made it. Her good friends made it, too. Seeing her so happy makes me so happy.

She also had a disappointment this weekend, too. Some of those same friends auditioned and got called back for a particular part that my daughter didn't get called back for. She handled the setback gracefully and graciously.

I couldn't be prouder of her in both instances.
A Disturbing Harbinger

Colgate University...Ivy League. The best and brightest students, right?

At their parent orientation weekend they now have to make it a point to tell parents they've gotten out of hand. They call the university to straighten out residence hall disputes, grade issues with professors, dining hall problems, etc. It also has students calling their parents on cell phones immediately after tests to inform their parents how it went.

The message the university is sending to parents: "Back off. Let them grow up. Handling those out-of-classroom lessons on their own is part of growing up." They even have a name for the violators: Helicopter parents. They hover over their children by being hyper-involved.

I can tell you this: As a youth pastor, I see two extremes. The completely uninvolved parent or the overinvolved parent. And trust me, they both have HUGE consequences.

Adam Weinberg, dean of the college, says, "We noticed what everybody else noticed. We have a generation of parents that are heavily involved in their students' lives, and it causes all sorts of problems."

It does.

I seem them before he does.

Take heed, parents. It's a delicate balance, trying to protect and show love while letting them grow up and fight their own battles. But try to find it.

Or deal with the extremely negative consequences...the least of which is being reprimanded by the dean of a college.

Every time there's a hurricane, why are reporters and cameramen dispatched as close as possible to the eye of it, risking life and limb to show us the same thing we've seen a gazillion times before? A guy we can barely hear standing in a driving rain trying to tell us the streets are flooded and everybody else needs to take cover and get to a safe place. I'd be okay with waiting until the storm safely passed.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Only Thing Worth Writing About On August 28

I'm very particular about choosing heroes. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been one of mine ever since I read his "Letter From A Birmingham Jail" when I was a kid...for some reason, I remember this day each and every year when I look at the calendar, and his speech from 42 years ago today rings out the highest ideals of everything good about being an American. And coming from someone raised in the late 60's and 70's in Alabama, well...

Thank you, Dr. King, for going away from your prepared notes in front of the Lincoln Memorial 42 years ago today, and telling us all about your dream. Everyone on the planet should stop down and watch a re-broadcast some time today.

Thank you, Dr. King, for sharpening us all. For the conviction. For the inspiration. For the courage. For the vision. For the passion. For reminding us of the check you went there to cash, written by the U.S Constitution. For reminding us of the freedom...knowing that saying them would eventually get you killed.

The power of that last word would not be the same without you reminding us of the words of that great Negro spiritual. Words like "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" are a continuing echo...

Let freedom ring, everyday, everybody.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen, Dr. King.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Off Kilter

We had a training session that lasts for Friday night and half a day on Saturday for those that will be serving in our middle school was an overnighter so of course we were all up later than usual (taking a break to watch the movie Real Genius, which always surprises the teenagers with how much fun it is) and I'm getting WAY out of my normal routine.

No paper.
No coffee...YET.
Gotta get ready to speak at the monthly men's breakfast in 20 minutes.
Gotta get ready to attend the newcomer's introduction meeting in an hour and 20 minutes.
Going to the baseball game today (maybe it'll be less than 110 today) so I gotta get the sunscreen and run by the bank, etc.
Gotta mow.

Guess the paper & blogging will have to slide for today.

Oh, wait...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Just Wondering

I'm wondering where the best city to live in would be if you only factored in year-round weather. Florida has hurricanes. California has earthquakes and gazillion "micro-climates." The northwest has rain. The South has high humidity in the summers. The heartland has deep snow in winter. Texas has brutal summer heat. You get the idea.

I've heard San Diego might be the best city to live in if you only factored in weather or "natural" environmental concerns (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.). Which city do you think is the best city for overall climate?
*One hand pressed against the glass, phone in the other up to my ear. Watching you on the other side of the glass in your orange jumpsuit put your phone to your own ear. Saying, "Happy Birthday, Mom!"*

I'd like to officially wish my Mom, a.k.a. "Charlotte The Scar," a very happy birthday today. In true Southern Gentlemen fashion, I'd never mention the true age, but I will tell you that I genuinely hope you have many, many more.

Not many guys have a Mom that would put up with being called Charlotte The Scar and having outrageous stories made up about her and told to teenagers for more than a decade...

So, in honor of The Scar's birthday, those of you who've got a favorite Charlotte The Scar story--prison-related or not--that I made up, feel free to relate it in the comments!

P.S. Yes, we did send flowers...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Stuff On My Brain Today...

Those Sonic commercials with the two guys in the front seat of the car are all pretty funny. Same for the "What's done in Vegas stays in Vegas" commercial where the parents come home from a wild weekend out only to be greeted by their teen (who was cleaning up from a wild party while they were gone) who greet each other with "Nothin'" and no eye contact glances when they asked what each other'd been up to that weekend.

The local football teams were ranked in their district in this order for the upcoming season: Flower Mound Jaguars (no one knows why they chose that nickname since jaguars are not indigenous to Texas and certainly have no ties to this area) 5th in the district; Marcus Marauders (or is it Red Storm?) picked 6th; Lewisville Fighting Farmers ('s their real nickname) 7th. That's out of 8 teams. Ouch.

Bureaucracies can really be frustrating. Just ask my friend Katherine.

My senior guys Bible study is already running smoothly. They have a good chemistry and were very talkative last night. It looks to be a great year with those guys.

The coffee shop we want to open as a hang out in our youth room at the church is going at a much faster clip than I was prepared for. The guy we've brought on to run it wanted to open it today...and I was thinking after Labor Day. I love it when other people get excited about their ministries.

The high-speed computer stuff is working now. Next: wireless router. I'm beginning to ease up on my inherent technophobia. I still dislike my cell phone.

Pat Robertson needs to shut it up. The Hebrew word would be literally translated "making his mouth large." Make it smaller, Pat.

My mom's going in for more testing today on some recurring health issues. That woman could really use a, God, if You're so inclined...

I'm pretty excited as I get to go watch one of my teens play in a football game today as well as a couple of my teens will cheerlead...even though they're both the anti-cheerleader.

Hockey season is coming...and I'm stoked.

I'm finding that my teenagers who are writers are a unique and interesting breed...and I'm thinking of just getting them together to read each other's stuff and encourage each other.

I really miss that cartoon Daria, and re-discovering King of the Hill (which is additionally funny if you live in Texas) and South Park.

Football season starts in 9 days. Sweet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away...Don't Come Again Some Other Day, Today Will Work, Too

Last night a storm rolled in as a feeble attack against the Drought of Summer 2005. I was in my hammock talking to my sister (who was stuck in traffic coming out of a wine class in Napa Valley...marriage hasn't changed her a bit thus far) so props to the Cingular Nation for the free minutes for quality catching-up time. Anyway, I watched the storm clouds roll in while reading with my daughter Shelby in same said hammock. So, props to Lewis Carrol for Alice in Wonderland.

It rained hard for about an hour, too.

Sure, the weathermen (I mean, "meteorologists") told us there was a chance of afternoon storms but they would be widespread and sporadic. Those phrases, I firmly believe, are Meteorologistspeak for "we're coving our bases just in case the words Sunny, Hot & 102 degrees isn't what happens today and it makes it sound like we actually have to study to predict weather here."

Being the dork I am, I wanted to see how long the joy would last so I turned the TV to the weather radar station. I was kinda disappointed to see a yellow & red ball covering my little town north of DFW while the rest of the Metroplex was its usual green.

But seeing the underbelly of that yellow & red ball outside my window last night for over an hour did give me joy and hope...albeit briefly.

I dig thunderstorms.
High Speed! Kinda...

The cable installer got here in the prescribed time. The cable modem works fine...on the computer in the back room (where we needed it placed) which is 5 years old and comparatively slow. So, good to go back there. Only problem is that the computer takes forever so on the stuff you'd use high speed for, it's actually about normal dial-up speed.

The bigger issue is that I have no idea how to make it work on my laptop (I'm sure it has something to do with my Internet Explorer settings, but I wouldn't know where to begin) or my wife's Macintosh G4. But that's just temporary since we'd have to re-do the whole thing when we go with the wireless very soon...

Little help?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

That Sound You Heard Was My Modem Not Working

The Comcast High Speed Cable truck is coming today. It could be our last day of dial-up at the house, but I've heard people say they've had issues here and there getting the deal up and running. We shall see on two fronts: First, if the installer shows up between the prescribed hours. Second, if it actually works like it's supposed to.

Wish us luck!

If you're in a public place and see an area school guidance counselor parusing the "want ads" of the Sunday paper, what are you supposed to think?
The Stars At Night, Are Big And Bright...

And so is the galaxy's biggest star during the daylight hours here in Texas. At 7:20PM last night, it was 102 degrees Farenheit (36 Celsius) here in Flower Mound.

I don't mind telling you, there's nothing aestetically pleasing about Texas. At all. And the summer heat adds to the misery...and when you're in the middle of a drought, well, the cumulative effect of the weather really does affect you in a negative way.

I loathe the heat.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Old Stuff

Okay, so how do you know when it's time to "upgrade" some of your stuff?

For example, my lounge chair. My favorite chair. Actually, it was my father-in-law's chair before the great In-Law Home Redecoration of 1988. It was a good chair then (despite the cat clawings) and it is fully functional. Very comfortable still. We could probably afford a new chair and I really like those "chair-and-a-half" deals. But I've got mileage (or, lack thereof) with this chair. I rocked my kids late and night in this chair. I read my newspaper in this chair. My dog sits on the footrest of this chair. I've watched tons of ballgames in this chair. I like the chair...but when do you know it's time to go?

Not as much sentimentality, but we've got a computer that does everything we need it to do...except that it won't run the latest software because it's about 5 years old. Tracy's getting high-speed for her business (of which I'm guessing the family could get in on), too. That would mean a new printer (as I'm guessing the drivers for the old one are out of date) and other periphials, too. But still, it does everything we need it to do. When do you upgrade?

Old CD's. There are a few CD's notably missing from my collection (Beck's "Odelay" and his new one, two Nirvana CD's I have on tape and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon") and some ones I rarely, if ever, listen to (like Velvet Revolver, Queens of the Stone Age and Buckcherry) I should trade in. But...I MIGHT listen to them at any moment if the mood hits. When do you just make that decision?

Old clothes. Not that I'm a slave to fashion or anything like that, but I've got some clothes I haven't worn in ages, but they still fit, they're in good condition, etc. I've got jackets that I thought were cool that people gave me (like a NASCAR leather jacket) that I might never wear. I've got the coat that Tracy gave me for Christmas the year we got engaged that is coming back into style (it's the first piece of clothes I can do that with and I don't know if that's good or bad)--the teens tell me how "retro-cool" it is. When do you get rid of it or should you keep it if you have the space?

If you have any insights into this, lemme know...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Shift in the Sluggish

I was having trouble getting it in gear yesterday. No juice, man. Just wanting to veg out and do nothing and stay in my pajama pants.

But, hey, I'm technically "in training" for the half-marathon and I had a workout scheduled. Truthfully, it was just another thing I was going to blow off. Let's be honest. What's one missed workout going to hurt, right?

I chided myself mentally every step of the way. You don't have to go. You can stay home. You work hard and have earned the right to bum around if you want to. Once at the gym, though, all that ceased.

iPod loads up. Foo Fighters were the music out of the doldrums. "Favorite Foo Playlist." Workout goes by swimmingly fast.

The next thing I know I'm at home mowing the lawn.

Then I studied a bit more for my Sunday School lesson and created a power point slide show for it...while watching part of the Rangers dismal road trip (lost again, 1-11 on this trip, ugh.)

Then off to do some errands...pick up a little of this and rent some movies and run this by the place. Out to eat dinner with a kid...took her to the batting cages after that. Wasn't long before bed time.

Apparently, and I have no idea why, but there's something to the idea that working out actually GIVES you energy. Or maybe it was the Foo Fighters. Either way, I'm glad it all got done.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I Hate My Railroad Train Pajamas and My Marble Went Down The Drain and I Got Soap In My Eyes

Ever have one of those days where every time you answered the phone and had a conversation, when you hung it up you said a curse word? Yeah, I had one of those days yesterday that caused me to question my very sanity and place in the universe.

And, no, I don't want to talk about it.

But thanks anyway.
And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor

Open note to all the high schoolers that read my blog: Don't forget the service project we're doing tomorrow after 2nd service! We're going to be stapling 5,000 lists to grocery sacks so our church's food drive for CCA can run as smoothly as possible! It would be appreciated if you'd e-mail me (if you don't have my address, check the student ministry site--linked on the left, btw) and let me know you're coming so I can order enough pizza for lunch.

Friday, August 19, 2005

So, Yeah, About That Big Church

She's doing well spiritually.
They're working through some hurt feelings.
He's leaving for college tomorrow.
She's struggling with her parents.
She's attempted suicide.
He's getting the spiritual life.
That family is dealing with the untimely death of a spouse/father.
Her daughter is having their first grandbaby.
We're trying to help with a larger-than-expected crowd at an event at our church.
They're engaged, and getting married.
She started babysitting some children in our minichurch.
She suffered a panic attack.
He got to visit because he forgot the meeting was cancelled.
He made the team.
She's telling me about being a camp counselor this summer.
Her boyfriend is coming in town for a visit.
She got a job at our cafe.
They're excited about the new look of their Bible study.
They're praying for their children, who want to get a divorce.
She ran away, but now she's back.
She's excited because her neice made the varsity team and she gets to watch her play.
They got a new puppy.
They want us to come see their home redecoration project.
Her child is having a tough adjustment in middle school.
She feels like she's always on the fringes.
They're going to have a baby and are picking out furniture and getting her some new fun clothes.
Their "nest" is emptying.
He needs a vacation.
They're all doing the college football rivalry jokes.

And I could go on for a while longer.
But that's just this week and the things I ran across.
That's just my personal relationships.

Our church may be getting pretty big if the last couple of weeks of record attendance are any indication.

But we're doing life together.

And that's what it's all about, really.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's All About The Benjamins

The citizenry of Dallas is up-in-arms. Seems that the annual college football rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas is considering moving the game from the local Cotton Bowl location at the State Fairgrounds to their respective stadiums on their campuses.

So, the officials from both schools are talking about the dilapidated conditions of the Cotton Bowl and crime rates and all that. The citizens are writing the expected letters-to-the-editor about updating facilities so we don't lose this wonderful tradition and the money it brings to the city each year...just like we "lost" the Texas Rangers baseball team to Arlington and the Dallas Cowboys to Irving (and now Arlington).

There is talk of the tradition of each school and how terrible it would be.

Well, seeing as how I was enrolled at Auburn when the discussions for moving the traditional Iron Bowl game against Alabama to their campuses began, let me tell you why the city of Dallas has no shot at extending that contract beyond 2007 for their rivalry:

Cash. Cold hard cash. And lots of it.

See, my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama had hosted some 35 clashes at Legion Field. Yes, it was run-down at times...which scurried the local citizenry to pony up and paint it and put in some sidewalks and fix the restrooms. They would've done whatever they had to do to keep that game.

But, see, if you've got a rent-free facility that holds more seats than the neutral site, and you don't have to give 30% of the tickets to the Birmingham Parks and Recreation Board (which always seemed to wind up in Alabama fans' hands), and you don't have to split concessions/parking with the other school as well as the BPRB... the math.

So, all of a sudden, good old Auburn could now sell something called Personal Seat Licenses which you make a donation to the school for the RIGHT to buy a season ticket and you'll sell 74,000 season tickets vs. the 34,000 you were selling before the Alabama ticket was in the concessions (Auburn is a land-grant institution...there's very little paid parking, but they get all the cash from what there is) plus pay no rent plus sell luxury suites.

Plus it does a little something for the economy of East Alabama, where they're located. Why should AU care about Birmingham's economy?

Granted, Auburn romanticized the whole deal. The glory of the college football experience on the Plains. The right of self-determination ("We should have the right to determine where we play our home games"). Not bowing down to the cross-state rival's wishes. Being equal with every school in the SEC now. It was gushing and beautiful and brought tears to the Auburn family who bought it hook, line and sinker. Myself included. "If we could just get Alabama HERE...we could beat them at LEAST every other year." That has since proven true (5-2 at home against them).

And, oh, by the way, it's been financially beneficial to the Crimson Tide as well, for the same reasons it was for Auburn.

So, let me save you the trouble, Dallas.

Don't bother fixing the Cotton Bowl to keep the Red River Shootout. It won't matter one iota. Just be prepared to hear those same excuses from university officials, and then you'll hear them talk about the college football experience at their campuses with all the traditions and such (of which they are both great and fun) and the right of each school and other high-minded platitudes.

But they're just that: High-minded platitudes.

This is about cash. Cold, hard cash. And lots of it.

You cannot compete.

So just have your politicians hem and haw about how unfair it is and play your New Year's Day game here and let it be used for high school football playoffs. It is inevitable, so embrace it and move on...and citizens of Dallas, you'll just have to deal with it, so don't waste your tax-dollars or your breath.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cookies Are A Sometimes Food

Okay, I've been taking the Cookie Monster's warning to heart. You remember, in an effort to help obese children last winter, the folks at Sesame Street sent Cookie Monster on a food-pyramid remind us not to eat too many cookies.

Well, I'd been good. Not only because of his advice, but also because I'm gearing up for a half-marathon.

The reality is that last night my wife hauled off and put some cookies in the oven. Peanut butter. M&M's were involved. They were warm.

Last night officially qualified as "sometimes."

I'm not sorry, either, Mr. Monster. Even though crumbs didn't fly and my eyeballs didn't zoom around all crazy like yours do, I enjoyed them just the same. Just letting you know.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Method To The Madness

Yesterday, there was a thread in my "comments" that had to do with the results that I somehow manage to get out of the teenagers I serve. In particular, I have a higher-than-average amount of teenagers who think for themselves...which often results in a deviation from the standard throes that American Christianity seems to breed.

Anyway, since I inherited my 10th senior class earlier this year and have a tenure in youth ministry that spans 18 years now, I've learned a few things along the way that gives teenagers freedom to be who they are:

First, always remember that you are NOT the primary discipler of that young person. Their parents are, and have infintely more influence in the lives of the teen than you ever will. Much of their thinking ability will evolve from that one reality.

Second, when you do assist in the discipleship of a teen, remember to speak boldly and with authority where the Bible speaks boldly and with authority...and then shut up. So, if you focus on the majors of Scripture instead of irrelevant drivel, as well as give prominent time to what Scripture gives prominent time to then the teen will grow at a pretty significant clip. While defining positions on the appropriate swimsuit reveal, music, movies or television choices will give you job security through popularity with parents, they have little effect on teenager's growth.

Third, trust the Holy Spirit with the results of their developmental growth. Let Him develop what He wants in the teen instead of trying to manipulate that growth. Youth ministers traditionally have had a "model kid" in mind and spirituality (and popularity/relationship with said youth minister) involves turning out like that vision. I've found deeply spiritual goth kids, board weasels, jocks, Student Councilers, artists, etc. The Holy Spirit is infinitely creative.

Fourth, teach, live and give the grace message that is undeniable and unavoidable in Scripture. The reality is that spiritual growth is a painfully slow process and if you kick around in the grace message, it allows love to dictate your actions towards a kid who goes "three steps forward, two steps backward." You develop patience and long-term commitment with kids who blow it...which happens more often than we like to admit.

Fifth, provide horizon expanding, comfort-zone blowing opportunities to serve and minister using their spiritual gifts. In other words, since teens are a part of The Church right now (not some vague sense of "future leadership") we should provide trips to hospitals in Haiti, Native American reservations, Juarez home-building, Holland evangelistic trips, etc., as well as provide Bible-study leading and small group discipling opportunities...not to mention the day-in, day-out stuff needed to make the church function (coffee making, bulletin stuffing, greeting, nursery work, etc.). This helps them discover their passions as well as their likes and dislikes, which will lead to growth.

Lastly, love them unconditionally and treat them with inherent respect. Let them see your life, including the chinks in the armor, and they'll be encouraged to share theirs with you...and you can sharpen each other.

So, after 18 years of youth ministry, the all the stuff I do generally falls into those categories...six paragraphs. Maybe I should've paid more attention in my seminary youth ministry classes...but that's all I've got. It really isn't rocket science.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Topic Block

I don't really have that case of writer's block anymore...I've been writing plenty in journals or on the student ministry blog or whatever.

But I do have topic block.

Anything you want me to blog about?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

You Gotta Get Me One Of Those Jumpsuits

Long story short: My senior guys small group watches a movie called Bottle Rocket every year. We cook red meat and basically do the "guy bonding" thing centered around the comedy...which is funny notably due to the incredible lines of dialogue that can be used in every day conversation. It can be, and is, by my guys.

Anyway, the basic premise of the movie (which stars young Luke & Owen Wilson, who have since become pretty famous) is that four guys are trying to become part of an organized crime syndicate. This crime syndicate uses a front for their operation, a landscaping business called the Lawn Wranglers.

One of the guys, Dignan, tries to get another guy to come back into the gang. He agrees, only on the premise that Dignan can get him one of the infamous Lawn Wrangler bright yellow jumpsuits.

So, on Friday, Miles and Craig, two graduating seniors who I really have a great repore with and enjoy their friendship, show up at my office. This was the end result:

Posted by Picasa

Why is that tape on their nose?

Are they in the military? No, they just have short hair.

Hang on...I'm calling my CAW, ca CAW.

Most of you won't get the jokes unless you've seen the movie...and the fact that they would go to such great lengths to highlight our friendship right before they go off to's one of the best parts of my job.

Just remember, guys...I'm the star by the door, and you're the zeros in the parking lot. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Stations In Life

I gotta say it: I kinda dig approaching 40.

My teenager & pre-teen sleep late on weekends. Really late. This is good for a morning person who enjoys being alone. But beyond that, these two former toddlers are now becoming fiercely independent and uniquely intriguing. My oldest is going through stuff teenage kids go through with teachers and friends and parents (we're the first generation of parents that have to deal with parenting knowing that our teenagers blog about it to the world) and actually doing pretty well with it. She tools off on her bike to friends houses or extracurricular meetings at the school. She talks about interesting things. She plays college football on the PlayStation with me (after her summer visit to Cal-Berkeley, she's always the Golden Bears who were pretty good and we're 1-1 against each other). She talks about colleges she wants to go to. She goes into her room and cranks up the music (and I like her tastes). She gripes about our archaic computers. The whole deal.

The youngest is a good communicator. She handled a schedule goof-up on her first day of middle school (that involved her being in the wrong class at the wrong time, which was indeed the school's fault) with cool composure. It also involved a locker misnumbering after she'd already decorated her locker (which is a pretty big deal at that age) with shelves and magnets and such. She's passionate about dancing and talks about going to a fine arts high school (college: maybe or maybe not...depends on where she'll be dancing apparently). She likes to read, and even read out-loud with me...we even read all the Chronicles of Narnia out loud to each other and are finishing The Screwtape Letters tonight. She has a broad musical taste (her iPod is all over the map from country to punk). She eases into the day like her mother does. She's funny and graceful and smart and everything being 11 should entail.

My wife is, and is becoming, all those things that I married her for. I mean, I've always liked her. I've loved her for almost two decades. But what I'm getting at is that she keeps me from falling into a rut. Her creativity as an artist is inspiring...and I border on coveting it. Suffice to say that when you truly admire your wife for her wifing and mothering skills, and then she throws a truly brilliant talent on top of it...manalive. What did I do to deserve this? Wait. Don't answer that.

My dog Lloyd is sorry. He knows it and embraces it. It's who he is. So, he's the coolest dog on the planet.

I've enjoyed every station in my life. I had a pretty good childhood (the years 13 through 16 were what kept it from being a perfect one). High school was good to me. College was a blast (although I'd really like a big do-over on what knowledge I actually retained). Early marriage was fun. I have always loved what I do for a living. Having infants and toddlers was truly magical. Watching our family change when they started elementary was at least interesting, and mostly enjoyable. My higher-order life-liver sister Jilly's Happy Helmet meter registers full throttle. My mom is over her health stuff and back to comparing me to my over-achiever sister, so it's all good there, too.

40 is the new 30.

This is a blast.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Writer's Block

As if the previous post didn't show it, I'm having a "dog days" of summer bout of writer's block. Not that what I write her is usually more than drivel, but I'm disappionted in my own effort. This doesn't bode well for the stuff I need to do today...

So, today I'm thinking about my "brand" preferences for stuff I ran across yesterday. I don't know why.

Soft drink: Diet Pepsi
Health Club: HAC...locally owned place, not the huge corporate monster that just opened and is open continually.
Computer: Still loyal to the IBM/Windows formats, comfort I guess. Although the iPod is slowly swaying me.
Coffee: Folgers breakfast roast.
Coffee mug: My mug that my sister gave me that has the NYC subway map on it (which I found out you can download the map into your iPod--how practical/cool is that?).
Movie theater: AMC stadium seating at Grapevine Mills.
Books: Lately, youth ministry related ones.
Bookstore: Mardel's for the ministry stuff (it's competitor carries nothing I use); Barnes & Noble for everything else.
Movies: Stupid comedies or blow-up guy stuff.
Fast food: Wendy's. I've been doing pretty good with the diet, and their salads are good, cheap & fast...the objective of fast-food joints.
Locally owned restaurant: Village Grill.
Chain restaurant: Chili's.
CD: I've been on a Bay-Area related Grateful Dead kick lately since my trip there.
Dog: Still the Black Lab, but my Shih-Tzu has certainly won me over.
Guitar: Fender Stratocaster...electric is the only way to go for those of us who lack talent and use barre chords exclusively.
Car: Toyota (and that sound you heard was my grandfather--a lifetime employee of U.S. Steel--rolling over in his grave).
City I Had A Strange Desire To Go To: Amsterdam.
People To Hang Out With: The more "Eeyore-esque" the better for me.

Sorta stream of consciousness and I have no idea why I told you this...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

That Sound You Heard...

...was the collective groan of students getting up early, getting ready and heading off for their first day of school in our community.

...and the "under your breath" cheering of parents who have enjoyed the summer, but are ready for the routines to start back up.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

And Yet, There Is No God

Last night the family hauled off for one last summer fling and decided to go see this family flick called "March of the Penguins." It's not the normal funny cartoon you go see these days but rather it's a documentary done by the fine folks at National Geographic.

Suffice to say the movie had brilliant cinematography. Hauling around the South Pole showing you sights you've never seen, not to mention seeing them 30 feet high and 60 feet wide, is striking.

It's also a funny movie, too...even though nobody says anything except an actor doing the narration. Let's face it, shall we? Everything about penguins is funny...and watching a waddling flightless bird slide on the ice and fall on his butt is pretty funny. It works on SO many levels.

And the story is miraculous as far as nature goes. Basically it's the story of how penguins will waddle 70 miles to get to their mating place, choose a mate, reproduce and then each partner will take turns waddling back and forth to the ice break to get food out of the ocean. They battle the elements. They battle predators. They keep the baby penguins off the ice so they don't get cold. They have a reserve food trough in their throats so if the spouse is a day or two late waddling back with a full belly of food they have something in reserve for their child. The ice melts so the walk gets shorter and the babies can be left alone on the ice. It's all pretty amazing...and breathtakingly shown.

All the while, Morgan Freeman is doing the narration, starting many times with, "Nobody knows how or why they..." and finishes with something like, "all arrive at the same point, at the same time of year, nearly on the same day."

Not to sound trite, but the whole film was evidence that there is a God in heaven who built them that way. So if I were doing the narration, I would've said, "While it remains a mystery to mankind, the reason they show up annually at the exact same location on nearly the same day with a special food trough in their throats with a day's ration inside JUST IN CASE the mom is a day or two late is because there is a God in heaven who is so creative and innovative that He provides even for the baby penguins who can't provide for themselves and even if humans never know about it, His glory shouts from the ice breaks at the South Pole."

Yep, that's what I would've said.

Last night, while I was waiting for the evening news, I could've sworn that I saw Lee Ioccocca and Snoop Dog trying to sell me a car. Snoop was wearing golf clothes and Lee was riding in a pimped out golf cart.

Maybe I had already gone to bed and fallen asleep. It had to be a dream because no ad agency could be that stupid as to put those two in a commercial.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

An Ironic Electronic Tribute

Today's the day that Henry David Thoreau's famous work "Walden" was 1854.

For those of you who have forgotten your high school English classes, the long and short of it is that on July 4, 1845 to September 6, 1847, Mr. Thoreau headed off to live in a cabin he built on Walden Pond. He used his observations of the world around him to examine his own truly reflect. He wrote his thoughts down and they were published some 7 years later.

I relate to him a bit. I try to live an examined life.

I don't relate to him a lot. The whole "Nature" thing sets me off and I absolutely adore creature comforts...more than I care to admit.

But, here's a quote I really like from the book.

"I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers...Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary and a dervis in the desert...

...Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to adquire any new value for each other."

And I wonder if because I relate so well to these lines if it's a healthy reality for one who works as a pastor. Funny, but I think it is. Without solitude (in whatever weird forms it takes for me) I think I'd be lousy as a pastor. I may be lousy at it anyway...but I hope I make the most of those intervals, so I have something of value to give others.

In honor of Mr. Thoreau today, how will you pay tribute? I think I'll be largely ignored in my own lifetime...

Monday, August 08, 2005


For some reason, I don't function well in the area of stuff I know is good for me unless there's a goal in mind. For example, if you tell me to jog 3 miles 3 times a week for the rest of my life, and eat well so you can live longer, I have zero motivation. Too much "enjoy life now" moments I guess.

But if I have a deadline and a goal, I can usually do it.

The deadline: December's White Rock half-marathon.

The goal: Finish in 2 hours or so.

And so the discipline begins...

Ugh...but kinda 'yea!'

Sunday, August 07, 2005


I've said it before and I'll unashamedly say it again: My senior pastor, Tim Stevenson, is the most gifted teacher of the Word I've ever been around. He's also one of the most authentic believers in Christ I know...and I consider it one of the highest honors of my life to be on the same staff as he is. In fact, if they fired me tomorrow, I'd genuinely be thankful for the almost 9 years of working here...

Anyway, he's starting a series on Galatians today. I haven't been as excited about a study of anything since he did 72 weeks on my other "favorite" book of Scripture, Romans.

Is it geeky to be fired up about something like that?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Never Enough Respect

Being an Auburn fan is tough, and it highlights what is wrong with college football. Case in point, yesterday's release of the USA Today's College Football Top 25.

#1. USC of course. Hard to argue with that, but we'll never know if their pass-happy attack would've been successful against Auburn's 2005 defense that had two secondary members taken in the NFL draft's early rounds, or if their defense could've handled three first-round picks in the NFL, will we?
#2. Texas. Please. This team could not be more overrated. Here's an idea. Score a touchdown against OU before you rank this team this high. One win over a highly suspect Michigan team in a bowl you didn't deserve to go to doesn't deserve this ranking.
#3. Tennessee. Lemme see...Auburn beat them three times in two years. At home, on the road, and at a neutral site in a championship game. Their quarterback situation is up in the air, too.
#4. Michigan. Please. They were 9-3 in a suspect Big 10 conference.
#5. Oklahoma. They graduated more key players than Auburn did last year, and gave up 35 points to a sorry Aggie team. It was only logical they'd give up more than 50 to a top-ranked team. Maybe the most overrated team on the board.
#6. LSU. Let's see. Auburn beat them last year. And an incoming freshman can win that qb job over the the erratic qb's already there?
#7. Virginia Tech. Hmmm...Auburn 16, Tech 13. And if you think an 80 yard run in the last minute of that game means something, you've lost your mind. Auburn was up 16-0 with 8 minutes to go, and fumbled going into the end zone about to make it 23-zip.
#8. Miami. Again, a 9 and 3 team in a suspect conference.
#9. Ohio State. 8 and 4 team in the Big 10.
#10. Iowa. They might be about right at this spot, but I still think Auburn could take them at home or on the road.
#11. Florida. The 2nd most overrated team in the list. They were freakin' 7 and 5 last year and lost to Mississippi State...who lost to Maine.
#12. Florida State. 9 and 3 last year, and their quarterback is out now.
#13. Georgia. Lemme see if I can find the score from last year's game...oh yeah. Auburn 24, Georgia 6 and they didn't even sniff the goal line. And the winningest starter in their history at QB left and left them with DJ Shockley, who is awful.
#14. Louisville. Please. Conference USA. Winning 11 games in that is like playing in the Big 12 north every single week.
#15. Ah...there's Auburn...followed by three teams that have 13 losses combined.

Now, I'm not saying that Auburn should be ranked #1. But last year, the Tigers were told that the reason they couldn't play for it all was because they started at #16 and USC and Oklahoma started higher and didn't lose. I get that...and it's understandable.

But, weren't those standings based on what you did the year before? And all Auburn did was become the best team in the best conference in college football and oh, by the way, they have more potential NFL draft picks on defense than they did last year. Granted, the offense will suffer some with the loss of running backs and our quarterback, but if there were a playoff and the teams were seeded this way...

I think Auburn could take Texas in the first round, and the Hurricanes in the 2nd.

There needs to be a playoff in the biggest of ways.

Friday, August 05, 2005

So...What's Up?

My weekend is already planned:

Work until 5PM.

Rangers baseball game if the rain holds off (it's summer, it's Texas, so most likely it'll avoid DFW altogether). Scored some primo seats gratis.

Shorthorn Camp...the local middle school, nicknamed the Longhorns, has an orientation for the incoming 6th graders...of which my youngest daughter is one...where they show them their lockers and give them schedules and what not.

Yard Work...maybe some reading if I get done early.

Maybe a movie with the missus...or DVD rental.

That's it. Weekends are short when you work Sundays. What're you doing this weekend?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Popping Our Bubble And Getting Under Our Skin

Yesterday, Mark Morford (a writer at SFGate.Com...which is a breeding ground for good, edgy writers found on the San Francisco Examiner's web page) wrote a scathing article about the nature of large churches. Granted, he's got some sort of axe to grind, but let me sample a few observations he made:

On Lakewood Church in Houston purchasing the old basketball arena there, they're going to "turn it into a massive pulsing swaying arm-raisin' eye-glazed weirdly repressed House o' Jesus."

Most megachurches, "operate much more like careening multitentacled corporations than humble homes of spiritual connection and love."

A random quote from the article: "I mention all this because megachurches are the latest phenomenon, the hottest trend in the Christian godfearin' biz, arena-scaled piety polished up and bloated out and aimed like a giant homophobic cannon straight at the gloomy face of a new and improved God, one who apparently truly loves the fact that these tacky sanitized enormo-domes are raking in an average of $5 million a year each, depending on size and girth and magnetism of their glossy preprogrammed pastors and depending on how many CDs and syrupy self-help books and movie production companies and proselytizing Web sites..."

Asking why megachurches are popular: "Or is it the Jesus-as-megastar thing, with the pastor as the ultimate cover band and his flock a teeming mass of fans who don't really understand the lyrics and get the message almost completely wrong and yet who are, you just know, good and honest people just trying to find their way in a lost and debauched and war-torn land? I saw AC/DC and Iron Maiden on a double bill in Spokane in 1983 and just about saw God. Is that the same thing? No?"

He also took a couple of other small digs, such as being thankful for never having been to "the all-paunchy-married-male revue of a Promise Keepers rally, or the bizarre pious cheerleading of a Harvest Crusade in L.A."

Okay, he's full-blown San Francisco liberal.
Okay, he's an outsider looking in at us with preconcieved notions.
Okay, he's writing an article designed to get your dander up.
Okay, he's not looking too deeply into our faith.

But let's just calm our emotions for a second...

What about his observations can we learn from? I think he has a few points we'd be wise to pay attention to...
Proud Dad Alert

My daughter Kelsey continues to amaze me with her art. She decided to submit to our student art gallery at church the following painting (for their showing titled "Summer 2005"):

Sorry for the intrusion...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Clearing Out The Notebook

Lots in my brain, but nothing cohesive. So, here's a sampling:

People are now giving me blog topics when they meet me. I'm not sure if that's flattering or rather like a drug dealer giving away free samples.

The president should've kept his mouth shut about Rafael Palmiero. If news reports are correct, then he was taking a steroid that couldn't have been taken any other way than injection...and that's SERIOUS stuff. Mr. Bush, your advisors are the worst if they're telling you to mention his innocence the day the information came out.

I fail to understand why We The People spend so much money on space exploration. We've been there, done pretty much all that's important, and we're not getting cool new inventions to the public (like Velcro) anymore from the preparation. Here's an idea: Let's get after new forms of energy to make them more efficient with the same intensity and abandon we did during the race to the moon. That way, those people still have jobs, and maybe solar or wind or water or whatever power you want can actually eliminate our need for oil...which seems to be the cause of other political issues.

The guy at Real Live Preacher does blogging the way it should be done. His new page is exactly what I'd like our church to have. Don't get me started.

I'm not very good at carrying my mobile phone. I leave it at work or on the kitchen counter or pretty much anywhere I'm not. Same for my magnetic sunglass overlays that fit my glasses. So, pretty much, I'm walking around squinting and letting my phone take messages for me.

The letters R.S.V.P. at the bottom of an invitation mean something, but society doesn't know what it might be. That's unfortunate, too. I think it's because no one can commit to anything far enough in advance, because of poor planning on society's part.I mean, I have a year-long calendar that I hand out at my big parents' meetings each year...and yet schools and teams and extracurricular stuff my kids do can't give me what they're doing in the next two weeks. Organizations need more organization if you ask me, which would help people make decisions and prioritize their lives...which they don't do, either.

PlayStation2 can suck more time than just about anything else on the planet. And I don't play it much, either, but I can lose an hour and not even realize it until I look at the clock.

I have no idea why dietary discipline and exercise and rest/sleep patterns (which seems so much more important as I approach 40) are so difficult to manage.

I'm beginning to wonder if I read too much and don't write enough "book" stuff (I overwrite blog stuff).

I have no idea why most parents feel stress about their children becoming teenagers. Thus far, in my experience, it's very enjoyable. Granted they're younger teens, but I'm not convinced they all have to rebel and sow wild oats or be stupid most of the time. I wonder if my excitement heading into these years is because I've seen the joys of parents who've done it well over the years and seen how cool their relationship is with their teenagers.

Well, that's about enough of the notebook shaking out for now...better get started doing something productive with my day...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Two Little Vignettes

Last night, the fine folks at Rearview Window, Joshua and Kristen, stopped by. A couple of observations: We don't have dinner with others enough. There's something cool about having folks over and sitting around a dinner table with nothing else going on. Second, playing Legos with little kids (and having some assorted small rubber muppets in the mix, for some peculiar reason) borders on mystical to me.

My sister is returning from another higher-order life-living adventure today. This time from Africa. My barnstorming pilot brother-in-law is in tow, and I wonder if whne he flies commercial, he "grades" the pilot on landings and what not. I'd imagine they'd both be pretty tired from over 24 hours of travel, though, so they probably won't care if they had to slide out of the emergency exit instead as long as they get back to SF in one piece. I'm kinda anxious to hear details of their trip...I read the itinerary and it involved picnics near elephants and sightseeing safaris and waterfall visist. For some reason, I live vicariously through my sister.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Five On The First

I stole this thing from another blog site that started asking five things on the first of every month. So, on my blog today, I'd like to know the top five books you've been wanting to read or movies you've been wanting to see. Not that are out now...more the "classic" books and movies that you've always heard about and never read or seen.

Here's mine:

5) Movie: The Maltese Falcon.
4) Book: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.
3) Movie: Anything by Alfred Hitchcock. I never saw any of them.
2) Book: Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.
1) Book: Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler. I dunno, but I've always been curious as to the ideas behind something so brutal.

So, what're yours?
Books I Read In July

More record keeping. Sorry to bother you.

The Naked Christian: Taking Off Religion To Find True Relationships by Craig Borlase.
Confessions of a Caffeinated Christian: Wide Awake and Not Alone by John Fischer.
Everybody Into The Pool by Beth Lisick.
Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide To Parenting Teens, by Paul Tripp
Behind The Glittering Mask: The Archangel Michael vs. Lucifer on The Seven Deadly Sins, by Mark Rutland
The Gutter: Where Life Is Meant To Be Lived, by Craig Gross.