Monday, October 31, 2005


I'm wondering if you can be authentically punk rock if you got your Dr. Martens at the mall.

I'm wondering if you can be authentically punk rock if you own a minivan and live in the 'burbs.

I'm wondering if you can be authentically punk rock if you had Starbucks first thing this morning.

I'm wondering if you can be authentically punk rock if you're planning on taking a nap so you won't be too tired the day after the punk rock show you're going to see tonight.

I'm wondering if you can be authentically punk rock and blog.

Frankly, I don't really know if I was ever authentically punk rock.

But I can say that I was into punk rock and loved it before it was mainstream.

And I'm going to the punk rock show tonight regardless. Now if you'll excuse me, the storms rolling in should give me optimum napping conditions...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Challenging the Readership

Several of my friends have done these, like Alicia and Kristen and others, so I thought I'd give you a shot and see who knows me best out of all my readers, so...

Contest: Which Diner Reader Knows Brent Best?
You Bet I Do!

My friend Pam got married yesterday.

She was beautiful.
He was thrilled.
Her parents were happy.
His parents were happy.
The bridesmaids tried to keep it together.
The groomsmen were pretty calm about it all, even though they were excited for him.
The reception was fun.
They kinda slipped out, saying goodbye to their folks but letting the party go on.

And sometimes, Christians get annoyed at having to "go to another wedding."

And sometimes, we should check ourselves. It's about doing life together. It's about celebrating the work of our God in the lives of people we love. It's about...
...and fun...
...and love...

...the things that make life worth living when you think about it.

So, congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Ledbetter. The countdown is over, and the count-up begins...which is more fun anyway.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


I had a pure life moment yesterday.

I rarely flip through the Dallas Morning News' "Guide" section. You know...the special Friday insert section that lists all the events happening in the MetroPlex for the next week? That section seems tailored to the...hmmmm...younger set. But this week it had a history of the U2 shows over the last 20 years that interested me so I read that article (the supergroup plays here tonight).

And then on the opposite page was a headline: "Concerts This Week." Again, seems so tailored to the...hmmmm...younger set. But I thought I read the following words:


I re-read it, just to be sure.


Granada Theatre.
Tickets available.

The Ramones and Sex Pistols were so untouchable in my youth (they never came to Alabama. Odd, but true.), but Social Distortion carried me through college.

They're still at it.
They're playing in my town.

I'm SO there.

Social D.
One less ticket available.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Gotta Make A Change

Okay, on my "5 Questions" from a few days back where I listed my top 5 "celebrity crushes" I had a tie for #5 between Natalie Portman and Jennifer Garner.

No offense to Miss Portman or Mrs. Affleck/Garner, but I'm officially making a change to that list after watching VH-1's "I LOVE The 80's in 3-D." I'd forgotten all about the all-too-captivating Rachel Harris.

Funny. Intelligent. Great eyes. Pretty in a strange way.

Gotta put her at #5.

I mean, I can't have my readers thinking my celebrity crushes still involve Natalie and Jennifer, when, indeed, it was Rachel all along...

I guess I just thought you should know...
Birmingham Chron, Wrap Up

Blogging from Big D recliner, my dog on the footrest, my coffee made in my machine my way, family snug in their beds...

..."Business discussions" take longer than one or two meetings when talking about what you want your mom wants to do with regard to "her affairs." I think there will be many more discussions along the way. No matter what is said or what direction they take, they're horrible conversations to have because of the overtone: Someone's needing to get their affairs in order.

...maybe it was two "business discussions" in four days, or maybe it was yesterday morning's overtones, but I was terribly ready to get out of that town. Needless to say, I was flying stand-by and got bumped off the 1:05PM flight, so I got the pleasure of hanging out in the lobby for three more hours. Even with that reality, I still got home 4 hours faster than if I had been driving. come my wireless internet worked in the freaking airport but not two feet from my mom's wireless router?

...iPods are great on airplanes anyway, but especially good when you want to be alone and not deal with anybody because you've had business discussions and been bumped from a flight.

...for some strange reason, my left ear gets VERY clogged when I fly on airplanes. Last night at around 9:00PM, I yawned or something (like I had been for the last several hours) and there was this sound like when you pull the stopper out of the bathtub, then it hurt for a couple of seconds, then it cleared up. No matter what I do, it takes about two or three hours for it to clear up every time I fly. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

...this I know: Work doesn't seem all that important right now.

...I'm sick of business discussions, chemo treatment delays, wigs & hats, talking to doctors and...well...cancer. And it isn't even happening to me. I officially cannot fathom what my mom is going through.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Birmingham Chron, Day 5

More from the Magic City:

...My mom is feeling better physically. She was very busy yesterday. Got up and dressed by noon, which is a good sign these days.

...She went out to lunch, too. It didn't take too much out of her, but it's pretty slow going moving from the car to the counter to the table to the trash can to the car again. I found myself learning the art of patience when I'd be at the car and turn around, only to see her just exiting the restaurant.

...She wanted to go visit her Aunt Annie, too. She's in an assisted living facility, and a nice one at that. But what struck me was that even though her hearing was diminished, she's pretty sharp mentally at age 92. If she could've heard me, I was going to ask her the secret to that reality, but it was hard enough just getting the updates about family to and from each other.

...Then we got home and hung out a little bit. Just chatted. Until the doctor called and there was some sort of mix-up and now they WON'T be putting in the port (my mom has very bad veins) for the 2nd round of chemotherapy in the morning and they've rescheduled that for Monday. There's some discrepancy about when round 2 is going to be as well. I understand that doctors have emergencies and need to reschedule, but what I don't understand is poor communication. I never got that this was due to some unforseen emergency, but rather that there was a scheduling snafu. Of course, I personally asked the doctor 3 times on Monday about the events of Thursday, and now he's saying he had it all down for a week from Thursday. Hmmmm. It isn't really a big deal because my mom is feeling pretty good and will get a few more days of it and will get to go to church and all, but she was pretty mentally ready for today being the day. I think a lot of being a cancer patient is a mental toughness.

...Mobile phone service in my mom's house is peculiar. It's great in one room and non-existent in another. It's four bars in the middle of the driveway.

...We decided to go out to dinner. They chose The Bright Star. I've officially had enough of that restaurant to last another year. (See previous entry)

...We got home and watched re-runs of the Cosby Show. Sometimes I think my mom just likes having me in the same room. She went to bed right after that.

...Still gotta have one more serious business talk with mom before I leave. Not looking forward to that one.

...Does baseball have script writers? Red Sox last year. White Sox win their first since 1917 this year. What's next? Rangers vs. Cubs?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Birmingham Chron, Day 4

More thoughts on my visit to see my mom:

...that Milo's Hamburgers is the most unappreciated chain hamburger stand going by the locals. They have no idea the greatness of the sauce, the fries, the tea, the onions and pickles, the whole deal. They SO take that place for granted. But, move to a place that doesn't have it and you'll want it every time you come back. It's like when we first moved to Texas and there was no Krispy Kreme. No other doughnut sufficed. No other hamburger suffices, either.

...that a lunch hour to visit my best friend from high school (blog commenter "Hal") was WAY too short. We were just getting to the good stories when he had to go back to work. I work in a job where a lengthy lunch can actually be part of that work, so the idea of exactly one hour for lunch just isn't enough for a good visit. Next time we'll have to do it on a Saturday or something...and I wish I could've taken him up on the offer to play disk golf this afternoon. That'd be enough time, I'd imagine.

...I took a short break to see "Elizabethtown." The movie hasn't gotten favorable reviews but I never really go by those anyway. I can see why the critics didn't like it: They'd seen Garden State. This movie is what happens whey Hollywood tries to re-create the magic of an indie film. I, however, related to it better than I did in Garden State. It involved the family from the South instead of New Jersey. I knew those people and understood where they were coming from. Plus, it explored the way a death affects the entire family rather than just one person...but then it went back to the one person. So, it was a bit unfocused. Great soundtrack, too. But I really related to Drew ("I'm fine") even if I couldn't stand Kirsten Dunst's character. I will say that the concept of the map/music she made will be another blog topic at some point. Rent's a "thinker" movie. mom's husband Will said that he's never heard my mom talk so much as he has this week. He said I've been good at engaging her in conversation and that she opens up to me a lot and that he appreciated me bringing up some of the topics we've talked about. I guess that's a good thing, but, frankly, a lot of that is selfish on my part. Business needs to get taken care of so there isn't spilt milk later. Plus, we've always been pretty good at communication. Had to happen when dad died so we've gotten pretty good at it.

...Sometimes it's a ton of fun to surprise someone with a birthday phone call they weren't expecting.

...I fell asleep at 9PM last night after mom went to bed. It takes me about three days to really get into a mode where work doesn't take a high priority. So, today would be the true start of a restful time away from work, but I have to go back tomorrow. Right after mom gets her chemo treatment. I'll finish my fourth book either today or on the plane tomorrow.

...I still don't know who won the World Series game last night, so I'd better go check (the local paper said to go to the web site as the game went past their print time--a WORLD SERIES game doesn't hold up their presses--wow).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Birmingham Chron, Day 3

More thoughts from the former home of the Iron Bowl, named because of the influence of the former major corporation United States Steel, making this town the former Pittsburg of the South:

...thank you, Rosa, for igniting the spark. I now want her biography for Christmas. It's shame that now I'll have to induct her into my Rabble Rouser's Hall of Fame posthumously, as I've tried to begin inductions more spur-of-the-moment so they can come to the traditional lemon chicken dinner at my house.

...a trip to the cancer treatment facility was not happy, despite the attempts by the staff to remain continually upbeat. The nurses all had happy "Hey, how are you today?" words and hugs and smiles. Patients answered and hugged back, but there was always an undertone of serious business afoot that let everybody know these were mere pleasantries. I'd imagine that line of work has such incredible emotinoal drain.

...I like that moment when I can tell people have taken the self-deprecating pony-tailed youth pastor at face value and then have to deal with a well-timed, well-thought, and meticulously designed question. Watching a guy with some 15 years of college under his belt look around nervously, stand up, fold his arms, fidget and begin with, "Hmmm...that's a very good question..."

...I like the moment that even when he realizes what just happened he answered the question anyway with honesty and integrity, knowing it wasn't good news. He helped more than he knows.

...The Bright Star is a landmark restaurant in this area, and the food is certainly worth the trip. What I'm amused by is that it's pretty much exclusively visited by the AARP crowd who truly believes that their children are all pretty impressed by it. So, you have a whole bunch of senior citizens having lunch with their children, who all look at each other in an understanding way. The look says, "Our parents love this place so we come here A LOT."

...Sometimes, the best way to get out of a downbeat mood is to go visit your 5th grade nephew and 3-year-old neice. Listening to my nephew talk about the college football season (his prediction, not surprisingly, was that Alabama would win the rest of their games to go 11-0, and Auburn would lose all but one of thiers to go 6-5 was disheartening, and my response that Alabama would go 10-2 and Auburn would go 8-3 got eye rolls) and hearing the complexities of the "cover 2" defense his team runs and watching his firm belief that Uncle Brent could fix his radio (he really isn't aware of my strenghts and weaknesses at this age) was really pretty fun. He's a pretty sharp kid.

...And don't even get me started on the joys of sitting on the floor with lots of stuffed animals and toys (she was pretty impressed by my dead-on Elmo impression as well as my knowledge of various Disney and Pooh and Care Bears characters) and the fun you can have simply chasing her with a balloon really is priceless. When you have had daughters, goofing off with a three-year-old comes back naturally, and magically.

...after over 17 years of hanging out with my sister-in-law, we had a conversation that was hysterically funny because of our complete misreads and misconceptions about each other. Any conversation that kinda goes like, "Really? I always thought you were more..." is a good one.

...I still haven't had Milo's, although that may change today.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Birmingham Chron, Day 2

More thoughts on the Magic City (the age-old slogan that business leaders are currently trying to resurrect...apparently the Magic City needs a bit o' magic) travails:

...on Sundays when I'm not at work, I find that my mind reminds me of where I'm supposed to be at certain times. Like when I looked at a clock at 4:30PM, my brain went, "This game will never finish before you have to leave for church." That kind of stuff.

...I have a lot more time to read as much as my mom sleeps and since my computer isn't working up to snuff. I really am not sure I want to face the latter implications on that...but I'll finish another book today, making it three books in three days. Two of them have been really good, one, not so much.

...Yesterday on my trip to CompUSA for some advice (which didn't solve anything other than highlighting the obvious reality that my computer is old and needs some TLC) I passed a very large and prominent Baptist church as services ended. Now I know what people feel like when they have to sit in traffic because of OUR church. I'd never realized that before.

...all my teams keep missing field goals they need to help them win the games.

...There's never a good way to talk about Living Wills, Power of Attorney, funeral stuff, and future arrangements in a "what if?" context, but my Mom and I had a pretty good "business" meeting. It helps if there really isn't that much to the "business," too.

...last night's World Series game was big on dramatics. Again, I can't see why the general populace thinks baseball is boring.

...Sometimes sitting in a room watching television shows with your mom (watching shows she likes) is the best way you can spend your time on a Sunday evening. Even if the fare was Desperate Housewives (not sure I see the huge interest in that show) and Gray's Anatomy (very underrated show). I went to bed before the Alabama and Auburn coaches reviewed their games after the news.

...Milo's sweet tea is one heck of a guilty pleasure.

Well, got a couple of doctor visits today with Mom, so I'd better get to it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Birmingham Chron, Day 1

Some random thoughts on my arrival in Birmingham:

...I feel like a really big shot when I get to travel in first class on an airplane. I like it when they call boarding for 1st class and you get to go first. I like it when they are giving out sodas and stuff in your cabin and not to the rest of the plane. I like it that the seats are bigger. I can't figure out why I enjoy that so much, but I do. The funny thing is that I'm the exact opposite of a big shot because I've got friends that can get that stuff done. On my own...well, I couldn't even afford "coach class." I feel like a "C-list" person leading an "A-list" life.

...I wasn't in town 20 minutes and I'd already run by Pete's Famous Hot Dogs (the greatest hot dog in the world--don't even try to argue that because respected national magazines have said so). I think I'm that predictable.

...All in all, my mom looks pretty good. She's really tired and nods off every now and again (but then again, so do I), but she's eating well and moving around pretty good, too. Her hair has fallen out from the chemo this time, but she's got some stylish headwear and a nice wig, too. I'm not sure what that does mentally to a female, though.

...I never really got into the college football games because I was still getting settled and all that jazz. Alabama got lucky as the other team fumbled on the goal line and Auburn got unlucky (or needs a new kicker).

...I find myself getting frustrated to no end when things that are supposed to work don't work and I can't figure out why they won't work. I brought my laptop to get some important work done and my wireless internet card will read my mom's wireless router but won't get the signal to allow for internet access. And, at one point, it worked when I gave up on wireless & connected directly to my laptop (which would've worked as well, just more inconvenient) but in trying to get the wireless to work I somehow got that goofed up, too. But what really gets to me is that I feel like I'm too stupid to get things up and running.

...The local newspaper can't hold a candle to The Dallas Morning News. The national & world news are non-existent for the most part and the sports page is incredibly parochial (the World Series was on a something called "Sports II" and a local golfer in a minor tournament got more coverage; and don't even get me started on the lack of hockey coverage) but their college football coverage is second to none.

...a "four-cup" coffee maker only makes 2 cups. Whoever designs those things must be drinking their coffee out of thimbles.

...Well, I gotta go see if I can get MY computer to work instead of using my mom's.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Alabama The Beautiful?

I'm flying stand-by, but it looks good that I'll arrive in God's Little Acre around lunchtime. The signs say, "Welcome to Alabama the Beautiful." That might apply to the coastal areas or even the foothills of the Appalachains...but maybe a more accurate reading would be, "Welcome to Alabama the Kinda Cute."

Of course, there are things that are really cool about it. Like...

...Birmingham is a city that looks like it got thrown into a forest. Real hills and trees.
...Milo's Hamburgers and Pete's Famous Hot Dogs.
...the way things shut down on Saturdays because of the passion for college football.
...the small town feel even though it's a pretty big city.
...I know where almost all the roads go. That's what makes it always feel like...

...home. No matter that it isn't my home anymore and I haven't lived there in a decade.

And that's why I'm going.

To go "home" and see my mom as she prepares for chemo, round 2. Sometimes, you just need to go home and see your mom.

I don't guess you ever really outgrow that.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Plans Foiled

I was supposed to fly back to Birmingham today, but apparently the flight I was going to take (and the subsequent flights later in the day) have filled up. Something to do with the hurricane evacuees getting to various places...but I'll be able to get there tomorrow, so no biggie, really.

The only downside is that I'll miss seeing my sister unless she has a layover at DFW then we can connect for a few minutes...and of course, I'll miss a half day of visiting my mom, too. But it's really not even an inconvenience.

So, now, kind of a "free" day since I "got ahead" a little bit at work. I'll go to the office and work on budgets and stuff, I guess...but I wonder what God has in store for me today.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Very Ephesian Morning

*these are the thoughts I woke up with this morning...and have been surrounding me almost constantly the last week or so*

Ephesians 5: 10--11a: "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the full armor of God..."

Are you saying I don't have enough strength? Ordinarily, I'd be offended. Unfortunately, at the moment, I'm extraordinarily experientially aware of this I won't put up much of a fight on that. You're mighty. Frankly, that's not even arguable in my brain.

But "put on" some armor? What? Are we off to battle?

(*Next thought: "Yes. Absolutely. You know it and you know it. You can go without the armor if you want, but smart money's on putting on, kid."*)

Ephesians 5: 11b: "that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."

Schemes? What schemes?

Oh, you mean those nagging little things like your mom being stricken with a disease that cause all sorts of doubt and negative thoughts and anxiety and fear? Those things?

Or is it the reality that you're seeing an awful lot of teenagers that are neither hot nor cold, but incredibly lukewarm? That even though you've got kids doing drugs and having sex and skipping Sunday School and lying to their parents about how lousy their small group is and you know it and you haven't lovingly confronted them? And what about those that have been around for a while and you're watching them fall prey to elementary principles of the world and empty philosophies and the sensory pleasures--even though they're still "good kids?" That even those "good kids" aren't reaching out to the younger ones who struggle? Those things?

You know, disciples look like their teacher, right? Worried about that mirror of your students in your own life? Maybe you should, right?

Are you ministering to their parents, who often don't even know what they don't know? What about that?

Or have you been spending enough time with your staff? They need you, you know. Been making sure they've got enough support? What about that?

You know you're wasting your life and time in ministry, right? You could make twice as much money doing half as much work with half as much emotional drain if you'd just go get a real job, wouldn't you?

Ephesians 5: 12, "For our stuggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Okay, I get it. Under attack from the enemy. But I can't see it. How in the heck to I get ready to fight that kind of enemy? I mean, this is bigger than me...

Ephesians 5: 13, "Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm..."

Oh, okie dokie. The full armor is Yours? It'll help me resist in those days when the enemy attacks? Alrighty then...

...Girded loins of truth? Check!
...Breastplate of righteousness? Check!
...Feet shod with cleats of the Gospel of peace? Check!
...Shield of faith? Check!
...Helmet of salvation? Check!
...Sword of the Spirit? Check!

Well, at least as this soldier can adequately evaluate and check...then "Check!"

Then, Ephesians 5:18ff, "With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert...

Fending off the fiery darts & flaming missles.
On the alert.

And it's only 8:15AM.


*please forgive me if you're not interested in your pastors being this open in a public forum...I'll delete the post if that's the case...but this has been extremely cathartic regardless*

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Get Ta Know Meh!

My friend Stephanie (who I have fond memories of taking my entire youth group to come see a command performance of her in the leading role of Juliet when she was in high school...and also saw God at work in various ways in her life, but none as vividly as in a hospital in Haiti) said on her blog she wanted me to take part in the following deal. So, here goes:

5 things I plan to do before I die (not necessarily in any order):
1) Get my doctorate and teach a seminary class on youth ministry.
2) See a baseball game in every major league park.
3) Give my wife the honeymoon and engagement ring she deserves and never got either.
4) Write the darn children's book (and now it's maybe a series).
5) Become as interesting and cool as my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly.

5 things I can do:
1) juggle.
2) read a book a week.
3) compute batting averages in my head almost instantaneously if I have hits and at-bats, as well as convert partial season stats into full season stats upon hearing them.
4) grill all sorts of meats and veggies on the grill.
5) the dishes pretty much every night.

5 things I cannot do:
1) higher mathmatics (read: anything beyond basic baseball necessities).
2) remained disciplined regarding any diet for more than a month.
3) tolerate bigotry and racism in any form.
4) make lots of money.
5) sit through an opera or listen to country music (exception: Johnny Cash, my dad's favorite).

5 things that attract me to members of the opposite sex (I'm a guy, hence I will avoid the obvious):
1) intelligence.
2) sense of humor (which I firmly believe goes hand-in-hand with intelligence).
3) an "artistic bent."
4) Eyes that "dance."
5) an exquisite beauty that has some strangeness in the proportion (an Edgar Allen Poe phrase I read in high school and never forgot).

5 things I say most often:
1) That sucks more than anything has sucked before.
2) So, what's God teachin' you these days? (ask any of my teens and former teens if this isn't true)
3) What up? (no "what's," and you have to nod your chin)
4) Hey, rock star.
5) You rock my whole face right off.

5 celebrity crushes (and I believe you'll find a consistency with my other "attraction" question) :
1) Tina Fey.
2) Cindy Crawford.
3) Julia Roberts.
4) Gwen Stefani.
5) (tie) Natalie Portman & Jennifer Garner.

5 people I want to do this (that weren't on Steph's list):
1) Katherine.
2) my staff.
3) Bailey & Keila.
4) My "seniors '06" bloggers.
5) Kelsey and Shelby.
This State's One Mile From The Sun

For those of you non-Texans, we hit yet another record high yesterday: 91 degrees Farenheit. This is after the hottest September in the history of history. We're headed for mid-90's tomorrow, but the bow-tied Troy Dungan said we won't set the record.

We might only tie it. It's 94.

Troy, please make it stop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


My friend Steve-O is going to marry Michelle. This is all going down in late December.

Anyway, they've gotten an apartment and they've started decorating and such. She'll be living there until he graduates from college and he'll move in after their honeymoon.

They needed a car and purchased one together. So, upon calling the insurance agent to buy coverage, they were told that they couldn't get it together (even though they got the car together) because they weren't married yet...or LIVING TOGETHER. The agent actually used the phrase, "since you're doing this the 'old fashioned' way" they couldn't get insured through their company.

I don't know which is worse: The fact that a company is so stupid to lose business on a technicality, or the fact that what I consider to be normal is "old fashioned."
Here's the pitch...

If you're a baseball fan, could there have been a more dramatic home run than the one Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals hit last night? His team, at one point, was ONE STRIKE away from being eliminated from the playoffs.

A single.
A walk.
A three-run homer by Pujols.

The Cardinals go back home, down in the series 3-2. But, they get to play another day.

And people say baseball is boring.
I Don't Like Mondays

My Mondays have become days of recovery.

I'm too tired to read. I don't think clearly. I don't sleep well on Sunday nights. Ministry "business" has a way of creeping in here and there. I didn't get to see the movie "Elizabethtown" yesterday, but I still want to. I did get to do lunch with my wife and have dinner & good conversation (non-job related; re: normal stuff) with people I genuinely like. But, by and large, I feel like I walk around in a fog on Mondays.

It feels as if "strange things are afoot at the Circle K," too.

I want to have a hobby.
I want to do more than sleep and watch TV.
I want to use the time to write.
I want to give my wife the very best attention I can on that day.
I want to have the coffees I have with my daughters to be as profitable as possible for both of us.

But, my Mondays have become days of recovery.

I don't dig them, but I need them.


Monday, October 17, 2005

The weekend:

Performed a wedding ceremony on Friday evening that started in daylight and ended by moonlight. No, it wasn't that just started about 10 minutes too late, but the photographer said that the shots she got of the full, bright moon over the couple standing before me should be incredible. Pretty bride. Happy groom.

Had to miss the party as I had to catch up with the work crew at Pine Cove. It's a camp about 2 hours away from our church in a secluded area of east Texas. Locals call that part of the Lone Star state "the Piney Woods." The two hour drive helped clear some cobwebs as I listened to an NHL broadcast all the way. Live sports are better than coffee when it comes to being able to keep awake on late night drives in the Piney Woods.

Spent the weekend watching my job be more "pastoral." I mean, sure, I got to goof around with my teens and all that, but I really wasn't needed for the practical stuff of the ministry. I was able to encourage the adult leaders we took as they did the ministry work and have some real life talks about life and what not. I was able to spend more time that usual in prayer...which made me acutely aware of the work God was doing in and among our teens...and the workers. Normally, I only see those in retrospect, but it was pretty cool to be aware of the work God was doing as it was happening.

Side note: Pine Cove Christian Camps might be the finest camping outfit going today. Excellent staff support and great facilities...I can't speak highly enough about them. I'm glad so many of our teens work for them during the summer, and I'm glad we send them on the work crew weekends so they can get a taste of it early on.

Came home in a van yesterday with exhausted teenagers. I listened to the Cowboy game (won in OT), once again giving me some needed "down" time. One change in ministry over the years: The iPod's popularity gives 15 teens the ability to ignore each other and nod off. I understand on the way back from somewhere, but I'm thinking of banning them from the trip "to" places. You lose so much interaction that way...which might be good on an airplane if you want to avoid that, but lousy if you're trying to build group unity. Cell phones are actually helpful for teens to get their parents to the church to pick up their kids on time. Of course, they try to text message their friends all weekend. More rules.

You can definitely tell a lot about how parents parent their teen by how said teens respond to authority.

Taught Sunday School. Came home. Unpacked. Tried to go to bed early. Didn't work. Woke up at 2AM bug-eyed with my mind racing a mile a minute. Tried to read. Couldn't concentrate. Watched SportsCenter two times and fell asleep.

Coffee with one daughter. Biggest news: A crabby teacher and the end of her vegetarian run. The other daughter was in Pine Cove recovery sleep-later-than-usual mode.

Gotta return the rental van today. I'm thinking of going to see the matinee of the movie Elizabethtown today. Maybe I can talk Tracy into it. That'd be a good day off. Of course, so would a soak in a jacuzzi, but with the price difference being somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000, I'll take the movie.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Off To Pine Cove

Still gotta get the rental van for the high school team.
Still gotta pack.
Still gotta get some stuff done at the office before I can ship out.
Still gotta perform a wedding tonight before I leave.
Still gotta get back and teach Sunday School, which usually cuts it pretty close.

But I'm off to Pine Cove. It's a retreat camp in East Texas. Far from cell phones and internet.

I can't put my finger on it, because it's hardly a sress-free weekend, but it's a great place to get away...even if it's only for two days.

And I need it, brutha. I need it.

So, the Diner will re-open on Monday morning.

*flips over sign on the door that says, "Sorry, we're closed." lowers blinds. turns out the light*

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Defragmenting The Hard Drive

Lots rattling around in my brain today, and the only way I know to clear it all out is to write it out in sort of stream of consciousness:

...I may be proven wrong on this, but I have no fear of a severe outbreak of a rare flu strain. Didn't we go through this with SARS and Mad Cow and all sorts of other diseases that we were worried about severe outbreaks? I think sometimes the media feels like they have to report on SOMETHING, so that usually just mention how the government's unprepared for this rare flu strain that's taken over Zimbabwe.

...The new iPod deal that can hold 15,000 songs (which my entire music library on CD is right at 2,000 songs...and if I could figure out how to transfer all my music from cassette tapes to my iTunes then I might could get it up to 5,000 songs--that's a lot of music, folks), 2,500 pictures and give you up to 150 hours of video won't be as successful as the regular iPod stuff. See, music is a different deal. You listen to music while you're doing other things. So, everybody can listen to music while you mow or walk somewhere or work out or whatever, hence they buy the music players and all that. But to watch shows you have to be sitting...which might work for people who travel a lot or whatever, but that market is so much smaller. I'd imagine there'll be plenty of sales, though, since everybody wants the latest gadgets. For whatever reason, though, I thought of some guy being able to become a zillionaire with something called "Porn on the Pod."

...I'll reiterate to the city of Dallas again: The Texas-OU football game is moving because they have the chance to make a mint by playing at their own stadiums. It isn't about the condition of the Cotton Bowl. That's just a politically expedient excuse, so save your cash. Take it from an Auburn fan who went through all that when that rivalry game went to the campuses, which, by the way, has made the rivalry more enjoyable...well, for Auburn fans. We've won it more since the move.

...I'm still exhausted, not sleeping well, and still have a ton to do. I still maintain that this year will be one of the hardest I've ever experienced personally, professionally, emotionally and spiritually.

...My senior guys Bible study is highly enjoyable and I love how they care about each other and pray for each other. They're suprisingly open and honest. In fact, this senior class is highly enjoyable. I only wish they had more time to build into the younger teens in our group. They could really use the help, insight and encouragement only seniors can give.

...I don't think the 10PM newscast is very worthwhile anymore. It's become all human interest stories.

...The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim got a lousy call last night, but they should've ratcheted it up and gotten the last out anyway. I've never had much patience for any team that says one or two calls blew it for them. Good teams overcome bad officiating. They just find a way and fight through it. Quit griping already.

...I still can't figure out why the majority of the world doesn't get into baseball or ice hockey.

...I can't figure out why the student ministry web devotional I do every day doesn't get many comments. I'm seriously thinking about stopping that one. It seems like a waste of time.

...I'm constantly amazed at how much two children form the same parents in the same environment can be so decidedly different and equally enjoyable.

...Lost and Found's latest release, Pronto, didn't disappoint. Three EXCELLENT songs from the most underappreciated, misunderstood band with a Christian bent since Pedro the Lion.

...busy weekend upcoming. Lots of work to do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Christmas Already?

For some reason I was going to buy some Converse Chuck Taylor's. Haven't had a pair in a while and I kinda want some. Black of course. Then it hit me...why not just put it on my Christmas list? How did my Christmas list mindset already start?

So, let's beat the rush, shall we?

Well, what do YOU want for Christmas?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ding Dong The Wicked Witch Is Dead

I realize that baseball is off most of the nation's radar, but last night I got to watch the Evil Empire, the New York Yankees and their $203 million payroll get knocked out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. For the uninitiated, Major League Baseball has an arrangement (unlike the NFL) in which they can keep the home television revenues without sharing them with the other teams. Hence, the Yankees make more money than anyone else and can spend more than anyone else. This leads to a stacked deck.

One of their big purchases was one Alex Rodriguez...who left our Texas Rangers in last place all three of his years here, and upon leaving, said he had nothing against the Rangers but felt he deserved to play the game on the "game's biggest stage," meaning the Yankees.

Well, Yankees, I understand my team finished third in their division, 3 games under .500. But our payroll is less than one third of yours.

Well, Yankees, I'm glad you're out of the playoffs...AGAIN, and this time a series earlier than last year.

Well, Yankees, I'm glad of the way you got knocked out, too: With Alex Rodriguez going 2-15 in the series, and with the game on the line last night, in the top of the ninth with a man on and nobody out, hit into a 5-4-3 double play...effectively killing any comeback hopes. The "A-Rod Virus"--the belief that he hits home runs in meaningless situations and rarely contributes in the clutch, causing the clubhouse to become poison--has struck again...

Well, Yankees, I savored every second of that. And I don't feel guilty one bit reveling in your loss.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Repitition Is The Key To Learning

They're cliches.
There's a ring of truth to them.

"You gotta live one day at a time."
"Live in the now."
"The days are long, but the years are short."

You hear them over and over again.

But applying them is very difficult when your mom is undergoing chemotherapy...again.

There are good days.
There are bad days.

Yesterday was a good day for Mom.

But I'd really like a little more light shed on this path...more than what I'm getting, that's for sure. And yes, I'm fully aware of the reality that what she's going through is decidedly worse than my wondering about it all.

But I still gotta live one day at a time.
I still gotta live in the now.
I still gotta realize that all the days add up to what will eventually be hindsight.

It's a hard lesson to apply.

Really, it is.
I can sleep better now

Ashlee Simpson played Saturday Night Live again this weekend. She made the news last night for being having gained a measure of "redemption" by actually singing her songs without a backing vocal track.

I'm glad this was newsworthy. "Singer Actually Sings Her Own Song."

I'm glad she got her redemption, though. Her life was so miserable before last Saturday.
I guess it's all in the delivery

On the comics page of the local newspaper today, Charlie Brown, in the "Peanuts" comic (The strip on the "offical" site was different than what was in the paper, otherwise I'd just have posted the actual strip) says, "I know I'm not the only person who never gets any love letters. There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters. I could be their leader." All the while laying down in misery with his head perched on a mailbox post.

Why is it that when Charlie Brown says it, it's cute and endearing, and when somebody like Kurt Cobain says it, it's whiny, depressing and cynical?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I don't feel like it...Gosh!

Just letting you know I'm too tired to think straight.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Mound Showdown

In our community, two of the major high schools squared off in a football showdown last night. So, me and fellow bloggers Steve-O, Adam the Lutheran, Kristy, Marky Mark and Wes headed off to watch the game. It had to be moved to Texas Stadium (yes, THAT Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys play...Texas high school football is kinda serious) to handle the overflow crowd.

In typical youth pastor fashion, I sat in the end zone so as not to show any partiality to my teens at either high school...I really just want to see a good game either way. Very Switzerland-like of all of us. So, props to all the teens who came by to visit us even though you had to leave your friends for a few minutes to come sit in the end zone!

We "tailgated" with some friends before the game...well, what passes for tailgating in Texas, anyway. They may have cornered the market on high school football, but they have no idea how to get serious about the tailgate party. Deep South football can teach all of them a thing or two about that. What was good was the food and the conversation, though.

Some t-shirts allegedly seen at school that day: (from Marcus) "The Mound Showdown: Your daddy can't buy you this game." (from Flower Mound) "I used to go to Marcus until my dad got a job." Funny stuff...but I didn't notice that many kids from either school were on the dole from the government.

Then the Marcus Marauders hit the field:

Then the Flower Mound Jaguars came out of their tunnel:

They ran a few plays. The view from the end zone is like playing a video game.

And, depending on which side of the stadium you were sitting on (unlike the Swiss contingent in the end zone) there was much rejoicing or no joy in Mudville...

Friday, October 07, 2005

A Very PoMo Sense Of Community!

I was going to answer a couple of questions from the comments on my blog the last couple of days...but what I'd like to do is let you do it. I definitely have some opinions and insights, but I'd like to hear what some of you, I'll repeat the quotes with the question, and answer tomorrow.

In the meantime, grab a cup of joe, pull up a Diner seat, and let's have a little authentic on-line community today, eh?

Here's the quote again: "Sociologists point out that, no matter how 'family-like' they appear, small groups typically stop short of real (read financial) group maintenance--people who think or act differently either conform or quit. Instead of providing a context where young people may safely wrestle with faith and with one another, small groups--like youth groups and churches as a whole--tend to operate under a veneer of niceness that makes the kind of honesty to which Christians are called decidedly unwelcome."

From Pierced and Tatooed Kristen: "So what safe place does the author propose that gives students the ability to wrestle their faith? and how does he define small groups?"

From Justin: "So, Brent, in your last post I was wondering if you would expound on "Sociologists point out that, no matter how 'family-like' they appear, small groups typically stop short of real (read financial) group maintenance". What does it mean, what is your take on it, what does the Bible say about it, and how do I go about making sure I'm not one of those."

I'll get my cup of joe and expound tomorrow, but I'd like to hear your various insights into two really good questions...or you can expound on the quote in whatever mindset you bring to it.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Yet Another Case For Public Transportation

My friends Joshua and Kristen had two cars break down in short order. They're young & don't have a lot of extra cash laying most of us when we were in our early stages of marriage.

But see, in Dallas, when you're young & don't have a lot of extra cash laying around and your cars cost more to fix than they're worth, you really have no other options. You gotta have wheels in Big D.

But you shouldn't. A public transportation system that works, no matter what the form, should be an option if a city wants to be taken seriously. I fail to figure out why people love their cars so much.

Beside the point, be praying for Joshua and Kristen. I will. They need wheels.
More From That Book...

Some of my readers crack me up. They'll comment like crazy when the topic is their favorite cartoon character, but when they read something serious, they tend to send me e-mails. Nice e-mails, too. Just wanting to know more about what I said, or maybe a clarification, or even to start dialogue on a specific part of what I quoted. More private that way, I guess. Frankly, I'm surprised as can be that I have as many readers as read this thing. I can't imagine why anyone would care about what I write.

Anyway, the major substantive thing going on is that I'm reading one of the most influential youth ministry books I've ever read (Practicing Passion, by Kenda Dean). I find myself daydreaming during meetings about the ideas. In fact, I'll be a little sad when I finish the book tonight in my hammock in the 50 degree weather.

A couple of more quotes for you to chew on:

(from a footnote): "If Barbie were real, she would stand 7' 2" tall, have a bust/waist/hip measurement of 40-22-36, and sport a neck twice as long as other humans. The average North American women, by contrast, stands 5' 4" tall, wears a size 12, and measures 37-29-40." I think it's tough to be a teenage girl in America.

(today's youth) "...have a Jedi-like belief that faith equals feelings: 'If I trust my feelings, they will lead me to God.'" Uh-oh.

(A guestion every youth minister needs to ask): "Is my canvas for ministry with young people stretched across the frame of Christian practices, or is it tacked onto beams of wholesome entertainment, content mastery, and good works--valuable activities, but bereft of power to bestow identity because their transformational connection to Christ's life, death and resurrection has been lost?"

So, feel free to comment...or e-mail (even if I don't have enough time to give full answers, don't be surprised if I send back one wanting to talk about it over coffee).


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


The Good...

...I had a breakfast with Katherine and Goliath. Good food, good conversation, good time.
...the baseball playoffs began.
...the hockey season began, and fall weather appears to make another attempt in Dallas.
...I watched a "rough-around-the-edges" teenager find a place of acceptance in our ministry.
...I had dinner with my oldest daughter who regailed me with middle-school minutae that I found very funny.

The Bad...

...I forgot the topic Katherine told me I should write a book about, and at the time it seemed like a good idea.
...the Yankees won and my local team didn't make those baseball playoffs.
...nobody else seems excited about hockey season starting because it's a niche market and it's 95 degrees here.
...I watched another "rough-around-the-edges" teenager fall apart at the seams.
...I haven't spent much time with my youngest daughter lately.

The Ugly...

...I shot down Katherine's book idea with the usual arguments I give people when they tell me to write a book.
...The Braves (the NL team I always pull for) always exits in the first round of the playoffs. really is irrelevant, but I maintain it's one of the best spectator sports.
...working with teenagers is win/lose anyway, and it's hard on the emotions.
...those emotions are often hard to divorce when you spend time with the family.

...and my mom went into the hospital for dehydration. It's not a huge deal to fix that, but only 6 days into chemotherapy treatment and she's already dehydrated. Ugh.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Must Read...Sorta

Any youth minister or children's minister who doesn't read Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church by Kenda Dean seriously needs to have their head examined.

It's a scholarly work, not nearly as accessible as the Doug Fields stuff (notably Purpose Driven Youth Ministry), but much more provocative. I know it's difficult to get into quotes, but I spent my day off being alternately provoked by this book and celebrating my wife's birthday and being provoked and going to my daughter's volleyball game and being provoked and watching C.S.I. and quitting in the middle because I couldn't put it down.

So, here we go...keeping in mind that this book highlights the reality that the American Church (in every sense of the word "church") has lost it's passion.

"Most of us assume that our beliefs lead us to act in ways consistent with those beliefs. If that were true, I would drink far less Diet Coke and spend a lot more time at the gym."

"Not surprisingly, where youth and adults pray together and often, youth ministry typically receives a fresh bolt of energy...True union with God knows no tactical shortcuts. There is no other route to true communion save a lifetime of faithful practice, which contemplative practices simplify, purify and bather in prayer, leading ultimately to silent responsiveness, 'an empty waiting on God that precedes union in a full sense."

And, here's one that should terrify us all as a tribe:

"Sociologists point out that, no matter how 'family-like' they appear, small groups typically stop short of real (read financial) group maintenance--people who think or act differently either conform or quit. Instead of providing a context where young people may safely wrestle with faith and with one another, small groups--like youth groups and churches as a whole--tend to operate under a veneer of niceness that makes the kind of honesty to which Christians are called decidedly unwelcome."

Resolved: Change the status quo. Pronto.

Monday, October 03, 2005

You Say It's Your Birthday...

My uber-talented, uber-smart, uber-hot wife shares birthday today with...

...Gwen Stefani.


I think not.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Feeling Old

My youngest child just lost her very last baby tooth this morning.

My beautiful wife is spending the last day of her 39th year today.

I heard a friend say, regarding parenting, "The days are long but the years are short." That seems fitting today.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Five on The First

A while ago, I stole something from another blog that just asked five questions on the first of every month so the author could get to know his readership. Being a big fan of "community," I thought it was a good idea so I stole it. Anyway, here's the question for this month from The Diner:

Who are the top 5 people in history you wish you could've been at their side with as they were in the heyday of whatver it was they did? (I'll leave out Jesus Christ as it's a painfully predictable answer)

1. Thomas Jefferson. How cool would it've been to sit at his home in Virginia and witnessed all that?
2. Martin Luther King, Jr. A true American hero in every sense of the word...and I would've loved seeing those ideas affect the masses.
3. Martin Luther. Although I can't imagine I'd enjoy being around his borderline madness and his illnesses, it would've been so exciting to see Scripture come alive in ways it never did before and be around his passion.
4. Thomas Edison. What do you think every day was like around his house?
5. The Ramones in the CBGB days. By the time all that alternative music--and the various clothing styles--got to Alabama (pre-MTV days) it was a fad instead of a movement. It changed everything in music, which has ripples to young people even today.
Books I Read In September

Sorry to bother you...for record keeping purposes only.

flashBang: How I Got Over Myself by Mark Steele.

That's it. Ugh. I can feel my brain beginning to atrophy already.