Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Blog Address

*door to the McKinney Diner opens, causing the little bell above it to ring*

*herald says, "Ladies and gentlemen, the proprietor of The McKinney Diner!"*

*friend pushes the play button on the iPod, which is connected to travel speakers, and Moby's song "Go" plays as I shake hands with several patrons, dap a few others, and point and wink at those I can't reach*

*music fades as I get behind the register and begin*

"Fellow bloggers, frequent commenters and faithful lurkers,

Please let me begin by saying how thankful I am for your consistent patronage ever since that first blog on Monday, June 23, 2003. The Diner opened up that day with 11 hits, and I think I was 5 of them (*polite laughter from the patrons*).

But since that time, we're getting about 150 hits a day from different people, and some of you are stopping in 3 or 4 times a day to get that feeling of "where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came" (*puzzled looks from the patrons*)--that sense of electronic community that can help you pass the time at work or school or whatever, and for that, I'm very thankful. The Diner's #1 goal has always been to keep folks connected...largely to me, but also to each other. I think that's a pretty good goal, "il tango el situacion por mi familia" (*patrons who've watched "Bottle Rocket" chuckle, everyone else is still puzzled*).

We've overcome a lot, too. What with Blogger actually developing their own commenting feature as well as the ability to post photos...but we stuck with haloscan, warts and all, for the ease of it. We did ditch "Hello"...but we never got sucked into those Xanga or MySpace fads...let's be honest: They're all sizzle and no steak. (*first standing ovation from the patrons*)

Well, I know most of you are here today to hear what's going to go on this year with The Diner. And first of all, I have to say that we've got our work cut out for us. I mean, it's the little things that matter. There's no question that I've been lax in the links on the left. It's a lot of minutae to keep up with those that have blogged and those who haven't. There've also been some realities that I've been listening to music I haven't told you about, books I've read that never got mentioned and watched movies and shows you never heard about. There have been websites that have been worthy of hits that never got the credit they deserved, and there have been sites that never should've been linked. There've been bloggers who need to be added...

...the suburban mother of two who has hot opinions comes to mind...

...and missionaries, who, while no one questions their nobility, let's just say that you have to discipline and correct those who don't blog...

So, I give my promise to you that the "index" to the left will be better managed and maintained since they have since The Diner's inception! (*2nd standing ovation given*).

And, if I can be honest here...let me say that not a day goes by that I don't want to hang a "gone surfin'" sign on the door and simply stop blogging (*hushed whispers among the patrons*). I mean, I wrestle with it all the time. The creative energies burned, the amount of time writing down things during my day that I should just enjoy because I think, "I should blog about that." Or, "This'll stir up the comments tomorrow." You other bloggers know what I'm talking about. (*some patrons nod in agreement*)

But this year I've already decided to use this as a forum for a few more disciplined essays. Not just smatterings of opinions or thoughts or whatever...but as a forum for me to hone my craft a bit. To work towards using this for a means to make a few extra bucks. (*murmurs through the crowd*)

*going off the prepared text*

I know what you're thinking. The Diner's selling out! Going corporate! Becoming The Man instead of sticking it to The Man!

Save your breath. I'm not talking about squelching ideas, here. I'm talking about becoming a more disciplined writer. One that can have ideas and thoughts considered worthy of more than self-publication. I can't imagine that I'll ever become that corporate tool. Look at me! I'm wearing the Birks and a Social Distortion T-shirt for crying out loud! (*third standing ovation*)

*back to the prepared text*

See, I think I want to write some essays on the nature of the Christian life in suburban America of 2006 vs. the Christian culture of the 1st century. I think I'd like to explore marriage. I'd also like to write some essays on losing my father and what it means to me now. So, with your indulgences...

...that's the plan.

I wrestle with it all the time. What this blog should be. And I think it's time to take it to that level. Not just comic strips and Auburn football musings and the occasional jab at American institutions like schools, churches and government...

...but don't get me wrong, we'll still offer those on the menu...

...it's just that if you're going to be a writer of influence, who better to give critiques before you ship them off to publishers than the people who've been on board with you every day for the last few years?

So, there'll be no skin changes.

No fancy fonts or photo backgrounds.

Gone are the "five on the first" questions that weren't very good anyway.

The minimalist, hoi polloi & blue collar fabric of The Diner will remain intact. We're just going to offer a few specials to the menu here and again this year. It's time. You know it, and I know it. (*4th standing ovation*)

Thank you for coming today, and please, keep blogging, commenting and lurking here at The Diner and other establishments. We'll all be closer for it."

*friend hits the iPod connected to the travel speakers again, this time playing Ted Nugent's version of "Baby, Please Don't Go" as I exit, shaking hands, dapping and pointing and winking*

*the bell dings as I exit The Diner*

*patrons will now sit and discuss the key points and strategies among themselves*

*rebuttal now begins in the comments section*

Monday, January 30, 2006

Good Question

My friend Becca asked the question on her blog and I thought it'd be a good one to steal:

If I gave you $5,000 and two weeks off work/school, what would you do?

My answer: Take my wife with me to Manhattan for two weeks. During the day she'd take pictures and I'd write, and and night we'd eat at trendy restaurants and see the hottest shows.

Well, what would you do?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Yeah, It's That Time Again

My higher-order life-liver sister Jilly turns...well...she's getting to that point where it's bordering on impolite to bring up the age she's turning. But, like the birthday card we got her says, "You know you're getting older when you go to a party and 1) Nobody throws up; 2) Everybody leaves early; and 3) You leave with the same person you came with."

Well, anyway, let's all celebrate by...

...obsessing over details. Doesn't matter what the details are, just obsess over them.
...taking a wine class and actually knowing about wines instead of pretending to.
...becoming a member of an exclusive airline mileage club.
...trying to find some way to buy real estate in Manhattan.
...having friends that are incredibly interesting, even when they're sober.
...knowing where the really good restaurants in your town are.
...trying to cook with a cookbook from northern Africa.
...spoiling your pet rotten.

Happy birthday, Jilly! I really do love and admire you!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Off To A Great Start

It's raining. For those of you not in Texas, that might not mean much, but for only the third time in 165 days, it's raining.

I've got coffee in my oversized mug that has "Seattle" on it in big letters over a photo of the skyline there.

I've already picked up the Saturday donut ration for the girls. Chocolate milk is in the fridge.

The Dallas Morning News was sufficiently wrapped in plastic by my paperboy for the rain today. I'll remember that when his Christmas tip envelope arrives.

Dog in the chair next to me...taking his late "early-morning" nap.

One of the best sermon series I've listened to in a couple of years is on the iPod. I've already listened to it once. About to start again.

(Rabit trail begins) Our Winter Bible Conference, featuring Dr. John Hannah--a former seminary professor of mine--had so much stuff that the Christian community in America needs to hear that I can't believe we're not offering it on podcast on our website. But pick up a set of CD's. I can't endorse it strongly enough...it'll encourage you in your walk with Christ more than you know. (end rabbit trail)

The demands of the job have once again pushed into my Saturday. There is much to do. But I can tell you this much. It can wait another hour. I'll enjoy this moment of peace, quiet and solitude. They're more rare than I like these days.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Does This Make Me Old & Crotchety or Hip & With-It?

Aerosmith is in town tonight.

Lenny Kravitz is opening the show.

It's at the fancy-pants arena downtown.

The first thought that hit my brain was NOT, "How much are tickets and are there any left and can I steal away to get down there?"

The first thought that hit my brain was, "I should probably get to iTunes and download some of those songs I'm missing for my iPod."
The Power of Convenience

I guess this all started about 10 years ago or so. Our little slice of heaven here in southern Denton County was, at one point (if real estate agents can be trusted), one of the fastest growing burgs in the U.S.

Because of this, there was a planned connection of a road that would connect southern Denton County and northern Denton County. This road would have to go over a lake. The locals call it a bridge.

Anyway, this has made the land around this connecting road a pretty hot commodity. It has also become a political football because homeowners are upset about it all. Apparently, those homeowners didn't believe the real estate agents.

This value actually benefitted our church. We bought low, and sold a portion of our land high enough to break even on that deal. Pretty cool if you count dollars. Lousy if you count aestetics. Have you seen how generic public storage places look?

So, this has caused all sorts of "growth" in our area. A couple of shopping centers have sprung up.


...about four years ago or so, I had to drive about 20 minutes--driveway to parking place--to get to the mall. Surrounding the mall were a bevvy of shopping centers with all the big box retailers. There is a building supply place about 10 minutes away. Their competitor is right across the street. Another mall sprung up about 15 minutes away--driveway to parking place. New movie theatre there, too.

Well, with all this "growth" in my community along the road to what the locals call a bridge, we're getting...a new major bookstore chain, a Wal-Mart, all sorts of big box retailers. And we already got all their competitors and a building supply place. Keep in mind that we also have a drugstore on every corner, and a bank, and a supermarket. Coffee shops and pizza delivery places and DVD rental places abound.

What's interesting to me about all this is that I'll benefit.

Now I'm 5 minutes from all these places--driveway to parking place--instead of the 15 or 20 minutes I was. They're the same places I already frequent...just like you do.

And a Sunday School teacher at my church said there'd be a 40-screen theatre in the complex, too. I can trust a Sunday Schol teacher.

I guess I don't understand how companies can make enough money to support the EXACT SAME store within 5 or 10 miles from each other.

So, please don't misunderstand me at all. I'm not against this development (with the noted exception of a generic public storage facility within yards of our church parking lot). Yay, captitalism!

I just can't figure out how those places all expand so close together and still make money.
Feed Our Frankenstien

There was an election in the Middle East yesterday in which the militant Hamas political party came into power. This event becomes another factor to consider in the politics of that region.

Our own president said something to the effect that this political shift highlighted that the populace was unhappy with the status-quo. And, for those of you who don't know, that's roughly four decades of "status quo" they just replaced. Overwhelmingly replaced.

So, what's "above the fold" on the Dallas Morning News?


Oprah Freaking Winfrey.

She's running damage control because she made a book famous...and it turns out the "memoir" has a lot of "fiction."

The Apocolypse may be closer than we know...

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Went to my senior guys' Bible study last night. When I arrived, there were guys playing ping-pong and the requisite techno compositions going on (one of the guys got a keyboard program for his computer for Christmas, and apparently electronica is the easiest to compose for the novice). By the time I left, we'd had a great discussion from Mark 3 on how from the calling of the disciples that their walk with Christ was their primary responsibility. Side discussion covered the differences in the disciples and how we should be ourselves and appreciate differences.

Afterward, our student coffee shop opens up and the kids can hang out. Wound up hanging out with some senior girls on the way Christian literature currently influences our thinking...and once the premises are accepted, and if they're off base, a whole series of influences become accepted as spiritual even if they are wrong.

It hit me for the first time regarding this year's seniors: I'll miss this bunch...more than most. Occupational hazard to be sure, but normally, I don't start feeling this way about them until after the spring break ski trip.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


The "emerging church."

I've probably read more books on it than anyone else. I've got one last one in the stack to polish off and then...

...I doubt I'll read any more on the subject unless a book with new buzzwords comes out. They all say the same thing, ultimately.

This is my take on the whole deal:

Really, it all comes down to 1 Thessalonians, chapters 1 & 2.

Lives should be truly transformed by the reality of Christ.
Lives should be lived by serving others in love.
Lives should be lived, with others of kindred spirit, in the expectation of Christ's return.

If that were happening, everything else would be irrelevant. Whether you're 18 or 80.

So, to the church "as is": The next generation wants to see it lived out, and we can't bark too loudly at them or about them if we aren't doing those things...corporately and, more importantly, individually.

And, to the "emergents": You're right to push the church, and push hard, where the church "as is" falls short of those realities. But you have to remember that love and grace and personal & genuine transformation are all two-way streets.


The sum of about 30 hours of reading in 5 minutes. But that's really my take on the whole deal.
Stars Hollow

Wouldn't it be cool if all our conversations were as witty and clever and rapid as the ones that take place on Gilmore Girls?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It Makes So Much Sense

Universal healthcare.
Flat tax.
Serious (read: Apollo-like) focus on alternative energy sources.
Public transportation nationwide.
Term limits & lobbyist reform.


I know there are reasons why all this stuff won't "work." That's why there's debate on these issues.

But today, they all make so much sense. Yet, I don't think I'll be hearing about any of these during the State of the Union address a week from today.


...I'm feeling kinda lonely with the lack of comments lately.

Maybe it's seasonal. Maybe blogging is "out." Maybe people are being productive at work or school these days.

But politics seems to get folks riled up (raised in the Deep South indicator #6,932) so I thought I'd shake some winter doldrums.

*into a bullhorn, with the intent of getting people riled up*

Hurray for universal healthcare!
Hurray Flat tax!
Hurray for serious (read: Apollo-like) focus on alternative energy sources!
Hurray for public transportation nationwide!
Hurray for term limits & lobbyist reform!

Have at it, readers. :)
Cleaning Out My Closet

Just wanting to let all of you know that punitive measures are afoot at The Diner.

For those of you who have not blogged in January, you have until midnight, January 31, or risk being removed from the links to the left.

Sometimes, you simply have to play hardball.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Happy(?) Gloomy Day!

The people who study such things have determined that January 23 is supposed to be the gloomiest day of the year. Apparently, the bills from Christmas have come in, you're smack in the middle of winter (well, if you aren't in Texas), your New Year's resolutions have already fallen flat, etc. It's the "perfect storm" for depression.

It did say that if you live in Texas, Florida or California you might have it a little less gloomy because the weather is nicer.

Oh yeah. The British are the overall gloomiest country. Malta, however, is the happiest. The USA pulls a 13th on the happiest levels. Mexico, Ghana and Uruguay are at the bottom of the list, too.

If you're married, you're supposed to be happier, too. And exercise helps.

Well, here's hoping your "life satisfaction index" is powerful enough to get through today without looking too much like Eeyore.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Shaking Out The Notebook

My friend Katherine told me about a t-shirt that reads, "I am blogging all of this." Sometimes as I'm simply living my life I feel that way...and often, I scribble movie lines on napkins, funny things I overheard on old envelopes, observations in a pocket-sized notebook, etc. Yesterday was one of those days where I had a lot of those little moments but not necessarily one big blog.

Here's some snippets:

I stopped by the church yesterday to see how the deck for our student ministry's coffee shop was coming along. It'll be a nice hang out for students (even nicer knowing a company, unknowing accomplices to the handiwork of God, dontated the materials). It was really only a few dads & students digging post-holes for the foundation, with strings going everywhere and tape measures and such. But, I'm taken aback by the reality that this might be the place a student has the light bulb go off...all because God's people cared enough to dig a post-hole. Sometimes the sublime is where the work of the Father is found.

Despite much to do, I took my oldest daughter to the local minor league baseball team's fan day. It was free, and make no mistake, they were all about selling the 7- or 18-game ticket packages, but still. You got to walk in the baseball park on a 60 degree sunny day. There were former minor-leaguers now major-leaguers giving free autographs. My daughter was in the big-time donor suite that overlooks the field from behind home plate. "Oh, man! I miss baseball season," she says. I was thinking the exact same thing. She got her picture made with the Rangers' new 2nd baseman (hoping anyway, that he's major-league ready after 3 minor league seasons) who smiled and seemed happy to be signing autographs. It really was a small (and hardly altruistic) gesture, but they've got my business. Little things mean a lot.

Shelby came home and opened her birthday presents. She chose the restaurant, a local place called Pazzo's Pizza (they wood-fire it, whatever that means) so a small break in the new year's diet was mandatory...as was the gelatto afterward...so I guess you could say her theme was Italian yesterday. Anyway, the restaurant had paper tablecloths & crayons and we had a fun family moment where my oldest daughter was using those tools to describe "levels of friendships." She drew herself and some concentric circles with little dots and then she put names to them to help us understand the "levels" and then she scribbled outside all the circles and said, "This is everybody who isn't a friend yet." I drew two dots together, "This is me and your mom. *1st circle, with two dots* "This is you two." *in between the circles I drew a stick-figure dog* "This is Lloyd." Immediately they were playfully upset with their rating behind the dog, and Tracy made a joke that he was trying to get in between our dots. I then scribbled after my one circle and said, "These are all the people who aren't friends yet." They laughed, knowing I have very few close friendships besides my wife. Again, it may not be much, but it was little.

I was awakened this morning by thunder. 1st time in 31 days it's rained in DFW. Even then that was only a quarter-inch...and the last time was got an inch was 80 days ago. In fact, 161 days--nearly half a year--we've only had an inch and half of rain. I didn't mind at all being awakened by thunder.

As I sit here and think about how these little things added up to make one very pleasant day, I think I'll try to be a little more sensitive to the little nuances today. Seems like God is found in those life moments.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


She came early.
She created a comparatively short labor.

She used to suck her thumb.
She used to carry a pink blanket everywhere.
She used to spin in circles whenever I'd play Pearl Jam music.
She used to sit in my lap when I read the paper.

She is pink/purple girly.
She snuggles.
She dances.
She gets up early.
She adores animals.
She is a musical eclectic.
She is witty.
She is bright.
She is self-assured.
She makes me coffee and knows how I like it.

I could go on.

And on.

And on.

She was born 12 years ago today.
I remember it like it was yesterday.

I adore her.
I love her.
And there is no present I can give her greater than the joy her life has given me.

Happy 12th birthday, Shelby!
Happy birthday.

Some Things Speak For Themselves

Friday, January 20, 2006

Mid-Life Crisis?

Well, "crisis" is too strong a word.

What I'm experiencing is more like an "unrest" combined with an "urgency." I mean, as I approach 40, it's becoming apparent that I'm about halfway through life here...and it seems there's so much to do and so little time.

It seems like I'm only beginning to "get" life. To understand it. To keep from getting my groove thrown off. I feel like I finally have a handle on the condition of the universe and my place in it.

And even though my eyes are missing some little stuff even with glasses on, (Right, Katherine? She had to show me the correct button on a remote control because I couldn't read the stuff under the buttons--my first genuine middle-age moment!), I feel like I'm just beginning to gain a platform to have some degree of influence...and to fail to use it wisely and effectively would border on sin.


These are the thoughts bouncing around in my brain at this point.

It's going to be a strange day.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Very "High Fidelity" Moment

My friend Bailey turned 16 on Tuesday and was pretty darn excited about it all. The requisite license to drive was obtained yesterday, so I decided to put together a CD of tunes to drive around in her parent's convertible with her friends. Made the playlist and burned it right then and there...iTunes makes it so darn easy.

You know, starting with general songs good for driving with the top down (Tom Petty's "Running Down A Dream," U2's "Beautiful Day," etc.) and evolving into songs I'd imagine a car full of girls could sing ("Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer, "Love Rollercoaster" by the Ohio Players, etc.) and then closing with songs appropriate for an upbeat end to a fun day ("What A Wonderful World" by Joey Ramone and R.E.M.'s "End of the World"). There's really an art to making a good playlist...and the soundtrack really can have an effect on the mood.

Anyway, I've been feeling a bit short on creativity these days and I can't tell you how many people this week have asked me about the book(s) I'm supposed to be writing, so I need my faithful Diner readership to come up with a playlist for me of songs that help you get into or enhance the creative mood...

...I'll start: Song 1, "Listen" by Collective Soul.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ziggy & The Spiders From Mars

Some mornings David Bowie provides the best possible soundtrack. Just thought you should know.
The Effects Of A Warp Speed Life?

Op-ed page stuff again...this time from William McKenzie in yesterday's Dallas Morning News.

The article was about how there's no real evidence of a desire among younger Americans to carve a place in society...you know...to lead our nation with vision.

The usual suspects were paraded about. Video games. Computers. TV.

But here's a couple of little nuggets I thought might get some discussion going:

"Here's another troubling trend: the culture of achievement among the middle- and upper-middle-class students, many of whom spring from our suburbs. Their high schools produce super-achievers by the bushel. And many of them want to matter in a specific way, as in immproving the environment.

But often it seems those students filling out Harvard, Princeton and Stanford applications are merely looking for one more achievement to check off their list. A vision for themselves, or their country? I'm not so sure."

Not enough to get you to comment. How about this one from the author's solution on where to find these visionaries...and one place to look was in our religious communities. Try this:

"Third, religious communities, particularly the evangelical church. While mega-churches cna provide an insular haven for kids, they also provide a moral framework to deal with the world of computer smut, indulgent affluence and the thrusting of adulthood down into our elementary schools. For all of its narrowness, the evangelical church--and other houses of faith--may preserve kids' ability to dream and explore their world."

So, here's what I'm thinking...

...are our high schools producing super-achievers rather than visionaries?
...are our evangelical churches indeed "insular havens" and "narrow?"
...is the world really thrusting adulthood down?
...can the evangelical church truly "preserve kids' ability to dream" or does it tend to value homogeniety over expression?



Tuesday, January 17, 2006

No Agenda

It's a retreat.

In the truest sense of the word.

We contract with the bus company.
We reserve the retreat center that surrounds a large lake in east Texas.
The only thing we ask of our teenagers is that they show up at meals and abide by some basic (and obvious) rules.
We give them a sheet of paper that has some ideas for Bible studies they can do and/or journal prompts from sermons, Sunday School classes or some quotes.
The former students and some adults are on hand with one job: Be available to chat just in case.

And then the magic happens.

They ask questions like, "Do you ever just wish you could give up the Christian life? I mean, it's just so hard and confusing."

They make you laugh until your abs hurt about Furby's that won't sell at garage sales or waving their arms like crazy during a bus roll call.

They organize and lead their own session of "So, what did God teach you today?" on the dock at night...not 10 minutes after the dance-move contest on that very same dock.

They include the kid that doesn't "fit."

They invite the younger girls into their cabin for "bonding"--which, as far as I can tell, involves spiritual discussion while making goofy hairstyles on each other and Teddy Grahams with frosting.

You don't even WANT to know about the guy "bonding"--which, suffice to say, is far less civilized.

They play games of touch football or ultimate frisbee, making up rules so everyone is included WITHOUT prompting from their youth pastor.

They take you up on the offer to give them some of the senior pastor's sermons for their iPods...then they sit on the dock and listen to it.

They don't care when you steal that very same idea.

The older ones sit politely while you tell the story they've heard 1,000 times to the freshmen who haven't heard it yet.

The former students walk up and tell you that a teen who didn't know Christ 20 minutes ago now knows Christ, and that they can't really explain how humbled they felt to be a part of the process.

They regail you with tales of goals in gym hockey and the incredible shot in H-O-R-S-E or the touchdown pass they caught as if it really mattered, and then you realize that it really did matter.

They talk about eternal things and the best band they've ever heard within 30 seconds of each other.

They run a little late behind in loading their stuff on the busses because they were having one last time of prayer together.

They even organize a brunch on their day off from school when they got back because there were more things to discuss and laughs to be shared.

You're sitting on a dock, listening to a sermon, then follow that up with a few songs of worship (and a teen is to your left doing the exact same thing), knowing that God is at work in the 78 teens and 12 adults somewhere behind you...

...and you realize...

...that this is precisely what God designed you to do and you're overcome with the reality that you're in the middle of His plan and you simply smile, say "thanks, God" because you've got the best job in the world and that the only way it could've been better was if your wife and kids could've come and that you are as happy as you'll allow yourself to be...

*smiling just thinking about it again*

Manalive. You've got to be kidding.

And you wonder why anyone would ever reduce student ministry to what amounts to glorified babysitting or providing wholesome recreation. It isn't difficult, really.

Just get a bus or two or three.
Then get a retreat center.
Then get some adults who walk worthy to be available.
Then provide a few thought starters.
And watch God work.

This is my job.
You've got to be kidding.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Back From Pine Cove, But...

...there's really only one thing that should be blogged about today:

See, I keep my list of heroes pretty short. Unlike the baseball Hall of Fame, where they seem to believe that you should vote a few players in every year, I believe that the McKinney Diner Hall of Fame should be reserved for true heroes in every sense of the word.

A charter member of the Diner HoF is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And, I'm really appreciative of the U.S. of A. for having a holiday in his honor.

So, to sharpen us all, I found a provocative quote from Taylor Branch (Pulitzer Prize winning author of MLK history):

Despite America's reluctance to embrace the King holiday, Mr. Branch thinks the civil rights leader "would be amazed by a lot of the positive transformations" in today's America.

"He would be stunned by the incredible growth of the black middle class, especially in his hometown of Atlanta," Mr. Branch says. "And he'd be happy to see that there were black players on the University of Georgia football and basketball teams. And overall, he'd be thrilled that there's a prosperous interracial life in America, that there's no terror at integrated events."

Still, "he'd be dismayed by all of the problems that we pretend aren't there," Mr. Branch says, "the amount of poverty, the schools, the Middle East, the lack of real optimism in our public discourse about what's possible. You don't hear about the possibilities of democracy. We just throw spitballs about who's liberal and conservative."

Gentle reminder: Let freedom ring, everybody. Let freedom ring.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fair Warning

I don't know why I woke up crabby.

Life is good.
Wife is good.
Kids are good.
Dog is good.
Going to Pine Cove retreat this weekend, which is VERY good.
Reading good books.
Watching good shows.
Got good friends.
Enjoying work.
Pretty much have every reason in the world to be happy.


...I'm crabby.

Full-blown, wish-it-were-raining, Nirvana-on-iPod, get-away-from-me, nobody-likes-me, why-am-I-this-way, go-eat-worms...


I don't understand myself sometimes.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that very few things could be as predictable as the confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Alito.
...it's peculiar to me that the teens in my ministry are so excited about a weekend in which all we do is provide a retreat center and no schedule. It's one of the highest attended & most effective weekends we have, and it's the least amount of work we do as a staff.
...it's strange the musical choices my subconscious makes each day as the first song to hit my brain. Today it was "Winners and Losers" by Social Distortion. Yesterday it was that Ferris Bueller song that pretty much just says, "oh, yeah" to electronic drums.
...at it's core, the "emergent" movement taking place in churches is really about true discipleship (which I agree is dismal in most churches). Trust me. I've read more books on it than most folks.
...FOX News and CNN are both pretty much propoganda--it's simply the propoganda we agree with already. We'd all do well to think more instead of having our presuppositions supported.
...don't even get me started on the nightly news. It may be nightly, but there isn't much news (and, while I'm at it, how can Dallas weatherfolks spend five minutes each newscast when our weather hasn't changed in two months?)>
...I can see why the show the Gilmore Girls has such a devoted following. It's pretty clever--but then my view might be skewed because my pre-teen daughter has two seasons on DVD and it has been a continuous showing since Christmas.
...in about a month, pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Does it indicate a problem that I know that?
...I'm glad my mom is traveling to San Francisco next week to visit my sister.
...my sister's month-long trip to New York in April makes me wonder if it is 1) "crashable" for her brother & his wife; and 2) a pre-cursor towards getting a permanent residence there.
...I don't follow college basketball, but I can't stand it when Auburn loses to Alabama in anything--even if it's by 4 with a bunch of freshmen. And, yes, it's all from what I read on the internet, but I really believe Auburn's new coach might be the best coach in the conference with the least talent. They'd do well to keep him, but they won't. He'll move to greener hoops pastures at the first opportunity.
...I have little discipline when it comes to dieting. I'm pretty good on the day-by-day stuff, but my setbacks are serious setbacks.
...I'd really like to be on one of those home makeover shows, but let my wife make all the decisions instead of the goofy cast members. We'd have one really cool house if she had a hefty budget and a team of workers--because ours is pretty nifty now with limited time & energy.
...I probably should get on with my day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

That Sound You Heard Was My Idealism Breaking

My maternal grandfather worked his way up. He started out when it was Tennessee Coal & Iron and it grew to be U.S. Steel. His tenure with the company and his work ethic allowed him to move pretty quickly up the corporate ladder. He retired with them. Gold watch and everything.

My paternal grandfather started his own business. Kind of an H & R Block, but local. He purchased season tickets to the minor league teams in our city because he thought it was his civic duty. He treated his employees well, too. If they did a good job they were rewarded financially and with other benefits the longer they were there.

Now, businesses are doing something called "freezing pensions." Actually, this has been going on seriously for about three years, but now the major corporations are basically cheapening benefits for their employees...saves money, improves the bottom line, keep jobs secure. You know the drill.

Really, I see both sides of it. Business is business and business must grow...everybody needs a thneed. I mean, the workers are free to get a bigger & better deal if they don't like the way they're treated, or they can start their own business. And, I see the employee side of it, too. I mean they signed on under different rules. Capitalism has a way of shaking these things out, however.

But I think it's one more evidence of the Baby Boomers forgetting where they came from. They're the ones making the decisions. They grew up in a different America and benefitted tremendously from that, and now they are focusing on their own well being.

Again, can't blame them...it's their turn to make decisions and they will live and breathe with the consequences of their choices. Like we all do. And, yes, the state of things is a mess. But it's always been a mess. I don't think there really were any "Good Old Days" except in our own minds (but isn't it funny how we can block out all the negatives of high school at the 10-year reunion?). It's just people living life and doing the best they can in the circumstances they are in.

But, for some reason, I like the idea of 40 years with a company and a retirement dinner and a gold watch. I like the idea of an entrepreneur with minor league baseball season tickets for their employees in section NN, row 1, seats 1-4 at Rickwood Field. I like the idea of workers and managers on the same page.

It's tough being an idealist in today's world.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Best of Both Worlds

After my QUANDARY of yesterday (thanks, Justin, for reminding me to use spell check, even on words you didn't think needed it!), you'll be happy to know that I was able to fit both in: A Beavis & Butthead marathon--well, an hour of it, which is a marathon when watching it--which I won't bother to explain any jokes because my wife reminded me of what the rest of the world thinks about B & B. She said, "Why in the world do you think this is funny? It's HORRIBLE." I don't care. It's funny to me.

But then I was off for some hammock time with Kurt Vonnegut's work, "A Man Without A Country." I read the entire book yesterday and it was a reminder of why he's such a brilliant American writer. Some snippets:

"I consider anyone a twerp who hasn't read Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. There can never be a better book than that one on the strengths and vulnerabilities inherent in our form of government."

"If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."

"I know what women want: a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything. What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish people wouldn't get so mad at them."

"The biggest truth to face now--what is probably making me unfunny now for the remainder of my life--is that I don't think people give a damn about whether the planet goes on or not. It seems as if everyone is living as members of Alcoholics Anonymous do, day by day. And a few more days will be enough. I know of very few people who are dreaming of a world for their grandchildren."

"Foreigners love us for our jazz. And they don't hate us for our purported liberty and justice for all. They hate us now for our arrogance."

"For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere."

"I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: C-Students from Yale."

A hammock.
Drought-driven 75 degree weather.
Words of a grandmaster of American letters (that's what the book jacket calls him--and I concur).

It didn't suck.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Day off.

Late start.

Choice to make:

Watch the "Beavis & Butthead" DVD set I got for Christmas, or begin reading a Kurt Vonnegut book I got.

I have no idea what those two extremes say about me.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Beat(down) Goes On

Yeah, okay...I know you're tired of this.

But yesterday, in the DFW area, we broke ANOTHER high-temperature record. It was a lovely 88 degrees. A balmy 25 degrees ABOVE the normal temperature for January, smashing the previous record by 9 degrees. We won't get a record today, though. It's only supposed to be 81.

But, if you're tired of reading this, how do you think it feels to those of us living in it?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

We Know What You Fear, But What Are You For?

Dallas Morning News, under the masthead today: "Baptists' Gentler Side: A multicity TV spot show during this week's bowl games aired to draw attention to the kinder, gentler side of Southern Baptists. See RELIGION, 1H."

The article had the typical stuff you'd expect: A little controversy never hurt anything.

I saw the ads when they aired. Nice enough, and maybe because I'm a professional Christian I was already aware of the "good works" the SBC does...

...but I wonder if you feel that you need a PR campaign to show others the "other" side, maybe you ought to re-think the mindset the created the image you're trying to sweep under the rug.

Just a thought.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Could there be much more emotional swing than believing that your beloved family member was killed in a coal mining accident, then being told that they are miraculously alive, and then being told that they are, in fact, deceased? Or the reality that they wrote "last letters" to their family members before their passing?

I don't know why I'm so moved by the events in West Virginia these past few days, but I know that it breaks my heart to think about it.
When The Funnies Hit The Nail On The Head:

I don't know why, but some of the most provocative thoughts I've had the last few days have come from the "funny papers." Here's a couple from today:

Thursday, January 05, 2006

From One Teacher To The Rest

From Today's "Zitz" comic strip:

I believe a case could be made that an instructor giving too much homework is a sign of laziness among teachers. Sure, students should bring a better attitude to the classroom and parents should be more involved, blah blah blah

And maybe I've watched too many movies like "Dead Poets' Society" and "Mr. Holland's Opus" and gotten some sort of idealism from it all...

...but I really think that teachers should be able to teach any subject well if you have some 5 hours a week on any subject with any person. I'd LOVE to have 5 hours a week of classroom time with my students. With that amount of time, we could even take breaks for recess and cookies & juice boxes.
My E-mail Provider

After nearly a decade on AOL, we had one of those introductory deals to switch that seemed too good to pass up. We moved to Comcast...and generally, I'm okay with it. I mean, it's e-mail and a front page with links and some time-waster video thing called The Fan...how hard can it be to make me generally happy?

Anyway, the main drawback is spam. Every day I get about 10 e-mails from names like "Gretta O'Bannon" and the subject is "Re: sweaty midland berries & farm noodles." I report them as spam, but then I get similar ones with different names as senders.

Any suggestions? I mean, like I'd actually send an e-mail with the subject as "sweaty midland berries & farm noodles," and I'd be even more worried that someone replied to it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Point Proven, Still Bitter

In 2003, LSU won the B.C.S. championship, but yet somehow, U.S.C. won the A.P. vote.

In 2004, U.S.C. beat a highly overrated Oklahoma team, and yet Auburn, the 13-0 best team in the best conference, never got a chance to prove what their 4 first-round NFL draft picks could do against them. Truthfully, Auburn deserved a share of that championship...but apparently the same logic of 2003 doesn't apply when the media of Los Angeles can say whatever they want, uncontested, against the media of east Alabama.

In 2005, Texas beat U.S.C. (with Auburn's former defensive coordinator, I might add)

I maintain that U.S.C. has not won an undisputed NCAA championship over those three years.

I will never be convinced otherwise...and listening to all this garbage about a "three peat" has made me pretty bitter having to hear it continually in the hype of this game. I cannot tell you how glad I am Texas pulled it out because of that.

War Eagle...and I still believe Auburn was the best team in the land in 2004. Tonight only reminded me of that...

...and that the NCAA is desperately in need of an 8 or 16 team playoff.
A Lot Can Happen On A Day Off

Took the car in for her 12,000 mile check up. Everything's good to go.

Went to the bank to deposit the old paycheck.

Picked up some snacks for a "movie watching" afternoon my oldest daughter decided to host...even remembered the bag of ice, so I did pretty good. (They chose "Batman Begins").

Got the car washed. I can't believe what you can overhear when people talk on their mobile phones.

Took some stuff from the garage to the local charity thrift store. There were 11 cars in line ahead of me, two behind me.

Picked up some CD's at the used CD store with Christmas money...gotta use the rest on clothes.

Picked up a soft drink for one of the teens...special dietary restriction required a diet soda. When dealing with teenagers, I rarely purchase diet soft drinks.

Helped move some IKEA furniture Tracy put together. She purchased it about 6 weeks ago and she finally had some time since we'd voluntarily banished ourselves to the back of the house with occasional random strolls into the kitchen.

My oldest daughter wasn't to hip on searching for a softball team for her to play on in the spring time. I don't know if this is fatigue from the beginning of the semester or a major life shift. Time will tell...but I will say it's an adventure watching your children grow up and try to figure out who they are and what they're about.

I read this quote in my hammock because we set a record temperature here in Dallas yesterday...84 lovely degrees Farenheit. Yeah, that's 30 lovely degrees Farenheit warmer than normal. But by the time I got in the hammock with my book it was pretty much a very nice 65 lovely degrees Farenheit. Anyway, here's the quote from Doug Pagitt: "The question that haunts me is not, 'Do people like our church?' but 'Is there any real human formation happening?' Two decades from now, will our efforts at human formation show a contribution to the lives we have led for the past 20 years? Will they have helped us live as blessings to the world, or will we simply be living the kind of self-absorbed 'personal' Christian lives that are so common today?...Oddly, many Christians find that their fellow congregants play no more crucial a role in their daily lives than the people they walk past in the grocery store. They share a common experience from time to time and receive services from the same organization, but little else." Hmmmm...

Washed dishes. Changed sheets on the bed. Ignored the Orange Bowl. Fell asleep.

And, now, I really feel like 2006 is starting.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Every year I do go through the motions of making resolutions. As with every human, some hit, other miss...and this year's took a while to simmer with spending the holidays in Alabama and with New Year's Day falling on a Sunday (work day for me) there really wasn't a lot of time for reflection. I got some time yesterday, however, and here's some things I'd like to accomplish for 2006:

I'd like to finish a half-marathon. After getting nit-picking injuries after training for a full one and never getting past the 18 mile runs, maybe I should scale back my ambitions. So, yeah. I'll either run the half in Dallas in the spring or run the Rock in Dallas in December.

I'd like to finish the book that's been percolating in my brain for about three years now.


I'd like to lovingly influence the future of our church by taking proactive steps now based on where we think we'll be in 10 years. Sometimes, institutions get into comfortable ruts that are really only mirages of safety. I'd like to continually provoke and prod without unnecessarily irritating others. But I have some firm beliefs and ideas...so be forewarned.

I like to keep them simple and specific, too. The less vague the better...and they are measurable. I mean, I'll either finish the book or I won't. I'll finish the half-marathon or I won't. And I have some measureable points for my last one that aren't for public consumption.

And it should be an interesting year in many ways:

My mom's health is a day-to-day proposition.
My oldest daughter will start high school...not to mention trying to find a softball team to help her prepare for trying out for her high school team.
My youngest daughter will have auditions for summer ballet workshops (think "Fame" for two months) so this ballet thing gets to the real, live ups-and-downs faze.
My wife's business is getting to a point where growth is causing her to have to balance the art and the "business," which should stretch her and cause her to grow.
I have work-related trips already on the agenda: Winter Park, CO; Juarez, Mexico; Westcliffe, CO; and Alkmaar, Holland. Not to mention a whole slew of ideas to implement in the student ministry due to staffers who "get it."

So, even though it's three days late, it feels to me as if the year is only now just starting.

*like Kuzco in "The Emperor's New Groove"--voiced by David Spade:*

"Bring it on."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Okay, Here's The Plan...

...flannel pants: Check.
...Auburn T-shirt: Check.
...Recliner footrest test: Check.
...chips/salsa/sodas/snacks: Check.
...remote control & extra batteries if needed: Check.
...phone to order pizza later: Check.
...10AM, Guns-Up Red Raiders!
...Noon, War Eagle!
...3:30PM, Go Buckeyes!
...7:30PM, Go Dogs, Sic 'Em, Woof Woof Woof Woof!

College football bowl games abound.

I'm already pumped and have a little more than an hour to wait.

I think I'll go play some PS2 NCAA '06 to warm up.

This really is one of my favorite days of the year.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot...

Happy New Year, Ever'boddah!

I've got resolutions I'll post tomorrow...but I was out late last night and have to work all day today and need time to be a bit more reflective...

...but feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comments with your resolutions!