Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Book Review

I'm a big fan of Donald Miller.

He's an author. He writes about spiritual things from a normal human being perspective, which (sadly) isn't the norm for Christians. They tend to write from positions of "success" which can make their writings inaccessible to the average Joe. They usually cause the reader to feel like a failure or set an unreasonable bar of expectation which will cause "failure." Not so with Donald Miller.

He is currently promoting a book titled, "To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father." For obvious reasons, I was hooked.

Suffice to say that the book won't ring true with the majority of his past audiences. It's definitely written to a niche market. Don't get me wrong. If you like his writing, you'll like the book. If you've got a father, then you won't "get it." I mean, my father died when I was 13. Apparently, those 13 years were more influential than I thought, because I didn't relate to some stuff...I mean, I never felt abandoned. I was loved and knew it.

But I did relate to defining manhood without a man in the house...stuff like feeling less than a man because you couldn't change the oil in your car or do basic house repairs or whatever.

But I read the book in two sittings.

And chapters 8--12 should be required reading for every young man (about making good choices, girls, sex & personal integrity). Those chapters are VERY strong.

A couple of quotes:

From chapter 8: "I am not somebody who believes people in prison are worse than I am just because they are in prison. It is true some of our character faults stem from social dynamics, not individual responsibility. What I mean is, folks in prison or who've made messes of their lives have truly made bad decisions, but what if they made bad decisions because nobody taught them how to make good decisions? I used to believe the idea that some people are born into families and get their college paid for,a nd others are born into poverty and don't get such benefits in life--the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And this is true, generally. But suppose what is also happening is that the successful get successful because they make good decisions and, far from being a genetic legacy, the art of making good decisions can be learned."

From chapter 9: "And I've started to wonder if what I was really lacking in my understanding of relationships was humility. I don't mean to sound mushy or weak, because that will kill a relationship, too, but I wondered if love stemming from the ego and love stemming from the heart were very different things..."

From chapter 10 (addressing college fraternity guys on the topic of pre-marital sex): "We've said maturity doesn't stay up all night playing video games and doesn't sleep with ten women. Maturity practices self-discipline, and points a person's character toward a noble aim. And I think, even in your early twenties, there is this need for guys like us to grow up, to sort of usher other boys into manhood, into commitment, into self-respect and an understanding that actions matter to more people than just ourselves."

From chapter 12: "The latest statistic is that the average American watches 1,456 hours of television a year but only reads three books. So, if it's true that readers are leaders, and the more you read the further you advance, then there isn't a lot of competition."

So, granted, the main topic is not one many people will relate to, there is definitely thought provoking material in every chapter...especially for younger guys.
Album Review

It's out...well, for preview, anyway.

Stavesacre's new release: How To Live With A Curse. Available across the board on April 18.

This review will be short. I love this band. For a variety of reasons. In fact, it's a shame that other groups make a splash in the Christian community but this one doesn't. Frankly, I think they're too cerebral for most people's taste. But I assure you this type of music will be on heavy rotation in my dwelling place in The Kingdom.

And this is their best record yet.

By far and away.

There simply is not a bad song on it (with the possible exception of "Sean," but I think because it was track 11 and had to fall into comparison of 10 very good songs before it, I'll give it another listen).

My favorite is "Grace"--here's the lyrics:

When I was a mountain, strong with stone, silver and gold
Strip-mined wildly, spent it all
Leaving only stone


But Grace, are You hangin’ on for me?
Tell me it’s true, You still do
Come back around this way

When I was Your lover – passionate and bright as the stars
Left You for the least of whores
Broke Your precious heart


“Oh, I’ve been standing right here, all along.

My dear, I’ve been standing right here
Ever as before
Oh, I want nothing more than you
Stay please, come back to My arms and
Rest your weary head,
Don’t ever leave again,


Grace –

“Oh, I’ve been standing right here all along.”(c) 2006

"Lost Days" stands out, too...as does "Beautiful."

But don't take my word for it. Just go here. The password is liv3withacurs3.

And take some time to read the lyrics and look at the art they had submitted from their fans. I love hard-working, blue collar, rock your face off, bands who really appreciate their fans.

Hey, it's your life. Listen to Coldplay if you want.

I'll take Stavesacre...for all the right reasons.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Diner's Greatest Hits

I was just curious:

What's been your favorite Diner blog entry? I know the political one I did a while back generated the most comments I've ever gotten, but what was your favorite entry?

I guess another way to phrase it would be to find out what you want me to blog about that hasn't seemed to have been covered?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Stack

After yesterday's family outing to the mall (which was fun, but we certainly weren't the only folks in the community taking a rainy Saturday to go shopping) I managed to pick up four books.

Three involving American history of sorts and one hard-to-find new release by Donald Miller.

I am happy.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that the first day shaving with a new razor blade really is smooth.
...that ending the work week with a 2-hour meeting at the high school my daughter will be attending is tough, especially when parents ask questions specific to their child (instead of seeking the counselor afterward and thereby allowing people to ask questions the entire group might benefit from) during the Q&A portion of the program.
...that it hit me the high school my daughter will attend will have close to 3,000 students next fall, 800 in the class of 2010.
...that I'm pretty pumped about men's curling winning a medal for the first time ever, and that it won't bother me at all if Bode Miller doesn't win won today.
...that lunch today with my good friend Abby is a good way to spend my time.
...that we need to do something about our windows and doors in our house, along with fixing our sprinkler system and one spigot, and that home repairs/redecoration are always the thing that you let slide and regret later (especially when you are LOUSY with home repairs and fixing stuff).
...that our pastor's sermon last Sunday was excellent (which, frankly, isn't all that unusual) and the section on why people don't grow spiritually are all thought provoking and convicting.
...that my hair after the haircut is kinda annoying--it's either too long or too short, depending on which side of that fence you're sitting on.
...I'm going to buy books at some point today with the birthday money the in-laws sent and just the thought of it excites me.
...that my friends Joshua & Kristen moving to San Francisco this week is just crazy enough from the third-party observer's perspective for me to believe that God has to be in it. Knowing the two of them and their ability to discern what God is doing with them only reconfirms that belief.
...I'm amused that others are amused when I wear my Converse Chuck Taylor's. It's so normal to me, and so foreign to them that someone my age would be doing that.
...some things are going slower than I'd hoped.
...I don't know if I'll ever go to the video store again now that my cable provider has so many movies that I just have to click a button to get.
...that even when the couples at our church bring their new baby to the staff floor to visit, I still think that my babies were OBVIOUSLY cuter, and they were babies over a decade ago.
...I'm about ready for March Madness.
...that I need to exercise again.
...that I need to write the book.
...that when I use the word "need" I mean the word "need."

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Cable Guy

The cable guy's time frame was a little skewed. They told my wife to be ready for their arrival...oh....I dunno...somewhere between 7AM and 4PM yesterday. They arrived at 4:30PM. They took 4 hours.

They didn't fail to deliver the goods, though. We now have 188 channels of digital goodness. The picture is clearer. We also went with their Internet service and it's certainly faster than the old company.

What got me was the indifference of our former company when we informed them we were making changes. Yeah, they made a token counter-offer after they said that the current company's offer must've been an "introductory" offer. We read the fine print. It isn't. But their approach was more or less one of, "Well, okay. We understand. Whatever." But hey, we're getting more stuff, and better stuff, for less money per month than the old company, so we win. Yay, capitalism!

I've heard mobile phone providers do the same thing. It's almost as if they treat new customers better than the current ones. You know, "I'm sorry, ma'am. That offer is only good for new subscribers. Your current contract won't get you a new phone or rollover minutes...and it expires in 8 months. Tough luck."

Anyway, the cable guy was nice and extremely helpful when getting the internet set up. They made all sorts of attempts at jokes and chatting, which I was pretty impressed with considering these guys had been at it for 12 hours and I don't think the average joe is too friendly with them. He lacked some Mac knowledge but everything worked out swimmingly in the end...and he even got everything completed in time for my wife & daughters to watch the figure skating finals at the Olympics. The customer service was surprisingly good.

In my initial discoveries during my very brief search through the menu...

...I discovered two music channels I'll have to check out: Arena Rock and Metal.

...The On Demand feature didn't offer too much for free.

...There's some 800 channels on the menu. We only get about 25% of them, but most are the popular movie channels and the 8 or 10 versions of them (you know, east, pacific, etc.).

...I'm getting concerned about the clicking the button to order movies. While the price is easily competitive witht the local video store, at least there I'm counting the cash as I spend it.

So, tonight, if you need me, I'll be scrolling through the menu checkin' stuff out.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

If You Could Just Wait All Day, That'd Be Good

We're changing cable companies/internet service providers. The behemoth we were using is all corporate and they don't seem to care because when we called to tell them the upstart competitor's deal, they said it couldn't be true. We read the fine print. It is true.

So, we're changing. No hard feelings, okay? It's just business. Capitalism and competition. Another reason America is a great country.

*salutes flag again, ignoring the secret port deal with the Arab nations*

But why does the upstart competitor tell us to be ready for an installation appointment beginning between the hours of 7AM and 4PM, which will take four hours to complete from the time they begin the installation, and someone will need to be there the entire time?

I guess with the burst of America I'm having today (ignoring the Team USA disappointing showing in hockey AND curling yesterday), I'll just say, "Yay, capitalism" and make sure someone is here waiting for somewhere between one and 13 hours.
365 divided by 8, carry the 4...

So eight immigrant laborers win the $365 million powerball lottery.

They took the cash option, banking $15.5 million a person yesterday afternoon.

One of the guys said that America is such a great country and he's planning on helping out his family in his native Vietnam. Nice enough gesture.

And, he's right.

It is a great country.

But not because you can win a boatload of cash for doing nothing more than purchasing a ticket at the local 7-Eleven.

It's a great country, anyway.

You can also win a wheelbarrow full of cash for doing nothing more than telling lies on your resume.

It's a great country, anyway.

*salutes as the flag goes up the pole for another day*

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Somehow, This Seems Fitting

...and I'm as intrigued by the order of finish among the others as I am with the final result.

You scored as Captain Jack Sparrow. Roguish,quick-witted, and incredibly lucky, Jack Sparrow is a pirate who sometimes ends up being a hero, against his better judgement. Captain Jack looks out for #1, but he can be counted on (usually) to do the right thing. He has an incredibly persuasive tongue, a mind that borders on genius or insanity, and an incredible talent for getting into trouble and getting out of it. Maybe its brains, maybe its genius, or maybe its just plain luck. Or maybe a mixture of all three.

Captain Jack Sparrow


The Amazing Spider-Man




William Wallace


Neo, the "One"


Indiana Jones


El Zorro


Batman, the Dark Knight


The Terminator


Lara Croft


James Bond, Agent 007


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com
On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone (Gonna Buy Five Copies For My Mutha!)



That's how much it will cost you if you've got a four-year-old and you want to get that child to compete in the Winter Olympics in 2022. The quarter-mil is for the figure skater. The higher number is for the snowboarder...which, apparently, requires a boarding school special for high schoolers to get ready for the half-pipe.

That's over $15,000 a year for the skater. Over $21,000 for the snowboarder.

There are non-financial costs, too. Ones to the family schedule. Ones to the social losses. Ones to the educational losses. You get the drift.

And, provided you can stay healthy.

And, provided that various judges along the way who seem to think your thousandth of a point is higher than the kids from Boulder who is doing the very same thing.

And to what end? A wheaties box? A 15-minutes' worth of fame? A life of going to Omaha in order to speak to the Meat Packers' Union Local 313 and giving them a motivational speech after showing your minute and a half of Olympic glory? Signing with an agent to get a singing career started? Winding up on a reality show later, trying to lose weight for some competition?

But there's also the upside.

Maybe the family spends their time together around the collective sport. They drive to various cities for competitions and get to have a 16 year working vacation.

Maybe the kids make life-long friends through that vehicle. Maybe they have closer friendships than the others because they grew up together trying something difficult.

Maybe the unique education they have to get is more effective than the diploma factories that many public education school districts have turned out to be in this country.

Maybe the lessons learned along the way about that thousandth of a point winding up on the winning and losing side develop a deep character in the athlete.

Maybe you can't put a price tag on hearing the National Anthem while you're standing on the podium with Olympic Gold around your neck.

Maybe you recoup some of that cash because Wheaties paid you, along with Reebok and Coca-Cola. Maybe you make more, repay your parents and build them a nice house in Boulder.

Maybe getting $3,000 to motivate the hard workers in the Omaha Meat Packers Union Local 313 is a nice way to make a living and is rewarding in its own way.

Maybe it'd be fun to be on television for six weeks with some celebrities and losing some weight along the way would be a bonus.

You can't put a price tag on some of those things.

But, no matter how you slice it, the odds are stacked against you...which is what makes the accomplishment such a great one and gets you on the covers of magazines...

...and maybe it's because of the reality that I believe the things you spend your money on are an indication of what you truly value in this life...

...and maybe it's because I don't work in a profession known for having the kind of change to develop a world-class athlete (or even a college-bound student-athlete)...

...that seems like an awful lot of money to risk for Olympic Gold.

But I think I'd pay it to have a kid live their dream or have a happy childhood or have great character or be who they were created by the Creator to be. Or all the above. And I'd call it a bargain, too.

I guess it's all in the heart behind the wallet when it comes right down to it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Proud Dad Alert

If you're tired of proud parents talking about their kids, well, I guess you can click on the archives. If not, here's the latest work from my oldest daughter. I'm really glad we put in that studio.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Grass Isn't Always Greener

It's strange. I'm strange.

I enjoy my mornings. The family is still asleep. I can ease into my day with the cup o' joe, Dallas Morning News, a Bible, my dog on my footrest. It's about an hour and a half of time for just me.

I get annoyed if that routine is infiltrated. The earlier-than-normal rising child. The wife who has an early job responsiblity who gets going in the midst of it. The dog who wants to play instead of sleep. I don't do or say anything about the television with forced banter among forced-happy morning show drivel or questions about what I have to do that day. I am quietly peeved.

Last night my daughters both spent the night out and about.

My wife has been out of town on a long weekend with two of her friends, so she's out and about, too.

I came home last night to an empty house. I was actually kind of excited about it. Lots of "me" time as Tracy won't be home until later in the day today. The girls too.

Well, last night's "me" time lasted about 20 minutes. After getting home from church, I ate, I had the tv on while I did some small chores and played with the dog. I watched the news. I read for half an hour. I fell asleep.

This morning, I slept in until 7. I took the dog out for his morning constitutional. I did my morning thing...

...and now it's quiet.

Nobody's stirring. It's almost 9AM. It's TOO quiet.

Whatever bachelor-type tendencies I thought I had have evaporated. I like these people in my life. I like their interruptions to my routine in a weird way. I like it when "my" time ends and "their" time starts. I don't like it when they aren't here and I can hear the wind in the chimney or the hum of the refrigerator or the heater kick on...not when it's time for more substantial sounds.

I'll make the best of it.

But it's TOO quiet.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lots Of Locks For Locks Of Love

It all started when I got off an elevator on the wrong floor to visit Lew. My friend was in the hospital for one of his many bouts in the fight against Cystic Fybrosis. I'd visit him and take him sports pages and such. Lew was in college studying to write sports pages when he went Home.

I got off a floor too early at Children's Hospital...a really good one in Birmingham. I wasn't paying attention to the floor indicator and followed the others off, and turned left to go to Lew's room. I knew I was on the wrong floor when I saw bald girls walking down that hall with IV connections rolling along with them. Some were happy. Some were sad. Some were just there. Ages from 4 to about 12. Guys, too. But they were all bald. Chemotherapy'll do that, apparently.

The boys got away with baseball caps.

The girls had some cute hats, too. But it seemed to be a bigger deal that nothing was underneath them. To me it did, anyway.

And I saw a brochure for an organization called Locks of Love. I picked it up. Seems they understand that it's a bigger deal to girls, too. They get people to grow their hair out, cut it off, and donate it to them. They make wigs out of it. Non-profit deal, too, so chain salons cut it for free, shape up your hair for free and then ship it off to the fine folks at Locks of Love.

I made a mental note to promote this organization, but my hair wasn't long enough to get involved. Plus, being in youth ministry in the Deep South didn't really give me the freedom to grow it out, either. Not without consequences, anyway. Dire professional ones. Such is life under legalistic expectations.

(Side note: Legalism actually does the reverse of what those that practice such things want to accomplish. It kills and enslaves rather than giving life and freedom.)

Flash forward to my current situation. About seven years ago I had a student who told me of a story involving Locks of Love. She gave as often as she could...she'd been through it herself. I decided to grow my hair out since several people have told me my hair color is pretty (usually followed by a question on how to get that color and and what store).

That was in 1999. It really was that simple. I simply started growing it out after that conversation.

The first time I grew it out and got it cut three years later, the lady that cut it told me she wanted to cut it differently than normal for Locks of Love because blonde highlights were all the rage among teen girls and if she took more than normal, they could use it to be highlights in many wigs instead of it being just one wig. For some reason, this made me happier, so I rolled with it. That was in 2003.

Well, yesterday, it was time for another cut. The lady cutting it didn't offer me that option this time. Maybe the trend is over. Maybe she didn't know about it. Mabye the other lady was misinformed. Either way, here's how I started on Saturday:

Here's how it looked about 20 minutes later:

Here's what will be going into the wig:

Now, I'm not telling you this to blow my own horn. That'd ruin the gesture. I tell you all this (and showed you all this) because...

...I want everyone to know about Locks of Love.

...I want to make some little girl who is going through a rough stretch have a little easier time of it. Even it means I wind up looking like George Washington on the dollar bill for a month or so, just knowing there's a kid out there who got one small break in the midst of the suck...well, those kids on that hall broke my heart (not by intent, mind you. They seemed to be troopers) and it's nothing to me to do this.

...I want to remind everyone that the ponytailed youth minister is a tired image anyway. I'm not given to using my head as a sign of rebellion nor using it as any type of political statement. Sometimes, the top of your head is a service project. So relax. Yes, I've read Corinthians.

Anyway, Locks of Love, you rock my whole hair right off. May your compassionate organization make little girls going through a rough stretch have a tiny something to smile about.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Strong Start

As is usually the case, the wintery mix prediction of the news crew from last night turned out to be sizzle and no steak. But it is chilly and won't get warmer during the day.

I got the donuts & chocolate milk.
I made the coffee.
I got the fire going (real wood; no gas for the McKinney family).
Dog on the footrest.
SpongeBob Squarepants on the tube (earliest rising daughter eases into the day, and I gotta say it, I dig the Sponge).
No "work" today.
Limited kid duty--just a drop-off/pickup over by noon.
Wife away with friends for a long weekend.

Just two good books.
On overcast chilly day.

Sometimes, the anticipation is as much fun as the day itself.

Friday, February 17, 2006

You Can Tell A Lot About A Person By Their iPod Screen

That being said, thanks to a generous iTunes gift certificate from The Higher-Order Barnstorming Sentz Family, I downloaded a butt-load of tunes. Deduce what you will, but here's the list:

In Utero by Nirvana.
Nevermind by Nirvana.

I had them both on cassette and needed to get them to the pod. I called the local used CD store and I could get them both cheaper from iTunes than used from the store. As of this moment, I seriously don't think there's a recorded Nirvana song I don't have.

13 Songs by Fugazi.

The Offsprings and Green Days of the world could learn a lot from the Social Distortions and Fugazis that came before them. "Waiting Room" is a terrific song, and if you listened to it, you'd slap Blink 182 for even existing.

Lenny Kravitz

I got a few songs from him. How great is that song "Where Are We Runnin'?"

Greatest Hits by Smashing Pumpkins.

The stuff that wasn't made popular by Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness is even better...and the popular stuff is really good. Very intelligent stuff, and if there's a teenager who can't relate to the words, "Intoxicated...by the madness...I'm in love with...my sadness..." well, I think they'll stand the test of time for that reason alone. It's cool to bash 'em, but they're good. Plus, who can forget Homer Simpson's memorable lines:

"Hi, I'm Billy Corgan. Smashing Pumpkins."
"And I'm Homer Simpson. Smiling Politely."

Plus, "Well, I'm gonna miss you Pumpkins."

Time Capsule by The B-52's.

Are you kidding? Song for a Future Generation. Private Idaho. Strobe Light. Planet Claire. Rock Lobster. Quiche Lorraine. Love Shack. Maybe the initial treatment for depression should be to listen to this CD three times...if that doesn't work, then hit the Prozac. I'm getting happy just thinking about it. Plus there's a forgotten little song called 52 Girls that should never have been forgotten.

Kicking Television: Live in Chicago by Wilco. I've been meaning to grab this CD ever since I heard it came out. I wanted to hear what all the rage was about, and I listened to it once all the way through, but I was doing other stuff. At first listen, there's a reason that they're all the rage. I'll need a couple of more hearings before I jump on the bandwagon, but that first song "Misunderstood" is excellent.

The only thing I didn't get that was on my list was Lost and Found by Jason & The Nashville Scorchers. I have it on tape (which I recorded from my album) and they don't have it on iTunes--although they have a rarities & b-sides and some live stuff from them, but I'm looking specifically for that album.

My iPod's belly is full from yesterday's feast...and I'd imagine it'll take a few months for digestion.

Now keep in mind that these purchases were AFTER I already had 8 gig loaded onto the pod...so, if you had a music shopping spree, what bands/songs are you missing that need to be added?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Proof That All Is Right With The World
or, "It's baseball, Ray. It's bigger than all of us."

Today, in Surprise, Arizona, at 9:15 AM Central Time, there will be a meeting.

The attendees have to be in uniform. They will be fined if they're late or not dressed for the occasion.

After that meeting, they will hit the field. Balls covered in horsehide, with stitching performed by citizens of the Dominican Republic, will be thrown. Leather will make a popping sound less than two seconds after the ball is thrown.

The pitchers and catchers have reported for the Texas Rangers 2006 baseball season. Position players show up Tuesday.

But make no mistake: Spring Training has begun.

Baseball season is here.

That sigh of relief you heard is the universe humming back into peaceful balance.
Proof That All Is Wrong With The World
or, "Remember that Porn on the Pod joke I made on this blog the day after iPod announced it? Well, it's not so funny anymore."

I read that since iTunes began selling television shows off their website for the new video iPods, there have been 12 million shows downloaded. You know. Television shows people like or missed the night before...stuff like "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" or "The Office." That's right: 12 million. Usually at around 3 bucks an episode. Not a bad take for three months if you keep track of such things.

During that same time frame, there have been 10 million downloads of pornographic movies for the new video iPod.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Big Four-Oh

As a general rule, I keep my birthday rather low-key. I rarely even tell my teenagers or others in my congregation.

My suspicions are that this year will be different. I'm turning 40. Today. We have a staffer who makes a big to-do over everybody's birthday on our floor, complete with signs and banners. It's nice in it's own weird way and we get cake during staff meetings whenever one rolls around...and it tends to ratchet up on the years someone's ends in a zero.

And the youth minister turns 40.


I'm pretty sure everyone will have a field day with it, too. I mean, let's be honest. How many YOUTH PASTORS are 40? And when the (wrong, and certainly NOT true per capita in my congregation, but it's still there) perception of the general populace of any congregation is that you're the court-jester in the senior pastor's kingdom, well, I'd imagine the good-natured ribbing will commence when I hit the office at 8:30AM. There are worse things.

But, frankly, if you're asking me, 40 ain't all bad.

I mean, 13 was good. You were officially a teenager. I had the chicken pox but went bowling with my friends anyway.

15 was better than most. I got my learner's permit and mom let me drive the Chevy Citation home.

16 was one of the best for me. Driver's license and a car. A 1977 Cutlass Supreme. It came with an 8-track player which lasted about a week or so until I replaced it with a cassette deck. The rims and tires came later. I loved that car.

18 was the first time I remember feeling grown up. That very day I went and registered to vote and signed up to sign up for a military draft if they ever reinstated it. It all seemed, so, well, responsible.

19 was a banner day as, back then, the drinking age was legal in Alabama. I'd have to go back and look at my journals to see what I did, but I don't remember it being that big of a deal...It must've been on a weekday because I don't recall it being much of a deal.

21 was notable because you believed you were a grown up.

25 was notable because your car insurance rates went down exponentially, and it that time of my life, every buck mattered. Not that we're flush now, by any means, but loose change didn't even last long back then.

30 found us in a lousy life-station. I was working two jobs. Going to school full-time. A 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. And a church situation that was a misfit for me and my family. We were miserable. I was miserable. The only saving grace was living in a duplex with some of the best friends Tracy and I've had in our married life.

And 40 finds me in a great life-station.

My kids seem relatively well-adjusted and happy. This in no way reflects excellence on my part of the parenting, mind you, I'm just saying that despite the court-jester as a father, they've overcome much.

My wife is growing in ways that encourage and inspire me. This in no way reflects excellence on my part as the spouse, mind you, I'm just saying that despite the court-jester as a husband, she's overcome much.

My career seems to be going well. This in no way reflects excellence on my part as the pastor, mind you, I'm just saying that despite the court-jester as a minister, the congregation lovingly overlooks much.

It seems like I'm finally getting a handle on this enigma called Walking With Christ. It's taken 27 years, but I'm beginning to get my arms around it. This in no way reflects anything on my part. Christ has done much in spite of my being a court-jester in His Kingdom.

It seems like I'm finally getting a handle on what matters and what doesn't...which really makes life swell. Which doesn't really make me a court-jester, I don't guess.

So, all in all, 40 from where I'm sitting blows 30 out of the water. Bring it on.

As I said before, I'm generally given to a low-key birthday. But Sue (who, by the way, is the mother to five consistent bloggers--in-laws included, which might be a record of sorts) leaked it yesterday, Kendra was on her heels with it in the comments, too, and there's no escaping the office Birthday Bunny.

But honestly...


I'll accept the loving jokes and all very joyfully. You can do that when 40 finds you living a charmed life.

So, if you want to celebrate my birthday in traditional Diner fashion, let's all...(you fill in the blanks, faithful readers)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Valentine's Day Reality

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
It does not envy.
It does not boast.
It is not proud.
It is not rude.
It is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects.
It always trust.
It always hopes.
It always perseveres.
Love never fails.

Which is a good thing...because, sometimes...

I'm impatient.
I'm unkind.
I'm jealous.
I'm arrogant.
I'm rude.
I look out for me and me only.
I'm angry at the drop of a hat.
I bear a grudge.
I'm happy when bad things happen to bad people.
I cower.
I doubt.
I lose hope.
I give up.
I fail.

And she loves me anyway.

And they love me anyway.

And my God loves me anyway.

I know, in all those cases, what it's like to be loved more than I have loved.

And, today, for all of their unmerited favor (which the locals call "grace"), I am truly thankful.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Talk Among Yourselves. I'll Give You A Topic...

Yesterday, in a Sunday School class of adults, we had a discussion. It involved the topic of whether or not our individual Christian lives "work." You know, authenticity.

And, in the discussion, it came up that most books in the Christian bookstore bestseller shelves were basically "how-to" books. You know, how to improve your spiritual life. The implication being that most people are experiencing a less-than-working spiritual life.

In effect, the mindset was such that most people live a quietly mundane spiritual life, and it's difficult to even talk about it in Christian circles because everybody else seems to be "getting it."

The discussion was lengthy and healthy in the class.

Do you have thoughts or insights? I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

It Just Hit Me...

...I've got to get something for Valentine's Day. The sale flyers in today's paper tipped me off. I'm kinda feeling some pressure about it, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

What're You Doing, You Sicko?!

You have an entire Saturday with nothing to do and yet, for some reason, your brain looks at the clock, which read 5:48AM and says to yourself, "What're you doing? Wake up! You're wasting your whole day!"

Is that weird?

Friday, February 10, 2006

One Small Step For Pah-meh

She made the initial step. Pam has now entered the blogosphere as a writer. She's now opened herself up for comments instead of overcommenting on everyone else's blogs.

Welcome, Pammy.
Bom BAH Ba Domp Ba BAH Ba Ba Bah Bah Bah Bompba Bomp Ba Da Da Da DAHHHHH

The Olympics start today. Yes, I'll watch some hockey. Yes, I'll check out some downhill skiing. But let's be honest: These are the goofy winter ones, where they have a sport called the biathlon where you cross country ski and shoot at targets.

They also have a sport called curling, which involves a broom and ice and something that looks like an overgrown iron. You slide the iron and folks with brooms try to make it curl and hit a target. Then the other team tries to knock your iron off the target. It's shuffleboard with medals.

There's also a glorified version of "Dancing With The Stars" called figure skating. They also do that in pairs...and there's a variation called ice dancing but I'm not sure what the difference is.

Of course, the summer ones have stupid sports, too. Rythmic gymnastics comes to mind. As does synchronized diving.

Baseball and softball and bowling and golf aren't Olympic sports, but laying on a sled face down and letting gravity work is.

And seriously, I think that if I applied myself and had a sponsor, I could become a world-class curler. That reality alone should make the IOC reconsider that sport where a near-40 out-of-shape suburbanite thinks he could do it--I mean, I love to snow ski, but I don't think I could take on the giant downhill or ski off a ramp.

So, I propose some new Winter Olympic sports today: Whirlyball and paintball. I'll even consider Laser Tag. Maybe even miniature golf and frisbee golf. Those I think I would be more interesting than the luge.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reason #34,569 I Like Working With Teenagers

Yesterday I got a phone call about one of my former students who has been accepted to serve as a camp counselor at Pine Cove this summer.

Another one told me about his chance to serve at that same camp in their pretty exclusive training program called Young Guns that he recently found out about.

Another one volunteered to serve in an outreach to a local senior citizens home that could use some teenage help.

I read another's blog and she's going to serve at a summer camp, too.

I also found out by blog that still another is going to work there this summer, too, returning to work with her friend who's already worked there for two summers.

I also read yet another blog that another former student who is going to be working at Kanakkuk Camp this summer, and the issue is not "if" but "how many sessions."

This is in addition to the more than 100 students we'll take to Mexico to build 6 homes in 3.5 days as well as the 12 we'll be taking to Holland.

And it doesn't count the total number serving faithfully each and every Tuesday night to make our middle school program work. Nor the former students serving in my high school ministry.

Or the former students I've hired and/or working with to get them hired.

It's really a pretty cool job, all things considered.
Reason #34,568 I Enjoy Working With Teenagers:

There's these Chuck Norris jokes that are experiencing some popularity on the internet these days. Stuff about how tough he is or how manly or how he's generally superhuman...and they're really pretty funny.

Well, my friend Becca started writing some about a guy who helps out our student ministry on our ski trips and trips to Mexico to build houses. He's a contractor and big, burly Brawny paper-towel kinda guy.

Teenagers can be some of the creative, funny and entertaining people around.

I was informed yesterday that Thin Mints were Shelby's Girl Scout cookie of choice, not Tracy's. Tracy likes the peanut butter & chocolate combination known as Tagalongs. The Diner regrets this error.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I never read my horoscope, but today it caught my eye as I was parusing through the comics. It reads:

"As always happens, love is followed closely by more work. Don't complain. This is the natural order of things." It also says my day should be an "8" on a scale of 10.

Followed closely by more work.
This is the natural order of things?

But, I'm not complaining, that's for sure. I'll take an "8" today.

My friend Jude turns 25 today! Let's all celebrate by...

...watching Shrek.
...shaking our fists and saying, "Dirty!"
...losing our drivers' license and riding our bicycle for a couple of months.
...and arranging our entire lives so we can go on youth mission trips all summer!

Happy Birthday, Big Jude!
Where Is That Girl Scout, Anyway?

I know we ordered some Girl Scout cookies. The girl tracked down my wife, the Keeper-of-the-Checkbook, at church some weeks back.

I think Thin Mints are on the agenda. I forget which is my wife's favorite, but I think it's the Thin Mints.

Shortbread for me. That's how I roll.

And I can accidentally eat an entire sleeve of 'em. I think I'd like to do that soon.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

PoMo PoMo PoMo One Mo Time

I've told you that I'm all "emergent"-ed out. I've read pretty much all I'm going to read on "postmodernism" after I finish this last one: "The Church in Emerging Culture. Five Perspectives." Leonard Sweet is the general editor. Truth be told, it's difficult to read it...I'm so tired of the buzzwords and such.

Anyway, here's a provocative quote, and if the political blog a week back got you stirred up, I wonder what this will do.

It's from Michael Horton's essay:

"Postmodernism--or whatever one wishes to designate our brief moment in history--is the culture in which Sesame Street is considered educational; sexy is the term of approbation for everything from jeans to doctoral theses; watching sitcoms together at dinner is called family time; abortion is considered a choice; films sell products; and a barrage of images and sound bites selected for their entertainment and commercial value is called news. This general trend in culture translates into hipper-than-thou clubs passing for youth mininstry, informal chats posing as sermons, and brazen marketing passing for evangelism, where busyness equals holiness, and expository preaching is considered too intellectual. This trend can account in part for homes in which disciplined habits both of domestic culture and instruction in Christian faith and practice give way to niche marketing and churches becoming theatres of the absurd.

If the image of modernity is the crusty tyrant, wrinkled with the fatigue of old age and faded dreams, the postmodern visage is that of a child who refuses to grow up and accept the challenges as well as the opportunities of wisdom, truth, righteousness, and responsibilities, in addition to having a good time."

Have at it, readers.
Have at it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Super Bowl Party

A local restaurant gave our high schoolers run of the place. We do lots of business with them, and the fine folks at The Village Grill allowed our high schoolers to watch the Super Bowl in their establishement. They cooked burgers and provided snacks for the whole game and fired up their HDTV's for us.

Our student ministry room was turned into a watching party for the middle schoolers. Big screen, big sound, tons of pizza (they at 14 yards worth) & snacks.

At both, the teens cheered or jeered the team of their choice.

They cheered or jeered the commercials as appropriate (high schoolers loved the FedEx commercial with the cavemen, and loathed the H3 commercial with the robot & monster)...

...they hung out. They built relationships.

And sometimes, that's the best use of a Sunday night.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Little Help?

Okay, dream interpretation fans. Here's a chance to show your stuff.

My dream last night: Yes, it was in color. I was playing basketball...it must've been some sort of tryout as there were two coaches, both minorities, evaluating me and making suggestions. I didn't hit one single shot, whether it was a layup or a three-point shot, and it was like there was a plastic lid on the basket. They told me to stop shooting and to just work on my defense and passing. Then, presumably on the way home from practice, I had a car wreck with airbag deployment and no one was injured. There was an SUV, full of teenagers, dancing in their seats to rap music, oblivious to the wreck.

Then the alarm went off.
Permission Granted

You might remember that I referenced a Bible Conference that was held at my church on January 13 & 14. One of my seminary professors, Dr. John Hannah, was the speaker. We wanted to make sure he was okay with our church putting it on the web before doing so and it took some time to get all that squared away.

Well, it turns out I was away on a student ministry retreat and didn't hear the conference "live." So, since I enjoyed Dr. Hannah's quirky teaching style, high intellect and insights for practical living as one of his students, I got the three sessions in mp3 format and...

...I couldn't believe how encouraging his talks were to me. I've listened to the whole thing three times already.

See, sometimes I get tired of this Christian life. It seems so hard. So undoable. So unattainable.

Or maybe it's just that I'm really bad at it.

Anyway, you can get those three sessions .here.

A recommendation:

Some time.
An mp3 player.
A place to think & listen undisturbed.
Some paper & something to write with.

You won't regret it.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

It's 3AM. I'm Out Walking Again. I'm Just A Spot On The Sidewalk In The City Of Sin

I can't sleep.
I'm asking myself if I did enough.
I'm asking God if He'll work.
I'm wondering if the kid will listen.
I'm wondering if the others involved will or can help.

I'll give whoever can tell me the song title those lyrics that made up the title came from 27 points.

And I'll give all the points I have if somebody can help me with the curse I have of being a student minister.

I mean...I care. A lot.

And I really want to sleep well.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Apparently, people have been buzzing about my future behind my back.

Don't get me wrong...that's actually a good thing. See, a few years back, our church brought on Nathan to spend his entire time directing our middle school ministry.

Then, this year, our church brought on Steve-O to spend his entire time directing our high school ministry.

In addition, we've got Heather and Kristi training to work with middle and high schoolers, respectively.

What this has done has gotten all sorts of people coming into my office or stopping me in hallways & asking me, "So...with all these people working in the Dungeon [our student ministry room] now...are you...well...when...er, I mean...what are you going to be doing? They ask/say this while clinching their teeth and kinda sorta whispering, like they're asking me if I want to buy one of the 55 watches they've got hidden in their trenchcoat.

Well, honestly, it's no big secret.

I'll keep doing what I've always done: Disciple students.

I guess people aren't aware of exactly how many students we're responsible for discipling. I guess I'm the reason for that. I don't do numbers for public consumption when it comes to my work. Suffice to say that there are churches in our area that have more full-time staff than we do that don't have as many people as we have students.

So, really, we're just getting people we need to do the work that needs to be done well. And what my staff gives me is the ability to establish vision and direction instead of the day-to-day management of the ministry. Basically, I still teach my Sunday School class and have my senior guys' Bible study and hang out with teens at the coffee shop on Wednesday night and go on trips with them.

Like I said, my job isn't really changing all that much. I just have to train more people to be doing the same thing, and maybe serving parents a bit more.

And, it gives me the chance to influence bigger pictures, like what I'd like to see our church be and do in say, the next 5 or 10 years. Notice I used the phrase "our church." You can read between the lines on that one.

That's what I'll be doing in the next 5 or 10 years (assuming, of course, "our church" doesn't get tired of me)...

...what do YOU...er, ummm...think...I mean...hope you'll be doing in the next 5 or 10 years?
Bumper Sticker

I only heard this one existed, and while I'm not sure I get it, I like the spirit of it:

"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that when my life speeds up, my diet choices are based on expediency rather than health.
...nothing will get your heart rate up faster than when the organizer of a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) meeting enters your office informing you that there was a communication error with the speaker, and they need someone to cover the topic of "intimate issues on marriage."
...I'd be bored with a corporate job of any type as yesterday was trying and long but at least it was interesting.
...Auburn's recruiting class was in the nation's top 10 and the suspect defensive coordinator went to the NFL, so it was a good day on the Plains.
...very few things are as fun as watching teenagers walk into our coffee shop, hearing the rap music playing, and watch them spontaneously dance and laugh with and at each other.
...that I don't care if Saudi Arabia and other oil-baron nations "demand clarification" on the president's desire to find alternative energy sources, and I can't figure out why Americans wouldn't want to fund it.
...Relevant Magazine is a very good one.
...iPods might be the coolest things ever, and the advertising and support teams at Apple are among the most creative and innovative minds in business these days, right behind the folks at Disney.
...I haven't seen any of the movies nominated for Best Picture, and I really don't think I care to.
...those Chuck Norris things on the web are really funny (click on Danny's link on the left to see some).
...Lisa Loeb's reality show is terrible (and I got to watch it because of a hacking cough that kept me up late last night) but I can't help but be attracted to her because she's very much like my wife: Very intelligent and savvy, disarmingly cute, and oozes a creative vibe.
...sometimes adults can say things to teenagers that they will always remember, and it would be a better place if we chose to use our powers for good and not evil.
...I'm hoping Shelby gets up to full dance strength as her bout with step throat couldn't have come at a worse time with a competition that has New York as a reward is coming up this weekend.
...I'm definitely ready to donate my hair to locks of love, but I may wait until March after the ski trip.
...that even though I'm exhausted, I gotta get to work.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Weather Bug

Yeah, so, for January, the average temperature for Dallas was 68 degrees, Farenheit. We smashed the old record by 14 degrees, Farenheit.

State of the Union Address

*cynical, GenX statement warning*

It was a political exercise with very little to commend or criticize...unless you already have your red state/blue state opinion. In which case, you'll commend or criticize depending on your bent. I mean, how can you argue with wanting more teachers or cleaner fuels or health care adjustments? All good things. But, then there's the reality that the budget figures mentioned didn't factor in war costs or nothing was said about the 20% of Americans with no healthcare at all or why math & science are so much more important than English or Art or whatever. Red state/blue state.

So, watching the blowhards on each side talk afterwards, I just want to say "Nice cheerleading."

Such is the manner of our current political system.

Now, back to TomKat and/or Brangelina or Oprah or Oscar talk...
Some people...

...are just mean.

There's nothing you can do about it, really.