Friday, March 31, 2006

Those Crazy Kids With Their Rock N Roll...

I've tried.
I've got one.
I still don't get it: MySpace.

I wanted to see what all the rage was about among teenagers so I made a MySpace page...largely so I could see what their sites were about. My teenagers, both in my home and in my ministry.

As best I can tell, it's about inane bulletins and posts, getting as many "friends" as possible, taking quizzes and posting the results, and putting pictures of yourself so friends can comment on them (and I'm amazed at how much young girls will expose and how much young men will drink and then post), and little blurbs about yourself. The blog feature is largely unused.

From my vantage point, blogging is about words and ideas...with commenting for feedback. Sure, you have a little bit of links and other stuff to give others a context regarding the background of your writing...but it seems that blogging is more "coffee house." You are chatting about ideas and thoughts.

MySpace is like a dance club. It's all lights and loud music and little real interaction. Much sizzle. Little steak. Everybody's looking to score.

Ultimately, they're both about community, which I like. I guess I'm more of a coffee conversation, watch the news, go to bed person these days.

But, I'll give the kids their chance to dance all night and's what they're supposed to do.

But I still don't "get it." Maybe I'm not supposed to.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Little Help?

It wasn't long ago that I was asked to fill in for a speaker to our women's ministry who failed to show up. I was given about 20 minutes to prepare. The topic? "Well, last week we finished discussing intimate issues. We're kind of building on that topic so anything you want to do along those lines will be fine."

Don't ask.

For whatever reason I've been asked to help out with another class of young mothers tonight.

They've been discussing a book called Naked Fruit. Get your minds out of the's about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Clever little writers, those Christians...aren't they?

Anyway, the "fruit" they're looking at tonight is self-control.

How do I get into these things?

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Open Note To The Teens Protesting Immigration Laws In Dallas

I understand that the issue is terribly complex.
I understand that the issue affect you and yours more than it affects me and mine.

But your protests might carry more weight if...

...every now and again you wave an American flag beside the Tricolores. get involved in the April 9 protest already organized. That's on a Sunday. See, when you're skipping school it's hard to see any sacrifice in your protest. drive responsibly to the protest.
...or choose NOT to get on the busses provided by the Dallas Independent School District to take you back to school. don't play in the public fountain or storm a very ordinary city council meeting with nothing much to say.
...when the newscasters are broadcasting live from the protest, try to keep people from doing the booty dance behind them or flexing. Even though it's funny, it's hard to hear what the one who really believes in what she's doing has to say.
...don't let someone interview you if you're going to punt and yell "Viva Mexico" instead of articulating a point of view.

I'm a big fan of teenagers.
I'm a big fan of non-violent protest (I'd have rolled well with the organizers of the Boston Tea Party) over injustice--even if it is a PERCIEVED injustice.

Put the two together and I should be one of your biggest supporters.

But you've put me in a very difficult position, kids.

I hope you all show up on April 9.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

One Week From Today...

...I'll be spending time looking over box scores that matter. The ab's, the r's, the h's & the bi's. Our paper throws in a batting average after them. I'll check the attendance. The doubles, triples, home runs. The errors. I'll check through the pitching lines.

Of each and every major league team.

It will be grand.

It will be glorious.

It's baseball, Ray. It's bigger than all of us.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Launch

As parents you know it's part of the deal. It's what is supposed to happen.

As parents, in the day-to-day, you lose sight of the deal. The forest gets lost in the trees.

They are supposed to leave.

Our role is to shine a flashlight down a path, hold hands on occasion, whisper in the ear every now and again...

...and then entrust them to God.

I currently have friends who are going through this with their graduating seniors. Their kids "to-do" list after graduation involves colleges far away, majors that don't appear to have financial gain on the heels of it, missions work in developing nations, military service in unstable places, learning trades that will make them happy but not get a lot of esteem from the masses, and some with no real list to speak of.

I currently am seeing that more and more in my own home. The preparation for the launch is very real at this point in my life. 4 and 6 years according to the calendar.

Unfortunately for my kids, the coffees and lunches we have seem to have agendas attached. I've still got some time for holding their hand, shining the flashlight and and whispering in the ears.

It's the entrusting them to God part that seems so urgent and difficult today.

And the mere fact that I tend to focus on the hands, the light and the ears (the stuff I can affect) than I do the One Who Loves Them Most and Knows Them Best scares me.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I Can Only Imagine...

Top selling albums from 2005:

#1. Mariah Carey, "The Emancipation of Mimi" (5 million copies)
#5. The Black Eyed Peas, "Monkey Business" (3 million copies)
#6. Coldplay, "X & Y" (2.6 million copies)
#8. Gwen Stefani, "Love, Angel, Music, Baby" (2.5 million copies)

Top selling Christian albums from 2005:

#1. Switchfoot, "Nothing Is Sound" (0.5 million copies)
#3. Relient K, "MMHMM" (0.4 million copies)
#4. Switchfoot, "The Beautiful Letdown" (0.4 million copies)

A few thoughts:

I wonder how many Christians purchased the other stuff.
I wonder if it's because the Christian community still sings, publishes and creates largely for itself.
I wonder if that's a bad thing.
I wonder if it's because of marketing/promotion reasons.
I wonder if it's because the music isn't as innovative, fun or creative.
I wonder if the sales of bands like Fall-Out Boy are better or worse than top selling Christian albums.
I wonder if it's because Christians have other priorities with money.
I wonder if it matters at all.
I wonder if it's all of the above.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Saturday Morning Thought Starters

Flipping through the (on time today, by the way) Dallas Morning News and found some fuel to engage the pilot light of my brain today:

From Mary Jacobs' column on raising boys and the current trend of "male bashing":

Quoting Michael Gurian: "If Huck and Tom were alive today, they'd probably be diagnosed with a conduct disorder and put on Ritalin." [According to a study, 80% of the children on Ritalin in elementary school are boys]

"But first we have to be clear that maleness isn't a pathology that needs to be medicated, and the testosterone isn't a poison that fuels all the world's ills. We need to love our boys in all their boyness, not in spite of it."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Throwin' Off My Groove

My newspaper hasn't been thrown by 5:30AM for two days in a row.

I wonder if my deliverer just had a baby...

...or maybe his car is having trouble with the chilly weather we've had lately.

...or if he started throwing his route backwards just to break up the monotony.

...or if the weather wrapping he's using is from a new distributor and doesn't lend itself to quick application.

And it brings to mind a story that's been told of my grandfather. That he used to enjoy his morning ritual, involving coffee & the daily miracle that is a newspaper, too. There was turnover in the news delivery industry in his neighborhood...back when it was teenagers on bicycles...and after having his paper delivered the first week after 6AM he waited the next delivery day on the driveway...

...waiting for the bicycle delivery kid. When he showed up he asked him why his paper was coming after 6AM. The kid told him that he didn't have to have the papers delivered until 6:30 and he was well ahead of that.

My grandfather told him that if "I'd wanted to subscribe to the afternoon paper, I would." Back then, there were two papers in his city that came daily...the Post-Herald in the morning, the News in the afternoon. His paper began coming earlier. Maybe he started throwing the route backwards to avoid my grandfather.

But my point is, my routine is unload dishwasher, pour coffee (now that my machine has a clock and it has it ready immediately after my shower), read the paper, scan the on-line papers to get different perspective, then do the blogging.

It throws off my whole groove to do it this way. Maybe I'll brush my teeth with my left hand and see how else I allow my day to be all topsy-turvy.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The View From The Outside

I'm reading a book on leadership that mentions the value of the view of "outsiders." Those folks who aren't part of the organization, but can look at it more objectively than those that are a part of it.

Anyway, this athiest guy sells church attendance on eBay of all things. You can read of his experiences at Willow Creek here. (And props to new blogger link addition from former student Keith for his post)

I think I'd be curious as to what a visitor...any visitor, not just one of a different faith, would tell me about my church.
Bill & Ted Know It, Too

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
A Nice Night Out

Our student ministry, through Roads Coffee House, is sponsoring a BENEFIT CONCERT for Team Holland 2K6!

When: Thursday, March 23, 2006. 7:30—9PM.
Where: Roads Coffee House (CBC Dungeon)
Cost: $5 per ticket (proceeds to Team Holland)
Who: The Matt Brouwer Band (check out to listen)

This is a night of worship for our entire church family to get together and enjoy…however, our room only holds 200 people for a concert. So, while we sold plenty of tickets on Sunday, we cannot guarantee availability at the door. So, if you want to reserve a ticket, please e-mail Steve Davis at ASAP.

Roads Coffee House will be open, baked goods will be on sale, and donations will be accepted (with $100 donations getting a Roads Coffee House shirt & coffee coupons!) with all proceeds going to Team Holland.

I hope you’ll all plan on coming and enjoying a unique worship experience and helping out our summer mission team…

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Welcoming The BlogMother and the BlogFather

My friends Bob & Sue, who happen to have an inordinate amount of daughters, sons, and in-laws blogging, have finally started their own blog. It was overdue, and welcome aboard!
New Project

When I get some time, I'm going to be going through the process of getting out my big box of cassette tapes and working through getting them transferred to Mp3 format for my iTunes. I have some really good albums that I don't want to re-purchase...stuff like the Pretenders and Simple Minds and the Police and Jason & the Nashville Scorchers and Guadalcanal Diary and and old Talking Heads live tape and well... looks like it's turning into a Time/Life 10-Volume set of Brent's College Years.

The unfortunate thing is that I traded in my albums years ago because the Time/Life 20-Volume set of Brent's High School Years would be much more nostalgic with Black Sabbath, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, Iron Maiden, Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin and...

...Let's be honest: if I have a hard time justifying a purchase of Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" there's not a chance I can justify Ronnie James Dio's "Holy Diver."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Let's Try This Again

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that everybody I talk to lately has a story regarding hospice care.
...that MySpace is nothing special. The teens I serve love it, but the whole reason I like blogging is it tends to be more about ideas than about pictures, quizzes and quick comments.
...that teenagers view e-mail and even mobile phone messages as too slow. Text-messaging is about the only way to get through to them quickly.
...that I didn't know there was a lady who got arrested for failure to give up her seat on a bus about two weeks before Rosa Parks did, but Rosa would've been more likely to win a court case so the leadership used her case. When my cynicism level is already peaking I don't need to hear stuff like that.
...the more I read Tocqueville's work on democracy, the more I come to realize the importance of the philosopher and the ability to impact society.
...the Dallas Morning News (Dallasnews.Com) had an article this morning about the lack of theologians in our culture's public discourse (like Neibuhr once was) by William MacKenzie which is excellent and here were two quotes that might entice you to read it:

"They need the tools of the social scientist, as well as the theologian, to become a liason between the church and the world. If they don't understand what drives modern culture as well as Christian theology, they won't be heard."

[on some reasons why we don't have public theologians anymore]
"Theology is a diversion. Some charismatic Christians, for example, have no time for theology because they're obsessed with the experiential. And serious theology is the last thing sought by a culture thirsty for populizers like Houston's mega-author/minister Joel Osteen."

...that Joshua and Kristen are right. My next personal computer purchase will be a Mac.
...the first day of spring in Texas brought temperatures in the 30's, and it'll be even colder tonight. I've actually enjoyed the last four days of weather in this state.
...I'm not eating right, sleeping well, or exercising enough. It's shaping up to be the perfect storm.
...I'm not reading as much as I'd like, either.
...I'm excited about former teenagers in my ministry who are showing tendencies towards becoming full-time missionaries. Now if I could only get a few more long-term youth ministers into the fold. For some reason, those two areas in particular excite me more than those that are looking for pastorates, although it shouldn't.
...that my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly, despite OCD leanings, might be the coolest person I know.
...that there are few things as fun on a boring night at home than going through old photo albums with your daughter. I see why people would risk a lot to save their photos from a fire or flood.
...that I went to work yesterday pretty much just to shuffle papers and return e-mails and phone calls. It was good to do that, even on my day off, as it more or less got my brain unglued.
...that my pastor's new book seems to be affecting people, but in a very low-key way. This, I like.'s time to get moving for the day.

Monday, March 20, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that my brain won't let me think.

I'm on systems overload today.
And it's barely after 6:30AM on my day off.
I may as well go to work.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

George Carlin

I've always thought that stand-up comedians were philosophers of sorts. The good ones are, anyway. I mean, there is a difference between Robin Williams and Carrot Top. They provoke and prod and generally make us laugh because they're telling the truth from a slanted perspective.

I watched an old HBO comedy special the other night featuring George Carlin. He's generally too crass for my taste and this 2005 special proved no different, but the first 3 minutes were brilliantly funny & insightful--poking fun at our current world. He went on a rant that started with "I'm A Modern Man," and I found the transcript on the web. Pretty good stuff if you're asking me.

"I'm a Modern Man"

George Carlin, November 5th, 2005
Beacon Theater, NYC

I'm a modern man.
I'm a modern man.
I'm a modern man.
I'm a modern man.

I'm a modern man,
A man for the millennium,
Digital and smoke free.

A diversified multicultural postmodern deconstructionist,
Politically anatomically and ecologically incorrect.

I've been uplinked and downloaded.
I've been inputted and outsourced.
I know the upside of downsizing.
I know the downside of upgrading.

I'm a high tech lowlife.
A cutting edge state-of-the-art bicoastal multitasker,
And I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.

I'm new wave but I'm old school,
And my inner child is outward bound.

I'm a hot wired heat seeking warm hearted cool customer,
Voice activated and biodegradable.

I interface from a database,
And my database is in cyberspace,
So I'm interactive,
I'm hyperactive,
And from time-to-time,
I'm radioactive.

Behind the eight ball,
Ahead of the curve,
Riding the wave,
Dodging a bullet,
Pushing the envelope.

I'm on point,
On task,
On message,
And off drugs.
I got no need for coke and speed,
I got no urge to binge and purge.

I'm in the moment,
On the edge,
Over the top,
But under the radar.

A high concept,
Low profile,
Medium range ballistic missionary.
A street-wise smart bomb.
A top gun bottom feeder.

I wear power ties,
I tell power lies,
I take power naps,
I run victory laps.

I'm a totally ongoing bigfoot slam dunk rainmaker with a proactive outreach.
A raging workaholic.
A working ragaholic.
Out of rehab,
And in denial.

I got a personal trainer,
A personal shopper,
A personal assistant,
And a personal agenda.

You can't shut me up,
You can't dumb me down.
'Cause I'm tireless,
And I'm wireless.
I'm an alpha male on beta blockers.

I'm a non-believer and an over-achiever.
Laid back but fashion forward.

Up front,
Down home,
Low rent,
High maintenance.

Super size,
Long lasting,
High definition,
Fast acting,
Oven ready,
And built to last.

I'm a hands on,
Foot loose,
Knee jerk,
Head case.

Prematurely post traumatic,
And I have a love child who sends me hate mail.

But I'm feeling,
I'm caring,
I'm healing,
I'm sharing.
A supportive bonding nurturing primary care giver.

My output is down,
But my income is up.
I take a short position on the long bond,
And my revenue stream has its own cash flow.

I read junk mail,
I eat junk food,
I buy junk bonds,
I watch trash sports.

I'm gender specific,
Capital intensive,
User friendly,
And lactose intolerant.

I like rough sex.
I like tough love.
I use the f word in my email,
And the software on my hard drive is hard core, no soft porn.

I bought a microwave at a mini mall.
I bought a mini van in a mega store.
I eat fast food in the slow lane.

I'm toll free,
Bite sized,
Ready to wear,
And I come in all sizes.

A fully equipped,
Factory authorized,
Hospital tested,
Clinically proven,
Scientifically formulated medical miracle.

I've been pre-washed,
And I have an unlimited broadband capacity.

I'm a rude dude,
But I'm the real deal.
Lean and mean.
Cocked, locked and ready to rock.
Rough tough and hard to bluff.

I take it slow.
I go with the flow.
I ride with the tide.
I got glide in my stride.

Drivin' and movin',
Sailin' and spinnin',
Jivin' and groovin',
Wailin' and winnin'.

I don't snooze,
So I don't lose.
I keep the pedal to the metal,
And the rubber on the road.

I party hearty,
And lunch time is crunch time.

I'm hanging in,
There ain't no doubt.
And I'm hanging tough,
Over and out.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The REAL March Madness

The Auburn Tigers play their annual spring game that concludes the three weeks of spring practice today. They had to limit the ticket sales this year to 10,000 as they are re-doing the restrooms in the stadium and can only have that many people comfortably accomodated. Usually they have 30,000 to...
...PRACTICE game.

Anyway, there's a local columnist who goes through the schedule and predicts what the team will do next season. You can get that article here.

But, he says the Tigers will go 11-1, losing only to Florida at home in a nail biter (and beating Alabama for the fifth year in a row!). But for any AU football afficianado, this is a harbinger of doom. We always do better without the crushing weight of expectation.
Hey! Powder Hounds...

So apparently my student ministry went on a ski trip last week. They skiied. They took pictures. They had laughs. They talked about their lives. They bonded. They rode a bus for about 16 hours each way.

And not one blog with pics yet?

Not one with stories?

My hope is that they spent yesterday thinking about what they were going to blog about.

Friday, March 17, 2006

My Mom Says Some Days Are Like That, Even In Austrailia

Psalm 42: 5--8

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember Thee from the land of the Jordan,
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Thy waterfalls;
All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.

Yeah. That's pretty much the crux of my emotions after my visit with my mom to her doctor yesterday.

The details of it I'd rather not share in such a public's hard enough in private. But I will say your thoughts & prayers for me and my family are very much appreciated...

...and felt.

...and needed.

...and wanted.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Busload of Faith, Part 2

The tests have been taken.

The results will be read at 1PM today.

My mom will have to make decisions based on the conversation with the doctor. Anything from "stay the course" to "no more" and anything and everything in-between will be her options.

It's the reason I came to be supportive, to be encouraging, to give advice if asked.

Cancer is tough.
The treatment is, too.
The decisions are hard, for a myriad of reasons.

Today, I don't like being a grownup.
More Waiting Room Reading

This time from Anne Rice, author (most notably for Interview With A Vampire), after being asked if there's anything in the church in America that concerns her:

"Well, I think the thing that concerns me more than anything else is that so many people associate us with hatred and intolerance. They don't think of us as people who know how to love, and that is tragic. We need to do something to change their opinion."

What about that? That do anything for ya?
Waiting Room Reading

Took my mom to get various tests run yesterday. I took my backpack full of magazines and books...I know the waiting room drill.

Came across this from Dan Haseltine (in the band Jars of Clay) in Relevant Magazine:

"When we find the Gospel to be true and start to wrestle with the implications, it eventually brings us to a place where we must confront our humanity and know ourselves as botht he walking wounded and the perpetually healed.

In our church culture there are behavioral codes set in place to give the appearance of victory. There are things that church people cannot talk about. There are activities that church people do not engage in. There are places we do not hang out, girls we do not call, hotel rooms where things do not happen, computers that do not show destructive images, relationships that are not failing, abuses that are not stealing joy. There is not a darkness or a shadow to speak of.

But these things are, in some fashion a part of every church person's life. Because we have chosen to speak only about the victory from these things, we are left to promote a gospel that is feeble and moveable at best, rather than one made of stone--one strong enough to withstand the weight of the world and the depravity that is based upon its surface. Our gospel is unbelievable because it is only half a gospel. It is the resurrection without any signs of the crucifixion. I believe there are profound reasons why Jesus carried the scars from the nails on His hands when He appeared to His friends. He was bringing the entire Gospel to His disicples."

That do anything for ya?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Little Things

It seemed like yesterday was about the "little things."

Like, I played hide-and-seek with my neice who is at the perfect hide-and-seek age. I blew up latex gloves and either made balloons out of them or let them go higgledy piggledy around the room. She told me what was funny and what wasn't. It was time well spent.

Like, we got my mom's high school yearbook out. This sparked all kinds of conversation between my mom & my daughters. For instance:

Mom: "That picture of me in my cheerleader outfit was the only picture that mattered to me. It was all I ever wanted out of high school...for my friends to vote me onto that team."

Kelsey (laughing): "Way to set your goals high there, Grammer."

Mom (laughing, too): "Well, Kelsey, my friends didn't vote me 'Most Likely To Succeed.' My goals were realistic." (now I'm laughing)

Grammer told stories of her high school days, which, truth be told, she romanticizes anyway. The girls interacted with her and made comments about things like ads in the back and how their life is different. It was time well spent.

Like, Tracy was able to track down a place for my dance-a-holic daughter Shelby to work out and train while in town. The Alabama Ballet worked out a two-day deal so I drove her there. It happened to be the 2nd Tuesday Open House yesterday, which is where the community can come in, see a preview of upcoming ballets, and hear the director talk about nuances and such. The dancers and parents can ask's a pretty cool deal.

However, at the beginning, there's a mixer complete with wine & cheese, fruit, sodas, candy...the whole deal. You can interact with the staff and all that. The community is invited. The ballet they were previewing was Spanish, and the wine served was some impressive Spanish "cab" (I've been hanging out with my wife and sister enough to grab some lingo along the way--I can't use it correctly in a sentence I don't think, but I've heard the words). It was time well spent.

Like, sometimes you can have very enjoyable conversation with your brother-in-law and sister-in-law over pizza. Lots of years together and it feels a lot like family...even if it's nothing overly special. Just chat about family life and kids in school and all that. It was time well spent.

I think life is a lot about the little things...and spending the time well.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Drive

Yesterday was all about the drive. Far North Dallas to Medium South Birmingham. 673.8 miles according to Yahoo Maps and it should've taken 11 hours and 9 minutes. I'm not sure if they counted normal stops in that time...

...but it wouldn't have mattered. My daughters have become true road warriors. We made one stop. In Rayville, Louisiana (which, by the way, had cajun spiced everything available at their Subway) at a gas station that had a restaurant in it.

That's right. One stop.

We made it in 10 hours and 5 minutes, including the stop...and I'm not prone to speeding. It doesn't make sense to me to risk a $200 speeding ticket to save about 20 minutes of time.

And...get this. No TV, and in fact, only a two hour stretch where I listened to some sermons (which, by the way, will induce your children to put on their iPods and read). Other than that, we talked. About dreams and hopes and fears and general catching up and about books we were reading and views on name it. If nothing else happens on this trip, it was entirely worth it just for that time with my girls.

We arrived at around 6:30PM to my neice and sister-in-law and home-cooked food by my mother-in-law who said there was no food in the house and she was able to whip together enough food to stuff all 7 of us.

And, an open note to whoever is in charge of Highway 280 in Birmingham: It's a mess. We could get 3/4 of the way to Tuscaloosa in the time it took us to navigate 280 (about 6 miles). Fix it.

We watched the Stars play on cable and were introduced to TiVO. Uh-oh. That's seeming like another monthly fee after checking that out.

I got text messaged by some teens in my is being had and they seem to be enjoying themselves. Without me. Imagine that.

Read some.

Slept hard. I gotta say it: I loves me some serious thunderstorms at bedtime.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Rolln' Rollin' Rollin' Get Them Dawgies Rollin'

I'm hyper-distracted this morning.

I've got practically my entire student ministry in the Rockies enjoying the 8 inches of snow that got dumped on them as they bused into Winter Park yesterday. I'm going to check the "slope-cam" in a minute.

I've got TONS of work to do. My inbox is full, and my outbox is empty.

And, I'm off in about two hours to visit Mom. I'll drive all day today with the girls and we'll see her tomorrow morning.

If this were a movie scene, as the car backed out, you'd hear Lou Reed's song "Busload of Faith" and it's twangy guitar intro as we pulled away.

"Three chords, sunglasses and an attitude is really all you need." Lou Reed said that when asked what it took to be a rock star. It appears that's all I really need today. That, and a busload of faith.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

You Don't Never Leave A Man Behind!

Our spring break ski trip left at 10:30PM last night headed for Winter Park and what looks to be an incredible week of spring skiing. I'd imagine they're in New Mexico somewhere right about now.

I went up to see them before they departed.

I didn't get to go. Family responsibilities take priority this week.

Mentally, I get that. I understand that. I also know I'm making the right choice to visit my mom this week as she'll be getting some results about her chemotherapy treatment. Could be good. Could be neutral. Could be bad. We'll see. But I know I'm doing the right thing by using spring break to visit her and be there with her no matter what the result are.

The leaders of the trip are well trained and fully capable of running the trip. I really have no concerns of that, either.

So, if I'm doing the right thing and I have no worries, why am I sitting here feeling as if I'm not where I'm supposed to be?

...I'm wanting some feedback on Saturday's quotes. Just a gentle reminder!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Walk On

I've been reading that book on the spiritual walks of the members of the rock band U2 by Steve Stockman.

A few quotes to engage your brains this weekend:

"As a result of this ["Christian" bands working in "secular" venues] mindset, many talented musicians are steered into a gospel band scenario, going from church to church singing cliche-driven songs with limited content. The audience members are almost exclusively Christian, and, as the majority of them have already assented to the beliefs being preached from the stage, the cliches are wasted. A safe Christian industry ghetto is created with pop stars and record industry that is always in danger of ending up culturally irrelevant."

"Evangelicals believe that they are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2: 8--9), but then add a man-made waiver that you have to work as hard as you can to meet middle-class behavioral patterns to hang on to it. It seems to be contrary to the Gospel, where among the many teachings of Jesus regarding servanthood, the last become first...For some reason, there are biblical teachings that do not--but perhaps should--hold so much importance. Among them: materialistic greed, bigoted prejudice, the oppression of women, or the neglect of social justice. Somehow you can ignore many of the rallying calls of Christ and the prophets, and because you are teetotal and less flowery with your language and attend church twice a week, you are declared spiritually strong."


That ought to do it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Pastor's Retreat Update #2

I can say this: The 2nd word in "Bed & Breakfast" is one they apparently take VERY SERIOUSLY...and it was excellent.

In addition, our host spun some yarns about the history of story involving Jesse James, the other John Wilkes Booth. Of the former, apparently, there are four alleged burial plots of the famous outlaw. One no one takes seriously, and the other two allegedly have been proven to be fake. Well, so says the B&B owner here in Granbury. At any rate, the family of Jesse James purchased the headstone here. It has the birthdate sometime in 1851. The death date sometime in 1947. Underneath it says "Supposedly killed in 1882." Legend has it that he faked his own death in 1882 and lived out his years right here in good old Granbury. There were pennies on his headstone when we visited. I was tempted to steal 'em. How often can you say you stole about 60 cents from an old west outlaw? I didn't know the significance of the pennies, so I left 'em.

Of the latter, legend has it that John Wilkes Booth faked his death, too, had an alleged deathbed confession here in town, but then got well and headed to Enid, Oklahoma. Upon his death, his casket stayed here for some time before it was sold to gypsys. Hmmmm.

I was tempted to ask the yarn-spinning host if Bigfoot, JFK and Elvis were seen playing poker in town recently, but thought better of it. I also was tempted to ask about alien visitations, but thought better of that, too. But I bet it'd boost tourism.

Good times in the Word with staff. We're kicking through 1 Peter together.

After lunch, Tracy and I toured the town square in Granbury. Nice enough little stroll in very nice weather...saw some neat little shops and such. I'm sure the locals are annoyed with tourism being the only industry here, but don't seem to mind taking their money. Anyway, the highlight was going to a wine shop on the square, and...

...I'm not making this up...

...the owner proudly said they ordered juices from all around the world and had their own fermentation room in the back. We could order all sorts of wine made right there on the spot. We could even create our own label and everything. I thought about making one of Pastor Tim and calling it "Pastor Tim's Inside-Out Grape Juice" but the joke wasn't worth the $20 it would cost to do all that. The tastings were $5. We passed, and I couldn't blame Tracy for her "wine snobbery."

Good dinner with the staff...there are some really good restaurants in this place.

So, if you're looking for good comment fodder, I think you have plenty, from burial stories to wine labels you'd make, so have at it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pastor's Retreat Update #1

I'm in Granbury, Texas. According to the Chamber of Commerce signs, this is where Texas history lives. Thus far, I can't really argue with that.

Our staff is staying at a bed & breakfast, which must have something to do the living history of Texas, because Granbury has about 300 of them.

There is a baby carriage full of fake flowers on the porch (only one fake baby is in it). There are rocking chairs everywhere...not to mention porch space for rocking chairs everywhere. There are birdhouses galore. Lots of fake ivy. Lots of wicker.

It's safe to say that I'm not a bed & breakfast person.

But the Bible study was enjoyable.

So has the conversation with staff & wives.

But bed & breakfast decor sets off any and all A.D.D. tendencies I may possess.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pastor's Retreat!

Today the Tracester and I are headed off to join the staff and their wives at our annual Pastor's Retreat. It's actually a pretty enjoyable time, largely because we like the people we work with and they've all chosen some pretty cool spouses. We'll be gone today and will return on Friday afternoon...

So, in the meantime, I'll allow you to discuss among yourselves...

"In my opinion, Brent should/could/would..."


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Goodbye, Kirby

I disliked him. I mean, his catch in game 6 followed by his 11th inning home run kept my Braves from winning the World Series after their worst-to-first run in 1991. I still have it on video.

My dad used to tell me what it was like to see players like Willie Mays or Willie McCovey or Brooks Robinson play...and how you just know a Hall of Fame player when you see them.

But as a ballplayer, Kirby Puckett was everything you'd want in a Hall of Famer. Now I know what my dad meant. If only more players gave The Game what he gave The Game.

He passed away yesterday at age 44. A stroke.

*me, grabbing the bill of my cap, respectfully tipping it toward the "enemy" dugout*
I Don't Get It

How does driving a car into a crowd of college kids show displeasure for the actions of the United States government around the world?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Food For Thought

I read an op-ed page article by David Brooks of the NY Times, on a theme I probably should've blogged about before: "What High Schoolers Should've Learned Before They Get To College." I guess that when you're a respected columnist of the NY Times, big-time professors will respond to your inquiries. Self-publisher of The Diner doesn't carry that much clout, nor would I send e-mails to big-time college professors.

He mentioned the books they should've read (Neibuhr & Plato) and the classes they should've been offered (philosophy) but here were some quotes about high schoolers that I found interesting:

A Boston College professor, on reading Neibuhr: "The devout would learn that public piety corrupts private faith and that faith must play a prophetic role in society. The athiests would learn that some who believe in God are really, really smart."

Another teacher on the nature of today's students: "My impression is that many students have turned into cunning little careerists, jockeying for advancement."

A Yale professor, on his students, who've been raised to be workaholics (achievers without ambition): they have devloped a "carapace, an enveloping shell that hinders them from seeing the full, rich variety of intellectual and practical opportunities offered by the world."

Just thought I'd let you know that I'm seeing the same things in my students...generally speaking, of course.
The Oscars?

As I've told my students before, the way I see it, Hollywood is kind of America High School.

It's full of the psuedodrama: Who is dating who; who broke up with who; who is doing the next big thing; the kids whose parents are big shots, who is at the right parties, etc.

It has it's "A" list people and "B" list people and people moving from list to list depending on who is hot or not at that moment.

It has a parochial view of the outside world. Much like politics. You know what I mean. The people involved are the stars of their own play and the rest of the folks are just extras or supporting cast in it. They really believe in their own self importance, and truly think that the world around them is enamored of them.

I could go on and on with the comparisons, but my favorite moments of the night were when Jennifer Garner almost fell down (which I think it would've been more interesting had she fallen--and of course not gotten hurt--to see if she handled it gracefully or not, as she did with her slip)

...and the hands-down best moment was when the rappers won for best song or whatever. It was like watching the nerds from high school play the practical joke on the jocks. No matter which side of that fence you sit on, you kinda are happy for the nerds. Those guys were happy and rowdy and you could just feel the a-listers disapproving, which made it a beautiful moment.

I guess that's the way it is when you haven't seen any of the films up for stuff, except March of the Penguins. And I don't even know if it won or not.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Wedding

One of my occupational hazards is that I get to perform wedding ceremonies. Last night pushed me into the 30's as far as number performed. The "hazard" part of that is I get to see the father of the bride stuff...knowing that one day, most likely, my time will come to be that guy.

And I wonder what thoughts and emotions will be going through my head when I see her in her dress that day.

And I wonder what thoughts and emotions will be going through my head walking down the aisle with her.

And I wonder what thoughts and emotions will be going through my head as I kiss her on the cheek and put her arm on his.

And I wonder what thoughts and emotions will be going through my head as I sit next to her mother.

And I wonder what thoughts and emotions will be going through my head as I prepare to, and make, a toast.

And I wonder what song she'll pick for us to dance to...and the thoughts and emotions at that time.

And I wonder what thoughts and emotions will be going through my head when she leaves the ceremony in the limo.

Last night, the bride was beautiful and all that stuff happened.

And it's somewhere between 4 and 20 years when it's my turn.

Such is the deal when you have daughters.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I Have Children That Experience This...I Think

Friday, March 03, 2006

If I Won A Million Bucks (after taxes)...

Tracy and I have a deal: Whenever the lottery in Texas gets up over $100 million, we buy one ticket. We don't want our one chance to catch lighting in a bottle wasted on a measley four million. We view the $1 as an entertainment expense because we talk about what we'd do with all that money. Now, after having the discussion about four times a year since we moved to Texas, we discovered that it doesn't change too much.

But, today, I decided to play the game by myself, and I only won the $4 million beginning lotto pot.

Well, I always take the "cash now" option, which means I'm down to $2 million instead of stringing out the $4 million over 20 years. For some reason, $2 million now seems like a better deal. Bird in the hand and all that jazz.

Then, there's taxes. To make the math easier I go with 50% to cover any current and future taxes. So, today, I got a million bucks. What happens?

...I pay off my debt. I never had any college or seminary student loans or debt, but I've got some from the College of Life. It ain't much compared to others I know, but the car & the card go immediately to zero.

...I either redecorate this house to the nines or sell it and get a comparable house decorated to the nines with the money I'd get from selling this house plus whatever it'd cost me to redecorate it to the nines. Either way, you wouldn't see a lifestyle change of much significance. I'm really just talking about the hardwood floors we wanted and all the fixtures to be new and shiny and the bathrooms redone...stuff like that. A pretty luxurious study for me, studio for the Tracester. A deck out back with some good shade so we could grill out back there and full landscaping. I think the only luxury I'd really be up for is a hot tub. I've always wanted one. Tracy wants a pool so maybe we could get both combined...but I keep trying to squelch the pool. I heard that nobody uses 'em when the teenagers move out and then it becomes something that requires keeping clean. I'm guessing that comes to about $200,000 out of the winnings.

...I'd buy my wife a serious condo on the beach. I suspect it would be in the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area, but I'd let her pick it. I'm guessing that'd take about $400,000.

...College funds for the girls. But not too much. After throwing away my undergraduate education on football and fraternity stories (all of which no one wants to hear anymore) I want my girls to have some investment in their own education after high school. I took mine seriously when I started paying for grad school so they'll have to put something into it financially. I read somewhere that some guys lived in a big city that had lots of universities and colleges and they created a "Doctorate in Learning" degree by choosing to audit specific classes at each school over a six year period to make up for the stuff they failed to learn when they were at state school football factories. Is it bad that I liked that idea? $100,000 total. They can use it to go to grad school if they want or fine arts schools or whatever, but they split that amount.

...Wedding funds. Self-explanatory. $20,000 apiece. Anything else they can pay for on their own.

...Cars for the girls. Toyota Corollas. Sensible. Reliable. Not better than Dad's. $30,000.

...I do splurge on actual lessons for the guitar and a serious guitar or two. I mean, teaching yourself with "Rock Guitar for Dummies" and a Fender Strat are okay, but I'd really like to get better, and I think you get what you pay for on stuff like that. Say $5,000.

...I'm sure I invest in a serious wish-list for Tracy's most expensive equipment for her business. That's a business I feel sure would have a nice return upon investing. $30,000.

...A bank account/investments for the first time: $100,000.

...And the rest I give to my church and our favorite missionaries and other charities that Iike. In fact, I might set up a "trust" for short-term missions for teenagers to get half their summer support while they raise the rest. Or a youth ministry intern training fund to become a "launching pad" for student ministries.

But I keep working. I think Tracy keeps working. We have the deal that we love what we do, and it isn't a drudgery for either of us to go to our jobs. So, really, our lives wouldn't change much...but we might get more committed to vacations since we have the beach place. She loves the beach. I love the beach at night and when the waves are good...redheads aren't much for sun, but I can nap between 11AM and 2PM so it should work fine.

So, if I had a million bucks, that'd be what I'd do.
Mom Update

Several of you have asked about my mom as she is battling cancer, so I thought I'd give you an update.

She has good and bad days, usually predictable based on the distance from her last chemotherapy treatment. She currently had some bad days but yesterday was a good one. She's moving on two weeks from her last treatment, which seems to be a time when she struggles a bit.

The reality is that we'll know more on the 16th of March or so. She'll have another CT scan which will disclose the effectiveness of this round of chemotherapy...and I'm going to visit her during that time.

So, keep her in your thoughts and prayers, and I certainly appreciate the e-mails, calls and such. So I'm sorry if all I really know is based on daily stuff...fighting cancer and going through chemo is certainly something that will get you to focus on the right here, right now. But I'll know more in a couple of weeks and will fill you in more then.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mind Control

My senior guys' Bible study last night studied Mark 7. The gist of it is that the disciples weren't following Jewish custom by failing to wash their hands after interaction with the "wrong folks." As per His custom, Jesus proceded to remind the "right folks" that was pretty much irrelevant...that it is what is in your heart that counts. As per his custom, he called the "right folks" hypocrites.

My friend Katherine memorized a quote (probably by Tozer...she named her cat after him, for cryin' out loud) and the gist of it says that whatever a man thinks about is what he is or what he will soon become.

I had a seminary professor tell us that a guage of your spiritual life is to take note of the things that you think about when you aren't thinking about anything. That's the gist of it, anyway.

We had a discussion on how, as affluent Americans, we focus on outward actions and results...but not the inner monologue.

And how those will eventually become our actions to some degree.

And the thoughts that pop into our brains when we weren't thinking anything.

That was the gist of it, anyway.

And those realities are still haunting me nearly 10 hours after the lesson. Sometimes the teacher gets taught more than the students...and, at this moment, I'm glad my co-leader is teaching next week.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

I was an unemployed seminary drop-out. She said "yes" anyway.

She drove to work, 45 minutes each way, to a job WAY beneath her abilities.

She did the starving artist thing...even though the "art" that kept us starving was youth ministry and she was along for the ride. Car repairs, home redecoration, fashion upgrades, medical bills, Infamil on credit...she put up with all of that. Not to mention the time & hours her husband put in with other people's families for that low amount of pay (of which, we've come to realize, a poor financial start early on will have you playing catch-up your whole time). Not to mention that most of her dates were to high school plays, games and such. Much of that reality hasn't changed over time...17 years later, some of those things still go on, just in a better neighborhood. She's still here.

She has an ability to make houses into homes. Everything from making a nursery to making a "big girl room" for a two-year-old to buying a big comfy couch, fully aware of what I was looking for in a couch. She buys a hammock knowing that I'll spend more time out there than in the house with them (although I'm sure she factored in the hot Texas summers--even at night--would find me inside enough. She's a smart cookie). She lets teenagers come in without knocking. She understands that happiness & joyful relationships far outweigh housework. She builds studios for the disciplines required by artists--folks who redefine disciplines--because she is one herself.

She is a dog person by choice, not biology.

She is talented. Megatalented. She's beginning to believe it herself...which only brings out more talent. It's the best of all catch-22's. She's had two businesses since I've known her and that's been the case in both of them. The first was motherhood. The second is photography. She's still doing very well in both...and her talent is obvious. A blind guy with one eye can see the results.

She's prettier now than at any time since I've known her.

She's always been smart. Funny, too. Neither of those have changed. Well, maybe they've both increased over time, but she's still smart and funny.

She's definitely a Proverbs 31 kinda girl.

She brings more to this marriage table than I do. I'm a heap of contradictions and moods and quirks and my feet smell and I leave wet towels on the bed and a ton of crimes and misdemeanors I won't grocery list for you here.

I don't know why I'm telling you all this on a random March 1.

I guess I'm just thankful she's still here. Goodness knows she could've bailed and few would've blamed her. I guess my response to love is thankfulness. I'm overcome with the fact she loves me. I'm not convinced I do much to deserve it.


That's what I'm thinking about today.

And I'm thankful.
Ignorance blamed for local rise in teen STD's

That's the top headline in today's Dallas Morning News. It beat out Mardi Gras and the mental health of returning soldiers. Slow news day as best I can tell.

At any rate, a few quotes that'll wake you up quicker than the coffee:

"Some kids have a different definition of what being sexually active means," Ms. Royster (a bigwig at a local hospital) said. "For example, some girls will engage in oral sex and say, 'Well, I'm still a virgin.' But they don't realize what comes with that in terms of diseases."

After describing a situation in which she treated 10 teens who attended an "oral sex party," Dr. Laura Scalfano (another bigwig at a local hospital) said, "Half of all teens are sexually active. That's a pretty scary statistic for any parent."

Ms. Royster again: "And then we have the situation where some parents don't necessarily know how to talk to their kids about these things."

After a lot of "sky is falling" statistics, we get this from Dr. Janet Realini (a bigwig at a San Antonio hospital), "I think we have a long way to go, in terms of encouraging abstinence effectively."

One last one from Dr. Steve Wilson (a bigwig at Health and Human Services): "There is a concern among everyone working in this field that the message of safer sex or no sex has been lost on younger people. There seems to be a disconnect between the action of sex and the consequences of sex."

For those of us in student ministry, this isn't news. Like I said, it's a slow news day.

It just highlights the problem we already see: There seems to be a disconnect between parents and their children on how to talk about these things. Parents have no idea of exactly what it is they don't know. They need help, and don't know what to do.

*insert public service message for parents to grow in Christ themselves, contact their local youth pastors, and plug into a parent group to get help*