Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gerald Posner Was Right


The case really is closed.

The conspiracy theories are still more fun, though.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What A Week I'll Have

I've walked the dog...who has since gone back to bed.
I'm sitting in my recliner.
I've got a cup of coffee.
I've flipped through the Dallas Morning News.
I've spent some time reading the Bible.

No one else is up yet.

But they will be.

And this week is one of the busiest we have in our home.

See, it's "tech week" for my youngest daughter's recital. The big year-ending performance is Friday and Saturday...and since she's in a whole bunch of dances, with modern and jazz and ballet and the whole deal, she'll be be up at the recital location working on final dance rehearsals, where to stand, change areas and the like. It takes loads of work. She'll be gone--requiring Tracy's presence as well--pretty much from 9AM until 9PM. The performance is on Friday night.

And, it's "Juarez week" for me and my oldest daughter. This year over 130 people will be going to build homes for the less-fortunate in Juarez, Mexico...and it's a logistics nightmare. Hotel rooms for advance teams, main teams, bus companies, van rentals, water (which weight 8.1 pounds per gallon and we'll need well over 1000 gallons), trailers, tents, camp benches...not to mention paperwork to cross the border which all has to be signed and notarized and all that jazz. The advance team leaves on Saturday morning, and the main team on Sunday.

And, I'll be performing a wedding immediately upon my return.

So, I'll be busy. We'll be busy. But it's a "good" busy.

But, I think I'll stay here in my recliner a bit longer.
And sip my coffee slowly.

Because once I get up... all starts.

Monday, May 29, 2006

It's Not Only A Day Off

My words are not (nor will ever be) an adequate expression regarding this:

But "thank you" to all those who have made the supreme sacrifice for our nation, and the family and friends who were affected by that sacrifice.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I Must Be A Gracker

So, my friend Kristen sends me an article from NYMag.Com entitled Up With Grups.

"Grups" is the newest term for trend-setting 30-somethings. The author borrowed the term from the old Star Trek television show where the Enterprise crew finds a planet of children. Apparently, the adults died from a virus that greatly slowed the aging process and kill anyone who grew up. The children called Captain Kirk a "grup"...which is simply a contraction for "grown-up."

So, the article talked about how this generation of 30-somethings is re-defining adulthood, and kind of erasing any generation gap that might exist.

The best line in the article is "This is an obituary for the generation gap. It is a story about 40-year-old men and women who look, talk, act, and dress like people who are 22 years old. It's not about a fad but about a phenonmenon that looks to be permanent." There's another good line about crossing a portal when you become an adult that uses a Biblical reference about putting away childish things and how they tend to ignore it.

In reality, this is nothing new. Yuppies in the 80's did the same thing, they just spent money on lavish things...but it was still a "Peter Pan" syndrome kind of thing. Hippies in the 60's were really kicking against societal norms to avoid becoming a part of them. I'm a card carrying GenX-er and our version was labeled "slacking." (I, however, maintain it was anything but slacking--but I digress)

The article is funny, like when it talks about playing the hippest music in the house for the 2-year-old because, "let's face it, 2-year-olds have lousy taste in music, and we will NOT listen to the Wiggles in this house!" There are also references to wearing sneakers everywhere all the time and turning down promotions because it's "just another word for slavery." The article also highlights the blue jean-driven fashion...when you can add anything from an Armani blazer to a concert shirt to it.

In fact, they look like this:

photo courtesty New York Metro

See it's sort of a "bourgeois bohemian" thing with a youthful attitude...and good jobs.

And there was so much I identified with.

Like sneakers. I would add Doc Martens and a pair of Birkenstocks to the mix. I'm big on comfort, of which suits most certainly are not. Now, I don't like the "ongoing rock-starification of America" where we don't shave for three days or whatever because we want to say to the world that we can do whatever we want because we're successful and we're sticking it to the man...but that's just personal preference.

Like the relationship with your children being one of respecting their personhood and using your influence to enjoy them while shaping them, too. And appreciating your parents, too. The intergenerational relationship aspect deeply appeals to me.

And looking at your job as what it is: A job. There's life to be lived, and that axiom, "If you want to motivate a Baby Boomer, give him a bonus check. If you want to motivate a GenX-er, give him the day off." couldn't be more true. Pursuing life is more than having a career. I don't want the corner office or fancy title, either. Another good line from the author: "No thanks. You can keep your carrot and your stick."

And loving your children and spending time with them. A good line: "Here's the bad news about kids: They're not cool. Especially little kids. Like 2 year-olds? Forget it. Left to their own devices, they don't dress well, they have no sense of style, and frankly their musical tastes [stinks]." (edit mine) But then the folks intereviewed talk about it isn't time to tell the kids to "turn that garbage down" but rather listen with them and discuss things, or taking up skateboarding with them. The idea was getting to know them and let them discover who they are and let them see who you are. It's about a loving, understanding relationship.

So, yeah. I relate to the Grups...but not quite.

See, I like to think I live by intent. Lemme explain.

I'm not trying to be cool or hip or trendy with my clothes. They're not much of a statement one way or another. I wear jeans and t-shirts with generic button down overshirt (only the bottom button buttoned, though) and sneakers (or Birks or Docs) because they're comfortable. I'm really that simple. I watched my grandfather come home from his corporate VP world every Friday and change out of his suit into some khaki's and a button down. It was very Mr. Rogers. He only wore sneakers when he washed the car on Saturday. That, and shining shoes, never appealed to me at all. But my clothes aren't a statement. Sometimes, they're just your clothes...and if the jeans have a hole in 'em...well...much more better.

And about parenting: See, I see children as a blessing from the Lord. I am also aware that I'm supposed to raise a child in the way THEY should go. This involves two main points: First and foremost, I do want very much to enjoy my children. To laugh with them. To be involved in the things they're involved in. To chat with them. All that stuff is terribly enjoyable, from muppets to Dr. Suess to hearing their thoughts on democracy they parrot from their middle school teachers. I've never had problems understanding how God has blessed me with them nor enjoying them.

Secondly, there is a way they are supposed to go. God designed them with something in mind and it's my role to help them figure out what that is...and then have the grace to step aside and let them pursue Him and that particular way. I've always viewed parenting at a temporary stewardship, which will have an end point and then I get my wife back. This would require that I get to know them as people and become an avid student of what makes them tick. There lie the clues in the way they're supposed to go. Along the way I let them in on who I am, too. I'm finding that the teen years don't have to be this angst-filled rebellious phase where we don't understand each other...but rather an enjoyable time to get to know them as they develop their own ideas about the world and make their faith their own.

And, about my career choices: I never bought into the corporate world because it wasn't me. See, God built me with certain passions and gifts and talents. And people often ask me why I would want to spend all day every day with teenagers. The reality is that I ask them, "Why do you assume I have a choice?" See, I do what I do because it's what God built me to do. Money was never a consideration (although as I push toward retirement that'll surely be a statement I may re-think, eh?)...and it won't be. But God built other people with passions for teaching, accounting, corporate presidencies, entrepreneurs, politics, etc. The kingdom is big enough for all of us and hey, if the corner offices and fancy titles slip into the equation, then more power to the corner offices and fancy titles. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss them out of hand any more than I would pursue them...but it isn't because of a disdain for them. It just isn't me.

So, if that makes me a Grup, so be it.
Or a slacker, well, there you go.
Or a hybrid of such (Grupker?), then there we are.

But actually, I think think it makes me a follower of Christ, striving for authenticity and walking a journey that gives me freedom to be who He created me to be.

And all of a sudden, I wonder what the author would write about me and the many many folks I know doing the same thing, and what he'd call us.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Holiday Mind Vitamin

As a service to our patrons, those of us in management at The Diner often put little "mind vitamins" on the tables for you to dig in and do some deep-thinking.

Yes, I know it's a holiday weekend.

But, hey, you're here. I'm here. Let's have coffee. Let's chat, you and I.

And the mind vitamin comes from the good folks at Criswell College. It's a Southern Baptist Bible school connected loosely with First Baptist of Dallas--a historically influential church in SBC circles. They have a quarterly academic journal (as do most grad schools)...and in the most recent one they interviewed Brian D. McLaren, one of the more prominent thinkers regarding the state/future of the Church. You can get the full article here. It's 8 small pages or so.

So, here are the little thought-provokers. So feel free to comment away and get dialogue happenin':

[When asked about "deficiencies in the church"]: "One of my deepest concerns, because I do a lot of international work, is that here in America our churches have so identified themselves with American nationalism, and especially with a certain neoconservative ethos in the Republican Party. That kind of partisan alliance is dangerous, I believe. It puts us in the tradition of being a "civil religion" much like mainline Protestantism was in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century.
Civil religions lose their prophetic voice. As a result, for many people—especially young people and highly educated people the word "Jesus" now means things it shouldn't mean: judgmental, angry, exclusive, unkind, lacking understanding, reactionary, violent, pro-war, anti-poor, and the like."

[After being asked how Francis Schaeffer ministered to the first "post-moderns" in the 1960's and how that approach would work today]:

(side note: Francis Schaeffer is highly influential in my spiritual development--college roomie Hollywood will remember that I had all of his books on the bookshelf and studied them constantly my last years of university--so I was particularly interested in his response. So, because I am, now you'll have to be)

"I believe Francis Schaeffer was effective for a number of reasons.

First, he was brilliant and well-educated, and he used his God-given mind and education for the kingdom of God in a time when many evangelicals were shockingly anti-intellectual and reclusive.

Second, he listened. He listened deeply to people's questions and tried to understand them. Closely related, he treated people with gentleness and respect. He didn't call them names nor did he try to manipulate or coerce people. He was kind.

Third,he was conscious of worldviews. He gently, but firmly, helped people see the incoherence or inconsistency of their worldview, and he tried to show the coherence and beauty of a worldview centered on Christ.

Fourth, he loved culture. He appreciated the arts, and wasn't one to insult (or censure) works of art that he didn't agree with; rather, he took them seriously and used them to point out worthwhile things.

Sixth, he was much attuned to history. To return to an earlier question, he emphasized the narrative dimension. He sought—imperfectly, as we all do—to
understand Augustine or Aquinas or Kierkegaard or Sartre or Camus or Cage or whoever in light of their historical setting. This is good missiology, and I think these approaches are still very important today. In this way, I am very much Schaeffer's disciple." (side note: Hurray! Me, too!)

[On things young church leaders should be preparing for the future]:

"Here are a few, in no particular order:

1) What is a better alternative to either a) a private, personal spirituality unconnected to public life, and b) a public civil religion that compromises with
partisan politics (of either the right or the left)? How do we live out the kingdom in the public sphere, learning from the mistakes of recent decades and from Christian history over centuries?

2) How do we make real disciples? Why are so many of our church members so mean-spirited?

3) What does the gospel have to say about the global economy, about the growing gap between rich and poor, about stewardship of the environment, about the
growing threat of violence from both terrorists and anti-terrorists?

4) What new forms of church will be necessary to faithfully contain the ever-new wine of the Holy Spirit in our fast-changing world?

5) How can pastors sustain their own spiritual health in times of stress, change, and tension?

6) How can pastors develop friendships that sustain them in their spiritual disciplines?"

*takes sip of coffee, sits back, and waits for your thoughts...and thinks about how much he enjoys dialogue with you folks*

Friday, May 26, 2006

I've Been Summoned

So, Kristen wants me to do this little quiz. She even called me a good sport, so I'm guessing that I can't let that combination of adjectives get away from me. Here goes:

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4. - On the 18th page, the 4th line says: "McBride once accompanied Oswald to his apartment, and there Lee 'seemed quite proud' to have library copies of Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto."

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What can you touch? Nothing. I'm in my recliner in the den. If I really stretched far left I could touch the red chair.

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV? The Rangers baseball game last night when they hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th to beat Oakland.

4. Without looking, guess what time it is. 6:20 A.M.

5. Now look at the clock. What is the actual time? 6:27 a.m.

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear? The ceiling fan in the kitchen, and the air conditioner just kicked on.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing? This morning. Taking Lloyd for his morning constitutional and picking up the newspaper.

8. Before you started this survey, what did you look at? The Dallas Morning News.

9. What are you wearing? Long pajama pants and a 2x t-shirt.

10. Did you dream last night? I've been told we always dream, but I don't remember what it was.

11. When did you last laugh? With Tracy and Shelby as they were watching this TV show called "So You Think You Can Dance?" What's apparent (and funny) is that there are people all over America who think they can dance that can't.

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in? I'm color blind, but it's some kind of light-rust color.

13. Seen anything weird lately? Yesterday, I was picking up my daughter from a swim party to celebrate the end of school, and in the neighborhood there were some high schoolers who must've been waiting in a driveway for their parents...and they were cheering like crazy at every car who drove by. It was definitely surreal to be being cheered on while driving the speed limit through a neighborhood...but I honked and waved back.

14. What do you think of this quiz? Whatever, man.

15. What is the last film you saw? Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy? A newer house, but not necessarily a bigger one. A beach house in Gulf Shores and a condo in Colorado somewhere so I can ski in the winter.

17. Tell me something about you that I don’t know. I truly fear snakes and dentists. My new dentist is really good but I still don't like people's fingers in my mouth.

18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do? The mindset people have about followers of Christ, which would require that such folks actually follow Him earnestly and with passion.

19. Do you like to dance? Absolutely NOT. I loathe it.

20. George Bush: Struggling.

21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her? I have two, but if I were to have another, her name would've been Sydney Alainna. With her last initial, we could've called her "Sam."

22. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him? Brooks (after the greatest third baseman of all time, Brooks Robinson) August (after the philosopher Francis August Schaeffer). With his last initial, we could've called him "Bam-Bam."

23. Would you ever consider living abroad? Only in a place where English could get me by, but most definitely.

24. What do you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gate? Well-done, good and faithful servant.

25. Four or Five people who must also do this quiz in THEIR journal: Nathan, Joye, Lori & Mish.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that Congress should never even have to consider passing a law that keeps people from PROTESTING AT MILITARY FUNERALS. You've got to be kidding me.
...that spending the afternoon at a major league baseball game is something that never gets old to me, even if the team loses.
...that people who think baseball is slow must never have decided to watch the last 4 minutes of an NBA playoff game. can feel the vibe in the community's air on the last day of school.
...that while I may have been involved in a senior prank in high school, it never hit my brain to lace muffins with marijuana and put them in the teacher's lounge. 19 people went to the hospital thinking they were sick, and I hope they punish the teens who did it to the fullest extent of the law. So, I "get" senior pranks. This was a crime.
...that two people from Birmingham have won American Idol. At least that's what the Birmingham papers were saying today. And apparently a third came in 2nd in one of the shows. That city must have some smokin' karaoke.
...once you get into week 4 of a diet, it gets a little easier.
...that I'm wondering what kind of thought process I've developed when I watch the news and say, "Good, it's only going up to 94 today."
...that once again, my fear of technology has been overridden. DVR is a pretty nifty little invention. I fought it for the longest time...and now I'm digging it.
...that my wife cracks me up when watching the season finale of LOST. I don't watch it, but at the end she was saying things like "Uh-uh" and "no way" at the end of the show. She's into it and it's pretty cute. Generally, I don't talk to TV unless it involves an Auburn football game and the team needs my help.
...I'm reading another book about the JFK assasination. This makes 7. I haven't solved it yet, but I'm getting closer.
...that teacher's don't get enough thanks.
...I've had three nights in a row at home after 7PM, and for some reason I can't remember the last time that happened.
...Shelby's dance recital stuff is coming up and now that she can do nothing but dance all day with no school responsibilities, she'll be one happy camper.
...that it's Kelsey's last day of middle school. Ma Deb was right: "The days are long but the years are short." Kelsey's celebrating appropriately by going to a local eatery with friends upon early release. I hope they tip well.
...that the garage STILL needs to be cleaned out. I don't understand why I let it get that way or why I loathe cleaning it.
...we're taking over 130 people to Mexico to build homes for the homeless and I KNOW it'll be all worth it when it's over. But, the logistics of camping out and feeding/watering all those folks for a 5 days in-country are mind-boggling at the moment.
...I want to see "Over the Hedge" soon. I really do enjoy those kinds of cartoon/movies, and I haven't even been to a theater since...well...I can't remember the last movie I saw there.
...there are five weddings this summer of my former students. That's really not too bad (sometimes it's been higher), although I can't attend them all, which bums me out.
...well, I gotta get to the office. There's work to be done.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Car Is Not A Toy, Young Man

The last day of school in our community is tomorrow. It's a half-day deal, anyway. I mean, my kids have to have their lockers cleaned out today actually, with books turned in, even though there's a final tomorrow. Whatever.

It seems to me that on those half-day final days there's always one serious car wreck. I think it's two years in a row there's been a Medi-Flight Helicopter taking some newly summerfied teenager to get to a hospital more quickly for needed treatment.

So, a word of unsolicited advice:

Stick around for a few minutes. Say thanks to a teacher. Stop by and tell the coach how much you appreciated the extra hours. Sign a couple of yearbooks. Hug some friends. Sit in the parking lot with the trunk open and turn your music up loud until an administrator tells you to knock it off. Then knock it off, and thank them, too.

Just go slower. Smell the last roses of the school year.

Let the traffic clear out.

Then get in your car, put on your seatbelt, look both ways, check the mirrors, come to complete stops, obey the speed limit, obey the traffic laws...

...and get to your lunch
...or your swim party
...or your movie with friends
...or your celebration dinner with family

...but get to wherever it is that you're wanting to be safely.

I know.

I know.

I really do know that I sound old and no fun and blah blah blah.

I'm okay with that.

Just don't let the momentary rush that the end of the school year brings cause you to get a bout of stupid-head that keeps you from enjoying the day...even a fender-bender can ruin that.

I'm just tired of hearing helicopters and wondering if it might be for one of my CBC teenagers...or like last year when I drove by a mashed up car and caught myself wondering which teenger I knew drove a blue Mitsubishi...

So, you do your job and be young a fun and passionate and excited and all that. It's a great feeling to be done with finals and get a break. You guys work hard all year in a competitive district and you really should enjoy the rest & relaxation.

And let me do my job and share with you the parent side of the equation.

Then you do your job and tell me I sound old.

But take the advice.

I promise you that you won't regret it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Chasing Amy

So, my friend Amy mentions that several times she's stopped by The Diner and I'm prattling on about regrets I have and rarely (if ever) talk about the choices I made that I'm actually pleased I made.

So, here goes:

I'm glad that I married Tracy, that's for sure. Proverbs says a lot about the value of choosing a good wife, and I don't know that my diagnostic skills at that stage in my life were all that keen (it's like I found a diamond that I was looking for, but didn't know the value of diamond), but she's definitely made me happy. I know guys who can't say that.

I'm glad that I chose to go to Auburn University. I made great friends, had great times, and discovered who I was and what I was about there under the discipleship of my friend Charles (and who never swayed me off my dispensational background into his Covenant theology world despite MANY attempts). And Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley were there at that time so the sports were winning and therefore more fun. I made a C+ grades at a state-school football-factory, and deep down I don't regret it.

I'm glad I chose Dallas Theological Seminary for my post-grad education. I'm not sure I'll ever regret that. And I'm glad I worked hard and became so much more than a C+ student at a state-school football-factory.

I'm glad got my youth ministry stripes with Youth for Christ. There's no better way to start your ministry than doing high school outreaches on public high school campuses...and the training YFC gives staff is top-drawer. It's the ministry that had Billy Graham on their staff before he was "Billy Graham." It was an honor to serve over five years at almost every local level with them.

I'm glad Tracy and I were sensitive to Him in stepping away from a very large ministry at a time when I was making lots of progress "up the ladder." We learned so much about ourselves and our God and our faith in Him during that time.

I'm glad that I'm still doing youth ministry right here in the FlowerPlex, and I'm certainly glad to have come to Crossroads. Working for Tim Stevenson and doing ministry alongside him (and on this staff) has been one of the highest honors in my life...and I'd say that if he fired me tomorrow.

I'm glad that I fell in love with baseball at an early age...even if my new team seems to fall short of the playoffs every year, and my old team wins the division for a decade and a half but never wins the World Series.

I'm glad we got Lloyd. He's a great dog...and I'm glad we had Buford, the greatest of all dogs before the demise. I'm glad we keep dogs in our house.

I'm glad I chose to get ordained because I get to do so many weddings even if I get all sappy about them.

I'm glad I've been to Amsterdam, New York City, the Rocky Mountains (in winter and summer), Disney World, Gulf Shores and San Francisco.

I'm glad we let Joshua and Kendra live with us for various stretches.

I'm glad we got a DVR.

I'm glad I like to read. Everything from Dr. Suess to Frances Schaeffer and anything and everything in-between.

I'm glad I dated my high school girlfriend. It was a great choice for a high school girlfriend...even if it wasn't necessarily a great choice for a wife and even if the break-up took a while to get over.

I'm glad I joined a fraternity and roomed with Hollywood. It was definitely a good match in roommate choices.

I'm glad me and all my friends worked a couple of summers and weekends at Green Valley Country Club. I don't remember all the hard work but I remember every funny thing that happens when you give 16 year olds the keys to golf carts, tractors, Cushmans and such and then leave them alone to water the greens at night.

And, I could do this all day, but I'm glad I've got a job to go to.
Breaking Fire Codes

Many of you might not have noticed because of the excellent service our staff routinely gives, but The Diner was more crowded yesterday than ever before...with readership at four times larger (not counting reloads or returning customers) than normal. Funny, we didn't put a sign outside advertising any new specials.

And conversations were breaking out on all sorts of subjects: My daughter made a friendly wager with Hal regarding the longevity of musicians, Mike got left off the best friend list inadvertantly (and several others will be letting me know today I'm sure), and Bill & Dustin are already into "entropy" and Hume. I like when Dustin goes on breaks from teaching at Michigan because he has more time to stop by.

And those were just the comments.

So, we're here to serve the coffee and social-minded among you...but if there's a line outside or you have to wait a big longer for service, bear with us. We're here to serve.

And we appreciate your patronage.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Alrighty Then

Regarding a discussion thread that has transpired here at The Diner:

First of all, generally speaking, I don't like to respond to comments. My blog entries are my thoughts on whatever has happened that day or that week or on the news and it gives me an outlet to write. That's how I'm wired. It's what I do. It helps me think and analyze and review and yes, sometimes I "think out loud." This gives some degree of freedom to reverse field on occasion (like the Iraq war, which my feelings tend to reverse almost daily) or stand even more resolute (like my views on what should be a commitment to a public transportation system that works).

The reason I generally don't respond to the comments is because I feel like whatever readers I have (why they're interested in my ramblings varies, I suppose) can use the comments to say whatever they like as well. It gives me feedback and helps me think. That's how I get sharpened by others and live a deeper life. It's an on-line manner to conduct community.

And that's why I don't turn on any features that would allow me to block anonymous comments. That way the forum can be heard by anyone...from both the fringe and the mainstream...and it's ideas that matter.

Hence, I'm somewhat amused by the trail this discussion went down.

See, this all started because I took my daughter to a rock and roll show. Nothing more. Nothing less. Now, people are questioning my sanity or my ability to be a shepherd or praising my parenting skills. I'd suggest, as in most cases, the truth is somewhere in the middle of all that.

The point of the original blog was such that I felt alive at the show. What I meant was a generic feeling of adrenaline/excitement/wow-factor kind of thing. Let me try to better explain what I mean by sharing with you other times of feeling alive:

When I saw my bride on our wedding day.
At my father's funeral when I was 13
The first time I was in the Rockies at 12,000 feet and there's another peak higher than me.
When 85,214 people cheering their lungs out when Auburn beat Florida in 1993.
The birth of both my daughters.
Singing "All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name" full-throated with the rest of my classmates at Dallas Seminary's chapel services.
The first sermon I preached at Crossroads, and the first one I preached in Holland as the first time our church officially did missions on European soil.
Last night listening to my seniors give their graduation address to my students.
Watching my sister on her wedding day and seeing the joy & contentment in her life at that moment standing on a cliff at Half Moon Bay.
Watching my oldest start a rally in softball that led to the city championship in the bottom of the last inning, or watching my youngest hit the stage in her company's production of "The Nutcracker."

I could go on and on, but I'm hoping you get the point.

The degrees of alive vary, but they were all "pure life moments" where you just felt alive. And, yes, I felt alive watching my kid feel alive at the show Friday night...I could just see it. It was palpable...and I was glad my kid was having one of those moments.

Please re-read the entry of last Saturday. I never once mentioned that this feeling of alive was because of the band itself. In fact, I said that I didn't "get it." I still don't. They're not MY favorite band.

If you must know, right now, that title would have to fall on Stavesacre--a band made up entirely of Christians who, I think, do what Bullets and Octane does, only better. Derek Webb is making a push for the top spot. Lost and Found will always be in the mix somewhere. U2. Moby. Not that it matters...but they're all Christians. Maybe not your kind of Christians, but Christians least to the degree we humans can discern as such.

Back to my discourse: The overall point was that we should all look at those moments that make us feel alive. Those'll be as varied as ourselves.

What started the discourse in a different way was this quote from a commenter: "Alive...Alive...Alive - how? Aren't we supposed to be alive in Christ and crucified with Him? Where is the passion for the Savior?" I agree. But this was one blog entry out of some 1,500 over a three year period. I think if you were to check around you'd see I've mentioned some of those moments as well. And I'm not sure how the anonymous commenter would respond to the question at hand which is, "What makes you feel alive?" I used the word "alive" in a non-theological way.

Then the discourse became an attack on the band. Yes, their album artwork is...ummmm...trying to be polite here...provocative? If I weren't...ummmm...trying to be polite here...I might go with exploitative and/or degrading?. Yes their lyrics are the stuff of the old P.M.R.C. I won't argue those facts. And they are facts. Inarguable. But saying they're good at what they do is like saying Michael Irvin was good at what he does (which is catch passes in the NFL). You might not like what he did off the field or even on the field, but he's good at it. Hall of Fame good at it. It doesn't mean that I endorse him or want my kids to be like him.

But two things are at play here:

First, the arguments of this nature usually go along the lines of "garbage in, garbage out." The computer term that means if you put garbage into the program, you'll get garbage out. However, the human brain is different than a computer program. See a brain can analyze and determine what is garbage and what isn't. It can take the trash out or it can mull it over a while to determine it's value or keep it.

See, we get garbage all day every day in the U.S. from advertising or walking through the grocery store check out line or newpaper writers or radio commentary or blogs or whatever. We have to analyze it and move on.

The general thought of many Christians is that if we put garbage in, then garbage automatically comes out. Not necessarily the case. We are told to take every thought captive in Scripture. We are told to dwell on what is lovely. We are told to renew our minds. There's a bunch of stuff like that all over the Bible. I know. I went to seminary. But even if I hadn't I can still read.

So, whether it's Eminem or Van Gogh's "Bible in Still Life" (which is an incredible anti-Christian statement but a beautiful work of art) or "Yakkity-Yak" by the Coasters (an anti-authority song of the worst kind--even having the father misuse a heroin reference, but if that song isn't a sing-a-long of the best kind, I don't know what is) or a hymn with some theological snafus right in there...In fact, Martin Luther wrote what we consider the classic hymns of the faith by putting words in with popular pub tunes in Germany (and wouldn't it be classic if 400 years from now the popular pub tunes were to some heavy metal group's tunes?) and I wonder where he might've heard those.

...all art will (and should) provoke.
...all art will be subjective with regard to it's merit & value. My mom and I went round and round about Elvis, the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, et al. I have no idea why that stuff appealed to her any more than I can explain why the Ramones did it for me or why Kenny Rogers or Waylon Jennings did it for my dad.
...and to get someone to change their view of the art isn't really possible. They have to change that themselves. Why does one person think Ravel is brilliant and another think he's a hack? Andy Warhol? Picasso? Van Gogh? The Dutch Masters? When I was 15 I had no idea who any of those people I can see why they're all revered, even if I don't think Picasso was all that great.
...and if you do demean someone else's art choices, in many ways, you belittle that person. If something inspires, or provokes--in good and bad ways, encourages and all that to a person, and you belittle it, then you've demeaned that person to a degree.

Hence, if my daughter's view of "art" right now contains a bit of hard rock--even with rough lyrics and...ummmm...objectionable visuals, well, she's got to come to her own conclusions on the matter. But...

This will naturally lead to a discussion of parental influence in such matters. Please trust that I've had discussions with my daughter on her use of language, and how to view art, and "garbage in, garbage out." But you know something? She's a really good kid. She's in the top 10 academically in her class. Her teachers praise her when we go to parent nights. She goes on mission trips. She's active in her church, not to mention highly conversant in spiritual matters with me (we're currently going through Mike Yaconelli's "Messy Spirituality" each Tuesday night for a half-hour or so). She's a joy around the house (well...except Saturday mornings when she wakes up). She's smart. She's funny. She's a delight to me. She's a voracious reader and passionate baseball fan. She paints...mostly flowers and hearts and friends and peace signs and big into texture (all subjective, but I think they're pretty good, right?). So, guess what? I'll give her some leeway in her musical choices right now. If I see her being drawn to the darkness, I'll readjust...but I know that if I fought that battle I could lose much more than I gain. She's been through plenty of phases, including a Brittany Spears thing when she was 8 that she doesn't like me bringing up. But I know this: I'll trust the Holy Spirit to work in her heart and life in His time frame to develop this (and any other) area of her character. He's better at such things than I'll ever be.

I went through my own phases. The heavy-metal phase, followed by the punk phase, followed by college music, which morphed into Delta blues somehow, back to grunge, into 50's and 60's classics and now being drawn by folks like Lyle Lovett, Johnny Cash, et al. I'd imagine she'll go through several...but it isn't all-metal, all the time coming from her room. It's mood-driven. My mom didn't fight that battle with me as she had bigger fish to fry...and I'll give THIS daughter some leeway as long as she shows me the wonderful things she is overall.

However, I will say that I used my position of influence to help her analyze the whole club scene. I didn't, by intent, detail our discussions as I don't think my daughter's spiritual growth is anything I have the right to put out there for public discussion. Again, I'll have to trust that you understand that. Think of it as using the environment in many ways to my advantage while she's under my authority so when she's on her own she'll not have a curiousity of such places and go without "help," but rather see it for what it is.

Side note on "moshing": If you aren't in that culture (or subculture), or have never been in the culture, I won't bother trying to explain the culture. You simply can't do it in a way that's meaningful to the hearer. Suffice to say that it's something teenagers have been doing for about 25 years and even Christian concerts have it (football players do it before a game and nobody thinks much of's part of the culture). Now, how does it glorify God? I dunno. Maybe the relationships built during the Christian concert? That sharing of time & experience strengthen relationships that can be used to sharpen each other. It's a reach, I know, but when I was first at CBC and the teens and I were at a festival and they asked me to mosh to Stavesacre with them...I thought it was the most loving thing to be a good sport so I mixed it up with them. I'm still friends with them 10 years later, and they each thought it was cool that their youth pastor would do something in their world. I didn't last year in a similar venue simply because I think it's sad to see a 40-year-old doing a kid thing (and yes, in youth minister years there's a HUGE difference between 30 and 40). The more likely explanation is that it's just part of the's what they do. It's age appropriate goofiness. Kind of like a high school football pep rally.

Now as to the comment about "why expose your daughter to possible groping?" She made the choice to go...and she can indeed hold her own in such matters (remember, she's mixed it up in Christian environments FIRST so she knows the drill). Frankly, I'd be more concerned about the physical well-being of any creature that touched her that way...that kid can hold her own there or in a school hallway or whatever. And, don't forget Dad was right there to help out should she get over her head.

So, I'd say that I hardly did such things as leading my kid into the pits of darkness or pridefull drank deeply from the pits of iniquity. My license certainly knew boundaries, and not only that explained and exercised them fully. I didn't revel in the "filth" (which is subjective to the anonymous commenters position) or any of the other stuff I was accused of.

And, as far as leading others down a path to the "filth:" I don't appreciate "my sheep" being called DUMB. I believe the people I serve are highly educated, and frankly of above-average intelligence. They are not blind followers of people, but rather active followers of Christ. If some child turns out to be a wife-beating drunk, it's not because they went to a rock show with their parents, but I'd be willing to bet you that there were many more significant contributing factors...the last one being that they went to a concert with their dad.

There was a comment, too, that said, "As my mom used to say, 'tell me who you go with and I'll tell you what you are.' Okay. My closest friends are Dave Semmelbeck, Bill Lee, Tim Stevenson, Melissa Rowe, Nathan Lee, Steve Davis, their wives/spouses, Kristy Brown & Heather Smith. You can draw your own conclusions.

A note about Social Distortion: Isn't that what Jesus was prime at doing? Weren't his most stinging words held for those in the fold and not "outsiders?" He was upsetting the status quo in the lives he touched and the society he was in. Maybe if the shirt had said simply REVOLUTION?

Finally, to the Gen-Y-er who commented: Thank you for the reminder about how we treat each other and how it's viewed by those outside the faith. And, I'm sorry that some things happened in your past that have affected your view of Christ by people purporting to represent Him. I, too, was perplexed by the vehemence and such of my readers. I can see why you're confused. I was, too.

So, all in all, I have Republican leanings. I've been married 17 years to a wonderfully gifted and talented woman I admire and I feel certain those feelings are reciprocated. I have two daugthers I love, one who skips school to go to Opening Day with me, and another who would skip school to go to the ballet if such things were mid-week matinees, and I love them. I feel certain those feelings are reciprocated as well. I have a great dog. I drive a Corolla. I live in the suburbs and mow my lawn even without covenant agreements.

I don't think I'm responsible for the decline in Western Civilization, and like to think, on occasion, I've helped people along their spiritual journey. I don't think I ooze arrogance nor do I embody false humility. I think I'm more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy...warts and all.

Like I said at the beginning of all this: All I did was take my daughter to a rock show. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And I still don't understand why I had to spend two hours to do this, but I hope you'll find it a sufficient explanation (but feel free to agree or disagree with what I did)...not to defend anything--I still don't think anything needs defending-- but rather to let you hear me "think out loud."

And hopefully, this'll be the last you hear from me on the subject.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Bit More Tired Than I Thought

Yeah...I'm gonna have to hold off on that post for tonight. I had a pretty emotional night with my seniors giving their speeches and then I had dinner with some of them and now I'm too tired to really give the topic the treatment it deserves.

So, hang on a bit...I should get to it tomorrow.
I Gotta Get A T.O., Baby!

Regarding the thread of comments going on my post of this morning...which have continued from an earlier discussion from Saturday morning:

Please calm down.

I'm not sure it's worth burning energy over...but I will because now it's become necessary. Some of my comments have been taken further than I meant them, so I'll deal in some clarifications, with a few responses.

And, Ian, I appreciate your kind words...and the passion behind them. However, I'm not sure whoever "anonymous" is could be a coward in any sense. I allow anonymous comments because some feel more comfortable doing so. That's not necessarily cowardice, but likely wisdom.

And "anonymous," thank you for provoking us to think and review information in light of Scripture. Your opinion is always welcome as far as I'm concerned. Often, I learn more from my dissenters than I do in any other way, so I hope you, too, will keep stirring up the pot. That's what the Diner's strength is, frankly, and the world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought alike.

So, when I get back from church tonight and the kiddies go to bed I'll lend my two-cents worth to the comments, but please, let's keep it civil and loving out there, shall we? But let's keep the discussion going, okay? It's pretty interesting all in all and we may all learn a little something as we kick it around.

And, Amy, I'll also include some things I don't regret tomorrow, too.

And, Mark, please don't kill yourself. Or cuss. I need you to help me teach Bible study next year.

I've heard people say that they live with no regrets. I heard it yesterday on a TV show. Some drama and over-actor said it.

And I don't think it's possible to avoid wishing you had some "do-overs." Don't get me wrong...I've learned a few things because of them and I've grown because of them, but I've still got a few I'll list here:

I wish I hadn't stopped taking guitar lessons when I was 13. It's a lot harder now having to learn from "Guitar for Dummies."

I wish I'd taken a better advantage of my university education. I mean, the whole point was to explore the condition of the universe and my place in it. I didn't start doing that until my senior year and it was one of the best years of my life.

I wish I'd been less fiscally responsible in buying Tracy's engagement ring, planning the wedding, and actually taking a honeymoon. We were broke and tried to be responsible. Seems there's some things worth celebrating and maybe making payments on, and that'd be one of them. I'd re-do the proposal while I was at it, too.

I wish I'd paid more attention to where the bleachers were and had less focus on the foul ball.

I wish I'd been more careful about some of the things to and about her when the break-up with my high school girlfriend finally took hold.

I wish I'd been a better student in high school. I wish I'd been less diligent as a student in seminary and paid more attention to my wife and kids.

I wish I'd learn to ignore my workaholic tendencies and when I was at home I'd actually be home with the people I love most and tend to treat the worst.

I wish I'd taken a class on basic car repair and maintenance after my dad died and before I got in the habit of paying somebody to do that.

I wish I'd not started this I'm kinda bummed-out.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Open Notice To Pat Robertson:

Please stop talking. You're embarrassing yourself and your Tribe.

Thank you.
A Life Lesson Brought To You By The Boys In Bullets and Octane

Kelsey got the "x"'s on each hand signifying she can't buy a drink in the club. She'll fail to wash it off in the shower today and wear it as a badge of honor amongst her peers today.

She got the t-shirt.

The she chatted up the lead singer of the band. He was incredibly nice and polite and genuinely appreciative of her fan-club membership. There are pictures of which my still-sleeping daughter has on her camera. Yes, I'll post them once she e-mails them to me.

The sign out front said no "PROFESSIONAL Audio, Video or Photography allowed." Amateur web-sites to post such things were kinda's a new way to promote the bands and a faster, cheaper way to get publicity. I thought it was cool.

The band rattled the brick walls of the club. They are good at what they do.

My daughter moshed in the front row. The lead singer, who had at this point become this raging party rock band front man instead of polite appreciative rock band front man, noticed my daughter singing every word and let her sing the next line of a song into his microphone. She held her own in the mosh pit. I gotta say I was kinda proud. I also gotta say I was kinda keeping an eye on her as some of those boys were pretty big and serious about wasn't a suburban teen Christian concert polite mosh, that's for sure. He smiled for all the front row cell-phone photos, too. It's a new concert thing I'm sure.

On the way home, my daughter puts in the CD of the music we just heard and as each song started, she said, "This song sounded so good live." I told her she'd said that five times already. She was undeterred...the rest of the songs sounded "so good live," too.

We got in at one in the morning.

I'm glad my kid likes the rock and roll scene...the standing in line outside, putting on the wrist band, buying the t-shirt, listening to the music they play while waiting (and saying "Good song!" when a good one was played), cheering when the lights go out and the band takes the stage, singing along with your favorite songs full-throated, chanting for an encore, leaving with your ears having that slight ring in them, and saying, "Wow, that was so worth it." on the way out.

The reason I'm glad my kid likes the scene: It's so...well...


...even if you don't "get it," you're glad your kid "gets it" because it just might be that's the way it's supposed to be as one generation doesn't "get" the other's taste in music. You're glad she got to


And, truth be told, seeing your kid


makes you feel a little more...well...


And you come out feeling like you've lived a little better that day than you did at school or work.

We all could use more of that in the various ways we each do that.

Even a 40-year-old suburban father of two and minivan owner can see that.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Battle of the Bands

Tim Arceneaux.

He sold tokens at the gameroom attached to the Hoover Square Six theater where I worked. Well, to customers he sold tokens...he gave us tokens. Maybe it was a perk he got when he got promoted to assistant game room manager his senior year. I got promoted to assistant projectionist about the same time. It was a power-based friendship.

My favorite memory of Tim, who I NEVER saw anywhere outside the gameroom, was when we helped break up a fight in the parking lot and the off-duty officer said, "Thanks, guys. Maybe I should make you two deputies or something." To which Tim replied, "Could you? Because then we could get into the wrestling matches at Boutwell and I could see Pork Chop Cash in person. Pork Chop! Whoop Whoop! Pork Chop! Hey!" (which was apparently the chant wrestling crowds used to spur Pork Chop to victory) as he walked back into the game room. Officer Fields looked at me and we both just shrugged our shoulders.

At any rate, Tim also was the king of new music discovery. Since I love music, too, we would often chat about new bands we heard (which was MUCH different when you only had radio to find it)--and he was usually deeper in the know on such things because he had an older sibling away at college. There's an art to the mix tape and Tim mastered it.

I got him into R.E.M., who I heard play at Six Flags Over Georgia my senior year. He introduced me to Black Flag, Social Distortion and The Violent Femmes. It's pretty obvious that I got the better end of the trade.

Anyway, it was the kind of thing where we'd amuse each other with tales of trying to introduce our friends to that stuff. Most of the time we'd say, "I played it in the car and it lasted about 10 seconds before my friends said, 'This is CRAP.' and then ejected it." Such was life among suburban pseudo punk listeners in Alabama circa 1983.

But I always loved finding a band, getting into them & recognizing that they were a really good band before anybody else and then spreading the gospel of the really good band, even among dissenters and their consternation.

My daughter has picked up the habit.

She has gotten into a band called Bullets and Octane, who opened for Social Distortion in October. The name really does define them...kind of like when you hear the band name "Motorhead" you pretty much know what you're in for. She's in their fan club on MySpace: The Bullet Brigade. They send her stickers--which she's supposed to give to friends. Suffice to say that I don't think they know she's in 8th grade because if she handed out the stickers it'd likely result in some sort of disciplinary action from the school. Like I said, their name is Bullets and Octane. You know what you're getting.

Well, the Bullet Brigade sent her notice that they're back in Dallas opening for The Panic Channel at the Gypsy Tea Room tonight. So, ummm, yeah. We're in. To see the opening act.

But there's a band playing a FREE concert across town that I'd really like to introduce her to. Their songs would be on any mix-tape music sampler I'd make to get folks into good music:

The Violent Femmes.


A father's love for his daughter has few limits.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Winding Down

Last night was the last "Bible study" for our school year. Finals are coming up so next week's out.

And for the girls, well, they close out the year with pool parties and meaningful year-enders. As for the guys, well...

Senior Guys--minus three or four who either had to leave or couldn't make it after game 1 was our tradition: The All-Guy Ultimate Frisbee game. The seniors take on everybody in the first game, and this year, well, we lost 10-5...and then we divided up in various ways to let the older guys mix with the younger ones and such.

What struck me was how serious the seniors were about this being the last time for our small group.

And I think they're going through a whole lot of rites of passage our student ministry has instituted over the last 10 years: There's a sermon I preach in April right after Easter that usually has some sort of referral to the seniors and that kind of kicks things off. Then there's the countdown to their senior speeches...where they teach my class for me five minutes at a time (which, they're all getting antsy about it now that it's a few days away)...and there's a bit of a deal about their annual junior/senior meeting where they get together and discuss what went well the last year and set goals for the next. Then the last Ultimate game.

My church growing up never did any of that stuff. I think we stood up in a service and everybody clapped and the youth minister gave us all a gift, but it was more of a "stop-by-my-office-after-class" kind of thing. It was nice. But little pomp. Which, frankly, was fine by me. I've never been much for closure in that regard or spend much time in the moments like that. I tend to look back fondly on things rather than immersing myself in the moments.

I mean, I got my university degree mailed to me, and picked up my graduate degree at the administrative offices of the seminary. The cap and gown always seemed like a colossal waste of time & energy to me, despite everybody telling me how wonderful they are. I think I'm just wired goofy.

Anyway, I've always wondered if the seniors appreciated those things our church family does like that, or if they valued the traditions (or glad they keep going, anyway) and such we do, and what's going through their minds as the prepare for/deliver their senior speech... if you're a grad or an observer of them from afar, I'd enjoy whatever thoughts you have on the matter of winding down that chapter in your life...and, if they're negative, well, it won't hurt my feelings and I'd really need to know them. But, I'd also like to hear the stuff you valued, too.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Heads Up

My angst meter is pegged and red-lining. Has been for two full days now. Just letting you all know.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Brent on Bonds

Fans in opposing parks have made their feelings known: They've thrown syringes at him. They've held up signs with asterisks on them. There was even a banner that read "Babe Ruth Did It With Only Hot Dogs And Beer."

He's admitted that chasing Babe Ruth--and by extension in pursuit of the all-time home-run record in Major League Baseball--has been very difficult the closer he gets to surpassing him. As of today, Barry Bonds has 713 home runs. Babe Ruth at 714. Henry Aaron sits at 755.

See, baseball fans have this love affair with Babe Ruth. He's bigger than the biggest of games. His trade to the Yankees pretty much started their run of World Championships that occur about every three years on average. They even call Yankee Stadium "The House That Ruth Built."

He's a lovable character. The media portrayals are of this happy-go-lucky guy who had the physique of everyman...he hardly looked like a world class athlete...and there are all sorts of newsreel shots of The Babe visiting sick kids in the hospital.

Bonds is the opposite. Even before the stuff about steroids, he was known for being surly with the media. He's generally not revered as being a good teammate. He's usually been about the money. He's easy to dislike, and he's made it easy for people to dislike him.

But I'll say it: Barry Bonds is more talented than Babe Ruth.

See, Barry Bonds played in an era where pitching was much more specialized and training is much more available from little league on up. He regularly faced pitchers who throw low-90's the whole game, not to mention that starters pretty much go six innings now...turning the game over to one-inning he faces four pitchers a game. Oh, and by the way, those pitchers are all highly paid and do this gig year round.

Not the case in the olden days. Starters tended to go the distance, often throwing close to 200 pitches a game. Those players often held jobs in the off season to make ends meet. In fact, they tended to view the intentional walk as dishonorable, and often disdained it. Barry Bonds has been intentionally walked with the bases loaded...and in fact, holds the major league career record for walks.

And another thing: If memory serves correctly, he's innocent until he's proven guilty. Major League Baseball's execs, who have fallen in love with the home run and their superstars, seem to have a minor problem on their hands: He has never been accused of failure to comply with the league's substance abuse policy. They looked the other way when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing they have no right to distance from Bonds in what should be his moment.

An incredible moment it is, too.

Say what you want about hitter-friendly ballparks and juiced baseballs and diluted pitching and playing 9 games a year in Colorado and everything else...(the Babe never had to finish in Anaheim, fly back to New York, arriving at 3AM and play the afternoon matinee at Yankee Stadium, and he enjoyed a steady diet of Tiger Stadium & Fenway Park, to boot)

Steroids or no... still gotta hit the baseball.

And he's hit it hard 713 times, abiding BY THE LETTER OF THE LAW of Major League Baseball.

There should be no asterisk.

He's better than the Babe. Better arm. Better speed. Better bat. During an era when there are more talented players top-to-bottom on every major league roster and pitching staff.

So, I hope you get 714 soon...and 715 after that...hopefully in Houston this week. And I only wish you had the respect you deserve on that accomplishment, Barry.

You won't. But you should.

And it's easy to see why other teams pitch around you constantly.

But, to be honest, I hope you don't pass Hank Aaron.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Chamber of Commerce Moment

So, a couple of guys, Peter Sander and Bert Sperling (who have something to do with Money magazine) wrote a book: Best Places to Raise Your Family: The Top 100 Affordable Communities in the U.S.

And it ranked my locale, Flower Mound, Texas, at #5!

Apparently this was based on research including demographics, standard of living, education, lifestyle, health and safety.

Now on their website and on Amazon I couldn't get full-blown analysis or any other of the cities on the list so I can't be exactly sure of what they included in their study or any other city to compare it against, but I'll give it a review based on what I THINK they mean by those things.

By demographics I'm guessing they mean things like race, education, religion, marital status/family households, location, etc. Flower Mound has good demographics, man. While we're not racially mixed by any stretch there are lots of good churches, a well-educated populace, lots of married families, 20 minutes from Dallas, 30 minutes from Fort Worth, 15 minutes from the airport. We're stacked in demographics.

Standard of living usually means the availability of goods & services as well as the income level to obtain those goods and services. Manalive, if you've seen all the digging around here to create more places to buy more goods and provide more of those services...and apparently there's enough belief that we can support all this retail--so I'm guessing folks around here make some pretty good money. Hard to tell from the cost of houses sometimes, but folks here can afford nice houses.

By education I'm taking to mean providing such for the public & private schools. Our community tends to bicker a bit over school board type stuff, but on the whole the public schools here, while large, give our kids plenty of quality education. We've been pleased to this point with our own kids, for whatever that's worth. Good private schools are available, too.

By lifestyle I'm guessing that because we have lakes and parks and the benefits of living close to Dallas we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. We've got a good lifestyle.

Health? We've got a hospital close by and several of those "doc-in-a-box" locations. Maybe they meant air quality and such (but I can't imagine that being near Dallas)...or maybe the number of health clubs. We dominate in that area. Maybe we just don't have lots of health concerns like heart attacks or diseases. I'll take their word for it, though.

And safety. Well, I really don't think there's much violent crime in our community. I mean, my kids go to the park and we don't think twice about their safety. So,'s safe. is pretty good here in FloMo.

And I think we could get to #1 if they could do something about:

Texas heat.--Maybe an awning of some type that we put up near Double Oak or just put a retractable roof on the city like they do in sports arenas where the weather is bad.

Lack of public transportation to connect us to Dallas, or at least the airport. The heat prevents biking, so that's out.

Wretched and uninspiring architecture.--Stop building functional boxes!

SUV's and minivans.--maybe gas at $4 a gallon will change that.

Busyness to the point of insanity within that "lifestyle."--maybe adopt a citywide siesta time like they have in Mexico. Or even go with a mandated stopping down for high tea like they do in the Deep South or London. Or better yet: actually take days off...both for adults & kids. You know, no sports or extracurricular activities or work once a month.

So, what else would it take for us to be #1?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day To Charlotte (a.k.a. "The Scar")

My mom, with Lloyd, on our recent visit:

Mom, thanks for...

...lobbying the school administration to let me in to 1st grade after I failed the test to get promoted from kindergarten.
...a happy childhood in Bluff Park (which is aptly named and precisely the kind of place happy childhoods reside).
...doing whatever it took after Dad died. And I mean whatever.
...putting up with subpar grades in middle school, including the Mrs. Brooks fiasco.
...never saying anything bad about the girls I went out with in high school.
...for putting up with subpar grades in high school, including the Mrs. McWhorter debacle and the Mrs. Christian quagmire.
...for allowing the AC/DC to blare constantly with very few "turn-it-down" catcalls, and for the Bo Derek poster to stay up, and the KISS stickers all over the door.
...for all the baseball games you attended as a single mom, sitting with Mrs. Wood to cheer us on even though you didn't get it and had worked all day.
...for lining up that first job at the Green Valley Country Club so the interview was a slam-dunk, and then telling me (after six months) that I could only quit that job when I had another one secured.
...for seeking out the NASCAR pit-crew chief who went to our church to pick out and improve my first car: A 1977 Cutlass Supreme; paying for it and totally surprising me with it; and then making me buy everything else for it.
...for letting me switch churches my junior year in high school. It made such an incredible difference.
...for letting me go to the rival college than yours and paying for it.
...thanks for letting me change majors seven times and resigning yourself to that reality by saying, "Just get a degree, son." everytime I called to tell you.
...for not letting Wayne sit next to you at the wedding, but instead letting Charlie Mae.
...for skipping work and showing up at the hospital and not barking when the labor turned out to be 18 hours' worth.
...for keeping Kelsey the night we had Shelby, and then bringing her so she could meet her sister for the first time.
...for being a good grandmother and all that entails.
...for fighting a battle you'll eventually lose here, but ultimately win the war.

So, Mom, thanks for everything. Just felt like saying that on this particular Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Prom, Part Deux

Continuing the tradition, which, in reality is actually a new tradition. The kids from Flower Mound High School came over with the kids from just their high's the first time we've had two separate groups.

Anyway, here's the girls:

Then, here's the guys:

And, here's the group:

Finally, here's one the guys in my senior guys' Bible study will enjoy because Schuyler has proven his ability to win the ladies (except, oddly enough, his own date who isn't in the photo):

Kinda Summing It Up

This pretty much says where I'm at on blogging for today:

Maybe you people should pick it up a bit, huh?


Friday, May 12, 2006

A Quick Observation Post

Airing my list of grievances (Festivus, anyone?) against MySpace, adding one more:

Has anyone else noticed that those girls for all the singles ads are really not that pretty? Sure, they have curves & all, but they're really not pretty in a classic sense.

And, where do they find girls to do that for them?
Quick Blogging Post

What is it about late spring that keeps a lot of people from posting or commenting?
Quick Music Post

I woke up with the Megadeth song "Peace Sells (But Who's Buying?)" in my brain. I have no idea what kind of harbinger that is.

And, rumor has it that some time in September, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers will open for Pearl Jam right here in Dallas. If that's the case, there'll be one less ticket available, I can assure you.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Tony Campolo, who was the keynote speaker at a Campus Life rally when I was in high school, has been doing youth ministry for some 40 years or so. The recent edition of a youth ministry magazine I subscribe to interviewed him on the subject of "re-examining youth ministry." This guy would have street cred to do that so I read the Q & A.

What intrigued me was his response to the question, "What are some recent trends and developments in youth ministry that give you hope or cause you concern?"

Regarding the "hope" side of the equation, his response: "The thing that gives me hope is that I see a group of young people who offer an alternative to cultural Christianity with biblical Christianity. This is an alternative that challenges some of our assumptions and practices."

Regarding the "concerns" he might have, his response: "One thing that scares me is the way young women dress...teenage girls have no idea about how their dress affects young males and creates a whole mindset that could bring about all kinds of fearful consequences."


Now, the first response didn't really surprise me. Those of us in the trenches of student ministry see that reality hourly. Frankly, a blind guy with one eye could see that. I've taught two sermons trying to help our congregation see that and had lunches with elders and coffee with other staffers and read gobs of books on how we can serve that "alternative" genertation of Christians without making it merely a program or allowing it to become a cartoon of itself. So, Tony, in my opinion, was dead-on.

The second response got my attention. If you'd asked me the same question I'm not sure that the way in which the young ladies in my ministry (or, frankly, the women in our church for that matter) dress would've hit my top 5. I mean, yeah, sure, it's a little less than modest but I chalked it up to the whims of the fashion folks and figured that pendulum would swing back in a couple of years.

In fact, my response to the "concerns" of student ministry would've been more along the lines of the societal importance placed on safe, homogenous suburban values instead of placing value on a walk of faith that could be dangerous and revolutionary. Frankly, a blind guy with one eye could see that, too, and it's hardly new ground. But that'd been the way I went with the question.

But, think about it for a second.

A guy with tons of wisdom and experience and all listed the way young girls dress as his major concern (taking the article at face value...the quote might've been edited and such).

Now, I do disagree with him when he says that girls have no idea how their dress affects young males. I think (even if they wouldn't verbalize it and may not be aware of full depth of how it affects their guy friends) they are VERY WELL aware of how their dress affects young males. It has all sorts of "positive" "rewards" for them which they experience hourly.

But, I do think he's on to something when he says a mindset gets developed that has all sorts of fearful consequences. And those consequences, I'd imagine Tony Campolo would agree, fall on both the male and female side of the ledger.

So, in our little discussion over coffee here in the Diner today, what do YOU think some of those consequences are on either side of the ledger...

...and what, if anything, can be done in this arena.

I have some thoughts on those, but I'd rather hear from you guys before I go further.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Big Dig

There are earthmovers all over my 'burb. They're all doing the job they were designed to do, too. Now that I think about it, they're doing it well.

Our church originally purchased a whole lot of land, always planning on using the corner of the busiest intersecting streets as investment property. Well, we invested. We sold. They're building on that corner and lots of earth is being moved...except around the big trees on the true corner. I think those stay.

Across the street they're erecting fences for a soccer park. A bunch of fields and parking and such. The lights are already up and some of the fences to keep stray balls off one busy street. It's very level.

If I were to drive home on the main roads, I would pass an area that's got a lot of earth being moved in which the design for the complex is called "New Urbanism." It's supposedly going to have a "Main Street" feel with a bunch of large stores that are currently about 20 minutes away. On the opposite corner there's another more traditional functional box kinda deal being built. Wal-Mart is involved. So are the neighborhood associations. Apparently, Wal-Mart creates concerns. I'm not exactly sure why, but they seem pretty serious about it all. They'll be less than successful in their efforts, I'm guessing...since the earthmovers have already moved out and the cement trucks and cranes have arrived.

If I go home on lesser used roads, across the street from the Super Target on both corners there's more earth being moved. Lots of it. I've heard the phrase "big box retailers" used. After that, I kinda get tired-head about which stores are going in where.

And some friends who own homes on another main artery, somewhere around 10 or 12 of them--I'm guessing--are trying to work a deal with a group of folks who intend on putting a whole bunch more earthmovers to work.

I've been thinking about what all this means in more human terms, though:

Progress is inevitable.
Capitalism works!
We are folks who like options and convenience.
We need tax dollars from businesses to take the load off private property owners.
The economy is doing pretty well, I'm guessing.
There's money to be made in retail.
Architectural concerns matter in some places, not so much in others.
Shopping is something a bunch of people must enjoy, but I'm not one of them.
You can make a bundle in real estate, both by design and because you kinda got lucky some guy with earthmovers wants your house.
If you move into a community and live there for a decade, you start phrases with, "Remember when we drove to church and it was all horses and llamas?"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Reading Provocation

For work, somebody gave me a book called "Why Men Hate The Church."

It notes that nearly 2/3 of any Sunday morning attendance is comprised of women, and it mentions certain personality types of men that tend to be there.

It notes how most men don't like singing.

It notes continual verbage such as "share" & "intimacy with God."

It notes that most churches have men's ministries that really only follow the pattern of the weekly women's ministry...and all men's ministry is at most churches is a monthly breakfast and a yearly retreat.

The thing that got me was that it talked about how children's and student ministries tend to be appealing to growing boys...for example, more visual learning or more enthusiastic music or more fellowship events or small group "guy stuff" (like paintball or football...bringing to mind my annual ultimate frisbee game coming up with all the guys small groups!)...and then that changes when you hit "big church."

Like most books, there is grass and there are weeds, but by-and-large some of the stuff is hard to argue with.

I did think it'd be fun to get a Diner reader's perspective what characteristics you see in churches that would cause men to think less favorably about them.



Monday, May 08, 2006

So Far, So Good

Slept in until 6:30AM.
Thunderstorm that lasted about 30 minutes.
I got my teeth cleaned.
Best of Jimmy Fallon in the DVD right now.
Nap coming in a hurry.
Steak & salad for lunch.

This day is looking GREAT...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bang Your Head

Three things are in play here:

First, I tend to get hooked on VH-1 music specials of any kind. You know...the Behind the Music, 100 Greatest Teen Stars of All-Time, 40 Celebrity Bad Hair Moments, etc. I'm not sure why.

Second, I'm a self-confessed Metal-Head from my high school days. My high school album collection--which was huge as I traded free movie entrances for both free yogurt and "not for public sale" records in the underground Hoover Square Mall employee underground economy--was littered with bands that you'd see on Beavis & Butthead t-shirts.

Third, I love lists and rankings.

So the perfect storm came up in a 4-part series called "40 Greatest Metal Songs." So, as a public service, I'll save you all the trouble of watching the 2 hour special and give you the highlights.

How does any Slipknot song get listed ahead of "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple? And don't even get me started on how White Zombie got ahead of "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath...which, by the way came in at #34. C'mon.

And, get this: Skid Row and a one of the worst Motley Crue songs ("Live Wire") finished ahead of "Enter Sandman" by Metallica AND "Paradise City" by Guns 'N Roses. C'mon.

One other mild observation: "Mother" by Danzig can't even find the list? C'mon.

Some notable absences from the list: Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent.

Anyway, here's the top-10:

10) "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead. No argument here.
9) "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne. Again, no argument here.
8) "Raining Blood" by Slayer. Okay. What the heck is Slayer doing even on the list, much less at #8. Ever hear of a song called "Cat Scratch Fever" by Ted Nugent who didn't even make the list?
7) "Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden. Not too bad, but I'd gone with either "Aces High" or "Run to the Hills."
6) "Detroit Rock City" by Kiss. No argument.
5) "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" by Judas Priest. No argument.
4) "Back in Black" by AC/DC. This is more like it.
3) "Master of Puppets" by Metallica. A little high for my taste, and certainly not my favorite song by this band. I was wondering if the folks at VH-1 might've forgotten a little group that went by the name of LED ZEPPELIN that sang at least 10 songs better than this one. I'd have gone with "Living Loving Maid." And, oh by the way, any metal list that didn't include Led Zeppelin should be immediately thrown into suscpicion.
2) "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns 'N Roses. Yep. Good call.
1) "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath. I've always thought this song was over-rated but it's hard to argue with, really. It's a classic, although my list would've put this at #4, with Back in Black being my #1.

Just one more service The Diner provides.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mist & Drizzle

I have no idea why, exactly, but waking up to a lazy Saturday with mist & drizzle makes me happy.

Can't really do yardwork...

...and a day of reading a good book, staying in my flannel pants and big t-shirt, maybe having an impromptu nap...

...maybe checking out my seniors playing in a playoff softball game...

...maybe going to see my freshman in a matinee play...

It's full of possibility.

Or lack thereof.

Either way, I like it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

One-Upsmanship and Checkmate

Zacharias Moussaoui: "God curse America and save Osama Bin Laden. You'll never get him. America, you have lost."

Judge Leonie M. Brinkema: "Well, Mr. Moussaoui, if you look around this courtroom today, every person in this room when this proceeding is over will leave this courtroom, and they are free to go anyplace they want. They can go outside, they can feel the sun, they smell fresh air."

"You will spend the rest of your life in a super-maximum security facility. In terms of winners and losers, it's quite clear who won and who lost."

Mr. Moussaoui: "That was my choice."

Judge Brinkema: "It was hardly your choice. As for you, Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr and to die in a great big bang of glory, but to paraphrase the poet T. S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper. (after Moussaoui tried to interrupt her) "You will never again get a chance to speak, and that is an appropriate and fair ending."

I think Judge Brinkema and I could be fast friends.

Open Comment To Mr. Moussaoui:

Judge Brinkema pretty much covered it all, but please allow me to list what will transpire immediately after that whimper:

Begging the God or Abraham for mercy.
Asking those in paradise & comfort for water to cool your tongue.
An giant, uncrossable & fixed chasm.
Begging God to warn your family so they can avoid the torment.

You'll have lots of time to think in your new home. Use it wisely.

A few suggestions:

Please read Luke 16: 19--31.

Then follow it up with the entire book of John.

Choose wisely.

As difficult as it is, praying for my enemies is something I'm encouraged to do.

As difficult as it is, consider that done.

If only dying with a whimper were really the end of it.
If only America winning was really the end of it.
And, if you only understood the depths of Judge Brinkema's words "appropriate" and "fair."

I assure you they'll take on new meanings in about 30 years.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I'd like to have a t-shirt making machine of my very own so I could print simple sayings on my shirts to provoke thought every day in those around me.
...that I really want to hear Pearl Jam's new CD, not to mention Neil Young's new anti-war protest (notably different than anti-troops, mind you) CD. He's at his best when he's got a cause.
...I've got a DVD we rented about two months ago that we haven't returned. Blockbuster's "no late fee" policy has only made me lazy.
...130 people are going to Mexico on our mission trip. Most people say, "That's awesome." But they don't have to get hotel rooms, bus seats or water (which I learned weighs 8 pounds per gallon), food, tents, etc. across the boarder to let them camp out for a week.
...The Rangers are in first place, which excites me.
...The Stars (along with all the top seeds in the Western Conference) got upset in the first round, which kinda bums me out.
...The Mavericks look great but I couldn't care less about the NBA.
...that my friend Chip has this computer program that will transfer cassette tape to Mp3 format. The problem is that his way takes about an hour per song, but he offered to do 3 tapes for me. I chose Urge Overkill's "Saturation," Jason & the Nashville Scorchers "Lost & Found" (which they never released on CD) and the Pretenders "Learning to Crawl." If they ever speed that process up and I can load all my high school Heavy Metal onto the iPod, I might fill it up.
...that I should try to go a day without mentioning my iPod in my blog.
...that my senior guys Bible study this year has been one of the most enjoyable ever, and it was kinda sad last night finishing up our last "study" together.
...I'm reading more these days, which is good for me. I think that's my drug of choice.
...that I wish MySpace hadn't been taken over by the teen world. I don't like how it's so graphic and photo intensive that teens don't write like they did when most of them were blogging. They just take pictures and post them, rather than writing ideas to provoke, provide insight, of just get to know them a little bit.
...that I'm pretty pumped that I get to teach middle school Sunday School this Sunday. I felt like a big-shot when I got asked., garage, children's book blah blah blah blah blah. my line of work I hear a lot of "human" stories that will tear your heart out, and if I were to list the stories from just yesterday here, well, suffice to say there's an awful lot of "hurt" out there. Real hurt.
...there's another side to that coin, too. Joy. Real joy. The highs of my work seem very high and the lows seem very low.
...that I'm glad my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly's dog passed his entrance exam to get into obedience school. There were doubts.
...that I'm glad I started going to coffee with my daughters once per week when they were little. The theory was that if I had time for coffee with teenagers then I had time for coffee with them...and now they look foward to it.
...that it's time to go to coffee with Shelby.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oh Them Lions They Can Eat My Body But They Can't Swallow My Soul No No No No

My senior pastor came in the office yesterday and asked me a question: "Hey...when are we going to have those guys Lost and Found back? They haven't been here in a while, have they?"

We're in the throes of next year's planning so we should be able to get that done...

...but I can't tell you how cool it is to have a Senior Pastor who likes them. They're sorta the "Viloent Femmes" of the "Christian Music World"--you know, that band that is well-liked and well-recieved and writes good songs, but most people don't "get." I'm glad he "gets" them. And so do lots of people in our church.

And, I clued him on on September 25th in our coffee shop...We got the "Neil Young" of the "Christian Music World"--you know, the guy that gets under everyone's skin by writing songs poke holes in our conscience and tells us what we don't like to hear. Our youth staff "gets" him...but only 200 people in our church will get the opportunity.

Pastor Tim wants to borrow a CD of his.

*like Flounder in Animal house, rubbing hands together excitedly: "Oh, boy! Is this great?!"*

We're having a special staff training day today. It is a C.P.R. class that will teach us all how to use the defibrullator our church recently purchased.

I'm not sure having three or four youth ministers around with a defibrullator machine is a good idea.
For Those That Might Be Interested

For those that like to listen to my sermons on-line or download them to your Mp3's, last week's edition is on our church website. You can get it at the Crossroads Sermon Special Edition Page". Just click the special icons for Real Player or Windows Media or the lightning bolt for Mp3.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Shaking Out The Notebook

It started in college. The fraternity brothers would get well-oiled and say something outrageously funny/stupid or a professor would say something profound or I'd hear a song lyric that made me think...then I'd grab a napkin or the back of the notebook or my shoe. I carried a pen everywhere just in case. You could always find something to write on. The best ones made my "board of fame"...the 2x4 that framed my homemade bunk in my dorm room.

I still do it.

The problem is very few are enough to write an entire blog entry...but a whole bunch of them together might make one. So, here goes:

* At the Barnes & Noble in Birmingham I saw decks of UNO cards that had football logos of Auburn & Alabama--the rival schools in the state. On the other side they had photographs of scoreboards from big games or landmark buildings around the campuses. I immediately thought Santa Claus could use stocking stuffers and made a mental note to contact him closer to Christmas so he wouldn't have to use my attic for temporary storage.

* I already finished an enjoyable summer read about a guy who got left at the altar and subsequently got a demotion at work (as did his brother) and they sold everything they had and decided to travel the world together and figure it all out. Two interesting notes came from it:

First, they met a guy who'd been doing this for a quarter of a century and, since they seemed to be gaining a life perspective by the month, figured this guy had lots of wisdom. They asked him what one piece of advice would he give them based on the wisdom he had gleaned. It was "Do the right thing." That really is good advice.

Second, they noted that their parents kept asking them "What are you going to do for work when you get back?" And the folks at the nursing home where they visited their grandmother kept asking them, "Where are you going next?" It's interesting how the folks at the end of their lives seemed to be more about enjoying life rather than fitting American views of living the good life.

* I've gotten into the TV show "Arrested Development" at the nagging of Nathan and Steve-O. Well, not so much the constant, "You gotta see this show, you'll love it" but more the fact they were quoting lines constantly. They lent me the DVD's of the first season and Tracy and I are about 7 shows in. It was NOT oversold. A couple of items:

Laughing out loud a couple of times every 20 minutes with your wife is one of the most enjoyable things to do in life. Growing old with her is so much fun.

The "smart" shows rarely get past the first two years. It's hysterically funny because it's smart. Yet, the great karaoke parade of America or a game show based on pure luck featuring gorgeous women opening suitcases have huge audiences.

* iPods are great for mowing the lawn, working out, or letting others know you don't really wish to be bothered. If I rode a bus or plane more often, if I didn't want people to talk to me, then I might just put the ear buds in even if I wasn't listening to music.

* My mom wears turbans and wigs and won't let anyone see her bald head. She doesn't use her cane or her walker even though she's fallen about three or four times a week. It seems to me that her priorities are backwards a bit. Her nurse lectures her on it...and I could think of 100 reasons that being a hospice nurse would be one of the hardest jobs in the world.

That should do for now...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Writer's Block

Like I said in an earlier blog, my emotional reserves--at present--are on "E." And, for some reason, in my writing brain...

...I got nothin'.

I even went to a "creativity portal" site that has all sorts of blog prompts and photos to get your brain engaged. I hit "next prompt" so many times that it told me that "blog prompter needs a vacation from you."

I took that to mean that I'm not in a writing mood this morning.

I got nothin'.

So, hey, everybody! What's up?