Monday, July 31, 2006


Return travel from The Netherlands couldn't have gone more smoothly. Taxis to the airport were prompt. Flights ran on time with the only small hiccup being the intermittent sound on the one channel that showed The Bourne Identity. If that's the only problem when getting thirteen folks some 4,000 miles over a 16-hour period, then obviously there weren't any problems.

So, faithful patrons of The Diner, while I only opened the store about once a week in July, I expect to be back with normal business hours beginning today. And, truth be told, I'm glad to see your faces again...pouring the coffee, setting up the chairs, listening to the chatter. Good to be home.

And, there's lots to talk about. I'll be all over the map today, but, hey, gotta start the "dog days of August" by shaking out the notebook. Really. To me, this outlet is what keeps me from having to keep a therapist on retainer...and today I have lots on my mind. Don't worry. I made LOTS of coffee. Stay a while, okay?

Keep In Touch With The Dutch

If you want a full-blown account of the mission trip, click the link on the left column for the mission trip. Some of the teens our teens met were influenced greatly and made comments after it was over...and it reminded me of the big picture.

Circadian Rhythms

I have no idea how it works, I just know that it does. On the flight back from Holland we were "with the daylight" for a long time, and I know that it was more than just the associated travel/trip stuff. I felt (and still feel) like I'm in a state of hoobey goobey (one of my college friends used that term for that overall feeling of being "out of it" that you can't really describe--and it's the best words for it I've heard. As you can see, I still use it. What's funny is that people tend to understand it).

Thoughts on The Middle East

I have no idea of what it's like to be on either side of the issues. Frankly, I'm not even sure what the issues are, exactly. Rockets go one way. Rockets go another. Buildings explode. This side says "they did it." The other side says, "we wouldn't have done it if they didn't start it." It's beyond my ability to understand and it's certainly difficult to choose a side--if that's even necessary.

But I know that no matter where it is or what circumstances are around it, when I see photos like the ones found on CNN.Com today, well, they broke my heart. (Many were reprinted in today's Dallas Morning News. If you want to see them, simply go to, click on the Gallery: Qana, but I don't want you to be forced to look so I didn't post them myself.)

I know my emotions are a bit fragile these days. The circumstances around my mom's passing away, in addition to the reality of my mom passing away, the two weeks of not seeing anyone in my family, the circadian rhythm thing, etc...but seeing some of these photos over coffee first-thing just highlighted that I want this to stop. The rest of the photos I saw through fish eyes of tears. But I don't think the tears had much to do with my fragile emotional state. I think it's because I'm a human being.

Crib Courses

For those of you unfamiliar with the passion of college football in the Southeastern Conference, well, every year, in addition to the ups and downs of the season itself, there's recruiting coverage of high school guys, stories of spring practices and games, and then there's the news around each school: This guy got arrested for drugs, this guy got kicked off the team for grades, this school is under NCAA investigation, etc.

Well, my beloved Auburn Tigers are under a bit of scrutiny this year. Seems like a sociology professor has come out saying that some football players were loading up on some sociology classes as electives. Apparently, another sociology teacher got the department chair and this guy wanted the job and didn't get it, so he's slinging mud against the new department chair saying that some football players were taking his "easy courses" to get their grades up.

But, let me see if I got this right, okay?

At a state-school football factory, no NCAA violations were made (some 500 students took the class during the time in question--over a year--and some 30 were football players) public, and players used electives to get their grades up?

First of all, how is that news?

Secondly, it reminded me of my own university experience. My mom would bark about my sub-par grades one quarter (usually around a 2.4 on a 4.0 scale) and so the next quarter's schedule I'd keep the three regualar classes, drop one of the tougher ones (to take it next quarter), and pick up classes like:

1) Mate Selection. It was a sociology course taught by a Methodist minister. All sorts of statistics on marriage and divorce and the causes and effects. I made an "A" which might explain Tracy being in my life 20 years later.

2) Educational Media. How to use filmstrips, movies and video to teach in classroom settings. This was before computers.

3) Golf and bowling. These were P.E. classes designed for future coaches. This didn't stop us...but I made a "B" in golf. The final was kinda hard because it involved having to actually hit the golf balls onto the greens & fairways from various places on the course. Freakin' professionals have trouble with that.

4) Psychological Aspects of Sexual Behavior. Everybody called it "honeymoon 101." 'Nuff said.

5) Wilderness Skills. This was an R.O.T.C. course that was basically how to hunt and fish and make a campsite in various conditions. The final was making a campsite and camping out over the weekend. It was one of the college's most notorious parties each and every spring.

You got the "A" and the grades up and the mom off your back for three months.

In their case, they get the "A" and get to stay academically eligible to play football next season.

College students taking easy courses to get their grades up? Oh, the horror! Oh, the scandal! is this news?

If The Shoe Fits...

Several folks, knowing I'm a big fan of Donald Miller's writings, clued me in to a Dallas Morning News article in the saturday's "Religion" section on an older book her wrote titled Blue Like Jazz. You can read the article entitled Soulful Notes.

Some were highly critical of the author's approach. He didn't seem too ruffled by the negativity towards him, calling them more of a misunderstanding than anything else. But he's a published author so he's likley used to good and bad stuff being said about his work--and has learned to keep from getting too up or down.

I also re-posted some thoughts my very good friend Kristen placed on her blog regarding an article in Christianity today and how Americans tend to have a consumer-driven manner in their Christian life. Since I posted Kristen's comments in their entirety it included her thoughts on the article, too. I thought it would be a fun discussion.

It was, until a couple of quotes were a little too over the top in one case and got a little personal in another. I titled the post "Why I Like My Friend Kristen" because she's one of my favorite people in the world. She's passionate. She's an exquisite & beautiful person. She's a devoted wife & a loving mother. She inspires me with her bold steps of faith. Last but not least, she's a very dear sister in Christ. I didn't expect everybody to agree with her posts, but c'mon. She's not "biblically evil" (a quote from another blog) or anything else other than dear friend who I happen to love.

And, I too, have been personally (and somewhat viciuosly) attacked from time to time: I've been called a bad parent, a lousy minister, and even been accused of attending the University of Alabama (the deepest of cuts, mind you). But hey, I'm a big boy and it comes with the minsitry territory.

But, if you're so inclined towards destructive conversation rather than loving (even if passionate) dialogue, lemme give you a couple of quotes to think about:

First, from my good friends and noted "Christian" band (in my top 5 bands of all-time, by the way) Lost and Found, from their song, "The Kingdom":


So many people pushed away
Ones that are loved told they can't stay
The question is what would Jesus say?

God's own people close the door
The loud and the angry take the floor
We know what you fear But what are you for?

The second, fromt the guy who signed my degree from seminary, Chuck Swindoll:

"Too many folks are being turned off by a twisted concept of the Christian life. Instead of offering a winsome and contagious, sensible and achievable invitation of hope and cheer through the sheer power of Christ, more people than ever are projecting a grim-faced caricature of relgion-on-demand. I find it tragic that religious kill-joys have almost succeeded in taking the freedom and fun out of faith. People need to know that there is more to the Christian life than deep frowns, pointing fingers and unrealistic expectations. Harrassment has had the floor long enough."

Please remember that The Diner has all sorts of visitors...some of a life of faith, some seeking, some have their own reasons for not believing what I believe...the whole gang is welcome. But remember, believers, others are watching.

Let's play nice out there and major in the majors and minor in the minors. So, if I happen to like Donald Miller (even though I've never met him, I'd love having him be the keynote speaker at our winter Bible conference), Anne Lamott, Kristen, Hollywood, beer-drinking Dutch believers who offer beer at every Bible study (no, I didn't take one, just in case you were worried...but it's because I don't like beer), democrats, and/or a host of others who aren't like me...

...the Kingdom is big enough and roomy enough for all of us. So, let's enjoy passionate discussion without name-calling and false interpretations and heated attacks of straw-men. This is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable outlet...not one where attacks (mostly over things the writer didn't say, by the way) on personalities who are different than yours (and you don't like, which is oh so obvious) rule the day.

So, if the shoe fits...



I feel as if the weight of the world is off my shoulders for a bit. One more day where I don't have to pay a therapist.

And, thanks for coming back day after day...even if my attendance has been spotty at best as of late.

It's nice to be back.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why I Get Along With My Friend Kristen

I'm in Holland.

I won't bore you with the details you could read about if you browse through The Diner records, but suffice to say I've been "on" for quite some time now. I've got to get some rest and 17 days with teenagers at the tail end of the exhausting run is difficult. But hey, in the words of Willie Stargell, Hall of Famer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, when asked after deplaning a late-night flight at 3AM if he was tired, "Hey, I'm a ballplayer. It's all I ever wanted to be. This is a part of that." Well, I'm a youth pastor in full-time ministry. It's all I've ever done. The sacrifices I make are worth it (I only hope my family feels the same way) and this particular stretch, while hard, is workable.

Anyway, I needed some "me" time so I checked the blogs and came across this entry from my friend Kristen. I won't link to it, but rather here it is in the entirety.

I'd love your feedback on the quotes as well as hers, too.

"From Christ’s Church to iChurch: How Consumerism Undermines Our Faith and Community”

The link (I can’t believe I just linked to Christianity Today).

A few quotes:

“When we approach Christianity as consumers rather than seeing it as a comprehensive way of life, an interpretive set of beliefs and values, Christianity becomes just one more brand we consume along with Gap, Apple, and Starbucks to express identity. And the demotion of Jesus Christ from Lord to label means to live as a Christian no longer carries an expectation of obedience and good works, but rather the perpetual consumption of Christian merchandise and experiences—music, books, t-shirts, conferences, and jewelry.”

“Approaching Christianity as a brand (rather than a worldview) explains why the majority of people who identify themselves as born-again Christians live no differently than other Americans. According to George Barna, most churchgoers have not adopted a biblical worldview, they have simply added a Jesus fish on the bumper of their unregenerate consumer identities. As Mark Riddle observes, ‘Conversion in the U.S. seems to mean we’ve exchanged some of our shopping at Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, and Borders for the Christian bookstore down the street. We’ve taken our lack of purchasing control to God’s store, where we buy our office supplies in Jesus name.’ ”

“In every aspect of the religious life, American faith has met American culture—and American culture has triumphed.”

“According to Finke and Stark, the American church adopted a consumer-driven model because the First Amendment prohibited state-sanctioned religion. Therefore, faith, like the buying of material goods, became a matter of individual choice and self-expression. And ‘where religious affiliation is a matter of choice, religious organizations must compete for members and … the ‘invisible hand’ of the marketplace is as unforgiving of ineffective religious firms as it is of their commercial counterparts.’ “

Dude. If this at all interests (or perhaps outright disgusts) you, you should totally read the whole article. I love the line about the Jesus fish.

perhaps this is one reason I feel so out of sync with so many people who call themselves Christians and I identify more with many people who don’t. many of my friends are people whose religious and spiritual beliefs are vastly different than my own, yet despite our core beliefs we can (1) have intelligent, respectful conversation about those beliefs and (2) care about many of the same issues. I still disagree with many of my friends on many issues as well, as i assume will be evident from my previous post… and okay, I no longer know what iI’m saying. someone help me out here. what? oh yeah. it’s articles like this that make me feel more connected to my non-Christian friends than most Christians I know.

it also makes me very glad that the people who follow Jesus that I have made efforts to get to know (I will purposefully not lump them into the “Christian” category as a way to distinguish them - you all know who you are) see the fault with consumerism and it’s soul-sucking effect on the Church.

that’s not all said very well, sorry. mostly just some though vomit for you.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Is The Fact I’m Trying To Do It For Ya Doin’ It For Ya?

Okay, I’m not sure if it’s the heat…

…or if it’s vacation time…

…or if my topics are uninteresting…

…or if folks thought The Diner was closed because of my trip to Holland…

But I really thought the dining table entry would’ve gotten more dialogue going.

So, I’m trying again. More from Eugene Peterson’s book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

How’s this for starters?

“I didn’t come to the conviction easily, but finally there was no getting around it: there can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion and embrace of community. I am not myself by myself. Community, not the highly vaunted individualism of our culture, I sthe setting which Christ is at play.”

Not doing it? How about this:

“What does this mean? It means we have to revise our ideas of the holy community to conform to what is revealed in Scripture. It means we cannot impose our paradisiacal visions of hanging out with lovely, upbeat, beautiful people when we enter a Christian congregation. It means that God’s way of working with us in community has virtually nothing to do with the world’s idea of getting things done, of what ‘works’ and what doesn’t. It means God hasn’t changed his modus operandi of choosing the ‘low and despised of the world’ to form his community. It means that we who want to get in on what God does in the way God does it in all matters of community, will have to give up pretensions of shaping an organization that the world will think is wonderful as we parade our accomplishments to the tune of ‘worship’ or ‘evangelism.’”

Well, if that doesn’t do it, I’ve got one more:

“Cliches are the usual verbal giveaways of prayer that is, in fact, non-prayer.”

*sets up coffee tables; makes the coffee, and waits*

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Deconstruction of Hospitality

I've been reading Eugene Peterson while I'm in Holland, and in the section of the book that's currently provoking me is regarding the spiritual life...and how sitting down to a meal with other believers is a "lost art" of sorts.

From Peterson:

"It's striking how much of Jesus life is told in settings defined by meals...

Daily meals with family, friends, and guests, acts of hospitality every one, are the most natural and frequent settings for working out the personal and social implications of salvation.

But there is a problem. The practice of hospitality has fallen on bad times. Fewer and fewer families sit down to a meal together...

...meals take time, meals are inefficient, meals are not 'productive.' And so meals are streamlined, made efficient, individualized--the presonal and relational and communal are abbreviated as much as possible. The fast and encompassing 'culture of the table'(Borgmann's phrase) is pushed to the sidelines."

So, without sounding like a high school quiz: Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Is this a bad thing? Can community take place in other meaningful ways? How would meals enhance the spiritual walk? Did you sit with your family for meals? What were the benefits or drawbacks to that? Ready...

...and begin.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Most Pleasant Surprise of The Last Month:

My higher-order life-liver sister Jilly telephoned me yesterday.

Seems that she and the Barnstorming Brother-in-Law Shane have figured out what it is, precisely, that causes pregnancy.

This makes me happy beyond words, personally, as well as for the two of them.

*raises imaginary glass of champagne, and speaks*

"I could not be happier for the two of you. Congratulations of the highest order!"

*sips from the glass*
*applause all around The Diner*
The Downside

Many of you know my daughter Shelby. All-around enjoyable kid and ballerina.

But it's the ballerina part I want to focus on at the moment.

Her three-week summer intensive session with the American Ballet Theatre ends today. And as with all the ends of sessions with ballets, the dancers will get to express themselves with the new things they learned and the old things they improved upon. They're generally called recitals, but at this level they've upped them to "performances."

Her "performance" is today. There are two.

I will miss them as I'm in The Netherlands...mission trip.

And I know I 'm not the first dad to miss something of their child because of work, so this isn't a pity party of any sort...

...but I do wish I was there.

I'll miss seeing the intensity and passion in her face. I'll miss the graceful smile as she's working so intently but making it all look effortless. I'll miss the self-satisfied look on her face when she's finished. I'll miss giving her flowers.

I'll miss it...and I'll see it on video (which won't really do it justice, but it's the best possible alternative under the circumstances) when I return.

So, thanks, Shelby, for being so understanding of what God does with your dad.

And, break a leg, kid.

Break a leg.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Keep in Touch With The Dutch!

I'm off to The Netherlands can catch all those updates at CBC's Team Holland 2006 Blogspot.

And I don't know how often I'll be in and out of The Diner but I'll try to stay open every day...and will as long as I can grab dependable internet access, but I won't know that until I arrive. So at least drive by and see if the sign on the door says "open" or "sorry, we're closed."

Now, I take horoscopes the same way I take fortune cookies...which is to say that I rarely even read them and if I do it's such a joke. And this is no different but I did check mine out as I was browsing the comics this morning:

"You're providing inspiration. Others are busily trying to figure out how to build what you envision. This is a good thing."

I gotta say it: It's not a bad harbinger to read that as you're leading a team to Holland for a mission trip on the morning you're getting ready to go.
Political Polling?

I've had pretty strong opinions on poltical polling...everything from how they're not "news" yet reported on as if they have high-level importance to how they can influence elections to how I've never been the one asked to participate in the poll.

Until yesterday.

I got a call that started off asking me if I was a registered voter in Denton County and if I had a few minutes to take part in a poll. Since I've barked about not having been asked, I said I'd do it.

There were obligatory questions like my age, occupation, approximate income level, how likely I was to vote in November and other stuff you'd expect.

Then there were some questions about whether or not I've heard of this or that candidate or ever voted independent of parties & other stuff like that. So far, so good.

Then I was asked if they could read me some statements and my reply to each one would be whether or not each one would cause me to vote "strongly more in favor" or "mildly more in favor" or "mildly less in favor" or "strongly less in favor" for the candidate. Those were my choices.

That's when I figured out was really going on:

A commercial for one of the gubernatorial candidates.

The statements went like this: "If (candidate A) said they would raise teacher pay while cutting taxes..." "If (candidate A) said he'd levy penalties for businesses that hire illegal immigrants..."

The competitors statements went like this: "If (candidate B) said she'd been convicted for failing to have receipts for her expenditures..." or "If (candidate C) said he'd had little experience in government and wouldn't know what to do his first week in office..."

There were about 30 questions like this. Two-to-one with glowing ideals from Candidate A and silly to damaging statements about Candidates B and C. I didn't stop the this point I didn't want to be rude since I told her I'd participate but I went from excited to bored and more or less checked out of the deal. She was nice enough and thanked me for my time.

But I'd rather have just had a call from someone saying they'd like to take 3 minutes of my time to tell me why their candidate is the better choice.

But frankly, I'd have ignored that.

Which is why I'm guessing they do fake "polls."

So, I brought it on myself, I guess.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

One Roof

My wife is packing her suitcase. She's off to Alabama today...she's got the big drive from Dallas to Birmingham, but she's making a nice vacation out of it: She'll also go with her parents and the girls to Gulf Shores. She's worked hard these last few months with senior photos and a slew of weddings...busy time for photographers, and a few days of beach life will be good for her.

I haven't seen Shelby since I dropped her off in late June...she's got the ballet academy training to finish this week. The big finale performance is Saturday. I'm sure she can use some beach time after that, too. Lots of work for a 12-year-old.

I haven't seen Kelsey since the day after Mom's memorial service. She's been learning the secrets of southern least snacks and such...and hanging out with her grandparents.

My dog had gotten past his moping stage but now seems eerily suspicious with Tracy's packing habits this morning.

And I'm off to Holland tomorrow for 17 days.

I know.

It's hard to whine with beach trips and ballet camps and time with granparents and European mission trips in the mix...

...but I'll kinda be glad when my family is under one roof again. So will Lloyd. July's been a weird (not necessarily bad...just odd) month that way.

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup Finals

I don't know for sure what the solution is, but deciding a game in one of the truest world championships on PENALTY KICKS? Well, there's GOT to be a better way.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fortress of Solitude

When things get too much for Superman, he heads to his Fortress of Solitude. You remember? It's in some icy-cold place...a cave, I think. It's where he goes to re-focus.

It's part of our American heritage, too. The Thoreau "Walden" experience. Getting away from it all to re-group.

We do it with vacations, too. We're working hard, warp-speed-busy, saying to ourselves, "If I can just survive for three days, I'll get to vacation. Then I'll re-calibrate."

So, that book I was telling you about? The Death by Suburb: How To Keep the Suburbs From Killing Your Soul by David L. Goetz? Remember how I said we'd walk through it together...those of us that were interested? Yeah. From the first chapter this book has been enjoyable provocative and helpful for me.

The author sets the tone by saying, "The harsh light of suburban living tricks us--our lives are anything but flat. One simply needs eyes to behold its thickness. The discipline, then, is learning to see again...It's a higher existence, a plane where I am not the sum total of my house size, SUV, vacations, kids' report cards, and that which I still need to acquire."

And his solution to learning to see again? Well, it's in 8 parts, but the one I want to focus on today is where he talks about solitude. He says it helps us to see the world the way God sees the world instead of through our suburban cultural milieu.

"The practice of solitude may be the most important spiritual discipline for the suburbs. And it's probably one of the most difficult to practice here." Mr. Goetz postulates that if you miss a Bible study or church or service opportunity then it has a built-in consequence of some time...but if we ignore goes on with no real apparent damage.

He then goes on to say that when we think of solitude we think it terms of getting away from it all...the beach excursion, the lake house, the hunting lease, etc. But he says that isn't how we should find solitude--and backs it up with this statement: "If beauty and solitude are preliminary to the deeper life, then why does the mountain states region in the United States have such high rates of suicide?"

He goes on to say that there are ways of solitude that you can do where you live right now and find that time consistently...and I could list some of them here...

...but it'll be more fun if we work through it together.

So... do you "get away from it all" and focus on your walk with God in the right here, right now?
Dutch Treat

For those of you readers who will be interested in the day-to-day happenings of the mission trip I'll be leading to The Netherlands, our blog can be found here:

CBC Team Holland 2006 Offical Site.

There isn't anything on it yet except links and other basic info, but we have a meeting this morning and the teens should post something before midnight tonight. We hope over the next 21 days you'll check it out!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dog Days of Summer

Lloyd is a great dog.

We love him. He loves us. It works.

And Lloyd has his little routines. He and I take a morning constitutional together every day...usually around 5:15AM. If I sleep a bit later he growls or licks my face to wake me up and get started. I let him out the front door and I make the coffee. I pick up the paper, he comes in, he gets his treat. Sometimes he sits on the footrest of my chair while I blog and sometimes he goes back to bed. Generally, that's the only possible choice he makes.

Sure, they vary from time to time. Like summer, the girls sleep later and have different schedules than they do when school is in session...

...but by and large, he keeps his routines.

Well, if the last two days are any indication, he's a bit out of sorts.

See, the girls are vacationing in Alabama. Tracy and I have been going to work and such without them for the last week.

Now, Lloyd has been popping into their rooms to check it out and see if they're in them. They're not.

And I can't be for sure because Lloyd is a bit lazy, but I swear he's moping around here, missing them. I mean, I don't know if dogs "miss" their people or however you'd put it...but I think he's at least disheveled because his routines are goofed up.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Al Hsu

Since author Al Hsu (who I've never met but am happy he stopped by The Diner) was kind enough to comment, I thought I'd give all of you a link to his book. You can check out The Suburban Christian at your leisure. We'd both appreciate it.
This Can't Be Good

I saw a book browsing the bookstore yesterday that I couldn't resist. C'mon. It had the title "Death by Suburb: How To Keep The Suburbs From Killing Your Soul." It's by David L. Geotz, and there's a website.

Anyway, while waiting on friends at the theatre (we were going to see Superman), Tracy went to get the seats secured and I was besieged by pirates (who were going to see the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean at midnight), I browsed the book a bit.

Quote 1: "There appear to be more churches in my community than pizza joints. That's quite a statement, because Wheaton, Illinois, is, after all, a suburb of Chicago, home of the world's best pizza. A church building fills at least one corner of most every intersection. On Sundays, high school auditoriums are rented by start-ups. Here is no shortage of houses of worship. I'm sure there must be some pagans in our community, but nobody has seen one in years, though I recently saw some Democrats at the Fourth of July parade."

Quote 2: "I think my suburb, as safe and religiously coated as it is, keeps me from Jesus. Or at least, my suburb (and the religion of the suburbs) obscures the real Jesus. The living patterns of the good life affect me more than I know. Yet the same environmental factors that numb me to the things of God also hold out great promise. I don't need to escape the suburbs. I need to find Jesus here."


I'll likely finish this tonight and let you know more...but Steve-O asked me when I told him about the new book I got, he said, "Isn't that the title of the book you should've written?"

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I Love Technology, But Not As Much As You, You See. But I Still Love Technology...Always and Forever

So, yesterday, I found this shareware that allows you to transfer stuff on your iPod directly into your library on your PC or Mac. For those of you that don't know, if you have something on your iPod that isn't on your main computer's library, it isn't designed to transfer that information.

See, it keeps people from pirating music if they don't have an automatic transfer capability.

But, I was looking to put some music on my iPod that we'd put on my wife's iTunes library onto my computer's iTunes library (we haven't mastered the ability to have multiple libraries on the same computer yet, so bear with us) and so I checked the web...and lo and behold:

Free software that does that very thing!

Now I don't have to worry about having the hard drive backed up all the time.

If you're wanting to make some cash off a good conspiracy theory...

...the recent death of Kenneth Lay seems like it'd be pregnant with possibilities.

I mean, a guy convicted of bilking employees out of their retirement plans and such while profiting personally, who then dies before sentencing. This means that, because he didn't exhaust all his legal appeals before dying, that his personal estate can't be touched by those wronged by his actions. Died of a heart attack in Colorado yesterday. Hmmm...

...or Rush Limbaugh's recent "doctor shopping" episode. This thrice-divorced, admitted-user-of-illegally-obtained-Oxycontin radio host gets away with a violation of his already suspect "probation." See, he's on a short leash because of his drug issues already, and comes back into this country with a prescription bottle that doesn't have his name on it. Now, granted it was Viagra and maybe this simply is an issue where a star wants his privacy, but still. You can conspire away on him getting away with it when somebody else wouldn't. Now, why this "Paragon of Virtue" and defender of "conservative values" has any Viagra when he isn't married (or I couldn't find evidence on the Web of a fourth wife--but a good consipiracy theory wouldn't let facts stand in the way)...

Those are two good ones to get you started. What else am I missing out on conspiracy theory wise?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rainy Day Reading

We got some rain in the MetroPlex for the first time in a long time and I imagine it'll stick around today...that's the way it looks, anyway.

This put a mild damper on the traditional July 4th celebration stuff in my brain. Baseball games were delayed. Fireworks stuff got pushed back. Overcast just didn't seem right for a pool party, etc.

So, Tracy and I caught a movie and browsed at the mall. Then we ate out and watched a movie at home. Nice day, all in all. Not traditional in any manner...but nice.

And I read. I came across this little thought-provoker from Eugene Peterson. He's good at that, and in this case he's discussing the nature of the spiritual life and the importance of "rest"--and part of this rest includes the idea of "wonder."

On why our tribe tends to be poor at "rest" as we lack "wonder":

"Without wonder we approach life as a self-help project. We employ techniques; we analyze gifts and personalities; we set goals and assess progress. Spiritual formation is reduced to cosmetics.
Without wonder the motivational energies for living well get dominated by anxiety and guilt. Anxiety and guilt restrict; they close us in on ourselves; they isolate us in feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness; they reduce us to ourselves at our worst. Instead of being formed by the Spirit that hovered over the waters and raised Jesus from the dead, we are malformed into lives of moral workaholism or pious athleticism."

On how we try to "fix" our spiritual life:

"We have become consumers of packaged spiritualities...God is packaged as a product; God depersonalized and made available as a technique or a program. The Christian market in idols has never been more brisk or lucrative."

*pours cup of coffee & waits*

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

And Now, A Word From Our Forefathers...

"The future happiness or misery of a great proportion of the human race is at stake--and if we make a wrong choice, ourselves and our posterity must be wretched. Wrong choice! There can be but one choice consistent with the character of a people possessing the least degree of reason. And that is to separate--to separate from that people who from a total dissolution of virtue among them must be our enemies--an event which I devoutly pray may soon take place; let it be as soon as may be."--Henry Knox, in a letter to John Adams, May 16, 1776.

"That our affairs may take a more favorable turn, the Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve the connection between Great Britain and the American colonies, and to declare them free and independent states; as you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration, which I am directed to transmit to you, and to request you will have it proclaimed at the head of the army in the way you shall think most proper."--John Hancock, it the "cover letter" to King George that accompanied the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776.

Our forefathers really rocked, don't you think?

Monday, July 03, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that grief is a strange animal, sleeping when it should be awake and awake when it should be sleeping.
...that rest is a terribly undervalued trait and we Americans don't do it very well.
...that my hometown Rangers are beginning their summer swoon, but I don't put much stock in the "pitching-staff-can't-handle-the-Texas-heat" theory because I tend to put a lot of stock in the "we-only-have-one-true-"Ace"-and-he-can't-pitch-at-The-Ballpark" theory.
...the teaching of "grace" as a lifestyle (as opposed to "law") might just be the most misunderstood teaching around, causing other Christians to throttle their straw-men when they should be listening more intently.
...that I don't like the comment that one of the reasons America doesn't do well in World Cup play is because we haven't learned to fake falling/injuries well enough to get referees to call fouls. Since when did that become an integral part of the game?
...I'm not much for the crowds that July 4 events tend to draw, but I like the hulaballoo the crowds are there for: The concerts, parades, the hot dogs, the fireworks displays with Sousa marches, etc. What's the phrase? "I don't like crowds, but I like gatherings."
...Tracy and I might take in four movies this week because we have a year-long pass good for any movie, any time, so shouts out to AMC Theatres and my friend Mike for the hook-up on that deal! I want to see Cars, Click, & The Pirates movie on Friday, and Tracy wants to see those plus The Devil Wears Prada, which looks funny, too.
...I absolutley MUST mow my lawn today (it's been neglected with all the family goings-on) but it actually drizzled rain a bit here in North Texas last night, but it doesn't look too prohibitive.
...I want to watch the 2nd season of Arrested Development, so, Big Nate or Steve-O, could you be so kind as to DVD me?
...that we have to run Kelsey's iPod Mini by the Apple store today to see why it won't work correctly, and that is one of the coolest stores ever with all the creative stuff for Macs and iPod gadgetry and such, so I'm pretty excited about it.
...I leave for Holland in 8 days and a wake-up, and there's so much to do. Like my lawn, the team I assembled to go has been neglected with all my family goings-on.
...the more I see MySpace, the less I like it.
...that I don't understand golf and/or golfers & that whole subculture. It seems like so much money and time to invest to conquer it. I can get frustrated for a lot less investment. diet has been blown in spades.
...that I'm glad my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly and my Barnstorming brother-in-law Shane are back in the Bay Area. It must've been nice sleeping in their own beds after doing so much for my Mom over the last few months.
...I'm really missing my kids who are still in Alabama: Kelsey vacationing with family and Shelby dancing and doing well at her summer intensive.
...I've stalled long enough so I need to go mow the grass.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hi. My name is Brent and I'm a readaholic.

I've got a friend who writes books. He once said that he thought about writing smaller editions as part of a larger series because "people don't read much anymore."

The Wall Street Journal said the average person reads 3.5 books per year. That's average. So, some people are reading 6 while others aren't reading at all. And what about the voracious readers who read way more than that? If that's the case there's a bunch of non-readers out least as far as books go, anyway.

But newspaper readership is down as well. Maybe that's because the on-line versions are free, though.

And maybe on-line reading is similar, too. Maybe folks are reading blogs and news and sports and such...using the Web like a personal daily magazine of sorts.

This morning's Dallas Morning News had a couple of editorials on reading (none on-line or I'd link them for you), and one by Lauren F. Winner (who, by the way, is a follower of Christ and has written some incredibly influential books recently) who said that reading drops off dramatically at age 8. She says that's because parents push so hard to get their children to read and then once they learn they don't make much of a deal about it. As far as her reasons why: Maybe she's right. Maybe she isn't. But she's got statistics to prove the drop-off. Now she's just trying to figure out the reasons.

I admit it: I'm one of those who skews the stats a bit. Much of my day is spent reading...starting with the Bible, the newspaper, making the blog rounds, a couple of professional journals. At work I read commentaries to prepare for lessons and such. I read at night before bed. I write, too. I read what others write. I like words and ideas. I like everything from Suess to Vonnegut to Tolstoy to The Weekly World News (who, by the way, in last week's edition ran the headline, "The Anti-Christ is Here, and Jesus is Coming To Stop Him! Exact date revealed!") and everything in-between. I traffic hourly in ideas.

What I'm after is trying to find out if this is true. I mean, sure, Oprah will fire off a book-club deal and folks read. Harry Potter comes out and gazillions read. Is it that there just isn't much quality stuff out there these days? Is society reading in other immeasurable forms, like Audio CD's or on-line newspapers? Are they using their library cards more (or loaning books to each other more), causing Barnes & Noble sales to drop? Are folks too busy to read? Is it computers or TV?

Have at it, readers. I've got to go read some blogs...

Saturday, July 01, 2006


I'm in Oklahoma. For a wedding of a good friend.

Norman, specifically.

And, usually, I'm pretty endeared to college towns. Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Oxford, Starkville, Athens, Baton Rouge, Fayetteville...all pretty nice towns where the college is usually larger than the town and very charming.

But there are some that haven't been so endearing: Hattiesburg. Tallahassee. Gainesville. Waco. Although Tallahassee shouldn't count, because major cities like Dallas or Austin or Nashville can't really be included in such a list. Even Birmingham's UAB campus is attractive despite the urban setting.

And, now I can add Norman to my list of "not so endearing." Not pretty to look at, traffic was terrible (and it wasn't Gameday, for which I make exceptions for both aestetics as well as crowds--and in fact, that might enhance Norman) and it really didn't have much charm.

Tracy and I did venture into Oklahoma City's downtown "Brickyard" area which was actually very nice. We had a pleasant evening walking along the canal (there's no way you can keep canal water clean, I don't think) and eating at a nice Italian place...and I'm thinking about going to the memorial to the bombing victims in OKC this afternoon before the wedding.

Maybe something will jump out at me later today...but with all due apologies to Oklahoma's Chambers of Commerce, your state ain't doin' it for me.