Thursday, August 31, 2006

This Is Just An Exhibition. It Is Not A Competition. So, Please, No Wagering

I decided to add a new feature for the fall, really just to see if I'm any better than the folks who do this for a living. So, here's the McKinney Diner fall football picks!

Each week, I'll do the local high schools, college games of note (generally SEC fare and other big games) and the Cowboys game each week and we'll see how I do...both straight up and against the line.

High Schools

Lewisville Fighting Farmers at Grand Prairie: Grand Prairie hasn't won a game in their last 19 tries, but the Farmers have struggled in recent years. They gave up 30 points a game last year, but I think they should pull it out. Lewisville 26, Grand Prairie 18.


Hawaii at Alabama (-16): Alabama's defense is always very tough and will be so much better than Hawaii's offense. Bama's offense is a question mark with a new quarterback and an inexperienced offensive line...but their running back Kenneth Darby might lead the SEC in rushing this year and will take the heat off the new quarterback. Alabama 35, Hawaii 17.

Washington State at Auburn (-14.5): I'm going to be there! Auburn usually struggles against out of conference opponents to open if they're from BCS conferences. Auburn's offense will be good everywhere but at the wideouts and their defense will be better than last year. But Washington State lost 4 games last year by 5 points or less in the Pac-10 and will play Auburn tough for a half, but look for Auburn to pull away in the 4th quarter. Auburn 31, Washington State 17

Southern Miss at Florida (-20): Seems like Southern Miss always gets after somebody on opening day, but the Gators have too much. Florida 38, Southern Miss 21

Louisiana-Lafayette at LSU (-30.5): Are you kidding? The only thing holding back LSU is LSU and they'll play lots of folks. LSU 49, Lousiana-Lafayette 13

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech (+8): I've thought Notre Dame is overrated but they'll score enough to cover against Tech, even on the road. Notre Dame 31, Georgia Tech 21

U.A.B. at Oklahoma (-21.5): OU learned some things from last year's embarrassing opener and Adrian Peterson will be WAY too much, especially at home. Oklahoma 35, U.A.B. 10

Southern Cal at Arkansas (+8): This team hung 70 on the Razorbacks last year. Granted they lost tremendous talent but Arkansas won't have the juice without McFadden and their starting quarterback...and playing in Fayetteville won't be enough of an advantage U.S.C. 31, Arkansas 10.

California at Tennessee (-1.5): Probably the best game on the docket this week. Tennessee is coming off a bad season with something to prove, but I don't think the Cal Bears can adjust to 105,000 in Neyland Stadium...they don't ever see anything like that in the Pac-10. Tennessee 21, California 17.

S.M.U. at Texas Tech (-26.5): S.M.U. is awful, even with a new quarterback at Tech, they just plug and play new ones. Texas Tech 42, S.M.U. 6

Well, there you have 'em folks. What do YOU think?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

So, What'd You Do At Work Today?

The best book I've ever read regarding student ministry is a book called "Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church" by Kenda Creasy Dean. I use it as a text in training our staff.

Yesterday was one of my training sessions with Kristy. We were going over the last chapter and it gave me a chance to review some deeply held beliefs I have about ministry and it sparked great discussion with Kristy which oozed into a conversation with Nathan. It was a highly provocative and inspirational discussion, too. Those adjectives generally don't describe me, so I surround myself with good people who can do them for me.

Yeah. That happened at work.
Yeah. I still dig the student ministry gig.

Anyway, I thought I'd let you guys in on our discussion with the quotes that provoked it and a few thoughts of my own on each one.

The first quote:

"In fact, ministry to youth in any culture calls for radical discipleship, for Christian witness also grows out of an unshakeable conviction that Jesus loves us enough to die for us and calls us to love in equal measure. This is how adolescents want to love and to be loved; they yearn for the utter fidelity, the all-surpassing transcendence, the total communion that promises 'till death do us part.' No passion--personal, political or religious--overrides Christ's ability to make good on this promise, for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus reveal God's indefatigable mercy, immeasurable purpose, and undefeatable love."

A few thoughts:

"Radical discipleship." I find this a challenging statement because there's a great deal of things about my ministry that aren't necessarily "radical" but somewhat beneficial. So, some questions that come to mind would be along the lines of "How can an in-home small group be 'radical?'" "How does a large-group Sunday School class become "radical?" It has to be more than teaching with a video clip or candles with acoustic music or breaking into small groups. What is scary to me is that I view "radical" to mean teaching truth unashamedly and unapoligetically in creative and innovative ways, authentic worship experiences through a variety of practices, prayer as an attitude we sometimes verbalize, and true fellowship. Maybe even meals together.

This quote is also the best way I know to describe to the preceeding generation what the younger generation wants in "church." I know whenever the word "emergent" is used it freaks people out, but the younger generation wants these very things: Unshakeable convictions about Jesus Christ. Communion with fellow believers in meaningful and authentic ways. Passionate (not necessarily emotional) friends who sharpen and encourage them. As a member of the "preceeding generation" it would behoove us all to start asking how those phrases will "flesh out" before anyone born before, say 1985. We'd also do well to start asking what our current congregation is doing that doesn't fit those bills and get rid of those, and then start asking what we need to be doing NOW to create communities that look like this one. There's things we do well and things we need to work on for the now, and there's things we do well that will serve us well in the future and things we need to work on that if we don't correct will hinder us in the future. In no way do I view that as a negative critique, but rather an honest evaluation of where we are and where we'd like to be.

The second quote:

"Cultural pressure not to 'overdo it' cannot contain the passion of God. The adolescent transformed by God's passion cannot supress it or 'tone it down' without compromising the ecstatic reach of the Holy Spirit. This young person discovers that Christ has made her into someone capable of toppling some of society's most cherished ideals, beyond the Christian community and even within it.

Conformity, therefore, is never the outcome of Christian practice; oddity is the outcome of Christian practice. Youth ministry is not about the corporate mimicry of Jesus. It is about incorporating young people into the self-giving love of God that is loose in the world."

A few thoughts:

I don't like the inference that we have a cultural pressure as congregations to get our young people to supress their passions. Unfortunately I agree with it. I see it, but in order to give examples I'd have to use my own congregation and I'm a bit uncomfortable with that in this forum...but I do bring them up behind the scenes to those that have influence. They aren't necessarily in disagreement with the observation but we have different views on the causes and the solutions. I view the discussion as healthy and think they do as well.

One of the aspects of Jesus life that I'm drawn to is the revolutionary side of Him, so obviously, I'm drawn to the idea of flipping not only society's cherished ideals but also the Christian community's ideals upside down. I get discouraged when I hear moms talk about how they want the church to be a "safe place" for their kids or see an advertisement for Christian radio that says "safe for the whole family." I'm not sure "safe" is necessarily good. What I do know is that spirituality has nothing to do with college or middle-class or good grades. What I also know is that those things can enhance spirituality, too. Or at least be the result of spirituality.

The flip-side is that it's pretty easy to topple anything but it's much more difficult to tear it down with the intent of building something else in it's place. It can't be destruction of ideals for the very sake of destruction. It has to be a positive re-construction...which may or may not involve demolition of various ministries or practices we have in place.

It's also easy to take shots at conformity as well. But what makes a spiritual oddity? I mean, it's gotta be more than tatoos and long hair. But khaki-wearing Republicans have their place in the Kingdom, too. And is it conformity to drive a Toyota? Seems difficult to find out what the end result of oddity is. Can you be odd and vote Republican or be a cheerleader or a homemaker or a schoolteacher? Does it make you a conformist if you like those things? Seems to me the oddity is not found in the appearance, but rather the authentic walk with Christ and your pereception of WHY you are a homemaker or have tattoos or cheerlead or vote or wear khakis...assuming your measuring them with Truth...makes you odd. So, I'm guessing that a khaki-wearing accountant with a wife and two kids could actually be radical if it's done His way. And a long-haired tattooed pastor who wears Birkenstocks could be a conformist of sorts if done the world's way.

And the "corporate mimicry of Jesus." What's scary is that too many youth ministries have bought into that. Again, I can't really point it out without harming some good folks in good ministries in other churches (and there are spots in mine I'd rather not air here, thank you very much) but it's gotta be real, man. Kids will eat you alive if you don't...or, more likely, just vote with their feet and go somewhere else.

So, what I left my staff with was this:

How do we model an authentically passionate walk with Christ and allow it to shape us in genuinely odd ways? How do we create a ministry that does these very things in the lives of our students?

Which is why I pay them the big money. I'll let you know what they come up with.

And if you've got anything along those lines, I'm all ears.

But, yeah...I had fun at work today. Sorry if I muddied the waters on this more than I helped you, but they are huge & meaningful issues, man. I'm not through thinking about them, either. I just started. So, bear with me while I think out loud.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Open House

I went to the open house at my daughter's high school last night.

We arrived fashionably late by intent. I'm sure the PTSA is a worthwhile organization but I'm not much of a "joiner" to begin with, and time is tough enough to get these days, but there's no way I'm sitting through that schpeil. Other parents admired our thinking that through in advance and saving 20 minutes.

I liked all her teachers, and I met them all.
I think her administration is as good as any administration can be.
It was easy to navigate around the large campus...I'd been there plenty for "work," but it was easy anyway.
I tried not to make eye contact with the kids selling the Krispy Kreme's as a fundraiser. Good idea, but I didn't have any cash and it's easier to not look at them. It was my only defense.
I saw some teachers who go to our church and said "hi" to them.
I texted my higher-order life-liver sister who asked if their were cocktails at such events. If the PTSA wants to get really serious in their membership drive, I think my sister might be on to something.
I saw some other parents who we've bumped into for the last 9 years at elementary schools and middle schools. We laughed and commented about this reality.
I saw some of the teens my daughter has bumped shoulders with over the last 9 years. They looked so much older.



...I felt so much older.

But, I really did enjoy myself. And it's a pretty exciting time of life if you're asking me.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Funnies Are Us

Hop to it, folks.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Found on the Laptop

I saw this comic in today's paper...I like this strip because the artist obviously has first-hand insights into relationships with teenagers. In this case, it is amusing because Jeremy doesn't see the irony of his situation: His mom presumably enjoys serving him while he's working on his van for a cross-country trip after he graduates...yet his life is a "hellhole."

And, like many suburban teenagers, they really feel this way. That despite all creature comforts, there's a disconnect between happiness and material stuff.

But why might they genuinely feel this way?

Well, I was told at work we needed some space on our server and if we could help out by clearing out our archives it would be appreciated. And I came across an old writing I did in April of 2002 for my own amusement that asked similar questions...

I'm putting it here for personal archiving, but feel free to comment on any and all of the questions...if you'll keep in mind that my own mind has changed on many of these observations in the last 4 years, too:

I don’t mean to go off on a rant, but…

Could someone please tell me why any parent for any reason would give a teenager a cell phone with more than 20 minutes per month paid for?

Remind me again why a teenager needs a computer or a television in his or her own room.

Can someone please explain to me why there’s something called The One-Minute Study Bible?

Why would any major league baseball player, other than the catcher, wear their hat backwards? Why would anyone imitate this behavior?

Is it possible that the homogeneous suburban subculture in America actually hinders creativity in our young people?

Does anyone else wonder why sports don’t have “seasons” anymore? Since when did any sport become a year-round pursuit in middle school?

Why is there a day-planner system available at Toys R Us for children?

What would be wrong with a youth group going to art museums, jazz festivals, art shows, professional theaters or lectures instead of playing video games or laser tag or bowling or what not?

How much money is thrown away each year on Christian T-shirts that only preach to the choir or alienate the unbelievers?

Can someone please explain how an obscure prayer in the Old Testament has become the basis for some people’s spiritual life?

Since when did people begin judging the effectiveness of a worship service by how “good they feel” when they come out?

On the MTV show “Cribs,” how come we never see the libraries of the rich and famous? There really are only so many fancy cars and home theatres and swimming pools out there.

Why are some Christians more upset about earrings and tattoos than about the stress caused by unrealistic parental expectations?

While I’m at it, why are some Christians more upset about the potential loss of future income than by the societal devaluation of creativity and imagination?

Can someone please explain to me the popularity of Oprah? Or, for that matter, her cohort Dr. Phil?

Since when did “first-class” and “American” and “winner” have anything to do with Jesus Christ?

When will parents realize that there are only so many scholarships out there and not every child can get one?

Does anyone else think that Christians having religious emblems on their car is horribly ineffective at spreading the Gospel message, especially watching the way we drive?

Can someone tell me why any extracurricular activity would take precedence over any opportunity for spiritual growth?

Since when did serving in the military become a “fall back” position for teens? When did defending our freedom lose its’ nobility?

When did the Christian community begin rewarding safety and convention instead of admiring those that legitimately push the envelope?

Why do so many in youth ministry view their job as a stepping-stone to “something better?”

Why is “bigger” usually perceived as “better” when it comes to ministries?

Shouldn’t it haunt us that the words of Christ tell us that what we spend our money on is an indication of what is going on in our hearts and minds?

Why should youth ministers and parents get all the joy out of watching teenagers excel in the areas of drama, art, athletics, band or any other activity? Why don’t more people of the general community take a night out and enjoy the attempt for excellence by our teenagers?

What kind of sick mind would target advertising for nicotine products, alcohol, or “R”-rated movies for those who are younger than the intended age?

Isn’t it cool how teenagers remember and value relationships much more than they will remember specific Bible studies or youth programming?

Remind me again why God would choose a person like me to feed His sheep.

Remind me again to be thankful that Christ has gifted me specifically to do this for the long haul, and to be thankful that He’s big enough to ignore my ranting!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

So, Mother Nature...About Ernesto...

This time next week, I'm taking my daughter to her first Auburn game at The Lovliest Village of the Plains. It's her birthday gift. Primo seats and the full-blown tailgate experience with an old college friend and his family await. I'm pretty excited about my first game in over a decade.

Apparently, there's a tropical storm brewing in the Caribbean intent on screaming into the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the web site's projected paths show it hitting Mobile Bay sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday.

On behalf of the citizens in that part of the country who've been through a lot in the last couple of years, I'd like to formally ask you, Ernesto, to just fizzle out and downgrade yourself to a tropical storm and bring yourself right through to North Texas.

Everybody wins in that scenario, Ernesto.

The FEMA folks get a break.
The rebuilding families in the Gulf Coast region (think New Orleans & Biloxi) continue to rebuild.
The folks in North Texas can get some needed drought relief.
And, by intent...


...because it's least... and my daughter can have the best shot at save travel and a fun weekend.
You Know Who You Are...

Yeah, I'm in process of getting the links in the left index organized and such. So, if I erased yours and didn't replace it--and you want me to add you--let me know.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Major Ian Thomas...Again

More from the book I've been reading:

"To be wholly and completely and exclusively dependent on Christ's competence--that is the Christian Life. It is not just the monopoly of the few, nor is it the privilege only of God's special favorites. It is the Life for which you were redeemed. Christ's precious blood was shed to reconcile you to God, so that Christ, now risen from the dead, migh share His resurrection Life with you.

It does not mean you will avoid pressures and threats and discomforts, but you can know that in every situation you have the complete, total, and absolute Christ, our Life. He is the answer.

To live a life less than this is to miss the whole point of your redemption."

For some reason...

...I feel like I miss at the very least part of my redemption if not the whole point.
Church Sign...Again

The local congregation is at it again with their church sign. Normally, I get on them for their folksy hokiness, but this time it's different. Today, it reads, "None of us is as smart as all of us."

I disagree.

I mean, in sociology class in university we studied mob mentality and what incites a I guess if the group assembled were a violent group, or a dumb group, or a disorganized group then the group would be in trouble.

It reminded me of the bumper sticker I saw that read, "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."

I know there are more important things than church signs...but they wanted me to read it. So I'm guessing they wanted me to think about it. And, if I have a misread on the sign, please fill me in, because that's how I took it.
Two A Days

MTV has teenagers figured out, man.

They've got a new show documentary/reality kind of show in which they've taken a high school and grabbed a segment of the high school to base the normal day-in, day-out storylines of a high school community. Coincidentally, they went to my former high school in Hoover, Alabama. Now, the size of the high school has doubled and they've added another high school to the city and they're WAY more successful in football than we were (two state championships in the first 20 years, now they've won 5 state championships in 6 years...and their only loss was in the state finals).

But think about all the made-for-TV storylines that took place in your high school.

Now add some of the best professional editing and marketers to teens available.

Oh my gosh.

While this one is running on MTV, apparently they're picking the next school for the next version of the show...apparently it's going to be called Band Geeks. Coincidentally, they're going to go to the high school my daughter currently attends here in Flower Mound. They have a national championship drum line and a pretty darn good high school band. I know lots of teenagers in that band and I think I could make a televeision show out of their lives...I wouldn't need professional editors and marketers.

Maybe they should make one called "Youth Group."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bustin' A Sag

So the Dallas City Council is considering an ordinance to keep people's pants up. Apparently, people won't take our fair city seriously if teenagers have their pants down where you can see their boxers.

Not kidding: From the Dallas Morning News comes this little nugget.

"DISD trustee Ron Price says otherwise, perhaps thinking that droopy drawers will be Dallas' downfall. He wants the city to prohibit trousers that hang well below the waist because, as he says, people shouldn't traipse around 'like third-class citizens in a first-class city.'

Mr. Price made his pitch for a pants law yesterday at City Hall. Amazingly, several City Council members chimed in, sharing 'how low can they go' horror stories about young men who appear confused about where their waistlines are.

Some city leaders seemed to think that police time would be well-spent inspecting pants. Others favored a citywide campaign encouraging restaurants and businesses to add 'no sagging pants" to the "no shirt, no shoes, no service' mantra."

No, keep in mind this isn't the school district...where dress codes are common and maybe even beneficial.

This is within the city limits.

You can get a ticket.

For how you wear your clothes.

Open note to anyone in public life: When your public transportation system doesn't really work, maybe there are other things to focus on.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Stuff I Miss From My Childhood...

I was thinking about my generally happy childhood today, and here's some thoughts that came to mind:

Playing H-O-R-S-E in my driveway against my dad when he got home from work before he went inside to kiss my mom. His "handicap" was a beer in his right hand. I don't remember ever winning.

Going to Birmingham Bulls hockey games with Hal, Calma, Bishop, Broglio & Baker. I had an authentic jersey that I wish I still had.

Going down to the drug store that was a short bike ride away and buying 10 packs of baseball cards for $1.00. We "dodged" tax by purchasing them one pack at a time, going in and out of the store 9 extra times so we could get one extra pack out of the deal. If we were really loaded with cash, we'd pick up MAD magazine.

Playing street hockey and wiffle ball for hours...which, oddly enough, carried well into our high school years. Calma's house was generally the best for playing hockey even though I had to ride my 10-speed up Savoy Street to get there. My backyard was best for wiffle ball, despite the odd foul lines. Baker's was best for an odd game involving a taped up plastic golf ball and an aluminum bat we called McBride ball which featured a grand-slam home-run if you could hit it in the landscaped island even if you didn't have any ghost men on base.

Snow days in Birmingham were the best. We had great hills--Savoy Street, Bluff Road, and Shenandoah--for sledding...and we even had a sled.

Listening to Kiss albums in my room at full-volume.

Playing "war" in our neighborhood while so many foundations were under construction. It was cool because the design of the homes in that part of the country have basements and such and when they dug the foundation it was loaded with the equivalent of foxholes before they poured concrete.

Jumping trash cans on our bicycles because we'd seen Fonzie jump them on Happy Days. We found some plywood and made the ramp over the picnic table we moved to the front yard and we rounded up the metal trash cans from our neighborhood. Kevin Woods was great at it. Ricky Sanders was the only guy that really wrecked hardcore.

Skateboarding...before helmets and pads. Bactine was a big player.

Back when G.I. Joe had "real" hair, Mike Hines and I got in big trouble one day for setting their hair on fire and hurtling them off our roof. When the plastic parachute opened and the black smoke came off their heads it looked like they'd really bailed out of a plane.

Dinner with my whole family pretty much every night around the table, and trying to hurry up and eat fast so we could go back outside to play Kick the Can or Hide and Seek. We had a good neighborhood for both.

Trying to act like we weren't sneaking peeks at Pam Stokes, the local high school cheerleader who lived two doors down...especially when she had friends over. Later on she became a cheerleader for the Birmimgham Americans, a pro team in a league that tried to compete with the NFL. In retrospect, I don't remember if she was pretty or not, but at that time she was the most gorgeous girl we'd ever seen. So were her friends.

Playing a game called "throw behind." It was basically "Kill The Man" with the ball but you could score touchdowns. When you got tackled--it was every one against everyone--you turned your back to the assembled group of guys and threw it behind you. Whoever caught it tried to escape the other guys and break free to the end zone. We'd play until somebody got to 5 touchdowns. It got dark before we finished most games.

Shooting tin cans off the back fence with a pellet gun. No one lived behind us.

Home run derby with aluminum bats and tennis balls.

And then we turned 13 and it all seemed to change. But I still remember some of that stuff like it was yesterday...

...and I kind of miss Bluff Park.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We Live In An Age Where Common Sense Is Cutting Edge

From Major Ian Thomas' new book The Indwelling Life of Christ:

"The resurrected Christ now lives, to continue His Life in you.

If you are not yet prepared to do as you are told, no matter how weak or foolish it will make you look, then whatever you believe about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is still academic. You have not yet entered into the good of it.

When it comes to the point of obedience to God's clear instructions, the Life of Jesus Christ within you makes human circumstances irrelevant; for to share His Life now as He once shared His Father's Life on earth is to know, as Jesus did, that Someone else is taking care of the consequences.

I do not mean by this that God's purposes are always irrational in the light of human circumstance, nor that there is any particular virtue in being eccentric or foolhardy. What I am urging is simply that you become delightfully detached from the pressure of circumstance, so that it ceases to be the criterion for the decisions you make. You do as you are told, whether God's instructions appear to be compatible with the immediate situation or not, and you leave God to vindicate Himself and to justify the course of action upon which you have embarked at His command.

You will not need to know what he plans to do with simply need to know Him."

I think I've found what my junior/senior guys' Bible study is going to go through this semester...
More On The Heat

Okay...I know those of you who aren't from Texas don't understand all this talk of the heat. Knowing it hasn't been below 80 degrees in almost two weeks and we've had two weeks of above 100 doesn't really register with non-Texans as to how wearing on folks the weather is.

But, I gotta it a sign that I'm becoming Texan if I find myself kinda hoping we'll get a few more days over 100 because it'll move us up to 7th on the all-time hottest summers? I mean, I wasn't here in 1980 which the locals wear as a badge of honor and they start sentences with, "Well, yeah, this is bad, but it isn't ANYTHING like 1980..." I'm kinda pulling for the heat. I mean, we've come this far. Shouldn't we have something to show for it?
There's Only One Return, And It Ain't Of The King...It's Of The Jedi

I heard some radio guys pose this question: If you were going to introduce someone to the Star Wars movie series, would you tell them to start with "Star Wars"--which was actually the 4th in the series of six movies, but the 1st one released--or should you start with the very first in the story, and why?

I don't care either way, having seen only the original twice--once when I was 13 and then upon the 20th anniversary, thinking the movie was stupid both times--but I thought the question was interesting. Knock yourselves out...

Monday, August 21, 2006

You Rock, Rock. You Show Us How To Just Sit Here.

I dunno.

I'm having an awful time taking advantage of my day off.

I'd like a hobby.
I'd like to work out.
I'd like to go on afternoon dates with my wife.
I'd like to write.
I'd like to read more.
I'd like to relax in the hammock, but with our temperatures never getting below 80 these days, it's just too darn hot.

But after coffee with Kelsey, a nap, lunch with Shelby, another nap, doing a couple of chores around the house and waiting until 7PM to mow the lawn, I'm tired again. I'll go to bed and watch the nightly news. I'll probably fall asleep during it.

Maybe my expectations are too high...I mean, I had real conversations with both my daughters about important stuff and not so important stuff. I listened to three really good sermons today while doing chores and mowing.

Maybe I need to decompress and those things are ways to do it. Maybe I don't need to read or write or get a hobby or work out.

Maybe I need those Existential Detectives like in the movie "I Heart Huckabees."

But I feel like I'm just sitting around...
...taking up space, trying to decompress or recover or whatever words are out there. It's very surreal.

And for some reason I feel kinda I should've done more or "accomplished" something, even if that "accomplishment" was learning a new song on the guitar or running or finishing a book.

Kind of like I "wasted" a day...even if I know the day wasn't a total waste.

This is a peculiar feeling.
Night Blogging. Just Blogging At Night.

I don't guess it really matters, but...

...I'm going to try something different regarding my blogging. I'm going to try doing this at say, 9PM or so at night. I really want to do some writing for various ministry purposes, and maybe adjusting my normal schedule will give me some more freedom to do that and using the night time will allow for more meaningful entries. We'll see.

Just wanted to let you know. The Diner has always tried to keep the customers in the loop!

*erases the employee whiteboard, and swaps names & shifts with The Diner's night manager*

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It's What We Do

By all accounts it was an accident.

Teenagers were using jet skis and inner tubes having a good time in the early evening Friday night on a local lake. After that the story gets jumbled in the details.

A teenager died.

Teenagers responded the way they usually do, with one of those impromptu memorials involving teddy bears and candles and lots of hugging and lots of crying. I got phone calls saying that the school was trying to get youth pastors to be around if needed. One of the local schools "gets" youth pastors and even lets us visit the lunchroom if we want. It's in their policy manual.

I was told not to feel obligated. I don't think I did.

So, I showed up.

There were candles.
There were teddy bears.
There were homemade posters with pictures.
There was lots of hugging.
There was lots of crying.

The process of grief was beginning. My "job" was pretty much to be there if needed.

A local church opened their doors for afterward...a truly meaningful gesture because it's within walking distance and it was 99 degrees at 9PM. Shouts out to Treitsch United Methodist for doing so, even with Sunday services 11 hours away and the janitorial service work completed (other church staffers know just what opening the doors would mean, i.e., the youth pastor will now clean the auditorium for the AM service).

The process of grief continued. My "job" was pretty much to be there if needed.

I was needed.
I'm glad I went.
And I'm glad to work with other youth pastors who were needed and were glad they went, too. It's what we're built to do.

I imagine I'll be needed even more in the weeks to come.
I'm glad I can be there, too.
And I'm glad to work with other youth pastors who will be there, too. It's what we're built to do.

It was one kid. I didn't know her. She wasn't in my ministry.
And her life and death affected a whole bunch of other kids. But some of my students knew her. And they are in my ministry.

And they have questions my correct theology won't comfort. Suffice to say that my job last night was just to say "I'm sorry" a lot and hug a lot and listen a lot.

I'm not sure that it's obligation that took me there, though.
I'm not sure I had a choice...I mean, I'm drawn to the teenage tribe.
There was a need.
It's what I do. It's what my colleagues do.

So, I went. So, they went.

Even if we can't, in that moment, answer very many "why" questions regarding a 15-year-old and boating accidents where the details are fuzzy to us.

But I can tell you that my colleagues and I would all say we'd rather have done something else with our Saturday nights.

But I suspect we wouldn't really mean it.

It's what we were built to do.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sign #34,039 You're From Alabama:

Only 14 days until college football season starts.


Friday, August 18, 2006

The Worship List

I enjoy a conversation when somebody asks you a question that requires a thoughtful much so that you have to "table" the answer because you need more time to think about it. That happened yesterday, and the question was, "What are your favorite worship songs of all time?"

Yep. That's a good question. We kicked around some songs we liked and we came to two realities: First, that the circumstances in which you hear the song affect the song's "likeability." Second, that different musical styles can change an entire view of the song.

For example, if you hear the song done acoustically in a small chapel on a lake early in the morning you might love it...but done in an arena you might not. Or, you might not like the classic version of the song but maybe a rap version of it kinda did it for you.

And it's with that in mind I give you my list of worship songs and the version I like, realizing that in most cases someone else wrote them:

10. Big House by Audio Adrenaline. Maybe I've been to too many worship events involving teenagers but some of the most enjoyable times with them usually involves this song...largely because the hand motions and such that go along with it involve let every kid sing and take part. Turning around from my 12th row seats and seeing about 10,000 teenagers at Six Flags' amphitheatre sing it and mean it is a pretty nifty worship experience.

9. The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash singing about a side of God that makes many uncomfortable. What could be better than that?

8. Awesome God by the Insyderz. This song makes me sad that "ska" fell out of fashion. When they shout the chorus over and over I always thought that was the way that song SHOULD always be sung.

7. All Hail The Power of Jesus Name by Dallas Theological Seminary students. During chapel services they'd sing the "seminary hymn" a few times per semester, but it was never as cool as when the first chapel of the semester with about 600 students all singing with enthusiasm and gusto in that small chapel. I never went to the overflow room that first day of chapel for that very reason.

6. Psalm 121 by Lost and Found. Because they're such good entertainers their talent gets lost in the mix sometimes. I truly enjoy when anybody puts Scripture to their own tune...and while I'm pretty sure this isn't the way the Israelites sang it as they were heading to the festivals, I'm also pretty sure they'd enjoy this version.

5. Foot of the Cross by the Parsons. I got this as a free download because I subscribe to the Mars Hill podcast. I love the single electric guitar and a singer.

4. There's No One Like You by David Crowder. The first time I heard this song was at a student minister conference with 4,000 other warped minds. He was the worship leader the whole week and I'm not sure if I ever got over hearing this song. Just a joyful response to God that is really catchy. Our church plays this one and the first few times it got some complaints and I'm not sure why to this day.

3. At The Moment by Stavesacre. If I wrote a worship song, this is what it would sound like.

2. She Must and Shall Go Free by Derek Webb. If he doesn't play this when he plays our coffee shop in September, I'll make him do it for me in the parking lot before I hand him his check.

1. Consuming Fire by Third Day. This song is simply my all-time favorite worship song. Unfortunately, most times it's played in any situation other than when Third Day plays it, a lot of times they leave out the haunting guitar solos. Those solos add so much to the song.

Now, I know that when you get something as important to people as music and worship you'll have a lot of strong opinions...what are your favorite worship songs?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Emergent...Again. Dangit.

I thought I'd posted my last words on the movement that has become known, to the chagrin of those within this movement, as the "emergent church." For long-time readers of The Diner you know that I went through a phase where I was reading anything and everything on the topic. It was fun at the time because there were books putting words to what I was seeing in my own teenagers and couldn't explain what I was myself or to others in my congregation.

Well, after reading about 20 books on the subject I felt like I had a handle on the subject and could then effectively explain what was going on. Plus, as an added bonus, I had more or less gotten my hands around it long enough to discard the elements I'd read about that I didn't agree with as well as encourage others with the stuff I liked and thought would minister to others in a meaningful way. Yeah, I blogged about the stuff.

But, basically, it came down to a desire by the younger followers of Christ to have authentic discipleship lived out in community that evidenced love for others as the watermark for their faith. The way I see it, we shouldn't make our current churches "emergent," but rather have the older, wiser members of our congregations lovingly serve the passionate and enthusiastic younger members of our faith in their growth. I liked the term "convergent congregation" to be the vision I'd like to see. I preached a sermon on it over a year and a half ago.

And, as you can imagine, I got tired of all the buzzwords and such that you start to see when something becomes trendy. Eventually, I'd come to my own conclusions and more or less moved on to different stuff in my reading...and began working to establish areas of convergence in my ministry. It'll take time.

But the "Emergent Church" was pretty much off my radar.

Now, it's back. Dangit.

See, the militant and angry and misguided and stodgy and minsinformed and maladroit among the faith are now barking loudly. They're late to the party, if you're asking me, which makes me laugh and in some ways I feel sorry for the funsuckers. But they don't want my pity, they just want to be heard.

The problem is that they're building straw men, tearing them down and attacking and creating confusion where I'm not sure there was initially was a bunch of young people and pastors asking honest and penetrating questions. Sure, they made us uncomfortable at times and said a few things in print I'm sure they'd like a big do-over on, but by and large they are helpful things for us to think about.

So, thanks to my favorite elder of a church in Portland, I got a link to his pastor's site and he did a very helpful Q & A session on this very thing. So, thanks, pastor Bob for saving me the hassle...and it should inform you of the buzzwords and the ways the attackers have misconstrued the "emergent discussion" and confused it with the "emergent church" and all sorts of helpful resources.

Have at it, folks. It'll take some time to read, but you won't regret it.

Evergreen Life's Pastor Bob Hyatt's 26 Questions Regarding The Emergent Discussion.

And, consider The Diner forum on all things emergent re-opened. Let's chat, okay? That'd be the best thing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

So Much Music, So Little Time

So, yesterday, I did this little blog game about books...just answering a few questions about my favorite books and things like that. Today I thought I'd do the same thing except with music. You know, like CD's (or albums for those of you born before 1980, cassette tapes for those of you born before 1965, and 8-track for everybody else) and stuff.

And, yes, I'll tag a few of you at the end. That's how it works.

1. One CD that, when you heard it, really affected your entire musical tastes.

Rocket to Russia by the Ramones. Let's just say that in the late 70's, I started making my musical tastes my own instead of the influences of parents and what not...and this loud & aggressive stuff (with surprisingly catchy hooks the Ramones would later become known for) was perfect for a kid eating his anger.

2. One CD you could listen to and never get tired of:

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Greatest Hits by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

3. One CD Box Set you'd want on a desert island:

Led Zeppelin. Four disks of perfection, if you're asking me.

4. The CD you'd choose to listen to when you're doing chores/yardwork/housework:

Actually, I listen to sermons on CD in all those situations. It's rarely music

5. The CD you listen to when you're having a pity party:

Garden State Soundtrack by various artists, including the Shins and Coldplay.

6. The group you have the most CD's of:

Lost and Found. I have all their stuff. Same for Nirvana. I have everything they've ever published.

7. One CD that you wish had never purchased:

Live Bootleg by Rez Band. My youth pastor tried to get me into Christian music before Christian music was any good. At the time, it was awful. I listened to it again about a year ago and it was even worse. I appreciate what Rez Band did in playing (well, trying to play) hard rock before Christians could do that but man, it was bad.

8. The CD in your car's player right now

Pearl Jam by Pearl Jam.

9. One CD you've been meaning to purchase and haven't yet:

Any greatest hits/box set by Aerosmith. I have zero in my collection and I'm kinda missing it.

10. Now tag five people:

Mike & Katie.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

So Many Books, So Little Time

The blogging community will do this from time to time: They'll play a game of "tag" by answering some questions from a blog prompt and then "tagging" others they'd like to see answer the same question. Happened to me, and this is one of the good ones...largely because I love to read. And, for the sake of interest, I'll avoid using "the Bible" as any of my answers even though it'd be true. The hard part is just sharing ONE book for each category!

1. One book that changed your life:

True Spirituality by Francis A. Schaeffer. I couldn't have been influenced more by one writer or book if I'd tried. It showed me that there are valid reasons for beig a follower of Christ and you didn't have to check your brain at the door to walk with Him.

2. One book that you've read more than once:

Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George Will. In fact, I read it every year during spring break to get ready for the baseball season.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. An excellent read that I don't think I'd ever get tired of.

4. One book that made you laugh:

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I could've listed all of his books here, though. He's great.

5. One book that made you cry [or feel really sad]:

Into Thin Air by John Krakauer. It's the story of an Everest team and disaster struck. I can't imagine the pain that group went through and still experiences.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

Strawman: Legalists and Their Silly Attempts to Live Law Instead of Grace, and To Make Others Do So, Too.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler. For obvious reasons.

8. One book you're currently reading:

The Indwelling Life of Christ by Major Ian Thomas. An excellent read, too.

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. My friend Mikey really likes it.

10. Now tag five people:


Monday, August 14, 2006

I Think I'm Holding Up Pretty Well

Kelsey started high school 15 minutes ago.

It seems's no different than any other school year, really. But it feels as if it should be a milestone of sorts. But right now it just seems like any other school day.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I'm surprised by my emotional fragility these days. I think the stresses and strains of the last few months are catching up with me.
...that our church family is getting VERY good at doing life together, if the fun they have a wedding receptions is any indication. isn't too much trouble to throw away trash after a movie. How come so much trash is left just sitting in the aisles or below seats or in cupholders?
...that I have a really good idea for teaching my Sunday School class tonight and can only hope that I can do the idea justice.
...that watching tattoos heal is kind of gross.
...that text messaging or any other use of a cell phone during a movie is distracting above and beyond most other normal movie distractions.
...that I don't know what Craig meant by having someone he wants me to meet at church tonight, but I'm guessing it's a girl, and I'm guessing she'll be sharp, and I'm guessing they're an item--the only question is the degree of seriousness of that item.
...people in church leadership better start taking the "Emergent discussion" more seriously than they are, and the rank and file of church families better be prepared to figure out what adjustments their comfy with or both will find themselves marginalized and irrelevant. Think Western Europe if you need to know what that means.
...the Sunday funnies are generally not as good as the ones that run on weekdays.
...that the Auburn football team has been given it's death blow: A high national ranking. The prediction of Auburn being #6 this year usually means an 8-3 or 7-4 disappointment. We do better when we start around #20 and coming off an 8-3 or 7-4 disappointment.
...that school starts tomorrow for our local school district, and I've got a freshman in high school. I'm not old enough to be the parent of a high schooler.
...that as difficult as my 2006 has been, it's been more difficult for my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly. The first year of marriage is supposed to be more fun.
...that going to a predictable teen movie with your daughters, eating Reese's Pieces and Spree's, on a rainy afternoon after the lawn is mowed is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon.
...the local community has a hot-air balloon show that lasts all weekend, and it's always nice on the Sunday morning of it to see the balloons over the lake with the early morning sun lighting them up. You can see them from most anywhere in our town.
...I still believe what I said about the Rangers failing to make the playoffs. Don't buy into this temporary success against the Mariners when the Angels and Tigers loom on the horizon, folks. reading pace has slowed since my return from Holland. I think it has more to do with a readily available television than anything else.
...I miss Holland.
...Lots to do today, so I'd better get on with it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Using The Powers For Good & Not Evil

I decided to get serious about the links and all that jazz on the know, go through them and "weed out" the ones I don't use any more and all that. I thought one effective use of the space would be to compile a list of places where you could get stuff to help you along the spiritual journey of following Christ.

The catch is that they have to be absolutely free. No required fee or money or credit card number required. I'd be ok with some sort of free registration (like an e-mail address & zip code kind of thing), but I only want to give links that folks can get good stuff at no cost.

Oh yeah, and I'll need a small description of why you like it, too.

And in an effort to keep from filling it up with less than the best stuff, you can only submit ONE site...only the very best one you'd recommend. However, you can add blog pages of pastors and missionaries and youth workers as often as you'd like.

So, for example, I'd submit Dallas Seminary's Podcast Page. There you can get some of the best chapel services and all that from some of the best minds in the country. All free, brutha! In fact, I'm downloading their "roundtable discussion" on the "Emerging Church" right now. I've got grass to mow today and I'll need some good stuff.

So, what do I need to add?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Simple Pleasures

I was thinking this morning about stuff that makes me happy, and I've concluded that I really am a guy who like simple pleasures. Among the things that make me happy lately:

Downloading a really good song off iTunes.
The morning paper waiting for me.
Playing the same four chords that Tom Petty, Lou Reed or Third Day put together and having it sound exactly like the way they played 'em.
Laughing out loud with co-workers, especially my student ministry staff.
Watching a bride & her family get our church ready for a wedding.
Starbucks breakfast blend, but in my own kitchen.
Reading a book and knowing after reading two chapters that you could recommend it.
My dog wagging his tail & jumping on the sofa armrest to see me when I come home.
Seeing Shelby's satisfied exhaustion every night from ballet.
Watching a Rangers baseball game with Kelsey and the inevitable highs and lows, celebrated with a seated "touchdown" & woohooing or throw pillows over our faces & saying "uh-oh."
My wife's spaghetti & lemon chicken.
Watching brides or seniors pick up their photographs my wife took and complimenting her on them...knowing not only that they're correct but they're also too understated in their praise.
A thunderstorm. Any thunderstorm.
Putting on my Chuck Taylor Converse hightops or Birkenstocks with holes in 'em, or my Doc Martens...the only three shoes anyone really needs.
Trying to decide if I need to get in on the action when the three ladies in my life are laughing in the other room.
Trying to decide whether or not to see a particular movie and listening to the rationale.
Watching the the boys who live across the street and their friends just be boys, climbing in trees or playing "army" or trying out skateboard moves in the driveway.
When a student invites me to coffee one last time before they go off to college.


...those are the real deal for me.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Apparently the folks who brought you the events of 9/11 were planning another attack...discovered and broken up by MI5, the British agency in charge of such discoveries.

If what I read on CNN's website was correct, United, Continental & American airlines were all going to have planes from Britain to the U.S. blown-up in mid air. The plan was supposed to involve a gel-type explosive that looked like hair care products...hence carry-on luggage will be limited, and it appears that you'll only be able to bring a plastic bag on board for your magazines and whatever else you might use for your 8-hour flight.

Some random thoughts on this:

This jolted me awake as it had somehow occured just at press time for the morning paper. There was a headline, a small article and then something like "check out our website for more information." Seated, rested early-morning heart rate = treadmill after half an hour.

I'm the carry-on guy who takes the most possible advantage of the carry-on rules: The biggest possible bags with the most I can get in them. I've never ever had lost luggage but for some reason I don't want to be caught shorthanded so I go into Boy Scout mode and get prepared just in case. I annoy myself doing it, too. So I'll probably be happier just being able to carry my water, and a magazine and a book and my iPod.

I'm still confused over the terror-alert levels. It's "Red" for all commerical air travel between the U.S. and the U.K. I'm not sure what that means.

Having been through both Heathrow and Gatwick just two weeks ago and cruised through security with ease, arriving two hours ahead of the flight times and all that jazz, after seeing this, I don't think two hours would've been enough at Heathrow:

photo courtesy of Getty Images

I wonder if all those people who wondered where God was when the terrorists struck over the last 5 years now have the opposite side of the coin in their brains. That you can't have it both if God was "absent" on those days, he must've "been there" today. Or, maybe it was just human nature...dark side one day, good side the next. My point is not to debate God's involvement but rather point out they very nature of the line of thought that blames God for tragedy.

You can't really have it both ways: Michael Chertoff, our Director of Homeland Security said two things in regard to this that seem polar to me. First, he said, "We cannot be sure that the threat has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted."

He then followed up by saying, "Travelers should go about their plans confidently, while maintaining vigilance in their surroundings and exercising patience with screening and security officials."

Listen, Michael, I'm sure you're doing the best job you can and am thankful you're doing it. And, I appreciate your honesty in saying you can't yet be sure you got all the bad guys. And, I'm the type of person who wouldn't let terrorism "win" so I'd likely get on my flight and go about business as usual. However, I'm not sure that I could go about my itinerary "confidently." I go about it, and I'd be vigilant and patient with the security folks, too. But I don't think I could be "confident" until you told me that the plot was completely thwarted.

I'll say it again, unless your religious text says "Blessed are the peacemakers," you might want to re-consider.

I think I'd like a world with more peacemakers today.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls

*church bell ringing somewhere in the distance*

Last night will be the last night this baseball season that I stay up watching baseball games on the west coast. I didn't get to bed until a little after midnight.

I was watching the Rangers play a game against the division-leading Oakland A's.

Much like the previous night, it's a game they should've won...this time they blew a 4-run lead with their ace on the mound. They made two errors in the 8th that cost them 3 runs. After scoring two in the 9th they ended the game on a caught-stealing right after a strike out. It was the 4th double play of the night.

It's not official.

I mean, mathmatically they're still in the race. 6.5 games out of first with 7 weeks of the season left. That's only a game per week, right?

But here's the deal:

If (and it's a very big "IF") the division leaders play .500 ball (which would be a significant drop-off in their performance as they've won 5 straight and 9 of the last 11) until the end of the season...

...the Rangers, who've not had more than a four-game win streak all season, mind you...

...would have to go 31--17 the rest of the way.

They won't. They're two games under .500 for the season and are 5-5 in their last 10.

August is when you see what you're team is made of.

I've seen enough.

And officially, The Diner pronounces that there will be no playoffs in Arlington this summer. That sound you heard was the last nail in the 2006 coffin.

(Sadly, this is the 7th season in a row The Diner management has had to make such a proclamation, but it's the earliest in 4 years)
It's Just Too Soon, If You Can Believe That

There's a movie opening today: World Trade Center.

I'm sure it'll be well done. Even the reviews from the guy in the paper (who NEVER gives "A's") gave it an "A." I'm sure it'll have tragic moments. I'm sure it'll have moments of bravery. I'm sure it'll show us the best and worst of human nature.

But, with all apologies to Hollywood and the fine folks who own movie houses:

I won't see it.

Like "Flight 93," a movie about the events of 9/11/2001 is simply too much for me. I mean, it's five years later. I guess I should be ready to see a movie about that day.

But I'm not.

I'm just not.

Even if I can't exactly put my finger on "why" I'm not.

I'm just not.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'm Only Happy When It Rains

It rained in our little 'Burb yesterday. It blew two portions of our fence over and blew a bunch of branches out of our dying tree and knocked over two other trees in our neighborhood. It left my freshly mowed/clean yard a mess.

But I'm not complaining.

When you've gone a month without rain, you really enjoy a good thunderstorm.

And it was a good one, too.

And the weather was a nice 75 degrees last night after the rain.

But don't worry. We'll be back to 103 by Thursday.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Let's Hope This Isn't A Representative Sample

Outside the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame there was a first-of-its-kind protest yesterday. Some 300 fans of the rock band Kiss showed up to voice their displeasure that the fire-blowing, makeup-wearing rock band hadn't been elected to the Hall. They came from all over the country to visit Cleveland to have their voice heard.

I'm all for this kind of grass roots gotta stand up for your band, man.

Maybe some of the organizers should've read the rules for induction before getting everybody all together. The folks who make those decisions have their offices in...


New York City.
Doing The Math

It's an old story but it was brought up again in the paper this morning: Select sports. This time, softball was on the agenda as a local team won a prestigious national tournament.

The kids were in the 12-Under Division. They won it all. Good for them because they'll remember it the rest of their lives. They made good friends. They had shared experiences. Their hard work paid off. I'm not sure you can put a price tag on that.

The article focused on the number of college coaches attended the tournament as well as the amount of money spent per year by one kid who came to Forney, Texas from Jackson, Mississippi three times a week to play for a team. Her dad estimated that he spent $5,000 per year to get her on this particular team.

The article also mentioned the true success stories, such as the local girl who made well after playing select ball with a team from New Jersey...but then played with a team in Houston and flew each weekend to practice with them. She signed a full scholarship. Good for her.

But here's what I don't get, and maybe the article was too slanted or too short to give the whole story...

...If my math is correct, and you paid $5,000 per year from the time a kid was 8 (when the Mississippi dad started doing this) until the time she was 18 wouldn't she have $50,000 grand AT LEAST set aside for college.

...Are there not teams from Mississippi that manage to get to this tournament? I know Alabama always had teams at various national tournaments so I can't imagine there aren't high-level softball teams within a two or three hour drive of Jackson.

...How come nobody mentioned the love of the game? Maybe the kid does love it and again, the article didn't give her the chance, but if you're going to do anything for that amount of time it'd better be for passion. One injury or one serious boyfriend or burnout and the scholarship goals go right down the drain. Hey, if the child's got a natural passion to be the best at a sport she loves, there's nothing wrong with doing the very best you can to help her achieve that goal...but how often is it parent-driven?

...And how come nobody mentioned that there are 20 spots available on the women's Olympic team (which, softball was removed as an Olympic sport the last time around) even when they play in the world tournament? There's an awful lot of good players out there who are playing at the big schools who'll eat up those spots by invitation from the coaches. There's nothing wrong with hitting .280 and playing softball for your school because you love the game and enjoy the competition. You don't have to play at a world level to achieve the ultimate goals.

I'm just not sure where that balance is.

I wish that were more clear-cut.

Maybe it's too nostalgic...but I really liked playing PONY league ball with my friends for a whole season, letting the coaches pick a team of the best players to represent our park, and we played in a mid-summer tournament each year with varying degrees of success. Then we played football in the fall. Basketball in the winter. There was a spring lull (if you didn't run track or cross country) that fostered wiffle ball in the backyard, or pick-up football/basketball games or even street hockey without a parent or referee anywhere. Then baseball season again.

Just seems like the business of sport has started too early to me.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I Got Somethin'

A quote from a book I'm reading by Major W. Ian Thomas:

"To be entirely honest, I know of nothing quite so boring as Christianity without Christ.

Countless people have stopped going to a place of worship simply because they are sick of going through the motions of a dead religion. They are tired of trying to start a car on an empty tank. What a pity that there are not more people around to show them that Jesus Christ is alive.

I know of nothing so utterly exciting as being a Christian, sharing the very Life of Jesus Christ on earth right here and now, being caught up with Him into the relentless, invincible purposes of the almighty God, and having available to us all the limitless resources of Diety for accomplishing those purposes."

A couple of questions for you to kick around:

Do you agree or disagree with Major Thomas' premise that there are few people showing the reality of Christ being alive?


Do you think most Christians would classify their life with Christ as "utterly exciting" or "caught up in the relentless, invincible purposes" of God?

Just seeing what you think...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I got nuthin'

Hey, everybody.

What's up?

Friday, August 04, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I'm glad the plumbing problem appears to be solved. Apparently, the folks who owned the house before knew a rogue plumber who had little regard for codes and common sense. But things look good for now. (*fingers crossed*)
...that Jerry Seinfeld was right when he did the bit about how the person you are in the morning hates the person you are at night. Last night was, "Hey kiddo, wanna go to the midnight opening of Ricky Bobby?" This morning it was, "Crud. Gotta go to work."
...Tom Petty's new album is aptly titled: Highway Companion. After one listen, it sounds like it'd be the perfect long-trip CD.
...there's a lot of really bad books out there and I'm currently reading a lot of them because they get mailed to me as part of a membership that includes music and books for twenty-somethings.
...the Rangers are showing a little life.
...that heat seems to be following me. When I was in Holland it was the hottest summer in 300 years, and it thunderstormed for two days after we left. Now that I'm back here we "only" need 14 days in August over 100 to get into the top-10 list of summer heat wave days over 100. They don't think we'll get any rain in August, either so drought is in full-force. Texans seem proud of this.
...Oklahoma's quarterback is further evidence that being an athletic hero is no guarantee of character or success. And I have no idea why parents think that sports "build" character. They don't. They reveal it.
...we decided to home school my youngest daughter. It goes against all my normal thought processes and expectations, but it's the most loving thing we can do for her and still give her a shot at her dream of becoming a prima ballerina.
...I enjoy having three artists in the house: a photographer, a painter and a ballerina. I'm no artist but even if I were I'd be bringing the team down. oldest daughter went to "fish camp" yesterday. That's what they call the orientation for incoming freshmen and they get their schedules and buy yearbooks and all that jazz. I'll be honest: Tracy and I are too young to have a high-schooler.
...going to an all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet an hour before they close is a bad idea.
...we're getting quotes on the willow. We should have it cut down in a week or two, and it made my wife make a frowny face when I said that out loud.
...everything in my life right now costs $1,000. Except songs on iTunes...which I purchased 10 old punk songs I liked and the previously mentioned Tom Petty CD. It's been a long summer and I view the purchases as being for "medicinal purposes."
...I'm so far behind and out-of-the-loop at work I imagine I'll have paralysis just from looking at the stack of stuff in my inbox.
...With that in mind, I should at least go in and shuffle papers now.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Joys of Home Ownership

Tracy and I have vacillated between renting and home ownership in the various phases of our life together. There was the first apartment where we overspent our budget on Christmas decorations. There was the first home that didn't have central air or a dishwasher. There were two rental homes in seminary, one didn't have central heat and the other we had to keep the dog for the landlord. The one rental home we had when we moved to FloMo had bees under the tool shed.

Then we purchased the home we currently lived in. As best I can figure we've lived here for almost 8 full years. It's the longest we've lived in one home in our married life. I like it here.

And overall, I like home ownership. It's the American dream, right?

But the best part of NOT owning a home is the ability to call a landlord when things break down. We've experienced lightning quick speed as well as the "I'll get there as soon as I can" reality...but no matter what, the diagnosis/repair/expense all went to the owner. And generally they were pretty good about it.

Now we're experiencing the downside of home ownership: The diagnosis/repair/expense are all ours...and yesterday I'd have given my kingdom for a bank account tourniquet.

First, the arborist dropped by. He's a good guy who goes to our church. This reality is only highlighted by the fact that he refuses to carry a blackberry or day planner or mobile phone. He checked out the cracking willow tree in the middle of our yard and talked about possible solutions and such, but didn't hold much hope that even those would withstand any ice storm and maybe not even a severe thunderstorm.

We joked about the weather while he handed me a card of a guy who cuts down trees. The Anti-Arborist has been called...but I don't think he comes to FloMo. Anyone know a humane lumberjack? The arborist said to tell an anti-arborist lumberjack that it was an easy power lines our home overhangs.

Second, we called a major plumbing business in our area. They sent out a guy who looked like he was in his early 20's. Now I'm not given to age as an indicator of ability or competency but this guy seemed pretty green. I thought it might be his first call on his own in the truck. He piddled around in various bathrooms (remember the leak is on the outside of the house) and turned on sinks and such. He walked around outside. He came in and detailed his business' standard diagnosis and repair package. I won't give you the estimate amount, but if a baseball team scored 15 runs a game over the entire season, you'd be in the ballpark...and that was if he didn't hit any unexpected things in process. "It could be higher if the slab leak is near a wall." I paid him $70 for showing up and told him I'd call him back.

Third, we had another plumber. He came to the door dipping snuff. I like that in a plumber. He looked at it and said he'd be "damned" if it was a slab leak. I thought that was a harsh punishment for a false diagnosis but he seemed pretty confident. He also fiddled with various water valves and tried to figure out the plumbing system. "Man, whoever had this installed didn't have clue. I don't even think it's up to code...but the codes in Flower Mound 20 years ago might've been different." His diagnosis & repair would be covered if a team scored 5 runs per game in the baseball season.

Two vastly different diagnosis & costs. You want to go with the lower one just I called another guy in our church who knows about such stuff. He was in the military and corporate America. Not a liberal arts kinda guy if you know what I mean. He'd know.

Immediately he agreed with the snuff-dipping guy. Said anyone could tell it wasn't a slab leak. Said the 2nd guy's price was a "tad" high but he was coming a pretty long way...and that it was a short term solution, but since Tracy and I were talking of putting in a new sprinkler system as soon as we had the money to redesign landscaping it wouldn't matter. The short-term, cheaper solution would be fine.

So, some good news by 5PM.

The joys of home ownership continue today when the snuff-dipping guy shows up and turns our water off from 10AM until job completion...which I think wil be before 5PM when his daughter has to be at a meet-the-teacher night. Now, if I could just get a good lumberjack hit-man to finish off my tree...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Evangelism Revisited

Yeah, I'm having some Holland withdrawals. Maybe it's normal & natural. Maybe it's the days off I'm taking have given me some time to think more about it. Maybe it was the phone call from Brett (a friend I made there) yesterday telling me about the thunderstorms and the ministry of the other group of Americans. Maybe it was the chocolate cookies I bought for Bailey yesterday.

I dunno. Part of me wants to be back there.

Anyway, I read a bunch while I was there. Steve-O says I read too much. Same thing happened during a discussion about getting rid of cable addition to missing out on college football season, there'd be another problem: I'd spend WAY more than cable television per month on books.

I won't bore you with quotes from each book, but here's one that stood out. It's from "When God Says Jump" by J.R. Briggs. The author had a run-in with an aggressive and pushy salesman.

"We soon realized that Eddie's behavior was strikingly similar to the behavior of most Christians when we evangelize. People are buyers, Jesus is the product, and we are the salesmen. We want them to enjoy beautiful heaven, and we want notches on our belt, to we pitch and pitch, only to make things worse. But the problem with that approach is that it's excruciatingly annoying but also horribly safe. It involves absolutely no risk. We don't get personally involved; we stay at a distance. I'm pretty sure that kind of evangelism is not what Jesus had in mind...

...Aren't we called to love people first? Certainly telling people about Jesus is important and necessary, but have we skipped a step--the step of loving and serving and caring and valuing people as individuals and seeing them with the eyes of Jesus?...

The problem with becoming invested in people's lives, though, is that you'll probably end up loving them. And loving people can get pretty sticky and involved and time consuming. It's definitely not convenient. That's why it's much easier to go on a mission trip to Uganda for two weeks than it is to serve in your own hometown or neighborhood. By going to Uganda, you can tell people during the week and then leave and never see them again. You drive by, shoot them with words, but starve them of love."

*pours the coffee*
*sets upt the tables*
*waits for discussion*

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Generally, I'm not given to affection for things like trees.

There was a tree at my university that got struck by lightning and they had to chainsaw it. It was like 150 years old or something and all sorts of folks wrote poems about it in the school paper.

But I've got a tree situation going on before my very eyes. See, we have this willow tree in our front yard. It was the first thing I trimmed when we moved in. The neighbors all comment on it because it's so big and full and it really looks great. We tell pizza delivery guys and other visitors to our place that, "Right after you turn, we're the house with the big willow tree in the front."

Now there's a foot-long crack in one of the main branches off the trunk. It creaks when the wind blows. I can't tell if the crack's getting longer, but it must be. I can't tell if the crack is wider, but I think it's growing.

I know willows aren't like other trees that last really long times. This one's probably 25 years old. It might be sick and this is how they tell you.

But I'm pretty sure there's somebody that has invented some system to stop foot-long cracks from the main branches off the trunk and maybe even repair it. Because if it falls off, we'll likely have to chop the tree down. It'd look awful without this branch.

So, if you know of any tree-fixing guys, lemme know.

I don't want to lose this tree just yet.

Even if I'm not exactly sure why I care about this tree so much.
I Want My MTV

25 years ago today I was 15 years old. I was at a friend's house who was throwing a party for the launch of a new television channel:


We had no idea what to expect but there'd been some hype about it so we decided we'd check it out...

...and last night they re-broadcast the first 20 minutes.

That's right: The space launch that counted down. The rocket launch that took off. The astronaut planting the MTV flag on the moon, which would then change into variety of logo changes. Followed by the Buggles "Video Killed The Radio Star." That's the easy trivia question. The harder one is what was the 2nd video played? "You Better Run" by Pat Benetar.

My daughter laughed at the graphics that began as well as both videos. We immediately turned it off because Tracy and I could've stayed up all night reminiscing.

But here are a few quotes from Mark Rosenthal regarding his little network (it came from a graduation speech--the best one I ever heard) start-up:

"In contrast, MTV was truly a "postmodern" network. It was never really about the shows. It was about one idea, twenty-four hours a day--a pop-cultural identity. But most of all, it was about the audience and about connecting with the audience in a unique and meaningful way. Today, people say, "I feel like watching MTV" and you know exactly what they mean."

"We've always operated as outsiders, challenging the conventional wisdom. We didn't know that it couldn't be done, so we just did it. We've been presumptuous. We've been obnoxious. We've been downright rude. And we've made mistakes. Many of them. But we haven't been safe. We haven't been predictable. We haven't trudged along a well-worn path to successful mediocrity. And we've never been afraid to fail."

"Of course, MTV wasn't exactly the first to come along and challenge the established powers that be. That's a great American tradition. Harriet Tubman, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida Mae Tarbell, Woodie Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Jackson Pollack, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, Lenny Bruce, Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, Curt Flood, Curt Cobain--the list is long and varied. Rabble-rousing is an American birthright. Despite a penchant for middle-class, middle-of-the-road homogeneity, America usually comes around to admiring--and rewarding--those who burn their bridges to convention and safety--and light up
the sky in the process."

"Before I'm accused of waxing too poetic, let me be blunt. None of you should try to come up with the next MTV. Don't make the short-sighted choice of riding the wave of a phenomenon that's already begun to crest or cloning an already successful formula. You shouldn't want to. You see, what I'm trying to tell you is this: We don't need more copies. We need more originals. There are originals out there in every industry. Some are fledglings. Others are just beginning to gain some traction in their respective arenas. Still others have yet to be born--they are ideas waiting to be discovered by people of passion and commitment and intelligence. People who respond when the rest of the world is going left by going right. People whose dreams matter to them and, later on, come to matter to the rest of us."

So, yeah. MTV has now become the establishment. If you're turning 25 that's inevitable.

But I kinda liked their least back when they played music in the 80's.

And okay, I'm a bit old school on this one. I remember:

Martha Quinn & Adam Hunter.
Headbanger's Ball.
Yo! MTV Raps.
The debut of "Thriller," back when Michael Jackson's incredible talent overshadowed his freak-show life.
Beavis & Butt-head.
Live Aid.
Madonna, Dire Straits (Money for Nothing is still a great video), & U2.
MTV Spring Break.

And, that was about the time I outgrew MTV. Sure, there were some occasions I checked back in on Daria, Punk'd, the Newlyweds & The Osbourne's, but by-and-large, I'm more of a VH-1 guy now (and in the movie "Click" Adam Sandler plays a 39-year-old guy who gets taunted by teenagers who tell him "Why don't you gome home and watch your VH-1 now, Grandpa!" I gotta tell ya it stung a little bit) with their "I Love the 80's" and "Best Week Ever."

So, Happy 25th Birthday, MTV...but it's really more of a "thanks for the memories" kind of thing than a "keep on pressing" kind of thing. When you're 25, you're pretty much just settling down and becoming the man instead of sticking it to him. But happy birthday just the same.