Saturday, September 30, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I didn't realize how many people I realize check in on The Diner until this week when a plethora of folks called, e-mailed or commented when I didn't make a new entry for a week.
...those commercials for Vonage where the plain, dorky guy dumps the supermodel girlfriend in the Lambourghini (or the girl who mistakes dolphins for sharks and wants to go swimming) and the tag line about "not being stupid" are pretty funny.
...that my church is filled with amazing people who've been so concerned about our staff and our well-being. Is it bad that I'm not surprised by that?
...that my DVR actually helps out with television discipline. Not only do I watch pretty much only what I intended to watch (rather than just channel surfing while waiting between shows) but I also watch them in less time.
...I still don't get the Bed & Breakfast subculture AT ALL.
...that my reading has been slowed to a book a month. I feel stupider.
...sometimes it's good to just sit in a room with your dog at your feet and a good book close by. A good cup of coffee can also enhance that reality.
...that it's a shame Arrested Development didn't get more viewers because it's one of the funniest television shows I've ever seen. yard needs mowing and I think I'm going to let it go for two more days. I just don't have the juice. daughter is going to a homecoming dance tonight with a pack of friends (they started getting ready for a 7:45 departure at 2PM). On one hand I'm excited for her. On the other, I feel like a whole new set of experiences is starting for me. I'm betting she's going to be the prettiest girl there, though.
...that the old illustration regarding sin is true: That when you're on the ledge you are in control of all your steps. The minute you take the first step off that ledge you'll lose control of the rest of your steps.
...that last statement is an understatement if you have a front row seat.
...that I'm sorry if my lack of blogging in the last week caused anyone any unnecessary concern. I really was just too tired to do it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

My Mom Says Some Days Are Like That...

...even in Portland.

...even 1616 miles away from Portland.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Proud Dad Alert

Sure, it's on my daughter's blog.

But when Kelsey sets up a canvas in her studio (of which she shares half with the resident ballerina), puts on the painting jeans, fires up the iPod and closes the door...the magic happens.

As she said on her blog (link to the left), this is what she did with her Friday night:

I'm unashamedly proud of thinking she's really good at this.

Friday, September 22, 2006

If By "Portland" You Mean "Incredible City"...

After my long day of travel and midnight bedtime I slept in. Good choice.

And, when in Oregon (oh-so-close to Seattle) you should do coffee in a local coffee shop. I chose Stumptown on Mikey's advice. Journal in hand, iPod juiced, writing in my quirky blue ink (I've always thought black was too morbid, so I always use blue ink--and the Sanford Uni-Ball, champagne color is the only way to roll. Deluxe fine point, of course) in my $0.99 composition book:

General Observations About The Stumptown Vibe

For some reason, Portland makes me feel comfortable. I've only been here about 16 hours but I feel very much at home. It's a nice blend of the best of the U.S.A. and Europe as best I can tell. And I can tell. See, I was in Amsterdam in July, so I can speak from experience.

It's September, so I'm a bit bemused by the abundance of scarves and knit caps. Not that they aren't necessary, mind you...just that it's SEPTEMBER and I'm barely used to people having to wear those in January. Fleece was also a big player among the patronage.

At Stumptown, there were Milk Bone dog treats at the coffee condiment table. Any place that dog-friendly is high on my list.

The place features local artists on a rotating basis. Very cool...and this go-round featured some good photography. My wife, however, would dominate those walls.

The house-blend to drink in-house was a buck. I paid $7 to park close enough to get to walk to the coffee shop.

The magazine rack included, Aperature, The Nation, Thrasher, Wired, Portland Monthly, Beautiful Decay, Punk Planet and some others. It dawned on me that I'm officially not "with it."

The baristas are striking. In what must be a nose-thumbing at Starbucks, piercings were encouraged to be shown, as were tattoos. One girl was a genuine 50's throwback in her checkerboard sleeveless top and horn-rimmed glasses. She couldn't have been 25...but it was a good look. Clashed with the other typical grunge look, but both oozed hipness. It dawned on me that I don't.

There was a computer-generated, hand-laminated (read: covered with scotch tape) sign that read: "Please refrain from using your cell phone while placing your order." Pro-dog, anti-mobile phone bias = winning over this customer.

Lots of handbills in the shop, too. Everything from concerts to indie film showing to compilation CD makers to something by the Alternative Energy Coalition having a seminar on "Biodiesel Demystified." I liked the handbill look.

Bikes were big players. In fact, I've been told that these green ones with the chain are for public use. You just use it as needed, and leave it for the next person. Maybe not this one, but I know that exists...just not sure of the I didn't feel free to hop on. People here have helmet clips on their backpacks.

The Best Part of the Late Morning/Early Afternoon

Next I spent a couple hours walking along the sidewalk next the Willamette River. There's a huge park next to it. I read some. Had a little worship service with my worship playlist on the iPod. Prayed some. Walked some more.

A guy tried to sell me some drugs. I said, "No, thanks." I wondered why I said "thanks" instead of following Nancy Reagan's advice. Later that guy was in a fistfight with another guy. Maybe he should follow Nancy Reagan's advice.

There were homeless folks under one of the bridges. Some of them had iPods. It seemed strange, but then if I were suddenly homeless, I'd keep my iPod. I just don't know where I'd charge it up.

There were lots of joggers. I wondered if it had something to do with the Portland Marathon I saw advertised everywhere. I might could get motivated to exercise if it was 58 degrees and I ran or walked or biked by the Willamette every day, though. Turns out there was some promotion of "exercise during lunch hour" thing I saw in the newspaper I glanced at over lunch.

I won't bore you with the things I thought about (that's a nice way to say I'd rather not let you all in on my private walk with God)...

...or prayed about...

...our read about...

but trust that those experiences while seeing views like this...


...stuff like that keeps me centered.

And, later...dinner with Alperts & a Stevenson, with Evan and 'Nardos thrown in for good measure.

Life is good, man. Life is good.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You Know, "Fun" Doesn't Really Describe It

Flying stand-by.
Arrive DFW at 7:15AM. Read for an hour and a half.

First available flight, 9:15AM. Get into the jetway only to be recalled--the couple they were waiting on got in before the door closed, so me and this nice lady had to come back out. Text-messaged Meredith to let her know I wouldn't be able to make her youth ministry class with her.

Go to next gate. Read for two hours.

Next flight, 12:05PM. Not even close. Overbooked.

Arrive at the next gate. Read for two and a half hours.

Next flight, 3:40PM. Close, but no cigar. Me and the nice lady from Springfield trying to get to Portland become friends after seeing each other at the same gates.

Arrive at the next gate. Read for an hour and a half.

Next flight, 5:40PM. Lobby clears out. Names are called. No one left but me. Ticket counter lady says it's the last call for Portland flight #2211, and asks me if I'm waiting. I said, "Yep. Stand-by." She says she thought she called all the names on the list but she'd double check. "Nope. You're here, and we've got two seats. Here you go!"

It's 3B. First-class. Nice.

Get to seat. Put stuff in overhead bin except book and iPod.

Plane backs up. Strange noise. Plane pulls forward. Dudes check engine that triggered a warning light. They double check it. We leave an hour late...I read.

Four hour flight. I read...amidst pampering. Chicken. Vino. Ice cream. Hot towels. Nice. I finished the book. 567 pages. A business book. Tough read, but had some stuff I can use.

Arrive Portland at 8:25PM their time.

My luggage actually beat me here. It was locked in a glass case and I saw it before I waited in line. A nice employee unlocked the case for me and I had luggage faster than everyone else on my flight.

I call the fam. Just to let 'em know I'm here. There was minor rejoicing, but it was late in Texas.

I call the Alperts. A little late to get together since they have to work tomorrow, so we decide to just wait until dinner tomorrow.

I rent the car. Hyundai Elantra...I spared no expense.

I saw the coolest sight on I-5: Portland at night, reflecting in the Willamette River. That alone made all day worth it. Manalive what a beautiful city at night. I'm already sold.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Thanks to my wife's friend Kim and my new boss Randy (who makes us take our allotted vacation days) and my friends Michael and Katie...

...I'm spending a few days in PORTLAND!

Tomorrow, I'm off to the Pacific Northwest and I couldn't be more stoked. I'm not sure exactly what I'll be doing but I intend to go to a youth ministry class at Multnomah with Meredith, and visiting a huge bookstore there, and I know I'll be going to the Alpert's church (I really enjoy getting to visit other churches--occupational fun, I guess)...and maybe just having some down time.

This looks VERY promising.
Enjoy Your Schadenfreude

I'm thinking about failure.

Out and out failure.

And (knock on wood) it hasn't happened to me much in my life. I made All-Stars in baseball (back before there was something called "select" ball/travel teams) more often than not. I finished third in the nation in a Putt-Putt tournament (No has a serious side, and we went to Memphis to play in the nationals. I actually led after the first three rounds.) I was president of my senior class. I graduated from college and grad school.

Sure, I failed a class in college once. But, seriously, it was math, the guy was from Korea and actually had a translator in class, and I didn't know the rules to "drop & add" despite signing the paper saying I read and understood the Student Handbook.

I had a promising dating relationship go south that I didn't understand the reasons "why" but I'm not sure that was a failure. She kept saying I didn't do anything wrong. She was the type of person that wouldn't say that just to make you feel better, either. We were just young and timing was bad. I think she'd agree.

I couldn't play college baseball, but that wasn't necessarily a failure. There were guys named Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas on my university's baseball I don't view heading to the fraternity softball league any great shame there, either.

And yes, I have those moments of self-doubt where I feel like a failure as a husband...

...or a father...

...or a pastor.

But those usually are fleeting moments where you get tunnel-visioned about a particular incident. They tend to fade when you step back and glance at the forest instead of whatever the particular tree is.

Then...I discovered an area of true failure in my life:


I've been blessed with good genetic health. I don't miss work much and generally have lots of energy to do lock-ins or have early-morning coffee with that kid after Bible study conversations ended after 10PM.

But I fail miserably--and have for as long as I can remember--at good eating habits and consistent exercise (although exercise in high school was no problem).

I think it started not long after my dad died and we went into survival mode as a family. My mom went back to grad school at nights so my sister and I subsisted on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, lime green kool-aid, and various soups. My personal favorite as a 13-year-old chef was making hot dogs in the microwave, wrapping them in a slice of bread with cheese and drinking sweet tea with them.

College life was no different. Once I won a dare that I couldn't eat at McDonald's every day for a month. Fraternity house food didn't help much. Calling Tiger Pies and ordering (and eating) a 12-inch sausage/pepperoni pizza and two cans of Coke at midnight was somewhat normal. I think if you get a Christmas card from the local McDonald's thanking you for your patronage it might be a sign you aren't eating well.

Life in youth ministry makes diet interesting. You meet in fast-food restaurants. You drink lots of coffee all day. You eat loads of pizza after you feed the masses (and take whatever leftovers home). You eat camp food. You have red meat & movie nights with your guys. You stay up late. You get up early. You drink more and more coffee.

And, I tell myself I have to exercise. So, I do. I set goals. I weigh in. I go great for a month or two or three. Three years ago I even started training for a marathon and got up to my 18-mile runs...then a series of nagging injuries derailed that attempt. My good friend Katherine wants me to run a local half-marathon with her and some friends this December, but I'm having trouble with the motivation. The health club membership goes in spurts...but we don't want to let it go because we got in at a great price and would like to keep it. But, inconsistency rules the day there...and it's down to nothing at this point, unless you count the stairs at work.

So, I think that's a big failure in my life. One that I'm sure will reap difficulty down the road...

...but I can't seem to get over it. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ohh, If I Were King, Yeah, The World Would Swing...

Love it when you can fire off an obscure Tom Petty line in the title.

Anyway, there's a guy named Kinky Friedman running for governor here in Texas. He doesn't appear to have much of a chance and his major strength seems to be in the reality that he's an "outsider" to the political process. He's also a loose cannon of sorts--seems to have trouble when to joke and when to be serious.

So, I got to thinking what I'd like to do if I become Grand Poohbah of The World.

First, I'm thinking bean-bag chairs on airplanes. Sure, we'd need to think through special sizes and such for the passengers who might have trouble getting in and out of them, and, of course, first-class will get those huge ones from Love Sacks. But I think that'd be the way to go. I mean, in a crash, maybe you could just unzip them and use the padding like Niagra Falls barrel free-falls...and the flotation device would be better, I'm thinking.

Secondly, we'd somehow rig up the Interstate system to have Disney-type monorails in the medians. Maybe even use that magnet technology that Japan has (or is it China?) for high-speed transport--and doing our very best to get everyone who doesn't live in the Northeast to depend on public transportation of all sorts.

Third, the casual lifestyle is the new "formal." You can go to any meeting or any gathering in public wearing flannel pants if you want. Sweatshirts or floppy t-shirts, too. We'll keep suits for funerals and weddings, but after that, it's jeans to work for everyone. Dockers will be outlawed, as will sweatpants unless they have a genuine athletic purpose to serve.

Fourth, iPods will be given to everyone. Paint & canvases, musical instruments & literature over 5 years old will be given away free to anyone who wants to use them. The arts will have full commitment.

Fifth, mobile-phone etiquette will be mandatory and yet, joyfully agreed upon and implemented.

Sixth, in the U.S.A., we have mandatory two sit-down meals per day with family. No work or school starts until 9AM, so mandatory breakfast hour is 7 to 8. Lunch is with either school or work...but it cannot be eaten alone or at a desk (you must use the break room or whatever). The entire country takes a break from 6:30--7:30PM for family dinner hour. Of course, work must be considerate to allow you to be seated at your home table at 6:30PM SHARP. People will use this time to build relationships. Play "hi's & low's" if you want, or we'll even supply e-mailed conversation starters. NO television during this time.

So that's a start...if you have any platform additions, I'll entertain those now. It'll be a benevolent in which the masses have access through blog comments!

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Thoughtful Gift...I Think?

I was pretty excited that I got a UPS delivery from My higher-order life-liver sister Jilly has been known to fire off little gifts for no reason and the order on the front said it was from her.

I was even more excited to see that it was a book. I'm taking some time off work and that would seem pretty thoughtful, too.

The title?

No One Cares What You Had For Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog by Margaret Mason.

One one hand: Thoughtful, practical, & timely gift.

On the other: What does it say about my blog and/or writing?

So, ummm...

Thanks, Jilly. I think?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another Peculiar Thing About Texas

It's been a very Dutch kind of day here. You know, drizzly. Occasional thunderstorm. Humid. Cloudy. You get the idea.

On the weather segment on the nightly news last night they were describing this kind of day precisely. Drizzle. Possible thunderstorms. High humidity. Mostly cloudy. They got the idea.

But they used this wording to prepare us for it:

"Get ready for a rain event tomorrow."

It's been so dry that a day like today is an event. Go figure.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Selling Out

My beloved Auburn Tigers won a big game 7-3 against L.S.U. in a game it really was two of the best teams in the country going at it and the cliche holds true: It's a shame somebody had to lose it.

But, if you're on the Auburn side of the ledger: Sweet.

And, now, I feel bad. I feel bad because I've more or less sold my soul.

See, I have a firm belief that once I declare my home baseball team dead I don't go to the ballpark to see them. It's more or less my seasonal divorce of the team, only to be reunited next March when spring training starts. It's more a separation of sorts.

Anyway, one of my friends from church hooked me up with tickets on the sixth row by the dugout. The home dugout.

And, the chance to go with good friends and my daughter in great seats in nice weather... a beautiful ballpark.


Forgive me if I enjoy the night, okay? These are really sweet seats.

Friday, September 15, 2006

This Is Just An Exhibition. It Is Not A Competition. So, Please. No Wagering! Part 3

High School picks last week: 1-1.
High School picks for the year: 1-2.

College picks last week: 7-1.
College picks for the year: 16-1.

College against the line last week: 4-4.
College against the line for the year: 9-8.

Professonal picks (against the line only): 0-1.

High Schools This Week

Flower Mound vs. Grapevine: Flower Mound was surprisingly effective on defense last week and I think they're good enough on offense to score points on Grapevine. Prediction: Flower Mound 24, Grapevine 14.

Marcus vs. Mansfield-Summit: Mansfield's quarterback has already committed to Texas...he's a Vince Young kind of player and they light up the scoreboard. Their defense is atrocious and Marcus threw for over 350 yards in their loss last week. It'll be a track meet, but I think the Texas signee gets the better of Marcus. Prediction: Summit 38, Marcus 28.

(Lewisville's Fighting Farmers have an open date)

Colleges This Week

L.S.U. at Auburn (-3): Premier game of the weekend, #6 at #3. This game is big for the national championship hopes of both teams and they are incredibly evenly matched. It'll come down to turnovers and coaching in that order. L.S.U.'s quarterback is more likely to turn it over than Auburn's. I tihnk Tuberville is a better coach than Les Miles. Auburn's at home. It'll be close. Maybe even overtime. Prediction: Auburn 17, L.S.U. 10.

Miami (Fla.) at Louisville (-4): Miami is NOT the Miami of old and losing to a Florida State team that isn't the F.S.U. of old isn't that impressive. I think Petrino will win bigger than expected. Prediction: Louisville 28, Miami 17.

Nebraska at U.S.C. (-18): Are you kidding? This stuff about Nebraska being back is a bit premature. Arkansas is better than they are, and U.S.C. had little trouble with the Hogs at home. They'll handle this one with ease, too. Prediction: U.S.C. 49, Nebraska 21

Florida at Tennessee (+4): Getting the Vols and points at home is VERY tempting, but I don't think the Vols are as good as advertised. They beat a terribly overrated Cal team by 16 and barely held on against Air Force. If teams are supposed to improve the most from week 1 to week 2, then the Vols took a step back. I think they're the same as last year, but the Gators are better than they were last year. Prediction: Florida 28, Tennessee 21

Clemson at Florida State (-5): I think the 'Noles beating Miami has everybody impressed, but I just don't think it was all that great. They struggled against a mediocre team and won by a field goal. I think Clemson wins this one outright. I'll take the points, but I don't think I'll need them. Prediction:Clemson 21, Florida State 17.

Michigan at Notre Dame (-5): Vanderbilt gave Michigan fits in the Big House while Notre Dame's defense ate Penn State alive. Michigan might be better than Penn State, but not three touchdowns better.Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Michigan 21.

Oklahoma at Oregon (-5): I'm not sure why Oregon is favored here. Whenever anybody talks about the best team it's Oklahoma and the reasons you hear for Oregon involve the Quack Attack's home field advantage. Big 12 and smashmouth football will rule the day here. Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Oregon 24.

Texas Tech at T.C.U. (+2): The last time the two teams met the Red Raiders scored 70. The nation's longest win streak will come to an end in Fort Worth. Again, the Big 12 talent will win out, even with a suspect defense like Tech has. Prediction: Texas Tech 42, T.C.U. 31.


Washington at Dallas (-6): The Cowboys looked fairly good against a very tough defense and scored 17. The Redskins aren't as good as Jacksonville on offense and the Jags scored 24. I like Dallas. Prediction: Dallas 24, Washington 13

Man, it's a tough week with lots of close picks this week...what do YOU think?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ten Things I'm Glad I Did

So I've been having writer's block. Big time. I don't know if it's because I've started blogging at night or what. But I've got it. Big time.

And, when this happens, I just go to the old creativity portal and get some blog prompts. The one that came up tonight was to make a list of 10 things you're glad you did..., I'm glad I...

1. Married Tracy. Enough said.
2. Graduated from university and seminary with okay grades (university) and great grades (seminary)...and that Auburn was my choice for college.
3. Moved to Dallas...even though Alabama was great for childhood, I've always been a metropolitan kind of guy.
4. Took the Crossroads job. It showed me that healthy churches with growing Christians and authentic leadership actually exist.
5. Have dogs as pets instead of cats or birds or hamsters. Dogs rule.
6. Spent time at Trinity Life Church, because I've seen more long-term fruit per capita in students that ministry and there was not a minute that was wasted, even if that fruit came at great personal trials.
7. Have a great relationship with my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly. I don't know of anybody smarter and funnier and more interesting than she is, and I'm glad we're related.
8. Chose to listen to alternative music and have my life's soundtrack wind up WAY better than if I'd listened to what MTV and radio gave us in the high school driving-around-years.
9. Got my tattoos and might even get another. There's a cross I've been meaning to get.
10. Worked to have a good relationship with my girls. I don't think I'll regret one minute of that, and I've enjoyed every stage of their growth as people. It's cool being their dad.

What're some things you're glad YOU did?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Things I'll Never Forget...

...the hug Tracy gave me after she said she'd marry me.
...when the nurses, one of whom I'd been out on a date with in high school, handed me Kelsey for the first time.
...listening to Shelby breathe on her first day with us while I was in an airport in Charlotte, North Carolina.
...the first time I walked into Auburn's football stadium.
...the slow-motion replay in my brain of the day I wrecked my mom's Chevy Citation at age 16.
...standing on a cliff on the Pacific Ocean at Half Moon Bay and seeing Shane & Jilly & family & their friends all there, right after the bagpiper stopped and before the ceremony started. first 4-6-3 double play at age 11. A legitimate ground ball to me at second, flipping it to Tim Poirier at short who threw to Joey Vessels at first. We felt like big leaguers, but were kinda shocked we'd actually pulled it off.
...scoring a goal against Applebaum, widely regarded as the best street hockey goalie of all time. We lost that game 3-2 and Bennie Calma got in a fight.
...the night we told our kids at Huffman High School we were moving to Texas to go to seminary, and then they raised the money for movers to get it done.
...the drive to Texas in my Buick Skyhawk and Tracy's Nissan Pulsar. She had Kelsey & Shelby in her car. I had Buford in mine.
...watching the Space Shuttle explode after lift-off over and over at the fraternity house, and having my friend Tom (an aerospace engineering major) say, "It could only be caused by the O-rings. Had to be those, man." airplanes in our skies in the days after 9/11. In our area of Dallas, at any time of day, you can usually spot at least 5. last day at seminary.
...almost every day during our trip to Disney World. first time to cross into Juarez.
...the fact that Air Haiti wrecked airplanes adorn the runway at Port-Au-Prince.
...the bike paths in Holland.
...stepping off the plane in New York City the first time and feeling that life was moving and happening in every inch of that city.
...playing with our Evil Kneivel stunt motorcycles and action figures as kids.
...another toy I had as a kid: Super Toe. It was a football player who kicked plastic footballs through PVC uprights when you smacked his head.
...playing PONG for hours.
...the day we got cable television and you could watch cartoons at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I was introduced to The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Spiderman. Not to mention The Three Stooges and The Little Rascals and Gilligan's Island.
...when a respected business man I was friends with told me that the video rental store idea was a bad one because "no one will rent enough videos to make it viable." I wonder if he ever went to Blockbuster years later.
...the energy and effort my fraternity put into our annual Luau party. first sermon at CBC. It felt like home even then.

Just trying to get the writing brain in gear...that's all.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Barbarian Way


Got tired of fast-food...

...which has become the default meals of late because of our fast-lane lives.

I knew Tracy had to drive Shelby to ballet lessons in Fort Worth. Her day and all. So I stopped by the grocery store for something to grill for Kelsey and I. I chose the turkey breast in a lemon-garlic marinade. Salad on the docket, too. As was chicken noodle soup. A choice of sweet tea or peach tea.

Because Kelsey's extracurricular activity kept her a couple of hours after school I decided to wait until after I picked her up to start everything. Before I could fire up the grill I had to search for the red butane starter we use on fires and grills. It got hung up in burning ribbon edges of ballet shoes to keep them from fraying. I would never have guessed that so I called Tracy. She was aware of the new location of said red butane starter.

Anyway, it started to rain.

The newscaster broke in to tell us that a powerful storm was in our town. Winds gusting to 70 miles an hour.

Rain starts to really fall hard. I tell Kelsey I'd wait about 10 minutes until this blew over.

Then the power flickered. Then it went out.

After about 20 minutes the rain let up and I fired up the grill. Then it got dark in the house, so Kelsey and I used said red butane starter to light about 15 candles in two rooms.

I slow-grilled the turkey breast.
I fixed the salads.
I heated up the soup on the grill.
No television.
No internet.
No radio.
Only an occasional text message kept us in contact with the outside world for the next hour and a half or so.
Just me and my daughter and more food than we could eat alone.
I was all prepped to go Abe Lincoln and read by candlelight, too.

The power returned at about 9PM.

I wished it'd waited about another hour.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago Today...

I am.
I will never forget.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mallard Fillmore Comic, Sept. 10, 2006


Saturday, September 09, 2006


For the better part of the last 19 years my life has involved things like...

...visiting high school lunchrooms.
...going to football games on Friday nights.
...goofing around with my students before Sunday School in the classroom.
...eating fast-food with groups of them.
...drinking coffee with them in coffee shops.

All sorts of stuff like that.

Now, my daughter is in that lunchroom.
She's hanging out with her friends at the game.
She's socializing before class time.
She's scarfing down Wendy's.
She's sitting in the purple chairs.

My question is this:

Who is cramping who's style?


Friday, September 08, 2006

This Is Just An Exhibition. It Is Not A Competition. So, Please. No Wagering, Week #2

Well, last week went pretty well as far as the college football games I picked...I actually went 9-0 picking winners...but only 5-4 against the point spread. Auburn was better than I thought they'd be, Notre Dame needed another TD, and Alabama wasn't nearly as dominant as I thought they'd be. Everybody else did about as well as I figured.

Last Week, & therefore overall:
High School: 0-1.
College: 9-0.
College vs. line: 5-4.
No pro games.

This week is actually pretty much a full slate of games, so here we go:

High School

Flower Mound Jaguars vs. Irving Nimitz: I really think the Jags will be strong contenders for a playoff spot this year, and should handle their home opener tonight. Prediction: Flower Mound 24, Irving Nimitz 13

Marcus Marauders vs. Grapevine: Grapevine usually has a strong team and Marcus isn't predicted to do very well this season. But I think Coach Mayes is pretty good and really has Marcus hungry to get back to the playoffs. I think Marcus will play pretty well this week. Prediction: Marcus 22, Grapevine 14


Auburn at Mississippi State (+21): Auburn looked VERY sharp last weekend but I do think Washington State isn't that stout on defense. The Bulldogs will be better on "D" but their offense is really struggling--and look for last year's starting QB Omarr Conner to take over at some point. Auburn's not really looking to show LSU anything so they'll take it easy...and the only concern is will they cover the point spread. I think so. Prediction: Auburn 31, Mississippi State 7

Ole Miss at Missouri (-10): Ed Orgeron is a whiz on defense and Missouri is starting a young guy at QB. Yeah, Ole Miss is down and they're on the road, but I like them getting 10 points. Prediction: Missouri 24, Ole Miss 17

Vanderbilt at Alabama (-16): Vandy got after Michigan in the Big House and Bama was underwhelming against Hawaii. If Vandy doesn't turn the ball over against Michigan they lose by a touchdown, but I think they'll turn it over against Bama a couple of times, too. Plus, Vandy only scored by using a trick play. Prediction: Alabama 24, Vanderbilt 3

Penn State at Notre Dame (-7.5): Georgia Tech has a history of loading up on folks to start the season. Penn State is better than Tech on offense but worse on defense. I'll give the points and take Notre Dame at home. Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Penn State 14.

Arizona at L.S.U. (-16): Again, the overrated Pac-10 gets credit for being better than they are. (see Cal & Washington State last week) Take USC out of that conference and you've got nothing but 2nd tier teams. Give me L.S.U. in a rout, even if they're laying low for Auburn next week. Prediction: L.S.U. 42, Arizona 17

Georgia at South Carolina (+3.5): Steve Spurrier and points at home? I'm tempted. Very tempted, especially with Georgia having quarterback troubles. Deep down, though, the Dogs are more talented top to bottom. Give me the Dawgs. Prediction: Georgia 20, South Carolina 14

Ohio State at Texas (-3): Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has won 29 straight games. Texas at home, even with a new quarterback will have an answer defensively and score enough to win. Prediction: Texas 21, Ohio State 17

Texas Tech at Texas El Paso (+7.5): The Red Raiders took it easy on S.M.U. last week and is better than UTEP...even on the road. Prediction: Texas Tech 34, U.T.E.P. 21


Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3): At issue is the Dallas offense against the Jacksonville defense. The Cowboys won't have much success running the ball, but I think they'll get enough from T.O. and Terry Glenn and Bledsoe to score 3 TD's. The Cowboys defense should hold Jacksonville in check, too. Prediction: Dallas 21, Jacksonville 17

There they are...what do you think?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

You Know What Sounds Like A Good Idea, But Isn't?

Deciding to browse through your journals from your senior year of college...

...first stint at seminary...

...first year of marriage...

...and first year of ministry.


It sounded like a good idea when it went through my brain. After reading my thought processes about all the above, well, two questions come to mind:

First, where's that red butane lighter we start the grill and the fireplace with?

And, secondly, has our community's "burn ban" been lifted?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that if you need proof that there's a media bias in college football, look no further than this week's poll. U.S.C. jumped three spots OVER teams who won, from #6 to #3 by simply beating a banged-up Arkansas team. The logic for Auburn getting screwed in 2004 was that that U.S.C. and Oklahoma started #1 and #2 and never lost. Well, Auburn started #4 and never lost, as did Notre Dame, yet they're both tied for fifth this week. It's really NOT a fair system. Sure, Auburn's got to win all their games, but if the winner of the Ohio State/Texas game & U.S.C. go unbeaten, Notre Dame and the Auburn/LSU winner, or Tennessee/Georgia/Florida winner (all 5 SEC teams in the top 12) will get left out.

...that Dane Cook is NOT funny and might be the most overrated comedian of all-time. As exhibit "A" I submit his most recent HBO special.

...that I'm not sure where I stand on HellHouse 16: Final Destination and others like it. I mean, it's possible that this is a highly effective ministry and I have no doubt many teens will make professions of faith. There's room in The Kingdom for people who believe this is a good ministry and it's highly likely they believe they're doing something meaningful. However, I wonder if the number of folks "put off" is too large a price to pay. Not to mention their flyer is a little fuzzy: It says, "It's an opportunity for Pastors and Youth Leaders alike to bring their students to an event like HellHouse and walk away with their students' lives being forever changed." Then it also says, "We are clearly trying to reach the unchurched in our surrounding communities with the intense message of HellHouse." Oh yeah, and "A quick note the HellHouse does incorporate intense violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements. Parent direction is advised for children under 13 years of age." I'm really uncomfortable that this exists but at the same time I think I just need to get over myself on this one. It isn't my cup of tea, that's for sure.

...that I never commented on a local pastor who was convicted of all sorts of debauchery. It involved accusations of rape and drug use and lying and cheating...all very tabloid stuff. Several people asked me to blog about it, but the only comment that I have is that the reality of it is I'm capable of ANY sin if I'm not Spirit-led, so I best be about pursuing that. Other than that, I think the justice system worked brilliantly in this case from what I read. movie going has really slowed down and I only have four months left of my pass. I better hop to it.

...that the fine folks at Lowe's make building a mailbox easy. Well, it isn't really "building" per se, but more one of those deals where a guy shows you everthing you need and then you just click it all together like Legos.

...that I'm excited for my friend Keila, who got the part of Lucy in the drama department's production of The Chronicles of Narnia. I don't mind telling you, the drama departments of the local high schools, like pretty much everything else extracurricular at the local high schools, are top-drawer.

...that my senior pastor came back from Portland telling stories and it all sounded so cool. I definitely want to visit Mike & Katie's church sometime. season sure is deflating when your team is out of it in September, but here comes the NFL and the NHL to the rescue!

...some people are moving and they came to our office to say "goodbye" which involved some tears by them as well as some on our staff. Sometimes I think those of us that work there take that for granted, that CBC is really a pretty nice "community" even if we're a "large" church.

...I've got a friend who wants to take off the summer and visit every major league park next year in a couple of month road trip. The levels of temptation on that are astounding, and I daydream of ways to try to make it work and still balance out all my other responsibilities. was 87 degrees here today and most everyone was in a very good mood.

...that Bible study is in a few minutes, so I gotta go.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I Know I Shouldn't Have, But...

...I started reading N.T. Wright's new book entitled Simply Christian. In effect, it's for those outside the faith to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ. There's been SO much that has muddied those waters over time.

Anyway, N.T. Wright is an excellent provocateur and a very good writer to boot. He has the intellectual/academic stripes to pull it off for anyone, follower or not, to at least respect where he's coming from.

But the good Dr. Wright always gets underneath my skin in the best possible ways and thus far this book is no different. Here's what got me going only 8 pages in:

"And now we have the new global evils; rampant, uncaring and irresponsible materialism and capitalism on the one hand; raging, unthinking religious fundamentalism on the other. As one famous book puts it, we have 'Jihad versus McWorld.' (whether there is such a thing a caring capitalism, or for that matter thoughtful fundamentalism, isn't the point at the moment.) This brings us back to where were were a few minutes ago. It doesn't take a Ph.D in macroeconomics to know that if the rich are getting richer by the minute, and the poor poorer, there is something badly wrong.

Meanwhile, we all want a happy and secure home life. Dr. Johnson, the eighteenth-century conversationalist, once remarked that the aim and goal of all human endeavor is to be 'happy at home.' But in the Western world, and many other parts as well, homes and families are tearing themselves apart. The gentle art of being gentle--of kindness and forgiveness, sensitivity and thoughtfulness and generosity and humility and good old-fashioned love--have gone out of fashion. Ironically, everyone is demanding their 'rights,' and this demand is so shrill that it destroys one of the most basic 'rights,' if we can put it like that: the 'right,' or at least the longing and hope, to have a peaceful, stable, secure, and caring place to live, to be, to learn and to flourish.

Once again people ask the question: Why is it like this? Does it have to be like this? Can things be put to rights, and if so, how? Can the world be resuced? Can we be rescued?

And once again we find ourselves asking: Isn't it odd that it should be like that? Isn't it strange that we should all want things to be put to rights but can't seem to do it? And, isn't the oddest thing of all the fact that I, myself, know what I ought to do but often don't do it?"

I could throw some things out there for discussion but it'd be too much. Just take it and run with it. I'm going back to my reading. I'm truly fascinated by the direction of this book...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day!

My first job was working on the golf course maintainence crew at Green Valley Country Club. It would be tempting as a Labor Day blog to list all those things you're supposed to learn: Like punching a time clock, or learning to deal with a mean boss, or the integrity of a job well-done...stuff like that. And, yeah, I guess you could say that I learned a few of those things that "build character."

But you wanna know what I really learned at my first job?

That when you work with a lot of your buddies and the boss gets all of your names wrong but kinda close it's funny every time. We still call each other those things 24 years later. Bill, our boss, would start the day with something like this: "Howell (Hal), you and Brett (Brent) get the sand-pro and rake the traps. Timmy (Jimmy), take This Man Right Here (Bo) and whip the greens."

That if you drive a golf cart in the rain down the hill on #10 and don't hit the brakes, when you turn into the dog-leg left, you can relatively safely do about six 360 degree spins. You can also repeat the process about 4 times before someone spotted Bill's truck on the horizon.

That 3-speed "on-the-tree" Cushman motorized carts, a night watering job for three weeks to save the greens, and 5 of your best friends can be the most fun 16-year-old guys can have and get paid for it.

That you really have to get your story straight the next morning about exactly why that 3-speed "on-the-tree" Cushman motorized cart's frame was bent beyond repair in a fairway far removed from where you were supposed to be watering. That can be the most difficult task 16-year-old guys can have after having the most fun they can have getting paid for it.

That sometimes big-wig country club members have the ability to get sod and staff to do their yards while on club time. And the head greenskeeper can get the same service for his farm. Hmmmm.

That sometimes, when you're having a hard summer that requires night watering, you have to dye the greens green to keep the club members from noticing when they drive in from the road. Also, when the LPGA comes to town and the event is on TV, you get the dye out, too.

That golf courses are big enough to take your 3-speed Cushman out to a wooded area and take a nap after the boss assigns you a "busy work" job he'll never notice gets done or not.

That you should never put regular gas in a deisel powered engine, or vice-versa. Although I didn't personally do this, Timmy created quite a stir one afternoon in which our boss thought the tractor might actually explode. We could've only hoped as the tractor sat in a fairway, running, while we watched from about 100 yards away.

That few things will get your heart rate up faster than hitting a den of snakes while using a weed-eater around the creek.

That we were supposed to put all the balls we found (about 2 dozen a day or so) into a box in the shop. Bill sold them to club members. Hmmmmm.

The boss can put shop gas in his own car every day. Hmmmmm.

The boss would say things that you can't laugh out in front of him but can laugh hysterically 30 seconds after he leaves, like, "Howell, if that's a straight line then my butt's a Chinese typewriter." We'd re-use said phrases as often as they'd remotely fit into any discussion. You'd be surprised at how often they would. I've still got no idea what a Chinese typewriter would even look like but I don't think my visual idea is correct.

That if you're doing some work behind a green and a golfer comes looking for his lost ball, he'll give you $5 to throw it for him to get a better lie that'll give him a chance to win his $100 Nassau. And hurry up because the other cart's coming.

That there's an art to finding out where you can, ahem, relieve yourself outside while staying out of view of the golfers.

And, now that I think of it, those things did "build character."

So, what was your first job and what did you learn that wasn't necessarily what you were supposed to learn?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Happy 15th Birthday, Kelsey. Happy Birthday!

The Lovliest Village On The Plains

I'm not exactly sure of her motivation. Really. I'm not.

I mean, I know she's grown up in our home where life stops down whenever the Auburn Tigers play football on television. I guess habits learned in your formative years growing up in Alabama stay with you even 12 years and 680 miles away. Of course, for every AU gridiron victory my children are treated to banana splits but I really think it was more than that.

It's more than banana splits, though. The bottom line is that she's grafted into a love for the football team. Maybe God's just providing for me even though He didn't bless me with sons. Next best thing: A daughter passionate about YOUR team. No matter how she got it. I'll take it.

And for her birthday gift this year, she asked for a trip to the game. She twisted my arm. Hard. Eventually, I gave in. By "eventually," I mean roughly 6 seconds. 5 of those were trying to think about who to call for the ticket hook-up.

We arrived on GameDay an found a new AU tradition: No parking. In the decade since I've attended a game they apparently decided to put educational buildings where there used to be game parking. What's going on at my football factory alma mater? Eventually we found a place.

I decided to give her the full-blown experience and take part in all the things you'd show someone who wanted the full-blown experience. We started with the trip to J & M Bookstore for t-shirts and such. The hugely popular store even gives out stickers that read, "I survived gameday at J&M." It's a pretty big deal and we even had a chance encounter with legendary AU coach Pat Dye who was signing books in the store.

Then it was a walk to Mama Goldberg's Deli. A traditional landmark with good food and I ran into several fraternity brothers: Jenks (my "big brother'), Owens and Jep. We caught up on as many guys as we could think of and even called Hollywood when they found out I had his number. Apparently, traditional landmarks have their price as the owner sold the place for a hefty price with two was my last visit, I guess.

Next stop: Tiger Walk. I overheard a Washington State fan (our Pac-10 opponent this weekend) on his cell phone, "Dude, you're NOT going to believe this! Their fans are lined up for about 12 blocks, shoulder to shoulder about 15 people deep on two sides...and I think all they're gonna do is watch the team walk to the stadium." That is all that's done by about 20,000 folks cheering the boys on, but they're led by cheerleaders, band folks, and of course, Aubie:

Then we visited with one of my best friends from AU, Tim. We got to see his wife and kids and it was a fantastic half hour. We've got to do a better job of keeping in touch. We tailgated with the real way that only Southeastern Conference folks do it. Kelsey was impressed.

Then, it was in to the stadium:

The War Eagle flew to midfield 10 minutes before kickoff and Kelsey got to experience 87,515 folks cheering their team on with real, live passion and intensity. She told me she was impressed by how noisy folks got.

The folks got antsy when the visitors went ahead 7-6 early, but it didn't last long as Auburn jumped to a 19-7 halftime lead. Bring on the band (but I didn't get a photo of the fireworks over the stadium a few seconds later--my wife's the family photographer, so cut me some slack, okay?):

Then Auburn put the game away and wound up winning by 26 points. As you can tell, we were pretty happy about all this:

And, to end the day, in the most bizarre tradition in college sports, we participated in the ritual rolling of Toomer's Corner with toilet paper. I can't explain it, nor do I try, but it's what happens, man:

And a drive home with a tired, but happy kid. She got her birthday present.

But is it bad that I feel like maybe I got more out of the present than she did? Watching her enjoy all this made it quite an enjoyable day for myself.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Headline From Today's Huntsville Times...

Good morning, Alabama: It's game day
Passion for football comes through loud and clear, be it War Eagle! or Roll Tide!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

By MIKE MARSHALLTimes Staff Writer,

The best time of year in the state of Alabama - the absolute best time of all - is the week before the college football season begins.

This is the time of year when every team's hopes are still unspoiled, when every fan of the University of Alabama and Auburn University is flooded with anticipation, wondering if this is the season of another championship...finish the article here


It is GameDay.

I'm in it, man. With my daughter...her first Dixie GameDay, and I think I'm as excited to have her see it as I am to be going.

Life is grand.

Friday, September 01, 2006

21 Gun Salute?

We have ways of celebrating various milestones in our culture. A soldier might get a ceremony with a medal and commendation letters for a job well done. An actor might get a star in a sidewalk. An athlete might get their jersey number retired. A worker might get a bonus or a gift. A graduate might get to "walk." You get the idea.

I'm not given to pomp and circumstance. I mean, I skipped graduation ceremonies at university and graduate school because I didn't want to be bothered with losing an entire weekend (I went to ballgames instead).

I get why other people are all into it and celebrate with them--especially my high schoolers, but, frankly, I'm a bit embarrassed if my accomplishments get noticed. I don't know why this is the case.

However, I tried to keep a personal milestone a secret and apparently have failed in such an endeavor. Today is my 10th anniversary of working at Crossroads Bible Church. It's been the highlight of my professional life working there and I'm still enjoying it--certainly not taking it for granted that I work at a wonderful place with people who are sincere about what they believe and are good at what they do and creative and inspirational and...well...

...I know it's a once-in-a-lifetime situation. And it's a rarity. Most youth ministers never even make it five years at one place.

And here I've made it 10.

And in a fashion that only people who work with teenagers will understand, I got the most glorious of all tributes when I went out to get my morning paper today:

So, to whoever did this (and Alyssa Baker and my cherished group of seniors, you are all HIGH on the suspect list!) I absolutely cannot thank you enough for this gesture.

I'd imagine that since the secret is out there will be more congratulatory notes and such afoot...

...but I doubt that the others will be nearly as meaningful. For a youth minister to get his yard "rolled," well, there's nothing anybody else can do to match it...and I just wanted to say "thanks," but the pleasure of 10 years of service has been all mine.