Sunday, December 31, 2006

Don't Go Away Mad, Just Go Away

It's the last day of 2006, and for me, it wouldn't leave fast enough.

Sure, there were some high points and good things that took place. I don't discount or de-value those. I'm highly aware of and thankful for the numerous blessings that have somehow been bestowed upon me. I lead a charmed life.

But there were earthquakes, both personal and professional, that had tremors and aftershocks that affected pretty much every single day of 2006.

My mom died. There were signifcant tremors long before the actual earthquake. The aftershocks continue. Small aftershocks, to be sure, but aftershocks nonetheless.

A friend made a series of poor choices. There were minor tremors, to be sure. The earthquake affected pretty much everyone I care about. The aftershocks vary in degree and recur with unpredictable frequency, but aftershocks nonetheless.

In fact, last night I tried to think of a more difficult year in my four decades of breathing.

1979 was difficult. My dad died and my mom cried a lot.

1987 was difficult. That was the year I graduated college (and moved 660 miles from Tracy--before mobile phones, e-mail and the Internet), came to seminary, and only spent a semester before that little experiment was postponed for years.

1994 was difficult. Tracy and I were overworked (and seriously broke) with Campus Life, with a toddler and a new baby...the events of that year actually led to the return to Dallas Seminary.

In the rearview mirror, those termors, earthquakes and aftershocks all shaped me both personally and professionally...mostly for the better.

And, don't get me wrong, I realize that 2006's tremors, earthquakes and aftershocks will be events I look back on and see God's faithfulness and lovingkidness, both personally and professionally.

But tonight, when I'm counting down the year's last seconds with friends and family...

...I can assure you that I'll do so with more gusto than usual.

Good-bye, 2006.

And good riddance.

You won't be missed much by me.

Of this, I am certain.
Hey Everybody! It's Nathan Lee's Birthday Today...

He's skiing in Colorado and likely won't read this, so let's surprise him by doing the following things in celebration of him:

...watching Star Wars and/or Lord of the Rings. Which ones, you ask? All of them.
...shaving our heads, but if it's a special occasion leave a mohawk.
...spending a great deal of time wondering how you could make a screenplay out of what just happened.
...listening to obscure, but good, music.
...and, finally, having a lot of fun while you work, and then making a video of everything that happened.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bowl Game Prediction Review: Halfway Mark

Now that we're halfway through the college bowl season, I thought I'd give you sports fans an update on The Diner's predictions. I'll list the bowl, my pick and an explanation:

Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs. Northern Illinois (+11.5). My prediction: Give me TCU, 31-17. Result: TCU 37, UNI 7. Explanation: Almost too easy. 1-0

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs. Oregon (+3). My pick: Oregon, 41-35. Result: Brigham Young 38, Ducks 8. Explanation: NEVER, EVER buy into the idea that the PAC-10 is a serious football conference. I did, and look where it got me. 1-1.

New Orleans Bowl: Troy (+4.5) vs. Rice. My pick: I like Rice, 17-7. Result: Troy 41, Rice 17. Explanation: They play SERIOUS football in the state of Alabama and Rice is, and will apparently always be, well, Rice. 1-2.

Birmingham Bowl: South Florida vs. East Carolina (+4.5). My pick: South Florida 28, East Carolina 17. Result: USF 24, ECU 7. Explanation: South Florida's coach, Jim Leavitt, has that program on a firm foundation. 2-2.

New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico vs. San Jose State (-3.5). My pick: San Jose State, 20-14. Result: SJSU 20, New Mexico 12. Explanation: I guessed, simply because Dick Tomey took over SJSU and he's a better coach than anybody New Mexico will throw out there. 3-2.

Armed Forces Fort Worth Bowl: Tulsa (+1) vs. Utah. My pick: Tulsa 35, Utah 31. Result: Utah 25, Tulsa 13. Explanation: I knew Utah was more talented, but i really thought that Tulsa's coach would have them better prepared than this. 3-3.

Hawaii Bowl: Arizona State (+7.5) vs. Hawaii. My Pick: Give me the 'Bows, 42-28. Result: Hawaii 41-24. Explanation: Pac-10 is OH SO OVERRATED!!!!!!! 4-3.

Motor City Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee State (+10). My pick: CMU 24-13. Result: Central Michigan 31, Middle Tennessee 14. Explanation: In games like this, take the stronger conference. 5-3.

Emerald Bowl: Florida State (+4.5) vs. UCLA. My pick: UCLA 22, FSU 10. Result: FSU 44, UCLA 27. Explanation: The PAC-10 is freaking killing me! Without them, I'm 5-1. With them, I'm 5-4. Never again. Never again.

Independence Bowl: Alabama (+2) vs. Oklahoma State. My pick: Bama, in a blowout, 38-10. Result: OSU 34, Bama 31. Explanation: I figured Bama would light it up and thought their defense was better than it was. Bama proved they were the 9th best team in the SEC this year. 5-5.

Holiday Bowl: California vs. Texas A&M (+5). My pick: Cal Bears 21, Aggies 17. Result: Cal 45, Aggies 17. Explanation: My Pac-10 bad Karma continues...sure, I picked them to win, but the Aggies to cover. WHY DOES THE PAC-10 HATE ME?! 5-6.

Texas Bowl: Rutgers vs. Kansas State (+7.5). My pick: Scarlett Knights 23, K-State 14. Result: Rutgers 37, KSU 10. Explanation: It isn't bad to win your first bowl in 137 years of football, is it? 6-6.

Music City Bowl: Clemson vs. Kentucky (+10). My pick: I like Kentucky in an upset, 30-24. Result: UK 28, Clemson 20. Explanation: HEY!!! I got one right! 7-6

Sun Bowl: Missouri (+3.5) vs. Oregon State. My pick: Tigers 38, Beavers 24. Result: OSU 39, Mizzou 38. Explanation: Gutsy move to go for two to win, but when he did that, Mizzou covered! 8-6.

Liberty Bowl: South Carolina vs. Houston (+6.5). My pick: Gamecocks 27, Houston 10. Result: Spurrier 44, Houston 36. Explanation: Spurrier is awesome. 9-6, and I thought this was the day I elevated my game, only to have...

Insight Bowl: Minnesota (+6.5) vs. Texas Tech. My pick: Guns up, Red Raiders! 27-20. Result: Tech 44, Gophers 41, in OT. Explanation: I was texting my Tech friends, most of whom turned it off at 38-7 with 7 minutes to go in the third quarter. WHAT a comeback and what a game! Even if Tech didn't cover...9-7.

Champs Sports Bowl: Maryland vs. Purdue (even). Turtles vs. a liquor/beer mixture? Purdue 20, Maryland 17. Result: Maryland 24, Boilermakers 7. Explanation: Yeah. I had to look this one up in the paper. What a vanilla game. 9-8.

So, at the halfway mark, I'm, well, about halfway. I feel like I'll make a pretty good run as the teams are more nationally known now and I'm feeling pretty good about the picks!

Best Bowl So Far: Insight Bowl. Guns Up, Red Raiders! Runner-up: (tie) Independence Bowl where OSU beat the Tide on a late field goal or the Sun Bowl where the Beaver's coach goes for two instead of playing for the tie.

Worst Bowl: Champs Sports or the Motor City...take your pick. Runner up: Papajohn's.Com bowl. Boring.

Friday, December 29, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I'm glad that my friend Caroline had her baby and that mom, baby, aunts, uncles and grandparents are all fine. I can't decide if the ability to plan the "birth day" (due to Caesarian section) is better of if the sponteneity of the mad-dash of going into labor is better. I guess the end result is what matters anyway. was funny watching the other teenagers when Kid1 told them how she was bummed about not closing her car door all the way and the light on all night drained her battery. The listeners, all of whom had been driving all of two years or so, replied with, "Well, got that one out of the way already, then. You'll also have the keys-locked-in-the-car and the backing-up-bumper-tap coming up soon." Sometimes, I think it's better for parents to avoid hearing those types of conversations. a related story: Trying to draw on that little slice of EXACTLY how to hook up the jumper cables is something that you don't play "high-risk, high-reward" with. Does that ground go on the "good" car? No, wait. Hook up both positive and negative on the "bad" car and just the positive on the "good" one? Or is it vice-versa? Good thing my cables have a "dummy tag" on them. I read it as a last resort.
...sometimes the $10 all-you-can-play at Sega GameWorks from 7 to 11PM is the best way to spend an evening.
...TiVo is changing the way I watch TV. I'm learning that when I watch a show that's "live" I'm wishing I could fast-forward through the commercials. The only thing I don't like is that when it's recording a ballgame I want to watch without knowing the score and I turn it on, the set comes on THAT CHANNEL. I'm trying to avoid the score! I have to leave the room and have my wife turn it on, TiVo. Fix that!
...I've got friends who went skiing in Colorado for the break. I bet they're THRILLED with the weather they're getting. I'm kinda jealous.
...I think TV weather anchors are scary. Last night, the guy was talking about a reality that we're supposed to be having a "weather event" today...severe thunderstorms (which I kind of like, provided nobody gets hurt). He was making his gadgetry show us what today would be like every two hours and he sounded a bit too excited when his projection included, "You've seen our color purple for severe storms before, but if my computer prediction is correct, for the first time *ever* we'll see black!. That's 60 mile-per-hour winds and hail and rain blowing sideways, folks!"
...I've seen two movies lately that made me think entirely too hard. When I go to the movies, I'm looking for mindless entertainment. Granted, it's usually not hard to find, but Tracy was laughing at my furrowed brow during The Good Shepherd trying to figure out a few things.
...I'm pretty much going to Barnes & Noble today to use my gift card. One book. One CD. No preconceptions. I'm going to let them each find me. anyone else scared by how accurate the "shopping recommendations" on are? You know, it gives you suggestions on what you might like based not only what you purchased but also on what you "browsed" on their site? I don't like it that a web site knows me better than most people.
...I read where 20% of the college students in 1970 had an "A" average in high school. Today, 50% of college students had an "A" in high school. And, we're not supposed to believe that grade inflation happens so kids can get into college? No wonder our kids value manipulation of a system rather than's what we reward.
...that I'm going soda-free in 2007. Wish me luck. mom's life philosophy of "expecting the worst, then everything after that is good" played out in my own life yesterday. Remember my "steal of a deal" on StubHub getting Cotton Bowl tickets for $12 apiece instead of the $90 per ticket face value? They came yesterday and the enclosure said to make sure it was what I wanted. Yes, they were tickets to the correct game. Yes, they were the seats they listed. Yes, there were four. Yes, we were pleased. It should've been joyous, right? My mom's little echoing voice of "if it's too good to be true, it's probably not" went through my brain and I wondered if some college-aged Cotton Bowl ticket counterfeiters were making $48 bucks off me and ruined the moment.
...that ex-presidents get glowing reviews when they die. I'm not old enough to have seen that many, but for some reason, my memory is different than most of the glowing reviews I hear on the news. I wonder what they'll say in about 25 years when Clinton passes. Or in 30 or so when "W" gets reviewed.
...that I should get on with my day, and wait on the weather event.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bean Bag Baseball

There's not many retirement communities in our town. They're becoming more frequent as the explosive growth in our burg catches up with us...but our church has developed working relationships with several.

One of those is named Pinewood. Our church members put together a church service for their residents each week.

Well, they got in touch with our community minister and they sent word to us that they like to play this game called Bean Bag baseball...and they like to meet members of the younger generation, too. Maybe, if our church had a youth group, we could scare up some teenagers to play them during the holidays?

Then they threw down the gauntlet: "We've played several church youth groups and we've never lost."

So, we decide on a time & date and get teenagers to commit to an hour. It wasn't hard to field a team of 10 pretty quickly, and last night at 6:30PM the game was on.

Now, the game is fairly easy: You have bean bags that are like regular bean bags except they have fabric with laces on them to make them look authentic. You stand at home plate (in this case, duct tape) and throw them about 20 feet to a board that has holes with various baseball outcomes above them: singles, doubles, triples, home runs, outs, foul balls, etc. It's possible that it can land on the angled board without falling in a hole, and that's a strike.

Then, they actually have chairs for first, second and third, and they actually "run" the bases. So, if you got a single, you sat in the chair and moved along as the game went on.

This goes on for 7 innings. They were the home team.

We got 3 runs in the first. They got 3.
We got 5 runs in the 2nd. They got 3.
We got 5 runs in the 3rd, most of them on Sarah Drew's home run. I felt like we were finding our groove. And I was kinda starting to feel bad because our kids were pretty excited and it looked like we were pulling away. But they still took the lead at 13-12 after 3 innings.

In our part of the 4th, we got two runs, but had the lead.

And then it got ugly. For the CBC students, anyway.

They had the bases loaded and nobody out, and this nice lady named Dorothy got a home run. Their side of the room went crazy with high fives and little dances when the runners stepped on home plate...the whole bit.

We never recovered from Dorothy's big blow and it went downhill from there, and at the end of the game, we were throttled 26-14.

They're grandparents, though, and they gave the kids sodas and popcorn and visited with them afterward.

When I commented to the director of the retirement village that I was worried early on that our kids were getting a little too competitive, he replied, "That's nothing. Most of the time the residents are playing their children & grandchildren and both sides heckle and taunt and make noises when the other team is getting ready to throw. Nah, don't worry about it. This was pretty tame by comparison."

Yeah, we'll see about tame, buddy. Next time, the gloves are off...

...and they did invite us back for a next time, too.

It's high time somebody taught these folks a lesson if you ask me.
When It's Over, Man, It's OVER

There's no rationale to it, really.

At some point I just get it in my brain that Christmas is over and I've have enough of the decor and the season and all that. Once that happens I become a madman getting big blue Tupperware containers out of the garage, refill them with their Christmas contents and get them back in the attic ASAP.

In previous years when we've been to Alabama for Christmas, it waited until around the 29th or 30th...just wanted to enjoy them a little longer.

Last year, it actually waited until New Year's Day. I was in a very Christmassy mood in 2005.

Blame it on the mild December we've had.
Blame it on the busyness this Christmas seemed to hold.
Blame it on whatever you like.

But yesterday, without warning, Christmas was back in the attic by 1PM, and I only forgot the NEW Christmas towels with the snowmen on them in the girls' bathroom.

And I'm glad about it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Apparently, Christmas Kinda Continues With Good Deals

It started out because I needed new pillows.

Kohl's was having a sale and they have pillows. Turns out we got a good deal on pillows.

I also needed jeans. Kohl's was having a sale and they have jeans. Turns out we got a good deal on jeans.

Apparently, I also needed shirts. I disagreed because the ones I have are still fulfilling their function. Tracy disagreed...something about holes and fraying but I tuned out after that. Kohl's was having a sale and they have shirts. Turns out we got a good deal on shirts.

I'm taking Tracy's word on the good deal because she's learned to get me away from the cash register whenever we buy me any clothes. My first reaction is to say that it costs too much and take it all back. I'm a youth pastor. What do I need with new clothes? If the same hairstyle works for two decades, same for the clothes, I say. I couldn't say the same for the pillows. My neck hurt. But, Tracy let me go look at the novelty all-in-one tool things while she rang us out. We both were better people for it.

Then it continued because we have two teenage girls sharing one bathroom and the only storage is under the sink. Apparently, this is a problem.

IKEA was having a sale and they have all sorts of things to solve that problem. Turns out we got a good deal on this cabinet with sliding shelves and all sorts of specially designed boxes to keep brushes and make up and earrings. Turns out we got a good deal on shelving and boxes.

Apparently, the girls needed some stuff to put in all those boxes because they went to a make-up store near IKEA. Turns out we got a good deal on make-up because they were having a sale and they were using gift cards.

Apparently, I'm supposed to be writing a book so I went to half-price books and picked up a book that's supposed to kick-start me into writing one in 30 days. Turns out they were having a sale and I got a good deal on it.

Apparently, the local Cotton Bowl is having a bit of trouble selling tickets to the match-up between Nebraska's Cornhuskers and my beloved Auburn Tigers on New Year's Day. Turns out the news brings up the reality that tickets are on-line & selling for $12. Apparently, the news was correct because we got 4 tickets on the 20-yard-line in the upper deck for $48 total. StubHub gave us a good deal as that little trip would've cost us $360 at face-value.


Apparently, Christmas Part Deux was yesterday.
And we got good deals.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

3rd Annual Christmas Gift Review

Once again we had a very enjoyable Christmas Eve & Day at The Diner. I enjoyed the Christmas Eve service in which I told the story (if you're interested in downloads, I have no idea if they even recorded the Christmas services--much less have any idea if they'll be on line) and very much enjoyed the Christmas Eve services that my staff led at was an INCREDIBLE time of worship. Kinda set the tone for my Grinch-heart to grow and break that little x-ray box that measures Grinch-heart sizes.

Christmas Day began a bit later than usual. Yes, for those of you who got up at 6:14AM with your little ones anxious to see the Santa-loot, I empathize. However, having teens in the house got us through to 9AM (still early by their standards), so there's light at the end of the tunnel, young parents.

Anyway, we'll start with the stockings:

Grossest Mis-read by Santa: In my stocking, there was a magazine entitled "Men's Vogue" which has Keifer Sutherland on the cover (with his horse) and headlines like "The Sports Issue: Heli-Boarding, Racquet Wars, and a Mad Dash Across the Sahara!" And "Survival Gear: From Boardroom to Base Camp." Tracy giggled like crazy at Santa's little joke.

2nd Grossest Mis-read by Santa: The entire family got FM radio stocking stuffers with earbuds. (Santa got them for free in a giveaway thing) Apparently, the iPod generation--which leads up to and includes me--wonders why in the world people would need to listen to the RADIO if they weren't in the car.

Honorable Mention Stuffers: The DVD's of Talledega Nights and Little Miss Sunshine. The CD's of Justin Timberlake (who is bringing sexy back--which makes me wonder where it went) and the Top Gun Soundtrack (which made me giggle like crazy at Santa's little 80's joke). Gift-cards for iTunes and Barnes & Noble for everybody!

Now, on to the gifts:

Biggest Discussion Starter: A coffee-table book titled "Iron Bowl Gold." It's gorgeous, and it contains newspaper articles about each Auburn/Alabama football game, commentary on the ones he saw by the legendary Keith Jackson, and paintings of the biggest plays of each game. That's right...paintings, by famous artist Daniel A. Moore. The discussions will start when anyone not from God's Little Acre (Alabama...for the uninitiated) sees that something like this exists. The talk won't be about the games or plays, but why would such a book exist and how much of a market there is for it.

Gift That Made Me Feel Like I Should Read Men's Vogue Monthly: An all-weather grill cover for the new grill I got about a month ago and a SERIOUS grill cleaning tool.

Gift That Got The "Touchdown" Signal You Can't Control: When a 15-year-old gets her first pair of real Birkenstocks--not Target knock-offs--her hands immediately gave the signal of joy.

Gift That Show We've Been Married A While: The in-laws loaded us down with new towels and sheets and Tracy and I were pretty pumped about that kind of thing.

Gifts That Showed Artists Live Here: Paintbrushes and paints and certificates for canvases and Dancewear and DVD's of the American Ballet Theatre made up the majority of wrapped gifts under the tree and were cause for much celebration.

Best Explanation Of Moods & Vibe Around My House: A painting apron that had the words "Because I'm An Artist, That's Why!" on it.

Gift That Shows We Have Some Mordicum Of Class: The higher-order life-liver sister and barnstorming brother in-law got Tracy and I a wine refrigerator. Tracy has real wine knowledge and appreciation. I just pretentiously throw words and phrases I've heard Tracy and Jilly use (like "Malbec" and "southeastern Austrailia's big right now") around.

Gift Of Total Surprise: Each year, Santa tries to throw the girls for some major surprise gift. This year, he apparently knew we were in dire need of a home computer (what would our schools do if our community was made up of folks who didn't have them at home?) and we rolled with the iMac. We got most of it set-up correctly (although we're having trouble setting up the "Mail" software and teleconference capability--we can check mail online but the program we got needs more information than we know...we think?) and the girls were taking photos of themselves in the photo booth in no time. I took a picture of me in the "Warhol" feature that you can look at here on my MySpace.

Gift That Got The Most Use: The DVD of season one of "How I Met Your Mother" was in the player from around 1PM until bed-time.

Best Free Gift: I introduced Tracy to "Snood" (google it) and she got addicted pretty quickly. Apparently, it's the crystal meth of games and she's hooked...although we can't get it to download correctly on the iMac (yes, we used the correct download link for Macs--again, we got MOST of the iMac set up correctly).

Best Book I Got: Punk: The Whole Story by the editors of Mojo Magazine. Photos and articles of the bands and people I listened to in my teen years. And good photos and articles, too. Related: Best Gift I Want To Buy Myself: I saw a machine in an ad that you can put your cassette tapes into it and it will burn a CD of it. When the price of those bad boys comes down in a year or two, I'll take all that music I have on cassette and put all that music I have that the good photos and articles were written about and officially fill up my iPod--all 20 gig--with it.

As you can tell, it was a good Christmas for The Diner management and family. Yes, as always, we went a bit overboard--but, you know, sometimes I don't think we have a handle on celebrations like we ought to...and if there were ever a reason to over-celebrate, suffice to say that the birth of our Lord might just be a reason--even if we do so every year. Besides, I don't think we celebrate as well as the Israelites during their festivals so maybe we all UNDER-DO Christmas, but that's another blog.

Again, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas with loved ones...The Diner sure did.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Reality

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. today, in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'"

On behalf of the management of The McKinney Diner, I'd like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas...

...get back to your families, okay?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

So This Is How The Other Half Lives

It's a little after 10 in the morning.

On a Sunday.

I went to the Honey Baked Ham store at 8:30AM to get the Christmas ham. I flipped through the paper over a cup of coffee. I checked the online sports stuff from Alabama. I'll get ready to put the NFL preview shows on.

But it's a Sunday.

And our church doesn't have morning services due to Christmas Eve...only night stuff.

And I'm home on a Sunday morning. At 10AM.

It feels I'm supposed to be somewhere that I'm not. Like I forgot an appointment.

But I like it.

And I can see why people really enjoy Sunday mornings.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nobody's Ever Asked Before...

My higher-order life-liver sister Jilly giggles when she hears that the Dallas Morning News has a "religion" section. Of course, she follows that up with the fact that the San Francisco Chronicle has a "wine" section. Then she supposes that where she's from, wine pretty much is religion. Funny girl, that Jilly.

Anyway, in today's "religion" section they asked 10 different pastors in the Dallas area their favorite Bible verses. Naturally, they got 10 different answers.

I'm not sure how they picked the folks they asked. I'm not sure if they left a voice message on my phone at work. I don't know if they had my mobile phone number. I've changed my personal e-mail address recently so maybe that goofed things up. Whatever the reason, I wasn't on their top 10.

Even though they didn't ask, I'm going to chime in with mine. If you'd asked me four years ago what it was or 8 years or 20 years ago it would've been different. I'd imagine that if you ask me four years from now it'll be different. But, this is my favorite verse at the moment:

1 Timothy 1: 5
"The goal of our instruction is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

I like this verse because it was written to Timothy, a "young" pastor (likely between 30 & 40) who lived in a time where poor doctrine was being taught in the churches and the teachers were proud, arrogant & greedy. Hmmm.

I like that there's a goal. In teaching the truth of Scripture to folks, there's a desired outcome. What that looks like in people's lives. Notice what it doesn't say that the goal is: Information. Bible knowledge. Facts. Factoids. Trivia. This verse reminds me that when I teach the Word to my students, if they don't somehow come out of that lesson loving God more or loving each other more...well, then we just spun our wheels.

I like it that the word for instruction is better tranlated "commandment." No real options, there.

I like that the goal is LOVE. How do you get people to be loving? See, love is a choice...NOT an emotion. Sure, emotions follow those choices, but when you read in 1 Corinthians the "ingredients" that make up love you'll see that they are choices you make in any given circumstance. Patient. Kind. Doesn't envy or boast. Isn't proud, rude or self-seeking or easily angered. Doesn't keep a record of wrongs. Delights in the truth, not evil. Protects. Trusts. Hopes. Perseveres. The Greek word there is agape which means a love for which no sacrifice is too great. So, my students need to come out of any teaching time with some of those ingredients in the mix. Pretty high standards.

I like that these are supposed to be from a pure heart. An inner reality being truthful with God and with yourself. It isn't at all what it looks like to others.

I like that these are supposed to be from a good conscience. This is an inner peace that all is right with God.

I like that these are supposed to be from a sincere faith. An unhypocritical lifestyle is supposed to be an outward manifestation of all those inner realities.

Yes, the goal is high and unwavering.

But I know what it is.

I know what to aspire to...and it isn't about creating a "safe" place for children to be. It isn't about making a youth group that has nice "alternatives" to what the world has out there. It isn't about "sheilding" them from the "world." It isn't about making clean-cut, American "winners."

It's about teaching them to love Christ.
To love each other.
Based on true doctrine.

Anything else is trifling with God.

And I won't...

...can't... that.

So that's my favorite verse and why. Sorry, DMN, if I missed your call...

Friday, December 22, 2006

School's Out!

Final exams: Over.
Early release at noon for the high schoolers.

I'm in my parked car waiting for Kid1's arrival.

I wish I could bottle the energy level of 3,300 students getting out for Christmas break.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Three Days

I've been taking some vacation time from "work." See, when you're in ministry, that line between "life" and "work" often blurs beyond recognition, but they've been after me to actually use my alotted "vacation time" and this seemed as good a time as any.

For whatever reason, I have a hard time taking my alotted "vacation time." I always have. It seemed so silly to me because you'd have to work twice as hard before you left for vacation to get ready to vacate and then you'd have to work twice as hard when you returned from your vacation.

Plus, I'd never been in a financial position to take an extended two-week vacation previous to my current position. Seemed pointless and fruitless to just hang around the I didn't. Sure, I'd take a day or two here or there, but vacations just weren't the norm.

Well, once we came to CBC, we took our first extended vacation...two weeks to the beach. One week with some friends who had daughters the same age as ours followed by a week with the in-laws.

And I learned something about myself: It takes me three days to "leave." For the first few days my mind raced about stuff I'd forgotten to tell the assistants or that kid I didn't follow-up with or did I forget to lock the back door or whatever. Then, I woke up on day 4 with little to think about and I cruised into "vacation mode." I didn't really think much about work or life back home until the day before we were supposed to drive back.

More or less, the same thing happened yesterday: It was the end of Day 3. I played some PlayStation2 NCAA college football, read some, did some light shopping and took in an afternoon movie (Deja Vu, starring Denzel Washington--lots of accidental thinking, but an enjoyable flick) and then did some more reading and more light shopping.

But the brain is starting to disengage...

...and I feel like genuine rest came along with the sunrise today.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Little Help?

Okay, so on October 25. We were winning.

On December 20...we're not winning, but we're not losing, either.

And, we're rapidly approaching the amount of money spent on the Vietnam conflict (adjusted for inflation, naturally).

I really don't like the sound of this, Mr. President.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The First Annual McKinney Diner Bowl Game Predictions

I started this football season making predictions for high school, college and profesional games just to see how I would do. I was terrible against high schools, dominant with colleges (but 50/50 against the Vegas lines) and marginal with the Cowboys...

...and then life happened and it seemed football faded into the background.

But, now it's the grandest time for college football season: The bowl season is upon us and starts tonight! And, in what promises to be a new tradition, I will now officially pick the bowl games and we'll see what I'm made of.

Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs. Northern Illinois (+11.5). I had to look up how to spell poinsettia. I'd imagine that any team from Illinois spending December in San Diego would be full of distraction. Give me TCU, 31-17.

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs. Oregon (+3). Let's see...Mormons can't even have caffiene and they're supposed to win against the ugliest uniforms in the NCAA and have an offense nicknamed the "quack attack?" Oregon, 41-35.

New Orleans Bowl: Troy (+4.5) vs. Rice. Rice hasn't been to a bowl game since 1961. Troy has only been in D1 football for about 6 minutes. As much as I don't like picking against a team from Alabama, I like Rice, 17-7.

Birmingham Bowl: South Florida vs. East Carolina (+4.5). No kidding: the city of Birmingham didn't even want this bowl. But ESPN came in with a date and a sponsor and needed a stadium. If the city doesn't care, I don't either. South Florida 28, East Carolina 17.

New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico vs. San Jose State (+3.5). New Mexico Bowl? Ummm. San Jose State, 20-14. I guess.

Armed Forces Fort Worth Bowl: Tulsa (+1) vs. Utah. I like Tulsa's coach over Utah's talent. In fact, if Bama were smart, they'd consider him for their vacant position. Tulsa 35, Utah 31.

Hawaii Bowl: Arizona State (+7.5) vs. Hawaii. Arizona State lost their coach and is in Hawaii for vacation. Give me the 'Bows, 42-28.

Motor City Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee State (+10). Central Michigan's conference is tougher. CMU 24-13.

Emerald Bowl: Florida State (+4.5) vs. UCLA. Florida State is still living too much on their laurels--in other words, I think they're even worse than their record. UCLA is on a high after beating USC. UCLA 22, FSU 10.

Independence Bowl: Alabama (+2) vs. Oklahoma State. Shreveport. Ugh. Oklahoma State is just happy to be going bowling. Alabama, on the other hand has been embarrassed in the national media. Something tells me that interim coach Joe Kines and that team will have an awful lot to prove and they have the talent to prove it. Bama, in a blowout, 38-10.

Holiday Bowl: California vs. Texas A&M (+5). I'm a believer that Cal has been overrated all season (as is the Pac-10--how do the BCS computers always have that as the toughest conference?) but they're better than the Aggies. It'll be close, but Cal Bears 21, Aggies 17 sounds right. The Ags just won't score enough.

Texas Bowl: Rutgers vs. Kansas State (+7.5). Rutgers? In a bowl? Favored? The glass slipper still fits Cinderella, Scarlett Knights 23, K-State 14.

Music City Bowl: Clemson vs. Kentucky (+10). Something just doesn't seem right with Clemson and I can't imagine they'll be pumped after losing to South Carolina. I like Kentucky in an upset, 30-24.

Sun Bowl: Missouri (+3.5) vs. Oregon State. Chase Daniel is from here and Missouri is a good team. Tigers 38, Beavers 24.

Liberty Bowl: South Carolina vs. Houston (+6.5). Steve Spurrier. 'Nuff said. Gamecocks 27, Houston 10.

Insight Bowl: Minnesota (+6.5) vs. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders always seem to struggle against teams with better defenses than their offense. However, Minnesota's won't be strong enough. Guns up, Red Raiders! 27-20.

Champs Sports Bowl: Maryland vs. Purdue (even). Turtles vs. a liquor/beer mixture? Purdue 20, Maryland 17.

Meineke Car Care Bowl: Navy (+6) vs. Boston College. I had to look up how to spell Meineke. Boston College 24, Navy 17.

Alamo Bowl: Iowa (+10.5) vs. Texas. I've been to the Alamo and it's the biggest historical visiting let down in our country. The "tour" consists of a lady with a scale model in a glass case pointing out things like, "Santa Anna's army laid siege at this wall, where the HemisFair arena now stands." If it's so sacred, why build so much on it? I tell you all that to tell you to take Iowa and the points, but Texas wins, 27-21.

Chick Fil A Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Georgia (+2.5). It depends on which Georgia team shows up, because they can throttle Auburn or lose to Kentucky. Give me Dawgs in case the good team shows up, 17-14.

MPC Computers Bowl: Nevada (+3.5) vs. Miami. How far has Miami fallen when they're only a field goal better than Nevada. They're talent-laden, though, and they're still the "U." Hurricanes 23, Nevada 17.

Outback Bowl: Penn State (+4.5) vs. Tennessee. Love those New Year's Day Big 10/SEC match-ups! The Vols are just better this year but this should be a good game. Tennessee 21, Paterno 17.

Cotton Bowl: Auburn vs. Nebraska (+2). Yes, Auburn suspended a running back and two linebackers...but it won't matter. A healthy Kenny Irons and Brandon Cox and Courtney Taylor for the first time since the opening game should be plenty...and they dismantled Wazzu that day. Nebraska doesn't have enough. Auburn 27-17.

Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin (+1.5) vs. Arkansas. Tracy and I had our first kiss at the Capital One Bowl and they halftime show was freakin' 45 minutes long and featured the Statler Brothers. It was 35 degrees in Orlando and I bought two overpriced sweatshirts that day. Wisconsin 23, Arkansas (even with McFadden, who is next year's Heisman winner) 21.

Gator Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. West Virginia (-7). How does WVA lose at home to freakin' South Florida? West Virginia dismantled Georgia last year before a furious rally, and they'll do the same to the Ramblin' Wreck, 34-24.

Rose Bowl: Southern Cal vs. Michigan (+1). A Rose Bowl the way a Rose Bowl should be, Big 10-Pac 10. I think Michigan is good. Not 2nd in the country good, but very good. I think they can run on the Trojans and I don't think the Pac 10 running style matches up well with Big 10 powerhouse defense. In other words, power over finesse here, Michigan and the ugliest helmets in the NCAA 28, USC and their annoying Trojan march song 24.

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Boise State (+7.5). Are you kidding me? Oklahoma is scary good and Peterson is back. Boise State is further proof the BCS is a joke. Boomer Sooner 35, stupid blue astroturf fields in Idaho 17.

Orange Bowl: Wake Forest (+10) vs. Louisville. Ya think anybody wearing an Orange Bowl committee blazer is happy with the BCS knowing that they would've had an Okahoma vs. Notre Dame matchup under the old system? Louisville can score at will and the Demon Deacons offense is anemic. Louisville 31, Wake Forest 13.

Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Notre Dame (+8.5). The way LSU is playing at this stage of the season, I don't think anyone wants a piece of them. Playing at home in a refurbished Superdome against an overrated Notre Dame team? LSU 31, Notre Dame 21. (I'd be tempted to say 14 because Brady Quinn is overrated)

International Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Western Michigan (+8). I had to look up how to spell Cincinnati and can't figure out why this game is a bowl game much less mixed up with all the big BCS games on Jan. 6. Who freakin' cares? Ummm. Bearcats 29, Broncos 20.

GMAC Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Ohio (+6). I had a chance to go to Southern Miss and I think they have cool helmets and they had a mascot that runs into the goalpost pads after touchdowns. Good enough for me, Golden Eagles 21, Ohio 14.

BCS National Championship: Ohio State vs. Florida (+7.5). Is it possible, just possible that the Big 10 has been overrated while the SEC has been beating each other up week after week? The Gators are a team that, in their only loss this season, didn't give up a touchdown on defense. They beat a fantastic LSU team at home and Tennessee on the road. Ohio State, meanwhile, beat up on a milder than usual Big 10 schedule (minus Wisconsin, who might've beaten them) and beat an overrated Michigan team at home. They haven't played a defense as good as Florida's and on a neutral field, with the Gators having a chip on their shoulder, frankly, I don't need your points. Gators 28, OSU 20. Oh yeah, and open notice to J&M bookstore in Auburn, I'll buy one of those bumper stickers I'm sure you'll print up that reads Auburn 27, National Champions 17.

How do you think I'll do?

Monday, December 18, 2006


I don't know why I remember them or where I heard them all or why they stick in my brain, but I'm thinking about certain phrases that I like that I wish would come back in vogue.

For example, when I'd tell my grandmother about a good grade or some other "gold star" moment, she'd respond with a smile and this: "Well, aren't you just the bees knees?"

My other grandmother once described a bad kid in the neighborhood as, "Three miles of bad road and two of it muddy."

I heard a couple of lines in old black & white movies that I think were phrases used during the time:

(saying goodbye) "See ya in the funny papers."

(again, saying goodbye, but in a different context) "Don't take any wooden nickels."

So, what are some of your favorite phrases you wish would make a comeback?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Stark Difference

So, I didn't have a worry like this on Friday night:

Because we had our annual progressive dinner at Crossroads--you know, an "old-school" thing where kids start out at one place for appetizers and then off to somewhere else for soup & salad and then to another for the main course?--and I hung out with this year's senior class:

They added their own little pieces of flair (this year, they ended the night with karaoke in the Dungeon) and a good time was had by most everybody...and, as of yet, we don't have to add a list like in the comic.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Strange Days Indeed

Kid1: Nothing. Nada. Zip. (after she wakes up around noon, anyway)
Kid2: Nothing. Nada. Zip. (after ballet practice, anyway)
Wife: Nothing. Nada. Zip. (after some short errands, anyway)
Me: Nothing. Nada. Zip. (after blogging, anyway)

Entire family.
Saturday afternoon/evening free.

We don't know what to do with ourselves! Any suggestions?

Friday, December 15, 2006



I told you earlier in the week that a friend and I were having a conversation about worship and what should be a part of worship services. Specifically, we were comparing and contrasting what we like against what we'd seen done when we were younger as well as what we're seeing now--across the board--in churches young and old.

I had some hot sports opinions about it, too. I read all these books that tell me that teenagers are deeply passionate creatures who aspire--whether they verbalize it or not--to be a part of something transcendant and mysterious and awe-inspiring. They visit other places or go to some youth function and tell me all about their experience. Most of the time their verbalizing sounds a lot like they're settling for smoke & mirrors.

And then people say that I'm against emotion. That I focus so much on transforming "the mind" that I have no heart. They don't say it so many words, but most of their verbalizing sounds a lot like they want me to hold my hands upward and weep--as if those actions would signify that I was "there." Then I would "get it." Then they would be happy for me. What I'm against is emotional manipulation in all it's forms...and believe me, I work with teenagers. If I really wanted to manipulate, I could have them all weeping and wailing in pretty short order. I don't think adults like that, either.

Then there is the myriad of worship styles from old-time Gospel hours to seminary hymns to stadiums full of people singing "Lord I Lift Your Name On High" to candles to kneelers to incense to electric guitar solos to goateed guys in long-sleeve black t-shirts to...

...well... all starts to make my head spin.

So, I read a Psalm this morning (after it was the text for the devotional I was involved in last night). Reading a Psalm usually helps to stop my head from spinning. I re-read Psalm 100:

"Shout joyful to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know thtat the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations."

And it seems to me that you can find the elements that would make up a pretty good worship service (or gathering, if you're under 30, or community, or worship community, or community gathering--however you want to label it, I'm pretty good with whatever). They're found in the verbs.

Shout. Joyfully is operative there. For some reason when I put "shout" and "joyfully" together I picture that scene in Animal House where Otis Day & The Knights are playing the Delta house during the toga party. They're singing one of the all time fun songs "Shout." You make me wanna (SHOUT!)...kick my heels up and (SHOUT!)...

...all the while when you say "shout" you put your hands in the air like a touchdown. Then, at some point you'll be echoing the lead singer trying to discover how many syllables you can make while singing the word "hey."

Seems to me that we have the atmosphere at weddings or frat parties or sporting events or concerts where that kind of joyful shouting is not only's encouraged and rewarded. Same should be true in our services, if you're asking.

Come: with joyful singing. That very Psalm I quoted I have memorized because we sang it every Sunday in church. For some reason, in my high liturgical upbringing, we sang it dirge-like. It's like when my friends in the band Lost and Found sing "Angels We Have Heard On High" in concert they sing it lighting fast, full-throated and pretty much off-key with the in excelsis Deo and gloria parts.

I sincerely asked them one day why they seemed to be taking that hymn so irreverently...and their response was terribly interesting. They told me a story about the shepherds and how exciting it would've been to hear the announcement on that hillside and that if any hymn should be song with urgency and speed (picture the shepherds running, they told me) and with disregard for musical rules, that one was it. Same should be true in our services, if you're asking.

Know: In this case, that the Lord is God. Basically, that he is God and we aren't Him. Interesting to me that you'll see that part of worship is based on the intellect. The knowledge of something. Or Someone. What we KNOW actually leads us to worship. I really don't think you can make a case for using emotion and/or manipulation to LEAD us to experience. I think the mind leads our emotions in the correct way. Same should be true in our services, if you're asking.

Enter: With thankful hearts. With praise. I know most of you detest it when I use the Auburn football experience to illustrate these types of things...but there's some truth to it. See, people come from all over the southeast to a small town to watch a football game. They make a day of it. They come with the unifying reality that we all pretty much attended that university and had the same experiences and same responses. We're glad to come back. We're excited. We tailgate. It really isn't about the game, but rather the experience of what unifies the Auburn family. We pass these joys onto our children, and secretly wouldn't mind if they happened to follow in our footsteps. There's a reason that Jordan-Hare Stadium becomes the fifth largest city in Alabama when it's full:

It's because the people that come come with expectation and joy and that sense of community is enhanced because we have reason--bigger than any one of us, but enhanced by even the smallest among us--to joyfully get together and celebrate what we share in common. Seems to me that each individual has a response to make before they ever show up...which will have a lot to do with "living life together in community" outside the four walls of a church building--and that should be a major part of any worship service, if you're asking.

Give: It doesn't say money...although that would be a part of the deal. We should simply take the time to say "thank you" because God is indeed good to us, and He will never leave us or forsake us.

Funny, but my daughter will write thank-you notes on occasion and in one case, I had a friend that seemed to throw a lot of tickets to sporting events my way. She'd been the beneficiary of some of those tickets and would write these child-like thank-you's that always seemed to mention specific details of the games we went to. I was telling that story to a mutual friend and the guy that gave us the tickets said, "I've saved every one of those." This was years ago. He still had them.

Saying thank-you means something. It implies a genuine gratefulness. And I think there should be opportunities here and there to talk about them or make them known.

So, while I don't have any formal proposal today about what that would "flesh out" to look like in a worship gathering community service thing, I feel pretty confident that those are the elements of the deal. I don't know that I've ever used this forum to spell that out...

...and I'd be curious to know what you think.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More On Change

I was a pretty good kid.

I mean, I colored between the lines. I knew the difference between mischief and trouble. I didn't drink. I didn't do drugs. Through an eclectic mix of insecurity, awkward social skills and being surrounded by "nice" girls I wasn't having sex. I could throw a tight spiral with a football, hit a baseball from both sides of the plate and occasionally hit a drive off the tee about 230 yards and put it in the fairway. I got one traffic ticket (it was the last one) despite having a car that would put dollar signs in State Trooper sunglasses. I was president of my class. I made decent grades--nothing flashy, but hey, I was the last one in the top-third of my high school class. I went to church.

But I had my own private undertow. A rip-tide underneath an apparently calm sea.

(Yes, there are others. Many, in fact. But I'll talk abou this particular one in this public forum.)


By the truckload.

And, most outsiders would say that I "came by that honestly." Having your father die unexpectedly when you're 13 gives you a lot of excuses in the eyes of others. I could've started binge drinking or living on the edge or doing drugs and people would've said, "Well, that's too bad. But, you know his dad died 3 years ago, right?"

But I didn't take that off-ramp. Mostly because I didn't want to make my mom cry. There'd been enough of that and a great deal of my decision-making was, "Well, tell you what, boys. You drink the beer and I'll drive. If my mom smells beer on my breath, well...just give me the keys. I'll drive."

But there was still anger.

By the truckload.

Visually, it manifested itself in punk rock. It was big in the late 70's, but didn't filter into Alabama until the early 80's. Pre-MTV. Pre-Internet. The world seemed bigger then.

The vinyl collection quickly morphed from Kiss/Ozzy/AC-DC to The Ramones/Sex Pistols/Social Distortion. At the risk of sounding too graphic, I think I can understand why teenagers "cut." They describe a feeling of "release"--like the bleeding helps the pressure come out. When I'd put a cassette tape (a way of playing recorded music that came between the 8-track and the Compact Disc) of, say, Black Flag into the deck (a way of playing cassette tapes) and it was like somebody would open a pressure valve somewhere.

But it was an endless cycle: Anger-relief. Anger-relief. Anger-relief.

And I pretty much figured this would be a lifestyle. Anger management, self-diagnosed and self-musically-medicated.

Until Charles told me it didn't have to be that way. He asked a very simple question to me one day, "Why do you want to manage what the Bible calls sin? I mean, married people don't have 'adultery-management' seminars, do they? Wouldn't you like to change that pattern?"

I was 20.
This was news.
We talked...but not about anger.
Not about anger by the truckloads.

We talked about God's grace (see the verses I quoted in yesterday's entry).
We talked about how it's like a sunrise, how it comes over the horizon slowly but makes it more clear as the "day" goes on (it's in the Greek, or so Charles said, and seminary later verified).
We talked about how Christ wanted genuine transformation, not "sin management."

And how that transformation would have to come from the way I thought.
That I had to think "truth."
That "true truth" came from the Bible.
That it was my mind that had to be renewed regarding anger.
Anger by the truckload.

That inward change on the way I thought would have outward manifestations, to be sure.
That my thoughts would affect my a Scriptural way.
That my thoughts lining up with God's thoughts would lead to peace.
And that peace would enhance my relationship with Christ.


Now, don't get me wrong. This conversation lasted about 2 years. It was definitely a process.

But, you know, nearly two decades later, I'm not seething inwardly any more.

I'm a pretty much a predictably happy person.

I've made my peace with God, much like Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump.

Because I understand that Christ isn't interested in behavior management. He's interested in transformation. Preparing a people for His own possession.

Now, don't get me wrong. I still enjoy hearing some old punk on the Mp3 player (it came after the CD but before whatever else is next). It just doesn't release a pressure valve anymore.

It makes me smile because I hear it with different ears now. A reminder of what it used to do against what it does now. It's more nostalgic now...reminding me of specific people and places of events in my past of being a good kid with a punk-rock problem.

No a latent, consistent sense.

Certainly not a truckload, anyway.

Because I'm different.

Transformed. A new creature. Free.

By His grace...alone.

And, that, is quite an epiphany.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Time May Change Me But I Can't Trace Time

Stay with me. We might be a while today.

Blue Like Jazz.
Messy Spirituality.
Velvet Elvis.

Donald Miller.
Mike Yaconelli.
Rob Bell.

I liked each of those books. So much so that I gave them as gifts. So much so that I give them as gifts.

I like that they're honest. I like that they see the weaknesses in what passes for Christian spirituality and aren't afraid to talk about them. I like that they give people freedom from past prisons, to be a mess, to put the best of our Tribe's past into the here and now. I like that a new breed of writer is being published so that there's some help for those that don't fit into 7 steps or their best life isn't "now" or can't get it done in 40 days. I like that they're good writers, too. I like that each one has taken a flashlight and pointed it down the path when it got too dark for me.

They've helped me out on my journey.

And, they've each taken a bit of heat from the Tribe. Too raw. Too young. "I don't get it." The theology is a bit shaky. Too nebulous. Too messy. Too many stories, not enough Bible. Too worldly. Too modern. Too busy trying to be hip and relevant. Too little application. Too wordy. Not wordy enough.

I can see where the Tribe gets some of this stuff, too.

But if you're asking me, there's way more good grass than weeds...unlike most of the books out there. What's peculiar to me is that I've often had a nagging feeling reading those books that something was, well...


I couldn't put my finger on what that was. I mean, the good stuff was in there. People were reading them and finding freedom and re-thinking what it means to walk with Christ in 2006 and being real with themselves and each other and finding true community.

Then, in another context, a friend and I were having a conversation. Specifically, we were talking about worship services and what should be a part of them. It was a "perfect world" type conversation and we were all over the map. At one point, to support a position, my friend read from a letter in the New Testament called Titus. In 2: 11--15 (NIV--my NASB's in the back room) it says:

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you."

Did you catch the doctrine all this hinges on? Grace. Right there in verse 11. Pay strict attention as there's no wiggle room.

Did you catch that the "doctrine" is a Person? Dwell on that for a while this Christmas season.

But notice what grace, if taught correctly, does: It teaches holiness in the present age. To me, it's living an abundant life among the dead. It's living in the reality that this is a temporary stop on the journey, awaiting the return of our King.

And the part that...

...Donald Miller...
...Mike Yaconelli...
...Rob Bell...

...didn't dwell on enough was the transformation that occurs. What it's like to live among the dead and while it's one thing to avoid formulaic living or be a mess or re-discover ancient paths.

See, that's the component that's missing from their work, if you're asking me. My guess is that wasn't their purposes for writing and there are only so many pages you can print & sell in one deal. Maybe that's their next work. Maybe they pre-supposed them to be true. But the reality is such that:

The freedom from formulaic living is supposed to transform me.
The mess is supposed provide a canvas for the Creator to re-create.
The ancient worship is a response to the reality that God is erasing the wickedness and getting me ready for His return...because I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine.

And that transformation is a beautiful thing.

And that tranformation in a very real & personal sense is where I'll pick up tomorrow. If you've stayed with me this far, well, thanks.

But I think my "block" may be gone.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So, Diner Readers...

I'm not really sure what to write about. I dunno if it's the busy nature of the Christmas season or if I'm just in a dry spell or if I'm burned out on the "punt" of the journal jar...

...but is there anything you want to ask the management of The Diner?
...anything you want a comment on?
...any particular opinion on a subject?

I got nothin'.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Journal Jar, Entry 3

*some of you might remember that our staff received a "journal jar" at a staff luncheon. It's a jar with little slips of paper containing blog when I've got nothing in my brain, I'll pull a slip out and roll with it*

Today's entry: Tell about your teenage social life

If memory serves correctly, there was a lot of hanging out.

In middle school, it seemed like me and my friends played a lot of semi-sports. We'd play wiffle ball in my backyard, or go up to Baker's to play a game we invented similar to baseball we named McBride ball (after Jimmy's baseball hero Bake McBride) or we'd play street hockey. Our transportation involved 10-speed bikes...and there was a Dungeons & Dragons phase I'd rather not get into.

In early high school we'd hang out at Putt-Putt Golf & Games. The games were the big player in that...and tokens were lined up on games like Donkey Kong, Centipede, Dig Dug and Galaga. After that freshman year, we'd hang out at Papa Joe's parking lot or goof off at Star Lake. Of course, our high school's sports games were staples of the social scene.

Later in high school we'd all gotten jobs but my junior and senior years I worked most weekends at the Hoover Square Six, taking tickets and seeing my girlfriend before, during & after work. There was Campus Life (similar to Young Life) and I was doing a few things with my church group at Shades Mountain Bible Church. Those functions were rare, though.

We didn't go to many parties or school dances if I recall. Sure, we'd hit homecoming or prom if we'd gotten a date, but none of the others...and the party scene didn't do too much for me and my friends. Mostly it was something like going to the game (football or basketball were highly social) or a movie and then killing that last hour or two at Star Lake talking while tossing a football around. Sure, there was an occiasional "rolling" of a yard or even taking a weekend at Auburn watching the game or what not, but, looking back on it, we were embarrasingly normal in that regard.

It was pretty happy, though. High school for me was pretty enjoyable...especially since I didn't take the education part too seriously.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Hollow Victory?

Last night, Tracy and I were having dinner with friends. Well, we weren't when the night started. See, the wives are good friends. They wanted to get us to be friends, too. It worked...largely because we all married the kinds of girls that would be friends. So, now we're all friends.

That's not the point of this blog, though.

We decided to play Trivial Pursuit: Pop Culture Edition. It comes with a DVD and some fancy-shmancy (by Trivial Pursuit standards) pie-piece holders. We chose the gnome. They chose the fashion boot. We all decided to play by old-school rules rather than bring the DVD into it...that way we could stay in the kitchen.

It was a slow start for the guys. We got plenty of questions right...just not for the pie-piece. The ladies were up 3-1 and then it all started falling into place for our team. Barry Bonds. Madonna. Boutros Boutros Ghali. Gerald Ford. Dana Carvey. We were on a roll and finished up in the center going for the win. I sealed the victory when the girls chose to use PINK (fashion & fads) to throw us off...and the question involved a celebrity downloaded a lot for something notorious.

Cameron Diaz.

Match... the boys team.

And then it dawned on me: Did my team really win? It was a contest to see who knew the most about POPULAR CULTURE. Seems like all those hours watching cable and reading the paper weren't wasted...but were they? Hmmmm...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It Ain't Rockets (or, Living In An Age Where Common-Sense Is Cutting-Edge)

Here's the gist of it: Some cheerleaders make trouble over a period of time. Some of it more mild than others--according to published reports, anyway. Everything from text messaging in class to photos in their uniforms in condom stores posted on web pages. The requisite drinking stories are included, too. It's all pretty seedy and lurid, hence coverage in newspapers and leading our nightly news. Boys die in Iraq, atrocities in Darfur, etc., aren't sexy enough, I don't guess. Or worse, we're getting what we want.

Anyway, one of the cheerleaders' mom happens to be the principal of the high school. The accusation is that she swept a lot under the rug. The requisite resignations from sponsors/teachers ensue. The requisite responses from administrators ensue, too.

The requisite third-party investigator is called in. Video of the investigator carrying results of said investigation leads the nightly news. Results of "sealed" investigation results are somehow leaked to the paper.

Here are some quotes, under the main headline (above the fold, people): "McKinney North Cheerleader Report. Breakdown was a team effort."

Sub-headline: "Give us some willfull teens; give us some enabling adults--what do you get? A mess."

Yes, there's sensationalism on our front page. They've latched onto nicknaming the girls "The Fab Five" and painted the picture that they could get away with "low cut tops" and how they were "ultra cool" and thought they were "bullet proof." Please spare us in your next articles, DMN.

However, there's some real gold in the investigator's report (authored by lawyer Harry Jones) that all parents should sit up and take notice:

"Kids will be kids. But adults have to be adults. Sadly, in this saga, I was struck by the reticence of many adults to accept the role of 'being a grown-up.'"

The Dallas Morning News reports, "His report also points to parents who attacked each other by e-mail, obsessed about 'image' rather than 'substance' and lobbied for their children out of a shrewd self-interest rather than a desire to send a message about good behavior."

In supporting the reason why four cheerleading sponsors had left that position between the starting season in 1999 and 2005: "The general consensus is that these girls have not been punished properly since seventh grade." The requiste salvos about how one sponsor was on meds or flirty or otherwise inappropriate are then fired off.

All sorts of incidents were detailed, from telling a teacher to shut up and saying "good luck with that" when threatened with expulsion for behavior to showing up drunk at prom--and police, parents and administrators have varying responses, which all sound like buck-passing or tied-hands or ignorance (willful or otherwise).

And the investigator sums up his statements: "I felt like the kids were amazed at the adults' lack of willpower and discipline."

The article is all pretty one-sided since it comes from the investigators perspective. The principal and adminstrator are all on paid leave until this gets sorted out. I'm sure we'll hear more in days to come.

But the lawyer got paid $39,000 to independently investigate.

And it sounds to me that the folks in the town of McKinney (about 30 minutes north of Dallas) paid $39,000 to get reminded about common sense parenting.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Journal Jar, Entry 2.

If I've got nothing on the blog brain, I'm going to just pull out a slip from the "journal jar" I got at the staff Christmas luncheon. I hope that doesn't become much of a habit (in other words, I hope my life is somehow interesting enough to get away from this crutch) but it's all I've got for now.

*reaches into journal jar and pulls out a slip of paper*

Tell about a frustrating experience that you have had with a car

This is almost too easy. Youth ministry always has allowed for a series of hand-me-down cars that I could give frustrating experiences with.

For example, there was the Buick Skyhawk--the first "new" car I ever owned. It was 7 years old at the time, and immediately upon our move to Dallas, developed a leak in the water pump. We couldn't afford a replacement part at that time and I kept four one-gallon jugs of water in the back seat as that's how many times I'd have to exit to fill the radiator on the way to seminary. I'd fill up the jugs at DTS and then repeat the process on the way home. Two months later we replaced the pump. That car eventually died throwing a rod on New Year's Day 1998 as I was coming home from a lock-in at wouldn't believe how much smoke pours out from underneath an engine when that happens.

Then there was the Cutlass Cierra that Kendra gave me. One night I was driving home and for some reason, at the exact same time, both back tires went flat in the span of a half mile (the other went flat as I was pulling over). That's quite a dilemma. We gave it to one of those places that gives a tax write-off for old cars running or not and later the Dallas police called to tell us to move our car from some side street downtown or face a fine. Whoever purchased it from that organization never changed the title over...but apparently that happens a lot because when we told the cops what happened they just said, "Thanks. Sorry to bother you."

There was the van we borrowed from another church that had a flat tire on the way to the Gulf Coast from Texas and the jack that was provided didn't fit that particular van. It wasn't tall enough.

Tracy and I had an Astro van that on long trips to Alabama, we'd use 8 to 10 quarts of motor oil. I have no idea why it burned so much oil (yes, it was a decade old) but we'd actually go to Sam's and pack the 10-pack of oil last before we left. We repeated the process on the return trip.

There was the Chevy Beretta that had the passenger seat belt locking clip duct-taped to the strap, falling fabric on the roof, a rearview mirror that I kept in the glove compartment (no matter what glue was used it just wouldn't stay)--and would overheat if you idled the engine for more than 5 minutes (say, at a drive-thru).

And, finally, my first car when I was 16 was a Cutlass Supreme. I loved that car and even had a photo of it airbrushed on a t-shirt. I added what most 16 year-olds would add to a car--a pretty good stereo system (I replaced the 8-track player with a cassette deck that rocked) and new rims and expensive tires. Of course, a guy from our church who knew cars made sure the engine was high-performance. The only frustration was that while those things for a high school teenage guy might be socially accepted, when you're at college and your high-performance engine is idling going WUB WUB WUB WUBB WUBBB WUBB WUB and Def Leppard is blaring from said cassette deck and the rims aren't shiny any more...well, the frustration came from wondering how something went from "that's pretty cool" to "who does he think that's impressing?" in such a short period of time.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Journal Jar: Entry 1

Girls had been there. That much was perfectly clear.

Nice table arrangements and place-settings. Silverware. Real plates. Staff luncheon, and the folks that set it up went all out and it was obvious. There was even prime rib...which is always nice. I'm a big fan of meat.

There was even a little gift at the end for each of us. It was called a "Journal Jar," which is a "recipe for your life's story. Each day, select a journal slip. Copy it to the top of a fresh journal page, and to fill in your answer." We were also told to enjoy the memories.

Which is why I'm considering trashing all my old journals and closing The Diner. I've found that the memories that they contain aren't enjoyable in many cases. They're often painful. Or embarrassing. Or stupid. Or vapid. I could go on. You get the drift.

However, these nice people mentioned that the reason behind the gift was that they enjoyed reading all the pastors' blogs and hence I realize that even though it seems incredibly narcissistic to blog (and somewhat theraputic--I told someone yesterday that I think I understand why a teenager "cuts" because I think I get the same feeling when I put words on a page. I mean, things get in my brain and spin and fritter and nauseate and once they get on a page, well, it refragments the hard drive and I move on to other things) for some reason others seem to want to read the musings of our staff.

Of course, others seem to want to slow down and watch traffic mishaps, too. And 50 million Elvis fans can be wrong. But in this case, I don't think it's voyeurism at play, I'll pull one out and paste it to the top of a new Diner page and roll with it:

Tell a courtship story about your parents and how they met.

My parents "how they met" story isn't all that interesting. They went to high school together in a small town in Alabama. Bessemer. Bo Jackson is from there. He played basketball and she was a cheerleader. They were both the youngest in their families, she was from the "good side" of the tracks with a dad who worked in management for U.S. Steel. His family was of more modest means--from Muscoda Hill. I'm not sure it could be more uninteresting.

What is actually more interesting is their engagement the degree I can recall it, anyway. The main facts will be there.

See, he went to Auburn University...ostensibly to play basketball, but that petered out his freshman year (he later dominated the intramural leagues, or so the legend goes). She was a Bama Belle at the Dark Side (The University of Alabama) and involved in a sorority.

He found out she had a date with some other guy, and drove to her college (some 2.5 hours these days...I have no idea how long it would've taken in 1963) and got to her not long after the date ended. His first words to her: "You either marry me tonight or we'll never see each other again."

Her response: "Okay. But we're going to have to tell my dad first."

This involved about a 45-minute drive to tell her dad. He said that would be okay, but it was late, and maybe they could just sleep on it. Driving to Mississippi (where you could get married without a waiting period at the time) the next day would ensure that a justice of the peace would be in the office. Wise man, my grandfather. Instead of blowing up and lecturing them and all that jazz, he just calmly handled the situation.

The next morning over a big breakfast he casually mentioned that if they were going to do this, why not just call the church, set a date and do it right? They seemed agreeable and got married in November of 1963. I've seen the pictures and some old home movies of it. They might not've done it "right," but they did it pretty nicely.

The weekend after JFK was killed in Dallas.

Which is why we were never allowed to discuss that little piece of American history in my mom's presence...but that's another story.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm Seriously Considering...

...closing down The Diner.

...and burning all my other journals.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fly Me To The Moon

$104 Billion.

That's how much our government wants to spend on a lunar outpost. Lunar means moon. Outpost means a frontier settlement.

And that's just for starters, folks. They're a little less than forthcoming on how much maintenance would cost. The government reps are "declining comment" on that little piece of information. The claim is that they'll just shift some of the Space Shuttle money around...apparently, the shuttles are done in 2010.

They're going to land at the south pole of the moon. Gets a lot of sunlight there, I'm told. Good for solar power, I'm told.

And, you know what? I have absolutely no doubt that this feat can be pulled off. None whatsoever. And from there? Mars. That's the plan, anyway.

But, NASA, as one of your many contributors, I couldn't care less if folks ever live on the moon, or if flights there are as common as transatlantic flights, or if sunbathing on the lunar south pole ever happens. I'm not interested.

Yes, tell me about computers.
Yes, tell me about Tang.
Yes, tell me about Velcro.
Yes, tell me about pens that write upside down.

Those are good things, no question. But when I hear folks talk about the space program they always mention that there are incredible benefits that come out of the research for it that benefit the American public...and the world.

Well, tell ya what. Put all that money towards research regarding alternative forms of energy. Every penny. Get all those big NASA brains working on solar cars and wind power off the Gulf Coast and airplanes that fly using big rubber bands. Eliminate our dependence on oil to the degree you can and I promise you a bundle of other world problems simply go away. And all those very creative things that help the American public will still happen.

Worried about the automotive industry? Good old supply and demand will have them come up with their very own alternative solutions and such. They'll all adapt or die. That's their problem. I'd imagine Auto Zone would get pretty good at selling parts for the new vehicles and such. I'd imagine the 7-11 on the corner will still have some sort of docking bays and sell sodas and Beef Jerky.

So, consider mine as one vote AGAINST this silliness and expensive chest-thumping. Really, the reason I'm against it is that I already know you CAN do it. That isn't the issue. The issue is where I want that money to be spent. And if my grandkids would rather ride in their solar cars to my house for Thanksgiving than watch news clips of other kids hopping in their space suits at the South Pole Lunar Outpost.

Monday, December 04, 2006

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I'm pretty excited about Auburn playing Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, but $90 a ticket dampens the enthusiasm a bit.
...that I don't understand what all the fuss about James Bond movies is all about.
...that I desperately need to get on some sort of fitness regime.
...that I can't believe it's December already, but Christmas gift shopping is pretty easily done with the internet shopping/wrapping/shipping option.
...that I actually had an enjoyable meeting yesterday.
...that some families I work with have no real desire to get better, and there's not a thing I can do about it.
...the reality that there's nothing I can do about it doesn't make the situation any easier on me feeling responsibility in the matter.
...Cowboys! Playoffs?!
...that the bashing of the suburban "megachurch" is tiresome, easy and dismissing of any good that comes from these ministries. What's odd about that is the reality that those people who do that are thin-skinned when they hear criticism of their ministry methods.
...that Michigan now knows how Auburn felt in 2004, and those arguments for Florida that "they went through the toughest conference in college football and only lost once" make me wonder where those people were two years ago saying the same things when Auburn went through that same conference and didn't lose once. Back then, everybody said, "Well, tough luck. They were ranked ahead of you and didn't lose." Deal with it, Michigan, and shut it. At least you had your chance to prove it on the field. We never got our shot...and, grudgingly, Go Gators!
...that I plan on finishing the last book in my stack this week. Glad Christmas is coming! wife and I are already talking about New Year's Eve plans? When did this start happening?
...I've got pretty much nothing on the agenda for my day off. It's nice.
...I'm wondering what to do with all those movies on VHS we had when the girls were little. I saw a machine for sale that will burn cassette tapes to CD and I think it'd be pretty cool to keep some of the ones we purchased on DVD if there was such a machine. But I think they're copy-protected or whatever. Still, I don't want all of those kid-stuff VHS and I can't imagine many folks with kids that age have or want VHS stuff.
...that the bill in front of the Texas state legislature to be voted on in January that will eliminate the 10% rule is a good one. See, in Texas, if you're in the top 10% of your graduating class, a public university in-state MUST accept you. But there are so many flaws and drawbacks that it doesn't work. Like, if you're in the top 10% of a high school with 100 students, what if you're in the top 20% of a high school that has 3,000 students? So, getting rid of that rule is good...or at least coming to an agreement. UT in Austin now has 70% attendance from kids from Texas. They want more diversity from other states and such. There's got to be some compromise there somewhere.
...the American Pediatrics group is at it again, saying that television advertising is bad for children. They've got proposals for Viagra ads not to be shown before 10PM, and no babes selling beer and no fast-food ads shown in children's shows, etc. They might be right, but making laws and rules against those things isn't the answer. The answer is parents doing their jobs and teaching their children to think critically.
...there was a contest to come up with a 30-second ad for the Super Bowl and it was supposed to be an ad for the Super Bowl itself. Nathan and I had an idea of going through the history of the Super Bowl in 30 seconds, complete with holding up a bowl of ice for the "Ice Bowl" and pointing to the lumbar on my back with a "D" on it for Lombardi and other stuff like that, with the two of us manically doing stuff for the 30 seconds. I was telling Tracy this and she said, "What would you do for the wardrobe malfunction?" That never even hit my radar. That lady is really funny.
...that I actually straightened the garage, so there's not much to feel guilty about not doing today.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Citizens For A Lesser United States

I read an article in the paper today about a grass-roots movement calling themselves "Citizens for a Lesser Seattle." The basic idea is organizing to stop "luxuries" for their city, like a new basketball arena and put it towards things like salaries for police officers or better salaries for teachers. There's also another group called "Citizens for More Important Things."

I'm sure the issues aren't that simple and clear-cut. Don't get me wrong, I know that some things make tremendous amounts of money and to do that you have to spend tremendous amounts of money. And sometimes you can't measure the value of a sports franchise or underground tunnel to ease traffic in dollars alone...because it is valuable as an "identity" or it makes the citizenry feel good about their town.

But I like the basic idea. Businesses are fueled by the idea that they need to focus on the most important thing their business does well and continue to find ways to do that better rather than diversify. Families do the same thing: Find their priorities and utilize their budget and make decisions based on those realities.

So, I'm in on their general premise.

But our task today, Diner patrons, is to answer the question one of three ways. What do we do to have a "less is more" mindset about our... and/or
...our city and/or
...our church.

For me, about the country, I'd rather spend all the money we put into the space program and channel all that effort into alternative energy sources.

For my city, I wish we'd focus more on the arts (outside the high school system--which seems to be doing a good job). You know, have more places for musicians to play or painters to display their work or actors to act...rather than find new ways to cram big-box retailers into the "master plan." There's got to be some sense of balance there where the homeowners could get tax relief while at the same time committing to "quality of life."

For our church, I think we'd do well to spend our money at least 50/50 on building relationships and meeting people "where they are" rather than on what I "need to grow." It really isn't about "me" or "us" when it comes right down to it.

So, now, Citizens for A Lesser Diner, have at it...
The B.C.S. Is Officially A Mess

With U.C.L.A.'s upset of U.S.C. yesterday, the Bowl Championship System is now up to its arms in alligators. Now they have to decide if one-loss Michigan or one-loss Florida should challenge Ohio State for the national college football title.

Either way, they'll have a legitimate controversy. It could be worse if Louisville makes a lot of noise with their one-loss team, too.

And the more controversy on this, the better. The sooner the B.C.S. is done away with and a playoff system is put in place, college football is less enjoyable because their "champion" is a myth.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Stroll Gone Wild

Tracy and I have a few hours free on a Friday night and decided to do some Christmas browsing. Not shopping, per se, because I generally loathe "shopping" but just getting out an a brisk night and doing something other than sitting at home doing nothing. A good spot for strolling and chatting and browsing/window shopping is this place in Southlake. That local burg has done a magnificent job of creating a downtown/urban atmosphere (unlike Flower Mound's Parker Square, which is dismal by comparison) complete with Brownstone home living and hotels and such.

Anyway, we're strolling.
We're chatting.
We're browsing/window shopping.

We decide to stop in the local Apple store. We have friends who deserve gifts and computer accessories and iPod add-ons might be just the thing.

The place was overrun with happy middle-school teenagers having a blast. Sure, it looked like Abercrombie and Aeropostale and Hollister threw up all over them but they're in a retail store on a Friday night...

...hanging out.

Not the parking lot. Not behind the building. In the store. They're taking pictures of their friends using the camera attached to the computer and sending e-mails to taunt their friends who couldn't be there. They're pulling up songs on the store's iTunes list and telling their friends "you absolutely gotta hear this song." They're updating their MySpace pages with photos or showing their recent posts to their friends. Three girls huddled around a laptop and one fires off, "I absolutley KNEW he liked her and would be asking her to the movies!" Embarrassed giggles ensued.

I'm not kidding. The energy level in this retail establishment was palpable. A very hip and with-it vibe.

The staff didn't seem to mind. I think they understand that for every kid that was killing time there would be another start a sentence with, "Mom, there was this really cool iPod cover..." or "Dad, we totally have to add the camera feature with the updated software. You can do SO much more with it." The staff treated them with respect, too. One staffer, in the midst of selling about $2,000 worth of product to a customer, leaned over to one of the girls (who turned up a Justin Timberlake song really loud on the Bose speaker system and was getting with it), and said, "Hi. Listen. That's a really good song, isn't it? Anyway, would you mind turning it down while I help these nice people?" He could've been a jerk. But he chose to be nice. Like I said, I think they've been trained to understand that most of them either have expendable income of have parents who do...but in addition I think the guy was just a nice guy.

During the browsing I had a question that only a Mac guy who wasn't trying to sell me something would answer truthfully and my friend Chris T (link on the left) could help. I called him and while I was asking a question it got kind of loud while some teens were checking out "Hot Or Not Dot Com" and I told Chris about how I was kind of surprised that of all the places teens could hang out they were in a retail Apple store...that Apple had definitely marketed cool (we'd both read the same book about that very thing) and I was seeing it first-hand.

Chris' response: "Well, they're definitely not hanging out at CompUSA on a Friday night, are they?"

The question got answered and Tracy looked at some software for her Mac and then we were off to dinner at Chipotle's.

But, manalive, the folks at Apple have it figured out if it's cool for teens to hang out in a computer store on a Friday night. They've got it figured out, too, that if you treat them with respect and understand that middle schoolers out and about on a Friday night will pretty much act like squirrels released from captivity in a sack and just need a reminder, they'll come back.

And spend money.

And want to do so.

And do so joyfully.

Even if that means your display laptops take a gazillion pictures of 4 girls wearing Abercrombie and furry boots so they can text message that photo to their friends who are at the movie theatre half a mile over.

Friday, December 01, 2006


The local school officials shut down any and all after-school activities. Everyone. Out. Go home. It might get slick later.

Good call, if you're asking me.

Tracy made Hopkins County soup. The kind that has all sorts of veggies and chicken in it and is really good and you make a pot of it and the whole family can eat for a week.

I built a fire in the fireplace.

We decorated the tree together. Laughed about all the ornaments they made in various craft activities--over a decade and a half of Decembers in children's Sunday School will provide the majority of tree decorations. Thought about the ornaments we've tried to buy each year for something significant--like the one we picked up at Rockefeller Plaza on an NYC vacation, or the Cinderalla's castle we got at Disney, or the DTS ornament I got near graduation, or the Santa in Cowboys colors we got upon moving to Dallas. It took a while...also because we're in the process of trimming down our Christmas boxes (some of the lights and decor we never use but we keep it--but not this year)...but it was enjoyable.

The girls have trees in their rooms. Little ones. They decorated them with their own individual flair.

We ate around the same table.

Marshmallows were on the ends of wire coat hangers.

Lounging on the couch under blankets and hoping for another day off (which they won't get--going up to 50 degrees today) with the dog asleep beside them, while watching the news. One channel had a camera set up at a predictably icy overpass near where we live and they just showed video of cars and trucks slipping and sliding. "Whoa!" "Oh my gosh!" "Man, that was close!" We were into it.

Washed dishes and went to bed at a decent hour.

Nothing really special. Everything really special.

And I wonder what would happen if L.I.S.D. just cancelled every afternoon activity once or twice a week...