Saturday, June 30, 2007

Some Rainy & Overcast Saturday Quotes (Is June Over Already?)

From an interview with Anne Lamott in July/August's Relevant magazine:

"I was influenced more by Martin Luther King, Jr. than by any theologian. King's Christianity was about putting your money where your mouth is, putting your life on the line. You don't deepen your relationship with Christ with books; you do it by showing up with other people who are taking care of the poorest, hungriest and most marginalized. If you want to find where Jesus is, you'll find Him close to the poorest of the poor, the suffering, the terrorized people."

"I try not to follow people who follow Jesus. We're all screwed up in ways that are more similar than not. Almost all of my problems are problems of perception, where I am seeing something so wrong, through my very human, anxious, greedy eyes."

"[Being transparent & honest about walking with Christ] means there's a lot of pressure within Christian churches to talk about stuff that fits within certain factinos that people are a part of. According to those factions, it's important for lecturers and writers to sound sure of what they're saying, so that they sound like they're living the Christian life, and it's going so much better than anyone could have hoped, where they don't hate anyone, and they forgive easily, and they don't have awful moods and they don't care what their stomach looks like."

From a review of yet another "emergent" book, the quote written by reviewer Eric Hurtgen, in the same magazine:

"At its worst, Emergent can seem like intellectual faddishness. However, Emergent's faults shouldn't obscure the message of a group of believers who earnestly seek to see Jesus incarnated in the world."

*pours coffee, looks at the drizzle out the window enjoyable, and begins to ponder*

Friday, June 29, 2007

Good, Thought-Provoking Article

Nice article from our friends at Burnside Writers Collective (link at left). It's stuff like this that makes me think about starting our very own little collective.

How To Use God To Get What You Want, by Ben Rogers
So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that no matter how much Cingular told me there'd be no drop in service quality when they merged with AT&T, I have experienced the opposite. With Cingular, I can't think of a time when a call was dropped (even when I was in Holland). Now, I lose one a day if not more.
...that it's pretty cool when one of your kids watches some cooking show on some cooking channel, writes stuff down, and then says you have to be home for dinner tonight at 7PM because she's doing all the cooking.
...that everybody knows that iPhone's unveiling today will give us all something to ooh and ahh over. Everybody also knows that Apple will have some kinks to work out which will take a few months and they'll also have price decreases as they offer other versions later. So, why do people want to rush out and get one today when a better, cheaper version will be out by Christmas?
...a website decided to list the "most annoying songs ever." I cannot believe the 80's songs "Mickey" and "99 Luftballoons" didn't make it.
...lemme get this straight: 11 concerts. $20 million per Spice Girl (making $100 million guaranteed). Were they ever really that popular? Who's going to see those shows?
...I'd like to think that Paris Hilton's newfound philanthropic leanings are a genuine result of her jail-term soul searching ("Don't serve the time, let the time serve you") but the cynic in me sees it as her trying to rebuild her image. Which, now that I think about it, is really why she's famous, so I guess she'd better do what she's gotta do.
...that I know curriculum development is called that because you're developing it, but it gets annoying when you come up with a teaching idea in the middle of the process and know that something you did and moved on from now fits better earlier in the course. Dangit.
...I'm still not tired of the rain. I know it's causing some flooding and such, but in my little burb, it's only soggy. And I'll take soggy and overcast in a Texas summer over the only other option out there: 77 days of 100 degree temps.
...I appreciate Michael Moore's use of the 1st Amendment, but isn't his documentary expose thing played out by now?
...Tracy and I have a unique relationship with the "Die Hard" movie series in that they were on our movie channels. The first one was in heavy rotation when Tracy would have trouble sleeping when pregnant with Kid1. The second was in heavy rotation when Tracy would have trouble sleeping when pregnant with Kid2. I wonder what's in store for us in 2010, what with the release of "Live Free or Die Hard" this week.
...Some people are into the Civil War stuff. Some are into WWII. Some the Revolutionary War. So, why do I get all these strange looks when people ask me what I'm reading and it's a very important historical work on the assasination of JFK (Tracy says it looks like I'm reading a dictionary)? Especially since we live in Dallas and all the frames of reference are very familiar to us?
...that I can't understand why blogging, both writing and commenting, slows down in the summer months.
...that I'd better get on with my day.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I've Got Tickets...

...to the local minor league baseball game scheduled for tonight.

It's kind of like a bonus because yesterday's game was rained out so they're starting a double-header at 5PM, and since they only play 7-innings for minor league double-headers I get 14 innings when I was only getting 9.

But lemme paint the picture for you:



Our church has had not one, but two picnics rained out this month. We finally had to have it indoors just to get it done.

And last night our student ministry had group tickets to go see Evan Almighty and didn't get to go because a storm knocked out the power for an hour and the manager said that it'd take another hour once it came back on to let the other movies finish and then start them up again.

And the Dallas area has had 16 days of rain, nearly tripling the average rainfall for the month and coming VERY close to setting the all-time record for the month. It's already rained at my house this morning, and there is a chance of rain/storms all day around here. In fact, for the next five days. And, I have to say it: I'm pretty stoked about this...and pulling hard for us to break the record. I know some of you think this is sick and twisted, but I say no more sick and twisted than the nutsos on the radio who start hoping we break the records for consecutive days over 100 degrees.

No matter. I really don't think I'll be getting any bonus baseball tonight.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Questions From Yesterday, Part 4

Kristen asked, "Porch swing - or hammock?"

Depends on what I'm after. Conversation, porch swing. Reading time alone with Lloyd, hammock. Occasionally, I can get Tracy in the hammock, and then it's the best of both. Generally speaking, it's hammock every time.

Trey asked, "Hey I should probly know this but why is Lake S called Lake S?"

Back when the building program was getting underway and everything was just an idea, the people who were on the design committee would refer to parts of the land and jokingly name it after themselves. For example, they might say, "The lower parking lot is going to go next to the building running from Colley Field past Morgan's Meadow." One time, they were drawing on a whiteboard and somebody had written "Lake S" where the lake was. It's the only one that stuck.

Donna asked, "What would you do with your kids, (10 and under) during the summer when it has rained for a million days? And the pay check fairy isn't coming for a week.

A couple of possibilities--the main one is to put them in old clothes and let them outside to play dodgeball, tackle football, or just stomp in puddles for a while. Let them build boats out of popsicle sticks and have them float down to the drain. Skip rocks. Stuff like that. They won't melt.

Or borrow Dance Dance Revolution Extreme or Guitar Hero II on PlayStation. I haven't found teens to tire of either of those. Then they can read a book. Or five.

Or rent some classic older movies they haven't seen that they should, like Back to the Future or The Karate Kid. Make popcorn and have a marathon.

SM asked, "Is there any talk of a Juarez, Mex mission trip for the 30-somethings (...and above)?"

Yes. In fact, in the new program of discipleship at CBC you'll be hearing about all sorts of things that are similar in nature. Like I said before, I think grown-ups have the same needs as teenagers (and everytime I've seen them out of their natural habitats they revert back to being the same fun people they were before they had jobs and kids and responsibilities) and a lot of the things that have caused growth in our teens over the years will have applications to grown ups.

However, be careful what you wish for, because other things that have caused growth in our teens involve grown-ups getting involved and serving...which means getting out of ruts and comfort zones. For example, our students have, for years, led small group Bible studies and discipled younger teens. Well, see where this is headed? Fasten your seatbelts, grown-ups, because a Juarez trip is only the beginning.

SM also asked, "Dan Bollin (former director of Pine Cove, and most amazingly gifted speaker) has a great series of talks on Daddys and Daughters...any chance CBC could get him to lead a special Daddy/Daughter weekend?"

There's always a chance. I'm familiar with Dan and have obviously been a fan of Pine Cove's ministry over the long haul (in fact, we've got 6 former students working out there this summer in various capacities), and we'd have to get WAY more details (fees, availability, what CBC ministry would be in-charge and how it fits that ministry philosophically, would there be a corresponding one for sons, etc., all come into consideration) but there's always a chance.

Well, I hope that helps. The Diner management thanks you all for your continued patronage.
Questions From Yesterday, Part 3

Flower Mound Mom asked, "Where do you see yourself two years from now? Five years? Ten years?"

Well, since I presented a plan for discipleship at the May elder meeting that involved an 8-year implementation timetable, I think it's safe to say that, today, I see myself at CBC doing what I'm doing. Two years from now, probably getting comfy with the plan as it engages. By year five, it'll probably have morphed a bit and been re-written some, but still in the implementation process. If it all goes according to Hoyle, maybe in 10 years CBC will have found something else for me to do.

Maybe I'll have written a book or two, especially once the girls have moved out and all. But if I haven't, that's okay, too. I might see if DTS or DBU has need of somebody to do some sort of teaching, too. But my primary focus will likely be at CBC, provided they'll still have me.

Hal asked, "What thoughts come to mind when you hear or see the name, Matt Sinatro?"

Well, Hal, I haven't seen or heard that name since high school, but I have vague remembrances of him as a back-up catcher for the Braves who we somehow started calling my next-door neighbor Matt "Sinatro" whenever we played our marathon backyard wiffle ball sessions even after we were old enough to drive.

Bonnye asked, "Politics: I am having a hard time with the candidates we have to choose from on the Conservative list. It seems like the front runners have been married several times. Do you think that failed marriages has anything to do with a candidates capabilities?"

In politics, when it comes to the Constitution, I'm a romantic, a patriot and an idealist. When it comes to politicians, I'm a realist (some say a cynic). While I believe our system of government to be the best in the world, I also believe that politicians say and do whatever it takes to get elected. Hence, I tend to evaluate them all as best I can and roll the dice with my vote since I don't really believe much of what I've read and heard. Ultimately, I don't think marriage or a failed marriage has much to do with a candidate's capabilities. I mean, when you think about it, Clinton's marriage hasn't "failed"...they're still together. Or is Bush's that great? We don't really know, do we? So, I try to stick to the issues and don't even limit myself to "conservative" or "liberal" labels. I've voted as extreme as Libertarian in some cases and independent and Republican and Democrat. I haven't voted straight party ticket since the Reagan years when it was cool to do that.

Anonymous asked, "What kind of arrangement have you made to cause all of this rain???? (I know you must somehow be at the root of this...rain lover!)

I haven't made any arrangements to cause it...but I'm continuing to go left sock, right sock, right shoe, left shoe when I'm getting dressed because I'm kind of superstitious that way and since I did that on the first day of rain, I'm sticking with it.

Mrs. Bowe asked, ""Suppose" the government were to remove Christian bookstores (e.g. Family Christian Bookstore, Mardel, Lifeway etc.) and self proclaimed Christian radio from American society, what would be the result?"

I think Christians would spend more time reading their Bibles and discussing it with each other, building community and doing life together. We'd also have a clearer understanding of doctrine and theology and why it matters rather than a lot of people using the same words but having different definitions. This muddies up a lot of things when there are stark differences in theological beliefs and how they are lived out, and people who should know better don't...and it's because they hear Super Radio Preacher say one thing, and their church uses those same words, but Super Radio Preacher has a distinctly different meaning of those words--which results in a different application altogether. And people aren't picking up the subtleties.

Now, on a personal note, it's awfully hard for us as pastors. I mean, we try to be good teachers and we try to serve our congregations and love our folks, and while we give our best, it's awfully tough to be compared to the Swindolls or Stanleys or Bells or McKinleys out there. There's a reason those guys are on the radio and have podcasts downloaded by the thousands, folks...and occasionally, competence gets buried because of comparison.
Questions from Yesterday, Part 2

Steph also asked, "Who's your favorite author and why?"

Well, that changes from time to time. The ones that generally stay at the top are Kurt Vonnegut (because he is a brilliant wordsmith), Douglas Coupland (his worldview is a great deal like mine in that he's a realist) and Stephen King (because, even though he is entirely too wordy, he can tell a story like nobody else).

Steph's third question was, "Since he died so young, did your father take on a sort of hero status in your mind and how do you cope with that in relation to your own children? (living up to the hero, etc.)

I can say with absolute certainty that my dad was never elevated to "hero status" in my mind. By the time I was 14 and the shock wore off, there were some realities about my father that came to light. For example, after his father-in-law died he went into a deep depression which led to several behaviors which certainly made him all too human to me.

However, he was a hero in the sense that he loved his wife even when she was unlovely, he spent an embarrassing amount of time with his children, he didn't take his blue-collar steel worker job too seriously (some would say bordering on not serious enough) and he laughed a lot. He drank a beer every day after work (playing me in one-on-one in the driveway, and him not spilling the beer was his handicap. He never lost. He never spilt, either) and he coached little league and even helped me out when I quit basketball and got into hockey. He took me hunting and fishing, which I detested, so he stopped and took me to football games. He taught me to water ski and pulled us on inner tubes. He gave me a very happy childhood for 13 years...which is plenty heroic, if you ask me.

I guess the only way I "cope" in relation to my own children is that I go overboard with wanting them to know me. I felt like I never really knew my dad because just about the age you get to do that, he died. I knew a lot about my dad, and I knew what he liked to do, but I never knew him to the degree I think I would've liked. So, I try to help my kids with that.

Steph finally asked, "What's your favorite fruit?"

The apple. It's a classic.

Lu asked, "Are you sure you really want to "play" with the big kids?"

Yes. Absolutely. Simply because I think the big kids want that, too. The same principles apply to working with adults that apply to students...and I think the better question is are the big kids sure they want to play with me?

I mean, my former students will tell you that I've never been easy on them, I've challenged them and pushed them and provoked them...even if that wasn't the easiest way to go. I take the role of discipleship extremely seriously...and the biggest difference between adult and teenagers is that teenagers admit pretty freely the limits of their knowledge and ability, which makes them ultimately more teachable. So, I'll have to learn more about how to stretch adults out of their comfort zones in a way that isn't oft-putting, but yes, I really do want to play with the big kids.
Questions From Yesterday, Part 1

Whenever things slow down in the summer, I welcome Diner patrons to ask whatever questions are on their brains...and here's my responses to yesterday's questions:

Kendra asked, How would you say you have changed theologically in the past 10 years?

Well, honestly, I can say that I haven't really changed at all from the day I was ordained. Now, don't get me wrong...I spend a lot of time re-visiting the items on our doctrinal statement, say, when I'm asked to sit on an ordination council and am responsible for testing the candidate on a particular section. Maybe a former professor writes an article in a journal. And, especially when my former students, who are now accepting offers to serve in church leadership positions, as they wrestle with various doctrines. Also, the two constants that stay on the radar are the issue of "speaking in tongues" (or "private prayer languages") and the role of women in ministry.

Like I said, I can't think of significant changes in any area of the doctrinal statement of our church. What has definitely changed has been my ability to give others the freedom to disagree and still love them and like them. There was a time when I would burn a lot of energy arguing whether or not you were pre-or-post trib or the validity of your "private prayer language" or the role of someone divorced in leadership...stuff like that.

But, I've learned over the last 10 years that people I dearly love and like have differing positions than I do on those things and many others, and the relationship is vitally more important than the stances taken. So, I guess you can say that I've mellowed in my approach to those who differ...

...which I think is good since I'll be spending eternity with pretty much all of them...

...but my stances haven't wavered.

TT asked, "How did you like Dave's jokes about you in the sermon on sunday?"

For those of you that don't know, Dave joked around about several staff members in his sermon on Sunday...and since he was discussing Christian maturity at one point he rhetorically asked, "So, what does maturity look like?" Then, on the big screens, he showed an 8-year-old staff photograph of me when my hair was in the awkward growing out phase.

The answer to the question is that Dave asked us all during the week if we were okay with it and we all were. Frankly, if we can't laugh at ourselves and with each other, then we've got bigger issues afoot. I thought it was funny and was thankful that he didn't go with one of 100 other more embarrassing photos (19 years of youth ministry will produce those...if you don't believe me just search for photos of me on Facebook and well...I've told you more than I should've.) he has on me.

Was there another way to take it?

Steph asked several, "Why aren't you a youth pastor anymore?"

Well, Steph, there are several ways to approach that answer so let me hit most of 'em. First, there's the reality that God has been working in my life/heart for quite some time about effectiveness in student ministry. The reality is that effectiveness is minimal without a partnership of some type with their parents. Over the last few years, since Nathan (and the rest of the staff that worked for me) was so obviously gifted and talented at working with students, it gave me the freedom to serve parents more...which worked well because I now had both of my teens in the ministry. I began to notice that I loved parents a great deal, too, and as they grew, so did their children. So, part is that God was changing my interests a bit.

Second, the factor I couldn't control was how the students viewed me. What I mean is this: Students began to view me as more of a principal and my staff as more the "cool teachers." They would develop deeper relationships with staffers than with me.

Third, the natural ebb and flow of my job kept me busy with developing staff, which meant they were the ones going to lunchrooms and football games and to coffees with the teens. My role was to serve them as they did the ministry, and this required more administrative tasks and pastoral meetings. My relational ministry was naturally becoming more limited in scope.

Fourth, our church has different needs now than it did 10 years ago...and watching Nathan, Steve, Kristy and Heather design a new ministry plan was such an encouragement to me because every fiber of my being wanted to continue with what I was comfortable with. And, frankly, after 19 years of it, I might've been too set in my ways. The ministry needed to re-calibrate with fresh eyes, and they've done that. Thankfully, all the while this was progressing along (it took about 18 months), there was a position at CBC that would allow me to stick around and serve the body here...so I jumped at the chance when they offered. For the student ministry to get to the next level, no matter how much I love it, well, it had to be turned over. It was the most loving thing I could do.

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm still fascinated with teenagers and enjoy being around them as much as ever. I have two in my home that crack me up all the time. I still get to goof around with them and will be as involved as I can be as a volunteer in that ministry. It just looks different.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's That Time Of Year Again...

Once per year, usually when things slow down in the summer, I allow the patrons of The Diner to interview the proprietor. Any question is welcomed...

...personal...
...professional...
...political...
...spiritual...
...sports-related...
...book recommendations...

...etc.

Whatever's on your brain is on the table.

It's just one more service The Diner provides. You have 24 hours...

...GO!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Soccer Apologist?

Many of you may not know this, but the United States men's soccer team defeated Mexico yesterday 2-1.

Now, I'm a sports fan. In fact, I think that sportswriter would've been in the mix to be my choice of a career if I'd had any idea what I was supposed to be doing when I was in university. I was too busy thinking deep thoughts about the universe and my place in it to be worried about something so shallow as "career preparation." I like to write. I like sports. There are jobs that let you do both.

Anyway, soccer rates WAY down on my list of "stop and watch." That list? Football (college & professional). Major League baseball. NHL hockey. College basketball from big conferences (I have little, if any, patience for what the NBA has done to a team sport--although I've been known to flip back and forth if the local Mavericks are deep in the playoffs and deep in a series).

Then soccer...and even then only if the United States is playing in World Cup qualifying match or a tournament of some note where our potential World Cup players are playing.

But yesterday was one of those tournaments. It was for the Gold Cup...which is a tournament for those who are in our World Cup qualifying group (North America, Central America & Caribbean nations). It's played in order to get necessary international experience and scheduled in "off-seasons" of World Cup qualifying.

The really big deal for the winner is that they get to play in a very prestigious tournament called the Confederations Cup, which takes the 6 winners of the qualifying regions, plus the host team, plus the defending World Cup champion and is played one year before the World Cup. It's a big deal, too.

Well, here's what I don't get:

When I watched the local news last night hoping to get some highlights, they talked to the local Stars hockey team general manager, gave some Rangers highlights, discussed Cowboys training camp (which, by the way, begins in three weeks), talked NASCAR, the NBA draft (still a week away) and closed with a human interest story.

So, I flipped to ESPN Sports Center. The lead story was NASCAR in a road race in Sonoma. It got 6 minutes. Then Ken Griffey Jr. hit some home runs of note (he might get to 600 this season, too)...then right into their baseball coverage. A Toronto pitcher came close to a no-hitter. Barry Bonds gave a good effort. Then there was an interview with some tennis stars about Wimbledon...at that point I was going to bed.

This morning I flip open the sports page to find PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDING as the lead story! The latest Rangers meltdown was duly noted. Mavs draft. The front page had plenty of room for a story about OCELOTS.

So, from what I can gather, there's more room for OCELOTS than for our national sports team winning a major tournament in what was a very exciting game. We came from behind to win 2-1, hit the post twice late, and our goalie had to make a great save with 2 minutes left.

If the US Soccer Federation wants to have the USA get on board with what the rest of the world seems to have figured out every few years, my suggestion would be to figure out a way to get games such as this on national networks (which, at the time of the game yesterday showed a TAPED golf tournament, a movie called Bedazzled from 2000, Indy Car racing--which led into two hours of an infomercial), and a live golf match) and the news networks should at least figure that a tournament final involving the US men's team will be watched more than a freakin' infomercial.

I mean, there's so many kids' soccer games going on in this country every weekend that SOMEBODY'S got to be interested, wouldn't you think?

And, keep in mind, that soccer is 5th on my list. I'm not some soccer fanatic who checks up on the world leagues every week and watches the Fox Soccer Channel's Nightly Soccer Report. I'm just a guy that likes a big game on a boring Sunday afternoon when I've got nothing else to do...

...but I can't help but think somebody involved with US soccer needs to get fired if you get less billing than NASCAR, tennis and oscelots.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

More For My Friends Who've Been To Holland With Me...

According to this article from the Associated Press, the Holland we've come to know and love might be a changin'.

I mean, if what this article says is true...

...a politician said, "The Red-Light District is not the way I want people to view Amsterdam."
...the Dutch nation seems to be saying, "we should have values; people are asking for more and more rules in society."
..."Parliament is considering a ban on the sale of hallucinogenic 'magic mushrooms.'"
..."Increasingly, politicians from the more center-left Labor Party are among the most outspoken proponents of closing some brothels and marijuana shops -- known here as 'coffee shops.'"
and...
..."There is a more conservative mood in the country that is interested in setting limits and making sure things don't get out of hand."

Now, that last statement might be a classic "closing the barn door after the horse escaped," but all of this goes to show that societies tend to have pendulum swings in morality of the masses. From liberal to conservative and back and forth it goes. Think 60's to 80's to 00's in America. It's just the way it is.

But, when you think about it, all those folks who say the the U.S. is at cultural depths of depravity, allow me to say, from someone who's been there, we're still a pretty conservative lot by comparison.
For My Friends Who've Been To Holland With Me...

Here is an article by Molly Moore about the culture of the bicycle lifestyle of Holland. I've only been in Holland for a total of 9 weeks of my life, but I can't tell you the number of times I've "double parked" a bike, or said, "Wait a minute. I could've sworn that I parked my bike in the third row next to that light pole. Hmmmm. Oh, yeah. It's over here next to that light pole."
And, So It Begins...

It's June 24.

The Mobile Press-Register has a 7 page interview with Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville about the upcoming season.

Sweet.

(and if somebody guaranteed me a 9-3 season with AU's schedule right now, I'd take it)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Livin' The Dream

Some friends of ours asked me to perform their wedding ceremony last night. They love each other, so that seemed like a natural progression of things. They wanted a small ceremony with their closest family and friends...

...and at the same time they wanted to celebrate what is certainly worthy of celebration. Their choice of venue was a fancy-schmancy place in downtown Dallas named The Crescent:



Since the wedding was later in the evening with a dinner following, the couple was nice enough to provide Tracy and I with a room for the night. Now, Tracy knows how to handle herself in a place like this, but I manage to become overwhelmed with the little things. For example, in this hotel they park the fancy-schmancy cars right out front...notice Mercedes, Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar. Oddly enough, my Corolla was nowhere to be found.



Here's the courtyard where they got married. I laughed out loud when the bride entered and everybody stood up, she said, "Everybody's standing up! That's so sweet!" She cried giving her vows, which I thought was sweet. I had to remind the groom to look at her while he was giving his vows...and it isn't the first time. Often, the guys get focused on the "repeat after me" part and look at me to make sure they get all the words right.



This is one of the definitions of fancy-schmancy to me: A raked ash tray with a flower in it.



A few observations about this wedding and this hotel experience:

When a couple is getting married and they're good friends, you can see that when they're just hanging out.

Couples that get married older tend to have a keen awareness of the gravity of what they're doing when giving vows and exchanging rings.

On one hand, hotels are hotels. Some may have nicer furniture or door handles or shower heads or towels or bath robes, but ultimately it's just a rented room.

Parents should act when their kids wake up at 6:30AM and start yelling and such, by taking them to breakfast or to the pool area or for a walk. Just telling them to be quiet or yelling at them to stop trying open the adjoining door of our rooms really doesn't do much. By the way, your kids are brats and I think you have a lot to do with it, folks.

If I were to purchase everything in our room that is beverage related or food related, I could make half a mortgage payment. There's a 2004 Merlot from Coppola Wineries (Tracy and I visited there once)...a small bottle (375 ml)...that goes for $33. A 12 oz. cola is $3.50. There's a bunch of stuff, too.

Some places cook a steak to such a degree that it makes dining a truly fabulous experience.

Watching grown-ups drunk-dial may actually be worse than college kids.

It doesn't take much to get 13-year old boys to attempt to pour juice off a balcony. It doesn't take much more than that to get their mom to bring that to a screeching halt before it becomes more than an idea.

I don't understand how much porn is being purchased in hotel rooms, but apparently there's a big demand because there were three different categories on the main menu where the regular old movies are.

I don't wear bathrobes and can't imagine ever wanting one, but I'll put this one on and stroll around the room just for kicks. 13-year-old boys will wear the house slippers to the after-dinner get together which is so funny even the mom laughs out loud.

No matter what else is going on in your brain, your radar locks in on someone laughingly telling a story that uses the phrase, "...and I get home and there's blood everywhere..." and the story is really pretty funny.

That I have no idea how much to tip or who all gets a tip...so I generaly avoid it. For example, a bell hop (do they still call them that) asks me if I need help with my luggage. It was small and I really didn't need help, but I said "no, thanks" after thinking that I might have to tip that guy.

That celebrating with those who are celebrating is something we should do more of.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Shelby's Off Today...

The bags are packed & weighed to make sure they fit within airline guidelines. Some things are tucked away inside those bags with a special vacuum packing bag that allegedly triples your luggage space.

Runs were made to Target...a couple of times. Lists were made and checked off. The bags are sitting by the door right now...ready and zipped and all that.

Airline itineraries were checked. We paid a fee to have someone assist with her making her connecting flight.

We had a night at home together as a family that ended like this (with Lloyd, once again, showing an EXTREME lack of ability to stay awake):



Kid2 leaves for the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for five weeks of training.

I'm proud of her. She works hard at what she loves. And I'm glad she's got this opportunity to get this level of instruction.

But...

...now that it's all done except getting there...

...it hits me that I'm really going to miss that kid.

Godspeed, Shelby. But text or call every now and then, okay?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Other Side Of The Coin

I got this from Mark Driscoll's blog (Link on the left):

"2. How healthy are pastors and their families?

At our 2006 Reform and Resurge Conference in Seattle, my good friend Pastor Darrin Patrick from The Journey in Saint Louis (www.journeyon.net) spoke frankly of the burden that pastoral ministry is. He presented the following statistics, which he gathered from such organizations as Barna (www.barna.org) and Focus on the Family (www.family.org).

Pastors

Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
Pastors' Wives

Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
The majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry."

Just in case any of you stumble across this information or stuff like it...

I want to let all of you know that there are some of us out there in ministry who are enjoying our walk with Christ.
Some of us are actually kind of energized about what God is doing in our midst.
We are enjoying seeing what God is doing in the lives of individuals and how that looks as a congregational family.
While we know we're all "unqualified" in some sense, we don't mind letting Christ do what it is He does in and through us.
We aren't planning on leaving the ministry anytime soon. Anytime at all, for that matter. And, newsflash: Most of the people I work with would make any company doing anything a better place--they're very bright and gifted.
Some of us envision being in our current role more than 5 or more years. There's plenty of work to be done.
Some of us aren't battling depression at all...much less constantly fight it.
Some of us really enjoy the wife of our youth and married her because she was the coolest girl we ever met and we still think so and we really do love her and plan on sticking to those vows we made some 19 years ago.
Some of us are grabbing our copy of The Message and having a cup of coffee in the hammock or in our favorite chair and simply allowing the Word to breathe life into us. We prepare for classes at our desk at work.

And, frankly, I don't know of a wife who doesn't feel like her husband is overworked. And vice-versa...we feel our spouses are overworked. So, I'm not sure that statistic isn't a bit skewed to begin with.
And, if my wife wanted me to have another profession, she hasn't mentioned it. In fact, when times were lean earlier in youth ministry and I talk about getting another job, she'd talk me out of it. "Right. And have you miserable just so we can have a few dollars here and again? No, thanks. You were wired by God to do this, so why don't we trust Him and see what happens?" She's the kind of girl who would bring it up if she really wanted me out of this.
And some of us think that ministry in our life together, which spilled and flooded our home, has only added to the abundance of life we're already experiencing.

So, in conclusion...to those who are somewhere in the statistics quoted above: I simply want to encourage you a little bit, let you know that I'm concerned for you. I've been in some of those places and know it can seem dark and you can get discouraged. Seek Him, okay?

To those of you reading: Just wanted to let you know that some of us are still having a ball (personally and professionally) and can't believe we get paid to walk with Christ. We recognize that we lead a charmed life.

And we're thankful to be where we are, doing what were doing, with people we love doing it with.

Just letting you know.
I Thought This Was Pretty Funny (Today's "Non Sequitur")

Another Rite Of Passage

A couple of giggling girls wondering "which towels are old" and looking for a "pillowcase we don't need anymore" are because of this:



Kid1 continues to take us down parenting trails that are new to us, but ones we've seen for years working with teenagers. It's pretty cool...and leaves me wondering what's next.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sign O' The Times, Part 2

Today is the 70th anniversary of Robert Johnson's famous Dallas sessions. You know. The ones that produced some of the greatest blues songs of all time and some of the most soulful music ever recorded?

And, fittingly, some local blues singers and guitarists are throwing a bash honoring the legend at a local club downtown. The club is located at the intersection of Pearl and Commerce. Beautifully, the club's name is "Pearl and Commerce." It starts at 8PM. It's free. As a tribute should be.

And, in the "I-don't-think-they-see-the-irony" department: The House of Blues...repeat...THE HOUSE OF BLUES is also having a show of some reknown tonight. The U.S. Air Guitar Championships. The winner will get to go to Finland for the world championships. Tickets are $10.

So let me get this straight: Extremely talented and thankful artists will honor someone who built their foundation and it don't cost nuthin,' and a bunch of hams will fake playing other people's music--one guy is noted for his ability to mimick "My Sharona"--and also have a rule that you have to sign up beforehand so as not to give folks who've had too much to drink who get dared to get up there? Apparently, this mimicking is taken seriously.

*crosses fingers*
*closes eyes*
*repeats to himself: citizens of Dallas, please pack Pearl and Commerce, citizens of Dallas, please pack Pearl and Commerce, citizens of Dallas, please pack Pearl at Commerce*
Sign O' The Times?

Yesterday, the Vatican released a document called "Guidelines for Pastoral Care of the Road." Here are the "Driver's 10 Commandments":

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

It also discussed a reality that driving could "bring out 'primitive' behavior in motorists, including 'impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the highway code.'"

The official document included some do's and dont's, such as saying that "charity" would call for "allowing someone who wishes to drive faster to pass." "Prudence" forbids the use of cellphones behind the wheel. "Justice" means following the driver's code.

Now, don't get me wrong...

...this is wise stuff. We'd all be better off if we chose to protect the more vulnerable party.

But one would think the Vatican would have a bit more to be concerned about these days, what with Darfur and Sierra Leone and the Middle East and Iraq/Iran and North Korea and all that.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend

The first sermon was heard while the weed-eating and edging were being done.

The second was finished while the final strips of the back yard were being mowed.

Since I still had some sweeping to do, and still had to put the hammock & grill back in their normal spots (along with a couple of pieces of outdoor furniture), I chose Tom Petty's "Swingin'" as the musical background to the chore.

Still had some sweeping to do so I needed a short song with some energy so I could rally to complete the job. I chose Pennywise and their "Bro Hymn."

I start sweeping...sans sound.

Hmmm.

Check the iPod. Somehow, the photo of Tom Petty's album cover is halfway on the screen and "eywise" is on the other half. On the left half underneath that is "o Hymn." This isn't good, but doesn't seem anything more than the apple web site's "5 R's" can't handle.

I start with "reset."

The colorful apple logo shows up pretty quickly.

Then a computer with a frowny face appears. There's also a triangle with an exclamation point.

Checking the website for a description of this logo reveals that I need to bring in my iPod to the Apple Store for diagnosis.

I guess we'll see if those folks at the Genius Bar are as smart as advertised.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Baby Gus

Things I'll want to do when my new niece--lovingly dubbed "Baby Gus" by her parents until a better one is revealed--due in August, gets of age (or, stuff I enjoyed doing when my girls were little):

Plug in the electric guitar and set the amp to full effects, connect the whammy bar, turn it up, and let her rip.
Legos. And leave them out while we do something else, and come back to them.
Lay in the hammock and read all sorts of books to her.
Take her to a baseball game here, where we can load up a cooler with popsicles and other junk.
Watch Sesame Street.
Take her to whatever Pixar release is big at the time...and let her watch various similar DVD's we've accumulated over the years.
Set up an easel in the kitchen and load her down with watercolors, and put the results on the refrigerator with magnets.
Put her in some sort of tutu and turn the music on in the studio and let her watch herself in the mirror.
Sing the SpongeBob Squarepants song at full voice.
Drink chocolate milk & eat donuts at Krispy Kreme very early on Saturday.
Take her to the batting cages and play catch with her, too.
Get one of those bubble machines and let her chase bubbles on a slightly windy day.
Make shampoo mohawks and bubble beards during bath time.
Sidewalk chalk all over my driveway.
Pretend to be asleep on the couch when someone comes into the room who knows we're not really sleeping.
Take the dog for a walk around the block and let her hold the leash.
Tell bedtime stories where she gives me the first line and I have to finish it.
Chase them with the smallest amount of provocation (we had a rule that if I saw their belly-button I had to get it, so they'd come into a room, lift their shirt just above their navel, and I'd run at full throttle and they'd scream at top volume).
Stick socks to her right out of the dryer when they're full of static.
Let her pick the clothes she wants to wear that day, and let the results stand, no matter what they are and where we're going.
Ask her what the "high" of her day was during dinner, and listen to her tell me 5 things...and then say there weren't any "lows."
Take a family photo and let her wear the crown anyway.
Let her heat up marshmallows in the fireplace using a wire hanger.
Play Chutes 'N Ladders, Candyland and Hi Ho Cherry-O...and teach her to cheat so she beats her parents.
Teach her to sing the Auburn fight song...using the real words, not the polite ones.

So, Jilly and Shane, I'm just saying that somewhere along the lines of 2011 as my nest begins to empty, you'll need to be planning a two week trip somewhere. I think that should be enough time...as you can see, me and Gus have stuff to get done. Sure, I'll enjoy the earlier bonding moments and the later-on stuff like Ramones/Pistols 101 and helping her pick out tattoo #1 and driving around the church parking lot when she's only 13--those are pretty good, too--but we've got to get this particular time slot reserved NOW.
Little Help?

My daughter, Kid2, needs a "pan balance" for a science experiment.

It's just to gather data for the one assignment. So, we don't want to buy one. We'll gladly rent one.

We've called our friends that homeschool and the requisite homeschool support stores...and can't seem to find one out there.

Anyone?

Anyone?

Monday, June 18, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...very few things take you from 0 to 100 on the adrenaline scale as quickly as tornado sirens at 1:30AM.
...the book I recently finished was based on a fantastic concept: It described the nuances of Dutch culture to outsiders through the vehicle of their famous soccer players. For example, it discussed the Dutch soccer system of total football was learned throughout their players' childhoods as they studied total city planning (like Amsterdam) or spatial awareness (through famous painters). It would be like explaining American culture to outsiders using baseball players, like how Jackie Robinson spearheaded race relations, or Babe Ruth as the example of capitalism's reward of larger-than-life, or Tony Gwynn as an example of the protestant work ethic. Fascinating read, even if I didn't know all the players.
...that my column on the left of finished books will slow considerably with the summer reads of the 880-page Democracy in America by de Tocqueville and Father's Day gift of Bugelosi's Reclaiming History: The Assasination of President John F. Kennedy. It's 1,512 pages of annotated goodness, weighs over 7 lbs., and has a CD in the back for all the "end notes and source notes."
...Tracy has a friend getting married this weekend and one of the table decorations is a bottle of wine from a local winery in Grapevine, of which Kid1 will be painting each label. I think that's a cool idea.
...this rain we've been getting has made this one of the most pleasant Texas summers I can remember. And, it doesn't take too much these days to put off mowing the lawn for one more day.
...people in our community go on the coolest vacations.
...we thought the neighbor's house sold yesterday, which would NOT be good for our planned protest of our government appraisal as it would've only been on the market for half a week, but it turns out the wind blew over the sign.
...I'm having a blast teaching my Sunday School class for grownups.
...I've got to get back in the gym.
...there was a provocative article in the Dallas Morning News today by Jonah Golberg that suggested radical educational alternative to public schools. The idea is that since the government makes very few things work as well as supply and demand does, why not re-vamp the system. The article was short on specifics, so I'd like to see a book containing his thoughts, but I like the initial way his thoughts were headed.
...Vacation Bible School must be quite the big business as far as curriculum sales to churches. It seems like every church has a themed week like "Splashwater Falls" or "Jungle Adventure" with professionally done promotional materials like signs for the front of your church and movie-theater style cardboard cut-outs. I can tell you this: I've already learned stuff from the cool set-up at our church for this week...like a manger was likely made out of stone and what a page from a Bible printed in the 1600's looked like.
...that it hit me that Kid2 will be leaving this Friday morning to dance with the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for 5 weeks. I'm really going to miss her...even though I know she'll be having the time of her life.
...another part of my Father's Day gift is the gift of being left alone for the afternoon. Apparently, that's what other dads wanted, too, because my wife said the movie theatre was abnormally packed yesterday afternoon even though there weren't any new releases of note.
...that I'd really like to start a writer's collective for local high schoolers for the web. I think it'd be kind of cool.
...my wife has to visit the Genius Bar at the Apple Store this afternoon with G4 problems. I'm tempted to go just because the Apple store is so hip & with-it.
...that it's about to start raining again and I've got reading to do, so I need to get on with my day.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

In honor of Father's Day...The Diner will list the official Top 5 TV Dads of All-Time as determined by the proprietor:

Honorable Mention: Archie Bunker (All in the Family), Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show, et al.), Steve Douglas (My Three Sons), Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch), Tim Taylor (Home Improvement), Eric Camden (7th Heaven), Charles Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie), Danny Tanner (Full House) & Jim Walsh (Beverly Hills, 90210).

5. Stephen Keaton (Family Ties). He had to raise Alex P. Keaton, the poster child of the Reagan years, and was a great counterpart. He worked for a public television station and was constantly laid back in his approach. I thought he was funnier than Michael J. Fox on that show.

4. Howard Cunningham (Happy Days). He owned his own hardware store. He hung out at Arnold's. He believed in The Fonz and helped him get his mechanic shop going. He was once Grand Poobah of the Leopard Lodge. He put up with Richie and Pottsie and Ralph Malph. He adored Joni (even though he let her marry Chachi). And he still found time to get frisky with Marion (who might be in the top 5 TV moms of all time) on occasion. If the next three weren't so over the top, he'd dominate the list.

3. Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best). Any dad who doles out nicknames to his kids like "Bud," "Princess" and "Kitten"...well, you know he's got a great relationship with his kids.

2. Ward Cleaver (Leave It To Beaver). Are you kidding me? Ward was great with his kids, but even better when he was dealing with those on the show who were putting on a front with him, like Eddie Haskell or Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford's dad, Fred. Or really, "Lumpy" himself.

1. Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show). Frankly, I don't even think this is debatable. In fact, the time he gave Theo a life-lesson about the cost of moving out using the Monopoly money was brilliant.

So, there they are. And if any of them would like to come by The Diner and accept their awards in person, they'll gain a one-month stay on the Wall of Honor and a lifetime supply of coffee.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I Was Going To Blog Today...

...but Tracy and the girls want doughnut holes for breakfast! I'm off!

***edit***

So, I open the door to the dougnut store and enter. It's the same one I've blogged about before with the immigrant family trying hard for their piece of the American Dream. They're still at it, so I'm assuming they're still in the running for that.

They seem really happy to see me. "Helloooo!" says the co-owner. Through the window that leads into the business end of the doughnut making, her husband smiles and this half bow, which I'm sure is a learned habit from his previous culture. Then he waves, which I'm sure is a learned habit from his more recent culture.

I said, "Good morning." I'm thinking of taking up the half-bow thing. It's kind of cool.

Then this kid, maybe three or four, eating with his parents and sibling blurts out, "Mommy, that man NEEDS A HAIRCUT!"

I laughed. Secretly, I was thankful he didn't add "NEEDS TO LOSE A FEW POUNDS AND GET A FASHION CONSULTANT" to the list. I might've gotten off easy now that I think about it.

The mom, of course, puts her head in her hands. It's obvious she's terribly embarrassed. "Johnny. That's very rude. Now, please apologize to the man."

He did.

I accepted.

A few thoughts:

Hooray for free speech! The kid is entitled to an opinion, and more power to him.
Hooray for the id!
Hooray for good parenting! Mom was all over it. Dad reinforced.
Hooray for friendly shopkeepers!
Hooray for good doughnuts...even if it isn't quite Krispy Kreme status!
Hooray for chocolate milk!
Hooray for rainy Saturday mornings!

This has the makings of a really fun day.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Great Idea

Tonight.

At the Dallas Museum of Art.

Eryka Badu.

Free.

Then the late-night DMA stuff for $10 a person, which includes things like some local high school jazz ensembles and the like, open-mike poetry & singing, bedtime stories for kids (who are supposed to wear their pajamas) told by serious storytellers, and the main exhibit is called The Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America...which was an experiment in provocation in the 20's and 30's by modern artists. You might know the name Duchamp.

There are worse ways to spend an evening.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

House of Blues

Last night I went to see dinner and a show at the new House of Blues here in Dallas. A few observations:

I'm highly attracted to the downtown loft-living scene right across the street from the place. It's a hip & with-it section of Dallas, so I'd imagine it's pretty pricey. In theory, I could live downtown and commute to FloMo since my kids aren't in the school district anymore, but I'm sure living in a hip & with-it loft downtown cost about 10x what my enjoyable little home is the 'burbs costs.

Dinner was both good and reasonably priced. Sure, I could've spent $28 on some entrees, but Kelsey and I got out of there for right at $25 and that included a HUGE piece of chocolate cake.

We ordered the HUGE piece of chocolate cake because of a feature that lets you gain early access to the music hall (and skip any lines that might've formed waiting to get in) if your dinner check gets over $25. We used the feature, but it turns out the show we were going to see added an act and started earlier than normal. The cake was still worth it.

We browsed the gift store. I've become convinced that you don't buy stuff from gift shops like that in your own home city. If I were in some other city on vacation or something, I probably would've found some hat or something as an "I was there" gesture but since I can go there pretty much anytime I didn't feel the need. Neither did Kelsey, and in the teen world that means something more than in my world.

They have a gospel music brunch every Sunday with all-you-can-eat southern style breakfast (whatever that means. I think I know, being from the Deep South and all, but I've learned that those that aren't southern--and, no Texas, you are NOT southern in that sense--call things southern that aren't my experience with southern). I can tell you that might just be a better worship experience than 80% of the churches in America provide on any given Sunday.

They told me I couldn't bring my digital camera (it's a little one) into the music hall. This was strange to me since there were guys with phones way bigger than my camera taking video, but, hey, whatever, man.

$5 to park? Not a bad deal at all given it's a high price area to park in by the American Airlines center and very trendy.

Gotta love shows where each band sells their new CD's for $5, too. I don't know how they make money doing that. Maybe it's just for the exposure of the deal and they make the cash on the t-shirts, which went for $15. You could "package" 2 t-shirts and the newest CD for $30 from every band. And, why does the t-shirt guy have a tip jar?

Apparently, one of the draws for bands to play House of Blues is how well they treat even "small, touring bands that have to work for a living." Free room for the night with showers (one of the band members commented that very few people know how great that is) and free dinner at the restaurant. I think that's pretty cool.

House of Blues takes away all the negatives from your concert-going experience. There are signs that say no fighting. Also no moshing. It's a smoke-free environment. There are huge, polite bouncers everywhere...and they have radios in case they need help. You even stand in line that's partially indoors. It's impeccably clean (they even search the teens coming in for Sharpies so they can't write on the walls or anything else). So was the crowd. One of the lead singers even commented that it was surreal to see "all the middle schoolers who came out tonight, considering there are 4 bars in this room alone." It was an "all ages" show, so the bartenders carded every single person every single time. (I guess that's how they get around it, anyway).

That sometimes those negatives are what makes the concert-going experience. Standing in the rain for an hour to get into some dive to hear some band trying to make it getting the crowd to mosh or crowd surf can be a pretty great memory...and add to that some ringing ears and having to wash the concert shirt you just bought because it smells like smoke already. Well, maybe the memory is better than the reality, which is why HOB fixed all those things.

The bands...well, let's just say that I think I'm getting old. It was a labor of love for Kid1, and I enjoyed the time I spent with her, but, I found myself wishing I'd had a book or two by the time the headliners came out (and they were less than stellar compared to the three opening bands--two of which were Green Day wanna-be's, and maybe they will be, but they weren't today) so I could sit at the back and read while my kid loaded her hard drive with more memories and $5 CD's.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Art of the Deal

The next-door neighbor put her house on the market this week. Shiny new sign in the yard complete with one of those holders for flyers that advertise the good things about the house and the asking price, too.

Since I don't want to appear nosy, I send Kid2 to grab one of the flyers.

She hands it to me and asks if the amount on the flyer is what our house is worth.

"Not exactly, kid. That's just a ballpark number to start with," I said. "First of all, knock 10% off that before we begin to talk. What will happen after that is that somebody who likes the house will make an offer. They'll intentionally give a price a whole lot lower than they want to pay. Then the homeowner will think about it and make a counter-offer. Then the potential buyer will think about it and decide to make another offer to that one. It could really get exciting for the homeowner if a couple of people are interested in the house because then they're really bidding against each other and upping the price."

"Why do they do it that way, Dad?"

"Not sure, really. Something to do with capitalism and the American Dream. I mean, it's hers and she can do with it what she wants. And buyers want to get a good deal...or at least one they can be comfortable with and afford. You buy cars the same way, too."

"Why don't we do everything that way?"

"I dunno. They do in some parts of the world, but I don't really care about haggling over a can of soup. I'd just as soon pay the asking price than stand there and discuss an agreeable price for 10 minutes. But really, you kinda can haggle in a roundabout way most all the time. You can wait to buy something knowing they've got a big sale coming up, or you can go to another store that has it at a cheaper price. You can buy in bulk sometimes and get something cheaper. If something's slightly damaged, they have scratch 'n dent places. You can shop online for the best prices for hotels and things. When you think about it, supply and demand is sort of built-in haggling."

*silence* (she had pretty much tuned out. I should've stopped at "I dunno." She's now more curious about what the dog is so curious about)

But what I know is the price on the flyer is what the government appraised MY house for and I feel pretty sure there isn't a chance that I could get that price on the open market...

...and I think I'm going to have to haggle with the government this time around on that end of things.

But let's be honest, shall we? It's awfully hard to haggle with the government...and my neighbor's flyer isn't making anything easier on that front.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I Don't Think I Should Eat Italian Sausage For Dinner Anymore

So in my dream last night, my house was on fire. Actually, it had been on fire and the fire department was there making sure the smoldering embers were kept under control. The fire burned off the front of the house so I could see into it...a lot like the game The Sims that my daughter plays.

Apparently, we'd done a good job of saving the important stuff, too. We were standing by the street together with the dog, but my wife had gone back into the house because "somebody has to keep these DVD's from water damage. We've got a lot of money tied up in these things."

We were shouting to her to come out because they weren't that important.

Tracy, kept lecturing us that she was fine and that we should all stop worrying about it...that there was no iminent danger. She told us that since the firefighters moved on to the other houses in the neighborhood that we could come in and get whatever else we needed to get that wasn't burned.

Now, much like the vague horoscope or fortune cookie things, I'll check out dreammoods.com for the interpretation on occasion. It's kind of fun, too. Here's what it said:

Fire

Depending on the context of your dream, to see fire in your dream can symbolizes destruction, passion, desire, illumination, transformation, enlightenment, or anger. It may suggest that something old is passing and something new is entering your life. Your thoughts and views are changing. In particular, if the fire is under control or contained in one area, it is a metaphor of your own internal fire and inner transformation. It also represents your drive and motivation.

To dream that a house is on fire, indicates that you need to undergo some transformation. If you have recurring dreams of your family house on fire, then it suggests that you are still not ready for the change or that you are fighting against the change. Alternatively, it highlights passion and the love of those around you.


So, since this was a little vague for my tastes, any help The Diner readership can dish out would be appreciated...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Punks Grow Up

It was about 9:30PM or so. After a night of ministry at the church.

I took my wife's van because I knew she was low on gasoline and thought I'd do her a small favor of filling the tank because she had a full day of driving the next morning...which also means I had to pick a CD from my stack. See, when we got married and merged the CD's (the cassette tapes, too. The vinyl was pretty much all mine, but I had to sell all that in the Great Electric Bill Payoff of 1990)...well, her music collection sounds a lot like a VH-1 "I Love the 80's" soundtrack and mine sounded a lot like "he tried to save money on therapy by listening to angry music." This reality transferred to the van, and I learned that unless I wanted to listen to Prince or John Cougar Mellancamp, I'd better grab a disc from my side of the collection. It was Social Distortion.

I'm alone at the grocery store/gas station and in a crabby mood. I forget why. I had my long hair down and the van door was open and the music was kind of loud and I'm leaning on the van, pouting about the state of my life. This could've been every day of high school for me.

A guy pulls up at the pump across from me and gets out, removes gas cap, slides credit card (removing QUICKLY so as to be in compliance with the LCD screen), presses his octane choice and inserts the nozzle--setting it so he can do his windows while the pump does the dirty work. He notices me standing there.

"You're kidding, right?" he says to me.

"Excuse me?"

"Long hair. Jeans. Birkenstocks. Punk music playing. You can't be very anti-authority if you live in Flower Mound and drive a mini-van."

I laughed out loud and he went about getting the bugs off his windshield. I mumbled something to the effect that he must not be watching television much or he would've seen the Ramones trying to sell him Pepsi or Iggy Pop trying to get him on a Royal Carribean cruise. We both laughed again, exchanged pleasantries and were off. I've thought about that incident a lot since it happened because it highlights the tension I often feel between who I was and who I'm becoming and how my environments shaped so much of both.

Well, I've been on a reading kick as of late. Summer schedules, a lousy baseball team, and TV re-runs have added some time to my day and I've been scrounging up reading materials...and to mix it up every now and then I grab books that aren't in the "Christian" realm. This helps my sanity. If you've read much in Christian retail/publishing these days you know precisely what I mean. Sometimes, when I'm in Barnes & Noble, the books grab me.

One that grabbed me was in their Father's Day display which was right by the entrance. Now, I must not be much of a man because the books on flashy cars and guns and wars didn't do it much for me, but one cover caught my eye:



The lead singer of Pennywise is more punk than I ever was and it was funny listening to him have the same thoughts about PTA meetings and Bunko and having daughters and what a joy they are and how much better life is because they're in it and how much he loves his wife and the stuff he wrestles with (like, how do you be genuine and sing songs that talk about anti-authority while wanting them to respect not only your authority but also that of teachers, policemen, etc.?).

And, there's a lot of common sense parenting stuff (the book was listed as a parenting book and shelved accordingly) about turning off TV's and what music to let them listen to and the importance of balancing your work & marriage & family. Good, solid applicational stuff. There's also funny observations about the normal things all married couples deal with. One, when he forgot his wife was off to play Bunko and they had a scheduling conflict: "Bunko is basically a dice game women play that is really just a thinly veiled device the mommies of America have come up with to give themselves a night off twice a month in order to gather in someone's living room and drink white wine and gossip."

But in the end he was talking to his tour manager about the schedule he wanted to keep because of his family responsibilities (his bandmates didn't have kids) and this was causing conflict. His manager said that other bands like his are experiencing similar infighting. "This is the graying of punk rock. It's never happened before," said his manager.

The book ends this way:

"Punk rock as a musical form is entering its middle ages. Jazz and blues are old an gray and staring mutely at a TV in a nursing home. Rock 'n' roll is a senior citizen eating at Sizzler and shouldn't be behind the wheel of an automobile. Hip hop is approaching thirty, rolling in dough but starting to look for tax shelters and emo and screamo are young teenagers driving by us with their [butt] hanging out the window. A lot of us graying punk rockers are sitting around looking at each other, saying, "What happened?"

"The music and spirit of bands like the Clash and the Ramones flow through my veins...no matter how old I get or what clothes I have on my back. It's not fashion or age but a way of looking at the world and finding your place in it..."

Yeah...guys in Social Distortion get their first gold record writing songs like "I Was Wrong." Funny what your 40 does to your view of your 18.

Punks do grow up...in wisdom and stature.

And I like the movement more now than I ever did before.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Okay...Okay

I've really had a lot of people come up and ask me about my tattoos...I've mentioned them at The Diner, and people will whisper to me if they see me out and about and want to see them. Then I mentioned it during my sermon I gave on Mother's Day and people's curiosity piqued. They way they approach me is the same way that that muppet on Sesame Street approaches random strangers, looks both ways a couple of times to make sure the coast is clear, then look the prospect in the eye and say under his breath, "Hey, mister. Wanna buy a pen?" Then he opens his coat and shows about 100 pens.

So, if you ever look both ways a couple of times to make sure the coast is clear and ask me to see the tattoos, I'll roll up my left sleeve and show you this one:



The blue one is Hebrew for Micah 6:8. You can look it up, but it's especially meaningful to me the order of the list. Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.

The footprints are from a work of art. The idea is that there's a problem humanity has simply by being born, and that problem can only be solved by the shedding of blood.


If you look both ways to make sure the coast is clear and ask me what's under the right sleeve, I'll show you these:



Kid1's name with a paintbrush behind it. Kid2's name (in Disney font--they picked out the fonts, which led to Kid1 asking the question, "Dad, how many kids do you think sit on dafont.com and pick out fonts for their Dad's tattoos?") with a ballet shoe underneath it. I've had several recommendations for one for Tracy, but nothing so far has been something either of us are terribly excited about.

Then there's a marlin, which started all this, which my mom suggested I get as a reminder of the relationship she and my father had. Long story, told several times on this blog, but basically, my dad caught a marlin and playfully referred to that day as the best day of his life...a running joke in our family for years.

Now, a couple of things.

First, I'm not recommending you all go out and get tattoos. They are deeply personal to me for a myriad of reasons, and largely they're reminders to me of what's truly important...and the reasons they are deeply personal are in response to the events around my life in the last year. In many ways, they're a response to grief...and I really don't want to get into all that here or anywhere else. So, I hope you'll be gentle if you decide to pull me aside and tell me all the reasons tattoos are bad.

Second, I keep them covered up most of the time with long sleeves, which I wear year round. Mostly because of issues of fair skin.

And, finally, if your kid comes up and says they can get a tattoo because I have one, tell them I said FOR THE RECORD they should joyfully obey their parents. I didn't get one until my mom said it was okay...and I was 41 at that time.

Now you won't have to come up to me, look both ways to see if the coast is clear and ask to see them...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Needs?

Reading a new book by Craig Groeschel entitled Confessions of a Pastor: Adventures in Dropping the Pose and Getting Real with God. There are lots of blog topics upcoming as the stuff in there is provoking a lot of thoughts.

Anyway, this one came up because someone was telling me why they've chosen to attend another church in our area. It happens all the time in our circles...some family comes to your church because they had a beef with their previous one and some folks go to other churches because they had a beef with yours. You get used to it, but it's never easy hearing someone be all excited about their new place when you're still pretty excited about their old place.

Coincidentally, later that night, I read Mr. Groeschel's thoughts in his book, which took place after the guy that delivers the packages to his church informing him he'd finally found a church after an extended look because he "finally found a good church" that "met his needs." Here's the quote:

"Why would I shudder at that statement? Think about it. I've heard it hundreds of times: I'm looking for a church that meets my needs.

Can you admit for a moment how incredibly unbiblical that statement is? When did we, as Christ followers, start to think that the church exists for us? When did we forget that we are the church? And that we're here for the world?

Before I was a pastor, I sued to think that church should serve me, unitl I let God change my attitude. I was a taker, not a giver. I wanted a church that provide what I needed. I was the spiritual consumer--an observer, not a participant.

If that's you, let me encourage you to stop observing and get in the game. Reach out. Use your gifts. Give recklessly. Serve passionately. Make a difference. Love those whom others reject, even those that aren't like us--especially those who aren't like us. Love not only nonbelievers, but also 'second class Christians.' Jesus did; so should we."


Now, don't get me wrong. In my conversation with the family that left our church there was no anger or bitterness on either side. In fact, I was thankful for their honesty and thought their reasons for making a change had some validity. We're friends.

And I do think Mr. Groeschel's words are extreme. "Unbiblical" is strong, for example. And I wonder what Paul would've said to us in our American church subculture with folks making their choice of churches based on the various church options they have...

...or, interestingly, what he would've said to all our churches about the various options we provide for folks.

But there's an undercurrent in the quote about spiritual consumerism and self-focus and such that I'd really enjoy hearing what you have to say.

*opens The Diner late, but pours coffee and waits just the same*

Friday, June 08, 2007

iChat Help

I have iChat. I have a camera/microphone built right in to my fancy-schmancy iMac.

I can see me on the video chat built-in iSight. The bar on it tells me the microphone is picking up sound levels.

I simply can't connect to anyone else who has the ability to do video chats.

My Mac guy is in Juarez and won't be able to help out until like next week sometime.

My higher-order life-liver sister Jilly has threatened to name my niece Bear Bryant (after the loathed and detested legendary coach of the evil empire/Crimson Tide of Alabama) if I don't get this thing up and running so I can see her belly.

I wouldn't wish the names "Bear" or "Bryant" on ugly pets, so if you can help me out with this before my Mac guy gets back, it would be greatly appreciated...

...largely because I think her middle name should be "Tiger," anyway.
My Aunt's House Blew Up

Really.

My aunt's house literally blew up...they think it was a gas leak thing. She was out of town on a vacation. My cousin Jody and his wife Cindy were in the house, but thankfully managed to get out with only minor injuries.

Here's a picture of the firefighters in Overton County, TN, doing their job. You can read about it here.



My Aunt Vicki is the oldest of my Mom's sisters. She's in her 70's...good health, too. Plenty of family around to take care of her and I'm sure the insurance folks will do their jobs. No real worries at this point on the "big picture" front.

And, since everyone is okay and all the important things have been focused on...

...you can take a deep breath and start re-building.

You know that conversation starter game where you list those things you'd grab if your house was on fire? Yeah. They lost those things. Pets. Photos. Knick-knacks that meant something. Everything except the clothes they were wearing.

She starts all over.

And all I know to do is go through the old picture albums and dig out photos to send to her.

If you've got any other suggestions of things I personally can do from this distance, I'm all ears.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Personal Preferences

I like to get to places early. You know, I like going to the ballpark and watching batting practice and soak in the atmosphere before the game starts. Maybe browse some souvenirs. Be seated before the national anthem and all that. Like getting to the movie while the lights are still on and the commercials are scrolling and getting decent seats. Leisurely getting popcorn and snacks. Watching all the previews of coming attractions. Like getting to church with plenty of time to stop and chat in the hallways. Going in to have a few minutes of solitude before the service starts. Like going to the ski slopes an hour before they open, getting a locker and getting good seats saved for lunchtime at the cafe. Riding the "apple carts" with no crowds and plenty of room for ski gear in the outside stow. Like getting to the airport WAY ahead of the flight and clearing security without worrying about rushing to the gate. Checking the e-mail on the laptop and reading for an hour before boarding is cool for me.

I always program my own music. This comes partly from liking obscure music nobody plays on the radio and partly because I just get in certain moods and I can't depend on the radio playlist to match that mood. So, when I mow or drive or whatever, I program my own.

I like to get all the "work" done "before" the weekend starts. You know, when I was in college I'd just stay at the library getting all the homework done and leave at 5PM. I try to get the yardwork done on Friday evening or early Saturday morning just to have it behind me. I think I like the prospect of free time.

I read a book from my stack and finish it and then move on to the next book. I'm not one for having bookmarks in five different books at any one time.

I've gotten to where I prefer watching shows when I want to watch them. With my DVR, I just record things and watch them when I want. I've also found myself getting annoyed when watching a show in "real time" because I can't fast-forward through commercials.

I like my morning routine of quiet. Bible, coffee, newspaper, blog check. If anyone gets up and turns on music or TV or my newspaper is late or the on-line papers have updated when I get to them it kind of throws me off.

I like little traditions we have in our family. Sometimes they evolve or change or disappear altogether, but I like them. For example, Monday (my day off work) mornings were the times I'd take my youngest daughter to coffee, then to school, oldest daughter to coffee, then to school. Before dinner (when we're all together) we still play "hi/low" where you talk about the high point and low point of your day. I tried to start a new one this year with the New Year's Day steak & egg breakfast, but with us having to leave at 9AM for the Cotton Bowl this year it didn't go over too well.

I like chaos and loud and fun when I'm in my house. I always liked coming home to a house that looks and sounds "lived in." We could straighten up before we went to bed, but I prefer the noise of a happy home than quiet order. And you can tell when you walk in a house if there's tension in it.

I like small cars with no frills. No electric windows. Stock CD/radio player. Four doors. Fabric seats. No tint. Just seems like the other stuff is so much of a hassle when it breaks that I'd prefer to lean over and roll down the passenger side window rather than have to pay for the electric motor to be replaced in three years.

I like function over style when it comes to housing, decoration and furniture. I'd prefer a comfy couch I can stretch out and take a nap on than one that looks great but you can't quite get comfortable on. I like lights near all the chairs because you never know when reading might break out. Same for the home because it can look really great and be really fancy but if you never go in certain rooms or use certain hallways it just seems like a waste.

I like dogs. Any other pet is off my list. And I mean any other pet. There should always be a good dog, and they should have a general run of the place.

I generally resist any new technology because I have a poor track record (read: Liberal arts education) with making it work. But once I get comfy with it I go after it with a vengeance and enthusiasm. Like I couldn't understand what was so great about an iPod when my Walkman worked just fine. Then my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly showed me the ins and outs of the deal and now I'm all in. This scares me with the iPhone on the horizon.

I like brand loyalty. You know, like I always buy Chock Full O' Nuts coffee. I like Toyota cars and will likely drive one the rest of my life. I like Apple computers (now--again, somebody showed me the ins and outs and now I'm in on Apple products). I've been using Pert Plus since high school. Levi's jeans. I stick with the same sports teams as my "favorites" and stick with them through it all. Rock bands. Magazines. TV shows. Universities. Seminiaries. Once I'm "in," I'm "in."


One last one: I like my hairstyle and clothing choices because they're comfortable for me. The hair is extremely low maintenance and the clothing might be 15 years behind the times but I don't really care. I'm not really striving to be up to speed in either of those areas.

I don't know why I told you all this...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Air Conditioner Started All This

So, we got this new air conditioner. It came with a fancy schmancy glow-in-the-dark-for-three-seconds touch-pad thermostat that I don't know how to use. You can set this bad boy for all sorts of usage patterns and such.

Well, the guy that showed us how to use this bad boy said that you can set it to raise the temperature three degrees at like 2AM and since your body is in REM sleep it won't notice and you'll save $50 a year or something like that. Well, I think I'm noticing. At least that's what I'm telling myself as I wake up more at night since I'm in my 40's.

Anyway, I got to thinking about what people did before air conditioners. I've lived in Southern climates my entire life and have always had air conditioners. In Texas in the summer, we pretty much move from refrigerated boxes to another refrigerated box. Home-car-work-lunch-work-home. All cool. Then we complain how hot it is.

It reminded me of the time I had to interview somebody who lived through the Depression for a high school history paper. I chose my grandmother...who made it seem very normal in how they were resourceful. She said that her neighbors raised rabbits for meat. Her job involved growing some beans and peas in her garden. Others grew other fruits and vegetables. They all shared what they had. At various times somebody would get a job and they'd help out those that didn't have one. Then the tables reversed.

She must've thought I was bored with all that because she told me the person I should've been interviewing was her brother-in-law Irl. Apparently, he ran moonshine throughout East Alabama and Western Georgia and ran a betting book on the side. He told me the Depression was the best time in his life.

But that Depression-like resourcefulness is what I began thinking about today.

It reminded me of our visit to the Hopi Nation years ago. The boys of the village all went down this very steep hill to bring water to the village in buckets on their shoulders. They ran the whole way there and came back as fast as they could. (Apparently, the U.S. Olympic team wants the majority of these boys to run marathons because they do the task in world-class marathon times with water on their shoulders. One problem: The Hopi can't leave the reservation unless they renounce their Hopi tribe. Getting back in is brutal, so they don't.) The women's bodies were hairless despite the lack of Gillette being there...apparently they have this deal involving infant girls where they rub ash on them for 30 days after they're born, which kills all the hair follicles. They can grow corn in three inches of soil (apparently, Israel and other nations come to study it and can't replicate it).

Resourcefulness. It was cool to hear about it.

How did people keep cool in say, Arizona, before air conditioning?
What did people do before cold medicines were invented?
What did people do before orthodontia? Was everybody's roof of their mouth too narrow?
What did people do at night before television/radio/movies?
For that matter, before the proliferation of books?
How did people get food before grocery stores?

Stuff like that.

I think our grandparents had a lot of answers to those questions.

And I wonder if we're somehow less resourceful in practical ways because our "needs" are different now. I mean, we're a plenty resourceful lot. Look at computers and car technology and all that bells and whistles in our society. They're putting huge windmills in the middle of the ocean to try to harness wind power, for crying out loud. TiVo. The Internet. We're plenty resourceful.

But I'm wondering about all sorts of home remedies and stuff like that which we've lost. And I'm wondering if we should get them back, and how we might.

Like I said, my air conditioner started all this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

This Is Making The Rounds On MySpace & YouTube

Many of The Diner patrons aren't in the MySpace or YouTube worlds with much (if any) consistency, but I love it when teenagers get together and do something clever. Some local teens put together a rap video about our little Flower Mound suburb and I, for one, appreciate the effort. It's especially funny if you're from here because there's some unique comments about our town, but you can appreciate it in general if you know anything about suburban life.

Have at it!

Flow Mo

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Alicia Was Right! This Is Fun!

You can go right here and discover the #1 song according to Billboard magazine on various dates. Here's a few select moments from my life's soundtrack:

The day I was born: Lightnin' Strikes, by Lou Christie.
The day my sister was born: Knock Three Times, by Dawn.
My first day of school: Alone Again (Naturally), by Gilbert O'Sullivan.
My first day of middle school: Best of my Love, by The Emotions
My first day of high school: Sailing, by Christopher Cross.
My high school graduation: Time After Time, by Cyndi Lauper.
The night Tracy and I first kissed: Walk Like An Egyptian, by The Bangles.
The day I graduated from college: La Bamba, Los Lobos.
The day Tracy and I got engaged: Faith, by George Michael.
Our wedding day: The Flame, by Cheap Trick.
The day Kelsey was born: (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, by Bryan Adams.
The day Shelby was born: All for Love, Bryan Adams/Rod Stewart/Sting
The day we moved to Texas: On Bended Knee, by Boyz II Men.
The day we started at CBC: Macarena, by Los Del Rio.
The day I graduated seminary: Unbreak My Heart, by Toni Braxton.
The day of my 10th anniversary at CBC: London Bridge, by Fergie.
The day I became the pastor of discipleship at CBC: This Is Why I'm Hot, by Mims.

See, I told you this was pretty fun!

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Answer...

...to the question I got asked repeatedly at church yesterday:

"Yes, it does seem strange to be here while the student ministry is doing missions work in Mexico."

I had the responsibility on Sunday morning to open the building for all the folks with behind-the-scenes ministries at our church yesterday. You may not know, but there's a bunch of folks who set up the chairs in the auditorium, make the coffee, work the sound/audio visual stuff, etc., who have to get there pretty early. It's the least I can do to open the doors every now and again.

The 6AM opening simply coincided with the departure time of our student ministry, and I arrived to the sights of charter buses being loaded with sleeping bags/cots, old luggage (so as to withstand outdoor conditions), and various tools.

And it was indeed strange to not be going through the adrenaline rush that my staff was going through that is created by that mom who wants you to wait because her son forgot his pillow, or the kid who can't seem to find his birth certificate even though "it was here just a minute ago," or wondering whether or not certain students overslept or decided not to go. Those moments are better than a quadruple espresso anything as far as getting the heart rate up when you have 10 of them in a 30-minute window.

Yep. Strange.

But also very peaceful in a way, too.

Because God is growing me in various ways at the moment...and it was evident at that moment as well. Because it's in the best interest of our church and, by extension, our student ministry for me to be obedient to how He is working in my life.

Yep. Strange.

But also very good. It's time. Both for me and the ministry. Sure, I'll miss all the relationship building that goes on...which is why I like the trip so much.

However, I don't think I'll miss the bucket showers or sandstorms one little bit.

Until we get a group of people in my current ministry to load up in a van and build a house or two or 8 for those less fortunate...

...so, keep an open mind, grownups:

The next mission trip to Juarez might be the one you go on.