Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Baseball Intensive Today

Confluence: Tonight, there's a chance that Barry Bonds will tie (or possibly break) the all-time home run record seet by Henry Aaron. Also, Alex Rodriquez has a chance to hit his 500th home run (doing so younger than anyone in history, provided he can do so within the next 300 days). Tom Glavine has a chance to win his 300th game as a pitcher as well. I wonder what the networks would've done before cable. Now, there's a chance we can see all of them live as ESPN shifts from Bonds at-bats to A-rods. Of course, Glavine will only be seen as he approaches the 6th inning and his team has the lead. But still, there's a chance we could see them all "live" and I'm kind of excited about that.

On Bonds: People have asked me what I think about Barry Bonds and you have to remember that he broke into the major leagues in my prime baseball-watching years and I can say, without a doubt, he's the most complete baseball player I've seen. A vicious arm. Tremendous speed. Hit for power. Hit for average. He grew up around the game and appears to have a sixth sense about the nuances. He's absolutely incredible...and would've been a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee even if he didn't do what he's accused of.

The key word is that he's accused of those things. He's done nothing wrong according to Major League Baseball's rules nor the Major League Baseball Players Association. He's never been suspended or reprimanded for anything. And, as I understand it, he's innocent until proven guilty. Don't even get me started on the possibility that he might even be telling the truth: That he never knowingly took supplements.

But let's say that his trainer was juicing him up. Barry's still gotta hit the baseball, follks. And before anyone thought he was juiced he was on a pace to for sure catch Willie Mays at 660 career homers. Hence, at best it's only increased his home run totals by about 16%. So, if he's found negligent of asking his personal trainer the right questions, lower his totals by about 20% and he's still a Hall of Famer.

Yes, he's surly. Yes, he should handle the press better. Ummm...sound like Hank Aaron, anyone? At least he's honest. I'll take his surly over A-rod's phony any day.

So, rock on Mr. Bonds. I'll be excitedly watching history unfold.

Oh, and the other best players I've seen play in-person: Grudgingly, Alex Rodriquez & not-so-grudgingly Ken Griffey, Jr. Honorable mention to Pudge Rodriquez & Tom Glavine.

Trade Deadline: Mark Teixeira was traded yesterday to the Braves for a bunch of prospects. It's official: the Rangers are rebuilding. And, the Braves will get their 40-homer, 100-RBI man and an amazing fielder--no question the guy is eaten up with talent...and we'll wait and see how our season turns out in 2009. Or maybe 2010.

But I'm glad to see Teixeira go. He didn't want to be here, and it showed...he wanted Buck Showalter gone because he's too disciplined. So we bring in Ron Washington and it's too relaxed. Maybe, Tex, just maybe, you had something to do with the reality that we were 19 games UNDER .500 with you this season and 5 games OVER .500 without you. You're a professional getting paid a bundle of money to perform...and you're not entitled to WIN (ask Ernie Banks), my friend. At least we got SOMETHING for you. But I'm convinced your bad attitude infected the clubhouse, where sometimes teamwork and comaraderie can sneak an underdog team into the playoffs (see the Oakland A's). So, good riddance, Tex. Your performance will definitely be missed. But you won't. I'd rather have it the other way around.

Manalive, do I ever enjoy baseball. It's stuff like this that is the reason...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Following To The Letter But Not The Intent

Our community seems to be waking up.

What I mean is that my little 'burb tends to go on vacation in the summer. Many can afford to take a trip for a week or two to visit family or go someplace fun. We live near two very popular lakes which gives lots of enjoyment to those that are into such fishing and water sports. We're within a couple of hours of some excellent camping locales. And summer sports leagues take our folks to various cities for tournaments and championships (who will all get their pictures in the "neighbors" insert in the paper in the coming weeks).

And, this is just what Texas wanted.

Last year our legislature passed a law (thanks to the travel industy lobby) that required the start of school to be the last week of August. In the past, local school boards could apply and get a waiver--and almost all of them, including ours, did so--to start as early as the first week of August. Most started around the middle of the month.



Not so much.

See, what the travel industry wanted was to have people taking advantage of the full summer to take one last trip to the lake or the beach or camp or golf or whatever else folks to do get away and relax.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the vacation:

The U.I.L. didn't change along with it. The U.I.L. is the governing body for the state that oversees pretty much all the extracurricular activities high schools participate in. For example, they align the football districts and provide the drama competition and band challenges and all that kind of thing. And they didn't change any of their requirements at all. In other words, in the past, they'd have a blanket rule that would say you couldn't begin practice or tryouts or whatever until, say, August 4. But now, their start dates stayed the same while the school year moved back two weeks.

And, I can't blame the teachers or coaches or sponsors, frankly. They're taking full advantage by having *ahem* "voluntary" workouts and practices and such. They've gotta keep up with all the other Joneses who are having their teens show up for two extra weeks of sharpening and polishing and marching--and make no mistake: There's a lot of competition in our parts & jobs eventually go on the line. So, they have their teens show up when it okay for them to show up. In reality, nothing wrong with that.

But that wasn't the intent of the law.

All the vacations were planned knowing that this was coming...so everybody's moseying back into town. I could tell this yesterday when I noticed our church attendance creeping into our annual fall attendance spike. We're not full-blown yet, which will be right after Labor Day, but once the kids all have to be back for practice/tryouts/etc., our community begins to have a different feel.

And it feels today like the beginning of the end of summer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kid2 Comes Home Today

After 5 weeks at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.

And it's pretty much all I can think about.

And she should be back in my home by around 10:30AM...making today one difficult day to prepare to teach and work all day. But hey, I knew Sundays were a major part of the gig when I signed on for being a pastor...and I'll bring her lunch.

I've really missed that kid.

And I'm glad she's coming home.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Stuff About My Dad

This morning I thought I'd just rattle off some things I remember about my dad.

He was quiet and didn't say much, but when he laughed out loud--which was way more than he talked--it was great.

He loved his country music 8-tracks.

He got up early and carpooled to work with his friends, and he napped for about an hour after dinner every night.

After work but before dinner (about 3PM to 6PM when he worked shifts) was the all-sports block. We did it all, man. Passed the football, threw/hit baseballs, shot baskets, hit wiffle golf balls, he used tennis balls and took shots at me as a hockey goalie. We were outside in the daylight.

He wore a hard hat & safety glasses to work at the mill. It was cool, but not special because all my friends had dads who did the very same thing.

He never head-coached my little league teams, but he always assisted and I don't know that he ever missed a practice or a game.

He loved to hunt and deep-sea fish, but curtailed most of that because his son didn't have the proclivity or the patience for either. Some of that may have been my age, but he's the one who kept buying all those tickets to sporting events, signing me up for whatever sport was in season (back when youth sports had "seasons") and having cable television installed in our home.

I was shielded from 95% of it--my Mom was good that way--but my dad wrestled with his demons, most notably, after his father-in-law died. In my adulthood, I discovered how much wrestling it actually was. I have no idea how, as a kid, I kept seeing so much light during such a dark time. He, and mom, kept it pretty far from me.

He had narcolepsy...or at least the medical community believed so in the mid-70's...my Mom had retrospective doubts about his diagnosis and treatment, but I can see why he got the diagnosis because his sleeping patterns were highly irregular. His hobby was lawnmower repair and he'd fire 'em up at 3:30AM on occasion because his vampire-like hours.

His idea of a vacation was to go to the beach and do nothing during the day, and go to the dog track at night. In every vacation picture he's got a hat over his face in a beach chair.

While my dad and I had kind of a buddy thing going on, I picked up pretty quickly that there was an extreme difference in how his love for my sister showed itself. He was knocked out by her, and while he could knock me on my butt during basketball, he couldn't even slap my sister's hand away from turning the television knob. The way he looked at her was the way I've come to understand since I have two daughters of my own.

I don't know that I ever remember him reading a book, but I can remember him letting me stay up to watch Monday Night Football after mom went to bed.

He was an exceptional athlete, which you could tell even 15 years removed from his high school glory days. His passes spiraled, his drop step fakes led to easy layups, his pitches curved for strikes, his golf balls landed in the general area he wanted them to, his worms got fish and his bullets hit birds. And it all came naturally to him because he couldn't really tell you how to do what he just did even though he'd try. He just did them.

He danced with my mom to the Everly Brothers and Sam Cooke. He kissed her a lot in front of me, too. He asked me one time who I thought the most beautiful girl in the world was and I went with the default "Farrah Fawcett." I asked him who he thought and he told me she was in the kitchen right now. I laughed out loud. He didn't.

He was at his happiest when we were at our family's cabin on the river (all my aunts & uncles went in on one together for just such occasions). He'd fish. He'd nap in the hammock. He'd drink beer with his brothers & brother-in-law while cooking all sorts of meat. Which was followed by them pulling us behind the ski boat in an inner tube at high speeds (I don't think drinking/boating was seen as all that bad when I was a kid...either that or all our moms were in SERIOUS denial because I think if they'd seen how fast we got pulled and how much entertainment they were getting from watching us skip across the water they'd have re-thought that little piece of bonding time). Which was followed by an early evening fishing session. They'd play cards at night and we'd sit on the dock and listen to Braves games with a transistor radio. He'd stay as late as possible on Sundays before he had to go back to work.

We shot tin cans off the back fence with pellet guns. He bet me $20 bucks once that I couldn't hit inside the ring handle of the aluminum trash can (about the size of your fist) from about 20 yards away. I pumped the pellet gun, aimed and fired, and about 2 seconds after I shot he said, "Well, I'll be damned." under his breath.

Once when I got to bring a trombone home for an afternoon (some sort of pre-summer recruitment before we went into middle school) he heard me goofing around with it, he just came into my room and asked me if I could "hit, throw, score a basket with it, put it in a goal or cross a goal line with it." When I said "no," he said to put it back in the case and that was the end of that. We played H-O-R-S-E the rest of the afternoon.

When it snowed once he had a friend that had a rail buggy and they took all us kids sledding on the biggest hills in our neighborhood. And our neighborhood had some pretty good hills...and then we went to a parking lot and did donuts which was about 10 times more fun than sledding.

About church, he didn't say much, and he had little use for organized religion. He loved reading me stories and telling me about what he thought about Jesus, though. He was very matter-of-fact about the reality that he believed, but I think he really struggled with the day-in and day-out of what that looked like. His dislike for the stereotypes in the Deep South regarding his church choices kept him away...but I wonder what he'd have thought about his day-to-day with Christ if he'd had the people I had in my life blow those stereotypes up and show him what they showed me.

He never talked politics, but he always voted. Every time he'd leave to vote he'd tell me that it was his job to "go and cancel your mother's vote." I don't know if he was serious about that or not.

Well, I could do this all day I guess, but those are the ones that hopped into my brain today about him. The reason I do this is more for record keeping than anything else...so thanks for putting up with that today.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Process

It's no secret that our church has been looking for a teaching pastor for about nine months. It's a process that is unique in some ways, and pretty normal in others. And, last night I attended a meeting updating the staff & elders on where that process is and what the next steps are.

And, I got to thinking about what would happen if I were applying to get my own job at my own church.

If I were going through that same process...well...

...suffice to say it's been years since I've had a formal theological review (of course, doing as much teaching as I've done in the last few years, I'm sure if there'd been any variations since that last review they'd certainly have come up and someone would've contacted an elder already).
...suffice to say it's been since college that I took some sort of personality inventory.
...suffice to say it's been a long time since others have checked any references I've provided. Not to mention a group of people digging around those areas of conflict where you might get some or your drawbacks put out there.
...suffice to say it's been a long time since a complete outsider has evaluated my ministry.
...suffice to say it's been a long time since an outsider has evaluated my family.
...suffice to say it's been a while since I've had to think through what I'd ask another church's representatives to tell me about themselves and had to evaluate their response.
...I have had a background check recently. We do those on every adult who helps out about every six months. And, in my case, that's pretty insignificant anyway. Never convicted, my friends. Never convicted.
...suffice to say that I haven't had to move, or sell a house, in over a decade.
...suffice to say that I haven't had to tell my superiors that I had resumes out and take an occasional trip here or there to preach sermons to complete strangers who will make various judgments on a 35-minute teaching time.
...suffice to say that I haven't had to wonder what isn't being said. I mean, if it's such a great job, why did the other guy leave?
...suffice to say that I haven't had to go and make small talk with various groups of people.
...suffice to say that I don't know what it's like to have nearly four years of daily ramblings posted at The Diner out there for public consumption, having total strangers read them, or listening to sermons on my current church's web page or Googling my name or passing my CD's around to a select group of people to get "feedback."

And I began to wonder if I could even get my own job. I mean, I wonder about how the first-impression thing would go for me. I am pretty sure the big stuff would go just fine, it's really just thinking about those insecurities we all have and what "outsider" group would pick up which ones.

And I decided to pray for our search committee more diligently. For wisdom & discernment. And I thanked Him for what they've already done and are continuing to do. They work harder than folks know.

And I decided to pray for our elders more diligently. For wisdom & discernment. And I thanked Him for their leadership. They care about our congregation more than folks know.

And I decided to pray for all the folks who've submitted resumes to our search committee, and are in various stages of the process, and for the families that are represented by those one-page best-foot-forward presentations of validity. They've got a lot of emotional and spiritual investment in the process...not to mention all the stresses and strains that are in your life once you decide to start looking for a new position.

The process is taxing on both sides when you think about it.

And exciting on both sides when you think about it. You get to dream and think about what might be...which is definitely cool.

But I'm really glad that the King of Kings is running the show either way...which is the best part of the process when you think about it.
Just For Fun

Best Breakfast Cereals of All-Time:

Honorable Mention: Golden Grahams, Count Chocula/Boo-Berry, Rice Krispies (but really only for the treats, not in milk).

5. Cap'n Crunch.
4. Franken Berry.
3. Fruit Loops.
2. Frosted Flakes (but you have to eat them before they get soggy).
1. Lucky Charms.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

We're All God's Little Snowflakes...

I spend much of my day trafficking in ideas.

Which means I read a lot and think about what I read a lot. Primarily, that's the Bible. Sometimes it's books that other folks wrote about what I read. Sometimes it's e-mails that include thoughts about what I said. Sometimes it's discussions about what we're all reading or what was said from the pulpit Sunday. But make no mistake. I spend a lot of time with ideas.

One idea that was I was kicking around yesterday was about how we're all wired differently. I'm teaching a class and one section of the curriculum is the role of "community" in the spiritual growth of a Christian. You know. What that "looks" like and how that "plays out."

What started it was a discussion in the office on what would be the drawing card that would cause someone to be interested in taking (or not taking) particular class. Would it be the title? The teacher? The course description? If it were gender-specific? The cost? If friends were taking it with you? The brochure? The targeted age-range of the class? Yeah. All that stuff.

It was interesting how two people could look at the same title/description of a class and one person be immediately drawn to it and excited about taking such a class, and someone else be immediately turned off by what excited the other person so much. Then the conversation turned to a video that I showed in church on Sunday that Nathan edited into a series of movie clips with prayers...some serious (like a scene from Dead Man Walking) and some silly (like from Talledega Nights). Some people "got it." Some people said it "really got me thinking." Some people thought it was "awesome how you used that in Big Church!" Other people thought it "might have a place in a classroom setting but I'm not so sure you should do things like that in church services."

That's what highlighted to me the very thing I'd taught in my class last week.

See, if you're a Christ-follower (look at me being all relevant and with-it) you've been given a spiritual gift by the Holy Spirit to use for the building up of the folks around you. The Holy Spirit doles them out.

Beyond that, we all have what I like to call "wiring." We're all wired/designed by God a certain way with certain interests and, well, just stuff that we can't explain. Sure, some of it's upbringing and environment, too. But there's some things that are just "wired" into our fiber.

Like the things we care about, for example. My friend L.J. has a compassion for the people of Haiti. My friends Mish & Steve supported a cause regarding the "Invisible Children" who were being recruited to fight in Uganda's military. My friend Katherine has a deep love for teenage girls and how tough it is to be a girl in our culture. I could go on and on all day. I don't know why we all care about the things we care about. We're just wired that way.

Like the abilities we all have. Some people have a knack for athletics. Some for music. Some for art. Some for plumbing. Some for auto mechanics. Computers. Accounting. Math. Writing. I don't know where they come from I just know that we're wired for different things.

Like our personalities. I have no idea why I think certain things are funny and why other people don't think so. I have no idea why my brain short-circuits in the best ways when good punk or grunge music pops on, or why my spine reacts like fingernails on a chalkboard to country music. I don't know why some people cry if a cartoon character dies and others don't cry at the death of their parents. I have no idea why I like to sit and chat with folks and others prefer the quiet of being alone in their room or even prefer being on a stage in front of a lot of others. Or why some people are so animated or some not so much. And often, these diametrically opposed personalities come from the same household and born about a year apart. They're just wired that way, I think.

And I do think our life experiences enhance all those other wirings. So, if I grew up in the rural Deep South and my personality is extroverted and I'm awesome at math and I care about the plight of the homeless, well, it might come across a little differently to others if the same type person grew up in, say, Manhattan and came from a broken home, well, that plays affects our wiring.

Sometimes, as Christ-followers (okay, the attempt at relevance and with-itness just went overboard) we gather in affinity groups to the exclusion of the wonder of those that are different from us.

When we do that, we miss the true beauty of the Body of Christ: That we're all "one" yet with "different wiring."

So, today, I think I'm going to focus on that little niche of information. I once heard a minority pastor speaking to a suburban audience make the comment, "Either we're all God's children or we're all just living a lie." I liked it then. I like it now.

And I'll make a conscious effort to enjoy those differently wired and their different wirings. And say a little prayer of thanks for the creative, wonderful wiring of those who are different than me...because God made them to be that very thing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that more generic, happy-talk theology can get shown in a one-hour cable television show than you can imagine.
...that I'd really enjoy teaching a class on "art & theology" where I just picked a movie or TV show or music or book that everyone would watch/read/listen before they attended and we'd have coffee and discuss generic, happy-talk theology and line it up with what Scripture really says.
...that I'm pretty excited for my friend Calen, one of my students years ago. He's in a local band named "Raleigh" and I just got a free copy of their new CD (proud moms are the best!). It's a nice blend of current indie styles and very catchy "Beatles-esque" hooks and you can check out their art/work at Raleigh MySpace. Parental advisory, however. There's an explicit lyric on a couple of songs...but let me suggest the song "You Know Better" on the site.
...that my new screen saver pulls the album art off my iTunes and flashes up all the album covers. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy album cover art, which has gotten lost in the size of CD packaging.
...that I just knew that the guy in Man vs. Wild was cheating!
...that when a wanted CD/book/DVD is not where I thought it was, I now head to my teenage girl's rooms first. I've been told by dads of daughters further along the trail than me that the next step is clothes. Thankfully, I have no fashion sense.
...my reading has slowed considerably, but I chalk that up to being monster busy at work these days.
...that the enthusiasm around our church on the yearly middle-school day trip to Hurricane Harbor is palpable.
...that if the teens who are masters at the video game "Guitar Hero" had put as much time into playing guitar as the game, they'd be a genuine guitar hero.
...that I really like the Post-it note feature on my computer.
...that I'm really thankful for friends like Joyce who helped me design a plan to get healthier. It always helps to have an expert talk it through with you.
...that you can put the word "loft" in a real estate ad and bump the price up an extra $100,000. And you can loosely define loft, too. Yes, loft living still appeals to me.
...that it's a punt of sorts when I do these "So, Today I'm Thinking..." posts but I really do have a lot rambling around in my brain on the days I do them.
...that the media days for the SEC football season start today and that's really the sign that real football, as it was meant to be played and recieved by the masses (read: the Southeastern Conference) gets moving in earnest.
...Tracy's heading up to Pennsylvania today with the end result of Kid2 coming home on Sunday morning. Five weeks away from home is a lot longer than it sounds.
...that it's hard to keep a straight face when Paris Hilton talks about how her parents would be proud of "all that she's accomplished" being only 26 years old.
...that I'm giving serious thought to keeping The Diner open only on Saturdays and/or Mondays and devoting more time to a book. On what, exactly, I don't know. But I'm wondering if I shouldn't re-channel those energies a bit.
...that it really does take more than a day to recover from preaching 3 sermons and teaching a class on a different topic.
...that I really need to get on with the day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Yeah. So, I was wondering...

...if former students (and I mean guys you finished discipling about 7 years ago) sending you text messages that are nothing but movie quotes from "Dumb & Dumber" or "Bottle Rocket" means that the friendship is exactly as much fun and enjoyable as it was back then--or what? I should add that this happens about twice a week with two or three quotes each time.

...and if a former student who hadn't heard you preach or teach in about 8 years comes up afterward and says, "That's amazing. You're still teaching the exact same way you always have."--if that's a good thing--or what?
Reason #38,765 I'm Thankful For My Church

A pastor linked on the left has been doing a series on all sorts of things like "ministry burnout" and "stress" and recently finished an entry on what the role of the pastor's wives should be in a church. I have no background as to why he's on those kicks and I can't imagine why he'd spend as long as he had on such topics...but my guess is that we all run through those times in ministry where it helps to re-think those things.

That's interesting to me because, in my previous church, there were some expectations of my wife in ministry. Well, on the Sunday ministry anyway. She'd be expected to attend both morning and evening services (and I didn't think they took that seriously until staff meeting and I was asked very specifically why she wasn't at night services one week), and she was asked to serve in the nursery periodically...but it was a small church and we had a child in it so that wasn't too much to ask. She's always enjoyed helping out when she could with teenagers--and that might be chaperoning a beach trip or helping out with a girls' Bible study or just hanging out with them when they came by the house.

So, it wasn't too terribly taxing on her, but there were some expectations there. But, manalive, we'd heard some horror stories from wives we ran into at youth ministry conferences or denominational get-togethers here and there. Sure, Tracy had some degree of expectation but they were, by comparison, terribly minor.

Against that backdrop, when we interviewed with Crossroads, they were nice enough to let us ask a few questions to the leadership. As we got to the end of that time I asked, "What expectations would you have for Tracy's role in the church's ministry?"

At first, the reply was eyes getting wider and a few seconds of silence, followed by a reply that went something like this: "Well, the way this works is that we're deciding whether or not to hire you. We like Tracy and we hope she'll choose to attend Crossroads. Maybe she'll even choose to use her gifts and talents to help CBC, but if she doesn't, well, this is really about figuring out if CBC fits you and you fit CBC."

You know what?

They stayed true to those words.

And my wife did choose to attend CBC. And she does get to use her gifts and talents to serve (and, if I may puff my chest out a bit here, if you've seen the photos that adorn the children's ministry area, you've seen her gifts at work) in several ways over the last few years. And it is cool that when people meet her at church, they'll occasionally ask if we're related, which I think is funny.

I don't think it's just my wife, either. Joye, Jeanette, Penny, Kim, Dee, Mish & Janice all get the chance to be who they're supposed to be before Him without a great deal of external pressure from CBC to dive in and serve. Granted, I may be biased, but all those ladies are quite a blessing to our church...not only by what they do behind the scenes for their husbands, but also by how they use their gifts and talents to joyfully and lovingly serve. Don't get me started on what fun and enjoyable people they are, either.

And, for that reality, today, I'm thankful.

*token gesture:* Any and all staff wives who stop by The Diner today will get free coffee and conversation...

P.S. (yes, I know the husbands of the wives on our staff are equally as integral & gifted, but this isn't about them today, okay, man?)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Photo Booth

Kid1 had a sleepover and there were several of her friends making cookie dough and laughing hysterically about our iMac's "Photo Booth." They sit in front of our computer for about 30 minutes, laugh, and then upload all the photos onto their Facebook pages. I was walking through and got caught up in the action:

Well, have at it, kids!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Read this yesterday, by Luci Shaw. It regards art & creativity:

"If the gospel is foundational, out of it will naturally flow an art that does not deny its foundation but assumes it. If it is a given, we do not need to be reminded of its existence at every point. If our lives are centered in God's reality, we can risk working out from that center in new directions, each of which may hold the excitement of a fresh adventure.

And, if the work of art truly reflects life experience, then it is itself a small facet of the truth of which Christ is author and communicator. This is the benison of the sacremental view of life: our realization that all of creation rightly belongs in the house of faith. Put another way, the Logos, which first called the universe into being, now embraces and defines it, assigning meaning and value at every level. As C.S. Lewis said, "I believe in Christianity as I believe the Sun has risen not only because I see it, but because I see everything else."

It is in the complex fabric of natural and human life that God shines more clearly than in any abstract or dogmatic theological statement about him."

As you can tell...I'm thinking about the role of art and creativity in the discipleship process. Have at it, folks.
Very Shrewd

You know how when something Jerry Seinfeld didn't like would happen and he suspected that his arch-enemy mailman was behind that very thing? He'd crinkle his face, kind of clinch his fists in anger by his belt buckle and say under his breath, "Newman!"

I did that very same thing yesterday at the mobile phone store.

See, my wife has a mobile phone that you can load about 100 songs from your iTunes library right onto it. She got it about 5 months ago, I guess. It's called a Sliver.

Well, my two-year old phone (that I don't like and don't really want anyway) that has no modern capability except to store phone numbers, text message people and actually talk to them if need be is on the fritz. I've gone as long as I can with it. So, off to the very same store to pick up the same phone my wife has. It's free when you renew your contract, and mine is up for renewal.

So, we go in and ask the sales guy (who is 17 or so and wearing party beads. When I ask a friend of mine who works there and came to see us what he was wearing the party beads for, he'd apparently sold a high-end product and was rewarded with the beads. My friend mentioned that it was for a behind-the-scenes sales motivation called Hawaiian Party Weekend...that originally used the term for the flowers you get when you go to Hawaii, but corporate put the kibosh on that in a memo. Stories like that crack me up) and he says that they have several free phones that have Mp3 players built right in, but those Mp3 players aren't iTunes compatible.

I replied that I just wanted my wife's phone which IS iTunes compatible and she got it at that very store, the guy replied, "Yeah. We don't stock that any more. But you can get an iPhone." I felt like he was workin' me for more beads.

We head across the street to the mobile service DEALER. We tell him our story (after he mocked my phone's age & abilities--good naturedly, though. I think he sold me the phone two years ago) and he says we might can get my wife's phone on-line through their company or maybe through the retailer across the street's web site...but we better hurry. He didn't come right out and say it, but he more or less insinuated that my wife's phone was being phased out because the folks at Apple have their very own phone that is compatible with iTunes...

And I did kinda say, "Apple" in a Seinfeld-esque manner.

We're for sure still friends, but I think Apple is workin' me for their iPhone. But we're gonna beat that system. See, we're gonna get a phone for free with bells and whistles and such, but we're going to let my wife have that one and I'll use hers. Hehehehe.

(Secretly, I think Apple knows it's really just a matter of a year or so before they get a bunch more of my money, so I don't think they're worried.)
The Deathly Hallows

Kid1 finished the 7th and final installment of the Harry Potter book series by 4PM in the afternoon yesterday...after grabbing the 759 page tome and starting around 1AM. There were naps.

And there were the requisite news stories showing the lucky little girl who was first in line at the local bookstore jumping up and down. The papers carried interviews and described the action.

Now, I'm not much for fantasy fiction and haven't read the first word of any of Ms. Rowling's works.

Folks, all this is about a book.

A book.

And I think it's a good sign when a book can cause that kind of commotion. It sure beats the heck out of the commotion of a soccer player way past his prime and his one-hit wonder pop star wife moving to California. I'll take the hype about reading any day.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sermon Prep

I mowed the lawn late yesterday afternoon.
I got a letter from my doctor with the results of my physical (lose a few pounds, eat better and exercise more--my medical insurance provider is on the hook for about $320 for that information. Really.).
I went to a mindless & silly movie with Tracy.
I checked in on Kid1, who was up late awaiting Harry Potter's last volume.
She came in with her purchase and is already halfway through it at the expense of sleep.
I slept a bit later than usual.
It's overcast.
I'll check in on all the blogs and maybe comment here or there.
I'll reheat leftover spaghetti sauce with new noodles for lunch.
I have a couple of books to start.
I'll have a nap at some point.
Tracy doesn't have a photo shoot today so we might bum around some.
Maybe watch the Rangers game some, or maybe take in another mindless movie (there are plenty to choose from).
I'll go to bed comparatively early and fall asleep during Saturday Night Live.


...all the while...

...the sermon I've prepared for tomorrow will be popping into my brain, revealing all the excitement and the doubts and the insecurities and vulnerabilities and inadquacies and joy and responsibility and honor and everything else that comes along with teaching a congregation you love and enjoy serving.

It's a most peculiar experience. And I get it when I teach classes of 10 or 12, too. But not to the degree on days like today.

Friday, July 20, 2007

So Close To Me?

Okay, so this band called The Cure was in my music wheelhouse when I was in college. Very few people ever heard of them. Those that had heard of them, well, didn't "get" the generally moody music sung by people wearing all black and heavy on eye liner. Keep in mind this was before that was "normal" in music circles.

Yeah. I was into them. I still have their greatest hits CD...although I liked the deeper cuts on their albums (for my younger readers, those are what music was played on before cassette tapes, which were before CD's, which are now used to transfer music to your Mp3 player).

But they're playing the American Airlines Center in October. Tickets go on sale this weekend.

What's the big deal, you ask?

First of all, tickets are $45-$65 bucks per.

Secondly, the American Airlines Center seats 14,280 for concerts.

And I'd swear that if you added up the seating capacity of all the venues The Cure played on their first North American tour you wouldn't get as high as 14,280. I paid $8 to see them at a dive caled the 688 Club in Atlanta. And I can't imagine they sold many more records than the total attendees of their shows. Really. They were pretty obscure.

My question today is how did they get to be so big they'd even have the chance to play that venue and that many people would see them and be willing to pay that kind of cash?

I guess when all the "emo" bands out there mention that The Cure was a major influence on them then the listeners go to iTunes and download a few songs. Or maybe it was because Adam Sandler told Drew Barrymore that "he was listening to a lot of The Cure back then" when he wrote a horribly depressing song (but hysterically funny) that he was about to sing to her.

Either way, I'm kinda suprised to see The Cure playing the AAC at $65 bucks a throw.
Me & Friends At Moe's

Here's (from L to R) Barney, Me (please note that I'm wearing the Springfield Isotopes t-shirt supporting the local minor league baseball team--for which Homer once was the mascot), Homer, Moe & Carl hanging out at Moe's.

Oh, man! What I wouldn't give to actually be a character on The Simpsons and be drawn by Matt Groening...and there's a promotion associated with next week's release of The Simpson's Movie where you can win the chance to be made into a character and have a show revolve around you & your life.

Now, for your task, if I were to win that promotional drawing and they were to write that episode about my own life, what do you think the writers would come up with for my plot line & stuff like that?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Michael Vick

I've seen Jason Voorhees (think Camp Crystal Lake & a hockey mask) and Michael Myers (the escapee from Haddenfield's Smith's Grove Sanitarium who chased Jamie Lee Curtis) and Freddy Krueger ("1, 2, Freddy's gonna get you" & knives for fingers) at their worst. When I'm at the movies I can pretty much disengage from reality and there's this little thing in the back of my brain that constantly monitors the screen and lets me know it isn't real. Of course, when you're 14 and sneak into see "Halloween" and you realize the crazed killer is still on the loose at the end of the movie, well...it never hurts to sleep with the lights on for a few nights, right?

And maybe it's because I'm a dog person. I mean, our family has been privvy to dog greatness since a year or so into our marriage. We had Buford, The Greatest of All Dogs...a black lab mix who somehow managed to communicate to our family how much she (yes, "she"--long story) loved us. She did so even when we brought in Lloyd, The Apprentice, and was fully aware that her last role here was to teach this--shall we say, not very bright?--animal how to act as a member of this family. Under Buford's tutelage, Lloyd has risen above his genetic predispositions against intelligence to attain "Great Dog" status. We spoil our dogs at the expense of our furniture and sleeping space. They become sorry beasts once we get them. Or, more likely, we bring out the sorriness that's already embedded in their DNA. But their laziness is somewhat endearing.

But when I was listening to some sports radio talk yesterday and I was listening to them describe "an 18-page indictment detailing an alleged electrocution of a dog and numerous other sordid accounts of animal cruelty involving Vick", well, I had to turn it off.

The stuff that makes up the apparently "numerous other sordid accounts of animal cruelty"--all in the name of competitive dogfighting--was so unbearable to listen to. I won't bother to describe it. You can hit news sites that will give you that information. And, don't get me started on the other NBA and NFL players who came out and talked about the reality that competitive dogfighting is "out there." Who goes to these things? And what's the allure?

I'll be honest. I know human nature can be an ugly thing at times.

But I'm in cahoots with the Humane Society of the United States and, hold on to your hats, PETA, on this one. In fact, this is precisely the stuff PETA should be bringing to light and focusing their energy on.

If true (and I'm willing to roll with innocent until proven guilty, Mr. Vick), you shouldn't ever play in the NFL again and you should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law...and whatever fine they give you should make you "feel" it.

I couldn't watch the Rodney King video on the news.

I couldn't watch Reginald Denny get pulled out of the truck and get hit in the head with a brick and watch those involved clap and dance on the news.

And, like I said, it isn't like I haven't seen violence portrayed.

And, like I said, maybe I just have a soft spot for dogs.

But I couldn't even listen to the description of what Michael Vick is being accused of.

And, I'm disgusted.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's Short Story Time Again!

Every now and again, I like to give The Diner patrons a chance to use the cafe as a place to hone their creative skills and we write a short story together. I start out with the "prompt" and then each commenter adds to the story...and you HAVE to build on what the previous writer left. Here's this summer's starter:

He'd just turned up the CD player to try to get the events of the last three hours out of his head. Sure, he'd thought about pulling this off for the entirety of his adult life, but now that it had happened he wasn't sure it was as fulfilling as he'd hoped. The White Stripes were beginning to get his thoughts off it, but just as he'd start to erase the images from his mind, she'd pull up another photo on the digital camera and show it to him...and actually laugh. "No, really. Laura, stop doing that. Please just stop. Look, I need a break. I'm just going to take the next exit and maybe we can put the top up and talk about what it is exactly that we should do next."

Have at it, patrons!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Proof We All Dislike Change, #43,985

When we first moved to Texas, we had to replace all sorts of goods & services we'd gotten used to. Over the first six months we had to find a new house, new church, new job, new pediatrician, new dentist, new hairstylist, new bank, new babysitter, new...

...well, new everything.

And I think it was Stephen King who said that a place becomes home when you know where all the roads go. And, over the first six months we made adjustments. We got a new place (and then subsequently found a cheaper, better one about a year later). We got a new job (and then subsequently found a better fit about two years later). We found new pediatricians, dentists, hairstylists, banks, babysitters...and well...

...we knew not only all the roads to get there, but also got comfy with the little nuances of each place. You know, right? You adjust to the way the screen door bangs against the frame in the new place. The pastor of the new place does things differently than your old church. Going back to hourly wage in the mall selling sports memorabilia had all sorts of adjustments. The new doctor's manner was different than the old one. The new dentist was WAY better than the old one, including magazines in his office. The new hairstylist was cheaper AND better. The new bank had two different locations close to you and some were better depending on what time of day you were going. The new babysitter was so fun the kids always asked for her every time.

And, you make adjustments. Sometimes the change is ultimately good so you put up with the little annoyances. Sometimes you just fight through the difficulty because it's all you can do.

But, recently, I felt like I was in that same place as when you first move to a new city: My grocery store of choice is in the process of closing the store closest to us. So, no new meat, or dairy or bread or whatever else needs to be fresh and they're having pretty good sales on the other stuff.

So I needed some "fresh" stuff and figured I'd pick up a few other items at the competitor across the street. It's going to become my new grocery store of choice. I'm a proximity guy when it comes to that.

And I go in and I can't find anything.

Greeting cards...greeting cards...greeting cards...weren't they over there?
Milk...milk...why isn't it next to the bread where it used to...oh, there it is.
Bread...oh yeah...back over here.
(walks the length of the store for the third time)
Greeting cards...I thought I saw them the last time...oh...
...there's the shampoo...but they don't stock that brand I don't guess because it's not in the same spot...oh, there it is!
Greeting cards...greeting cards...there's some magazines and they'll probably be next to them...hmmm...
(realizes that my logic and grocery store arrangement logic are two different types of logic)
Candy...candy...why isn't it next to the chips?

What would've taken me 5 minutes in the store where I new everything now took 15 (add in another 15 because I ran into a friend and we got to chatting, but it was 15 shopping minutes). And it felt like we'd just moved here.

I have no idea what's going to happen if I try to track down something for the spice rack.

Monday, July 16, 2007

19 Years. In a ROW!

Tracy and I have been married 19 years today. It's the "bronze" anniversary. I don't know what to do with that little piece of information.

Here's what I do know:
She really is the girl of my dreams.
She really has gotten more beautiful over the years.
She really is inspirational as an artist...who happens to use photography as a medium that moves people...and will provide them with lifetime memories.
She really has made my house a home worth coming home to.
She really is a fantastic mom.
She really is a wonderful student of me, even when her subject matter is unpredictable, or worse (and more often), too predictable.
She really is great with people.

I truly admire her...and that's cool to be able to say. I've said it before, but lesser women would've been long gone with some of the stuff she's had to put up with being a part of my life and ministry.

And that list in Proverbs 31? That's a start.

But she's a really wonderful lady. And I'm glad I married her 19 years ago. And my life is more abundant because she's in it. And I've often said that I live a charmed life. And I don't think I'd say that as often if she didn't make it so.

Thanks, Tracy. For 19 wonderful years.
A Belated Happy 2nd Anniversary To...

the higher-order life-living barnstorming San Franciscans, Jilly & Shane!

And, the second anniversary is "cotton" ("china" is also acceptable), and according to a website I looked up, here are some suggestions:

Celebrate Your 2nd Anniversary:

Plan a Cotton Club themed evening together and listen to jazz music.
Plan a movie night and watch your wedding video.
Get tickets for a movie, sports event, concert, theatre, etc. to attend together.

Gift Suggestions to Purchase for Your 2nd Anniversary:

Cotton gloves.
Cotton handkerchiefs or bandannas.
Cotton T-shirts.
Cotton plush towels.
Canvas shopping bag or book bag.
Cotton table cloth, napkins or place mats.
Nifty looking cotton socks.
Cozy cotton his and hers bathrobes.
Egyptian cotton sheets and pillowcases.
Rope hammock.
China plates.
China figurines.
Garnet jewelry.

To be honest, I think that website blows.

My suggestion would be to go to China and pick cotton...
Or buy some tickets to Dallas' Cotton Bowl and eat Chinese food...

Happy anniversary just the same!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Little Help?

I'll be preaching in big church NEXT Sunday.

The topic is in line with our sermon series "The Disciplines of a Free Man." Pastors Bill spent three weeks developing the foundation on thinking correctly about the spiritual life...and today Bill is going to start on the actions that spiritually free people use as a means to develop their relationship with Christ. He'll be talking in practical terms on spending time in the Word.

Well, next week, I'm teaching on the reality that free people pray.

And, what I'm learning is that everybody likes the idea of prayer, and I think most people that follow Christ want to pray more, but they seem to struggle.

So, what do you want me to touch base on regarding prayer? Keep in mind that I'll be doing my outline Tuesday (yes, I've already been studying) so you might want to have those comments to me before then...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Eugene Peterson Quotes

From the May/June issue of Relevant, which I'm just now getting around to reading. These quotes are from the interview with author Eugene Peterson:

"We hate mystery. We're enamored with knowledge. We have incredible educational institutions, all getting a certain kind of knowledge that has to do with information and function. There is very little relational stuff goin on in there. If there's a problem, our first response is to find out what's wrong and find the technology to fix it. If we can't do that, we've failed. But most of life is a mystery."

"I like Vonnegut's line about writing--that it's like having a flashlight in your mouth in the woods, trying to find your way. Prayer is like that, too."

Q: I hear you don't own a TV.
A: "I own one. But it broke many years ago, and we never fixed it...When it broke, we started reading to each other and found it more satisfying...when I'm in a hotel, I'll turn it on and, within a few minutes, wonder why anyone looks at it at all...There are a lot of good novels, a lot of good poetry, a lot of good live theatre [after he'd already mentioned great movies with redemptive imagination in a previous question]. I think television is pretty much a wasteland. TV has done as much as anything to degrade and corrupt the American imagination. Lowered it, in fact."

Have at it, patrons!

Friday, July 13, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that everybody should verify things they forward by e-mail on "snopes.com" before they send it, even if the thing they're forwarding says that snopes.com says "it's true!"
...that it's time for the Rangers to trade Mark Teixeira. Oh, and we won't miss you, Mark. We just went 16-11 while you were out with your injury, and we sure could use two or three minor-league pitchers in exchange for your bad attitude.
...that with our church's family camp going on this week, only me and Bill and Nathan are the pastors who'll be working this weekend. It feels kind of like the first 20 minutes of "Home Alone."
...last night, Tracy and I got hung up in this show where you win money for karoake but they stop the lyrics and you have to fill in the blanks with the next words. Some agent needs to sign up the contestant as it was if somebody spilled two entire cups of cuteness on her. She won $350,000, and went out on "Satisfaction" when she had to come up with the next 10 words after, "I'm drivin' in my car, and a man comes on the radio, tellin' me more and more..." She filled in the blanks by singing that she won $350,000 and wasn't going to risk it.
...that this quote from John F. Kennedy still rings true: "The United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient--that we are only 6% of the world's population--that we cannot impose our will on the other 94% of mankind--that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversary--and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem."
...that it's interesting how the same people that raked Bill Clinton over the coals for his supposed dalliance in the Oval Office seem to revere Kennedy when he appeared to be FAR more promiscuous.
...that when somebody told me how many of my former students were working at Pine Cove or Kanakkuk camps this summer, I wasn't surprised, but I said a little prayer of thanks and thanked that person for encouraging me.
...that I begged off mowing the lawn yesterday because it was supposed to be cooler on Saturday morning but now it's supposed to rain another 3 or 4 inches today. Oh, well.
...that when you have a physical scheduled in your 40's an entirely different set of thoughts/fears run through your mind than when you'd have a physical in college.
...I've got friends who are taking a well-deserved vacation starting today, and it always sounds so cool when people say, "Yeah, we're off to Cabo this weekend." I've never been to Cabo. I'm not sure I've ever listed Cabo on my "places-I-want-to-go" list. But I've heard about Cabo. And it's fun to say Cabo.
...I've got a closet clean-out and a garage clean-out looming.
...Tracy and I have been having empty nest practice with Shelby away with ballet for two more weeks and Kelsey being 15 and out most nights. I wonder if the "It's-so-quiet" thing goes away after a while once you get used to it, and I wonder if the "I kinda miss that kind of noise" thing goes away, too.
...I'm still not wanting an iPhone, despite Apple's very best advertising attempts to get me to buy one. And, in spite of my friends who have them evangelizing me about them. Right now, priority 1 is replacing the iPod.
...that somebody asked me who I thought the three best all-around baseball players of all time were, and it'd be tough to argue that Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds had all the tools and talent and delivered. Bonds, steroids or no, is the best player I ever saw in person. Griffey, Jr. and A-Rod fill out the three best I ever saw up close.
...that Auburn kicks off in 48 days.a
...that Friday the 13th never really bothers me. Nor do black cats or walking under ladders.
...that I need to get ready for work!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Intros & Covers

In an e-mail yesterday, my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly (in what must've been some sort of study break as I think she has finals this week--which I haven't exactly figured out how studying fits in the higher-order life-living) asked me a couple of music related questions:

The first was along the lines of the introduction to songs that, when you hear the first few seconds just kind of gets you going. She brought up Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," Van Halen's "Unchained," and AC/DC's "Back in Black" as the songs that more or less make you want to crank up the radio when you're driving (although, interestingly, for all those bands I would've gone with either "Communication Breakdown" or "Immigrant Song" for Zeppelin, "Hot for Teacher" or "Runnin' with the Devil" for Van Halen. I can't argue with the AC/DC choice, though).

So, here's a few "intros" to songs that make me grab the volume knob and crank it up within the first five seconds:

First, a few surprising "honorable mentions"...

"Rockefeller Skank" by Fatboy Slim
"Firestarter" by The Prodigy
"Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Loc
"Play that Funky Music" by Wild Cherry
"Walk This Way" by Aerosmith-Run D.M.C.
"The Humpty Dance" by The Digital Underground
"52 Girls" by The B-52's
"You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi
"White Wedding" by Billy Idol

Here's a few that probably won't suprise you, but this is the "official" list (limiting myself to 10, and only one song by each artist, otherwise this would just be as many Ramones/Nirvana songs as I could list until I ran out followed by about 100 other songs) and they aren't in any particular order other than the first one:

(Predictably) "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana"
"Teenage Labotomy" by The Ramones
"Holidays in the Sun" by The Sex Pistols
"Bad Luck" by Social Distortion
"Alive" by Pearl Jam
"Drown" by Son Volt
"Blister in the Sun" by The Violent Femmes
"Shiv" by Stavesacre
"Runnin' Down a Dream" by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
"Wild Side" by Motley Crue

The second question she brought up was of my favorite "cover" songs. You know, when someone wrote a song and then another band did it really well (if not better) than the original version. This is actually a very difficult question because I think it's very rare that someone does somebody else's version of a song better than the original. This all started when, about 7 years ago, Kid1 told me, "Dad, you have to admit Britney's version is better" after I'd played her The Rolling Stones version of "Satisfaction" when I heard Ms. Spears' re-make.

But, here are a few, again in no particular order:

"Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" by Nirvana (covering Leadbelly's version).
"American Woman" by Lenny Kravitz (covering The Guess Who, who were also covered by Bachman-Turner Overdrive)
"Personal Jesus" by Johnny Cash (covering Depeche Mode)
"Something To Believe In" by The Pretenders (covering The Ramones...Chrissy Hynde's soulful brilliance actually was better)
"What A Wonderful World" by Joey Ramone (yes, I know. How do you do it better than Louis Armstrong? But Joey Ramone was my John Lennon so I'm asking for a little latitude here)
"When Love Came to Town" by U2 & B.B. King (yes, I know that B.B. King played on their version, but U2's arrangement puts the original to shame)
"Smokin' in the Boys Room" by Motley Crue (covering Brownsville Station)
"Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson (there's some debate as to who wrote it, Kokomo Arnold likely did so and was certainly a source for it if not). No one has done it better since then and everybody has tried.
"Live and Let Die" by Guns & Roses (covering Paul McCartney)
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" by Pillar (covering U2)
"All I Can Do Is Cry" by Mike Ness (covering Wayne Walker and/or Otto Bash's classic country song)

Well, there you go...

...the best intros & covers as The Diner Management sees it.

Something tells me this me this might stir it up a bit.

*pours coffee & waits*

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You're Going To Have To Stay With Me Here

For some reason, this video makes me laugh and I'm not exactly sure why...

It's only a minute and 12 seconds and it's Andy Samberg from Saturday Night Live. Maybe I'm just in a silly mood, but I gotta say I think it's kinda funny.

Lessons From History

I'm 80% finished with a(nother) book on the JFK assasination. It's 1500 pages long and I can't imagine it being any more detailed...and it's detailed on everything and everybody. I mean, anything you want on the major players, like Ruby, Oswald, Zapruder, Tippet, the secret service agents, all that stuff...and anything you want on the minor players, like folks at work in the book depository that day or everybody in Dealey Plaza watching, those that interrogated Oswald, newspaper reporters, medical examiners, etc.

And the detail is staggering.

For example, when Oswald lived in the Soviet Union and married, the KGB (spy network) actually bugged their apartment (trying to discern if Oswald was an American spy)...and they even RELEASED THE TAPES to investigators. And, what was on these tapes? Every conversation the couple had in that apartment for the better part of 8 months.

Now think about that for a second.

What if, unbenknownst to you, every conversation you had with your spouse was recorded? The stuff about the kids. The stuff about each other. The finances. The fights. The silence. The sex. The stuff about work. The stuff about those people who just came over and visited. The stuff about your hopes and dreams and fears and failures...


And, then those tapes were turned over to the House Select Committee on Assasinations and transcribed and put into the public record.


Or, like in Jack Ruby's case, both the Warren Commission and the HSCA interviewed every single person that ever bumped into Jack Ruby. In Chicago. In San Francisco. In Dallas.

Friends of his parents. Teachers. Social workers. Bosses. Employees. Brothers. Sisters. The guy who sold him ad space in the newspaper for his business. His rabbi.

And then all those people discussed in detail the type of person he was and the kind of life he lived.

And then it became a matter of public record.

Now, granted...very very few of us will ever be in a situation of historical importance where that kind of investigation is set forth. We'll just live our lives and do what we do.

But I wonder what we'd all do differently if we knew that every word we said (or didn't say) and every action (or failure to take action) would be written down and put out there for everybody in future generations to know.


*somedays, I wish I had deep substance on my blog like the other pastors listed on the links on the left...but I'm not feeling very deep or substantive these days...*

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Funnies Are Us

In Honor Of The Opening Of The Harry Potter Movie Tonight...

I took this quiz that was going around on MySpace. Keep in mind that I've never read one of the books and I've seen the movies primarily because my children wanted me to take them (and, they told me all the things that were done well/poorly and/or filled in details, much like Nathan did when I went to see Lord of the Rings stuff).

Apparently, the answers you check would be somewhat representative of what "house" you'd be in if you attended Hogwarts. So, here goes:

[x] You've never done drugs.
[ ] You have a lot of friends.
[ ] You get along with everyone.
[ ] You love soccer.
[x] You love baseball.
[x] You're into writing and art
[x] Favorite music genre is rock.
[x] You believe in "innocent until proven guilty" theory.
[ ] One of your favorite colors is red or gold.
[x] You have good grades at school.
[ ] One of the worst things you are at is lying
[x] You plan on going to college. (well, I already went, so I counted it.)

[x] You're content with mostly everything in your life right now.
[x] You laugh a lot.
[ ] You like to follow trends.
[ ] Politics suck.
[ ] You love to swim
[ ] Water "marco polo" is awesome.
[ ] Pink is one of your favorite colors.
[x] Black is morbid & depressing. (I even write in blue ink because of this reality)
[x] Michael Jackson is talented as a musical artist.
[ ] You're an optimist.
[ ] You're very emotional.
[x] You believe in going steady at a young age. (well, I went steady as a junior in high school, so I guess I did)
[ ] You haven't made fun of anyone this month.
[ ] Loyalty is the MOST important thing in a relationship.

[ ] You're depressed to a certain extent.
[x] You love to read.
[x] You appreciate theatre & arts.
[ ] Sports suck.
[x] Hate is completely unneeded.
[ ] Indie is your favorite genre of music.
[ ] Every once in a while you have little anger outbursts.
[ ] Lying is sometimes okay.
[x] Blue is one of your favorite colors.
[ ] Knowledge is the key to power
[x] Sarcasm is the best kind of humor
[x] People should know what they're talking about before they talk.

[x] There's at least one person you hate/dislike
[x] Basketball is a good sport.
[x] Football is amazing.
[ ] Black is a cool color.
[ ] You've lied about something serious
[ ] You're a very deep person.
[ ] You have considered suicide.
[ ] You are not very loyal.
[x] You like heavy metal.
[x] They make school seem more important than it is.
[ ] You're scared to grow up.
[ ] Anger is one of your primary feelings.
[ ] You have trust issues.
[ ] Guilty until proven innocent.
Total: 5

So, apparently, I'd be housed in Gryffindor. I have no idea what that means, but happy Harry Potter Day just the same!

Monday, July 09, 2007

10 Somewhat Realistic Things I've Always Wanted To Do And Haven't Done Yet

Take Tracy on the honeymoon we never got and give her the engagement ring she deserves (as opposed to the one I could afford).

Write a book...or books. But I have little idea of topic. I mean, what NOT been done? And, I'd like to somehow get paid for it without having to get too involved in the Christian Retail Industrial Complex.

Accumulate enough time off to take a summer and road trip with friends to see one baseball game in every major league park.

Really fix our house up. I mean really fix it. Landscaping, new energy-friendly windows, hardwood floors, furniture, sun porch out back, office...the whole works. And then just enjoy it with as little work to maintain it as possible. Of course, I could eliminate all that with a downtown loft, but "realistic" was in the title. Those things are pricey.

Run a marathon...although I'm thinking of slicing that down to a half-marathon. But I'd really like to accomplish a marathon.

Teach, on the side, at a seminary or Bible college. You know, like an adjunct professor or something.

Use all my vacation time every year on REAL vacations (New York & Hawaii are on that list) rather than "end-of-the-year-use-it-or-lose-it-sit-around-and-read" time. But that might have to wait until my girls schedules regulate a bit more. I mean, it's no good unless the fam goes with you.

Take adults on mission trips just like we do with the teenagers. I think they'd love it. Same for implementing "youth group" activities...every time I've see adults in similar environments they respond in ways that make real, live fellowship happen.

White-water raft on a class 5 with a group who is serious about doing it. I've always been leading "family" trips which always cause us to back off before it gets serious.

Attend a big-time prize fight in Vegas and just be a part of all the pomp. And then spend a week or so in Vegas just doing Vegas. I've never been...but I'd really want to go for a big-time event of some type while I was there. Maybe a huge concert would work, too.

What's on your top 10?

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I was looking for something & couldn't find it.

I checked in all the requisite places that make sense to look. I retraced my steps.

I remembered the last time & place I had it...which was in a business. And, I'm pretty sure it's there.

But I have to wait until they open to confirm they have it.

And my mind's playing tricks on me because if they say they don't have it (and, let's be honest, some teenage clerk might've had it and put it somewhere in their office and the new staff may not be aware of where it is) I have no idea where else it might be.


I really can't stand this feeling.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Authentic Community

According to Mirriam-Webster:

Authentic: "conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features"
Community: "a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society "

It's a buzzword. Especially among the younger members of our Tribe.

Allegedly, it's what they're looking for when they seek out a church to become a part of. They want "authentic community."

And, like all buzzwords, the meaning gets lost. I know, because I ask the younger members of our Tribe what that means and I am far from hearing anything that resembles a unified answer. Sure, I get the ingredients here and there but I don't get to eat the end result of their recipie. It's like they don't know exactly how to describe it, but they know it when they see it.

But I do like the ideal of what our Tribe should be. I like the idea that people come from all walks of life with all sorts of personalities and experiences and passions and interests and begin to live life together. A family in a very real sense. I'm drawn to it.

I've lived it in various forms since I was 16.

The influence of community in those various forms has been staggering in my journey. I've grown closer to Christ because of my time in it.


...what is "authentic community?"
...what is our individual role within it?
...what are the benefits, personally and corporately--and in a bigger sense--societally? for The Kingdom?
...how do suburban American churches create an environment for "authentic community" to flourish?


I'm teaching a class on it for the next two weeks or so.

I'm enjoying my "job" very much these days, kids. Fasten your seatbelts, too. My "edge" seems to be coming back. I've missed it, too.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Initial Thoughts On Change

I remember the Sony Walkman. I used mine all the time especially since I'd been collecting music on cassette tapes since I was in high school and amassed quite a collection. I could go on walks or mow the lawn and listen to music I liked as long as I had two "AA" batteries hanging out.

Then I went to the Discman. The change to CD's was slow (as I was a grownup and had less cash to go to music) and there were some issues in that the CD's would "skip" when you went jogging or mowed. Even if you had a player that had memory to prevent skips there could still be delays. I still had a Walkman laying around if there was music I hadn't gotten on CD yet for the chores.

But I was happy with the Discman, too. So much so that I more or less resisted the iPod when it came out. It was a position of ignorance, really. I didn't believe the iPod was much of an immprovement. I didn't know iTunes made saving music easier...that I wouldn't have to "repurchase" the music. I'd taken a very firm stance on "file sharing" which I still maintain is piracy and actually hurts the artists (and the arts in general). Yes, even Metallica. So, I resisted the change.

Until I got one. I really enjoy it. It's better than I imagined and I still didn't use mine to do everyting it would do. But now I'm sold.

But did you notice the common thread?

In order to get sold on "change," I had to change the way I thought about those consumer products. The Walkman was convenient and fit my lifestyle. The Discman had drawbacks and required a bit more financial involvement, but the sound was clearer and better and since everything was goinng to CD anyway, it worked. And once somebody plugged in an iPod and showed me what it would do, I was in, man.

My experiences with each affected the way I thought about those things. Like if your favorite tape got "eaten" by the Walkman, well...then you realized that the CD had some advantages. Until one got scratched or the Discman skipped or froze. And then the iPod works well until you realize that the hard drives last only so long and the machine will only charge so many times. Hello, service contract.

It's really about how we think about those things. True change comes from a process, I think. First you have to consider the facts. You get information from varieties of sources and personal insights. So, for example, the Zune (Microsoft's challenger to the iPod) might be superior in many ways and have a few better features than the Apple product, but there are terrible drawbacks because they hit the market later and everybody was already on iTunes--which is NOT compatible with Zune. So, first I consider facts.

Then, I gain a true conviction. I really do believe a certain thing after my brain processes all the information. So, for example, after I consider the facts, I determine the iPod to be the better machine for me and what I'm using it for.

Finally, I change my mind. The facts led me to a conviction...and then my thought process changes. This changes my behavior. So, unless I get more information to consider, I'll be an iPod guy. You won't find me in the gym or mowing the yard using any other Mp3 player.

(at this point, every one of you should be glad I didn't go with what I intended to use to illustrate the point, that of my significant change from a conspiracy position in the JFK assasination to the lone gunman position. Man, could I EVER have gone on and on about it)

The next step is to analyze my motivation...and this is where it gets kind of ugly. Because generally speaking, my motivation is to please myself.

So, let's say that I want to go on a diet for all the right reasons. I've considered the facts, I've become a believer, and changed my mind about the food I've been eating. So, I go to the restaurant and I have a choice of a salad or a double cheeseburger. I KNOW the right thing to do and am convinced it's best for me, but what I really want is to please myself and have the more enjoyable meal for me.

Hence, in my initial thinking on this, I believe the biggest hinderance to change is selfishness.

So, we suburban dweller all might agree that using public transportation is best for society for a myriad of reasons...but we're not likely to make the effort to design our lives in such a way to do so unless we truly change the way we think (New York readers of The Diner are obviously exempt). It's a sacrifice we don't want to make.

Or, we KNOW that cellphone usage while driving or at a restaurant with friends is a distraction, but yet we view our personal desire to use the phone as more important than being a responsible citizen to other drivers or that our time with our desire to text message our kid is more important than our seat-neighbor's view of the movie.

Or, if we're believers in the Bible, we know what Scripture says about sex outside of the marriage relationship. But, our desire overrides that.

Or, I might know that I need to go to the gym, but I FEEL like lounging around and doing nothing because it's what I want to do.

Or, I might know that many of the things that go on at my church are really just a matter of personal preference and don't really matter...such as nametags pre-printed or if I have to write my own (or my personal preference, do away with them altogether) or lighting or chair arrangement, or worship music--song or style--choices are really no big deal in the scheme of things, I get upset when it doesn't go the way I prefer them.

I could go on and on...but I think you get the point.

The biggest factors in change involve the way I think, and this has to be reinforced by denying myself and finding ways to serve.

Let's use my struggles with diet. I generally know the right things to do regarding wise food choices. But let's say I do a lot of research and REALLY get involved in that area of my lifestyle. I know the right thing to do and believe it's best for my long-term health.

But then that cheeseburger with onion rings thing becomes a choice.

Maybe I decide that even though I really want that cheeseburger...it's better for me to serve my wife and kids by being healthier. Now, that doesn't mean I can't ever have a cheeseburger again...it just means that I'm making a choice to serve in the big picture. That I deny myself in order to serve my family. (yes, I see where the illustration falls short)

Then, this is where the baby steps several of you mentioned come into play. Let's say I have the salad and soup instead. And I start excercising, too. And I get to bed at a decent hour. And I do it for a week.

I have better energy levels at work that week and I begin to feel better. This gives me more information to discern, which becomes an even stronger conviction. Now my experience of "successful" baby steps reinforces the change.

I realize that it's been a long way to explain my thoughts, but ultimately I think lasting, meaningful, & true change comes from correct conviction (change is always "inside out" and not "outside in") and denial of self. And then reinforcement allows for long-lasting response.

So...now that's out there. What do you think? Like I said, these are my initial thoughts on it and not set in stone...

*pours more coffee*
*opens The Diner later than usual*
*but still waits*

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Affecting Change

A little latitude, if you don't mind. It'll take me a minute to get to the point today.

I read a story in the paper about somebody who attended a major concert downtown. They enjoyed the show, but didn't like being stuck in parking-garage traffic for nearly 45 minutes afterward. The next day someone else attended the same show and suggested that if the first guy had thought through it, he could've parked miles away and used public transportation and been home in 45 minutes after the show. In addition the parking-garage guy could've saved $18.50.

I went back to my university last fall and realized that they'd pretty much eliminated roads that went by the main academic buildings and eliminated most of the parking lots to make that square-mile a walking/biking campus.

Our student ministry room has undergone 5 complete overhauls in the 6 years we've been in our building. Each one was brought on by a need we tried to meet.

Our church has had some staff turnover in the last three years. Our staff was remarkably intact for the 7 or so years previous.

When I decide to diet, it goes very well for a month. Maybe even two. Then it seems I settle back into more familiar (read: less healthy) patterns.

Exercise programs have come and gone, too. I once trained for a marathon and was doing surprisingly well until injuries derailed that experience. I haven't gotten back to anywhere near that level since. A month or two here. A month or two there at the gym, but that's about it.

I've got a chair that really does need to go into retirement...but the "test drives" I've taken in furniture showrooms just don't excite me (well, cost is somewhat of a factor. I had NO IDEA how much furniture costs, man. None.) so I stay with the old one.

And I'm amused when we do things at our church services that are different and we get such strong reactions. We darken the windows and from the reaction you'd think we'd let Ozzy Osbourne lead worship one Sunday. We put the bulletins in the chairs instead of handing them out and people make it a point to tell us how much they didn't like that. We rearranged the chairs. We varied the lighting. We went "unplugged" with worship one night. We decided to have people write their names on their nametags instead of printing them out. All of these little things set people on edge and you'd be surprised at the heat behind people's complaints. Not just little shoulder shrugs with words like, "Not my cup of tea, but whatever, man." Real, live, "don't-do-this-again-or-else" approaches.

Last night the fireworks show for our town was at a different location. I'm sure that today I'll hear how much better it was at the old place.

We've been getting inordinate amounts of rain in our little burg this summer. We haven't had a 100-degree day yet and we're into July and I'm thrilled (with all due understanding to those north and west of us that have experienced major flooding, I'm only referencing my personal experience here) with the daily showers. But I've been hearing more griping about this than when it's abysmally hot here.

I brought up an article I read in the paper about giving to a church through use of a credit/debit card and we had more Diner debate than on most topics.

I'm teaching a class on making spirituality practical and the feedback that I'm getting is that the class is helpful, but it's hard to implement the suggestions.

So, where am I headed with all this?


It doesn't matter if it's a change in our driving habits and availing ourselves to public transportation, or redesigning our eating/exercise patterns, or writing your own name tag when one's been printed for you for years, or getting a new favorite chair, or turning off the television, or turning off our cell phones at lunch (or not text messaging in movie theaters) when we're enjoying conversation, or a three-week weather pattern.

I keep hearing that "change is hard on people."

I can see that, too. Personally, there are areas where it's easy for me to change (working with teenagers for two decades will keep you on your toes) and areas where it's difficult (diet/exercise).

And, I'll tell you why I think it's hard and what to do about it tomorrow.

But I'd like to hear your thoughts on it first.

*pours coffee, turns Diner sign around that says, "Yes, We're Open!" to face the street, and waits*

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Proof That Words And Ideas Can Change The World:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

hen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

It's Hard Getting Motivated On July 3...

...but I've got a full day of meetings & appointments.

And the whole "middle of the week" thing for this particular holiday throws off my groove. I like the idea of a three day weekend somewhere in there and this doesn't do it for me. I mean, it usually works out for me really well because I have Mondays off and can take my "Monday" on the next Tuesday, which gives me three days to get into the weekly groove.

But I was off yesterday.

I'll work today.

I'll be off tomorrow...

...and then only have two days of the work week. Not that I don't enjoy only working 3 days this week, I'd just like for my off days to be together and my work days to be together. My groove works better that way.

And another thing: My town usually has this fireworks get-together at a local ranch. They have hot dogs and games for the kids and our town takes picnic blankets and lawn chairs and the traffic is terrible and it's way too crowded but it's pretty enjoyable bumping into friends and such. The fireworks are usually pretty good, too.

But this year they moved it to the local high school's football stadium.

Now, I don't know the rationale behind it. Maybe the town abused the ranch so much they didn't want to host it anymore. Maybe the town thought the ranch was too small and not enough parking. Maybe there were some safety concerns because people park along the busy road to watch the fireworks (not actually entering the ranch). Maybe the bus company decided not to work it. Maybe it's saving money.

Maybe it'll be even better there...but I don't see how. It seems like it's trying to make everything expedient and neat & clean. Like I said, I'd be surprised if there weren't a logical explanation.

But today it all just seems weird.

My groove's just off kilter already today.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Yippee Ki Yay

Maybe it was the group that went together...about 14 of us.

Maybe it was the fact that John McLane is in my movie wheelhouse, seeing as how I saw the first Die Hard in the theater with another group of fun friends.

And I'm not sure I'd recommend the movie to everybody...it's PG-13 for a reason. And there's really not much in the way of deep-thought or movie genius or provocative ideas. And, yes, you had to suspend any and all sense of reality in both the plot and the action.

But stuff blew up about 2 minutes into it and didn't stop blowing up for the better part of an hour and a half. Funny/campy/hokey hero lines were said at a clip of about one per minute. My favorite was when John had just knocked a helictopter out of the sky with a speeding car that he bailed out of at the last minute (screaming "this is not a good idea, this is not a good idea" as he was opening the car door) and said he had to do it that way because he was "out of bullets." The prisoner who was with him asked John if he was okay--bleeding and battered--said, "Yes. Are you?" And the college kid said, "Well, I skinned my knee and my asthma's acting up, but..."

I can't think of a better time I've had at the movies in a long time watching Live Free or Die Hard. Maybe it'll win the Oscar for (Talledega Nights reference upcoming) Best Movie Ever Made.

And I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that John McLane, thankfully & against all odds, saved the day again.