Friday, August 31, 2007

It's That Time Of Year Again!

Friday college football picks from The Diner...and I have to say that I was pretty pleased with last year's bowl record: 18-14 against the point spread.

And, as usual, at the start of the season, there are a lot of question marks about almost every team so the lines are often off a bit, and here's the initial picks for week #1's "notable" games! I'm very excited about all this!

Tennessee (+6) at California: Every year we go over this and over this. Some Pac-10 overrated team plays an SEC opponent and all the observers get all gaga about the Pac-10...which is why USC gets all the press (they'd be 8-3 if they played the SEC schedules). It happened last year when Cal was all hyped and the lost by 17 to the Vols. Well, the press is hyping the revenge factor and all that and touting the game being in Berkeley. Whatever. Diner prediction: Tennessee 27, Cal Bears 21.

Oklahoma State (+6) at Georgia: The Cowboys are up and coming in the Big 12, but Georgia is always tough at home and Mark Richt hs won 25 consecutive non-conference games. It'll be close at halftime, though. I like OSU's scrappy underdog thing they have going. Diner prediction: Dawgs 24, Cowboys 14.

Georgia Tech (+2) at Notre Dame: Hmmmm. Georgia Tech without Calvin Johnson and they struggled at home against them last year WITH Calvin Johnson? Tough call, but I bet Tech will find a running game that's enough to scrape out a very close win. Diner prediction: Georgia Tech 17, Notre Dame 13.

Florida State at Clemson (+3.5): Florida State has a hot new offensive coordinator and the Seminoles are always loaded with talent. Clemson's always tough at home, but for some reason finds ways to lose close games with Tommy Bowden at the helm. If I were betting, it'd be enticing to get Clemson and points in Death Valley, but...Diner prediction: Seminoles 27, Clemson 17.

Troy (+24) at Arkansas: Darren McFadden is incredible, but manalive is 24 a lot of points to give a scrappy Troy team with a chip on their shoulder who had this game circled the day it was scheduled against a Razorback team with a lot of question marks and a negative vibe surrounding head coach Houston Nutt. Diner prediction: Arkansas 35, Troy 17.

Washington State (+14) at Wisconsin: Did somebody forget that Wisconsin just might win the Big 10 this year? If there's a mistake on the betting line board, I think this one's it. Diner prediction: Wisconsin 38, Wazzu 13. (and no, Shane, the Cougs do NOT always Auburn last year)

Missouri at Illinois (+4.5): Another mistake on the board. Yeah, yeah. Ron Zook's getting his foundation in place, blah blah blah. Missouri is good. Really good as long as Chase Daniel stays healthy. Missouri 42, Illinois 17.

Kansas State (+13.5) at Auburn: Kansas State pulled off a few upsets last year (notably of Texas) and highlighted by a freshman quarterback who makes things happen. Unfortunately for the Wildcats it's high-risk/high-reward stuff and that inconsistency (6 flashy TD's but 15 horrible interceptions last year) will hurt K-State. That said, K-State will be better than last year, but it won't be good enough even with Auburn's running back by committe, unproven kicking game and offensive line questions. Diner prediction: Auburn 28, Kansas State 14.

Woo Hoo! College football is back, baby!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Knowing and Doing Are Two Different Things...

Her name is Priscilla Hatcher. I tell you this because it seems we hear a similar story every two or three months and the names change but the details are the same.

She's 15.
She lied to her parents as did 4 others about the plan/whereabouts for the evening.
There were 48 beers and some Smirnoff.
There was late-night/early morning rural road driving.
There was a wreck.
It took a couple of hours and jaws of life to get them out of the mangled truck.
There are three teens who lost their lives, one paralyzed, and Priscilla (who, thankfully, is expected to fully recover from a broken hip & arm).

There's the obligatory inner questions that ran through my head. "What were they thinking?" "Didn't they know better?" "Where were the parents in all this?"

They weren't thinking. Teens'll do that.
Yes...they knew better.
And the parents were involved. Her dad said he'd discussed these behaviors with his daughter on several occasions. Priscilla admitted that her dad had taught her well: "I knew right from wrong and I chose not to listen."

She knew right from wrong.
She willingly chose wrong.

And it's easy to cast judgment.

But, you know...

...we all have areas where we do the very same thing.

Some major. Some minor.

Some folks have an affair. Some drive while talking on a mobile phone.
Some folks explode in anger at others. Some let their dogs poop in others yards and walk away.
Some folks drink and drive. Some leave their car unlocked at night.
Some folks speed & ignore traffic rules in neighborhoods. Some don't study for a test until that morning.
Some folks ignore their children. Some knock off early & leave their co-workers in a pinch.
Some folks cheat on their taxes. Some don't return phone calls or e-mails.
Some folks steal from others. Some drive in the HOV lane with only one person in the car.
Some folks...

...well, I could go on and on. Just insert your own little couplet that I didn't list that seems to satisfy your brain.

But at the end of the day, in most every case we know right from wrong. I mean, in very few cases do co-workers show up and proudly announce, "Hey, everbody. Guess what?! I just discovered Black Tar Heroin and oh baby is it awesome! In fact, I highly recommend you all run out and get some right now! I've got a guy who can get it for you!"

We choose not to listen.

And as the old adage goes...

We can choose our actions, but we cannot choose our consequences.
Or like the old proverb, that if you step one foot on a slippery path, you could lose control of the rest of your steps.

And I'm said that Priscilla lost a few of her steps. She's only 15, man.
And I'm thankful that some of the steps I lost didn't result in much more than bumps & bruises.
And I'm hoping that we'll all use this little reminder to choose "right" today... ways both big and small.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Apparently, I Don't Have Enough To Dislike

My Smokin' Hot Shutterbug Trophy Wife alerted me to this month's issue of D Magazine.

Here's the cover, but I don't know how large it'll get on the blog page:

Anyway, if you can't read the magazine cover, it reads, "Why You Should Hate Southlake." The article is entitled, "Welcome to Perfect City, U.S.A." Here's an excerpt from that article:

"They’re good at everything in Southlake. If you’ve never been, there’s something a little Pleasantville about it. The streets are cleaner than your streets, the downtown more vibrant, the students more courteous, their parents more prosperous. Everyone is beautiful in Southlake. Everyone smiles in Southlake. Everyone is a Dragon in Southlake. This last fact, especially, is central to understanding the city. The kids and their mothers coming out of Central Market. The retired men who eat barbecue at the Feed Store. The white collar professionals strolling through the shops of Southlake’s Town Square. They are all Dragons."

Now, there are a lot of ways I could go with this...

"Why I Should Hate Flower Mound."
"Why I Should Love Improving Urban Crime Rates."
"Why I Should Praise Underperforming School Districts."
"Why I Should Revel In Successful Mediocrity."
"Why I Should Detest People Who Work Hard, Pay Taxes & Enjoy The Fruits of Their Labor To Maintain A Nice Standard of Living."
"Why I Should Loathe A High End Retail Outdoor Mall."

Yes, folks.

It's come to this.

I feel a need to defend the Southlake folks. Because, like I learned in civics class that if you don't speak up then the next people they'll come for is Plano.

And then...well...Frisco is gonna get scorched.

And not far after that we all know that Carrollton will follow...

...and before long there'll be all sorts of magazines knocking over our privacy fences here in Lewisville/FloMo and then it's just a matter of time before Argyle and Keller get picked on, too.

They'll mock our tax revenue and good schools and low crime rates and playgrounds and our new shops at Highland Village stores and drive to build a Denton bridge over Lake Lewisville and our friendly people and then where will we be?

Is this really the kind of world we want to live in, people?

So, I say, "Rock On to the nice people of Southlake." The Diner management is with you!
I Pledge Allegiance...To The Texas Flag...

There's a lot of hoopla on the news and in the paper about the phrase "under God" and the legality of such a phrase as it exists in the Texas Pledge...which school children repeat daily. Yes, after the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States.

There's a lot of sound reasoning on both sides of the argument as to whether it should remain in the pledge and very smart lawyers make a lot of money and get nice cars/houses to reason these things out in a court of law.

But has anyone bothered to ask why a Texas Pledge exists?

I know. I know.

I'm not a native Texan, therefore I couldn't possibly understand the plight of the Texas forefathers as they fought and died for my freedom to live in Texas...which... the way...


...rejoined the United States on March 30, 1870.

Texas Pledge?

Isn't that the question we should be asking?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And...They're Off!

Godspeed, Steve & Mish.


I can't wait to see what God does in and through you both in Portland.

All in all, I had it pretty easy.

My dad was a steel worker. My mom was a school teacher before she became a full-time homemaker. It was just like everybody else in Bluff Park...a suburban subdivision that existed so steelworkers and full-time homemakers could pursue the American Dream. Sure, there were plenty of accountants and engineers and insurance salespersons and car salespersons and the whole mix. But all our parents were in the workaday world that is easily understood by the masses.

And there were two PK's that went to my high school. Pastor's Kids, for the uninitiated.

One set of PK's went to the large SBC church in our community. When they turned 16 they got really nice cars. Another set of PK's went to my much smaller Bible church. They got cars, too, when they turned 16. They just weren't really nice. They were just average nice.

And, for the most part, the PK's were simply along for the ride of being a teenager like the rest of us. They did their schoolwork, they did their extracurricular activities, they did their youth group stuff and they blended into the high school life melting-pot fine.

Except every now and then we'd execute our own set of judgments because...


...there were some places they weren't supposed to blend into the high school life melting-pot.

Don't get me wrong. Neither set of PK's went off the deep end. I'm talking about if one of them showed up at the same party we happened to be hanging out and there was a keg present. Or maybe one of them snuck into the same "R"-rated movie we'd snuck into (well, "sneaking into" sounds more glamorous than "purchased a ticket for another movie and walked into the one that Jason Voorhees was slashing counselors at Camp Crystal Lake"). Or maybe they'd been seen kissing someone at Star Lake or Papa Joe's parking lot. Nothing major. Just typical teenage stuff.

Our execution of judgment was based on one presuppostion: "But, their dad is a pastor."

I mean, we certainly didn't execute the same morality when Baker made out with Cheryl after the homecoming dance. Not one of us said, "But Bake's dad's in pharmaceutical sales. Should he be doing that? His mom works in the attendance office, for cryin' out loud. You'd expect more from him."

So, while I freely admit I'm out to lunch on exactly how much my pastoral position affects my children, I try my best to be sensitive to that reality. It's hard enough being in the high school life melting-pot, so I ask them about the "pressure" of being a PK every now and then. Outside of telling me that they've learned that "just 5 more minutes to lock-up and then we can leave" really means that "45 minutes later we'll be walking out (which is why they both carry books with them when they know I'm the only ride home)" and that every now and then they've got to keep their mouths shut about some church business they overheard Tracy and I talking about...they don't say it really bothers them all that much. Crossroads (my church) has a long, wonderful history of giving the PK's--about 11 notables since I've been there--a lot of room to be teenagers and all that implies.

But every now and then that pressure shows up in the strangest places.

Like yesterday, my daughter began a new school where no one knew that her dad was a pastor. Or so she thought. I bet she was looking to have a nice break from that little slice of information. It would've been the first time in her life she could've existed without that little arrow pointed at her. (Which, by the way, if you want to read a pretty funny account of her first day, check out the link at left for the "petite Picasso.")

At some point in the day, Ricky (nicknamed "The Tomato"), upon being introduced to my daughter, responds with, "Oh,'re the pastor's daughter."

She glares at the one other teenager who goes to our church that attends that particular school.

He apparently was asked by The Tomato how he knew Kid1, and his harmless response was, "She goes to my church. Her dad was my youth pastor." He also told Kelsey he was sorry about that little slip. He's a good egg and I'm sure it was more converstational than anything else.

This aroused the attention of the hearers, to which Kelsey diffused the situation by saying, "Yeah. It's true, but he's got really long hair and five tattoos." This seemed to take my occupation back to irrelevance and they went back to whatever it is that high schoolers occupy themselves with between classes or at lunch or whatever. Kid1 likes The Tomato.

And, I know that being a PK also has some distinct blessings in connection with it, too. Like I said, our congregation is loving and giving and appreciates the staff...which carries over into our children in ways too numerous to list here.

But, there is a unique set of expectations...both good and bad...on the PK's. There just is. And it's their burden to bear. I mean, I'd imagine that children of school teachers or political candidates or coaches and the like have their own set of pressures.

And I'm glad it's been relatively easy on my kids...thus far, anyway. I don't expect that to change.

But ultimately, I think I want the same thing for my kids as everybody else: For the freedom to be themselves and blend into the high school life melting-pot, with all the social/sexual/academic/extracurriular successes and (more importantly) failures, and be given the grace to grow and discover their place in the universe. That takes time.

And varied successes.

And varied failures.

That's hard enough...and no parent wants their fishbowl of a life heaped on their kids. Even if their kids make swimming in that fishbowl look normal and graceful and peaceful.

Today, I'm thankful for that.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Good News

Since many frequent Diner patrons don't attend the 5:00 O'Clock Worship at my church, you might've missed an important announcement made at the end of the service:

At around 1:30PM yesterday afternoon, Steve Hixon accepted our church's offer to serve as the Teaching Pastor. He and his wife Darlene are excited about moving to Crossroads, and while many of the details are to be ironed out later this week, what we know is that they're coming!

This is good news, folks.

Very good news.

*bows head, silently says a little prayer of thanks to God for His provision*
Post Sermon

Here is my sermon from yesterday. Now, I don't want to be presumptuous that you'll want to listen...just making it easier to find for those outside the Dallas area that might want to hear it.

I might just take two naps today.
Start of School

School starts today.

Of course, when Kid2 is on an on-line/homeschool kind of thing it doesn't really matter. She's almost finished with one semester of one of her 8th grade's a work-at-your-own-pace kind of thing and she claims she's trying to graduate with Kelsey. I'm not so sure she can do that, but what it does do is make the official start date of school irrelevant. She really never stops but rather takes breaks here and there.

Kid1 had to get up early to get to far south Dallas as today's the day she starts at Booker T. Washington. She made her lunch last night to maximize sleep time, and was off this morning with her travel coffee mug loaded, which made it easier to carry art supplies. I think students who attend schools for the visual and performing arts wind up carrying a lot of awkwardly shaped materials. One of her friends plays the cello.

Speed zones are back in effect. There was already a wreck on Morriss Road at 6:30AM.

Our new semblance of normalcy begins today.


...for some reason... doesn't seem like it's going to be very normal.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that we all know fad diets don't work in the long-term and that the obvious way to lose weight is to eat less & exercise more. Yeah. There's truth to that eat less & exercise more stuff. Thus far, with my friend Joyce's help (she's the nutrition guru at the local health club) on diet stuff, I've cut calories and gotten serious on the treadmill. Well, eliptical machine. Whatever. The results after the first month: I've lost 13 pounds. 20 more to go!
...that I'm pretty darn excited about September 14. That's when my friend Bailey gets announced as the head cheerleader at the first home varsity football game. That's kind of a big deal...and I'm doing everything in my power to be there.
...that I hope that 17 year-old kid who figured out how to rig up the iPhone to accept other mobile phone services (other than AT&T, which iPhone uses exclusively) decides to use his powers for good and not evil when he chooses a career.
...that when your oldest daughter starts dating it's kind of exciting & nerve-wracking all at the same time. But you know, when they choose sharp guys to go out with, they make your job a lot easier.
...another end-of-an-era thing: I'm making plans to get rid of the swing set and wooden playhouse we made for the girls when we first moved here. I'm using the wood to expand my firewood storing capabilities. The swing set's a goner. reading has slowed to an embarrasing pace. never ceases to amaze me what some of my former students will entrust me with.
...people kept telling me that my life was in a large-scale transition, but frankly, it really didn't feel like it for the longest time. Now, brother, it really feels like it. Personally. Professionally. Every way, really.
...the newness of the Rangers giving all the rookies a long look to see what they can do at the big league level has worn off, and now it's just watching a bad baseball team--with Wednesday's 30-run outburt as the highlight of the season. That, and just saying Saltalamacchia is fun. No worries, though, because college football kicking off next weekend is just what the doctor ordered. It's been a long sports summer, man. So much so that I even started getting into world soccer--English Premier League and the Dutch Eredivisie. No kidding. wife keeps getting better & better as a photographer. And as a wife. And as a mother. Not necessarily in that order, but you get the idea. She's pretty much incredible. I like her like her.
...that I really ought to start playing guitar again. I still fiddle around with it, but nothing like I should.'s pretty cool to have my friend Wes still working with Mercy Me, even if I don't really dig their music. He's been with them since the early days and worked his way up within the business end of their art. But he still gets to be creative and use his gifts even if they aren't in our student ministry anymore.
...same for my friend Josh with Evanescence. He didn't work for my ministry, but he hung around my first ministry in Dallas.
...that I really don't want to make a list of where my former students are plugged into ministry because it really would take a long time and then it'd make me want to make a whole lot of phone calls and e-mails that I don't really have time to do.
...having friends & relatives that are wine snobs makes for some serious meal-enhancement and keeps me from having to bother with it.
...that I get to see Margaux in 43 days. It isn't soon enough.
...that school starts tomorrow and no matter how long summer is, the start of school seems to come up too fast.
...that with all the rain we had early in the summer and now gone about 5 weeks without it, my yard has some interesting new undulations and such if my lawnmower's tracks are any indication.
...that I've avoided thinking about it too much and I've avoided making a big deal about it, but the reality that Steve & Mish are moving to Portland on Tuesday is kind of bittersweet for me. I mean, I've discipled Steve for about a decade, peformed their wedding, and worked alongside them both for two years. They're very gifted and talented. Portland's gain is definitely our loss, friends. I'll miss them. I'll miss what they bring to CBC. I'll trust that they're following God's will so that I can justify it and take some of the emotional heat off the reality.
...that if I can just fight through the next 13 hours I can enjoy a long day off since I mowed the yard yesterday. I might just sleep the whole time. Man, preaching the sermon in Big Church is such a difficult thing for me.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Big Church


I'm preaching the sermon in Big Church tomorrow.

So, today...

...I got nothin'.

My mind is going 173 m.p.h. (yes, I clocked it scientifically)

I'm all jittery.

I can't focus on much of anything.

So, I'll work out, do some yard work, do something with the fam tonight to get my mind off it, go to bed early, repeat the same sermon 3 times over an 11-hour period (with a 4-hour break in the middle), crash/recover on Monday.

I'm glad that I don't have to be doing this much more for the rest of the year. I don't think I'm built for this.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I read in the paper this morning that Texas is going to start rating pre-schools. Pre-schools! It says the reason that they're doing this is so that they can "boost the odds that children will enter kindergarten ready to learn." There will be a test: The Texas Primary Reading Inventory. Children will be graded on a 1 to 5 scale on "social skills."

You've got to be kidding.

My pre-school was my mom reading Green Eggs & Ham to me, my dad trying to teach me to hit a wiffle ball left-handed so I'd have the extra step to first base, and playing whatever with Julie & Jeff next door.

I went to kindergarten and all I remember about that was that Mrs. Kelly, my teacher, was a good friend of my mom's and would take the entire class home in her station wagon. I don't remember it, but my mom swears that I told the entire class during Show 'N Tell that she and my dad "slept naked." When my mom denied such, Mrs. Kelly didn't believe her.

In first grade I learned that first-grade teachers can be pretty when you're six. I have zero recollection of Mrs. O'Donnell, or whether or not she was pretty, but I was six and she was probably about a year out of college.

In second grade Mrs. Kuzmickey, who seemed like she was 100, played a keyboard that had a footpedal that she'd have to pump like and accordian and we'd sing. We also got to watch The Electric Company on selected days.

In third grade I learned that Katie would lift up her shirt if we'd give her a baseball card, which she was collecting for her older brother. Mrs. Wingate put a stop to that playground behavior and we all got lectured.

In fourth grade I learned that you could not get away with writing your name on the freshly painted bathroom stall with your fingernail and blame it on Brent Beck (who wasn't even there that day). Mrs. Jones was no C.S.I. agent but managed to do enough detective work to figure it out and arrange a meeting with my parents...who paid to have the stall repainted.

In fifth grade I learned that if you get a haircut due to some problems with grade-management (the deal with my folks was that as long as my attitude was good and my grades were good, I could wear my hair like I wanted to), the kids will make a lot of jokes at your expense when you went home looking like 1971 Beatle and came to school the next morning looking like you'd just joined the military, and Mrs. Lewis wouldn't do anything to stop it.

In sixth grade I learned that Mrs. Knight would give out demerits at the slightest provocation but if you zipped through the self-directed reading program she'd erase one or two to make sure you didn't get an "unsatisfactory" in conduct. She was also pretty excited when her students made up the final top-5 in the 6th grade spelling bee.

In seventh grade, I learned that Angie Mahon would kiss you if you asked her to dance at the one dance our school had for middle schoolers (which was actually on the elementary school property) and that Mr. Smith, the basketball coach, would make you run suicides when he found out you kissed Angie Mahon at the one dance our school had for middle schoolers. Mrs. Moore wouldn't tolerate the fake fall-over in the chair, either. You'd have to stand at the whiteboard with your nose in the circle for that one.

In eighth grade, I learned that Mrs. Brooks was the coolest teacher ever and her husband would manage to get me a ticket to Auburn football games after my dad died that year. Mr. Crittenden somehow got a copy of the Zapruder film and introduced me to conspiracy theories. Mrs. McCord was a great French teacher but she broke down and cried a lot in class the 2nd semester after her husband divorced her.

In 9th grade, I learned that homeroom was the best time of the day, because Kim Markovich was in there...and that Greg Lozano (who I later roomed with at college for a year and was fraternity brothers with) would sometimes pass out because he was hypoglycemic and never kept up with his diet like he was supposed to. I also learned that if you cut the nose off a fetal pig and your friend put it in with the mushrooms at the lunchroom salad bar that the school frowns heavily on health code violations.

In 10th grade, I learned that if you're biology lab partners with your best friend Hal, and you're cutting up in class, and Mrs. Lysinger calls on your best friend because of that, that you'll get sent to the office for howling uncontrollably with laughter when he's asked to list one of the three types of twins, and he responds with "fraternal...ummm...and, well...ummm...lemme see, identical...and, ummm...well...MINNESOTA!" I also learned Mr. McBay will give you two licks for that little incident. I remember that our 3rd Musketeer, Jimmy Baker, could deliver a dead-on impression of Mr. Crawford: "Jimmy Barker and Brent McKinstrey, don't you be so asinine in my classroom. And if you don't know what it means, look it up." Which we promptly did together, creating more asinine behavior.

In 11th grade, I learned that it was good to have Beth Killette as a chemistry lab partner because she took it seriously and was terribly pretty to boot. She also thought me and Dale Cox were funny when we hooked up the Bunsen burner to the water instead of the gas. Beth did the real experiments for which we shared the grade, and we did the experiments that really interested us, usually involving water pressure or gas leaks or overheated chemicals after we'd gotten the results we needed. I also learned that Bobby Bell could have a great idea about putting Icy Hot on typing keys that's really pretty funny, but when yours and Bobby's typewriters were the only ones without it, that your parents will get a phone call and that you and Bobby will get to pay for the professionals to clean the keyboards.

In 12th grade, I learned that Mrs. Swindle was the best teacher I ever had and she was peculiar. She wore horn-rimmed glasses hooked to a chain and never used your first name...just the word "scholar." As in, "Scholar McKinney, will you please compare and contrast your observations of human nature against what you see in Golding's Lord of the Flies?" I also learned that you never tell your friends that you have a great English teacher and that you love to read and that you love to write and that when you show up at the 10-year reunion, Mrs. Swindle will ask you how come you don't have a novel published yet. When you tell her why, she said, "Well, Scholar McKinney, frankly, I'd expected that from you. Get on it." I also learned that prom night really is a ton of fun when you go with your friends and that not winning a baseball state championship that year is still something that sticks with your friends 23 years later.

Finally, I learned that when you get your college degree in 3 years that your principal, upon hearing this news, says, "Wow. Of all the kids who I thought would get their degree first from that class, your name wouldn't have hit my top 50. Congratulations, though, Brent. That's good news to start my day with!"

Obviously, I'm minimizing the education that I received.

Yes, I learned a lot along the way. And I got a good education from good people who generally wanted me to learn stuff.

But my point is that this nonsense on stilts about education being a panacea for societal ills is really nothing more than a placebo. And, to start evaluating pre-schools, where a supreme accomplishment should be poking the straw in the juice box hole and throwing away the plastic trash and breaking a freaking graham cracker on the line and lining up and actually sleeping during nap time...

...well... even more nonsense on stilts.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kinda Tying In With The Editorial Below

There was a meeting last night for the volunteer small group leaders for our high school students.

I was asked to come and help with the training session and one thing I was focusing on was to build meaningful relationships with students. One reality is that the volunteers are busy and the students are I was telling them that technology can be their best asset to help foster that relationship. That's the way teens connect today.

See, folks my age and older tend to see the Internet as a highly valuable tool for getting, "What time does the concert start?"...or getting driving directions to the new restaurant or to register for a seminar or to maybe shop a bit or make reservations or send flowers or listen to music or get movie tickets and all that jazz.

And, folks younger than my age tend to see the Internet as a highly valuable tool for building relationships or establishing community. It's how they connect with each other.

So, for example, a newly married couple who moved somewhere and was wanting to find a good church might start with information, like what time the services start and the location of the church and what classes they have for people their age. They might even preview a sermon to decide if they want to attend or not. But once they decide to make that church their "home church," they will want to go to the website to read the pastor's blog or to visit a forum and ask questions about the sermon or interact with some other members in chat rooms.

I mean, folks do the same thing at The Diner. I see people every Sunday who maybe have been on vaction for a couple of weeks and sick for another who walk in and we chat like we've seen each other every day because, well, they've visited The Diner every few days. See? It builds a digital relationship of sorts that enhances the flesh & blood one. That's how teens view the Internet.

So, I recommended that each leader load their mobile phones with teen's numbers for text messaging & set up a MySpace and a Facebook page to keep connected with their students. Since the leaders & teens are so busy it can be hard to line up schedules for lengthy visits at the local coffee shop (my personal favorite way of building relationships, but my job allows me the freedom to spend time doing that very thing--not many people have that luxury) they could make daily connections, discuss questions that came up with the study, pray together, send out announcements quickly, etc.

One person asked a question the rest of the adults were thinking: "Why can't we just send them e-mails?"

And the answer was real but revealing to the crowd:

"E-mail is too slow for them. Most teens I know don't check their e-mail but once a week or so--or only if somebody tells them that they sent something important. In fact, our children's ministry leader had about 30 teenage volunteers for a summer program and couldn't figure out why they weren't responding to an important e-mail sent two days ago. We set up a MySpace page for that event, had one teen post a bulletin, all the 30 teens became "friends" and had a nearly 80% response rate in 4-hours."

The implications of this reality are staggering...for businesses, schools, churches, etc.

And we can fight it or ignore it at our own peril.

But it's very real.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


As you can tell from the list at the left. I read a great deal. The people in my family read a great deal...both for school and for fun.

At work, I traffic in ideas most of the day. That list doesn't include much of what I read at work, either. Or newspapers. Or magazines of interest. That list only includes books that I read outside of work.

That list is slowed somewhat, too. I mean, last year I read over 50 books. This year I've read several books that have way more pages than many of those of previous years...and I've decided to read some more "classic" works that are "harder" reads. Hence, I don't expect to complete as many books, but it'll still be around the same number of "pages," I'd guess.

Maybe I'm an odd duck in this regard.

But when I read this article from the Associated Press today, I truly couldn't relate.

1 in 4 adults doesn't read any books over the course of a year?

Now, of those that read books, women averaged 9 books a year. Men, 5.

I guess because I read about 10x what "normal" guys read, I truly had no idea this was the case. Now, I'd also really like to know what is being read. Are they harlequin romances or business books or best-selling fiction or biographies or historical accounts or "self-help?" And, exactly what counts as a "book?"

So, in an informal poll of Diner patrons...

...about how many books do you read in a year?
...what was the best you've read thus far in 2007?
...what "genre" do you prefer to read?

As for me, well, I've read 20 in 9 months, and with vacation time I'll have at the end of the year, I'll likely get to 30 (largely because of Bugliosi's definitive work on the JFK assasination that took a month and de Tocqueville's treatise on democracy that total 2,500 annonated pages my average of 50 will drop, but you figure that's 8 or so books--and throw in the fact that Christian publishing has been absolutely AWFUL this year...well...suffice to say I've forgiven myself of not hitting my average).

The most enjoyable reads this summer have been "Punk Rock Dad" which was a surprisingly good parenting book and "A Long Way Gone" by Ishmaiel Beah which was both encouraging and heartbreaking at the same time.

Oddly, I prefer to read books you'd find in the "Christian Living" section if they have even a remote appeal...but since that's kind of "professionally related" I'd have to say I like books on history, particularly American history.

Have at it, kids!
Margaux Update

Oh, and just so you know...she shares birthdays with:

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
Baseball pitcher Roger Clemons.
Jazz great Louis Armstrong.
Actor Billy Bob Thornton.
Political leader Barack Obama.
Poet Percy Shelley.
Elizabeth, England's Queen Mother.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Proud Dad Alert

Kid1 has some of her new work posted at her blog: Welcome to my world...again!. She's got three of her works she's done this summer along with her commentary.

Strange, really. She changes into her painting clothes. She shuts the door to the studio. She turns the music up loud. Hours later she emerges and stuff like that is the result.

Very cool.

And I can't wait to see how her talent develops over the next year or so...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cone of Uncertainty

There's a hurricane bearing down on some popular vacation spots in Mexico...a serious hurricane that's wreaking all sorts of havoc. People have been getting warnings and you should never get hit by a train you see coming, but I do hope people make wise decisions.

What's gotten Tracy and I laughing has been the media coverage, and, in particular, a phrase that has gotten overused in said coverage: "Cone of Uncertainty."

You know what I'm talking about, right? When they show a map of the U.S./Mexico/Gulf of Mexico and a projected path of the hurricane using dots and lines going by islands and having times/days on it? And around that line is a lighter, widening path of where it could go, culminating in a wider end of the projection of landfall?

Well, the media guy has used the phrase so much lately, as in, "You can see where we've moved the cone of uncertainty further south today as it looks like Texas will not be hit, but rather the Cancun area by Monday morning. The cone of uncertainty started as far north as Brownsville, but now we're not likely to move the cone of uncertainty again as it looks like Dean will make landfall much further south."

I've decided, in honor of all this overusage of the term, that today I'll be Hurricane Brent.

"And, as you can see on the detailed map of Flower Mound, that Hurricane Brent will be heading towards the gym today, with his Cone of Uncertainty around the 3rd and 1st floors. We expect that around noon today, Hurricane Brent will move towards his own home again where he will have lunch, with the Cone of Uncertainty surrounding his bed or the sofa for his nap. The Cone of Uncertainty really goes haywire by 3PM where we can't say for sure if Hurricane Brent will be in the 2499 area grocery shopping or the Grapevine Mills area where he might go see a movie. Long-range forecast predicts Brent will be in his chair by 6:10PM for the Rangers game, but the Cone of Uncertainty shows us that if the early predictions are inaccurate, he could be in Grapevine watching a movie at that time."

I think we should all use "cone of uncertainty" whenever possible...and it will come up more than you might think.
We Live In An Age Where Common Sense Is Cutting-Edge

According to a study by MTV (which, by the way, is one of the best studiers of teenage culture/behavior, performing comprehensive data EVERY SIX WEEKS) and the Associated Press:

Family & friends matter most to young people.

In fact, the top 3 things that made teenagers happiest, in order, were, time with family, time with friends and their "significant other" (re: boyfriend/girlfriend). Money didn't make the list. Sex was actually found to be a detractor from being happy. Half said that religion and spirituality were important to them, and those that belonged to an organized religious group were "happier."

When they were asked who their heroes were: Either mom and/or dad.

Here's a quote from the article that pretty much sums it up:

"They're my foundation," says Kristiana St. John, 17, a high school student from Queens, N.Y. "My mom tells me that even if I do something stupid, she's still going to love me no matter what. Just knowing that makes me feel very happy and blessed."

Again, this is one of those studies that more or less details the obvious...

...but if parents were to take this stuff seriously they'd be considered cutting-edge.


Sunday, August 19, 2007


I had a friend that used those words to describe a time-frame where nothing was really wrong but you still felt out-of-sorts and restless and unsatisfied and unproductive and unmotivated and a whole lot of other words that started with "un" and involved more hyphenated descriptions.

Well, I'm in a state of hoobey-goobey, folks.

When I try to read, my mind doesn't focus like it's supposed to no matter how hard I try.

When I watch the game, I get disinterested in a hurry even when my team is winning.

When I want to do something, I can't really put a finger on exactly what it is that I might want to do. Maybe I should drive. Maybe I should nap. Maybe I should relax in the hammock. Maybe I should do some yardwork. Maybe I should play with the dog. Name it. But whenever I start to do that thing I decide I want to do, I immediately decide it isn't what I want to do. Repeat process for an hour or so.

When things are going along just fine, I get a laser focus on the negatives.

When things that would ordinarily give me joy occur, those very same things have an annoying quality to them.

I'm restless.
I'm disinterested.
I'm apathetic.
I'm feelin' bluesy.

There's angst involved.
And schadenfreude, too.

I know.

I have it good.
I have many, many blessings.
I have led a charmed life.
I have dog-therapy at the ready.

What do I have to gripe about?

Absolutely nothing.

I know this.
Deep-down where you simply know things...this, I know.
And I know that this will pass.
Usually in a day or so.

But I'm still in a state of hoobey-goobey right now.

And my hoobey-goobey antidote involves a steady diet of John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Robert Johnson. That usually does the trick.

So, Diner patrons...

...when you're in a state of hoobey-goobey...

...what are your antidotes?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why Is This The Exception Rather Than The Rule?

College sports are big business. Billions, folks. Billions.

And the idea of the student-athlete at many NCAA institutions is well, backwards. It's athlete-kinda student.

But from Knoxville comes a little ray of sunshine.

Turns out that head basketball coach Bruce Pearl (who is an excellent coach, with his outmanned Vols knocking off #1 Ohio State in March Madness last year) decided to enter his team in a summer tournament abroad. Lots of schools do this, but they're mostly in Jamaica or Hawaii or some other beach vacation.

Pearl took his team to one in Eastern Europe. Concentration camps were on the agenda, most notably Terezin in the Czech Republic.

He took along a history professor from the university.
The players are required to write journals daily and expected to give an oral presentations at various stops.

And here's a quote from Mobile Press-Register's columnist Paul Finebaum's article where I learned about this:

"A basketball game was played Saturday night; a basketball game will be played today. I'll try to teach them to do a better job with their transition defense and to communicate better. But this visit to the Terezin concentration camp was probably the most important lesson of our trip. Who knows what lasting effect this will have on my players? It's my hope that when they're faced with a difficult decision of what's right or wrong, even if it's an unpopular choice, that they will make the best decision."--Bruce Pearl

Maybe it's just P.R.

But I don't think so.

And it's the perspective every coach ought to have. It should be the "norm" and not the exception. But in this case, it was newsworthy because it isn't the "norm." I wish it was.
A Celebration of Two Weeks Of Margaux

Diner patrons know this drill already: Proud uncle, new neice.

She's two weeks old today.

I couldn't stand it any longer so I got plane tickets for Oct. 8.

Friday, August 17, 2007

10 Things I've Done That I Wish I Hadn't & 10 Things I Didn't Do That I Wish I Did

The ones I did & wish I hadn't:

Run into those bleachers.

Used the word "love" when I really meant "like her a whole lot." What was heard and what was meant were two different things, leaving plenty of collateral damage. Of course, using the word "love" trivially on things like spaghetti and Auburn football.

New Year's Eve, 1985. From about 10PM until 5AM inclusive.

Kissed Tim's ex-girlfriend Missy...not realizing that she just might've been trying to get back at him. So I guess what I really wish was that I understood hidden agendas. Yes, he saw us, too.

Sneaking in to see Halloween when I was too young. I still have visuals of that movie on my brain's hard drive. Which, oddly, hasn't stopped me from seeing it several times since then or going to see all the other slasher movies that came out in my late teens.

Thrown the rocks at Mr. Stokes' glass bird houses. I still have no idea why I picked up the rocks and threw them.

Left the church community at age 13. I don't know what answers about death they could've given me but I shouldn't have presumed that the stupid comments made by well-intentioned people were indicative of the entire church. I wonder if they'd have given me a healthier perspective if I'd let them.

Put so much pressure on some of my high school students back in my student ministry days. They were just so gifted and talented and it seemed like the right thing to do, but I should've given them a little more freedom to be 17 and all that entails. I won't list names, but there are about 1 or 2 per year that always recoiled when I'd "challenge" them and I should've been a better student of my students.

Quit the training for running a marathon. Sure, I'd had a few injuries and such, but nothing that couldn't be overcome. I still have this nagging desire to complete a marathon because it seems, so, well...challenging in the best of ways.

Started blogging (thanks Joshua, for being my crack dealer on this one..."Just do it, man. It's free if you just go to blogspot and I can hook you up with haloscan for comments and stuff. I think people will want to read what you have to say."). I often wonder that if I didn't do this how much energy I'd have put into a book by now. It's a nice form of community and all, but I don't think it's too healthy when around 9PM some thought pops into my brain and I think, "I should definitely blog about that tomorrow morning. That should get comments up over 10." I really do feel guilty if I don't blog or start thinking about shutting down The Diner.

The ones I didn't do & wish I did:

Kept my first car and kept up with maintenance...the brown '77 Cutlass Supreme. Sure, it was a gas guzzler and at age 20 your friends don't think the car you put mag wheels and a killer stereo in is a cool as your 16 year old friends , but it's your first car and I had a lot of good times in that car with my 16 year old friends...even if it was just sitting in a parking lot with the killer stereo cranking out some AC/DC.

Made a better effort to stay friends with my high school friends after I went off to college. For some reason, I felt it was necessary to make a firm break (which is strange because I had a very positive high school experience).

Gone to the Sugar Bowl at the end of Auburn's dream season in 2004, just to see my team go undefeated. I don't ask much from my traditionally underdog college football team and all I asked was to see the go undefeated just once in my lifetime. And then I didn't go to the last game...weird.

Read all the books in high school & college English with the same sense of appreciation that I do now.

Taken my wife on a honeymoon right after we got married. We were young & broke. Sometimes things are worthy of celebration and some choices we make regarding "being wise with money" aren't necessarily good ones. While I'm on the subject of Tracy, I wish I hadn't been so adamant about the "I don't want to wreck the friendship thing" and just started dating her earlier.

Actually turn in the 2nd Executive Director at my first "career" job for the "creative accounting" she "allegedly" did. I put my family through 3 very hard financial years to salvage that ministry and restore the integrity it needed.

Made an effort to stay in the same shape I was in high school.

Kept mowing lawns instead of getting an hourly-wage job. I went from making about $15 bucks a lawn in cash to making $3.35 an hour with taxes taking out. I worked twice as long for half as much.

Moved far from extended family sooner than we did. Tracy and I had parents that cared and are nice people so it wasn't all bad, but for us, the free babysitting and Sunday dinners weren't as beneficial as becoming our own family doing our own things our own way.

Not been so parochial...but when you grow up in Alabama, for some reason, world exploration isn't valued. I mean, a big trip for us was to go to Atlanta once a year and it was only two hours away. We didn't consider any colleges or jobs or anything outside of our little region. I wish I'd been exposed to the rest of the world much sooner than I was and I wonder what I'd have done differently.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mars, Venus & Laughter

The London Institute of Neurology did a study, using MRIs to photograph men's and women's brains as they processed a joke. The idea was to study if men & women find different things humorous and if so, what the primary differences were. They used slapstick humor to edgy comics and everything in-between.

For real.

Doctors did this.

Anyway, the findings were thus: The analytical region of women's brains was more active than men's. In short, women think a little more about what's funny and why it's funny and men are more reactive.

In the same article (hey, man, don't knock Reader's Digest..."Ways to Enrich Your Word Power" & "All in a Day's Work" and "Quotable Quotes" alone make that magazine worthwhile. Anything else you get is gravy) they listed the top 5 funny films for men and women. Here's the list:

Men: Blazing Saddles, Caddyshack, Office Space, Trading Places & Meet the Parents.
Women: When Harry Met Sally, 9 to 5, Annie Hall, Clueless, Tootsie.

Now, RD does have some generational bias, so I thought I'd roll with my own top-5 all-time funny movies:

Dumb & Dumber, Bottle Rocket, Caddyshack, Beavis & Butt-head Do America, (This Is) Spinal Tap.

I couldn't begin to tell you my wife's list of top-5, but she's a romantic comedy kind of girl...stuff like Sweet Home Alabama and all that, but I know she liked Meet the Parents, too.

So, in our home, this findings are pretty true to form. I'd be interested to hear from patrons today on the differences in funny movies from your households (or if you're single, the differences in yours & the last person you kinda dated). Yes, you'll have to make a list, too.

Have at it, kids!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

State of Love and Trust

I think I'm going to be talking about trust today. We'll see where this goes.

Kid1 went to the doctor a week and a half ago with ear troubles. Ear troubles in Kid1 give Tracy and I stomach troubles. "Nothing to worry about, folks. Simple ear infection. Take the pink stuff and call me if it doesn't go away soon." We breathe a little sigh of relief and say a little prayer of thanks...not necessarily in that order. But maybe. I don't want to sound hyperspiritual or anything.

Yesterday we take Kid1 to the ENT specialist who performed the surgery years ago who checks up every couple of years or so. "Fat lot of good Doctor1 did with that. Lemme clean out the ear, give you more powerful pink stuff and I'll follow up in a couple of weeks. And give me Doctor1's number so I can give her a call." We raise a little question mark above our collective heads and say a little prayer of confusion...necessarily in that order. Without a doubt. I didn't say a prayer of thanks for Doctor2 until later as I don't want to portray myself as hyperspiritual or anything.

But do you know who to trust? They both went to about 15 years of college and they both are respected physicians. I mean, Doctor2 is a surgeon and all but does that make him more trustworthy or knowledgable? I lean on Doctor2 because I get a better existential "vibe" with him. Maybe that vibe is because Doctor1 is close in my suburb and has a nice little office. Doctor2 does surgery in a highly regarded hospital in Big D. Maybe that vibe is biased and wrong...but it's my existential vibe, man.

I've been down this "who do you trust and how do you know" route varying degrees.

Like when I was 13 and heard my mom having a discussion with my grandmother about whether or not to take my father off life support. I mean, we've all heard stories about some other dad somewhere on this continent that somehow got out of a coma and then climbed Mt. Everest (or was in Kilamanjaro?) to prove that he foiled all the naysayers.The doctor said my dad would stay in this condition for a very long time...and he went to college for about 15 years and was a respected physician.

Like when the guy at the oil change place comes out with air filters and tells me that my transmission fluid is some color that it isn't supposed to be (and then takes me out in the bays to show me said color...I don't bother informing him of my colorblindness. I have no intention of having that service done there anyway, so I'm just going out to humor him and then he'll just check "service recommended" on my receipt). He says they can do it in 10 minutes for about $70 bucks. I mean, he's a respected mechanic and has all these certifications on his shirt and I know little, if anything, about cars.

Like when we went through the orthodontia phase of life. Apparently, every suburban teen in America has a mouth that's too narrow (and I wonder what the other teens all over the world do with the same narrow mouths). And when those wisdom teeth come in your child's teeth will point more directions than the home signpost on M*A*S*H*, right? From what we gather, this will inevitably lead to low self-esteem and heroin problems later if we don't fix it. We went to three different orthodontists with three different plans and varying degrees of payment options. These were all respected orthodontists in our area and every kid in our community wears a t-shirt with their names & logos on it and saying something about them being a cool kid who goes to that doctor.

Like when a teacher or counselor suggests that your child might need to skip a grade to be "challenged." Or maybe they need to stay behind a year to "mature" a little more. They're respected figures in our community who were trained to teach our kids all sorts of things.

Like when a coach says that "with a little more private instruction" your child could make the move from the "B" team to the "A" team. He's a coach and knows about the sport intimately and you never played it.

Like when the dentist tells you it's time to replace those old silver fillings with the new ceramic ones. That'll put a stop to any potential TMJ problems. Or maybe that sensitivity you're feeling is a result of grinding your teeth when you sleep, so we'd better put one of those mouthguards in. He's a respected professional who went to plenty of college on his own.

Like when a plumber tells you that you have a slab leak and the cost is going to be upwards of $1,000. It might be less. We won't know until we get in there and see, but it'll cost $475 to get started. Then you call another guy who says it isn't at all a slab leak and he thinks it's a faulty sprinkler system leak but it'll take $475 to fix it, but it might cost more once he gets in there. They're both plumbers with all sorts of certifications on their shirts who've forgotten more about plumbing than I'll ever know.

Like when the Genius at the iPod Genius Bar tells you your iPod is dead. Do you really know? Does she have a magic re-set button that she can hit once he takes it apart, and then when she puts it back together, sells them as re-conditioned? I mean, she's a genius for cryin' out loud. Says so right their on her t-shirt.

I could go on and on, I guess.

And I don't like being so suspicious of people...but in nearly 20 years of ministry I've learned an awful lot about human nature.

And some days I simply don't know who to trust.

So, I just trust God, make the best decision I can with the information I have at hand, and keep on truckin'. It's all I know to do on days I don't know who to trust.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On My Shelves

Someone was in my office not too long ago and noted that "there are so many little knick-knacks on your shelves."

And, this is true...I've accumulated all sorts of things over the years that sit on my shelves. But they're oh so much more than knick-knacks. There's a story behind each one.

Now, I've told you before at The Diner about the major things in the office--the putter, the weedeater, the boards from houses in Mexico signed by kids, the paintings of landmarks in my hometown & college town, the photos of mission trip teams on location, all that stuff. But today I'll tell you about the stuff that more or less just sits on the shelves.

Actually draped over the shelves are soccer scarves that I ask teenagers to bring me from when they go on mission trips that I don't get to go on. Some are with other organizations, some are from our church, but I have scarves from the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, Holland, & England. Oddly, I don't have any from the former Soviet Union states or Mexico...or any from Africa. I might have to lean on those kids who went to those places to grab one for me as I've slacked off on the demand. From Russia, however, some kids were nice enough to bring me back a traditional Russian hat as well as a box of "Barf" (which is a gentle soap that comes in a small box)--which the teen told me she purchased an extra box because she knew I'd love having that in my office.

There's a pair of cowboy boots that someone gave me made of ostrich and I've been told they're very nice. I made a comment when teaching a sermon once that I moved to Texas and somehow when I crossed the state line I developed an odd desire to get a pair despite the fact, well, they're not really "me." This nice man in my church had a pair given to as a business perk him that weren't his size, but happened to be mine. I wore them once. They hurt my feet.

I have a softball trophy from 2002 when my team won the local league championship. I haven't played much since, but I had a great time and it was the first time my kids got to see me play after hearing about me playing their whole lives. I tripled in the first at-bat they came and made a few plays in the field that night and my daughter said, "Dad, you really are good at baseball." I also have two trophies from being on a golf scramble team that won...if you know anything about golf, I'm a dream scramble player because I have a VERY HIGH handicap yet I can occasionally sink putts or pull out one or two long drives my team can use.

There's also a trophy for 2nd place that Brad Shuffield & Rob Edwards and I won in 2000 in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at a public park in Holland that we entered. It wasn't that we were that good, but even average basketball players from the U.S. are better than really good Dutch players. I'd imagine the converse is true with soccer.

There's another trophy that Kelsey and I won at our old church for coming in 2nd place in the "TLC 500" which was really one of those races where everyone in our church made a car from kit and it raced down a track we borrowed from the local Boy Scouts. We really did the competition the way it's designed to be done, making the car together and painting it and everything. It was a good time.

There's an autographed baseball from the staff at the Baptist church I worked in before my current job. It was kind of an inside joke because I sold sports memorabilia at a store in Town East Mall to put myself through seminary in addition to the church job and the staff thought it'd be funny to give me an autographed ball (I got #1 of 3, hence making it "more valuable") upon my departure for Crossroads.

There are two framed photos that teens gave me. My friends Rebekah and Cristina gave me a photo of them with a yellow-tape "Q." It stands for the only time teens pranked me that I never found out for sure who did it (although I had suspicions, nobody squealed)--they quarantined my house after I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia a few years ago. Yellow tape was all over my yard and I can't tell you how much I laughed about it. They 'fessed up during their senior speeches, proud of their secrecy for nearly a year. There's also a photo box with a stick of wood and some photos of Katherine...who gave it to me because I challenged her to teach the Word on our mission trip to The Navajo Nation & The Hopi Nation. Her sermon was about how God used a stick of wood in Exodus, and if He can use a stick of wood to do great things...well, you get the picture. I really admire Katherine and borderline coveted her giftedness and her passion for ministry...when she wasn't encouraging me, anyway.

There's a painting Dave got when he was in Israel of the Sea of Galillee in the time of Christ. I haven't framed it yet, but it's really nice to look at and inspirational in a lot of ways.

There's a Magic 8-Ball. One teen in Alabama gave it to me when they graduated because "you never said you had all the answers and weren't afraid to say that you didn't know what to do. So, this will help." I used it whenever teens came in for dating advice.

There's a photo Jess gave me after we went to Holland in 2000. She was enjoying our day off and while the rest of the team was scurrying to get to the next place so we could see it all and still make the last train back to Alkmaar, she wanted to go slower and soak in some of the stuff. I mean, how often are you in the Queen's Forest, anyway? So, I kept telling the team to slow down...and as a gesture of appreciation for "getting her" she gave me a picture she took while the rest of the team waited.

There are various art projects my kids made pre-K. Sand art. Things they purchased at the Secret Santa workshop. One is a ladybug in a box that says "I (heart) Daddy."

There are hockey pucks commemorating special games I saw...including Dallas in game #2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and when I saw the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team (yes, that team) play the Birmingham Bulls in my hometown before the Olympics that year. I also have a puck with the Bulls' logo on it that I caught during pre-game warmups once. There are Coca-Cola bottles commemorating Auburn's 1983 miracle season (when they got robbed of a National Championship, which similarly happened in 2004).

There's a gorilla wearing an Auburn t-shirt that plays "Rock N Roll, Part 2" when you squeeze the hand. Jacque gave me that when she purchased it at a garage sale for a buck...and she knew I liked Auburn. She's also given me a "gun" made out of PVC pipe that shoots little marshmallows and some Wallace & Gromit stuff.

There's a bowl Tracy M. (now Tracy P.) made in ceramics class in high school that says "World's Greatest Youth Pastor" inside it. There's an overgrown pen that a teen gave me because I encouraged her to write. There's a photo from the class of 2006 that thanks me for being their "sweaty-toothed madman" in reference to my using almost every scene in Dead Poet's Society during their four years of high-school.

There's a football-leather "paper football" with Auburn's logo on it as well as some uprights...and a beanie baby Auburn Tiger.

I also have a framed photo of Van Gogh's "Bible in Still Life" (which reminds me what we're up against daily in my business. If you don't know, grab an art appreciation class and learn how to "read" that painting) and a mug from Hubbell's Trading Post (on the reservation)--one of those "tin" ones you see when you see cowboys in the movies sitting around having coffee around the campfire. I learned that they get very hot. I also have a mug from Pike's Peak where we stopped on our way to Family Camp one year.

And, that's pretty much the list. It's funny how some people see clutter or tell me I should clean off my shelves to look "more professional." It seems to me that the relationships those things represent are at the heart of my profession...and on one hand, they're just trinkets.

On the other, in many ways, priceless.

Because they remind me often of the charmed life I lead.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thoughts on Titus, Entry 3

*note: I decided that whenever I had "blog block" that I would walk through the book of Titus as my "default" topic. So, here's the third installment of this series, which has no predicted length or end date...but I am going paragraph by paragraph.

I've been pretty blessed when it comes to what was being taught to me in church.

My parents attended this Episcopal Church that I still have trouble pinning down on some theology. I mean, from what I understand regarding the EC's official positions my first church played a little fast and loose with those. The pastor and people were markedly evangelistic in their approach, and every now and again a nun would actually speak prophetic words during the service. Hey, I was a kid and wasn't picking up on much...and they were certainly fuzzy on an area I now know as "sanctification" (a fancy word that references how we walk with Christ in the here and now)...but they had the basics of coming to Christ down pat and certainly did very well in creating community among us.

Long story, but I walked away from church/organized religion for a few years after my dad's death and eventually got involved in an organization called Campus Life. It was their job to go to public high schools and reach out to teens like me. This they did in spades. They were instrumental in teaching me to go to the Bible and check out what it says and letting it be living and active and life-changing. I didn't ever hear Big Dave or Duffy talk directly about theology but I caught it more than they taught it.

They got their theology from the Bible church they attended, and where I started going. I got good, solid teaching from Pastor Mickey, who lived in a parsonage and all he ever wanted from life was to own a convertible. I played baseball with his son and had a crush on one of his daughters. Mickey never knew that, but I doubt if he had it would've kept him from letting me come to his office and chat once a month. Bob, the youth pastor there, was a pretty solid teacher as I recall...but my recollections are somewhat weak considering all the crushes I was having on the girls in his ministry.

In high school, me and my friends were exposed to some goofy stuff like seminars on rock music where they played it backwards and told us Satan was trying to send messages to our brain, which would, in turn, decipher these messages and cause us to go all Helter Skelter. The only obvious solution was to burn our records (fat chance with the state of Christian music in 1982). Our charismatic friends took us to their camps and tried to get us to speak in tongues since this was "evidence" of the filling of the Spirit (I earnestly asked, and apparently never got, for them...but we took our friends pretty seriously on this matter since they took it so seriously). I was told movies and television were vast wastelands where the "liberals" were trying to take God out of society and that it was best to not go or turn them off. So, like most of us, I was given different, and well-intentioned, ways of looking at things but I'd hardly characterize them as false teaching.

My college Bible study leader, Charles, was Presbyterian through-and-through. He was unashamedly coming from a "reformed" theological framework (which, on occasion, clashed with my "dispensational" leanings...but that was rare) but he was teaching truth. And my journey with Christ changed significantly from my interactions with ol' Chuck. He was a great Bible study leader for my university years.

Mickey, my "home church" pastor, gave me some great advice when I was trying to choose a major. He suggested that if I was serious about going into ministry that I load up on Bible classes at my state university. Said I'd have to evaluate everything I'd ever learned and figure out for myself what I believed. I wonder what my Mom would've said if she'd ever known about such a conversation...but it wouldn't have mattered. I took him up on his offer.

And I got the only false teaching I'd ever seen from my religion professors at Auburn (I don't even think they have a religion department any more). They told me that you couldn't really take the Bible literally. They told me that miracles didn't happen. They told me we really couldn't trust the creation accounts. They told me that Jericho didn't happen. They told me that Jesus didn't walk on water...or heal anybody...and He probably didn't say what the Bible says He said. They told me that Israelites crossed a 6-inch drainage swamp called the "Reed Sea" (to which Charles had given me ammo to ask how the Egyptian army drowned in a 6-inch drainage swamp, in which case, you'd still have a miracle) and Moses & the Red Sea didn't take place.

But they were university professors and I knew that. They weren't working for a church. And I was trying to learn from them how the "other half lived." I did that. And it was ultimately helpful to my spiritual growth. They even let me read the entire works of Francis Schaeffer as my senior readings project and having discussions with learned folks on what I was reading might've been the educational highlight of my university career.

So, when I read Titus 1: 10--16, I don't have much front-line experience with it in my church. See, Paul had left Titus in Crete to establish some order in the church and gave him what to look for in people who would govern the situation. We learn pretty quickly this was needed because there were false teachers in their midst.

Some rebellious people, bent on deception and out to grab money and power, were upsetting whole families with whatever the content of the false teaching was. Titus was told that they must be silenced.

In verse 12 we learn that this 6th century B.C. poet Epimenides had written a line that had become accepted in the Hellenistic world that Cretans were liars. Evil. Lazy. Gluttons. And this little line of poetry hadn't really been refuted.

And, when you think about it, this is where the Gospel would have it's most wonderful display. Liars. Evil folks. Lazy people. They like to party to excess. And then the message of God's grace comes to town and some people begin to transform. The surpassing riches of His grace begin to be seen. They start telling the truth. They become righteous. Godly people. They become diligent about things they weren't really diligent about before. They begin to celebrate with those that are celebrating rather than joining in some hedonistic frenzy. And when somebody wants to know why they've changed, they say that it wasn't anything they did...but rather the love and mercy and kindness of Christ...his grace working through them and giving Him the glory for it...and one-by-one folks start to change.

Naturally, there were some who liked the lifestyle of lies. Evil was more "fun." Being lazy was "easier." And who doesn't like to party hard and have a few laughs and eat to much. We've earned it, right? We work hard, for cryin' out loud. And, when you start bringing the message of God's transforming GRACE into a world where they'd known nothing but the ability to "measure" spirituality...

...did you go to Temple today?
...did you make your offerings?
...did you obey the Sabbath?
...did you do this to atone for sin?
...did you do attend the feats?
...did you make your tithes? And don't even get me started on your offerings.

Just check yes, no, maybe so and you know if you're spiritual or not. Pretty simple, really.

Now the division begins to become noticable, and I'd imagine that in the first century as the Tribe known as Christians was just getting off their feet they'd have to come to grips with what they'd been taught their entire lives, well, it'd be easy to fall back into old patterns because this new way of communing with God seems so, well...

...easy. Almost too easy. And don't even get me started on the reality that now you're not doing those very things that set you apart from the world for centuries and made you a peculiar people and your own identity hinged on these things. "False" teaching would bring comfort...and maybe even make you feel like that blend of Christ and living under the Law might just be "true." Maybe you'd even hope it would be.

But Titus had a responsibility. Truth. Nothing but the truth. And, oh, by the way. Silence the false teachers. Reprove them severely. Somehow, this means that he'd have to discipline them...and this is one more proof that sometimes spirituality doesn't require being polite. I can't imagine this severe reproof didn't involve raised voices and heated discussion, if not downright coming to blows.

And they were teaching Jewish myths. I don't know the content, but from what I know of Jewish lore, there are plenty of riveting stories out there to hold attention and keep audiences chatting like a good movie.

They were teaching the commandments of men. Likely, this involved food. And staying away from certain ones. At least if the rest of the New Testament is consistent this always seemed to be the deal. Peter and Paul were butting head on this one as early as 6 years after Paul's conversion.

But in verse 15, we get the attitudes of the false teachers. Their minds are defiled. They don't think correctly about God...and if you don't think correctly about God...well, everything we do will flow from this plum line. The drift may be small, but consistent drift over time will take you far off course. And they weren't thinking well. Their conscience is defiled, too. It isn't clean. They know what they're doing. So, the outside might be clean, but the insides are eaten with rust. I think Jesus, in a different context, used the phrase "whitewashed tombs." Pretty outside. Death & rot inside.

In verse 16, we get their actions. They say they know God...but they don't live it out. In other words, they talk an enticing game under the guise of speaking for God and their actions don't line up with it. I'm convinced, now moreseo than ever, that the man and the message cannot be separate. Either you're a walking, talking, living, breathing corroboration of what you're teaching...

...keeping in mind that perfection isn't the deal, hence this includes handling your false steps and missing of the marks in such a way that it holds true to the demands of Scripture...

...or you're a snake-oil salesman using smoke & mirrors. They are detestable...they make you dislike them. They are disobedient. They are...

...worthless for any good deed.

Worth nothing.
For any...
...and this means any...
good deed.


Now, I know the tendency here is to start putting labels on the false teachers we've come across in our lives and I wouldn't be too quick to make such a list. Like I said at the beginning, I've been in Christian circles of all types for a long time and had former students get involved in all sorts of ministries all over the spectrum of our Tribe. Having honest differences on some areas of theology might make for interesting conversation over coffee and I think this is healthy--even enjoyable and profitable for all of us--but the Kingdom is big enough and broad enough for a wide variety. Let's face it: We're anything but bland.

But the idea is to measure the teacher & his message against Truth. His Truth.

And this necessitates we have the wherewithal to do so...

...and that's on us.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that Amy Winehouse might be doing the stereotypical rock star thing off-stage, but man, that girl is fantastic and I enjoy her old-school soul sound.
...that with the ding on the space shuttle endangering the astronauts/mission, it's time for me to once again state that, for the record, NASA should refocus energies on energy alternative technology and stop going into space. Yes. We get it, NASA. You can accomplish whatever you set your brains to do, but aren't we past gimmicks like senior citizens & teachers in space? Yes, NASA, we're all very impressed. Of course, my generation isn't wowed by space stuff, either. So, wow us with what you can do with wind/solar/nuclear stuff, give me a car I can re-charge and a home that heats/cools well and get those magnetic trains workin' for us. Sheesh.
...when your local baseball team's manager talks about how we were stifled by the DEVIL RAYS' pitching, you know you're having a terrible season. Really. He said that. After a pitcher who was 2-11 this season pitched his very first complete-game shutout in his 3 year career.
...I'm still having a little trouble understanding the arguments from illegal immigrants about why they deserve citizenship. I think I need to read a civics book or something, because I thought we had some legal processes for immigration to take place.
...that a recent study noted boys who had their tonsils out were less likely to be hyperactive. Something to do with quality of sleep. I wonder if they did a study on parents who told their kids to sit it down and shut it up when needed/deserved, that those kids would be less likely to be hyperactive, too.
...that we all know that our bodies are pretty sensitive machines, but I'm experiencing that reality at the end of week #2 of the diet/exercise program. I am feeling so much better and the food change hasn't been all that drastic. The exercise change has been pretty drastic, though.
...that we had our first 100 degree day yesterday, with the next 5 or 6 days supposed to be the same thing. The temperature isn't expected to go below 80 during that time, either. Air quality indexes are out of green and straight to red, too. It seems like summer is just starting.
...that at the same time, it feels like summer is ending, too. If it were the old summer schedule, school would be starting in less than a week. Instead, we have a few more weeks.
...the Cowboys look pretty good (they should make the playoffs) & Auburn seems to have an incredible back-up quarterback but they likely won't win the SEC West (if they go 9-3, Tommy Tuberville should be coach of the year).
...that I can't understand why people don't see legalism as dangerous as they see grace. I guess because with legalism everybody looks good. But if you're asking me, if I'm gonna err, I'd rather err on the side of grace. And, after much thought, I don't think there can be "hyper-grace." It's either grace or license. If it's license, it isn't grace. Although, when you think about it, grace itself is pretty hyper. And grace means more than being able to have a beer.
...that there really is something to the idea of dog-therapy for people. I've noticed that I can be having a bad day and spend about 5 mintues with Lloyd and the day doesn't seem as bad as it did.
...that I'm glad to be back in the reading groove again.
...that my most recent graduating class is heading off to college soon (if they haven't already) and I'm excited for them. On the other hand, I'll kind of miss seeing them bound into church at 5PM so excitedly.
...that I need to go to work and get on with the day.
The Importance of Expository Preaching, Part 2

Alistair Begg's sermon continues here.

He gives a list of the alternatives to expository preaching that continues from yesterday's linked sermon. Very good stuff, if you ask me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Importance of Expository Preaching

Every so often, people ask me to give them some podcasts to listen to. I think iPods have been helpful to people in that they've given them free access to some very good Biblical teaching they can listen to while driving, mowing, working out, etc.

But, I'm hesitant because my tastes aren't really that mainstream. But my good friend Mike sent me a link to something that might have appeal outside my normal circles. He found a link to Alistair Begg's sermons regarding the importance of expository (verse by verse) preaching and for those of you looking for something to do while mowing, driving or working out...I think you might like it.

For those of you who don't have time, here's a couple of thoughts from the sermon:

"We've become very familiar with preaching that pays scant attention to the Bible, is self-focused, and is consequently only capable of making the most superficial impact upon the lives of the listeners...therefore they leave satisfied with the feeling that it has done them some good...In the absence of bread, the congregation grows accustomed to cake."

"It is imperative, I think, that we acknowledge and remember and help each other to acknowledge and remember, that when we gather together as companies of God's people it is not to enjoy preaching eloquence or to criticize the lack thereof. But it to hear and to heed the Word of God. We come to be exhorted, not to be entertained."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Quote from Anne Lamott

*note: many of you may know that I started making observations from Titus the last two days. In no way do I feel bound to do so daily, but rather more as a consistent way to "fill-in" when other topics don't jump out at me. I hope you can appreciate that...I'm not sure I want The Diner to become a hang-out for Bible studies, although, since that has a place in my life, it has a place here. I tried running The Diner and opening a Bible Study hang-out once, but didn't have the energy to run both. So, please consider the Titus study the substitute teacher here, okay?

I like Anne Lamott's writing.

I especially like Anne Lamott's writing when the topic is her spiritual life.

I like the Bible's emphasis on "grace."

I especially like the Bible's emphasis on grace as it relates to how we live in the here and now.

So, when Anne Lamott writes a book entitled, "Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith" it rises to the top of my reading stack (which is abysmal at present--where are all the good books?).

I read the introduction before bedtime last night and this jumped out at me:

"There is not much truth being told in the world.

There never was. This has proven to be a major disappointment to some of us. When I was a child, I thought grown-ups and teachers knew the truth, because they told me they did. It took years to discover that the first step in finding out the truth is to begin unlearning almost everything adults had taught me and start doing all the things they told me not to do. Their main pitch was that achievement equaled happiness, when all you had to do was study rock stars, or movie stars, or them, to see they were mostly miserable. They were all running around in mazes like everyone else.

On the other hand, sometimes you encountered people who'd stopped playing everyone else's game, who seemed to be sem-happy and with it, who said, in so many words, I saw the cheese, I lived on it for years, and it wasn't worth it. It was plain old Safeway Swiss."

Oh, man...

...even in the introduction she provokes big time!

Your thoughts, kids?

*pours coffee & waits*
Margaux, Day 6 know how new grandparents carry those little picture books around that have about 20 photos of their newest relative and then proceed to show it to everyone they know? Yeah, I'm smitten with my new neice Margaux and you folks might have to put up with this for a bit. A happy uncle with a blog is the on-line equivalent of the wallets with those 30 photo fold-outs.

Thanks to all of you for being so polite and humoring me as I show you my little picture book...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thoughts on Titus, Entry 2

*note: After asking patrons to give me some things they might like for me to blog about as I spend time studying God's Word, their primary suggestions were regarding the prophets. Since I'd recently spent a semester teaching the minor prophets, I wanted to spend some time in the New Testament...and there might be a minor prophets series in this space in the future. However, I started a study of Titus today and I wanted to welcome you to my first attempt at doing this on-line...stuff like this has existed in my journals until today. I can't guarantee this will be daily or that I won't tire of it or whatever, but it's a start, okay?

I wanted to make my life a melting pot of the people I looked up to when I was a kid.

I was four or five but I could blow past my grandfather's secretaries and assistants and right into his office. If he was in a conference I just walked right in, he'd say, "Let's take 10 minute break." and the meeting delayed upon the arrival of any of his grandchildren. He was offered the best seats at area restaurants and the owner would stop by his table. He had tickets to any sporting event he wanted given to him. Some people command respect, and I saw that by how others treated him.

I watched my father be one of the most liked people I know. Whatever he tried he was simply good at. Didn't matter if it was deep-sea fishing or basketball or dancing with my Mom (which, for the record, he married the head cheerleader/best "catch" from good old Bessemer High) or being the dad...he was better than average at anything and everything he tried. Of course, the converse was true, too. If he was apathetic (like at his job), he stalled.

I had a navy blue fishnet jersey with burnt orange/white piping and a #7 on it. It was standard issue to boys who happened to be fans of Auburn University's football team in the early '70's when quarterback Pat Sullivan won his Heisman Trophy. I loved it when he said winning that trophy was the 2nd highest honor of his life. The first? He said playing for his college coach, beloved "Shug" Jordan. I almost cried when I heard him say that on the televised broadcast.

I admired a guy in my church because he was a NASCAR pit-crew cheif and for a time held the Guinness Book world record for making a pick-up truck go over 180 m.p.h. He could take out most spark plugs without a ratchet.

I admired the high school baseball coach because he could demand excellence and push people harder than they thought they could go and keep high school guys focused on minute details for 7 innings, and at the same time teach English very well, and still be one of the "cool" teachers off the field. He'd let us know in various ways that each individual student was important to him.

I wanted to play guitar like Eddie Van Halen. I didn't care much for the practice it would take to actually do that, but what 15 year-old in 1982 didn't want to play guitar like Eddie Van Halen?

I liked the pastor at my new church because he'd hoped that, at some time in his life, he could own a convertible. Something about that humility and desire to serve stayed with me.

I could go on and on, but we all had people we looked up to (and still look up to) for various reasons. It's peculiar how when you're young you tend to lean towards those who had thousands of people cheering for them when they did their job well or were famous or held a world record or commanded some sort of respect...and when you're older you tend to find admiration in the nooks (I don't know what a "cranny" is, so I won't use the word) outside the light.

But when my college Bible study group went started looking at manhood and the type of man we should each aspire to be (I know, we were college fraternity guys and this ideal was an easy discussion starter for Charles, but we really did get pretty amped about it our junior year) Titus 1: 5--9 hit our radar.

It's talking about church leadership and what qualifies somebody to do so.

Apparently, from verse 5, there was some trouble in the churches in Crete. We don't know specifics of the troubles but we can deduce the troubles as we plow through the letter, right? Paul worked with Titus on Crete for a short time and left Titus there for a specific restore order in the church.

And how would you do that? Well, you'd arrange some form of government...formal or informal or whatever...but they'd need leadership. And how would you find those leaders? Good athletes? Manly men? Community power brokers? Successful business folks? "Cool" teachers?

Paul takes the time to tell Titus the social qualities he was looking for in verse 6:

Above reproach. This doesn't mean "perfect" or "sinless" but rather connotates the idea that there aren't any major, glaring character flaws that would reflect badly on Christ or His church.

the husband of one wife. Our tribe interprets this in a variety of ways. I tend to be a bit more strict in mine, but at the very least it means that he's crossing the t's and dotting the i's of being a good husband. I mean, let's be honest, if we see a guy who can't take his marriage vows seriously (again giving freedom for those who believe those apply to the "current" marriage vows in the case of someone who has been divorced) we're not going to take them seriously regarding spiritual matters.

having children who believe who are not accused of dissipation or rebellion. Same for the kids. If we see a dad who treats his kids harshly, we aren't going to listen when he tells us to love one another. It doesn't mean they're perfect, but rather that he honors his responsibilities as a father. He lovingly instructs and has control even when his kids are at their worst. Because, you know, sometimes church folk can be at their worst, too.

We get the personal qualifications in verses 7 & 8:

Not self-willed: Not arrogant...more of a desire to serve rather than a sense of entitlement of privilege.
Not quick-tempered: Somebody that gets angry quickly. I often wonder if that means thoughts or outward expressions, but either way we're supposed to control our tempers. Hopefully there's room for us slow-tempered-in-our-thoughts folks!
No addicted to wine: Notice it doesn't say they don't drink. But hey, when you're in leadership my guess is that when you have a big old corporate meeting to sign contracts worth tons of money that you're not going to go into that with anything less than hyper sobriety. Why would it be any different leading a church? How can you give people wise insights with a good buzz happenin'?
Not pugnacious: This means they don't fight, or "strike" others. Maybe if I were bigger, stronger, faster & meaner, I'd struggle with this. Currently, I don't enjoy being beat up, so this isn't an area I've ever struggled with...lesson learned in 4th grade when Scotty Sims whipped me on the playground at Bluff Park Elementary.
Not fond of sordid gain: Gotta get your "gain" on the up and up...I mean, who respects a con artist?

But...contrast word here...we just learned what NOT to do, now we'll get some positives:

hospitable: Likes hosting others...or at least willing to make others feel appreciated and comforted.
loving what is good: I was thinking about this when I watched Oceans 13. Why was everyone in the theatre "pulling" for robbers, hucksters and theives, and (plot spoiler coming) glad when they pulled off the heist? Granted, a small example, but somebody who seeks/loves schadenfreude will have trouble leading people because he kinda wants them to fail.
sensible, just, devout: Keeps his wits about him, fair, set apart to an obvious way. Hmmm.
self-controlled: disciplined in a way that's obvious. Hmmm.

And in verse 9 we get that the guy is solid doctrinally.

They have to "hold fast" to the God's truth. He's committed to it. Not only as a theory or nice idea but also in practical life. I mean, Oprah's got some nice ideas at times and I kind of like her humanitarian efforts...but if it doesn't line up with Scripture, what do we really believe and practice? I know lots of folks who take the ideas of "science" or "psychology" when they're in DIRECT CONFLICT WITH SCRIPTURE because, well, "these guys are DOCTORS. They went to college for 16 YEARS, for cryin' out loud." Sorry. Truth, as defined in God's Word, is truth. True truth. That's how it is...and we all have to deal with it.

he may be able to exhort and refute: The bottom line is that theology matters. Everybody has a theology and everybody's outward actions are affected. And, man, our Tribe tends to settle for all sorts of secondary issues when choosing a church: "The pastor is really passionate." "The worship there is AWESOME." "The sermons motivate me." Those aren't bad things. You might even want those things. But they're hardly worth choosing a church for. Leaders need to be solid when it comes to theology, because it comes out in everything you do and teach...and you don't want to trifle with the leadership of the sheep of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He tends to take that pretty seriously. So, it's worth the time, energy and effort to brush up on your church's doctrinal statements, folks.

And, from that little Bible study some 20 years ago, I still am striving for these things. They drew a nice picture of what being a man of God looked like, way better than some pop Chrisitan book telling me my heart needs to be wild or that I need to be some quarterback or a knight or I need to sit in sweat tents with the stick of truth and beat on jungle drums or I need to sit in a stadium with 60,000 other guys and hug or whatever else is popular at the time.

The same goes for what we admire in others. Sure, it's great to be see a good athlete do his thing or a businessman be a success in the right way or watch a good mechanic work or see an excellent teacher do their thing or a humble pastor or a legendary guitarist...nothing wrong at all with those things.

But, in my melting pot of aspirations...
...and what I look for in my own church leadership...
...and what I want others to hold me accountable for...

This pretty much sums it up.