Wednesday, October 31, 2007


As I've mentioned before, tomorrow starts the book-writing. The excitement and enthusiasm has already given way to a sense of dread and concern...but no matter.

I'm getting after it for the month of November.

Hence, today is the last full-time day of The Diner for the month (and, we'll see how that goes) and will be going to a more part-time posting strategy. I can't imagine I won't be blogging at least twice a week...likely more if the book writing is going well. But the best word I can give you to describe the future posting will be sporadic.

According to Mirriam-Webster:

Pronunciation: \spə-ˈra-dik\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Medieval Latin sporadicus, from Greek sporadikos, from sporadēn here and there, from sporad-, sporas scattered; akin to Greek speirein to sow — more at sperm
Date: circa 1689

: occurring occasionally, singly, or in irregular or random instances
synonyms see infrequent

If I were a good manager, I'd be able to post regular hours. But sporadic is the best I can do at present, and The Diner management apologizes for any and all inconveniences to the patronage.

Is it me or is the annual Halloween parade getting smaller?

I hauled off and purchased two bags of candy from the fine folks at Nestle, effectively marketed in something called a "Boo Bag." Of course, I didn't realize how expensive the bags were until the college kid at Target ran them over the scanner...

...but, hey...

...who wants to be known as the cheapskate house in the neighborhood who gave out pencils or cheap candy or political leaflets or Bible tracts? So, I just acted all big time and overpaid for the Boo Bags. So, now I have 7 lbs. of candy ready for the Trick-or-Treaters tonight.

When we first moved here, I would've wondered if that was enough.

Now, I think the McKinney's will be enjoying one-and-a-half Boo Bags of the good stuff because I acted all big time and overpaid.

Is it because nobody trusts their neighbors anymore?

Is it because local churches all seem to have some sort of Fall Festival or something organized & fun for kids?

Is it because parents are taking their kids to the ritzy neighborhoods in our community for better & higher priced Boo Bags?

I dunno, but whatever the reason, I'm planning on corralling Lloyd (who has little understanding of much of anything but certainly no grasp of Halloween), watching the Stars game after Pushing Daisies, and then eating some good stuff out of the Boo Bags...
For Some Reason...

...I kinda missed my mom yesterday. And my dad, too. I thought about blogging about it but it's hard describing the reality that I'm in my early 40's and neither of my parents are alive to see the cool stuff going on in my life at present.
Open Note To My Children:

You two know the rule: If you finish the pitcher of tea, then the person that finished it makes the next one.

As a reminder:

If the tea pitcher has barely enough tea left in the container to fully cover the bottom of said container, but enough to technically say you didn't finish the tea, do NOT place the container back in the fridge. Then make the decision to roll with the intent of the rule...

...not the letter of the rule.

I understand that you're doing your job.

I only hope you understand that I'm doing mine.

Thank you in advance for your behavior modification.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Maybe It's Time To Start Writing The Book...

...because I can't think of a thing to blog about today. I mean, the best thing that came to mind was to quote some of the brilliant phrases in Douglas Coupland's new novel and mention that I would like to write sentences like that...

...but that's about it, man.

However, I have a ton of idea swirling now that I've pretty much committed to writing the book.

I believe this to be a good thing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Writing Out Loud

Several folks commented and pulled me aside at church yesterday to tell me that I should write the book I'm going to be working on in November (and, as an aside, making The Diner a lower priority and open only on sporadic whims--which I know will be bad for business, but it's a non-profit anyway and if the service went away, folks would find other Diners to hang out in) out loud here in The Diner.

In other words, just write things here and everybody follows it as it's being written.

So, let me explain why that's an utter impossibility.

First, writing is a solitary and lonely activity. It's you alone with thoughts and ideas and expressions of that idea. A sneeze can interrupt and ruin the moment. A simple awareness that others are eyeballing the writing process affects what you do, and a sneeze can remind you that others might possibly look over your shoulder, which will inhibit the writer.

Second, writing a book is really better in the editing than in the writing. In other words, once you write, it's better to go back and slice out every word/phrase/tangent that isn't the story or find better words/phrases/storylines. So, a book is a process that starts with a free-flow of ideas and then moves toward a laser-focus. And, I'm not ready to put the process out there for people to consume it. It would ruin the end product for those who followed through the process.

Third, it's a personal act of worship/expression as this particular work is only justifiable to me in that realm. Any and all outside commenting or constructive criticism would make it a group project, which is fine if that's what it started out to be. But this is deeply personal and will involve a great deal of introspection. It simply isn't for this venue...although that might be a fun project for another time.

Finally, writing brings out lots of insecurities and doubts and fears and shining flashlights onto all sorts of various skeletons in our closets. There are cobwebs and spiders and creepy-crawlies you find when you do something like this, and just the understanding that those are there somewhere isn't something you want the world to see even if your flashlight never reveals the ones you thought it would. Now, I don't mind a finished product being put out there for folks--the idea is that it will minister to those that read it, so I'm going in with the very reality that others will read it and plan on the finished/edited project to reveal those things. But I'm not comfortable with letting the patronage in on all the little spiders/snakes/demons I run into along the way.

So, this particular project won't be open fodder for you folks. Maybe later, okay?

I hope you "get it," because I value our little coffee time together and would like to keep it...

...and I feel pretty sure that if I do finish the book, we can work something out where patrons can get an electronic copy here and there and can help with final edits/test readings and such.

Whatever, Man.

It's been done before: An article in the newspaper discusses how Texans are "addicted to their cars" or "too much money's being spent on highway/interstate stuff and we need more public transportation alternatives." And, there is a certain ringing of truth to it.

But, today's article by Eric Van Steenberg made me giggle. Sure, he's got some good points as he discusses the upcoming referendum on the Trinity River project going on in Dallas...and I kind of like the idea that he offered some solutions to our "car addiction" but, for cryin' out loud, Eric, you live here and these are some of your solutions?

Bike Lanes. Eric, when you use Portland as an example for restriping current roadways to add bike lanes it isn't really a fair comparison. They wear scarves in October during rush hour. In a Dallas October, we still have highs in the low 80's. That's a 30 or 40 degree difference, which makes quite a difference if you're pedaling a few miles.

Demand that your city council put $1 million into "safe routes to school" planning. I get it that 20% of all traffic during those times are because parents are taking their kids to school. But here's the thing: My daughter attends school in D.I.S.D., and the route to school she'd currently have to take involves getting on a bus route that has been known for assaults. There's no "planning" that's going to fix that other than to put the cash into paying an armed officer to ride that route all day. And would you want to put your kid on a bus that paid an armed officer to ride that route all day? Oh, councils have lots of extra money to throw around, so $1 million shouldn't be much of a problem.

Request that your employer have locker rooms with showers so that when you ride your bike to work in the Texas summer you can clean up before heading to your desk. If you can't get that, ask your company to provide complimentary memberships to the nearest gym as an employee benefit. Yeah, the local restaurant owner has plenty of room to add employee locker rooms. Most folks work in smaller businesses that make this suggestion impossible. And, the local dry cleaner isn't likely to give his employees health club memberships at $40/month. Oh yeah: How many businesses are located within a distance where you wouldn't sweat in Texas moving from the club back to the business?

Require that your transit authorities increase the number of public transportation routes so there is one within a 20-minute walk from your home or office. Eric, how do you require transit authorities to do anything? And, I'd imagine that'd cost a few bucks here and there, wouldn't it?

Now, don't get me wrong, Eric. We're on the same team here. There's a lot we can do...but mostly it's going to come from city engineers mandating a "walking city," and then supplying sufficient public transportation alongside that.

Let me give you an example: The university I attended (which doubled the size of the town when students were in session) had serious traffic problems on campus. Over a period of years, they just erased roads and made them sidewalks with nice landscaping and plenty of shaded areas and all that. They started right next to the main liberal arts building and worked outward...but it was all planned. Now, you can only get so close to the campus before you had to park & walk. So, people adjusted their habits and realized that you could park a mile away from class or take the Tiger Shuttle right to the door of the building from various dorms and apartment complexes. In other words, the people only changed their habits when it benefitted them directly and was more or less forced--all the while the university was getting love from everybody because of "how great the campus looks now."

So, the best solution, Eric, is to start with urban renewal plans and build around them so you slowly and painlessly move away from driving your car and make it a transit/pedestrian friendly set-up.

But until then, riding a bike & taking a shower at work ain't the answer, either, man. Not in Texas. Hang in there, though. You're on the right track.

So, the Major League Baseball season goes into hibernation after last night's World Series finale. That sound you heard last night at 11:15PM was the universe sighing.

Sure, there's baseball being played in developmental leagues and other winter ball locales in the Caribbean, but those are all instructional or rehabilitational for the Great Game.

But the best news for all of us here in Texas: Alex Rodriquez has opted out of the last three years of his contract with the Yankees, which means that our Texas Rangers will not be paying $7 million per year to have him play for someone else. Open note to the Rangers: Use that money to find a center fielder and two back-end starters. We actually will be a better baseball team because A-Fraud isn't playing for the Yankees.

The bad news for the Red Sox, Cubs or Angels (primary bidders): You'll be paying $30 million per year for 45 home runs, 125 RBI's and a .310 batting average...and for largely disappointing playoff numbers. You'll also be getting what is known as the A-Rod Virus--this belief that he somehow, because he's the game's best player since Barry Bonds' decline, he deserves to play "on the game's biggest stage"--which means that the teams he plays for never get to the next level because his self-serving style of play and inability to deliver when it matters (how many three-run homers in 11-5 losses can one guy hit? It's staggering when you look at it.) brings down good ballclubs. You can have him and all his problems for a mere $100 million for 3 years. Give me three Michael Young-type players and I'll still have $50 million for pitching.

Alas, into the long dark winter for the Great Game.

Pitchers and catchers report to training camp mid-February. I'll be waiting.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Book Review: unChristian

I've been giving all of you bits and pieces of this book as I was reading it, so you can scroll down and get a few of the quotes from those days...just a little time-saver in what will already be a long blog.

Anyway, when I saw the book at the local bookstore I had to grab it. I mean, I've been fascinated by the interaction of generations ever since I got back into the church thing when I was a teenager. For some reason, a series of older guys took me under their wing during that time...Duffy, Big Dave, Mickey, Bob, Charles...all over a course of about 6 years, but the first four more or less were all working in tandem. Charles went solo the last three years. Anyway, while I had my small group of guys who were peers, that adult/teen interaction seemed a bit more growth-inducing. The reality that these older men took an interest and assisted in my spiritual development has influenced my thinking profoundly.

See, I've long thought that the generations need to blend on an organized, grand scale. The idea is that the younger ones would glean wisdom from the more experienced, and the older folks would gain enthusiasm and passion that tends to ride along with youth. I see pockets of it here and there, which is encouraging. For example, there is a group of women who've started meeting with some of our high school girls just to get to know them. We've had guys take other guys golfing or motorcycle riding or on canoe trips. Every adult who goes to Mexico on our mission trip loves it, primarily because of the interaction of generations. So, I see seeds of it.

In fact, that interest in growing those seeds was a large part of my shift in job responsibilities.

I went all that way to tell you why I couldn't pass up the book...

...sorry about that.

Anyway, this book sets forth the premise that younger generations aren't coming to church much anymore. And part of that is the responsibility of church to discover those areas where we've made mistakes as a Tribe. So, obviously, the book will focus on the negatives--but presumes some positives, too, which is healthy.

But thankfully, author David Kinnaman didn't go the route of Georga Barna when he writes books based on his research studies. Barna gets discouraged about what he finds, in my opinion, and goes all Chicken Little on the Church and promotes a more radical response than his protege does here.

Sure, the numbers are discouraging. And there are a lot of them...but not nearly as many as in Barna's books that can cause your eyes to roll back in your head with overkill. But it's hard to argue with the author's findings since the Barna Research Group is very well thought of (if not revered & studied by all poll taking entities) when it comes to methodology.

The findings were placed in six categories, each with a perception that the previous generation has about the Tribe, and follows with a goal to shoot for, or a new perception we should strive for. They are as follows:

Perception: Christians ay one thing but live something entirely different.
New Perception: Christians are transparent about their flaws and act first, talk second.

The strength of this chapter is that Kinnaman distinguishes between hypocrisy (blatantly professing what you don't really believe) and failure in a moral area. But, he noticed, that hypocrisy is the buzzword that gets used and applied. Unfortunately, he points out that younger people are so jaded that they don't even care anymore. They just move on when they hear of breaches in integrity these days. They aren't shocked, but it still is their peception. The proposed solution is to let our actions speak, and be honest when we fail and say we're sorry...corporately and individually.

Perception: Christians are insincere and concerned only with converting others.
New Perception: Christians cultivate relationships and environments where others can be completely transformed by God.

In other words, we need to realize that the terms we use ("lost", "unsaved") put unwanted & unwelcome targets on people's backs. And the reality is that you can't fake genuine interest in another person. We have to truly love people regardless of whether or not they ever accept Christ.

One item of particular interest: When a church sends a mailing or gives out Bibles or videos to people in the community, it often has an unintended negative effect. In other words, for every person that shows up to visit your church or responds positively, there will be 3 to 10 NEGATIVE responses or people who will decide to never visit that church (depending on the method/presentation, etc.)

Perception: Christians show contempt for gays and lesbians.
New Perception: Christians should show love to all people regardless of lifestyle.

In other words, Christians focus a lot of energy and effort in "fighting the gay agenda" and overlook so many of the other areas like gossip or anger or whatever else is listed in Scripture. What was interesting in this chapter is that most Christians admit there's a "problem" in the way we address homosexuality, but less than 1% of believers pray for homosexuals or give financially to ministries that serve the homosexual community. We know there's a problem, but we don't really know what to do about it.

One contributing author, Chris Seay, said, "I find it ironic that so many are quick to point out the sin of homsexuality and its connection with AIDS but will gladly overlook the sin of obesity, which is directly linked to the disease of diabetes."

Perception: Christians are boring, unintelligent, old-fashioned, and out of touch with reality.
New Perception: Christains are engaged, informed, and offer sophisticated responses to the issues people face.

In other words, we need to move WAY past easy answers and bumper-sticker mentalities.

Perception: Christians are primarily motivated by a political agenda and promote right-wing politics.
New Perception: Christians are characterized by respecting people, thinking Biblically, and finding solutions to complex issues.

Basically, we need to break the association of Jesus to any political party or governmental agenda.

Perception: Christians are prideful and quick ot find fault in others.
New Perception: Christians show grace by finding the good news in others and seeing their potential to be Christ followers.

Big picture is that we need to relax on the "minors" (stuff like tattoos and hairstyles and pop culture choices) and focus on areas where the Bible speaks boldly and with authority. They know when the Tribe is making choices about stuff that isn't really in the Bible anywhere, and will respect others more if they stick to the absolutes found in Scripture.

The solutions the author offers is best summed up by contributing author Jonalyn Fincher, when responding to what she'd like to see by 2030:

"Christians will be known not merely as engagers of culture, but as creators and builders of culture. We will not avoid or fear the marketplace of ideas, the museums of modern art, and the assemblies of diplomacy; we will enter them. Christians will cultivate an understanding of art, science, business, engineering, architecture, and medicine because we know that our work tells the world more of what God is like. When, any field wants a well-informed expert, Christians will be consulted, not as token evangelicals, not because we demanded representation, and not because we are nice, but because we are concerned with excellence."

Isn't that beautiful?

And, yes, David Kinnaman admits it will take time. His ideal would be around 2030...but we have to start working now. And, I"m thankful the author didn't just all Chicken Little and suggest an entire re-working of church and a new way of doing business.

All he discussed was tweaking and focusing our energies on focusing on Christ and loving each other and the world around us. Really loving.

And it's a choice.

So, a much better read than most...and I'll lend it to anyone who wants to read it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

NaNoWriMo Update

Well, it's official:

I'm doing a modified NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month) participation. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is an organized effort to get all those people who say they want to write a novel to write a novel. In a month. It doesn't have to be good. It just has to be written in a month. You sign up. You get friends involved. You just do it. I think that's a great thing, really. How can you argue with something like that?

But, I've come to some conclusions.

First of all, the reality that it's time to start talking about it and write a book. Any book.

Secondly, that what I want to write doesn't involve a novel so much. This is something that takes the "no" out of NaNoWriMo. I mean, I can take part in something national. I can write. I can take a month to do it. But it's the "novel" part that doesn't currently interest me much. And, from what I gather, all four syllables are important to this bunch.

Third, that I'm going to use The Diner time to do it.


Beginning on Thursday, November 1, The McKinney Diner will only be posting sporadically. My hope is that we'll go with Saturday updates for sure, and maybe a time or two during the week. But I can't imagine putting creativity energy into both projects without hurting the quality of both. So, the only logical conclusion is that we'll just open The Diner when I feel like it...and I don't know when that'll be.

But I felt like I needed to give you the "heads up" on this because some of you have threatened riots in the streets for shutting down...which really only encouraged me to shut it down because I don't think the FloMo P.D. has a riot squad on-hand and it'd be cool to see them have to squelch a bunch of suburbanites rioting. My guess is that the entire clash would have the punch of a pillowfight.

At any rate, just letting you know...

...I'm working on a book in November...

...and giving patrons fair warning...


Right now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Food For Thought

The rock band Switchfoot is playing in Dallas tonight and there was the typical interview in the weekend promo magazine "Guide" which lets everybody know what's going on in Big D. But there was a quote by Switchfoot's singer/songwriter Jon Foreman that I thought was interesting. He was responding the to the interviewer's question about why the band steadfastly refused to be referred to as a "Christian band":

"As a believer and a musician, I think a lot about how the arts interface with culture. And, if we adopt this segregation of thoughts--'This is sacred, and that is secular'--it will force us to live dishonestly."


And I'm not even a fan of Switchfoot.
Tip Jar?

Every now and again I run into situations where I ask The Diner patronage social questions, and I came across one that reminded me of past discussions.

See, I've found that certain tipping situations are know, like the waiter or waitress, the hairdresser, the valet, the bellhop, the cabdriver, etc. And our previous discussions were more along the lines of how much for their various services. We've also had discussions about whether or not to tip the barista or the grocery sacker if he comes to your car or the person who made your get it.

Anyway, last night I ran into a situation and I wasn't sure how much to tip.

I went to one of those "curbside pick-ups" at a chain restaurant. You know, right? Where you call the restaurant and by the time you drive to the place your food is ready. You give them the kind of car you drive and when you pull into their specially marked places they bring your order out to you.

Well, quandary.

All the server did was bring pre-made bag out to my car, take my payment and go inside to complete the transaction. When she came back out, there was a blank for "tip" as I filled out the slip for the debit card. So, since she was friendly, and the order was correct and everything went smoothly and our order wasn't all that expensive anyway, I went with a 10% tip.

But then I doubted.

Should that instance have been 20%?

Or 5%?

Or zero?

I'm just not sure on the curbside to-go tip, folks.

And I really trust you people..., a little help?
Friday Football Picks, Week 9

Well, last week I ended the 4-week losing streak, but just barely. I went 4-4, taking my season record to 27-36-1. And, I actually missed the big game in our area, watching Marcus win like they've been winning all season--with defense, taking my high school picks to 10-2.

But, things are starting to shake out in the college football world, looking like an overrated Ohio State team will get throttled by L.S.U., which will throw the BCS into all sorts of controversy. Big 12 and Pac 10 schools will raise all sorts of cain, but those of us who watched Auburn get ripped off in 2004 will just empathize and shrug and say, "Get over it. We had to."

But, all of that is for another blog down the road. On to today's picks:

Georgia (+9) vs. Florida (at Jacksonville, FL): Apparently in the age of political correctness you can't call this annual rivalry The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party like in the old days. Florida manned up last week and went into Kentucky and beat a team L.S.U. didn't. And Georgia looks surprisingly suspect with Alabama beating Tennessee as badly as they did. So, I think that the Gators will win, and barely cover. Diner Prediction: Florida 28, Georgia 17

California (+3) at Arizona State: I really have trouble thinking Arizona State is for real. They've been quietly out there beating everybody they've played. And they were pretty impressive in beating Washington...but when Washington's your best quality win then maybe you haven't beat anybody yet. Well, you get somebody this week, and while I think Cal is better than Arizona State, the Sun Devils will win this one but lose a couple down the stretch. Diner Prediction: Arizona State 24, California 20.

Ole Miss (+17) at Auburn: Auburn has this nasty habit of playing down to the level of their competition and these are those games that Tubberville's Tigers manage to take a half off. With a four-week stretch where they played Florida, LSU, and Arkansas on the road (and beating a better than average Vandy team) they come home. They'll be weary and disheartened in the first half, but they're good enough to win against the Rebels playing only the 2nd half. Diner Prediction: Auburn 31, Ole Miss 13

Ohio State at Penn State (+4.5): Every fiber of my being wants Penn State to win this thing...if for no other reason than the Buckeyes haven't played anyone and they're ranked high for the mere fact that they were four touchdowns worse than the Gators last year. But, trying not to let emotion get the best of me, the Buckeyes are better than the Nittany Lions. Diner Prediction: Ohio State 28, Penn State 20

U.S.C. (+3) at Oregon: I simply don't have very good vibes about U.S.C. this year, and neither does Vegas. The Trojans look shaky, and I think the Ducks are going to watch that TD they almost had against Cal this year with a lot of regrets. I like them big at home with their speed. Diner Prediction: Oregon 31, U.S.C. 21

Kansas at Texas A&M (+2.5): Being unbeaten in the Big 12 North is like being unbeaten in District 6-5A here in Texas. The problem is that they keep finding ways to win and the Jayhawks, no matter how you slice it, are unbeaten. The Aggies are in all sorts of turmoil...and beating Nebraska doesn't mean what it used to. They're one of the few teams that didn't score 40 against 'em. Kyle Field is always tough, though, and I think the pressure gets to the Jayhawks. Diner Prediction: Texas A&M 24, Kansas 21.

South Florida at Connecticut (+4.5): The Bulls have surprised everyone and want to prove they can win on the road after losing to Rutgers. I think that Leavitt is a great coach (Alabama wanted him desperately before they hired Shula and he turned them down) and my guess is that they'll have a little fire to play a big game and win against a ranked opponent. Diner Prediction: South Florida 29, UConn 21.

Colorado (+13.5) at Texas Tech: I have this image of Texas Tech throwing the ball all over the field and scoring points like it's Arena League Football. I have this image of Colorado shutting down Oklahoma. But then I see Texas Tech getting drubbed like they did last week, and then I remember that even Iowa State shut down Oklahoma. I just don't think that the Buffs defense can do to Tech what Missouri did, and two touchdowns seems about right. Diner Prediction: Texas Tech 31, Colorado 17.

And, the high school games this week:

Carrollton Creekview at Flower Mound: Flower Mound is on a little bit of a roll, winning three of their last four and certainly seem to be getting better each week. Creekview can run and they might be able to shorten the game if the can keep the ball, but I think the Jags will get up on them early and force them to throw. At that point, FMHS pulls away. Diner Prediction: Flower Mound 27, Creekview 17.

Carrollton R.L. Turner at Lewisville: Turner is simply awful. They've scored 30 points ALL season long. They've given up nearly 10 times that much. The Fighting Farmers will have little trouble against an inferior team. Diner Prediction: Lewisville 33, Turner 7.

Marcus at Carrollton Newman-Smith: Newman-Smith isn't much better than Turner, but they play better defense by about a touchdown per game. It won't be near enough to compete with a Marcus team that has a sophomore running back that already has a back that's run for 1,000 yards in 7 games. Marcus will produce a workmanlike effort after two rivalry games (one for Homecoming), but it will be easy. Diner Prediction: Marcus 35, Newman-Smith 14

Well, folks, what do YOU think?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Welcome Aboard

One of my all-time favorite people has resumed blogging again. Check out Abby's fine work!


...about Jilly and/or Shane
...and Mrs. Bowe
...and Pastor Steve...
So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that early-morning joggers should stay on the sidewalks (not the streets) and wear better reflective clothing. Blue work-out clothes are difficult to see, folks.
...that the Colorado Rockies got a rude introduction to the World Series with their very first WS pitch being blasted out of the park. Of course, I think Rangers fans would be happy if that ever happened to them.
...that if you like to read and would be willing to review it, if you click on Craig Groeschel's blog link on the left, he'll give you a free copy of his upcoming book.
...that I need to decide soon if I'm taking part in the National Novel Writer's Month project. The problem is that I don't write novels. Really, I don't actually write much of anything. I just have ideas rattling around in my brain.
...that a comment I read on Bob Hyatt's blog (link on left), where I think he was quoting someone else saying, "I'm too Christian for the world but don't seem Christian enough for most Christians" resonated with me a lot.
...that Dr. Suess was correct when he said that "Unslumping yourself is not easily done."
...that teaching the Bible is still something that excites me to no end, whether it's over coffee, in a small group, or in more formal, larger settings. I guess I'll keep doing it as long as others seem to be willing to listen.
...somebody asked me what I missed most since getting out of youth ministry and it didn't take long to answer: Me being the first call/office visit/house visit of a teenager wanting to share great news.
...somebody asked me what I missed least since getting out of youth ministry and it took a while to answer, but I got it: the recovery day from an overnight lock-in.
...the contrasting images of wildfire escapees at San Diego's football stadium getting massages and choosing which restaurant to eat in against the Katrina escapees at the Superdome two years ago are staggering.
...that there isn't one political candidate for president that excites me right now, and I'm really trying to find one, folks.
...yesterday I read a study that found that there are roughly 95 million people in the U.S. between ages 19-41, that 60 million say that they've made a commitment to Jesus that is still important, but only 3 million of them have a consistent, Biblical worldview. That's 1 in 20, folks. 9 million who are older than that possess a Biblical worldview, but it's only 1 in 10 due to a larger population. Well, I guess it's good to be professionally entrenched in what can only be called an "untapped market with growth potential." Hellooooo job security! I guess all those books in retail stores and Christian radio and Christian television aren't getting the job done after all. Hmmm. Who woulda thunk it?
... a play here, a play there, and my Auburn Tigers could be 8-0. Of course, a play here, a play there, and they could be 2-6. I guess they're right were they should be at 5-3, but their depth chart reveals only 1 senior starter on defense and 3 on offense. The future looks quite bright.
...that I'm not sure why blogging updates and commenting seems to have slowed a bit lately.
...that whoever borrowed my Caddyshack and Say Anything DVD's better return them pronto!
...that I have former students who text message me random quotes from the movies Bottle Rocket, Anchorman, and oddly, Blades of Glory about once a week. These people are now grown-ups I discipled 10 years ago, folks...but I can't tell you how funny that is to me. I wonder if they think it's funny that I text them back with ones of my own.
...that the discussion of what to do with the Trinity Park stuff in Dallas gives me such tired head. If your concern is really breaking up rush-hour traffic, here's an idea: Put the money into a public transportation system that works.
...that it's time to change-up my workout routine.
...that I need to get on with my day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Life Of A P.K.

I know I've talked about it before--I think it was in August, but it's really on my brain this morning as I was praying for my children.

P.K.'s have an American stereotype.

Pastors' Kids. They're supposed to be this outwardly compliant group who measure up to some [edit] public standard of morality who inwardly are annoyed that they don't get to be "normal." They're also expected to act out those inner annoyances at some point in life in varying degrees of "rebellion." You've heard of this, right? Tell me I'm not crazy.

But, you know, I've been thinking about the P.K.'s at our church since I've been there and I've noticed a pattern: For the most part, they blow the stereotype out of the water.

There P.K.'s at our church are given free reign on exploring who they are and given a lot of grace as that process unfolds. And that exploration of who they are has turned out a nice variety of results, too. Some are still in the discovery phase...but that's good, too. Some do full-time vocational ministry, but others are glorifying God in the giftedness He gave them in the working world...and it's pretty cool to see what they're all up to these days.

I guess it's been a worry of mine ever since my kids have put up with their dad being the youth pastor for so long and all that entails. I don't make it easy for them with my quirks and idiosyncracies and appearance but they seem to roll with it. And, thus far, they seem joyful and well-adjusted. So that's good. We'll see how things play out. ;)

But today, I'm thankful for a congregation that has been well-taught, pastors & wives who blazed a trail at CBC to allow all our children (and the ones who will come along later) to be who they're supposed to be (knowing that failure here and there was all part of the process), and a slew of P.K.'s who enjoyed being a part of our church family (and it showed).

There were little annoyances in their experiences that appear universal to the gig. For example:

They learned to bring books to church before they could drive on their own because they learned that "We're going to leave in 5 minutes. Just let me run upstairs to my office real fast first." really meant that 45 minutes later they'd be leaving as somebody could stop dad in a hallway to chat anytime, anywhere.

They learned that dad would get criticized and folks wouldn't necessarily care if their ears heard it or not, but they knew dad better than that person and understood it revealed more about that person than that person was aware they were observing that little moment and making spiritual evaluations. Some of my best teaching moments have come from those situations.

That sometimes their dad was "on call" and that night together as a family could disappear as soon as the phone rang.

There were some great experiences that appear universal to the gig. For example:

They learned that a perk of being a P.K. was that dad could usually finagle them onto a trip that was sold out or an event they forgot to sign up for or grab a leftover missions meal.

They learned that folks in the congregation would usually bend over backwards to help them out with whatever they could, from car repairs to mission trips to hand-me-downs and all sorts of stuff like that. They learned that what people in the FlowerPlex considered "junk" was a goldmine to a teenager.

They learned that some folks in the congregation would come up to them and say things like, "Your dad is such a wise and patient man, and you are so blessed to have him as your father." They knew dad better than that person and understood that it was nice that person felt that way, but dad had his moments, too. Some of my best teaching moments have come from those situations, too.

I have virtually limitless examples of both blessings and annoyances, but you get the point, right?

But today, I'm glad my church has given us an extended family to love on our kids.
I'm thankful all CBC kids figured that out and responded appropriately to that love.
I'm thankful God had shown us He's at work in their lives in so many creative ways.
I'm thankful they've shown us that P.K.'s don't have to have major seasons of rebellion.
I'm thankful for the pastors at CBC and their wives who actively pushed for our kids to live lives as "normal" as possible.
I'm thankful for all the gestures of support as we've parented our kids.
I'm thankful they've responded to His leading and gone "the way they should go." It's so cool to see that.

And, now that most are adults, I'm thankful for the ways they've encouraged me and helped me grow spiritually. While I'm at it, I'm thankful for the ways they encouraged me and helped me grow spiritually when they were in my ministry.

I'm thankful I can be friends with them.

And last, but certainly not least, I'm thankful to a church family that "gets it."

It's one more nice little "perk" of being a pastor at CBC.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Reading a new book (it's never a good thing when you've got a rainy day off and decide to go browsing at the new Barnes & Noble) that found me... for those of you who know me, can I pass up a book that has the title unChristian the subtitle What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters.

I'm about halfway finished so I won't get into conclusions and that kind of thing yet, but I wanted to get discussion stirred up here at The Diner with some supporting evidence the author--David Kinnaman--used to make his case (he used to work for noted Christian researcher George Barna):

[after using an example that Christians tend to be told what to believe and not necessarily why to believe it] "We are learning that one of the primary reasons that ministry to teenagers fails to produce a lasting faith is because they are not being taught to think...Young people desperately need to be taught to process the rich complexities of life, to probe and test and stretch their faith from the perspective of a Christ follower."

[after a discussion on "depth" of believers based on data he asked that determined how they see the world around them in light of what Scripture says] "This means that out of ninety-five million Americans who are ages eighteen to 41, about 60 million say they have already made a commitment to Jesus that is still important; however only about three million of them have a biblical worldview."

[after a survey of perspectives people who attend church once per month] "More than four out of every five agreed that the Christian life is well described as 'trying hard to do what God commands.' Two-thirds of churchgoers said, 'Rigid rules and strict standards are an important part of life and teaching at my church.' Three out of every five churchgoers in America feel that they, 'do not measure up to God's standards.' And one-quarter admitted that they serve God out of a sense of 'guilt and obligation rather than joy and gratitude.'"

That should get things started for today.

*turns on coffee, preps Diner for another day's business, and looks forward to the chatter*
Game 7's

JH asked me my thoughts on MLB's ALCS game 7 between Boston and Cleveland...and manalive am I a sucker for any Game 7 in any sport, but especially baseball. An entire season comes down to one game and the pressure and intensity and potential for drama is too much to resist.

The best Game 7 I ever saw was the 1991 NLCS between Atlanta and Pittsburgh. The Braves had moved from last place in the standings the year before to first place and were at home--two outs, bases loaded, Braves down a run in game 7, and Francisco Cabrera's base hit to left scored Sid Bream, who beat Andy Van Slyke's throw by about a foot--and they'd go on to lose to the Twins in the World Series.

Now in Boston Sunday night, folks might look at the final score (Red Sox 11, Tribe 2) and think it was a blowout...but baseball is a game played at blinding speeds and that one split-second decison often changes the entire complexion of the biggest games.

That one key moment in this game: Cleveland down 3-2 in the 7th. Kenny Lofton on 2nd base and one out. Franklin Gutierrez hits a smash down into the left field line very close to being foul. The only guy moving on the play was the speedy Lofton and, even though he's 41 he still moves faster than most players, was given the stop sign by third base coach Joel Skinner. Skinner's split-second decision put runners on first and third and one out, and the next batter Casey Blake hits into an inning-ending double play.

There's your ballgame.

Skinner should've waved Lofton all the way (he did at first) and forced Manny Ramirez to make a perfect throw...which even a great one might not have gotten him. I'd bet that Manny just threw to 2nd anyway to keep Gutierrez out of scoring position. But even if Lofton was thrown out at the plate, the Tribe has 2 outs and a runner at 2nd base (he would've moved on the throw to the plate).

I'd suggest that the Red Sox play everything differently if it's 3-3 in the 7th rather than having a momentum grabbing double play and could be more aggressive at the plate. It was a good game, though. And one that seemed to have Cleveland fighting uphill the entire game. It just wasn't their night.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm Not Selling Out...I'm Buying In!

My thoughts will be all over the map today, but this all started because two middle schoolers were wearing baseball caps in the main church service.

A nice lady sought me out to tell me so. She was very polite, starting with, "Now, call me old-fashioned, but...". She proceeded to tell me how she was raised and why she thought the baseball caps were disrespectful. She wanted me to talk to the middle schoolers.

I mentioned that it might be a nice chance for her to speak with the parents of the kids and instruct the parents as to why she felt this way and maybe make a nice opportunity for the younger teens to find a way to serve.

"Now, ma'am, if you'll point the kids out to me and I'll introduce you to their parents and..."

The nice, polite lady told me that she thought it would be best if I personally handled the situation.

Now, part of me wanted to do that very thing. It would be easiest. It wouldn't cause any friction. It would simply become a non-issue because I'd bring it up, the parents would duly note my observations and do their best to keep their kids from wearing baseball caps in church...and next week two different kids would be wearing baseball caps to church.

But that wouldn't be the most loving thing I could do for this nice, polite lady. The most loving thing I could do would be to teach her a few things... first of all, I'm glad those kids were in our building. And not only that, but they didn't just do the middle school thing and bail, they went to Big Church with their family. This is a good thing (frankly, I think she would've agreed wholeheartedly with this reality)., since you were the offended party, you might want to handle this yourself even if the very fiber of your being is nice and polite and you don't enjoy confrontation., doing so might help you grow spiritually., maybe making a decision to approach anyone at our church on a fashion issue might be dicey. I mean, the guy you were talking to is a cartoonish bohemian with long-hair, tattoos and owns a minivan, wearing jeans and a suit coat and Drew Carey glasses. The golfer ministry has been known to wear their course clothes to the 9AM service so they can make the 10:45AM tee time. The biker ministry comes in full-blown Harley regailia (except the non-Harley folks defiantly wear their brand of biker gear and spout off about how Harley Davidsons are all rip-offs) riding their loud machines and parking together. The Cowboys were playing so folks were supporting the local football team. We're somewhat rural in our history and have our fair share of cowboys with big belt buckles and big hats (although, in true cowboy fashion, they get the hat thing and take them off and place them under their chairs). If we're going to knock kids for their fashion, we'd better get on the golfers for shorts.

In other words, be very sure of the conviction you have, and handle the matter yourself even if you're uncomfortble doing so.

I'm sure she didn't like the direction the conversation went. But she was nice and polite and listened. She didn't say anything by way of disagreement...but I think I may have pushed it too far when I said that I tend to dislike people bringing coffee into worship, but I have to put my own issues aside because the people doing it aren't pushing any envelopes or trying to offend, they just want their coffee.

Guess I should've paid attention to that styrofoam cup in her hand, huh? But really...I hadn't noticed until the words were out of my mouth. Dangit.

She left and I could tell she wasn't satisfied with how I handled it. Now I'm sure she'll make some phone calls about this. Which is fine. I guess I kind of deserve it. Actually I hope she does pursue it because it's better than just seething about it.

But today I'm thinking about a lot of things that have to do with...

...doing what I believe the right thing is (now I'm open to being instructed on it, and if I'm wrong, I can learn from her) even when the easy thing is what I wanted to do because it would cause less friction.
...picking battles worth fighting and leaving others alone.
...that spirituality doesn't necessarily imply niceness or politeness, but it's okay if it does.
...sometimes our Tribe can get wrapped around the axle about little things and lose sight of the big picture. really should be our motivation rather than personal preferences.
...there's room in the kingdom for nice, polite ladies who start sentences with, "Now, maybe I'm old-fashioned, but..." and bikers and golfers and baseball cap wearing teenagers and sports fans and cowboys and cartoonish bohemian pastors who drive minivans and wear jeans with suit coats. often we'll sell-out when the payoff is so little or temporary.
...what other areas do we "sell out" in?

This is too early for this kind of thinking on a rainy & chilly Monday morning, if you're asking.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Slice Of Americana

High school homecoming.

A time of getting dates and mums and football games and dinner and dances and friends and dressing up and good times.

We've all been there with varying degrees of enjoyment or disappointment...

...and my daughter and her date paused long enough to pose--albeit annoyed--for the obligatory picture for the family archives.

I gotta say it:

I think my daughter, Kid1, is a knockout...and I enjoy her style.

They had fun. The guy is the type of guy you want your daughter to choose to spend her time with.

And I wonder how many photos of this ilk are a part of photo books all across America...
Saturdays With A Flavor Of Dixie

Tracy thinks this is funny...


...if you are a fan of college football--particularly of the Southeastern Conference version--then you can get the games that aren't on national television via the miracle of the Internet. In this case, right around lunchtime and before the Big Mow, I took in a game in our kitchen.

She thinks it's pretty funny that I'll bring my recliner into the kitchen.

She thinks it's pretty funny that it Lloyd likes it, too.

Alas, our team lost and the hated Evil Empire of the University of Alabama won...but there are worse ways to spend a few hours than a good chair, a good game and a great dog.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Defined By Consumerism?

Anyone else get creeped out by how well various web-shopping places know you?

You know what I mean, right? Maybe you purchased some Christmas gifts for the family who lived far away or could save money against what you'd pay locally or ordered something for a friend's birthday...

...and then you signed up with an e-mail address and then they--more or less--make recommendations of items you might like based on what you purchased as well as various items you may have "browsed." I'm guessing they also have some way of determining what else you might want to buy based on what other people purchased or browsed against whatever you did.

Each and every time I log on and click "recommendations" or "recommended for you" (and some even do it by laser-focused categories, like "new-in-paperback selections for you" or "blues music selections for you") I'm kinda disturbed by how well these folks have me pegged. Most of the time my reaction is, "Wow. I didn't even know that was out yet, and I'll have to add that to my list of things for Christmas." I imagine this to be due to a very narrow (re: predictable & consistent) shopping habits as well as a highly specialized (re: lots of money put into reasearch & now trying to recoup their investment in that system) analysis/marketing software.

So, after sifting through the stuff I've browsed/purchased for gifts and such, here are the major recommendations for me from the three major web sites I purchase from (all widely used by most on-line shoppers) and I'm wondering what they say about my purchasing/consuming life...

...and, by extension...

The Gum Thief: A Novel by Douglas Coupland. He's the guy who got famous for writing Generation X and I do have all of his works (except for the one Kid1 lost somewhere) so this was a pretty easy one for the marketers. It's new, only released last week. Interestingly, one of the reviews said, "If you currently feel jaded and like your life is going nowhere, buy this novel. It won't help, but it's nice." Hmmmm.

Irresistable Revolution by Shaine Claiborne. It's a religious book, which my recommendations are loaded with all sorts of this stuff. What's interesting is that most of them come up because "This book was recommended because you purchased Blue Like Jazz." The tag line reads, "Jesus was homeless, and He said what we did for the least of these His brothers we did for Him, and the thesis of Shane Claiborne's book is that, when Jesus said these things, He wasn't kidding."

Live by R.E.M. I have to admit I felt kind of cool because I've always thought hipsters listened to R.E.M. It simply happened that I liked 'em...but I do think that they are one of a handful of bands that came along during the decade of the 80's that people could look back on and say that some truly great & influential music came out of that span of time. You know, it's the GenX-er response to Baby Boomers who crow all the time about the Beatles/Stones/Joplin/Hendrix and then pooh-pooh your music. I think R.E.M. is a pretty good, inarguable response to that, but not as accepted as when you fire off "U2." I don't know about them live, though. I've seen them twice...and wasn't impressed. But that was before they did arenas and such so I'm sure they're better now.

Live at Lollapalooza, 2007 by Pearl Jam. One of my major disappointments is that I never saw two of my favorite bands in person: Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I can still catch Pearl Jam and hope to at some point. I wouldn't be likely to buy this one, though...I've got most of these songs on another live CD of theirs or various other CD's.

Greatest Hits by Social Distortion. Too easy for their little marketing thing. A blind guy with one eye could see that this would come up for me. I'd be much more likely to buy the two new songs since I have pretty much all the rest--but one of those songs is "album only" so I might could be persuaded. Has it really been 25 years since the release of their first record? Wow. Punks age, huh?

Then there's Garmin 350 Pocket Vehicle GPS Navigator with Maps for North America. This is funny to me because I don't buy gadgets at all, really. I haven't spent anything near what this bad boy would cost if you added up all my purchases together at this site, and I rarely go anywhere that I don't know where the roads go...and I have a $2.00 map in the glove box of both Dallas and Fort Worth, so I'm covered just in case I take a wrong turn. Sheesh.

So, that was my top few things (I did slice out items that were recommended because of purchases for others, like the teen-friendly DVD's or wine-related gifts or travel purchases or kid books--as well as the occasional out-of-character one-time guilty pleasure purchase. You know what all gets recommended if you purchased Millennium Funk Party?). I'll leave it to others to interpret the data, folks. These are just the informative picks they made for me, man.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Football Picks, Week #7


I know what you're thinking, folks. That four consecutive losing weeks (and going 4-12 in the last two of them) has cost The Diner it's football-picking street cred. Well, just stating as a matter of fact that this is the craziest football season in 15 years--Ohio State and Boston College are at the top of the list as Rutgers knocked #2 South Florida (and the fact that USF could be ranked #2 only illustrates my point further) last night--I think I'm doing pretty darn well against the point spread.

At least that's what I tell myself to reassure myself of The Diner's football-picking street cred. I mean, I don't want to have to resort to my 10-2 high school picks or my 1-0 record of professional picks to do that, do I?

Anyway, on to this week's games, and you'll note the heavy slate of SEC games in the mix because, as we all know, it's currently the epicenter of the college football universe.

Auburn (+11.5) at L.S.U.: This really isn't that hard. If L.S.U. plays it's best game and Auburn plays it's best game, L.S.U. wins at home by two touchdowns. It's at night. It's in Baton Rouge. L.S.U. has better players at almost every skill position. The deal is that nusto things happen in this rivalry game. I think 11.5 point is a mistake by Vegas, man. Some years these two teams don't score 11.5 points COMBINED. It'll be close, but L.S.U. at home at night after a loss is too much to pass up. Diner Prediction: L.S.U. 21, Auburn 13.

Tennessee at Alabama (pick): So, giving 3 points to the home team means that folks think the Vols are a field goal better than Alabama. They demolished a Georgia team that beat Bama, but they did it in Neyland Stadium. The Bama home-field gets nasty and can keep Bama in games, but talent usually wins out. I think it will this week in a very close game. Diner Prediction: Tennessee 17, Alabama 14.

Florida at Kentucky (+6.5): Okay. Last week I kinda ho-hummed the Kentucky home field advantage and minimized their success this season. But you know what? I'm going to do it again. Kentucky isn't the 7th best team in the country, and Florida is in desperation mode. They have to win or they won't even get to the SEC championship game, and Kentucky--despite Rich Brooks' bewilderment at being the underdog--has little experience in games like this where they can knock out a powerhouse. Woodson is good and can torch the Gator secondary, but I don't think he will as Urban Meyer had a week off to get ready. Diner Prediction: Florida 31, Kentucky 21

U.S.C. at Notre Dame (+17.5): Ever think you'd see Notre Dame getting three scores at home in your lifetime? I can assure you I didn't growing up in the '70's. But has the luster ever fallen off this game, man. Notre Dame doesn't even have a quarterback (they're starting their third one this season tomorrow). U.S.C. will roll and cover. Diner Prediction: U.S.C. 35, Notre Dame 14.

Michigan State (+17.5) at Ohio State: The Buckeyes have been having to listen to the nation belittle their schedule and the downturn in Big 10 football this season and I think they'll start ramping up their game plans to win and win impressively each week until the Michigan game. The Spartans can always be fiesty, but I think the Buckeyes at home with a piont to prove will get after them. Diner Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan State 17.

Texas Tech (+3.5) at Missouri: This will be a track meet. Two impressive offenses running up and down the field with little resistance. It'll be like Arena League football without the goofy netting that affects kick-offs. It's really just a matter of who has the ball last and can they punch it in in the last 30 seconds if you ask me. Diner Prediction: Texas Tech 41, Missouri 35. (notice I think Tech will score on the last play of the game and won't need to kick the extra point?)

Oregon at Washington (+11): The only thing that can stop the Ducks, oddly enough, is if it rains in the Northwest. I love Ty Willingham as a coach (and if Tubberville leaves Auburn I think they need to give him a serious look), but he doesn't have the horses yet and I think Oregon is a better team than Arizona State, who throttled the Huskies last weekend. Diner Prediction: Oregon 31, Washington 17.

Miami (+5.5) at Florida State: This is another game that's lost luster over the years. It's heated still, but both teams aren't what they used to be. Having been to a game at Tallahassee, I have to say it's one of the coolest environments to watch a game at night so I hope I haven't overrated that advantage...but I think the Seminoles are better than Miami this year. At home, too. Diner Prediction: F.S.U. 24, Miami 17.

High School Pick:

Lewisville vs. Marcus: It's our little community's biggest rivalry game. Really, FMHS has tried to get in on all the action with the Mound Showdown and all, but Marcus still views LHS as the bigger game. Oddly, they chose this game, which will be played in front of 20,000 people at Texas Stadium, to be their Homecoming game. The Battle of the Axe is everything that's good about high school football in Texas and tonight's game will be a close one. Marcus just hasn't had a lot of things go well in rivalry games lately. Diner Prediction: Lewisville 21, Marcus 17.

*note: Flower Mound played last night, so there's no game to pick for our area schools.

Well, there they are folks. I really feel like this week is the rebound week!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"These Days Are Meant For Something, But I Don't Know What Sometimes."

I'm not comfortable in my own skin these days.
I'm missing San Francisco's East and West Bays these days.
I'm having a bit of trouble finding the "win" these days."
The football coach isn't calling the right plays these days.
People keep telling me "it's just a phase" these days.
I don't understand the execution stays these days.
I can't find the right phrase these days.
I don't feel like taking in any strays these days.
I'm not finding any trails to blaze these days.
I'm not heaping any praise these days.
I'm wondering if she prays these days.
There's no excitment in the latest craze these days.
My rock-climbing has no balays these days.
I'm taking all the wrong turns in the maze these days.
I'm going faster on the highways these days.
I'm not slowing down on the by-ways these days.
Each of the edges frays these days.
The headlights aren't helping in the haze these days.
I don't want to buy what's in the the displays these days.
I want to do more than graze these days.
I'm wondering about the Toronto Blue Jays these days.
Is that smell in the fridge coming from the mayonaise these days?
Seems like I can't come out of the malaise these days.
Things the should don't faze these days.
I'm not worried when the donkeys bray these days.
I don't have change for toll pays these days.
Why is there so much hullaballoo about gays these days?
There aren't many forests ablaze these days.
I'm dropping the baton in the relays these days.
My airlines are experiencing delays these days.
My tales and stories devolve into cliches these days.
The things that should don't amaze these days.
I look at the stars but don't gaze these days.
I listen to folks and wonder if they see my eyes glaze these days.
I'm worried about the harmful effects of the sun's rays these days.
They seem to have taken the Anatomy out of Grey's these days.
The lounges don't chaise these days.
At lunch I'm dropping all the trays these days.
I'm wondering how much my body weighs these days.
My property value doesn't seem to appraise these days.
I'm not the hunter, I'm the prey these days.
The dances around me are polonaise these days.
I don't know anything about Rutherford B. Hayes these days.
I'm worried about bug sprays these days.
I wonder if other countries have N.R.A.'s these days.

No question...
No matter how you slice it...
I'm definitely in some sort of daze these days.
Weather Related

Apparently, with La Nina (a weather pattern that follows El Nino--which always reminds me of Chris Farley's skit about it on SNL--every 15 years or so) in control of North America's weather patterns, AccuWeather has determined that winter in Dallas will be warmer and drier than usual.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I was thinking about little bits and pieces of advice I've gotten at various points in my life that really made a difference, and I thought I'd come up with six really good ones.

The first one that came to mind was when my mom (a.k.a. "Charlotte the Scar") gave me a little reality check they day I left for college. She said, "You know, there are going to be some tough times in the next few weeks, but don't call or come home until the end of the quarter. And, remember, this is now your house. Home is where you put your boots at night. You're always welcome here and I'd love for you to come back often, but you're 18 now, and you know right from wrong and your actions only affect you. I hope you make wise choices." Then she went back in "my house" but I'm sure she knew what she was doing because it profoundly defined her letting go of her son. I remember the 2-hour drive to college being somewhat confusing and I drove in silence thinking about it.

Another was from a baseball coach. I expressed some worry about going off to college since I'd never been a great student (Diner reader Hal might remember the day our grade & class rank were posted for the first time--which was the day before graduation at rehearsal I might add--that I finished one spot behind Brooke Dake who was lovable but widely regarded as airheaded) and he said, "McKinney, look. You're bright. You always get the job done even if it isn't to the best of your ability yet. Just eat right, get enough sleep and go to class and you'll be fine." And if you think about it, if you're eating right and sleeping right and going to class, then a lot of those behaviors that cause you to flunk out of college aren't going to be done.

One from an English teacher: "Scholar McKinney (she called all her students "scholars"), you do know that it's okay to read a lot and write a lot, don't you?" It's funny that I kept those little secrets from most everyone I knew in high school because I thought they'd make fun of me for reading and writing and enjoying both. I have no idea why I thought that, but it took until my senior year in high school and an English teacher to say it out loud for me to have permission to be myself. I still didn't become myself until that first semester of college when I got a big do-over socially like everybody else who goes off to school.

Another from my mom, when I was bringing in those subpar grades in high school. She was surprisingly calm about all of it, just nodding after glancing over a few C's and D's (Chemistry and Algebra II), signed the report card and gave it back to me. When I told her I was kind of surprised that she didn't ground me or take the car keys or anything, she said, "They're not my grades, son. I've already got mine, complete with a grad school degree. If you want to close a bunch of doors for yourself and spend the rest of your life working at the movie theatre (--side note: I love movies and I loved that job and could've done it for my life), that's your business." Wow. Of course, it was a bit too late in high school at that point to do much with that information, but my grades in college were better than in high school...and grad school was way better than college.

One from a girlfriend, after we'd had one of the nicest break-ups in the history of break-ups...we both liked each other but it just didn't work out. We really were two different people and apparently acted on common sense instead of just going along with the habit we'd formed for about four months. She'd noticed that Tracy and I were VERY good friends and actually said, as I was leaving her apartment, "You know, you should start dating Tracy. You won't be very much good to any other girl until you decide if you're going to be just friends with her or whatever." What she didn't know is that I'd kissed Tracy on New Year's Eve (a few days before the break-up, and playing it off to her as "just one of those things that happened at midnight on New Year's Eve.") and was leaving her place to start taking that very piece of advice within minutes.

One last one from a former youth pastor of mine: "You know, if you follow Christ, it's nothing like most Christians portray it. It's revolutionary. And He will do all sorts of things in and through you that will make you really dangerous." He knew perfectly well that his punk-rock loving student would respond in droves to the idea of personal change and the idea of being dangerous in society was right up my alley. I've always been drawn to those aspects of Christ, and I think he knew it.

So, what advice did you get that always stayed with you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Little Help?!


Here's the deal:

It's called NaNoWriMo. It's short for National Novel Writer's Month. Some guys thought it would be fun to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. They knew it would be a challenge. They knew it wouldn't necessarily result in great writing. They knew that you could edit that writing later. The challenge was to simply write a novel.

79,000 signed up last year. 13,000 finished a novel. So it isn't a given. A little less than 1 in 5 finish.


A couple of things come to mind:

First, the books I have in my brain to write aren't fiction. They aren't novels. And I'm wondering if I committed to writing something else, would it fit the parameters?

Second, the folks who put all this together thought that it might be good for folks to have a support group...for accountability and encouragement and insight and proofreading and all that jazz.

What's crazy is that I'm thinking about doing this. Honestly, I can tell you that I'd be much more excited if I just worked on the two books that I've got rattling in my brain...

...but I'd be willing to help organize a FloMo-ish group (we could use our CBC coffee shop as a gathering place, or I could find another) if we got 10 folks to dive in. That number is non-negotiable. It's 10 or I'm not doing it. So, if we did this thing, we could expect 2 of us to finish a book if statistics hold to form. That would be worth it to me even if I wasn't one of those who finished. I like to think of it as my way of supporting that arts!

I already know that Retrophisch is in.

Mrs. Bowe? (I especially think that English teachers, especially AP English teachers, should play along)
Katherine? (Friends of Anne Lamott should be mandatory, if you ask me)

Anyone else?



Monday, October 15, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that the folks at Starbucks may or may not be miffed that I take in some coffee beans from Ritual Coffee Shop (an organic, free trade blend popular and award-winning in SF) that was a gift from the Rudds, but I'm taking that chance.
...that with the exception of the last AL game, the baseball playoffs have been an absolute bore.
...that no one's aware of how many clocks are in their house until you have to reset them 6 times due to storms knocking out their power.
...someone from California once told me they'd take earthquakes over Texas thunderstorms. Not me, man. I enjoy thunderstorms. And, the general thunderstorm doesn't cause bridges to fall down.
...I got a new book idea. I wrote it down, thereby adding it to the list, which is always growing and never shrinking. discussion with Kristen a few days ago has me wondering if my recoil against the nature and reality of "Christian" publishing keeps that list growing and never shrinking.
...I might finally go see "Across the Universe" tonight with Kid1 if I can talk her into it. She's pretty tired from a weekend at Pine Cove.
...if the rumors about one of my former students getting engaged over the weekend are true, the guy (who I don't really know yet) might be one of the wisest men I know in making a girl like that his choice, and making him one of the most blessed guys around that she'd accept his proposal.
...that getting back into the gym after a week off is one of those deals that you force yourself to get into the car and go, otherwise, you'll slack.
...I'll do that right after I finish the good book I'm reading.
...Auburn better find an offense. They'll need it this week against LSU.
...that the Cowboys better find a defense. They'll need one in the playoffs.
...that even though everybody has a "trick" (all of which I've tried), my left ear stays clogged after flying until it darn well wants to unclog. This could take an hour or a day. Most of the time it's about 6 hours.
...dogs are the best welcomers upon their owners' return home. Tired kids from a weekend at Pine Cove are glad you're home and hug you, but if they had tails, I'm not sure they'd wag.
...that my half-hearted search for my baby book last night turned up empty. My higher-order life-liver sister needs the information in it for a family tree project she wants to start, so I may ramp that search up a notch today.
...I don't know if it's because I'm used to it and all, but The Dallas Morning News is better than most every other newspaper I read. And I read a lot.
...that when you clean out the fridge, never...ever...forget to take out the trash before you leave for two days.
...the local high school coach's gamble on a fake extra point with under two minutes left in the rivalry game was the first coaching mistake in his 6 games as head coach. Of course, if it'd worked he'd be a genius. Everything else he's done has righted the ship with Marcus football, making the football team something the state champion band can be proud of. far, so good on Steve Hixon's new sermon series in Psalms. It'll be interesting to see how our congregation responds to his challenge to write their own psalms. Bringing the arts into church life might be slow-going for a congregation that hasn't seen it much other than the music. It's a good discomfort, though, if you're asking.
...for those of you concerned about my recent "funk" and wondering if the vacation brought me out of it: The vacation was a nice respite, and magical at times, but it was more of an escape--like sports or drugs or gambling or movies or whatever--than a cure. might could kayak in my back yard right now. Seriously.
...still wondering if I should shut down The Diner.
...politics could not be more of a bore to me right now, and usually I'm pretty into them. Stavesacre had a great line in one of their politically-charged songs: "What choices do we get? The lesser of two evils? Does such a creature still exist?" This describes, more or less, where I am at present in that realm.
...well, I'd better get on with my day.
Away From Her Less Than 24 Hours And I Miss Her Already

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bay Area Chronicles, Day 6. Final Edition For This Trip

Last day in the Bay. Not much except a lot of things that looked like this:

By the way...I could do that for hours. And, I did...which made for an ideal vacation.

Then, my smokin' hot shutterbug trophy wife took some kinda cool pictures. Here's one of Margaux holding my hand:

Here's another. This one's Margaux on top of the piano in the living room:

And, then...

...saving the best for's Margaux at 10 weeks.

I'll miss her.

I'll miss Jilly & Shane.

I'll miss the kind of vacation where you do nothing but the stuff above for an entire week.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bay Area Chronicles, Day 5

It poured rain yesterday...the one day we planned to head into the city. Ordinarily, this would've bummed us out but the main point of the trip was to visit the Rudd's, and as long as that got accomplished, it didn't matter.

First, we stopped at an art shop of some reknown to pick up some art supplies for Kid1, which would save us an internet ordering session. I like the crowd that shops in art shops of some reknown. Eclectic mix of folks from suburban moms likely taking a watercolor class to the pierced & tattooed to the black turtleneck folks. There was a t-shirt on the wall that read: "Baroque: What You Are When You Run Out Of Monet." It was funny in that environment, anyway.

Then we met the Rudd's at an restaurant that served Indian cuisine. Here's something about me: When it comes to food, I have a small sphere of things I like and when I go out to eat I like to get what I know I'll like...I don't get the luxury of eating out that much. So, when I kind of looked disappointed about getting Indian food, all the folks around me give me a hard time about "not wanting to try new things" and all that hullaballoo. So what if I don't? But, in an effort to be a good sport, I rolled with it with minimal resistance. I got a recommendation of something everybody seemed to think I'd like...and I did. So, I now have the one thing that I will order if I'm ever back at a restaurant that serves Indian cuisine.

This particular Indian restaurant was highly rated by the folks who publish such ratings, but it was a hole-in-the-wall kind of dive. This immediately endeared the place to me. You got your own silverware. Your own carafe of water. You got your own glasses. And, at the end of the meal you got up and got your very own "to-go" boxes. So, if you ever are in San Francisco, and need a good Indian food recommendation, I'm all over it.

We accidentally parked by the TransAmerica building. We were so focused on the GPS getting us to the restaurant that we weren't paying attention to where we were. We parked, fed the meter (at $0.25 per five minutes), I came back out and added 15 more minutes, and didn't notice were were actually across the street from the landmark. I took my first picture with my cell phone. I'm not sure why. It's also my "wallpaper."

Then we got to visit with the Pierced and Tattooed Kristen while Joshua finished up his afternoon at work. The thing that endears me to Kristen is her passion. She cares about things and causes and injustice and Christ and all sorts of things. Her tirades don't end with words, either. More often than not they turn into crusades. The current one was a nice coffee shop that was not allowing children. Apparently, folks who refer to those who choose to have children as "breeders" don't like kids in their coffee shop and the shop has asked folks with kids to leave. Kristen and her tribe are complaining to the city because you can't discriminate against people groups...and I think children would qualify as a people group. Either way, I like her passion and activism.

Offspring Judah and Killian were in the house. Judah slayed me with her rendition of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" complete with snow boots and heavy breathing at the wrong times. Suffice to say that she and the King of Pop were working on two separate beats. Killian dug my Mp3 player on my phone. Life is good when children are in the home.

I took the bus to Haight/Ashbury to get Kid1 & Kid2 some t-shirts. Suffice to say that even on the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love that once you've done Haight/Ashbury, there's really not much reason to do it again other than to get Kid1 & Kid2 some t-shirts.

It is really a great feeling to hang out with somebody you discipled for pretty much their entire high school life and remained friends with. One of the more enjoyable evenings I've had in a while.

One other thing: There's a very real temptation to throw $0.50 on the ground and pick up a neighbor's newspaper when you're walking only a half-mile to get your own newspaper. I mean...they live closer to the bin, right? It isn't stealing if you leave the change, right? I have no idea why this is because it's 50 degrees and beautiful and I enjoy the alone time. What is it about me that actually thinks such things?

Last day in the Bay Area...Don't'll have action photos in tomorrow's post...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bay Area Chroncles, Day 4

I forgot a couple of things from yesterday:

First of all, it might interest you to know that Todd & Robyn, who we met over dinner, had something to do with the production of the Newsboys' video for their song "Love, Liberty, Disco." And, they were actually in it, too. We looked it up on YouTube & found them.

Also, Mandarin Mitch had the line of the night. The Sentz's have one of those coffee makers that grinds the beans when you turn it on, and if you're not prepared, it can scare the daylights out of you. Well, Mitch was up first and turned the maker on, and he got startled. His description: "When that coffee maker starts up it sounds like a howler monkey using a leaf-blower." He wasn't far from wrong.

Still got some book quotes and photos I need to post...but I'll do that later. Our days are very restful. We play with Margo until lunchtime & her nap. We read or rest or hang out & visit...maybe do lunch and then repeat the process. It's exactly the kind of vacation both Tracy and I needed.
Friday Football Picks, Week 6


You thought because I was on vacation I wouldn't pick the football games? When football takes a vacation, The Diner will take a vacation from picking the games, folks.


You thought three straight weeks of poor picking (2-6 last week, ugh), taking my season record to 21-26-1 would discourage me? Hardly, folks.

It's football, folks. It's bigger than all of us.


on to the games for this week AND a couple of bonus picks.

Auburn (+3) at Arkansas. Auburn is to Florida what Arkansas is to Auburn. That is, the Razorbacks seem to beat Auburn no matter how up or down the team is. McFadden and Jones might be the best running back tandem in the country and their style of power football matches up well with Auburn's weakness on defense due to their smaller, faster, pass-defense style. Those are the main reasons I can think that Arkansas is favored at home over an Auburn team that's good and getting better. However, that's the reason I like Auburn even with all the injuries. The head coach tends to downplay his talent and when he says they're "good and getting better" I think he knows something. Diner Prediction: Auburn 23, Arkansas 21.

L.S.U. at Kentucky (+10): Kentucky's finesse & speed against L.S.U.'s incredible defense. I don't see Kentucky's home field as much of an fact, the only advantage I see Kentucky having is the reality that L.S.U. put so much energy into the Florida game and possibly having a slow start. But, talent usually wins out, and it will Saturday. Diner Prediction: L.S.U. 31, Kentucky 20.

Texas A&M (+8.5) at Texas Tech: Granted the Tech folks are in trouble once again for provocative t-shirts, but it's nothing compared to the rumor mill swirling around Francione at A&M. It has to be a distraction by now, and the Aggies have struggled at home against the same competition that Tech had a chance to win on the road. Everything points to Tech in this nasty rivalry, but I think the Aggies are going to rally the troops in this us-against-them mindset. It won't be enough, but I'll take the points. Diner Prediction: Texas Tech 31, Texas A&M 27.

Purdue (+5.5) at Michigan: Tough to read Michigan this year, but I think they've righted the ship. Purdue is good, but I think since Michigan's figured it out and playing better, they'll have enough to win, but I'm struggling with the points. Purdue can score them in bunches against inferior competition, and they'll score some against a underplaying Wolverine defense. Diner Prediction: Michigan 31, Purdue 28.

Oregon State (+14) at California: The Beavers are re-building...again. They're scrappy little underdogs that I always kind of like, but the Cal Bears are trying to nudge their way into the BCS computer polls that get released this week. Every game for them on the schedule is now a showcase. I think they'll blast away if they can. Diner Prediction: California 41, Oregon Sate 24.

Missouri (+10.5) at Oklahoma: Mizzou catches the Sooners at the best time...after the Texas game in which they struggled and won. The problem is that Oklahoma hasn't forgotten their loss to Colorado, and they're at home. They also have a chance to climb back in the BCS race, too. Diner Prediction: Oklahoma 35, Missouri 24.

Oklahoma State (+3.5) at Nebraska: I think Nebraska only gets to be favored in this game because they're Nebraska. It's the same reason they stay in the polls when they lose pretty much every game of consequence they've played lately. Of course, OSU has been snakebit lately, too...finding ways to lose games they should win. Games like this between to underachieving teams are a perfect example of how far Big 12 football has fallen in the grand scheme of college football. Diner Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Nebraska 31.

Alabama at Ole Miss (+6): Alabama's a riddle this year, particularly in games like this. Just when you count 'em out, they get things going again...and I'd be willing to bet that they've had some intense practices after their near meltdown against Houston. Funny, but I think Orgeron is going to turn things around about ats well as you can turn things around at Ole Miss. So, it's a tough game to predict, and it's the early SEC games where weird things seem to happen. I think Bama gets by. Diner Prediction: Alabama 21, Ole Miss 13.

High School Picks: Keep in mind that for some strange reason, I'm actually 8-1 doing these. Hmmm.

Flower Mound vs. Marcus at Texas Stadium: I'm a big believer in the Marauders. They run the "I." They play stingy defense. They excel in the kicking game. They win the 4th quarters. That's good coaching, folks. And, while Cody Vanderford has always been a good coach, for some reason this year the Jags just haven't had the kind of season folks were expecting after they made the playoffs last year. I think the game will play out true to form in this case. Diner Prediction: Marcus 24, Flower Mound 14.

Hebron vs. Lewisville: Lewisville has been playing some pretty good football in the tradtional LHS, run, run. Hebron is playing pretty well this season, too. It should be a fantastic game, and for some reason I think LHS is looking a little more toward the Axe game next week and that should be just enough to push Hebron past them. Diner Prediction: Hebron 21, Lewisville 14.

Argyle vs. Bowie: I really like the way Argyle has done things in all their programs. Band. Football. Whatever. It's a good school with good coaches and they do things the right way. I think Argyle will win because of their offense and their special teams are better. Diner Prediction: Argyle 27, Bowie 17.

Bonus Pick:

New England at Dallas (+5.5): The Boys were exposed a little last week, but at the same time know they can win when they play as poorly as they did on Monday. The problem is that the Pats coach knows a little something about defense, and the New England offense will have fun with the Cowboys secondary. Moss will pick on the corners and Brady can get him the ball. I suspect the Cowboys will have a tough time on Sunday. Diner Prediction: New England 30, Dallas 21.

There you have it, folks...what do you think?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bay Area Chronicles, Part 3

Yesterday, we took Margaux for a walk. The weather here allows for that kind of behavior. Margaux allows for all sorts of peculiar behavior from both Tracy and I. This mostly involves baby talk or staring at her, or both, for extended periods of time.

We had, according to Shane, the 2nd best cheesesteak sandwich in America. It wasn't bad...but I'm now much more curious about #1. After lunch, we window shopped and ran a few errands. One of the places had a toaster that would actually make sure an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on your toast. It was sold out...and on back order.

More interesting people: Last night was a dinner party with Mitch, the higher-order barnstormers, and Todd & Robyn Spitzer. He's a pastor here in Oakland (Mitch went to high school with him, and attended his church before he moved to NYC) and she's a P.R. director/musician/activist...they met when they worked for Tooth 'N Nail Records many years ago.

I talked with Todd about his upcoming speaking engagement...and we had a great deal in common, as his topic was on the role of the Christian within the culture. He'd also mentioned he'd been on a panel at one of these conferences where he'd taken the position against some big name Christian leaders...and they kept inviting him back. He actually used the words, "Theology matters. Somebody's gotta stand up for the importance of sound doctrine." He and Robyn had actually done some work with the underground churches in various places around the globe...dangerous stuff, too. He'd recently been fishing for marlin and caught nothing, which gave Jilly and I the chance to talk about marlin tatoos, show him my dad's marlin, show the photo of him landing it as well as telling the story for the umpteenth time. It's a good story, though, for those who haven't heard it.

They'd recently been to see the Violent Femmes at The Fillmore...which led to a discussion of bands we'd seen and where--which you can learn an awful lot about people hearing that discussion. They'd also travelled extensively and had some fantastic stories, too. Mitch, of course, had great stories about both bands and travel...and being from Wisconsin he'd seen the Femmes early on in their rise.

What cracked me up was when I found out they worked for Tooth N Nail records (a Christian music label known for signing alternative bands), I mentioned that I was a big Stavesacre fan and even had a tattoo of some of their artwork, they kinda made eye contact and said, "Oh, yeah, we know all about Stavesacre." I was worried that something negative about the band's spirituality was forthcoming, but alas, it was nothing more than the reality that Mark Solomon had a crush on Robyn about the same time Todd & Robyn started dating. Nothing negative about the band, though. Whew!

When I asked them why they got out of the Christian music industry, Robyn replied, "Well, Christian music is, ummm, neither.

They also live in West Oakland. Shane seemed to think they lived in a neighborhood that is known as "the killing zone" because it's an 80-block area where some 85% of the murders that take place in Oakland are gang-related and take place there. The Spitzers off-handedly mentioned that it's kind of dangerous because, "You can get caught in the crossfire stuff." They also have had busy signals from 911, and also they've learned that the cops don't come to their neighborhood unless they have to...which, apparently, isn't too often. They're looking to move. Good thing Robyn's also a realtor.

The party wrapped up around 9PM as Mitch had work to do (it was lunchtime in China) and the Spitzers were preparing to head out to a speaking engagement in Montreal.

It was classic when Shane came downstairs as the clean-up was beginning and offering more proof that higher-order barnstorming is becoming re-defined: "Man! That was fun. Good conversation. Time with grown-ups. AND we're through by 9PM. Sweet!"

One last side note: In the San Francisco Chronicle they have a guide to the weekend's events in the Bay Area (much like Dallas' "GuideLive" that comes in Friday's paper)...but it's called "96-hours." Apparently, the nice folks in SF have just decided the weekend starts on Thursday nights and lets it roll from there.

I've also got a few good quotes from books I'm reading...but I'll save those for later.