Monday, December 31, 2007

And, In A Burst Of Uncreative Energy...

...I'd like to welcome all of you to the Inaugural McKinney Diner Year-End Awards! Like every other newspaper, television show, magazine, web site and other media outlets, we'll be having our Best & Worst of 2007 as we look forward to ringing in a new year.

The last thing the world needs is another awards show, right? But, here at The Diner, we'll have some standard categories as well as some the management made up. And, no other award shows give away the lime-green (matching this year's background) coffee mug with a gold rim around the top. We know that those gold rims aren't dishwasher safe, but they exude fancy as far as mugs go. Besides, the awards aren't meant to actually function, for cryin' out loud!

Anyway, on with this year's awards:

And, The Coffee Mugs Go To...

Best Movie That I Saw, Drama: Into the Wild. Sean Penn should win the Academy Award for this one. It might win Best Picture, too. Absolutely incredible movie. Honorable mentions go to (in order) Reign Over Me, Gone Baby Gone, The Bourne Ultimatum.

Worst Movie That I Saw, Drama: Premonition. Awful. Absolutely awful...and if it weren't for being able to look at Sandra Bullock for about an hour there would be nothing redeemable about this one.

Best Movie That I Saw, Comedy: Juno. Brilliant screenplay--very original and an excellent cast made this one incredible movie...that has an outside shot at Best Picture at the Academy Awards, I bet. Honorable mentions go to The Wendell Baker Story and Hot Rod.

Worst Movie That I Saw, Comedy: The Ex. Jason Bateman was actually in the best and worst movie of the year, but he couldn't do anything to save this movie. No one could. What a stinker.

Best Movie That I Saw, Animated: Ratatouille. Manalive what a great story and excellent animation.

Honorable mention: Surf's Up. Very clever with a few laugh-out-loud moments, especially with Chicken Joe.

Best Actor: Emile Hirsch in Into The Wild. I just don't know how it could get any better than this. He carried a movie that is pretty much a one-man show for two hours. Not to mention he was playing a complex character who lived abundantly, loved adamantly, believed passionately and died horrifically. All in one movie.

Best Actress: Ellen Page in Juno. When her father found out she was pregnant, he said, "I didn't know you were that kind of girl, Junie." When Ellen Page said, "I'm not sure what kind of girl I am, Dad." I believed her. And her comedic timing of the writing stole the show.

Best Song I Heard For The First Time In 2007: "Hard Sun," by Eddie Vedder, for the Into the Wild Soundtrack. Some sample lyrics: "When she comes to greet me/she is mercy at my feet/I see her inner charm/she just throws it back at me." Yep. It's a re-make, but a very good one.

Honorable mentions to "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse (but I have to admit that I liked it an awful lot better when I thought it was just a good song, not a life statement). Lyrics include: "Didn’t get a lot in class/But I know it don’t come in a shot glass/They’re tryin to make me go to rehab/I said no, no, no/Yes I been black, but when I come back/You wont know, know, know."

Also, "Loose Lips" by Kimya Dawson for the Juno soundtrack (has a very Violent Femmes for a new generation feel). Some lyrics: "So if you wanna burn yourself Remember that I LOVE YOU/And if you wanna cut yourself Remember that I LOVE YOU/And if you wanna kill yourself Remember that I LOVE YOU/Call me up before you're dead/We can make some plans instead/Send me an IM, I'll be your friend/Shysters live from scheme to scheme/And my 4th quarter pipe dreams/Are seeming more and more worth fighting for/So I'll curate some situations, make my job a big vacation."

Worst Song I Heard For The First time in 2007: "This Is Why I'm Hot" by Mims. Lyrics include: "I'm hot cause I'm fly (fly)/You ain't cause you're not (Mims)/This is why [2x]/This is why I'm hot [2x]" Are you kidding me?

Honorable mention: "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" by Soulja Boy. Lyrics include: "Soulja Boy up in it (OH!)/Watch Me Crank It/Watch Me Roll/Watch Me Crank Dat Soulja Boy,/That Super Man Dat (OH!)/Now Watch Me Do." Remember when Rap and Hip-Hop used to mean something and it was rough and highly innovative and creative? Yeah, those days are long gone. It's a commercial cartoon of itself.

Best Book I Read in 2007, Fiction: "No Country for Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy. It's official. I'm on the bandwagon, even if Oprah's driving it. She hit the nail on the head by putting him in her book club...and I'm starting "The Road" which won a Pulitzer today.

Honorable Mention: "The Gum Thief" by Douglas Coupland. Granted, a lot of folks don't "get" him, but I think he's terribly underrated due to his stereotype.

Best Book I Read in 2007, Non-Fiction: Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy" by Vincent Bugliosi. Well written, too. It's the definitive book on the subject, and I think closes the case. Oswald, alone. No question.

Honorable Mention: A Long Way Gone, by Ishmaiel Beah. Wow. Just read it. Wow.

Best Work-Related Book: "Jim and Casper Go To Church" by Jim Anderson and Matt Casper. A great read for those in Christian circles who want to see ourselves as those outside our Tribe see us.

Honorable Mention: "Punk Rock Dad" by Jim Lindberg. Granted, it's not written by a Christian (that I'm aware of) but there's an awful lot of common sense parenting in it, by somebody who's just as busy as any of us. He's a touring singer of a punk band and really understands the demands we have and what's truly important in child raising...minus the "God" perspective, of course. But love and what that looks like play a big part in that book.

Best TV Series: I became a big fan of "Pushing Daisies." Granted, I don't watch television all that much, but when I do, this show is very well done and creative & innovative. You don't see much like it on the tube and it's a shame the writers went on strike because this show was pretty much hitting its stride.

Best Thing That Happened Professionally: Our church hired a new Teaching Pastor, Steve Hixon. It's a pretty big deal and I think our search committee and board of elders found the right guy. I'm excited about working with him and getting to know him on a personal level.

Best Thing That Happened Personally (excluding nuclear family): After a difficult 2006 in family matters, I got to meet Margaux Childress Sentz. I'm absolutely smitten with her. Have been from the get-go, and it's only gotten worse after I got to meet her in person on her home turf in October.

Best Health-Related News: When the calendar rolls over, I'll have lost 25 pounds compared to where I was in 2006. Yeah. That eat-less/exercise-more thing actually works. Who knew?

Worst Health-Related News: Before Thanksgiving, I'd lost 32 pounds compared to where I was in 2006. When you eat-more/exercise-less, yeah, that actually works, too.

Best Sports Moment: Auburn beating Alabama for the 6th year in a row...a record.

Honorable mention: Auburn's kicker Wes Byrum kicking, and then re-kicking after a timeout, a game-winning field goal against Florida as time expired. Also, the Dallas Cowboys have two: Getting the Super Bowl to the DFW area in 2011 as well as their record-setting winning season.

Worst Sports Moment: Early June when the Texas Rangers were already out of the pennant race. Sure, Ron Washington did an excellent job with what he had to work with...but he didn't have much to work with.

And now, for the Blog Awards:

Best Commenter Award: Pierced & Tattooed Kristen. Consistent. Funny. Insightful. Provocative. Everything you'd want in a blog commenter.

Honorable mention: Art-teacher Kris. Hollywood, the old-college roomie.

Best Diner Blog Entry, 2007, As Voted On By Management: Wednesday, May 9, 2007. Part 3 of the "19 Things I Learned in 19 Years of Youth Ministry" Series.

Best Patron Blogger of 2007, As Voted On By Management: Aqui, Ahora by Kendra Thompson. Great topics, healthy responses & interactions, provocative stuff on a regular basis. Good balance of photos & deep thoughts!

Honorable Mention: Pierced & Tattooed Kristen (her photo blog is very creative...if only there were more consistency!), Highland Village Lori, Flower Mound Bonnye and Petite Picaso Kelsey.

The floor is now open for "Reader's Choice Awards" in the following categories:
Best 2007 Movie (overall)
Best 2007 Book (overall)
Best 2007 TV Show (overall)
Diner Entry of the Year
Blogger of the Year (non-Diner)

Deadline for submission is January 6, 2008!

We hope you've enjoyed our awards, and The Diner Management would like to thank all of you for your patronage in 2007. We look forward to next year's show!
Diner Football Picks, Bowl Edition, Part X

I knew I could count on Alabama to do me right yesterday, and they did...even though they hung on to win a game 30-24 after leading 27-0 at one point. But, the Tide took my record to 5-10 thus far. But now the bowl season heats up!

We're getting serious now, kids. I know it hasn't been all that impressive thus far, but if I can have a good day today, say 4-2 or maybe 5-1, I can get back to a respectable record going to New Year's Day. Lots of games on the slate today so let's get to 'em!

California vs. Air Force (+4) in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Fort Worth Bowl: California has plenty of speed. It's the Pac-10 way. Air Force runs that disciplined triple option. It's the service academy way. If the weather was wet & sloppy I'd say that the Falcons have the edge, but it's supposed to be nice today in Fort Worth and with Longshore & Forsett healthy, the Cal Bears should shake off the 1-6 end of their season. Diner Prediction: California 30, Air Force 21

South Florida vs. Oregon (+6) in the Brut Sun Bowl: The Ducks and Bulls were both ranked #2 at one point this season. South Florida's quarterback, Grothe, runs the spread offense very well and...let's be honest, shall we? The Quack Attack hasn't been the same since Dixon went out for the season. Ryan Leaf's little brother won't be able to get it done in El Paso. Diner Prediction: South Florida 34, Oregon 23.

Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State (+6) in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl: Chan Gailey, Tech's former coach had a little bit of trouble beating rival Georgia. Lost 6 in a row to 'em. So, he's gone. Fresno State has been to the Humanitarian Bowl with the blue turf before and beat a ranked Virginia team three years ago. I don't know what Roady's is. What I do know is that even a 7-5 ACC team should be able to wear down a team from the WAC. Diner Prediction: Georgia Tech 24, Fresno State 16.

Kentucky vs. Florida State (+9.5) in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl: Florida State sent 25 players home due to cheating in an on-line course. I don't care who you are in college football if you send home one-third of your team, well, you're going to have depth issues. Throw in Andre Woodson and Kentucky's receivers and they might win by 10 anyway. State's always good, but they've got bad mojo here. Diner Prediction: Kentucky 34, Florida State 21.

Auburn vs. Clemson (+2.5) in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Auburn's been busy after their sixth straight win over Alabama. They got a new offensive coordinator who gave their offense a complete overhaul in two weeks. Clemson had their top 2 tacklers suspended for academic reasons. The question will be whether or not Auburn can run effectively while learning to pass out of a new offensive set. I think they'll be able to in what should be one of the more electric atmospheres of the bowl season with a hard sellout in Atlanta. Diner Prediction: Auburn 19, Clemson 14.

Oklahoma State vs. Indiana (+4.5) in the Insight.Com Bowl: Indiana's just happy to be there, man. They've only been to like, 7 bowls in their entire history and this is one of them. Oklahoma State can't ever seem to get over the hump. this is just another minor bowl trip for them while never reaching their expectations. This will be another reason they are just another middling Big 12 team. They're better than Indiana, but they won't be motivated. Diner Prediction: Indiana 35, Oklahoma State 31.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Paris (No Not The One In Texas) Update

Got text messages from my smokin' hot shutterbug trophy wife and petite Picaso Kid1:

"Just trying to do everything in 4 days is exhausting."

(on the Louvre Museum): "Way overrated. We hit the high points."

"She's [Kid1] is really bummed she can't speak more French."

"Hey Daddy! We saw lots of Monet's and ate crouque monseiurs!"

"We're at monmartre...artists aren't there yet at the base of sacre coeur. Kelsey is sketching and people are stopping, looking and taking pictures of her drawing."

I had to look up Monmartre. And Sacre Coeur. I don't get out much.

They get home tomorrow night...and I'll be glad, too. But I wish I could afford to send the two of them on lengthier stays and more of these destinations. I can't wait to see the photos and the drawings they bring back as well!
Just So You Know...


P.S. The cardboard & trash bags on the left are extremely temporary...they'll be going out on Wednesday. Don't be fooled, folks. You could eat off the floor.
Diner Football Picks, Bowl Edition, Part IX

Finally! A day where I finished with more wins than 2-1. Runs the record to 4-10 on the season, meaning I have to go 15-3 to finish ahead of last year, which isn't too likely. Anyway, I figured Wake Forest and Penn State would deliver but I'm kicking myself for picking against Sylvester Croom and the SEC over any Conference USA team. What was I thinking?

Only one game on the docket today before the games get a bit more serious...

Alabama vs. Colorado (+3.5) in the PetroSun Independence Bowl: Alabama's returning to Shreveport for the second year in a row and last year they were a program in chaos playing against a team from the Big 12 on the uptick. Things are a bit different this time around and the news reports out of Alabama are saying that the team is a bit more intense with Saban at the helm. The Buffs can rise up and beat anybody on any given day (ask Oklahoma) and Alabama can be a bit schizophrenic in that they can be impressive (ask Tennessee) or enigmatic (see Louisiana-Monroe). I think today's game will be in the middle for both teams. Bama has a better coach, better talent, and plays better teams week-in & week-out. Diner Prediction: Alabama 23, Colorado 14.
Hannah Montana Concert Prize Update

Turns out Club Libby Lu isn't going to let the kid go see Hannah Montana.

I think I liked it better when they least they were holding up their end of the deal for failure on their own part to check facts. Maybe they should give two prizes.

Lawyers are involved now.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

From Today's "You've-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me" File...

Club Libby Lu.

If you've ever had daughters, you know this place. For those of you that haven't been so blessed, it's a pink and purple and glittery and feather-boa kind of place that you can take your daughters and they can have tea-parties and tiaras and be everything that little girls enjoy being. I suspect that Club Libby Lu, found in many suburban malls, is pretty much a money-printing factory.

So, like many businesses, they have promotions aimed at their demographic clientele.

In this case, a trip for four to New York City--airfare, hotels, the whole bit--to see Hannah Montana in concert.

This may not mean much to you, but I suspect that if you have a girl aged 8-12, winning this would be the high holy day of her childhood to date.

And, Club Libby Lu decided to hold an essay contest. 5 sentences (not much of an essay...but the contest was for kids who might be in 2nd or 3rd grade) about how they would "rock" someone's holiday season. Here's the 6-year-old girl's winning essay:

"My daddy died this year in Iraq. I am going to give mommy the Angel pendant that daddy put on mommy when she was having me. I had it in my jewelry box since that day. I love my mommy."

Breaks your heart, right? You can see why Club Libby Lu awarded her the grand prize, right?

One problem: It's not true.

At all.

Once the winners showed up at the store with the obligatory cameras recording the surprise moment for promotional purposes...and the obligatory questions about the story were being asked...


...the story started to unravel. At that point Club Libby Lu started following up on the details, and confirmed no soldier by the name the family supplied had died on the date they said he died.

Here's a quote from the mom: "We wrote whatever we could do to win. It said to write and essay. It never said it had to be true. I never said it was true...It was just an essay. We wrote whatever we could to win."

Club Libby Lu officials said, "We told a 6-year-old today that she was going to see Hannah Montana, and we're not going to renege on that."

So, props to them for their integrity. You are better people than I am. Or at least better business people than I would be in this situation.

However, I can officially say, for the record, the mom will not be winning The Diner's award for Mother-Of-The-Year 2007.

Enjoy your trip to New York. I hope it's all worth it. Because when your 6-year-old has forgotten all about her whirlwind trip to the Big Apple to see the show...

...she'll remember life lessons about integrity in the little things. And don't be surprised, Mom, when she does the same things to you regarding integrity in the little things. She's watching you like a hawk.

And, maybe, just maybe, Mom, those of us that appreciate what our servicemen are doing right now don't like their sacrifice being used to see a concert. The very freedoms they're dying to protect are the ones you're manipulating in the grossest of ways to see a show. And, while you likely don't see the irony of that reality...

...surely you'll understand why any thinking American is bordering on outrage, right?

And, just so you can check up on this little story for yourself, you can get that here, complete with video from Channel 8.
Diner Football Predictions, Bowl Edition, Part VIII

Well, T.C.U. did me right yesterday by beating Houston. I thought for sure, the way the day was going, that I'd lose that one, too as Houston was one play away from going 98 yards with a minute and a half left and no time outs. B.C. gave up a meaningless touchdown late, complete with a two-point conversion that let the Spartans cover, and Maryland had 160 yards of offense in the FIRST QUARTER--only to get 60 more the entire rest of the game. Sheesh. It was frustrating at first, but now it's just funny that I'm 2 wins, 9 losses in the bowl season. Anyway, on to today's picks:

Connecticut (+2) vs. Wake Forest in the Meineke Car Care Bowl: This one might actually be better if they changed the rules to ensure that the first team to score...wins! Both teams are defense/kicking game/field position teams. Connecticut has averaged 2 interceptions per game during the season...but in a game like this one, I like the team with the better coach (Wake Forest's Grobe gets considered for all the job openings at bigger conference schools) and I think the ACC has a better conference (even though the Big East was better than most expected). It'll be a yawner either way. Diner Prediction: Wake Forest 13, Connecticut 10.

Central Florida vs. Mississippi State (+3) in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Sylvester Croom is an incredible coach. I don't know of any coach that gets more with less than he does...and the SEC West's Bulldogs have some quality wins (Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Kentucky) but all those teams were struggling in the running game at the time when State played them (even Arkansas' McFadden was held to 88 yards, but that was with Jones injured). If UCF can throw, they'll win as Kevin Smith (who, by the way, can break Barry Sanders' rushing record with 181 yards in this game) will dominate. If they can't throw, they still might win. The Bulldogs are a year away. Diner Prediction: Central Florida 27, Mississippi State 21.

Penn State vs. Texas A&M (+5) in the Valero Alamo Bowl: The Aggies are riding high after beating Texas and they'll be in the Alamo Dome with 50,000 rabid fans all Marooned Out and standing up the whole game and swaying and all that jazz. The problem they have is two-fold: First, they'll actually have to play the game, and Penn State is better than they are. Second, they've now officially gotten bad karma for this game...they've got an interim head coach due to Francione's...ahem...departure and they had to send a yell leader (what Aggies call guy cheerleaders) home because he said that Joe Paterno was on his "death bed" and needed a "casket" at the pre-game pep rally. I mean, "yell practice." You don't win a game with that kind of negative karma, man. Never, ever pick on Coach Joe. Diner Prediction: Penn State 28, Texas A&M 21.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Politics & Following Christ

Many of you know that The Diner management tends to shy away from political conversation (unless there's a chance to further the cause of public transportation in the DFW area). Not that we don't have thoughts on the matter...because we certainly do. We vote. We've sent e-mails to representatives. We've marched (granted, it's been a while). We like America. We like our little 231 year-old representative democracy.

And, often, folks have asked me to use this platform (or the one I hold in my daytime job) to promote certain candidates or causes. For obvious reasons, I don't use either for either.

And this article by William McKenzie in Christmas Day's Dallas Morning News brought to light many of the various thoughts I have on choosing a Presidential Candidate to vote for. The article talks about how all the candidates are working hard to disclose their religious leanings and why they happen to value that.

How's this to get your brains engaged and the chatter going in The Diner this morning:

"At some level, I don't fault them. They are trying to reassure voters they share some of their values. That's what Mitt Romney was doing with his big religion speech recently in College Station. It was understandable, assuming he and the other hopefuls truly do share the values of the voters they hope to reach.

But we voters better watch out when candidates play the Jesus Card. The child born in a manger turned out to be a radical figure. And his message can take us in demanding, unpredictable directions.

For example, there's that hard command to love your enemies. How would the professing candidates abide by that charge? Shouldn't we ask whether that dictum will affect how they deal with the opposition party on Capitol Hill? With Iran? And if it will affect them, how so?"

Read the article.

Have at it, kids.

*pours coffee, rubs hands together back and forth and smiles broadly, waiting to see The Diner emerge from the holiday season malaise that seems to have set in*
Diner Football Picks, Bowl Edition, Part VII

So, lemme get this straight: The Longhorns pick last night's holiday bowl to get their act together and rededicate to opening the playbook? Perfect. Just perfect. I really think I'm making good, solid picks here, folks. And to go to 1-7 is really nuts...but what did I expect in a nutso college football season?

Anyway, on to this today's games:

Boston College vs. Michigan State (+5) in the Champs Sports Bowl: Boston College has won 7 straight bowl games and Michigan State has been losing players due to academic suspensions and the whole bit. I didn't really buy into the B.C. hype during the season and they might be the worst 10-win team in the bowl season. At least I thought so until I saw Arizona State stink it up last night. Anyway, I like B.C.'s quarterback and think they'll have enough firepower against an average Big 10 team. Diner Prediction: Boston College 27, Michigan State 17

Texas Christian vs. Houston (+6.5) in the Texas Bowl: Houston's playing a bowl game in Houston having lost their head coach to Baylor. The Horned Frogs are just happy to be going anywhere during a season when they played well below expectations. They just never were the same after losing to Texas after fighting so hard, but I think the bowl game will have them ready to play. Diner Prediction: T.C.U. 31, Houston 24.

Oregon State vs. Maryland (+5) in the Emerald Bowl: San Francisco's a great town to go bowling in...and I'm beginning to see that same pattern develop from the last two years...the one where the Pac-10 gets exposed as being a sorry conference once you get past U.S.C. (see last night's Sun Devil performance as proof). However, I'm not sure which Maryland team will show up--the one the beat two top-10 teams or the one that lost 4 games against inferior opponents. I'm guessing that against the sorry Pac-10, even an average effort will get the job done. Diner Prediction: Maryland 23, Oregon State 16.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back In Business

The Burnside Writers Collective always gets my brain going...and this week's edition got my synapses firing like nobody's business.

This quote's from an interview with Rob Bell. He was asked his thoughts about what other folks in evangelicalism are criticizing him about:

"I don’t have any specific reaction. I mean, what our general culture has come to see as mainstream Christian faith is an absolutely sick, twisted and perverted version of anything Jesus had in mind.

So the idea that people have perpetuated and propagated a system that is absolutely sick and distorted at its core, and then pass judgment on others who are pursuing the way of Jesus in a way that they are passionate about as being far more historically credible and true to the original intentions of Jesus’ movement, that’s just - that’s crazy.

I think a lot of people who have appointed themselves as the gatekeepers of what it means to be Christian are not, and assume they have authority that they do not. They just don’t. They have lost their authority and culture. Nobody’s listening and no one cares."

You can get the rest of the article here.

And... you can tell...

...we're on the on-ramp to a full-throttle 2008, folks. I feel it in my bones.
Identifying With Passive/Aggressive Christmas Angst

This article was a very well-written piece about dealing with an inner dislike of the American Christmas season.

Here's a quote from "The Reject Tree" by Kim Gottschild on this week's Burnside Writer's Collective web page:

"That Christmas spirit simply eluded me. Maybe it was my already hectic schedule or my slightly underactive thyroid, but I just couldn’t get excited at that time of year. Commercials and shows and movies portrayed this gosh-darn perfect Christmas world full of happy and cheerful people with rosy cheeks. And every year, I desperately strived to be like them. But I could never achieve their level of perfect Christmas spirit..."

I'd really like to write something as well as she did here...

...and as thought-provoking.

Really good stuff, if you're asking me.
Diner Football Picks, Bowl Edition, Part VI

This is getting downright embarrassing. I'm picking winners like nobody's business...but nobody's covering the spread. And, if you saw Purdue's last second field goal against Central Michigan you know exactly what I mean. They were up 21 halfway through the 3rd quarter, looking like they would easily cover the 8-point line, only to let the Chippewas come storming back and have to win late. This makes me 1-6 vs. the line. I can only console myself with the reality that I'm 5-2 with winners.

Today's pick:

Texas vs. Arizona State (+2.5) in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl: This Texas team still doesn't look like they've found an identity and as talented as Colt McCoy is as their quarterback and Charles is at running back, they don't match the expectations created in Austin. If the Aggies, on their last legs, could beat this Texas team, the Sun Devils--who've sold out their allotment of tickets and are thrilled to be going to this game--with their scrappy running game and emotional defense could get away with an upset. And, don't even get me started on the reality that the Big 12 powerhouse is only a 2 point favorite over Dennis Erickson's 10-win Pac 10 team. Diner Prediction: Arizona State 27, Texas 24.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

4th Annual Christmas Gift Review

Once again, it was an enjoyable Christmas Eve & Day here at The Diner. Management went to the 8PM Christmas Eve service at our church--and it was great because that is one of the two times per year that we're able to sit together as a family. It was also especially fun to me because the worship team was comprised of 5 of my former students...not to mention the culmination of a celebration of Advent (which our church hasn't really empahsized before and I'm glad we've started).

And, as is becoming a very nice tradition: Teenagers sleep later. They're not quite as anxious to have Christmas start at 7AM and be over by 8AM as they used to be, and now they kind of moan and groan about getting up at 8:30AM. In fact, in a sure sign that we're in a different phase of life now, my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly called to see if we'd liked the gifts they sent. She's celebrating with her family in Yakima, Washington. She called at 9:15AM our time...letting us know that the higher-order-barnstorming offspring Margaux had awakened them especially early, given the time difference.

Anyway, on to the review:

Biggest Financial Expenditure Difference In A Stocking: In my stocking this year, there was a pack of ouchless ponytail holders...likely costing under a buck. In the same stocking there was the mother of all iPods: 160 gig of video playing, music holding goodness. That's 40,000 songs or 30 movies or 90 television shows and I have no idea how many photos or any combination of any and all of the above. Retail cost of that deal and the ouchless ponytail holders is quite a difference.

Best Proof That Santa Knows Candy Tastes Of Our Family: I got Snickers bars (although #1 for me is peanut M&M's, I'm having problems with a tooth right now and hard candy is kind of out), Tracy got something made by Reese's, Shelby got Ghiradelli, and Kelsey got SweetTarts. It doesn't matter, though. They wind up being sampled by everyone, anyway. Except the Snickers, which are hard to share.

Unquestioning Proof That McKinney's Spoil Their Dogs: Lloyd, Great Dog, couldn't stand the smells emanating from his stocking on Christmas Eve. He started barking and growling at it, so we gave in and let him open his on Christmas Eve. Overlooking the fact that we get this beast his own stocking as proof, in it was nearly $30 worth of toys and treats and bones. He also got a gift from the higher-order barnstorming Sentz family on Christmas Day with more toys and treats. We view this as normal behavior.

Consistency Award: The gift the girls got to open on Christmas Eve was, for nearly a decade now, once again, pajamas.

Gift Guaranteed To Require The Most Trial And Error: My father-in-law, Murray the Retiree, gave our family a...wait for it...DVD recorder. Think about it. How many times have you wanted to save some show you just watched or something you've TiVO'd and had to delete it? Well, this bad boy will actually burn a DVD of something you've recorded or are watching. Plus, you can do basic editing to eliminate commercials or things that would push PG to R or whatever. Of course, I'm technically challenged and I think I have it hooked up correctly but have the wrong type of recordable DVD's (who knew those "plusses" and "minuses" on the package meant something?). We'll figure that out today and call for backup if necessary. What I don't understand is how Murray got it figured out. He's no better with technology than I am.

Best Suggestion We Didn't Follow Through With: Kid1 suggested that we take a photo in front of the mantle with the mess everywhere in front of us and send out "Post-Christmas Cards." Her logic: "Everybody sends out cards before Christmas. Why don't we send out that picture on cards that say, 'Wasn't Christmas 2007 GREAT?!'"

Hobbies Ahoy Award: Kid1 spends her spare time cooking and baking...and got a crock pot and pie trays and all sorts of gadgetry to enhance that. Kid2 has a lot of costume/shoe work with ballet and a sewing machine was in order. The smokin' hot shutterbug trophy wife got gift certificates to WineStyles. The beauty of this is that I have no hobbies (other than reading or watching sports) but I benefit in various ways from all of them.

Gift That Helps The European Economy: Many of you remember that Kid1 won two free airline tickets anywhere in the world at a hockey game last, she had to pick a spot in the world she wanted to go to and the time she had allotted to go was when school was out. They leave today for Paris, France. I qualify that because, when you live in North Texas and say "Paris," people ask if you have family in the town about a couple of hours outside Dallas. So, Santa threw in a hotel room in the St.-Germain-Des-Pres quarter to ensure the tickets get used before they expire. Apparently, Santa weighed the reality that a photographer and artist doing Paris, France together was worth the exchange rate of dollars to Euros.

Best Throwback To High School: My wife got me a DVD of the movie Caddyshack. I had one, but lent it to someone and never got it back. Me and my friends watched that movie, or parts of it, about 40 times or so in a year's time. We still quote it, and have found that our generation views this as a point of commonality and bonds over it.

Best Book That Fooled Me: There was a photo book my daughter got that said something about "The Nutcracker" and had a picture from the famous Christmas ballet on the cover. I glanced at the cover and moved on. Last night, during the clean-up portion of the program, I told her to put her book up. She asked me if I saw her picture in it. "No. I didn't know you were in a book." It was at that point that it was a professionally bound book of HER COMPANY'S version of The Nutcracker done this year in Fort Worth. At that point, I had another 20 minutes of reprieve from the clean-up.

Gift That Made Me Happy/Sad: The Sentz's gave me one of those electronic frames that holds about 10 minutes worth of digital photographs that scroll every 10 seconds or so. They took the time to pre-load it with photos of their side of the family as well as some photos of my mom and dad. As I sat there, I would get really happy about photos of Margaux or the Sentz's and then get kind of misty at pics of my parents and then back to laughing at photos of me and Jilly as a kid. I'm glad they only loaded it to about 5% of capacity or I'd have been a wreck.

Best Stocking Stuffer For A Hipster-Doofus: As someone who studies pop culture and enjoys can you go wrong with Rolling Stone magazine's 2007 year-in-review issue? Santa really "gets" me.

Well, as usual, it was a wonderful Christmas season here at The Diner.

And, because of that...

...I'm almost ready to get the decorations back in the attic.

Not quite.

But getting there.
Diner Football Predictions, Bowl Edition, Part V

Central Michigan (+8) vs. Purdue in the Motor City Bowl: There's a real temptation to pick Purdue simply because they've got more talent, being a Big 10 school and all. But the Chippewas won the MAC conference and finished strong, winning their last 5. The Boilermakers, on the other hand, faded late in a weak Big 10 conference. But they played earlier in the season, with Purdue winning by 23...and leading by 38 before they put in the second teamers. Granted, CMU has something to prove and is likely more excited about going bowling, but Purdue has 2 N.F.L. caliber players at defensive end and wide reciever...and more talent overall. Diner Prediction: Purdue 35, Central Michigan 24.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Diner Management...

...would like to wish you and yours a very,



Monday, December 24, 2007

Vacation Time

Several readers have sent e-mails asking which Christmas Eve service at Crossroads I'll be teaching.

Just letting you know that I'm using up my last vacation days for 2007 and I'll only be attending the 8PM service, hence, I'm not "working" any of the services.

Why the 8PM? It's the one my family wants to go to. I gotta say it: It's nice to have a choice for a change. So this is how the other half does Christmas Eve services?

Christmas Eve Time Wastes

From today's "Baby Blues" comic strip:

courtesy King Features Syndicate

I don't know about you guys, but when I was a kid, Christmas Eve was definitely a slow day.

We'd wake up somewhat early and have a whole day to kill before the gift exchange with my dad's side of the family. That was a big Southern get-together where my grandmother made the main dishes and everybody else brought side dishes. My mom spent the early afternoon making deviled eggs. About 3 dozen, cut in half, so there were 72 of those bad boys. My grandmother always had a chaotic house full of people.

Anyway, I only remember one year where we did anything to pass the time...and I went to go see Star Wars. The first one...which is actually the 4th one. I think. I remember being underwhelmed then even though I was 11 and it had been out all summer. I think the hype brought me in with big expectations...and I still remain underwhelmed, frankly.

Other than that, it was tough to get up early and try to kill time until 6PM when we left for my grandmother's.

Once I got married and had kids, we did Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with Tracy's. This worked well as we'd just open presents at around 2PM or so. What was great was that my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly would open gifts and then she and Tracy would go and make exchanges right then and there...making sure to get home by 6PM. My mother, Charlotte the Scar, was notorious for a couple of Christmas traditions: Stockings filled with toiletries and gifts in the wrong size/style/color. We viewed them as glorified gift certificates.

Once we moved to Dallas and our girls were the ones having to kill time, we'd hit Grapevine Mills Mall because there were often some last-minute things we needed to get, a fantastic Santa to get their photo made with (my favorite story is that my daughters had somehow figured out that if the Santa had pointy ears it was on elf representing Santa, but if the Santa had "normal" ears then it was, in fact, the real one. I have no idea where they developed this theory.), and we'd splurge on Rainforest Cafe--perfect for kids with all the animals & volume & commotion. Yes. We did indeed get a "volcano" dessert every single time. How can you beat sparklers and ice cream and bunch of college kids bringing it enthusiastically yelling "volcanoooooooooooooooowwwww?!"

And, since I have the added occupational hazard of working that night at Christmas Eve services, we'd usually get out of there a couple of hours before the service I'd be doing the teaching in and get ready for that.

So, we've been better with our kids passing the time of this day than ours were with us... what have you experienced or done to help the day speed up?

And, don't think I didn't notice that I just killed 20 minutes by showing up at The Diner today.
Before We Get Started Today...

The Diner management would like to formally apologize for our 1-5 record in the football bowl picks thus far. If this were a video game, I'd have already hit the reset button.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ahhh...Christmas Memories?

I'm not trying to big-time anybody here, really.

Sam's Wholesale was involved. Bottom line: We ate steak for dinner last night. I know. I know. We're not really those people but it was a good deal on a lot of beef. Sams'll do that every now and again.

But that's only part of what I wanted to talk about.

This all started at the mall.

See, we wanted to spend a little family time. Like everybody else, we're busy and we've got teenagers who want to hang with friends, and we've got stuff to do, too (last minute Christmas shopping...we're down to stocking-stuffer type stuff so we're doing pretty well). So, we worked an agreeable plan which involved an afternoon movie.

Now, I expected the mall to be extremely busy and figured I'd have to park a long way from the theatre. So, no biggie when that reality played out. I dropped off the fam close and went to wife has taught me that I should at least make a few passes at the closer spots because you never know if somebody's pulling out. In my past life I was Mr. Park-In-The-First-Spot-You-See-&-Hoof-It-Guy, but no more. I didn't luck out.

What I couldn't get over was how rude folks got looking for parking spaces. Manalive, one guy sees a lady putting packages in her trunk so he stops and puts his blinker on. It's going to be a minute. Folks behind him honk. One guy goes around him (almost hitting the car the first guy was waiting on, who is in the process of backing out), honks and gives him the finger. Listen, I don't mind a hopeful drive for a close space, but is walking 900 yards worth getting bent out of shape over?

Anyway, the movie was a fun family picture that does for history buffs what Indiana Jones did for archaeologists. Just a fun movie that you suspend reality for, but then make fun of the absurdities anyway. "Right. Like you could kidnap the President of the United States right under the noses of the Secret Service agents."

Family dinner time. A cold front is coming through Dallas so it was chilly and windy before the sun went down...but here I am in my backyard in late December, going all Hank Hill with my propane gas grill and turning over the beef we got a good deal on...but wearing a small coat.

We built a fire as it did get cold late. It wasn't a fire of necessity, though. More a fire of want-one.

We watched the movie "Elf"--a family favorite (although out of order this year as we usually kick off the Christmas movie season with "Christmas Vacation")--together, too.

But, what I thought about was these kinds of Christmas memories...

...grilling bulk-size meat in December.
...warm weather, somewhat. actual discussion of whether or not you could get into Buckingham Palace and fiddle with the Queen's desk to discover the next clue. actual discussion of how to effectively poke a fire with the poker.
...thinking there's an actual order that Christmas movies on DVD should be watched, and wondering if you should bring that up.

And then I figured those would be just another thing on the list my children will tell their therapists about in about 2018 or so.
Hey Everybody! It's Eddie Vedder's 43rd Birthday Today!

So, let's all celebrate by...

...going old-school and wearing flannel, thermals & jeans with holes in the knees.
...writing a movie soundtrack that might win an Oscar this year.
...having your music highlighted in everything from children's cartoons (see Surf's Up) to films such as Dead Man Walking & Big Fish.
...handling fame & fortune comparatively well, and using your platform for causes you firmly believe in.
...singing songs like you've got a mouthful of marbles but as fast as you can, obscuring great lyrics. Then singing some slow songs very well making sure everybody understands the lyrics.
Diner Football Predictions, Bowl Edition, Part IV

Oh, man...yesterday did not go well at all. Southern Miss covered with their itty-bitty half point, New Mexico wins their first bowl game in 46 years and who knew that U.C.L.A.'s kicker would cover with not one, but two, field goals from 50+...but have a 25-yarder blocked to lose? It's an embarrassing 1-4 start for The Diner. Alas, we will march on, undeterred!

Boise State vs. East Carolina (+10.5) in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: I've got friends who live in Hawaii, who, if they knew that the folks at Sheraton didn't put the apostrophe in "Hawai'i," they'd be pretty bitter about it. But, like most folks who live in Hawai'i, they're engrossed in more interesting things to do than college football games. Anyway, like most college football fans, I have last year's Boise State BCS images on my hard-drive, and can't fathom how they won't score a bunch of points on the Pirates. Granted ECU held VaTech to 17, but they gave up 48 to West Virginia. My guess is that, while Boise State doesn't have the same energy or enthusiasm of last year's game against OU, they'll be able to score a bunch against a happy-to-celebrate-Christmas-in-Hawai'i East Carolina team. Diner Prediction: Boise State 38, East Carolina 24

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Maybe We Just Need To Relax

Kid1 went on Winter Break yesterday (The Diner observes political correctness).

Kid2, more or less, did too. But her schooling is more at her own pace...but she gets a couple of weeks off from dance practice.

I'm on vacation...using up those last allotted days for 2007. I think I'm driving my smokin' hot shutterbug trophy wife crazy as I putter around. I think I'm pretty good at puttering. Her concern isn't that I'm around, really, but rather that I become Mr. Curious and ask a lot of questions and get involved in things that normally go on quite nicely with no input from me. She's playful about it all, but I think she wants me to start looking into hobbies a bit more seriously.

So, after school yesterday we met at the mall...which was surprisingly lightly trafficked for a few days left before the holidays. We decided to take in a movie together...which was nice. Nobody was really hungry so we became mallrats and did a little Christmas browsing. It was more laughs and goofing off than purchases. It was good family time.

At around 8:30PM, the girls wanted to go home...and Tracy and I decided on an impromptu date night. So, get this:

We gave Kid1 the car keys (we met at the mall from different early afternoon locales) and she drove them home. We stayed, grabbed a late, lite dinner and took in another movie. How cool is that? You just hand the oldest kid the car keys and they take it to the house?! Pretty much awesome.

Anyway, we arrive home and the Christmas lights outside were turned off. The girls rooms were dark. Lloyd looked like we'd awakened him with our arrival...but that's hard to guage: He always looks like that.

It was 10:45PM.

Two teenage girls fresh on Winter Break were in bed.

And O-U-T...


Maybe that's a sign that we push too hard when we aren't on Winter Break.
Diner Football Predictions, Bowl Edition, Part III

Yesterday, I balanced my miss on Utah with FAU's win, making me 1-1 early on in the bowl season.

Today's picks:

Cincinnati vs. Southern Miss (+10.5) in the Birmingham Bowl: Cincinnati is ranked. The Bearcats have won 9 games, too. Southern Miss just got rid of their long-time coach Jeff Bower, and I can't imagine they're terribly excited about traveling to Birmingham...although that is a step up from Hattiesburg. Bowl games often come down to who is more excited to be there, and my guess is that Cincinnati's happier about all this. Diner Prediction: Cincinnati 28, Southern Miss 17.

New Mexico vs. Nevada (+2.5) in the New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico hasn't won a bowl game in 46 years. Not to mention they're 0-4 under their current head coach Rocky Long. They're playing without their leading rusher who didn't make grades, too. But Nevada's only 6-6. I can't decide if the negative vibe will inspire or deflate the Lobos, but my guess is that it'll deflate them. Diner Prediction: Nevada 24, New Mexico 21.

Brigham Young vs. U.C.L.A. (+6) in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl: I'd think that if you're going to a pre-Christmas bowl game, then Vegas would be a nice reward. UCLA beat BYU in the regular season...but the difference is that the Cougars found themselves to go 10-2 and UCLA still hasn't found a quarterback. That's right. They're debating on who's starting in their 13th game of the season. UCLA has more talent, but Brigham Young has revenge, improvement and coaching all on their side. Diner Prediction: Brigham Young 27, UCLA 14.

Friday, December 21, 2007

No Fun?

I don't dance. I haven't even attempted since Reagan was in the White House, and, as best I can discern I have two dances left in my lifetime. Four if I dance with Tracy should both my daughters get married.

I don't golf. I don't have an extra $2,000 a year lying around. If I did, I don't think I have 120 hours of free time to do it.

Ditto on hunting.
Ditto on fishing.
Ditto on camping.

I don't like shopping. I don't mind going to a particular place to buy what I need to buy, but if it isn't a bookstore or a music store and I'm not killing time until the next thing I'd rather be doing, then I don't browse.

In the last month, I've had conversations where people were extolling their enjoyment of those very activities. When they excitedly asked me things like...

"I can't wait for the reception! Don't you just want to dance all night long and have fun?"
"Don't you think golf is a great way to relax and have fun?"
"Isn't hunting/fishing/camping fun?"
"Don't you just love how much fun Christmas shopping is?"

I've replied with...

"I'm not much into dancing."
"I really have a tough time finding time to golf."
"Sitting in the Great Outdoors isn't my cup of tea. Camping to me is when the cable goes out."
"I struggle with Christmas shopping, man. After about 30 seconds I get overwhelmed with choices and crowds."

I've basically been told: "Well, you're no FUN." Usually, it's with a playful, but poignant, condescending tone.

Maybe I should just play along and be polite in those moments.

But I like to do other fun things...that I think are socially acceptable.

I like to hear really good live music. And I have a fondness for really good live theatre. And going to see stand-up comics.
I like to spend time with my family doing pretty much anything...even "shopping." They shop. I sherpa the packages and make jokes. It works.
I like to attend any major sporting event...from college football to hockey games to baseball games. Oh, yeah. I enjoy snow skiing and inner tubing behind a ski boat on a lake.
I like to read. I like to write.

And, to me, those things are FUN.

But I want to remind everybody out there that we're all God's little snowflakes, okay? And let's try to enjoy the differences, shall we?

I mean...

...well... know what I mean.
Diner Football Predictions, Bowl Edition, Part II

Not a good start for The Diner as my prediction for yesterday's 1st bowl game went south in the last minute. Since when does Navy throw a 60-yard TD PASS in the last minute to cover the spread? What the heck?! We start at 0-1.

Today's Bowl Game:

Memphis (+3) vs. Florida-Atlantic in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Quick! Who can name Florida-Atlantic's mascot? That's one outside Florida. It's the Owls. Anyway, FAU has Howard Schnellenberger as their coach and it's their very first bowl appearance ever. Memphis plays in Conference USA, and while they've finished strong (4-1) and the Owls have struggled against bowl teams (1-4), I think Schnellenberger knows how to get a team ready for bowl games--he's never lost one, and at times has dismantled other teams when he has a month to prepare (see Louisville 34, Alabama 7 in the Fiesta). In case you were wondering, Memphis teams are known as the Tigers. Diner Prediction: Florida Atlantic 24, Memphis 14.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Yes...I Think That Would Be Best

In case you missed it, the publishing of Lynn Spears' parenting book has been postponed. "Who is Lynn Spears," you ask?

Mother of Jamie Lynn Spears...who, in case you didn't know, is the star of Nickelodeon's Zoey 101, and she became pregnant at age 16. The father is 19. This little nugget was her response, "It was a shock for both of us. So unexpected. I was in complete and total shock and so was he." Hmmm. It's basic birds-and-bees, sweetie.

Mother of Britney Spears...well, that's been plenty chronicled.

And, listen. I'm not against writing books from positions of weakness. I mean, there's lots of wisdom learned from making mistakes and communicating that to others (David taught Solomon the dangers of adultery, for example)...but you have to be on "the other side" of those things. It takes time to learn the lesson and glean wisdom. So, it's probably wise that Thomas Nelson Publishers delay this book a bit, huh?

But it did start my brain thinking about what other books we could see postponed...

No Shortcuts: The Complete Training Guide To Baseball Success & Career Longevity, by Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemons & Andy Pettite (with side notes authored by everyone listed in the Mitchell Report).
The Virtue of Chastity & Modesty by Tara Reid & Paris Hilton.
Why America Watches Singing and Dancing Contests More Than Anything Else by the programming directors of every major network.
Way Above Soundbites & Celebrity Endorsements: Bringing Deep Political Discourse Back To America by every 2008 presidential candidate.

...I could go on...

...but this is too good to keep all to myself.

Have at it, patrons. Have at it.
The Beauty of Podcasting

Listening to Rob Bell's Advent sermons yesterday while being a dancer's parent. You have to drive, and there's nothing you can do while they're dancing and the studio has enough background noise to keep you from reading. I wrote down a couple of thoughts he mentioned:

Quoting Cornell West (a Princeton professor/writer) in his discussion of joy: "The categories of optimism & pessimism don't exist for me. I am a prisoner of hope. I am going to die full of hope."

He also made an interesting point in discussing the contrast of fear & joy...that they can't co-exist. He said that fear focuses on future unknowns, while joy is about the known in the now.

In the second sermon I listened to (dance parents who drive that far stay 3 hours) he pointed out that the word "glory" is one that most Christians use all the time but can't define it. He used an excellent teaching technique to talk about how the Hebrew Scriptures (specifically Psalm 19--the heavens and earth declare His glory--and Exodus 33) use the word kavode in reference to God's glory. It means "heavy, weighted, significant." The idea is that significant people in their culture would be weighted down with heavy gold.

Then he talked about how Luke 2, in the Greek, used the word doksa...which means "consider, thought, opinion." In other words, the New Testament writer chose that word ("Glory to God in the highest...") as a way of saying that God's opinion/thought is the right way of seeing the way things are because of his significance.

In other words, giving glory to God is simply a reminder of our own smallness and His significance. It's keeping both Him and us in our proper place.

I'm telling you, if you're not getting Mars Hill Bible Church's podcasts off iTunes, you're missing out.
Diner Football Predictions, Bowl Edition, Part I

It's certainly the most wonderful time of the year for college football...the bowl season is upon us and I'm trying to improve on a wacky season's less-than-stunning sub .500 (and trying to out-perform last year's 18-14 bowl picks against the spread) and instead of one long edition of bowl games, I'll only be doing the ones played that day. See, the F.S.U. incident or Clemson's linebackers getting suspended matter and if you pick too far out then you could miss some important information.

So, here's today's on-ramp to the freeway of the bowl season!

Utah vs. Navy (+8) in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: According to Ron Burgandy, the meaning of "San Diego" has been lost to scholars...and the only thing good about this bowl is that you can think of all the references Will Farrell made as "Anchorman" regarding that particular city. However, they're playin' it, so I'm pickin' it. The bottom line is that Utah can score points, Navy's losing their coach to Georgia Tech and the Utes have had plenty of time to practice defending the option. So, while Navy is kind of endearing with their old-school ways of running the option (they aired it out against Army and threw all of 7 times), they don't have enough to keep up with Utah. Diner Prediction: Utah 35, Navy 24

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


There's some things I want to talk about.

Some thoughts I have about the American suburban Church.

Some thoughts I have about the influence of that Church on me.

Some things that I've noticed. Some things I've experienced. Some realities I've observed.

This would be a lousy place to do that.

This would be a lousy time of year to do that.

Suffice to say that spending much of your Bible-reading time in Jeremiah, spinning leisurely reading time in "Kurt Cobain's Journals" (thinking of making a run to Half-Price Books and ran across it), watching a movie about apocalyptic America will heighten your senses to things that have happened in your recent past and analyzing their causes and effects.

It'll have to wait until I die and you read my journals...if I haven't torched them all by then.
For The College Football Fan Who Has Everything

In what must be one of the bigger work-day time-wastes south of the Mason-Dixon Line...

ESPN's College Football Playoff Simulator is likely replacing solitaire and minesweeper for those 15 minutes between meetings.

Oddly, it won't let Auburn win it no matter where I put them in the bracket. It must be made by poll voters.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I love the spirit of this comic:

...that if you're into music, you should be watching The 7 Ages of Rock on VH-1 Classic. Last night's edition of the 7-part show was mesmerizing with the blues influence on the Rolling Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan, etc. Tonight's "art rock," which may not interest many of you with the Velvet Underground & David Bowie, et al., but check out the lineup. I cannot wait for Friday & Saturday's installments!
...that I think I should send a reminder to Tony Romo reminding him of the tuna/chicken episode of The Newlyweds. Really, Tony? You better get your head focused on the playoffs and lay off the eye-candy until mid-February.
...that Christmas really can't be a week away, can it?
...that I have zero motivation to finish any of the books in my stack and I wanted to start with a clean slate after Christmas.
...that there's something kind of fun about checking where those packages you ordered are in the shipping process. I think it's fun to see where they started and where they've checked in and out.
...that I'll miss D in the office every day. I mean, I think it's great where he & Penny are headed and what they'll be doing, but many of you have no idea how much fun he makes an office environment. He can play pranks with the best of them.
...that the double-secret probation list is growing and I don't like it. In case you didn't know, one month of non-blogging gets you on it, and at 9 months you get deleted forever. And, some pretty exciting things have happened to several folks on it that I think you owe us the common courtesy to update, people!
...that the holidays haven't been kind to my diet desires, but I recommitted yesterday with new goals and everything. So, don't worry.
...that it takes me forever to get out of the church these days. All these shops and such have opened a couple of blocks from us, and there's so much traffic that it can take a while to get in or out of there during peak times.
...sometimes, I really feel like I'm failing my children in more ways than I care to.
...that the new school calendar implemented this year has influenced our children's ministry and student ministry's calendars in subtle, but mildly irritating, ways.
...that I might actually have to mow my lawn. It's December.
...that I can't really get it through my brain the my wife and Kid1 are off to Paris in 8 days. I can't imagine how much fun a photographer and a painter will have in a whirlwind 4 days.
...the writer's strike is giving me all sorts of excuses to do other things. What if they never come back and all our lives are better for it?
...that I don't think I'm going to make a dent in my half-cord of firewood this year.
...that my study of Jeremiah is very enjoyable at present. I'm not sure why, but I feel a kindred spirit with the prophet. That can't be healthy.
...that I need to get on with my day.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Little Help?

I want to make 2008 a banner year for The Diner and am considering extensive remodeling. It'd be kind of helpful if some of you who know about code-writing for Blogger templates could help me out with a few how to put pictures in various spots (notably the heading and such) and color schemes and creative linking stuff. Just a general redecoration to make your Diner experience more enjoyable.


That'd be good.
Just Sitting Around Today...

...wondering what God is up to in my life.
...wondering what God is up to in the lives of a bunch of my close friends.
...wondering what God is up to in the life of my church.
...wondering what God is up to in our little community.
...wondering what God is up to in my state, country and world.

Any insights?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Proud Dad Alert

Kid1 art school project this time.

There were metal cutters, blowtorches, those cool welding goggles. The whole bit. The lessons this six weeks are involve sculpture, and my daughter took some scraps of metal, some time and had her brain come up with a jellyfish.

And here it is...sitting on our kitchen counter as some minor repairs need to be done to it and with my poor photography skills on full display. But, man, when you've got a proud dad alert going you can't always wait for the pro to shoot it. So, please look past my poor photography skills (I thought I was doing well adding an apple for scale, but I'm sure I'll hear about it).

And...this is "normal" in my home.

I lead a charmed life.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The All-Nighter

Another study, this one from St. Lawrence University, says that when you're in college, pulling an "all-nighter" really doesn't help much. In effect, students who never stayed up all night to get the work done or study for a test have an overall GPA of 3.1. Students who did have an average GPA of 2.9.

Suffice to say I fit squarely in those who did pull all-nighters.

Anyway, the theory is that if you deprive yourself of sleep your body doesn't work at maximum efficiency...including brain activity. Imagine that!

Also discovered were the reasons college kids have to pull all-nighters and have poor sleep habits: Excessive caffeine intake and poor time management. Imagine that! Of course, some students were "night owls" according to their circadian rhythms so they did a little better at working at night, but for the most part, those who weren't disciplined in their sleep habits lost a couple of tenths on their GPA.

While the findings weren't all that enlightening I began to wonder what I could do to get a better night's sleep.

First of all, I've been under the impression that I don't need the recommended 8 hours per night that I've been told is optimum. Generally, I get about 6 and feel like that's okay...but maybe it isn't. Maybe my brain function would get better if I got 8 hours consistently over the long haul.

I know I sleep better when I only drink two cups of coffee per day and absolutely NO caffeine after lunchtime. I wonder if I went full-blown caffeine-free if it'd get better.

I know that when I eat healthier I sleep better. Same for when I consistently exercise.

I know I'd sleep better if that goofy dog didn't pile up in the bed and feel like sleeping with the pack meant right up against me.

I wonder if our neighbors in other parts of the world aren't on to something with that whole siesta idea. Maybe if we were all like kindergarten kids and turned the lights off right after lunch we could just grab 45 minutes of snooze time. Of course, we'd have to get our employers to buy mats and CD's of ocean sounds.

And today, I'm not really worried about the college kids so much. I mean, who among us didn't fire off the No-Doz or Jolt Cola back in the day to get that paper typed (remember typewriters?)? Who didn't close the club down listening to that really good band or stay too long at the lake on the weekend and drive all night to make the 8AM class on Monday? They're young. They can take it. Even if they have a GPA in the high-C range.

What would we have to change in order to grab 8 good hours of sleep nightly? Could it be done if we really wanted to? What would be the "upside?" Downside?

Something to think about...and I may go have a nap after I think about it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We Didn't Start The Fire

These are respected folks in our community, man.

They are what most Americans would term "successful" when it comes to their occupations. They enjoy what they do for a living, for the most part. They are happily married, for the most part. They have nice homes in our 'burb's surrounding the city, for the most part. They volunteer at our church, serving in various roles as deacons (who handle the business end of the, logistics, facility upkeep, etc.), elders (who set the course for the ministry...the vision and the goals, etc.) and our staff--pastors, directors & administrators (who do the legwork of the ministry...the day-in, day-out care of people as they walk with Christ).

And, like many organizations, we have a staff Christmas party.

It's pretty typical of most organizations' Christmas parties. We have a nice meal together--spouses included--and laugh a lot. There's some entertainment and singing of some Christmas carols. Pretty much a good time had by a group of respected folks in our community who work together in ministry at a church.


...the topic turned to fires.

And, how, as kids, we were, at some point, setting fire to something we shouldn't be setting fire to or some fireworks incident that went awry.

So, here we are at this Christmas dinner together with respected folks in our community who work together in a ministry at a church, telling stories about...

...G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu Grip getting his Kung Fu Grip blown off with a firecracker (or another platoon of Joes who threw themselves on"grenades" save the rest of their platoon.
...bottle rockets tied to either Matchbox cars or balsa wood glider airplanes.
...mounds of toilet paper above the waterline in the toilet set on fire and flushed right before it got out of control.
...G.I. Joe, when he had real hair, having that hair set on fire and thrown off the roof--which allowed for his parachute to open and actually re-create the ejector seat right before his plane was shot down.
...tying knots in them and setting plastic bags on fire in such a way that it would make a great sound effect when it hit each knot.

...and it went on like this as each person entered the room. Everybody--wives included--joined in. It didn't take much provocation, either. "What're ya'll laughing at?"

"(Staff wife) was just telling us a story about how they tied knots in these plastic bags and set fire to them..."

"That reminds me of when we got these M-80's..."

And so it went.

Until the caroling started. And that was fun, too.

And maybe this should've been one of those "what's said at the Christmas party stays at the Christmas party" things.

But I have to say it was pretty much a surreal laugh riot to see these respected folks in our community who work together in a ministry at a church, telling stories about fires. Stuff they'd pounce on their children to cease and desist if they caught them doing it such.

So, what say we keep the party going, patrons?

(you enter) "What's so funny?"

"We were just talking about how we tied bottle rockets to Matchbox cars with rubber bands and..."

(you begin) "Hey! That reminds me of the time when..."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

T-Shirt Ideas

Looking for Christmas gifts yesterday, I came across a web site I'd seen before: 80'sTees.Com and their bit is that they'll put lines from movies on T-Shirts or things that might make other folks chuckle when they read them. For example, one of the shirts they have for sale simply reads, "Nobody puts baby in a corner." Every good child of the 80's should immediately get that reference. They also have the logo from the Karate Kid's karate tournament (The All-Valley Karate Championships, sponsored by the rival dojo "Cobra Kai") and all sorts of good stuff.

Included are shirts that profess love for Jake Ryan, a table-sized "Major Award" lamp from "A Christmas Story" and pretty much an entire line of Caddyshack products (my favorite is a t-shirt that has a high-powered/scoped rifle silhouette with the words, "licensed to kill the government of the United Nations"). This site is one wonderful time-waste.

But, since my taste in movies/television/books is more off the beaten path (the idea of a Top Gun shirt ain't doin' it for me) I decided to open The Diner for all sorts of quotes that, if you saw it on a t-shirt, you'd immediately purchase said shirt for $20 as well as put it in the t-shirt rotation. Those are rules. No exceptions. $20 bucks. Addition to the rotation.

So, my shirts would include:

One with a photo of Francis Schaeffer on it that includes, “Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.”

One with Martin Luther on it that says, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me."

A quote from Douglas Coupland, “Your fear of change is too clearly visible in your eyes."

A quote from Kurt Vonnegut, "I can have oodles of charm when I want to." I also might want one that reads, "I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center." but that one's kind of long.

And, from movies:

"Is the fact that I'm tryin' to do it for ya doin' it for ya?" (Bottle Rocket)
"He's out. And you're out, too. And I dont think I'm in, either. No gang!" (Bottle Rocket)
"Lord loves a workin' man; don't trust whitey; see a doctor and get rid of it. " (The Jerk)
"I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is." (Zoolander)
"Just when I thought you couldn't get any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!" (Dumb & Dumber)

And, from television:

"It's very hard for us, it the golden ghetto, to understand that kind of need." (Beverly Hills, 90210, Brenda's English teacher said it!)
"A device is yet to be invented that will measure my indifference to this remark." (Hawkeye Pierce, in M*A*S*H*)
"Ahh. But where did the lighter fluid come from?" (Arrested Development)

And, that's enough from me...stick to the rules, and what would you want on a t-shirt?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Merry Phisch-Mas!

My friend Retrophisch put this up on his blog and encouraged others to jump in and since today it's supposed to be very Christmassy as far as weather goes here in Big D, I thought I'd try to pounce on the Christmas vibe a bit. Feel free to copy the questions and respond on your own blogs, too!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

I dig the nog, man...but only in small doses. I'll probably have one cup once a week at some sort of organized Christmas function and I'll like them, but any more than that and I get tired of it pretty quickly.

2. Does Santa wrap the presents or just sit them under the tree?

We have a mixture. Some of them are out in plain sight...usually the ones that require some sort of assembly are visible. But mostly they aren't under the tree, and Kid1 & Kid2 have their own "area." Santa rarely has anything for the grownups, but the stockings are always filled with surprises for them.

3. Colored or white lights?

White, all the way. And the more rows and lines...the better.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

Not even the fake stuff. I think it creates more awkward situations than it's worth!

5. When do you put your decorations up?

The Friday after Thanksgiving, no questions asked. It usually involves two trips to Target for bulk replacement bulbs and maybe a new extension cord or set of net lights for the bushes that goes on the fritz after everything's up.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?

I can never get enough turkey man. And white meat at that.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?

Going to Bessemer to spend Christmas Eve with my dad's family. My grandparents lived in this house that only had four rooms (and later added a room just so we could all fit in there after marriages and great-grandchildren came along) and it was full of energy, huge southern cooking, stockings (until you got married), gift exchanges and the same old jokes and stuff every year. My cousin Rob and his dad--my Uncle Jimmy--would sing all sorts of songs on the ukelele. It was everything a Christmas Eve should be: A loud, laughing, raucous celebration.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

The first time I ever read "The Polar Express." Still the best explanation of the truth about Santa I've come across. That and the letter to Virginia that says, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

We let Kid1 & Kid2...usually some pajamas or something they can wear or use right then and there.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Our tree is in the corner and I get to decorate the back of the tree. We pull out the ornament box that has as many of the girls' ornaments they made at church Christmas craft things that are still together as well as ornaments we've gotten that help us remember something we did each year. My favorite ornaments are the Santa wearing Dallas Cowboys clothes that I got as a departing gift from the sports memorabilia store that put me through seminary, the ones from Pike's Peak, Rockefeller Center, Disney and a Dallas Theological Seminary ornament I got with a bookstore gift certificate that came in my graduation packet.

The ladies in my house decorate what everybody else sees.

11. Snow: Love it or hate it?

Love it in places where it's supposed to be, like Colorado, (one time it snowed on us at Family Camp in June) but I dislike driving in it anytime.

12. Can you ice skate?

Good enough...I can go backwards a little bit, too.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

I've had some really good ones. Some were great because of the thought (like my girls getting me a hammock) and others were memorable because they gave my family lifetime memories (like my higher-order life-living sister gave us a trip to Disney). My mom gave me a trips to watch Auburn in bowl games like the Cotton in 86 and the Citrus in 87...and that last one was where I kissed Tracy for the first time, so I gotta say that gift had the longest lasting repercussions!

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?

It's often hard for me to escape the reality that the God of the Universe became flesh and dwelt among us. Occupational hazard. At some point each season that idea manifests itself in a very tangible way to me...I can't predict when or how, but it just does.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?

We don't really eat desserts. I usually eat a leftover turkey sandwich for dessert...but my wife makes a mean banana pudding.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

The thing I like most is that we have these stocking hangers that sit on the mantle above the fireplace that are individual letters spelling out NOEL. At some point, one of my children will rearrange them to spell LEON. Right now, they read OLEN. We've also enjoyed going to our church's Christmas Eve services together. It's probably the only time all year we can actually all go and sit together as a family.

17. What is on top of your tree?

A gold star.

18. Which do you like best giving or receiving?

I definitely like giving the best. I like to see my girls open their presents. For some reason, I always feel awkward when opening gifts and I guess it's just the dad in me that prefers spending money on my family rather than have them spend money on me.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?

Without question: "Arise, Shine" by Lost and Found. I absolutely love that song. It's a shame most folks have never heard it.

20. Do you like candy canes?

Not so much...although the ones in fruity flavors can be pretty good.

21. What is your favorite Christmas movie?

I go through a rotation. I kick off the season with "Christmas Vacation" and end it with "A Christmas Story." But I still have to say "It's A Wonderful Life." It's stood up incredibly well over time...and I'd imagine you could recreate the movie with better effects and sets and such, but you'll never recreate the chemistry between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Wow. Also, must sees: The Grinch & Charlie Brown Christmas cartoons.

There you have it, patrons! I'll check your blogs to see your answers...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Song Really Does Remain The Same

I make no claim to anything other than what any other guy born in Generation X does when it comes to Led Zeppelin: I only got into them out of obligation. See...I missed them in their heyday. I mean, not many 8 year-olds get the Led out. And when you're 14 you don't really understand what the deal is when a band stops playing because their drummer died. But when you're 14 you don't really understand exactly how someone would die from choking on their own vomit, either, despite how much 14 year-old guys will tell the story with excited/lurid grotesqueness.

But, like all high school guys, their music became a soundtrack of sorts in our lives. Teenage guys can't help it. It just does.

Being a kid in Alabama, I was highly skeptical of the guy that came to our church and played "Stairway to Heaven" backwards and suggested some sort of Satanic lyrics to which everyone in the room but me heard (and the parents seemed to have especially gifted hearing) and his story of how it was written in 17 minutes after the band had a seance.

Being a kid in Alabama, I loved the scene in the movie "The Last American Virgin" when the protagonist is told to play "Led Zeppelin IV, side 1" on his date to get her in the mood. The song he played was "Kashmir" which we all immediately knew was distinctly NOT on Led Zeppelin IV, but rather on the double album "Physical Graffiti." The funny part to us is that we all knew girls didn't really like Led Zeppelin and such a ploy would fail miserably (yet we all agreed that Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" would put her in a romantic mood. Hmmm.). Zep was guy territory...much like professional wrestling and The Three Stooges.

Being a kid in Alabama, our high school had an "air guitar show" to raise toys for Toys for Tots--I think the policemen and firemen in our area did that--at Christmas time. The couple of years I remember that amid all the popular bands at the time (think Quiet Riot & Def Leppard & Van Halen) there was always a Led Zeppelin entry. My senior year I was asked to be Robert Plant but I had to decline as I was going to be the emcee. I helped them choose their song, which was "Whole Lotta Love" which was the logical choice because you really got two songs since the grown ups in charge didn't know that the song "Living Loving Maid" which follows on the album was a separate song due to the abnormally short pause between tracks.

Being a kid in Alabama, I worked the midnight movies at the local theatre. "The Song Remains The Same" was a semi-documentary of a concert they played. It was almost 80% full every Friday and Saturday night. I remember staying longer in that theatre as I made sure nobody had their feet on the seats to listen to various songs. Apparently, the crowd was unaware of the satanic influence of "Stairway" because they sang along with all the words. Really. In 1984.

As a college kid in Alabama, during initiation for the fraternity pledges, it was my job to keep them up all night. While they were cleaning & mopping, I had them sing the introductory howl to "Immigrant Song" in unison. "AHaaaaaaAH...AHaaaaaaAH."

Being adults in Alabama, we all laughed when we saw the sign in the guitar store that Wayne Campbell (think Wayne & Garth in the movie "Wayne's World") frequented that said "Absolutely NO Stairway." We all laughed because we all learned to play that song soon in our guitar days at college. Everybody recognized it, no matter how poorly you played it.

And, yesterday, in London, they reunited as Led Zeppelin (there were some other attempts to play Led Zeppelin songs at things like Live Aid and an Atlantic Records celebration as well as "unplugged" sessions with two of the members) for the first time in 35 years. They had their departed drummer's son playing drums. All accounts of the show, of which tickets were going for as much as $2,000, said it was a masterful performance.

And, yesterday, when they started playing "Good Times, Bad Times" (which they rarely played live) with it's guitar intro and opening lyrics, "In the days of my youth/I was told what it was to be a man/Now Ive reached the age/Ive tried to do all those things the best I can./No matter how I try/I find my way to do the same old jam." I think I might've paid that much to have been there in that moment.

If they, as expected, use this as an opportunity to tour, and being a grownup in Dallas, I might save my money and go as high as $500 to see it if they ever come around. And, I'd save extra to get a t-shirt.

Monday, December 10, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that it's pretty cool that my friend Melissa finished yesterday's Dallas White Rock Marathon in 4 hours, 18 minutes!
...that it's pretty cool that my friend Jonathan finished the same race in 5 hours exactly!
...that I'm giving serious consideration to running in next year's race. For some reason, finishing a marathon appeals to me.
...that I can't believe that nearly 5 billion dollars goes unused each year from gift-card purchases. If I have a gift card given to me as a gift it lasts all of about 8 minutes.
...that I'm really starting to believe that Tony Romo is one of those guys that is just a winner. He just finds ways to win games and some athletes can just find ways to get it done when the game is on the line. And, yes, he creates his own luck.
...that I have three books in my book stack to try and finish before Christmas.
...that I have about 8 books on my Christmas list.
...that it's kind of a bummer when one of your kids only wants one thing for Christmas, and that one thing is also the one thing that a lot of other people want for Christmas, and that one thing is sold out for sure and the only way to get it is to way overpay on eBay--which ain't happenin' at those prices.
...that I sat in front of a group of high schoolers last night for the first time in months and I was surprised at how quickly I could go back into that style of teaching. Not many people know that, in a teacher's preparation & delivery, the audience at hand is widely considered. It really was like riding a bike.
...that my wife has been working really hard at her business lately, and it's cool to see her enjoying it. I think when you work in an area where you really enjoy what you do (understanding that every job has elements we don't like) that it makes life easier on everyone around you.
...that Kid2 is taking some finals this week, and in her type of education, finals weigh heavily on the final grade. In most middle schooling options, that isn't the case. So, she can work at her own pace, which is the upside. But one test can change everything, which is the downside.
...that the drizzle and cold yesterday & today is doing my Grinch-heart some good.
...that my favorite Christmas decoration in our house is this moose cookie-jar, and I accidentally knocked his head off a couple of weeks ago--knicking one of his antlers. Now, it's all I see when I look at that cookie jar: One noticeable paint chip & crack. Most people wouldn't catch it at a cursory glance.
...that I'm going to bring back the term "sneakers" in reference to athletic shoes. I don't know why or how they were called "sneakers" but I used it last night in front of a group of teens and they couldn't believe it. So, everybody, let's start calling them sneakers and just see what happens.
...that the holidays really bust up my diet discipline as people just start dropping off all sorts of goodies at the office and it's kinda difficult to walk by them and not pick anything up. Man, everything is more or less bite-sized, which makes it more difficult.
...that I've noticed when you talk to computer I.T. workers, and mention the word "Macintosh" they give an almost rehearsed litany of how inferior the product is. Despite their mumbo jumbo, what I hear them saying is, "We know it's easier and better for the average joe, but we have to protect our job security with all this Windows certification stuff we have." Most computer users are average joes who will be much happier in a Mac world.
...that I can't believe I just had little mini-rant about something computer related AND included a product endorsement.
...that when something like that happens I need to get on with my day.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's Saturday Night. It's 7:00PM. Do You Know Where Your Pastor Is?

Really, what he needed was a key.

Oh, yeah. And the alarm code.

Turns out that our church building is locked and the alarm set after the cleaning service leaves on Saturday nights. Turns out that I have both a key and the alarm code.

He loves her. And he had reason to believe that the feeling was reciprocated. So much so that he chose to buy her a diamond and ask her a question of life-changing significance: "Will you marry me?"

Now, even to this minute I'm not exactly sure what his motivation was to use our church building to ask such a significant question. I've gathered that part of his preliminary remarks to her let her in on his rationale. I don't know if I'll hear about it or not and I'm not sure it matters if I don't. What I know is that our church building was part of the plan...right after such things as securing her parent's blessing and actually buying the ring.

And what I also know is that since I have both the key and the alarm code I'd need to be there at 6PM. Sharp. I was.

I arrived with a couple of others who were in on the plan. They were assisting with some lighting and some pyrotechnic work that might be needed should she say "yes" in response to such a significant question. While I don't know of very many guys who would ask such a significant question if they anticipated a negative response, there's usually a small fear in the back of a guy's brain that she might say "no." The best guess I have as to why that small fear is there is that I think most guys really can't believe a girl like her would marry a guy like him. We know ourselves and we know how great the girl is. (This is why he's walking around today truly believing he's the most blessed guy on the planet.) Hence, small fear. Hence, the guy let us in on a potential change in the evening's plans if the night didn't go as anticipated. We all knew it would go as planned so we didn't take it seriously.

Anyway, back to the key and the alarm code. I let them in and the worker bees did their thing.

A phone call was made to get her to the church unsuspecting, and, since I didn't have anything else to do, I waited in the field with the pyrotechnicians and made jokes with them while we waited.

The plan went off without a hitch. She did indeed say, "yes" in response to a very significant question. Three of the four pyrotechnic displays went off without a hitch, also. The fourth did go off after a minor & quickly corrected hitch.

And the happy couple was off to a celebratory dinner with family and friends.

And, afterward, while I was putting to use the key and code for the final time of the night, I started thinking...

...I've known those worker bees for 10 years.
...I've performed part of the wedding ceremony for two of them.
...I've been on mission trips with them. Several, in fact.
...I've known the soon-to-be groom through an association with the Christian camp he worked for.
...I've watched the soon-to-be bride grow spiritually from middle school to where she is now.
...I've been watching the parents of one worker bee and the soon-to-be bride like hawks for nearly a decade now. They do the parenting thing to the degree they might want to write a book about the subject.
...I've watched the worker bees and the couple go on ski trips together, mission trips together, camp together, sit in church together, hang out at each other's houses together, go on double & triple & quadruple dates together, and the whole thing.

They might've just needed a key and an alarm code. And now they'll start taking active steps toward planning a ceremony that will start their lives together.

And I might've just needed a reminder that this was one more step in doing life together. Which is precisely why a 41 year-old grown-up will sit in a field with two friends half his age (and still doesn't trust with lighters) on a chilly Saturday night waiting for a signal that she'd said "yes" in response to a significant question.

Life together. With people you love.

Really love.

And I have no idea why most pastors don't stick around churches for long periods of time. This is the stuff they miss out on. And, really, it's the best of the stuff.

Life together. With people you love.

Really love.