Friday, November 30, 2007

Christians in Culture, Continued

Kid1 gave me a detailed run-down of her day at school yesterday. She attends an "arts magnet" high school in Dallas, which draws all sorts of kids from the DFW area...and combine that with the type of kids who would want to attend an arts-focused high school. Throw in a mix of teachers that would want to teach and an arts-focused high school and you have a Heinz 57 of belief systems (a.k.a. "worldviews"--or ways of looking at the world). They're all over the map...which I guess is going to be found in any high school--but at their school even folks who profess to be Christians are in an obvious minority. Again, that could be true at any public high school (which might be a topic for another day), but my impression from her is that it's a lot different than when she attended the local high school.

Anyway, I'm not free to give you details of the issue, but suffice to say it's pretty typical high school stuff. That much I know, as it's universal to high school experiences by everybody everywhere. But Kid1 was in a situation where her advice was asked for and she let me in on the details of what she said. While she did her best to avoid using terms Christian vocabulary, the gist of the advice was from her framework.

How can you show the most love for the other person?
How can you serve the other person?
How can you show integrity?

Stuff like that. Kid1's advice was taken under advisement and duly noted...I'm sure to be thrown in the hopper with the other advice thrown around the lunch table. Adults are no different, really. We just do the same thing over the phone or in small groups huddled at coffee shops or whatever. High school is hard. So is adulthood.

But, what got me was Kid1's observation that the others around the table didn't think the same way she thought. Not have the same ideas as her...that's not what she meant at all. But rather that they seemed to be using entirely different criteria to make decisions.

Kid1 noted that she was focused on love and service. Others at the table gave advice that was was best for themselves. Or their feelings. Or their past experiences. Or stuff they'd learned from their parents. Or some book they'd read. Not all of it was bad advice, either, Kid1 noted. It was just coming from a different place. And her insights were given consideration, it's just that the reaction was more of a "that's really different and I'm not sure that'd work and I'll have to think about that some more" vibe.

Kid1 mentioned that she could bring up stuff in her Bible study group and they'd all be generally coming from the same worldview and they'd understand her. "I'm really glad I have my Bible study group last night, Dad...and I'm glad that I can hang out with some of them tonight. Sometimes, after being surrounded by that stuff all day, I just enjoy being around friends that at least understand where I'm coming from."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to glorify Kid1 as some spiritual giant. For all I really know, she's pumping sunshine to Dad so she can get out of the house using the terms and type of conversation that she knows her PastorDad would eat up and keep him off her bak. That'd be a bit out of character for her to this point. But hey...teenagers, man. 'Nuff said.

My point was that she was engaged with culture. Her culture. Loving her friends with no other agenda. Not to "evangelize" or "lead them to Christ." Just being in the mix of folks who don't know Christ and being who she is. But not backing off what she believes to be true, either.

And she was also engaged with her sisters in Christ and her small group leaders (who she bragged on). They were a place where she felt "gotten." Understood. Supported. Reminded that she isn't crazy. Reminded that she has a family with a bunch of other aliens and strangers.

So I thought of our discussion and was reminded of a quote from Bill Hybels who was addressing a bunch of youth leaders before he became Christian Spokesperson Bill Hybels (which isn't all's just that this was 20 years ago): "If we spend all our time with Christians only, we'll yawn at movements of God we ought to be awed by."

And I thought that the converse is true as well...if we spend all our time with those not of our faith, we'll forget our uniqueness and place.

And there's a balance there...


...and I was kinda hoping for more discussion in the comments on this stuff.

As you can tell, I'm really intrigued by it at the moment.

Pour a cup of coffee and stay a while today, okay?
Friday Football Picks, Final Edition (except for the bowl games)

Well, my big push to get back to .500 didn't go so well, winning 8 and losing 9. This takes my season record to 51 wins, 59 losses and 3 ties. Frankly, I expected a bit more of myself, but I've been enjoying Auburn's 6th straight win over Alabama so much that it's hard to get the smile off my face.

But, today, I'll get my game face on for one last deal, with conference championships and other big rivalry games, here we go:

Pittsburgh (+28.5) at West Virginia: Did anybody else see what the Mountaineers did to UConn--who isn't too shabby on defense--now that they sniff the BCS championship game. Morgantown will be a vicious atmosphere and I don't care about the cliche that you throw records out the window in a rivalry game. This one won't be close and Pat White, who is fantastic, will lead a rout. Diner Prediction: West Virginia 56, Pittsburgh 24

LSU vs. Tennessee (+7.5) in Atlanta: The SEC championship game, which LSU should win going away. But I think the Tigers have plenty of distraction with Les Miles' infatuation with Michigan, and they haven't played their best ball as of late. I'd like to put them on upset alert, but I do think they'll manage to squeak out a win based on talent alone and the reality that this is the one thing that could soothe their lost national championship hopes...being the best team in the best conference. Diner Prediction: L.S.U. 27, Tennessee 21.

Virginia Tech vs. Boston College (+4.5) in Jacksonville: The ACC championship game, and the Hokies dominated BC at home, only to lose a 10 point lead in a driving rain on a fluke. The Hokies will be ACC champions because they know they lost a game they shouldn't have and want to prove it on a big stage. Diner Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Boston College 17.

UCLA (+20) vs. U.S.C. at Pasadena: Right now, the best championship game might be USC vs. Georgia. I don't think any two teams are playing better football than those two teams. And USC will have their way with the Bruins, despite the reality that UCLA, in theory, could win the PAC-10. Diner Prediction: U.S.C. 45, U.C.L.A. 21.

Arizona (+6.5) at Arizona State: I like the underdog nature of the Wildcats, but Arizona State is a good team and I think any talk of an upset is based on how well U.S.C. took them to the woodshed. I like the Sun Devils at home to cover. Diner Prediction: Arizona State 35, Arizona 28.

Army (+14) vs. Navy at Baltimore: I cannot believe how some ESPN talking heads call this the best rivalry game in college sports. Sure, there's some cool stuff before the game, but let's be honest: These teams haven't been serious football contenders since color film came into vogue. I don't like this game being played in Baltimore, either. Philly is the place it should be played. There isn't much to see beyond the cool cadet entrances and the commanders saluting and shaking hands before the coin toss. Diner Prediction: Navy 31, Army 14.

Washington (+14) vs. Hawaii: Ty Willingham on the hotseat? I think this guy's a great coach and I firmly believe that skews my views on the Huskies. I picked them to win last week in the Apple Cup and they gave up 35 points to a middling Wazzu team. Colt Brennan will destroy that secondary. Diner Prediction: Hawaii 38, Washington 21.

California at Stanford (+13): I actually think this is one rivalry game where you CAN throw out the records and they get after each a PAC-10 kind of finesse way, not an SEC smash-mouth kind of way. Stanford has been up and down, and Cal has been pretty good for much of the season, but I think Jim Harbaugh will get them motivated and emotional, which will keep it close. The Cal Bears will win, though. Diner Prediction: California 27, Stanford 17.

Oklahoma vs. Missouri (+3) at San Antonio: The Big-12 championship. Lemme get this straight: The number 1 team in the country is an underdog to OU? Mizzou hasn't been on the big stage before and OU (wrongly) gets love from the press enough to get to the big stage if they remotely show promise (re: 2004). And, as much whining as Mizzou has done this week about how they "gave" OU the last game and how they aren't getting "respect" from the national media, it only shows they aren't ready for prime time. And, as much as I hate the thought of it, this will send Ohio State to the national championship game. Diner Prediction: Oklahoma 28, Missouri 21.

Your picks?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gold Stars To The Five Commenters From Yesterday...

...but we're not finished here, folks.

The entry from yesterday is still buzzing around in my brain, and I found it interesting that a pastor in Portland (that I met last year on my vacation), Bob Hyatt is engaging his blog community on a topic along the same lines as mine. And this was AFTER I wrote my entry.

He quoted Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City:

"This strategy (if we must call it that) will work. In every culture, some Christian conduct will be offensive and attacked, but some will be moving and attractive to outsiders. "Though they accuse you … they may see your good deeds and glorify God" (1 Peter 2:12, see also Matt. 5:16). In the Middle East, a Christian sexual ethic makes sense, but not "turn the other cheek." In secular New York City, the Christian teaching on forgiveness and reconciliation is welcome, but our sexual ethics seem horribly regressive. Every non-Christian culture has enough common grace to recognize some of the work of God in the world and to be attracted to it, even while Christianity in other ways will offend the prevailing culture.

So we must neither just denounce the culture nor adopt it. We must sacrificially serve the common good, expecting to be constantly misunderstood and sometimes attacked. We must walk in the steps of the one who laid down his life for his opponents."

You can read the rest of that article here, from Christianity Today's May archives

Grab a cup of coffee and mull yesterday's entry and today's quotes, folks. The Diner's going to stay on this theme for a bit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Tryptophan Has Worn Off And The Turkey Coma Is Over...So Let's Have A Highbrow Roundtable!

It was a throwaway line during a Q&A session with author Philip Yancey.

Let me back up: A couple of years ago, our staff attended a breakfast with the author who was in Dallas promoting a new book (which, by the way, turned out to be his worst effort, IMHO). Said breakfast was underpromoted which meant we got an abundance of swag and a lot more personal attention during the Q&A session. Someone in the audience noted that the author got to see a lot of churches on his book tours and wondered if he'd made any general observations regarding the state of the church in America.

Prefacing a comparatively lengthy discourse, the author said something along the lines of, "I think the biggest difference in the church in America these days is that, while my generation grew up in a Galatian church, this generation faces challenges in growing up in a Corinthian church." Now, that's from memory because, while I remember writing it down I have no idea where I put that scrap of paper.

And that throwaway line stayed on my brain's hard drive until a recent class I'm teaching asked me a similar question. Part of my answer began with, "I heard Philip Yancey say once that..." Granted, I didn't take the idea for myself, but I did sorta "big time" my class by name-dropping.

Anyway, for those who don't keep track of such things off the top of your head, a major issue Paul addressed in his letter to the churches in Galatia was--in simplest terms--the mixing of "law" and "grace." Or, more simply, "good works" and the role they play in the life of a believer. A major theme in Paul's letter to the church in Corinth was that they were allowing the culture to have too much influence in the life of the church.

What Mr. Yancey was implying was that the church, when he was growing up, struggled with the reality that it was very important to look good in the eyes of others rather than transforming your life inwardly and letting that reality show. Really, it was behavior management rather than a heart revolution. He said that the church that our kids are growing up in struggles with the outside influences causing compromise within our hearts and minds.

Now, get your coffee ready, okay, patrons?

What I'd like to do right off the bat is concede that you may or may not agree with Mr. Yancey. It's certainly open for debate. But for our purposes here, let's assume he's correct in his least on a general level.

And I'd like for you to chat about your observations from your church growing up and what you see going on in our churches right now regarding influence.

Don't worry, I'll weigh in tomorrow.

But it's open forum here at The Diner today.

*turns sign around that says, "Yes, We're Open!" Sets chairs underneath the table & brews the coffee. Rubs his hands together like he's trying to start a fire with sticks, giggles with excitement, and waits on customers*

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

I know.

I know.

I just did this a couple of days ago, but I still have a lot of little things going on in my brain rather than one large issue going on in my brain. So, here we go.

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that can't really explain how bad that commercial for Dr. Pepper is where the heavy-set lineman scores a touchdown and dances (eventually flipping off the goalpost and doing the Worm) was the first time and now it gets worse every time I watch it.
...that it'd be difficult to explain why anyone would purchase plain old Cheerios when the Honey-Nut version is vastly superior.
...I can't figure out who these kids are that aren't getting enough sun and exercise to the point that the soft-bone disease "ricketts" is making a comeback. Every kid under the age of 10 I know is constantly being shuttled to some sort of practice every single day of their lives.
...I'm in the lull time of reading where I the stack is low but my family loads me up with books for Christmas.
...that I asked our congregation for their "review" of our 5 O'Clock Worship services and I'm amazed at how many of them being with, "I don't attend that one because I heard that (insert something that isn't fact here)..." Really?
...that no one seems to have noticed our Dallas Stars are on a six-game winning steak and looking pretty good in the process. must be hard to be a coach at any level these days. Sure, coaches in professional sports and big-time colleges are very well compensated and know that the pressure to win comes with the territory. But I'm concerned that high school coaches--at least in our area--have too much pressure to win rather than teaching the disciplines of sport to young teenagers. Sure, the product local fans get to watch is vastly superior to what high-school sports were 25 years ago, but the goals don't seem to be. must be hard to be a teacher these days. What I see in parents is a failure to trust the teacher as a classroom authority. Even if the teacher is bad and unfair, the parents need to butt out and understand that respect for authority, following chain-of-command and letting kids learn to respectfully fight their own battles are infinitely more important than little Johnny's moving from a 79 to a 91 if the parent is the one "fixing" it.
...all of us as parents need that gentle reminder that our kids watch us like hawks to see if the message we teach lines up with the life we live. Especially in the little things.
...I really haven't found much Christmas music that I like, and most of what I do like, no one else seems to like. Of course, this isn't really any different than in my "normal" musical choices, either.
...I'm thinking more and more about teaching that "film and theology" class over the summer. The more I think about taking some movie and critically analyzing it against Scripture, and then drawing practical applications from the findings, the more excited I get about it. I'm thinking about "Stranger than Fiction," but if Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is on DVD by then, I might do a summer series on child-like faith. This should play right into my Peter Pan Syndrome. Any other suggestions?
...that it's been the year of maintaining the house. Our house is at that age. Fences replaced. Bathrooms remodeled out of necessity. New air conditioner-heating unit. New dishwasher. The list goes on, too. But we'd like to eventually get around to upgrading like with a deck/patio with an enclosed room as part of it, hardwood floors (or maybe stained concrete like in our kitchen), new landscaping, etc. But what I wouldn't do for loft-living in FloMo if it were remotely affordable. If it were to ever exist.
...Kid1 didn't have to have new tires after all. It was just a different leak around the valve stem. It's pretty cool to have the local tire places patch tires for free, I can tell you. Her airport run went smoothly, although she didn't check the website before leaving for a little flight delay, trusting her Google text-messaging to have the most recent updates. Lesson learned there.
...I often wonder how serious folks are when they say that they trust Scripture, but oddly, seem to let doctors and lawyers and professors have more sway and authority when it comes to "real life" decision-making.
...that it never gets old to me that my children rearrange the stocking-holders over the mantle that are supposed to say "NOEL" to read "LEON." It's even funnier when we forget to "fix" it and someone walks in and notices, but isn't sure if they should say anything or not.
...that watching Kid2 decorate the tree this year was funny because she started out quietly putting all the ornaments that represented Kid1 on the back of the tree until she couldn't contain herself and brought it up. There seems to be a line of thought now that the kids are older to go more thematic on the tree and get new ornaments that match and look good, but I can't be serious about that yet. The old ornaments that kids made from puzzle pieces and pictures in Sunday School or the one ornament we got each year that represented something about that particular year are more meaningful to me.
...that I'm actually itching to get back to work.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Still Smiling!

Auburn 17, Alabama 10. Six straight years! Hehehehehehe.

photo courtesy

No cleaning out the garage.

Going to work out.

Going to read.

Going to nap.

Maybe going to see a movie. Most likely not.

Just enjoying the last day of vacation...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that it might get old with Auburn beating Alabama six straight times in the Iron Bowl (that's never happened in Auburn's history), but, well, I was wrong. It's just as much fun as it ever was! In fact, here is a running counter that counts the exact length of time it's been since the Evil Empire has beaten us!
...that it's so cool that my friend Keila was in the newspaper today in the "metro" section as our community's "Good Kid" for the week. In my opinion, she's been a "Good Kid" for much longer, but I'm glad she got publicly recognized. It's usually pretty cool to get your name in the paper.
...that you should RUN, not walk, to go see "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium." No, not if you have kids (although any kid over five would love it). Everybody. Now. To the theatre. You will NOT regret it.
...that it's nice to have in-laws who stayed the entire week, and when they left this morning, you kinda miss 'em.
...that Kid1's car needs to get new tires and I don't regret using the moment to teach her how to change a tire. She had to do it on Thanksgiving Day, and she put on the donut, drove it to the shop and got it patched. The patch didn't hold. So, today, she'll change the tire, put on the donut and I'll go with her to buy new tires.
...that Kid1's also taking part in Dallas-area necessary tradition: The DFW airport pick-up run for a friend. Another teaching moment. Man, the teen years seem full of those and you always have to make sure you're crossing t's and dotting i's.
...Tracy got an inordinate amount of Christmas shopping done already. Now we're in that awkward time where you kinda have to ask if it's okay to buy that CD or DVD you might want to watch or whatever you might grab on a spur of the moment.
...that it's kind of cool to have to get new clothes for Christmas. Not that I care about clothes or whatever, but because of my diet/health-kick thing my clothes are a bit loose. I'll have to hit the gym extra hard starting tomorrow because when you have an old-school Southern woman in the house for a week, your refrigerator fills up with stuff like pies (current leftover: chocolate peanut butter cup pie. Yes, you read that right.) and tupperware full of all sorts of delicious treadmill-inspiring fare.'s time to call the wood guy to bring the annual half-cord of firewood. I still can't bring myself to go with the gas logs in the fireplace. Yes, I went to the gas barbecue grill (are both of those words necessary there...or is it either-or?) and am okay with that on sheer practicality, but, manalive do I love a "real" fire and the sounds and smell that come with it. still feels weird not to be going to church today. Part of me wants to check out a local church this morning that I've heard good things about, but it's hard when you work at a church, to simply go and enjoy the teaching and friendliness and music without going into analysis of it all. You know...stuff like "we should do that, too" or "because of that, we should change this." It becomes work and for some reason it's hard to turn that off. dog is exhausted. He's a creature of routine and his routine has been blown apart this week with increase of people in our home this week and he could use a couple of days of lounging & napping.
...I can't decide if I should clean out the garage tomorrow or wait until my next round of off-days. I'm hesitant because I might want another day of lounging & napping. I'm a creature of routine and my routine has been blown apart this week with the increase of people in our home this week.
...smokin' hot shutterbug trophy wife gets really busy, what with all the folks wanting Christmas card pictures. She's off to shoot the higer-order barnstorming Sentz family next weekend--which reminds me, we need to Skype as I could use a Margaux fix pretty soon. Not sure I should wait a week on that deal.
...I kinda miss my other neice and nephew, too. Thanksgiving wasn't the same without hearing Peyton spout off about how Bama will win every game they play for the next 10 years and updating me on all his athletic endeavors (he's on the wrestling team these days) and watching some cartoon DVD movie (I know I would've gone with "Surf's Up") and constantly harrassing my partner-in-crime Katelyn, who dishes it right back.
...I think Kid2 pirated a gift we purchased for Katelyn by hiding it from the in-laws last night when they packed and I just remembered we forgot to load it this morning. Oh well, that's what UPS is for.
...I'm on the last book in my book stack.
...that I should go finish that book and get ready for serving my dog by having a long nap today, after I supervise the changing of the tire.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thinking Out Loud

Is it wrong to like Thanksgiving more than Christmas these days?

I'm beginning to think we should reverse the tone of each holiday...and scale down the "new" Thanksgiving by about half to two-thirds.
And, So You Can Grow In Your Appreciation For The Finer Things...

It's the Iron Bowl in the state of Alabama...and just to show you that I can still get my game face on even if the highlight of The Diner today is the fine arts, here's the video they show on the scoreboard jumbotron before the Tigers take the field:

Win or lose the big game, War Eagle, everybody!
Proud Dad Alert As Promised

Here are photos from Kid2's performance as Dew Drop in The Nutcracker this year. I cannot say enough how proud I am of her. I mean, sometimes it's easier here at The Diner to put up artwork from Kid1 because of the nature of a painting...but I can assure you as soon as I can get some video of this performance, well, hello YouTube! She was brilliant. See for yourself:

Like I said: She was brilliant. A blind guy with one eye could tell you that.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday College Football Picks, Week #14: Rivalry Edition

It's a last-ditch effort to get my record respectable after last week's 4-4 output...making my record for this crazy football season 43 wins, 50 losses and 3 ties. But, we've got a lot of rivalry games slated and anything can happen. However, if this season holds true with craziness there won't be any upsets and all the favorites will win every game. I'm thinking it'll be more craziness. Anyway, there are more games than usual here because of so many good games (and it's a chance for me to improve the record or go down swinging). On to the picks:

Nebraska (+4.5) at Colorado: It's already snowing in Colorado and this old Big 8 rivalry gets renewed with a Nebraska team that's awful and an unpredictable Buffalo team. They're up and down. While you can't predict the Buffs, the Big Red is predictably I'll give the points and take the Buffs at home. Diner Prediction: Colorado 24, Nebraska 17.

Arkansas (+12) at L.S.U.: The Razorbacks run. That's it. Maybe my view is skewed, but if you're one-dimensional and a team dares you to do what you're weakest at doing, you get shut down. Against Alabama the Hogs were able to throw. Against Auburn, they weren't. L.S.U. is better on defense than both of them, and they're playing at home. I'd feel better about the points if it was at night, but I'll give them just the same. Houston Nutt to Baylor, anyone? Miles to Michigan, anyone? Diner Prediction: L.S.U. 31, Arkansas 17.

Boise State (+3) at Hawaii: Quite simply, the Rainbow magical season comes to an end. Granted, these Broncos aren't Kragthorpe's version, but they're still athletic and I think their defense can keep Colt Brennan in check just enough to win. Diner Prediction: Boise State 35, Hawaii 31.

Mississippi (+6.5) at Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are bowl eligible but need a win to secure a spot. Ole Miss is likely going to be playing on emotion for their hot-seated coach. It'll be nasty and penalty plagued as it always is, but for some reason, I'm a big believer in Sylvester Croom and the job he's done. They'll win, but they don't score much, so I'm taking the points. Diner Prediction: Mississippi State 17, Ole MIss 13.

Texas at Texas A&M (+5.5): Francione's out (Sunday meeting with Tuberville, anyone?). And the Aggies can get after folks every now and then. Texas still hasn't found an identity, other than letting Lorenzo Charles run wild in the 4th quarter of games. Texas A&M at home and getting points is tough to pass up, but I think Texas will win in revenge mode and in all likelihood it'll be a 4th quarter comeback. Diner Prediction: Texas 24, Texas A&M 17.

Clemson at South Carolina (+2.5): I'm taking South Carolina because Steve Spurrier, much like Croom, needs to win to secure a bowl bid and Clemson's Bowden can't seem to win when he has to. The Tigers just never get over the hump. Diner Prediction: South Carolina 31, Clemson 21.

Florida State (+14) at Florida: This ain't your father's Florida State. Tebow will be on Heisman display and do what he does every week. He'll throw for 200 and run for 100 and lock up the trophy. Diner Prediction: Florida 38, F.S.U. 21.

Georgia at Georgia Tech (+3.5): The Dawgs have a lot more to play for than just a rivalry. They're still being considered for a BCS bowl and need this one in a big way. Richt has taken the shackles off this team and they're responding with all good play, much to the chagrin of the staid SEC fans who don't like their staged celebrations and generally obnoxious behavior. Or their winning. But they've won doing it, will win today doing it, and wait for Kentucky vs. Tennessee to see if they're going to the SEC Championship game. Diner Prediction: Georgia 27, Georgia Tech 21.

Kansas vs. Missouri (+2) at Kansas City: Much ado about nothing here, folks. The Big 12 schedule has allowed Kansas to put up numbers against the weaker teams (not to mention a soft schedule out-of-conference, too) while Missouri has been going toe to toe with the conference elite. It's even at a neutral site. Kansas gets exposed and another #2 team falls...and they'll fall hard. Diner Prediction: Missouri 41, Kansas 21.

Tennessee (+3) at Kentucky: The Vols have laid eggs at the least opportune times this season and then throttled teams that nobody thought they could beat. Kentucky has been up and down, too, but at home they beat the best team in the conference. Of course, they lost to Mississippi State and Florida at home, too. When they lose it's usually to passing teams...or at least balanced ones. The Vols have won 4 in a row, but I think if Alabama can score in bunches against them, Andre Woodson can, too. Really, I just want to see Georgia and LSU in the championship game as it'll be a better matchup. Diner Prediction: Kentucky 35, Tennessee 31.

Oklahoma State (+11) at Oklahoma: This one's usually nasty in the Bedlam rivalry and the line opened at 14 and has now dropped since Oklahoma didn't look so good against Tech...but Sam Bradford's been cleared to play, which helps, but they're banged up at running back and on defense. That said, I think the Sooners win at home but don't cover. What would be more fun is to see OSU win and make a mess of the Big 12 south, having to go to the 7th tie-breaker, being BCS positioning. Diner Prediction: Oklahoma 27, Oklahoma State 21.

Notre Dame (+3.5) at Stanford: Stanford had their big win against U.S.C. and we haven't heard from them since. Notre Dame is bad, but I think they still have some talent there, right? They have to be better than Stanford, right? Not this year. Diner Prediction: Stanford 38, Notre Dame 31.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (+3.5): Virginia is playing for a spot in the ACC championship game and Charlottesville will be amped. Virginia Tech is playing well, too. In games like this, special teams make a difference and I give the nod there to the Hokies. Diner Prediction: Virginia Tech 21, Virginia 17.

Washington State (+6) at Washington: Ahhh, the Apple Cup game. Washington wins the game about 75% of the time, making the Cougars much more intense about the whole thing. The last four years have all been evenly matched, though getting the Huskies back into it. I'm a huge fan of Ty Willingham (and if Tuberville leaves Auburn, their first phone call should be to Seattle) and think they'll win at home. Diner Prediction: Washington 27, Washington State 20.

Connecticut (+17.5) at West Virginia: Somehow, the Mountaineers have snuck back into the national championship picture and are counting on Missouri to win this week, followed by Oklahoma beating Mizzou in the Big 12 championship to make that happen. West Virginia will win in Morgantown. As long as West Virginia's Pat White can keep from turning the ball over, they'll win big. Diner Prediction: West Virginia 38, Connecticut 17.

Alabama (+6) at Auburn: There's nothing important about this year's Iron Bowl except Auburn has a chance to increase their winning streak over the Tide to an unprecedented six games. The two teams have 9 losses between them, not championship of any kind at hand and coming off big losses. This one comes down to the play of the quarterbacks...when they're good they're very good and when they're bad their teams lose. It's really a toss-up as this rivalry game is usually close no matter what and both teams have their backs to the wall. It's a shame to see this game bumped by Florida State/Florida AND Kentucky/Tennessee because they'll miss a pretty good game. I hope Auburn wins on a late field goal, but I have a bad feeling that Bama will play their best game and make it a miserable night on the Plains. So, this pick is really a hope more than a belief. Diner Prediction: Auburn 23, Alabama 21.

Lots of games this week, folks! Your thoughts while I go put up Christmas decorations on The Diner?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Psalm 100

Psalm 100:
A thanksgiving psalm.

Shout out praises to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with joy!
Enter his presence with joyful singing!
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us and we belong to him;
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give him thanks!
Praise his name!
For the Lord is good.
His loyal love endures, 
and he is faithful through all generations.

If you go back and look at my archived Thanksgiving Day entries, well, let's just say that after sitting and listing the things I'm thankful for that they are awfully repetitive. So, today, I'm still thankful for all those things and I'm thankful that those things are awfully repetitive.

And today, I'm thankful that the reality is that the last three lines of this psalm are the reason we can do the preceding ones.

Happy Thanksgiving, Patrons.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Today's Weather Matches My Mood

Isolated T-Storms / Wind
High: 66°F

Precip: 30%

Wind: NW 23 mph
Max. Humidity: 57%
UV Index: 2 Low
Sunrise: 7:04 AM CT
Avg. High: 63°F
Record High: 89°F (1913)

Overnight Low: 36°F

Precip: 0%

Wind: N 19 mph
Max. Humidity: 55%

Sunset: 5:24 PM CT
Avg. Low: 41°F
Record Low: 21°F (1906)

Last Updated Wednesday, Nov 21, 8:19 AM Central Standard Time

You can interpret that however you wish, but in my mind, it's dead-on with my current mood...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Proof That Football Is Too Important In Alabama #24,567

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban makes $4 million per year and the Crimson Tide was a four-touchdown favorite to win last Saturday over an inferior opponent. They lost. It happens. To every team.

Two days later, the Alabama head football coach compared Saturday's 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor during his weekly press conference.

You can listen to influential radio host & news columnist Paul Finebaum's radio show about it here.

Thankfully, there was a lot of negative reaction in the press.

You can check out this morning's thoughts from Kevin Scarbinksy, and Mark McCarter.

I think Nick needs to re-examine his priorities.
Proud Dad Alert........Alert

Last night, Kid2 danced in a production of The Nutcracker in Fort Worth.


I know she is incredibly disciplined in her approach to ballet.
I know she dedicates a tremendous amount to time and energy working on her dream.
I know she has a inherent love for ballet.
I know she is developing and maximizing her talents...which others who know such things tell us she has.


I've seen her in The Nutcracker before like lots of dads who have ballerinas have. In those roles where they start as angels and cherubs and become party girls and hope to become Clara one day and eventually a polichenelle...and, if they stick with it long enough they try to get roles in the 2nd act.

The 2nd act is where the ones who are incredibly discipline in their approach to ballet try to get to.
The 2nd act is where the ones who dedicate a tremendous amount of time and energy working on their dream try to get to.
The 2nd act is where those that have an inherent love of the ballet try to get to.
The 2nd act is where those that are developing and maximizing their talents try to get to.


...Kid2 got to it last night in Fort Worth.

She was Dew Drop.



...watching her last night as Dew Drop in Fort Worth...

...I got chills up my spine.

Sometimes your kids amaze you.

I use the word "amaze" measuredly.

And last night Kid2 amazed me.

Oh yes...

there will be pictures.

And video if I can get it soon enough.

I'm just warning you ahead of time that in a day or two you'll all be getting a full-fledged Proud Dad Alert. This is simply a heads-up.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The In-Laws Are In Town...

...they arrived safe and sound in the 4th quarter of yesterday's Cowboys game. Thankfully, they understood and immediately told me to sit back down & that we could visit and get the luggage out of the car after the game was over. I mentioned that I could put the game on "live pause" and be fine but they'd have none of it. Sweet. And they were kind of for the Redskins simply because former Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell and Murray said, "I'm for the Cowboys and Jason Campbell." He didn't see that if Jason did well then the Cowboys wouldn't necessarily be winning. But this is how folks in states where there aren't professional football teams view the NFL: A chance to see what former college team heroes are doing these days.

They also spent the night in Monroe, Louisiana and experienced true schadenfreude in the aftermath of the Evil Empire of The University of Alabama's vaunted Crimson Tide falling in Saturday's football game to the Warhawks of the University of upset of epic proportions. This was evidenced by their purchase of a local paper with big which we immediately mentioned that the reason they lost that game was because of a laser focus on the Auburn game this week so as not to jinx our Tigers in the rivalry game.

And the reason they're here is two-fold: To watch Kid2 in The Nutcracker tonight at the Will Rogers Theatre in Fort Worth and to celebrate Thanksgiving with us since we can't make it back for Christmas. Both of those will be easily accomplished.

But, last week, I mentioned that I'm not ashamed to use The Diner bulletin board for the purpose of asking the patronage that if they're aware of any free tickets out there to the Stars game on Wednesday night or the Cowboys-Jets game Thursday, I'll be happy to put them to good use. Obviously, I don't want any of you to purchase them, either. I'm talking about only those corporate seats that aren't getting used because of the holiday weekend.

It's the last two days of a short work-week, people! Let's pay attention to any tickets sitting in envelopes in desk drawers that just aren't going to get used and find them a happy home (even if the end-user is a cheapskate who doesn't care enough about either game to pay for 'em).
Review: The Gods Aren't Angry w/Rob Bell

Friday night, Retrophisch and I headed off to the Nokia Theatre in Grand Prairie to see Rob Bell on his spoken-word tour entitled "The God's Aren't Angry." Retrophisch was a last-minute fill-in as my smokin' hot shutterbug trophy wife was called into emergency mom-assistance for Kid2's ballet performance. The Phisch was an able substitute, but not nearly as easy on the eyes as Tracy.

First a few observations from the crowd in the half-hour before the 8:15PM start:

Parking at Nokia is $15. Really?

There were signs posted at the "merch" table--which, in this case, thankfully, consisted only of Rob Bell's books (could you imagine if there were t-shirts and all that?)--that said the author would be available after the show at that very spot to sign purchases. I wondered if anyone would skip the show & watch on the screens in the lobby just to ensure they'd get an autograph. I also wondered what goes through the mind of someone who wrote something and folks you don't know want you to sign it. I think it'd be a real ego-check with complete strangers coming up and telling you encouraging things constantly (nobody buys a book to come up and say, "This really stunk." Right?).

The Phisch and I were obviously in the older 10% of the crowd. It oozed with twenty-something vibe...which was cool. Helping us bring the average age up a couple of months were my friends Dan & Donna as well as Carter & Jennie. There was a local pastor who knows people who know Rob Bell and I watched him go to his primo seats with some of his staff. It's always good to have connections to score primo seats, man. I love it when that happens! I disguised my jealousy by identifying with the blue-collar common-man diatribe.

There was an inordinate amount of goatees and shaved heads. Despite weather in the 70-degree range, there were lots of knit caps and scarves, too. My recently-purchased glasses were very much the norm in this bunch.

The girl next to me was very friendly. We traded tattoo stories. We were surrounded by college kids who purchased tickets at the group rate, I guess. At one point, the college minister playfully asked for a "hand check" (an old youth ministry bit where, if you're in a situation where your teens could get handsy, you ask the teenagers to hold their hands up to ensure there's no handsy behavior going on) on a couple in his group, to which the girl loudly responded, "You don't need to be hand-checkin' us, you need to be hand-checkin' them." and nodding toward another couple, thereby playfully throwing her friends under the bus. Nice.

Rob Bell came out with minimal fanfare, setting the tone for the night: All-black clothes & sneakers, with only a makeshift altar about 15 feet square and four feet high alongside him. No notes. No obligatory praise songs or anything like that. No power point. No workbook for the crowd. No nothing. This was going to be a night for the intellect and not necessarily the senses. This made me happy beyond words.

Now...a bit about content:

He began with a historical review of gods & goddesses throughout history, leading up to how & why they began offerings on altars. Basically it was to appease angry gods or say thanks to those who found favor with you or your village. Or, working to keep the gods & goddesses happy. An excellent insight: "The problem with altars and offerings is that if things are going well, you have to offer MORE. The problem with altars and offerings is that if things are going poorly, you have to offer MORE. Ultimately, you never really know where you stand with the gods." Nice foreshadowing...because those of us used to Christian ways of doing things know where this is headed, but those outside our tribe are along for the ride, too.

He brought up the societal framework through which Abraham could "leave his father's household" (to which Mr. Bell mentioned meant leaving the entire beliefs/values/worldview of your parents, not merely moving out) and "draw near to God." All previous gods were distant and now this God was one you could relate to...culturally shocking. He mentioned that while the book of Leviticus was bloody and prescriptive looking back on it ("kind of like horror movie blood & gore but without the flimsy plot") it was actually liberating and freeing compared to the other religions.

A couple of quotes I liked: "The Sadducees made lots of money and got lots of power through fear and guilt. Imagine that. Religious leaders using fear and guilt to get money from folks." Also: "Prophets were the ultimate performance artists."

In context, I liked it when Rob Bell said, "If Jesus had overthrown the religious system of that day by violence, it isn't anything new or greater. Hence, the crucifixion and resurrection was the best way to overthrow a violent system protected by violence."

Like I said earlier, the foreshadowing effective. Mr. Bell took the story of the resurrection to show that the old system was now obsolete. "First-century Christians weren't going around creating lists of do's and dont's and other ways to use works to get closer to God...they were living in newfound FREEDOM."

He closed out the show by talking about how freedom in Christ leads to a life lived out in the oxymoron of Romans "living sacrifice." He gave touching stories from his ministry experience about how people living as living sacrifices did absurd things that humans aren't supposed to do because now they were living in the freedom of love instead of lists of do's and dont's and such. Not only did he list them, he used a rhetorical device, repeating them in reverse order to emphasize the point that we should...


...and do likewise.

Much like at the end of the off-broadway show "Stomp"--where you've spent an hour and a half amazed at the skill and artistry of the performers only to have them engage the audience in some participation, only to walk offstage and leave the audience "making their own music"--the message Mr. Bell gave was that obvious. Stop working to make God happy, and live in love and living sacrifice. Now...GO!

I thought it was brilliantly done and, frankly, an inspiring artistic expression. I came in with a raised eyebrow about how all this would play out, but it was well worth the time spent at the end of a busy week getting bombarded with historical lecture format...but he pulled it off in spades. I now consider myself a big fan. If the show comes back, the next time I'm getting group tickets, man. A large group, too.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

There's Something Going On That's Not Quite Right

It's 8:55AM according to the clock on my DVR that I think re-sets itself with nightly precision against whatever the folks that engineered those atomic clocks decided should be the world's official time.

And, for the better part of 48 (or more) weeks per year for as long as I can remember, I'm usually standing with a cup of coffee or bottle of water by the eastern staircase in our lobby at this time. I'm kind of a staircase gargoyle. It's fun to say "good morning" to folks coming to our church for Sunday worship services. Check in on folks. Exchange pleasantries.

But it feels weird to be sitting at my house for the last 3 hours without executing the ingrained morning routine to be heading up to CBC to do that very thing.

Yes, I've taken vacation time before, but hopefully I'm out of town if that vacation involves a Sunday. That's an entirely different daily miracle of a morning newspaper. Maybe a walk. The location of the time in the Word & prayer is different. The coffee is usually purchased at a chain restaurant, either local or national. The routine itself is disrupted, so you don't feel like you should be somewhere else. You are somewhere else. There's enough diversion to keep your brain occupied.

Right now, my brain is saying, "This isn't right. Your morning routine is complete! You're sitting here like a bump on a log and you know you aren't where you're supposed to be! You're in your kitchen, on your computer, and you should be doing what you do during this time! You're late for your assigned tasks! You should be scrambling with all your might to make up for your lateness! Get your bookbag! Get your last-minute notes for your class! Get going! Get going!"

It's all I can do to get the other voice in my brain to tell Voice #1 to sit it down and shut it up. To pipe down and leave me alone. To mind his very own business (Voice #1 is kind of athletic coach voice...somewhat encouraging but with a sense of urgency to complete the task and the inherent unsettling threat that if you don't do it right you'll have to run laps) and let me enjoy the moment.

But the other voice in my brain is kind of the cool English teacher that you liked in college that probably smoked weed and liked his subject matter but wasn't too strict of a grader as long as you wrote your essays to show you had at least some working grasp of the topic--usually indicated by using the word "foreshadowing"--and sounding like the calm voice of an airline pilot, only slower.

And voice #1 seems to be winning at the moment.

Hopefully, over today and the next 7 days, the cool English teacher voice will exasperate the coach and we can get on with the business of laid-back deep-thinking...or lack thereof.

But right now, Coach Voice is telling me to take a lap and get my head right.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

College Football Picks, Week #13

Now we're getting into the rivalry games & traditional holiday matchups, so it'll be awfully tough to even get my record against the point-spread back to a mildly respectable .500 percentage...but in this nutso college season (anybody want to be ranked #2? Anyone? Anyone? Didn't think so...and manalive I never would've thought the Ducks would get beaten in the desert on Thursday) as I'm 39 wins, 46 losses and 3 ties. But if I can have a bunch of coin-flip picks go my way, who knows?

So, here's this week's picks:

Ohio State at Michigan (+4.5): This game's kind of a throwback in that two tradition football powers are playing a rivalry game with the Rose Bowl at stake. Now, players from both sides can give the required media rhetoric about how the Rose Bowl isn't a consolation prize and blah blah blah...but in this case it is as both teams had national championship hopes. But, winning the Big 10 is no big deal but it's all they'd have as any other conference champ pummels them if they were to get the BCS bid. But, since they're playing the game anyway...I like the Wolverines at home & getting points even if I don't think I'll need 'em.Diner Prediction: Michigan 24, Ohio State 21.

Oklahoma at Texas Tech (+9.5): Most of the folks around here seem to think this one will be a game with little defense. To me, it's a 50/50 deal for the Red Raiders. If Graham Harrell is on, they can't stop him. But if he's off, they are dismal. So, really, the points are only relevant if Tech can move the ball...if not they'll lose by half a hundred. Hence, the only thing that matters is whether or not the Tech offense can execute against a weak secondary. It's at home. It's at night. Leach, with his fine for complaining about Big 12 officiating has given the Raiders a chip on their shoulder. My guess is that the Red Raiders will be focused...but the talent will win out in the end. It'll be close, though. Diner Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Texas Tech 38.

West Virginia at Cincinnati (+6.5): Every logical thought says the Mountaineers in a blowout. But since it seems that the BCS has one team with a shot at the National Championship gets beat when the shouldn't have, I'm taking the Bearcats. They're sorry on the road, but they have beaten two ranked teams at home. It isn't logical, but I'm kind of on board with the pick anyway. Diner Prediction: Cincinnati 23, West Virginia 21.

Kentucky (+7.5) at Georgia: Did anybody notice that Georgia is playing the best football in the SEC right now? And the little child Knowshon shall lead them...and boy is he ever. He frees up Stafford for big plays. The only reason Kentucky will stick around is Woodson and that core of receivers. Other than that, they don't have a chance between the hedges, and much like last week, it'll be close at the half but the Dawgs pull away at the end. Diner Prediction: Georgia 35, Kentucky 24.

Boston College (+7) at Clemson: It's time for Clemson. Much like my beloved Auburn Tigers, Clemson is always in limbo between the upper echelon of college football and being a top-notch 2nd-tier team. Bowden has so much to play for because the Clemson nation is hungry to get their first ACC championship in a decade-and-a-half. They'll rub the rock and run down the hill. They control their own destiny in front of a regional audience on ABC. I think it's their time and I've thought BC has been overrated all season. Diner Prediction: Clemson 27, Boston College 17.

Missouri at Kansas State (+7): Which Wildcat team shows up? The one that faught Auburn to the wire on the road or the one that let an awful Nebraska team score 70? I don't think it matters because Missouri is better than both of those teams and are coming off a little bit of a wake-up call against the Aggies last weekend. Seven points isn't near enough and I think the Tigers blow 'em out of the water. Diner Prediction: Missouri 45, Kansas State 23.

L.S.U. at Ole Miss (+19): I know the L.S.U. fans kind of get worried about this game because historically the Rebels gear up more for this one than L.S.U. does. And, especially this year when all the upsets have every single team looking over their shoulder. And, yes, you might see an early score update showing the Rebels with the lead. But, there's just isn't enough talent and the program is in disarray and they'll roll over and play dead. While L.S.U. struggles early, they dominate late and pull away. The spread does worry me, though, but I think the Tigers have enough. Diner Prediction: L.S.U. 35, Ole Miss 13.

Vanderbilt (+11.5) at Tennessee: As hard as it is to believe, the Vols control their own destiny because they beat Georgia in Neyland stadium. Vanderbilt has been a pleasant surprise this season but I think too much is going against them in this game since they upset the Vols last year. Tennessee will be focused, much like Clemson will be, because of how much is at stake and they have enough firepower to cover the spread. Diner Prediction: Tennessee 24, Vanderbilt 10.

One little side note before I open to floor for your insights: Four-touchdown underdog Iowa State will get after Kansas, who will be looking ahead. Gene Chizik got the light-bulb to go off for his team after a slow start and they have learned to get after people on defense (Auburn fans will always love Gene Chizik since AU loves solid defense and his 2004 team might've been the best ever) and with the Jayhawks looking attention to the score updates for a while. It'll be interesting until the talent wins out and Kansas wins.

Your picks?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Elder Board

Our church's governing body meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month to discuss "business." It's actually an open meeting and anyone in our church can attend...but nobody ever takes us up on that reality.

But it's nice to go to a meeting where, yes...

is discussed. There are budgets and line-items and agreements and explanations of action plans and "macro" versus "micro" and strategic imperatives and all sorts of other buzzwords that adorn any other meeting of similar nature in any other business of unsimilar nature. Meetings are meetings, man.

And that "business" is evaluated in light of the reality that...'s being a part of the work that God is doing right here, right now and that He has chosen us to be good stewards to that work...

...and that lives being changed for His glory comes up a lot...

...and that we "get" the idea that when you trudge through this life there will be some muddy stuff. People get horribly sick, others die, crimes happen, fellowships get broken, families get affected, bills don't get paid, etc., etc., ad infinitum ad nauseum...

but to have a normal business practice be a group of spiritual folks admit that those things are bigger than us, that a personal, loving God is in control and to watch them depend upon Him for guidance and answers...

...or to respond in thankfulness for His provision and/or response or other joyful happenstances...

is pretty nifty all-in-all.

And sometimes I don't think I'm grateful enough for the foks in that room who serve us in that way.

And sometimes I don't think our congregation knows how blessed we are by their service.

So, today, I thought I'd let you know.

Even if the meetings run until 11PM.

More Vacation Time


I went to SF to see the higher-order barnstorming Sentz family a month ago.

And, in a strange turn of events..

...our executive pastor actually started checking our staff's vacation records and has been pretty serious about making sure we avoid our workaholic tendencies (almost everyone on our staff has issues in that area...partly because we enjoy our work and love the people we serve so mostly it's enjoyable) and actually take our allotted vacation days. He also seems pretty serious about comp days and stuff like that.


...after 4PM today...

I'm on vacation again.

And this time I'll actually be taking two Sundays off--which is a big deal for those in professional ministry.

I gotta say that I'm looking forward to puttering for a few days...

...even if I have to clean out the garage and then put up Christmas decorations.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wanna See My Picture On The Cover, Wanna Buy Five Copies For My Mother, Wanna See My Smilin' Face On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone

Here's what my updated bio is going to say:

Brent McKinney, Pastor of Discipleship & Mobilization

Areas of Ministry:

Christian Education: Development and implementation of the educational ministries at Crossroads. This includes Sunday School & mid-week learning opportunities for adults, as well as direct supervision and oversight of children's and student ministries. Responsible for recruitment and training of teachers, and working in concert with each ministry at CBC to support curriculum development and review.

5 O'Clock Worship: Heads the creative team that designs and implements the evening worship services and educational opportunities.


Brent has served at Crossroads since August, 1996 as our Pastor of Student Ministries. In March of 2007 he began his current position. He has a Master of Arts degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary. He completed his undergraduate work at Auburn University. Prior to his ministry at CBC, he worked with Youth for Christ in Birmingham, Alabama for seven years.
Brent and his wife, Tracy, have been married since 1988. They have two children, Kelsey and Shelby. Tracy is a photographer and Brent has been in ministry since they were married.

Then, we're all supposed to wear collared shirts today because...

...after work...

...there's a nice man who attends our church who's going to take our photographs for the website and other stuff we might need photographs for.

Really...I'm fine with this. It is what it is.

The generation who makes these types of decisions views the Internet as a way to find out information. You know, like what time the service starts, or how to get to the church, or if there's child-care available...maybe download a sermon or two or 70. Photos of the staff and what they do. That kind of stuff.

But the generation I'm a part of (proud, card-carrying GenXer!) and the generation I'm accustomed to serving view the Internet as a form of community. And, to be a part of that community, your web pages and social networking sites are designed so a reader can get to know you. They want to have forums where you discuss the sermon or class, find out where the church does church on days that aren't Sunday, or what the major emphases of the church happen to be...maybe download a sermon or two. In short, they're picking up on not only what information they happen to get but also they see that how they get it and how it's presented says something about the church, or school, or organization, etc.

Much like famed photographer Annie Leibovitz does when she takes photgraphs for magazine covers...she wants to capture the essence of the subject and be able to have people make a connection with that person by looking at the photo. My wife does the same thing whether it's kids, senior photos or weddings. Some people have that gift. Others don't.

Anyway, with that approach in mind, here's what I think our "bios" should look like:

Areas of Ministry:

Walks with Christ. Loves his family. Loves and serves our church family...primarily by providing opportunities for our church family to walk humbly with God and live in His Word. These "means" lead to the "end" of God transforming their lives in such a way that they will love those that God loves and allow individuals to do justice and love mercy as they glorify Him by how they live their lives in the areas that God has placed them.


Brent believes that longevity and stability are important in ministry and has been at CBC since August, 1996, with no plans to go anywhere else. He also finds that God is constantly refining interests and skills and after nearly a decade of serving in the student ministry, he took a lateral move (certainly not a promotion) to discipling adults. On his wall are framed documents identifying his competence for ministry as well as his academic development and training, but he'd rather you look at the lives of those he's served for credentials.

He truly believes his wife Tracy is beautiful and she inspires him with her artistic endeavors through photography. He believes that his daughters, Kelsey and Shelby, are tremendous blessings as well as arrows in his quiver, designed by God to walk in the way they should go. He champions the underdog as evidenced by his love for the Auburn Tigers, and tends to be a purist of sorts as he believes the N.L. version of The Great Game is vastly superior to the A.L.'s. He cherishes his Ramones & Nirvana & Robert Johnson CD's, reads voraciously, writes neurotically. He enjoys a hearty Malbec with his steaks and finds movies and theology to intertwine. He loves dogs and extended family...sometimes in that order, sometimes not. His favorite moments are with friends, laughing uncontrollably and inappropriately. On his gravestone he wants Micah 6:8 quoted along with the words "...and he walked alongside others instructing them to do the same."

Now, as for the photo, I'm no photographer...

...but if my wife (who is better than Annie Leibovitz at me) were taking a photo that would be one I'd want on the cover of Rolling Stone to capture my "image":

I'd think it'd be me, sitting at Starbucks in a big purple chair, with my hair down, iPod ear buds in my ears, reading a copy of Douglas Coupland's "Generation X." My coffee would be on the table beside me, but in my ceramic Starbucks mug from Seattle, with a laptop open and The Diner visible on the screen. My jeans would have holes in the knees and I'd be wearing my Chuck Taylor All-Star Converse sneakers. Walking behind the chair on the other side of the windows would be my former students Katherine, Bailey, Abby, Kristy & Marky Mark, Michael & Katie, Steve-O, Joshua & they'd represent entire families I've particularly enjoyed serving, but behind all of them in the parking lot (and you'd have to search the photo much like you search The Beatles' Sargeant Pepper album cover to find them all) would be as many of my former students and their families as we could fit.


I think that'd be the stuff most folks would want to know and see on a web page.

But I think, once again, I'm far afield from my fellow man.

Because today will be about bios and photos with collared shirts.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"I walk out and talk for a couple of hours, then walk off," he said. "It's very punk rock – whatever the preacher version of that is."--Rob Bell

Yeah, I purchased my tickets to see Rob Bell at Nokia on Friday night

I can't tell you how stoked I am about this.
Just Asking, Part 2

Almost a year ago, our church decided to change the nature of our evening services. Just try something different.

So, we did. We changed the way we arranged chairs. We changed worship style a bit. We experimented with lighting. We did the Lord's Supper in different (and traditional) ways. Since our church is pretty set on the sermons being the same, we left those "as is." We did change the nature of Sunday School classes in the evening, too--not having any (except for children) classes during the service itself, and having them all in the 2nd hour after the service.

And now we're evaluating our "hits & misses." We did some things well. We didn't execute others like we'd hoped.

But what I'd like to hear from you is what you think about 5 O'Clock Worship at CBC...

...if you don't come, why don't you come?

...if you do come, what are the things you've liked?

...if you do come, what are some things you'd like to see or maybe see us execute better or more effectively?

...if you come to that service, do you stay for the 2nd hour? What is going on in the 2nd hour that you like? If you don't stay, why not? If you don't stay, is there a class or activity we could offer that would be a reason for you to stay?

...and then any and all comments, positive and negative, would be welcomed.

And, keep in mind we've heard all sorts of things. My favorite one was, "My family and I loved every single thing about 5 O'Clock Worship...except that it was at 5 O'Clock on Sunday evening. That's when we're getting ready to start our upcoming week and that's our downtime."

I've heard that it's too dark when we cover the windows. I've heard that we don't darken the windows enough.
I've heard that we don't offer enough in the 2nd hour for adults. I've heard that people didn't know we had classes the 2nd hour.
I've heard that folks love communion around the tables. I've heard they didn't like that as much as when we do it by passing trays.
I've heard people like the speakers to be on the floor. I've heard they don't like the arrangement of chairs.
I've heard that they enjoy the fact that kids & toddlers are welcome in the room. I've heard kids & toddlers are too much of a distraction.

I tell you all that to say I'm asking for feedback and it won't hurt to be negative if that's your experience or pereception...and the positives are always fun, too.

And, if you don't feel comfortable with doing so in the "comments," feel free to e-mail me. My address is

I really do want to hear from you on this...
Just Asking, Part 1

So the in-laws are coming into town for Thanksgiving. I like them. They're nice people. And, they'll be getting the added bonus of watching Kid2 in her ballet presentation of The Nutcracker. So, they'll have a blast. Guaranteed.

But here's the thing:

They've been to Dallas several times since we moved here and, well...they've done most of the good restaurants and shopping and sightseeing.

So, for Tuesday & Wednesday (and maybe Thursday) I'm asking the patronage for fun or interesting things to do while they're here next week. Of course, The Guide comes out on Friday and maybe I can get some ideas from that. But you guys might know the good shows or exhibits or hidden treasures that are out there beyond the obvious...

An easy one is the professional sports. They've seen baseball here, but never have been to an NHL or NFL game. The Stars are in town next Wednesday and the Cowboys play the Packers on Thursday. So, if you know of anybody who works for a company that has tickets that will go unused because folks are out of town for the holiday, we can put them to good use. I'm only talking about tickets that don't cost patrons anything and aren't going to be used anyway. I mean, I'm a grownup. I can always buy the tickets on Stubhub if I I don't want tickets that cost patrons any money. Use those for yourselves or whatevert. I'm only talking about those lonely tickets sitting in a drawer than nobody else wants.

But that's just professional sports and they'd really only be going because we had tickets. I can't say they're big fans of any professional teams (I know if you have any Auburn vs. Alabama tickets for Saturday, they'd take those and leave early). However, what I'm really after is help you can give me to find some relatively inexpensive and interesting/fun stuff going on in or around Big D next week.

So, what's going on in Big D next week, folks?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Ladies And Gentlemen, Can I Please Have Your Attention? I've Just Been Handed An Urgent And Horrifying News Story. I Need All Of You To Stop What You're Doing And Listen. Cannonball!"

I'm going back to regular business hours again here at The Diner.

Many of you are aware that I'd made the decision to devote the time I usually have coffee with the patrons here to work on a book. And I tried.


I tried.

But that book isn't going to get written anytime soon.

I learned a few things during the attempt, though. And I thought I'd share them with you.

First of all, I care more about my family than I care about writing books. See, if someone with a genetic familial relationship with me walks into a room I care a great deal more about them and what's going on with them than I care about the story I'm writing or paper I'm reading. It's been that way since two-foot tall angels wearing long t-shirts and needing a diaper change walked into the room and I put down my daily miracle and let them crawl into my lap for a thumb-sucking quiet snuggle. My time is limited, like yours, and books can wait. Their days in my home are numbered...and frankly, you need to engage with the kids more in that time you do have when they're teenagers than you did when they were little. And they needed a lot when they were little. The reality is that the book has always been less important than hugs and interaction. The girls will be all moved out in 6 years--give or take a few years--, and books can take a more prominent role then.

Second, I think I got caught up in the hullaballoo about NaNoWriMo because my friends and family were doing it. The thing is, I didn't want to write a novel. I didn't even want to compile essays that could be kind of a Blue Like Jazz thing. I wanted to use the time to put together the book I've been bouncing around in my head for nearly a decade now. If I wanted to do NaNoWriMo I believe I could easily crank out word counts--words are cheap, free and easy for me--and come up with some semblance of a novel to edit later. But that didn't interest me. I was working on a project that was other. Besides, I don't know if I can keep my "inner editor" caged as I write much like a painter paints. I'm pretty sure of what I want on the canvas long before I put the paint on it.

Third, the more I look at Christian publishing the more I don't think I want to be a part of that industry. And you don't even want to get me started on insights into the Christian music industry, either. I've had two conversations within the last month that have me on a personal thinking tour of other ways to serve our Tribe without being a part of "that world." I'm not sure I even want to be associated with Christian publishing. The checks would be nice, though. But that's a crap-shoot at best.

Fourth, everyone was so nice. People would come up to me with encouraging words and solutions to my writer's block and offers of secluded places to write or insights from their experiences that were helpful. I don't think I write very well knowing that others are in the room. They might not know what I was writing but I knew they were out there knowing that I was writing and kind of hoping for some tangible result they could hold later. And, I wanted to deliver. But I find writing to be a more solitary endeavor. I liked it better when nobody really knew I wrote voraciously. And I certainly liked it better when most people thought that all I wrote was this tripe...which, to this day, I have trouble fathoming why nearly 2,000 different folks hit this page every week.

Fifth, if something isn't working, I should try something else. Maybe the discipline of opening The Diner everyday is something that would open the floodgates of wordsmithing. I mean, after 12 days of staring at a blank page, maybe I should try to do both. After doing this pretty much daily for four years and change, I'm guessing that quitting cold-turkey wasn't such a good idea after all. The Diner can be quite a seductress, I've learned. During my days when something would happen my thoughts turned to The Diner and how the patronage would love whatever it was that just happened. And then it would sit on a napkin or scrap of paper waiting for Friday...and by Friday my enthusiasm for what was on the scrap paper wasn't there.

Last, but certainly not least, I kind of missed you folks. We've got kind of a nice thing going here, I think. I dig community in most every form it takes, and when I don't have it I wish I did.

So, there you have it, patrons.

The book is on the back-burner where it's been sitting since 1997. It won't hurt at all if it sits there another decade.

And, The Diner is once again operating under standard operating procedures, as it's been since 2003.

*starts coffee pot and turns the "Yes, We're Open" sign around, unlocks the door, turns on the lights, and looks forward to the patrons stopping by consistently again.*

Saturday, November 10, 2007

College Football Picks, Week #11

Now, last week is exactly what I needed. I won 5, "pushed" (tied) 2, and I only lost 1. And, I would've won that one if Wisconsin didn't give up a touchdown in garbage time in the 4th quarter. This takes the season-long record to 35 wins, 42 losses and 3 pushes. Maybe this week can get back to break-even and go to the rivalry weeks with a fighting chance to have a winning record.

So, on to this week's games:

Auburn (+1.5) at Georgia: This game actually started out with Auburn as the favorite. Then all the money in Vegas went to the Bulldogs and now Auburn is the road underdog. Apparently, people don't know that Auburn has won 10 of the last 12 in Athens. Apparently, people don't know that the road team wins the most in this series. Apparently, people don't know that Auburn's hasn't lost a road game outside of Baton Rouge in 4 years. Tuberville is 10-2 in his last 12 games against top-10 teams. Even the rumblings of Tuberville to (insert about 5 NCAA job openings here) won't take the Tigers focus off this one--especially with last year's humbling loss still fresh on their minds. Diner Prediction: Auburn 23, Georgia 21.

Alabama at Mississippi State (+4.5): Alabama is still enchanted with, more or less, a "moral" victory against L.S.U. last week. They lost, but if you listen to talk radio there this week or read their papers, you'd think the Tide won the game with all the glowing praises of the Saban. But, L.S.U. was terrible that day and dominated the stat sheet. And, Sylvester Croom wants this one in the biggest way to be bowl eligible against his alma mater. They've had a week off to get ready, too. It'll be war in Starkville, Saban or not. But talent usually wins out in the end and Bama has more of it.Diner Prediction: Alabama 27, Mississippi State 21.

U.S.C. at California (+4): Booty is back at the helm for the Trojans and Cal is having trouble staying healthy. But the Trojans seem vulnerable this year for some reason and playing in Berkeley is difficult by Pac-10 standards. It's tough to pick against the Trojans because they're stacked but Cal took Oregon to the wire and Oregon beat U.S.C. In a close game, I like getting points with the home team. Diner Prediction: California 31, U.S.C. 28.

Kansas at Oklahoma State (+6.5): Last week, Kansas throttled Nebraska. What I thought was interesting was how the talking heads at ESPN were talking about how it was embarrasing to see the Big Red struggle like they have been. Where were all these people when Nebraska was pounding teams by 50 throughout the 1970's & 80's? I don't feel sorry for them at all. But Kansas made believers out of me and I think they're good enough offensively to cover the spread even on the road in Stillwater...that defense just doesn't do it for me when you can't hold a 21 point 4th quarter lead against a struggling Texas team. Diner Prediction: Kansas 27, Oklahoma State 17.

Illinois (+14.5) at Ohio State: Turns out Ron Zook can coach and recruit. I like the way the Fighting Illini play and the only drawback is that the Buckeyes are loaded with speed and big-play ability. I think Illinois can keep it real close for a half, and in two years they should be among the top teams in the Big 10, but the Buckeyes will have enough to win and being at home really helps them. They won't be looking ahead to Michigan at all. Diner Prediction: Ohio State 35, Illinois 17.

Texas Tech (+6.5) at Texas: Texas is such an enigma. They have no identity on offense and they give up a lot of points on defense, but they keep finding ways to win. If this were in Lubbock, I might be thinking that Texas Tech would win straight up. But it's in Austin and Charles keeps bailing the Longhorns out of trouble when they need it. He'll do it again, and a touchdown of points isn't too much to give up...Especially when Stoops gets in his crazy play-calling mode. Diner Prediction: Texas 28, Texas Tech 21.

Florida State (+6) at Virginia Tech: The Seminoles ain't what they used to be even if they beat Boston College on the road. VaTech is a different place and the Hokies are a different team. Florida State may not give up a lot of points, but Xavier Lee isn't their answer at quarterback, either. Diner Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Florida State 10.

Florida at South Carolina (+6.5): Spurrier will have his folks ready, but the Gators can score a lot more points than South Carolina can, even if their defenses leave a lot to be desired. I love the atmosphere in South Carolina and they'll be amped for the Florida coming to town. But Florida simply has too much for a limping Gamecock team and they might win big. Diner Prediction: Florida 38, South Carolina 20.

So, who wins this week, patrons?

Friday, November 09, 2007

So, This Week I'm Thinking...

...that Feyenoord plays Ajax this weekend in the Dutch Eredevisie. For those who know nothing about the world soccer scene, that would be Holland's equivalent to last weekend's Patriots/Colts game. It's kind a big deal.

...this was an interesting quote from an article Pastor Bill left me in my box at work. It's in regard to leaders of Willow Creek Church looking back on their years of ministry thus far (that movement has been referred to as "seeker sensitive"):

"Some of the stuff we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn't helping people that much. Other things that we didn't put that much money into and didn't put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for...We made a mistake...We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own."--Bill Hybels, as quoted by Bob Burney on

...that the book writing isn't moving at all. 10 days in and I've gotten one page of passable material, and only one sentence that I like. It might be one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. I feel like I'm playing a round of golf that never ends, and, you know that feeling where you hit a shot that felt kind of good but then sliced into the lake? That feeling of disappointment and "what-went-wrong-there?" That's pretty much near me all day every day lately regarding this project.

...that only 2,900 people turned out to vote in the election on Tuesday really stinks. That's about 15% of registered voters in our town. Nice. Real nice, folks. No excuses. You should always vote.

...that I'm having a Proud Dad Alert: Kelsey has her latest school project posted on her blog in the November 4 entry.

...that the television show "Daria" has made a reappearance in our household. It was big about 8 or 9 years ago and they're having legal issues prevent it's release on DVD (apparently some of the music they used in early shows hasn't been licensed so the artists can't get their shares...and it may take a while) but there are web sites that have all the shows available for viewing. It was one of the best shows about teen life (another was "My So-Called Life") and the satirical cartoon was brilliant. I'm glad Kid1 has jumped all over the antics of Daria Morgendorfer, Jane Lane (and her hysterical brother Trent), Quinn and the fashion club kids and Kevin the quarterback.

...speaking of television shows, The Office has re-runs on Tuesday nights on TBS, and they showed a very funny episode last week: Where Michael burns his foot on the George Foreman grill and Dwight gets a concussion. That has my vote as the best episode over the three full seasons. Yours?

...that you can look forward to having a lunch with a former student--who is now attending the same seminary you did--for an entire week, enjoy that very lunch in very enjoyable weather, come away encouraged by what God is doing in and through her, and then have the enjoyment spoiled when you find out that someone stole her computer from her car. In broad daylight. When it was underneath her seat. And, when you lose your computer and you're in your 20's--that's your entire photo collection and music storage. Reminder: Graduate students can't always afford external drives to back all that stuff up, either. Ugh. And, yes, it's stuff. But still, imagine what you'd go through if you lost all your photos, music and writings in a fire.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Writing Update

I'd like to thank everybody who encouraged me with phone calls, text messages, e-mails and pats on the back as I started off book writing.

Unfortunately, thus far...'s been a disaster of sorts. Writer's block has struck with a vengeance. My most creative times of day have been pushed back because of higher priorities. Peak writing quietness has been interrupted by family normalcy. Then the "I need to get away from it" phase hit and I busied myself with something else. Three times thus far.

I'm not "feeling" it yet. I'd hoped to get off to a quick start and get well into the project before the frustrations came. And I expected frustrations to hit at some point. You know, like when you train for a marathon and the day comes, you know that those shins will start hurting at some point or the blister on your toe or chafing would happen. You just didn't know when they'd happen.

But this is like waking up the morning of the big race and having an upset stomach. You've got to fight through it because it's time to run...but the day isn't going to go as you'd planned.

But I have a month. Well, 27 days now.

Keep those phone calls...

...text messages...


and pats on the back coming, folks.

This didn't start of well by any stretch of the imagination.
The Diner Football Picks, Week 10


You thought that just because The Diner is open sporadically in November that the football picks might not be on the agenda? Listen, if you go to Pete's Famous Hot Dogs you can get the cheese/beef all the way and a Grapico when their doors are open. If you go to Dreamland, you can get the Bar-B-Q ribs when their doors are open. When you go to Krispy Kreme, you can get the dozen glazed donuts HOT if the light is on when their doors are open. So, when The Diner doors are open, you can get the Friday Football picks even if they have to occur before the games on Saturday.

(side note: I'm kinda glad that the football doors didn't open until this morning, because I wouldn't have picked Marcus or Flower Mound to win their games this week--and now both will make the playoffs--and I can keep my sterling 13-2 record intact.)

So...with my record at 30-41-1 after 9 weeks (I'm not proud of that), here are this week's games:

Arizona State (+7) at Oregon: Remember last week when I said that Arizona State would win that game but would find a couple of games to lose this season? This is one of those weeks. The Ducks have momentum now, they're playing at home in their horribly ugly uniforms and their flourescent yellow goal posts...and they'll win and cover. Another unbeaten falls from the top-10 in the Pacific Northwest. Diner Prediction: Oregon 38, Arizona State 21.

L.S.U. at Alabama (+7): I'm also glad that I waited until today to pick this game. Yesterday I was leaning heavily towards L.S.U., maybe even to rout the Tide. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized a few things: L.S.U. is not playing their best football as of late, and Bama certainly is. Strange things have been happening in the daylight hours at Bryant-Denny to good football teams and something tells me Saban has been wanting to win this game more than he's been letting on in the press. The head says L.S.U. is more talented than Bama and should win by 10, but my gut it telling me something else. Bama, in an upset. Diner Prediction: Alabama 21, L.S.U. 17.

Texas at Oklahoma State (+3): The Cowboys score in bunches. They don't play good defense. The Longhorns can't seem to find an identity and needed a massive 4th quarter from Charles last week to bail them out of losing to the worst Nebraska team in 50 home. Texas is better than O-State on paper and have won 9 in a row agains the Cowboys...despite being behind by large margins only to come back and win. I think Texas shows up today, and Charles does well against an average defense. Diner Prediction: Texas 27, Oklahoma State 21.

Wisconsin (+15.5) at Ohio State: Wisconsin's ranked and getting no respect. Ohio State is top-ranked and getting way too much respect. It's an awful Big Ten this year and very difficult to read either one. For some reason, I think Ohio State will perform very well today and show everybody that they're the class of a bad conference, but more than two touchdowns in points is tough to pass up. Diner Prediction: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 17.

Florida State (+6.5) at Boston College: I realize it's sexy to pick F.S.U. to win this game what with B.C. having to come back against VaTech in the rain and it being a "trap" game for the Golden Eagles. And, you know what, where there's smoke, there's fire. Boston College hasn't seen the defensive team speed that the 'Noles bring and they've shut down some pretty good teams. Where F.S.U. struggles in on the offensive side of the ball...but I think they'll have enough not only to cover, but to win the game outright...and another #2 team bites the dust. Diner Prediction: F.S.U. 23, Boston College 21.

Texas A&M (+21) at Oklahoma: The only reason this is of interest is because of the coaching instability of Dennis Francione. Even Aggie fans know that if OU wins, then their coach is out for sure and they're going to be able to back up a truck full of money to Auburn's Tommy Tuberville...who will, in turn, be able to get another half-million from AU because of the Aggie faithful. I tell you all that to say that OU smells blood and Stoops usually puts the foot on the throat against Big 12 competition when he has the chance. Diner Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Texas A&M 17.

Missouri at Colorado (+3.5): We've all seen what the resurgent Buffs can do at home against good offensive football teams. Missouri has been a pleasant surprise in the football world this fall and they're on roll that can take them to the Big 12 North title. Colorado is more scrappy than consistent and they'll give Missouri all they want today, but I think Mizzou pulls away late. Diner Prediction: Missouri 28, Colorado 17.

Rutgers (+2) at Connecticut: Really? This is a game of national importance? Believe it. I'm having trouble getting used to the idea that Connecticut is in line to get a B.C.S. bowl bid. They've both beaten South Florida, who I think is actually more talented than each, but UConn did it at home in the rain. It's a night game. In the rain. At Uconn. Diner Prediction: Connecticut 20, Rutgers 16.

Well, there they are, folks...have at it!