Friday, February 29, 2008


So, it's "Leap Day." An extra day added to the calendar in order to make sure our calendar and the earth's orbit synchronize.

But when I become Grand Poobah of the World, I will add this to my platform (after bean bag chair option for airplanes, and flannel pant days): "Leap Day" will be sandwiched between Friday and Saturday. That week we will make the earth and our calendar synchronize, but we'll all get a three day weekend. We'll just call it "Leap Day," sandwich it right in there, and we'll all get a three day weekend.

Of course, another option I'd like to add would be "DeClutter." It's a two-week stint where we all clean out our closets and organize our files and take stuff from the attic to charity and update our address books...the whole bit. Every two years the entire world stops and we just get our lives organized. I think that'd be helpful.

So, when you become Grand Poobah of the World, what will you implement?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Another Variation

Most of you have heard my rant on digital photography at weddings. I perform four or five weddings per year and have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of folks who pull out a camera phone or digital camera and then will actually take photos during the ceremony. The boorish behavior will then continue in the reception, with many of these amateurs ruining the best shots for the professional photographer. I mean, there's only one first kiss, dance with the father, cutting of the cake...and when these folks try to get a "great shot" to be the first to put the pics up on MySpace or Facebook, well, they can dramatically affect the lighting, angles and composition of a photographer the couple paid to record those moments for THEM.

And yesterday I overheard a soccer mom discussing a moment with a friend on her mobile phone. It went something like this: "I can't believe I was a few minutes late. He's already scored two goals and I was only able to get the second one on video. I had the wrong battery in and by the time I replaced it...well, I got it in time for the second one."

My thoughts went back to the first day of school for Kid2. I was holding her hand, walking down the hallway, taking in the moment. It would be my last time to walk a child to first grade. To introduce her to the teacher. To watch her sit down in her desk and meet the person sitting next to her. Then you walk away.

And I had a mom bark at me because I was "about to get in the shot of her child's first day of school."

I thought about a great sporting moment I attended: Game 2 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Brett Hull scored a very important goal with 3 minutes or so left in the game. I saw it from great seats. The set-up pass. The slap shot. The water bottle popping off the top of the goal when it hit the back of the net so hard it stretched the entire webbing tight. The red light flashing. The horn going off. A great moment. Not to mention the tense, loud 3 minutes where the Stars had to hold on. One of the best moments of sports I've ever attended in person.

I was telling someone about this and they asked me, "Did you video that? I'd love to see it!"

And I wondered when it became so important to have all these moments recorded.

Why can't we just enjoy them on our own personal hard drives?

And I read this quote from Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman for the band Green Day. They were doing a show at a small club where the band got their start and before they played he urged the crowd to put away their cameras and cell phones by saying this: "YouTube can't own everything. There's something called memories."

I'd also suggest there's something called enjoying the moment, too.

A kid's first day.
A professional's big goal.
A cake cut at the wedding.
A great song by a great band in a great environment.

Sometimes, we miss the best parts trying to preserve the best parts in digital format.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not To Be Presumptive...

...but several people have asked me to transcribe a little "rant" I gave in my sermon on Sunday. It's not on-line yet, but it's coming soon for those of you who have asked, here it is. Keep in mind the context, that I was trying to give a sample of the vast array of differences in people just in the room in which I was speaking. That even within that relative homogeneity there was also a fair amount of diversity.

And also, keep in mind that this varied a bit by the hour it was given...some I left out because I was trying to deliver them in a "rapid fire" manner. In other services I threw in some other contrasts as they came to mind that aren't here.

"It's one thing for Christ to pray for unity among the 11 guys in that room [in John 17]. I mean, even a football team can become unified. But it's quite another to think about the incredible diversity in the Body of Christ that's supposed to be unified as well. Churches will meet on different continents. Just in our own country there are countless believers getting together. In our own community there are lots of really good churches to be thankful for. And, just in this room alone, even with all the apparent same-ness, there's lots of diversity.

I don't mean to go on a rant here but there are...

Pink bow-headed cheerleaders and black mascara-wearing gothic types.
Khaki-wearing button-downers and jeans-wearing Birkinstockers.
Social butterflies that gather for lunch and misanthropes that brood in coffeehouses.
Greatest Generation.
Baby Boomers.
Powerbrokers and the power broken.
Dog people.
Cat people.
Computer nerds.
Rock stars.
People in the marching band and people who get snacks at halftime.
Line dancers.
White collar.
Blue collar.
No collar.
Single again.
Married again.
Military vets wearing purple hearts and draft-dodgers burning draft cards.
Bra-burners and letter-writers.
Motorcycle riders wearing leather and golf-cart drivers wearing plaid.
People who love yardwork and people who pay others to love yardwork.
Jedi afficianados.
Hobbit lovers.
(who I've heard can never really get along)

When the list gets to those two things, maybe it's time to stop. But you get the point, right?

Either we're all God's children, uniquely gifted and unified by our Savior or we're all just living a lie.

And if folks can see that a poorly-dressed, tattooed, conservative neo-hippie can love both the Jedi afficianados and the Hobbit lovers and they reciprocate, despite the obvious reasons not to, they'll want to know how that works..."

So, that's the tirade.

And I'll post the sermon link when it becomes available.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Best of Oscar Night

The Oscars were somewhat of a bore to me this year. Despite having a seen pretty much everything that was up for major categories, I thought I'd be all over them...but I think using that show as a decompression time after teaching all day Sunday took away from my appreciation of watching America's High School (a.k.a. Hollywood) pat itself on the back.

However, two events stood out...

The first was Diablo Cody's acceptance speech for "Best Original Screenplay" for "Juno?" Rarely can you tell how much it means to people but you can tell when she gets to the end...she has to walk away before she loses it. There are some sound issues with this, but you can hear check it out here:

Could there be a better story than a former *ahem* exotic dancer becoming celebrated screenwriter? (or a better line when Jon Stewart asked how she was taking the "pay cut?")

The second, and the one that stole the show, was actually in two parts: When the couple Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won for writing "Falling Slowly" as Best Song in the movie "Once." (you can check out the song here. It was a true underdog deal where they spent about $100,000 to make the movie themselves, and beat out not one, not two, but THREE Disney songs to win it (and if Eddie Vedder had been nominated--as he should've been--he'd likely have lost to this song) It's a song about love...and he finished his speech by repeating the words "make art" three times.

And THEN, Jon Stewart brought her out to give her time to make her speech as her microphone was turned off and she was escorted off stage. After the commercial, he gave up whatever mildly funny joke he was going to say to let her speak. How great is that?

You can check out the entire moment here:

No Big Surprise

New poll.

Same old results.

This time it's titled "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey 2008" conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"The poll asked people what faith they were raised in and what they currently follow. Based on the answers, the fastest-growing religious category is 'unaffiliated.'" This would include atheists, agnostics and "nothing in particular."

It goes on to say that "In fact, many Americans are simply unclear about the religious group to which they belong."

I get the former. I mean, if you say you're an atheist or an agnostic, at least you've made a conscious choice. Well, I guess that even if those are your "default" choices, you at least know where you stand.

But I'm usually fascinated by folks who are "unclear."

I don't know. I've always been okay with the idea of God. Even as a little kid it seemed reasonable, even the most likely conclusion, that there was a God of some type out there. I'd seen the difference between the sky and a house. I'd seen the moon and pictures of mountains and stood at the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, don't get me wrong. The developmental process of discovering Who that God is has taken a lifetime. It continues...but in college I dedicated myself to the task of discovery. Seemed to me that majoring in Religion would at least get me focused on knowing what I believed and why I believed it. The fact that this choice allowed me to substitute philosophy courses for math courses was merely a bonus.

Some religious belief systems I was able to dismiss out-of-hand. Early on in the process, certain religions were dismissed. I still am fascinated by how much I don't know about my own choice of religious affiliation. But I know why I chose it.

And, maybe the reality that I'd been highly involved in Christian circles kept me from an outright objective pursuit. But I think I used (and continue to use) logical thought. I continue to believe...even when there are days I want to chuck it all and there seems to be little of the truth of what Scripture says should be true in my life and in the lives of those around me. I remain convinced that there are legitimate reasons to believe that Christ was precisely Who He said He was and that He rose from the dead.

I've got friends, family, and, yes, former students who no longer believe that to be true. But they know where they stand, man.

I simply fail to understand how folks can simply be "unclear."

Particularly on something so integral to our very lives and how our time here is lived out.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Taught three times in big church yesterday...napped in between services. Hard nap, too.

Led a discussion in a Sunday School class after that. Wasn't difficult but worked hard to stay focused on the task at-hand. The class made it easy, but still.

Slept later than usual. Got up at 6AM. I dreamed that the worship team changed the order of service and I missed the sermon "time" and somebody had to fill in for me, and then had to get called on the carpet in front of a group of elders.

And I'm already in a fog. That state of hoobey-goobey that you're walking around but everything seems surreal.

Just another reminder why I don't think I'm cut out for three services on a Sunday, man. I don't know how we did four back in the day.

So, today will be spent "recovering." Walking in a fog, trying to read, napping, etc.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Happy Oscars, Everyone!

It's the Super Bowl of movies tonight and Hollywood will give awards for the films of 2007.

Here at the Diner, we give out the traditional coffee mug with the gold rim around the top (now, that's FANCY!) for only the six major categories. Here's our awards:

Best Supporting Actor: (and the coffee mug goes to...) Javier Bardem! in No Country for Old Men. The only bad guys in the movies that can compete for darkest bad guy ever are Darth Vader and Hanibal Lector.

Best Supporting Actress: (and the coffee mug goes to...) Amy Ryan! for Gone Baby, Gone. I know that Tilda Swinton will win the Oscar, but I thought Amy Ryan's role was more difficult.

Best Director: (and the coffee mug goes to...) Joel Coen and Ethan Coen! for No Country for Old Men. That setting, in the brown/dusty southwest. True to the book. A great film that could've gone wrong in less capable hands.

Best Actor: (and the coffee mug goes to...) Tommy Lee Jones for In The Valley of Elah. Okay. It's fair to say that I didn't see that movie...but he was awesome in No Country so I'm giving it to him for that role. But he wasn't nominated in that category. We can do what we want here at The Diner.

Best Actress: (and the coffee mug goes to...) Ellen Page! for Juno. If there was a better performance in the last 5 years in a movie I didn't see it. She was brilliant and funny and wonderful. She stole the show.

And, for...

...Best Picture: (and the coffee mug goes to...) No Country For Old Men! It's very tempting to give it to Juno or even Into The Wild (which didn't even get nominated, man...and that goofy Michael Clayton did, which only shows that George Clooney is in with the Academy--but we won't fall for it here, folks. Rest assured.) But, manalive, what a great movie...and the true-to-the-book ending instead of the Hollywood ending made it even better in my mind!

Your awards, patrons?
Personality Quiz

My missionary to Germany friend Robyn put a What's Your Name's Hidden Meaning? deal on her blog.

Since what I'm preaching on today (John 17) has a little section on what it means to be "kept in His name" I thought I'd play along for grins. So, I typed in my full name and these are the results (my own comments in parentheses):

You are full of energy. (hmmm...then why do I nap at any possible time?)
You are spirited and boisterous.
You are bold and daring. (years of youth ministry makes it appear that way, but I don't think I'm really bold or daring)
You are willing to do some pretty outrageous things. (again, years of youth ministry has caused me to do them, usually with little provocation)
Your high energy sometimes gets you in trouble.
You can have a pretty bad temper at times. (not really so much anymore)

You are wild, crazy, and a huge rebel. (not a rebel so much as a rabble-rouser)
You're always up to something. (usually)
You have a ton of energy, and most people can't handle you. (I don't think so)
You're very intense. (kinda)
You definitely are a handful, and you're likely to get in trouble.
But your kind of trouble is a lot of fun. (I'm more mischevious than "trouble")

You are friendly, charming, and warm. (I wonder what others would say, because I think we all like to think we're these things)
You get along with almost everyone. (except maybe militant Star Wars fans)
You work hard not to rock the boat. (again, more like rousing the rabble)
Your easy going attitude brings people together. (I keep long friendships)
At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. (on minor things)
But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are very intuitive and wise.
You understand the world better than most people. (I really do think so)
You also have a very active imagination. (I don't think I'm very creative or imaginative, but I like people that are and stuff that is)
You often get carried away with your thoughts. (oh, man, do I ever)
You are prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. (not at all! really!)
You sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals. (again, I tend to be more clueless than picking up on any type of "signal")

You are a seeker. (occupational hazard)
You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.
You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. (work related, but they're lots of places nobody wants their passports stamped)
You're most comfortable when you're far away from home. (this is the most inaccurate thing in this little quiz. I don't know if anybody likes being in their home as much as I do)
You are quite passionate and easily tempted. (not so much, but the things I care about I care about passionately. Those things that are tempting tend to be VERY tempting).
Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble. (usually these are dietary in nature)

You are confident, self assured, and capable. (usually, unless it comes to singing)
You are not easily intimidated. (Rarely, if ever)
You master any and all skills easily. (this is true. Anything I try to pick up or learn I tend to grasp quickly and get pretty good at it)
You don't have to work hard for what you want. (hardly. I tend to have workaholic tendencies and am pretty efficient, too. So, I work hard)
You make your life out to be exactly how you want it. (not really)
And you'll knock down anyone who gets in your way! (never. I go overboard to involve everybody else who is part of whatever "team" I'm on)

You are very open. (to my detriment, in many cases)
You communicate well, and you connect with other people easily. (true)
You are a naturally creative person. (again, I don't think so, but wish I were)
Ideas just flow from your mind. (this is true. I can't really stop them, either)
A true chameleon, you are many things at different points in your life. (I think this is true of all grownups)
You are very adaptable. (I've had to be)

You are a seeker of knowledge, and you have learned many things in your life. (lifetime of theological pursuit)
You are also a keeper of knowledge - meaning you don't spill secrets or spread gossip. (true)
People sometimes think you're snobby or aloof, but you're just too deep in thought to pay attention to them. (Oh, man, is this ever true)

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. (not so much...I'm pretty laid back)
It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing. (both/and!)
You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. (usually it stays a while)
You don't stick with any one thing for very long. (wrong...I tend to stick with things for a terribly long time...often too long)
You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. (I have the drive but it doesn't happen often)
Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start. (hardly my biggest problem)

You are a free spirit, and you resent anyone who tries to fence you in. (I don't resent those people, I just don't understand the way they think)
You are unpredictable, adventurous, and always a little surprising. (I think so, but not really adventurous)
You may miss out by not settling down, but you're too busy having fun to care. (are you kidding? I'm one of the most "settled down" peole I know! I've been married since I was 22, wife & kids who I love and don't tire of having around, same home for nearly 10 years, I keep cars until they die, same church for nearly 12 years. I don't think I could be more settled down if I tried!)

So, patrons, agree or disagree?!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Romance of Buried Treasure

There's this guy in Germany. He's rattling around in his attic years ago and finds some of his father's things. Dad was a pilot in the German Air Force during WWII...and kept a journal. In that journal are some coordinates. Longitude and latitude.


After doing some digging around, like interviewing other soldiers and such and doing Internet research and all that, he comes to the conclusion that there's some sort of buried treasure. Some think it's a famous wall of Russian art that's been missing since 1945 and other soldiers said they were part of a group that buried a lot of silver and gold that Nazi's wanted secured just before the end of the war.

Technology has discovered there's definitely a 60 square foot box under those coordinates, and they start digging next week.

And I got to thinking about what kinds of adventures you folks might've been on after discovering something in the personal effects of loved ones.

The only thing I ever found was a box of baseball cards. Now don't get me wrong, that was a tremendous find because it was a box of cards that my grandfather started with my cousin Jody and they'd put together quite a collection. Jody knew they were in his attic and said I could have them. That was kind of cool.

And, I've found plenty that's my father's class ring and wedding band (both of which I still have). My higher order life liver sister Jilly found my dad's favorite coffee mug (amidst my mom's things like 7 casserole dishes and 3 crock pots--who needs 7 casseroles, like, AT THE SAME TIME, or to cook three simultaneous meals in crock pots?).

But I've never discovered anything adventurous like that German guy did. In fact, I kind of hope they let us know what's in the big metal box next week. I'm plenty curious...even if it's just sentimental stuff like guns and bullets and helmets and other artifacts.

So, readers, what have you found that's either sentimental or lead you on an adventure of sorts while going through the stuff left behind from loved ones?
Bummer Weekend

Many of you may not know this yet, but my friend Pastor Mike did some serious damage to his heel on Thursday afternoon. You can get the details on his blog.

But, man. He's going to be laid up all weekend...waiting for the swelling to go down so he can have surgery sometime next week. His blog entry is relatively lighthearted, but I'm sure it's more painful and inconvenient than he lets on.

So, since he's laid up on a beautiful weekend, give him a call and let him know you're thinking about him if you have his number...or just leave him a blog comment. I'm sure he could use the encouragement.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Parenting & The Power of Faith

Frequent patrons of The Diner will know immediately that it doesn't take long to push the hot-buttons of poor parenting and the role of faith in our moment-by-moment existence. Well, today, the daily miracle that is The Dallas Morning News provided a little snippet regarding both, so you can imagine how happy this made me.

First, Rod Dreher's story on the op-ed page highlighted the struggle of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She's a woman born in Somilia who fled to pursue her freedom. The freedom to criticize her religion without punishment...and to escape the repression she felt in numerous ways as an Islamic woman. She highly values human rights and rose--through hard work--to a position in the Dutch parliament.

She had to move to America out of concern for her safety, as she was pretty vocal in her opinion that the Islamic faith causes women to suffer in a myriad of ways. She lived in fear of violent retaliation there...and quotes like this caused that reaction, "The Western mindset – that if we respect them, they're going to respect us; that if we indulge and appease and condone and so on, the problem will go away – is delusional," she told Reason magazine. "The problem is not going to go away. Confront it, or it's only going to get bigger."

But what struck me was this comment by Dreher: "Ms. Hirsi Ali, like another outspoken atheist feminist, the late Orianna Fallaci, should fear that decadent European secularism might not have the moral or spiritual resources to save itself in the face of confident Islam. You can't fight something with nothing."

Have at that last line, kids. "You can't fight something with nothing." And, if Francis Schaeffer was correct in that the United States is generally 30 years behind Europe regarding the spiritual trends in culture...well, it doesn't take long to figure out that those of us who proclaim Christ better be about the business of doing so in authentic and meaningful ways.

But not out of fear of an Islamic movement or violence...but out of an honest & thoughtful responsive reading The Sermon on the Mount.

Second, one of my fellow FloMo residents works for The News andJacquielynn Floyd's article hit on the "Millennials" have hit the workplace. You know, those kids born between 1980 & 1995? Well, the early results are in. Floyd says, "A colleague in our business department has been studying this phenomenon in a series that started Wednesday. In it, she cites a "generational expert" who echoes a popular line being offered by human resources gurus everywhere: Millennials seem selfish and irresponsible (a generalization that's surely insulting to them); and the answer is that we need to understand them better (a solution that's insulting to us).

It's a prerogative of age to play the sorrowful kids-are-going-to-hell violin concerto. What's different this time around is that we keep getting told that we have to put up with it.

The underlying foundation of the millennial generation is supposed to be their baby boomer parents (us), who turned them into self-centered praise gluttons by hovering and coddling and bolstering their self-esteem, by telling them "Good job, Caleb!" approximately every eight minutes for their first 20 years on the planet.

As a result, 60 Minutes gravely reported last fall, "Their priorities are simple: They come first."

And, like she says, it's easy to have one generation criticize another. But her point is two-fold: First, that the current culture of parenting...this doting helicoptering protect & fight for our children mindset is actually reaping unintended results. And secondly, that they're going to have to grow up because sometimes the world isn't going to let them wear flip-flops to work and come in when they want.

But my thought is this:

As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to do the most loving thing for our children. And sometimes that most-loving thing often is the most difficult and inconvenient and uncomfortable and scariest thing we can do at that moment. But, we're grownups. It's what we signed on to do: Raise them in the way they should go...and stop making icons out of these people we have a quarter-century stewardship of.

Besides, God loves them more than we do. The issue is "Do we trust Him?"

Which, when you think about it, is the common thread of both articles...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Even If The Reason Is Difficult...

...I appreciate the gathering of longtime friends that feel like family.

One of the benefits of being at one church for over a decade is the reality that you'll do life together. You'll watch former students marry and have children. You'll watch friends' children graduate high school. You'll watch acquaintances get promoted and go through layoffs. You'll see births and deaths and everything that comes in between. It's life. The good stuff. The bad stuff. The in-between stuff.

And the spouse of one of those folks I've known the entire time I've been here passed away Sunday. Too soon if you're asking me. And the memorial service is today.

And lots of folks...

...our church family...

...will get together today to remember her and show the husband and kids (who aren't really kids anymore) how much we care.

It's life together.
The good stuff.
The bad stuff.
The in-between stuff.

And the reason we're gathering isn't "fun." Not at all.

But the reason we're gathering is because we're family. Because we care. Because we...


It's what we do.

Even in the bad stuff.

And today, I'm thankful we have each other.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I know I did this a few days ago, but I have lots of little things in my brain and not much I could put into a blog entry.
...that we're all going to have pretty much the same kind of day today if you read the horoscopes. I don't, but couldn't help but notice that all the numbers next to each astrological sign were sevens (out of 10). Well, except for Taurus. They're only 6's.
...that if Michael Clayton wins for Best Picture on Sunday, the whole Oscar system is a joke. Of course, with Disney getting three "best song" nominees from the same movie and Eddie Vedder getting shut out for his incredible soundtrack for Into the Wild, the whole system might already be a joke.
...that the Texas Rangers just locked down a 2nd baseman for 5 years and $20 million. Could be more with incentives and such. Now, don't get me wrong. He's a nice player, but he led the majors in errors for 2nd basemen and hit only 20 home runs. Hmmm. We have the nicest, most clean-cut players ever. I hope we enjoy their character, because .270-21-85 across the board ain't gonna get it done with our pitching staff.
...that I can't figure out how people can get the day off work/school (excused, I might add) to go see Obama at Dallas' Reunion Arena today. They'll fill the place up for a noon appearance. Hey, I can see hooky once a year on Opening Day or something like that, but a political speech?
...count me in among the masses who got into the band Pavement way too late. They're one of those bands that everybody started liking AFTER they broke up.
...that the sermon isn't coming together just yet. I still don't know why I fret over this moreso than the classes I teach every single week. I think it has more to do with the reality that in a classroom setting, it's interactive. I don't feel comfy with the "style" of sermon delivery, which is by-and-large a lecture format.
...sometimes, 10 minutes of listening to a two-year-old play and laugh can be just what the doctor ordered to get back "to center."
...I've been hearing a lot of talk about how "imaging" and "branding" are important to churches. On one hand I get it. I mean, when people see your logo/letterhead or walk into your building they make judgments about who you are, etc. On the other, there's got to be a balance between making folks feel comfortable that we're competent and such and doing what we're supposed to do: Preach the Word.
...I don't know how DVD-rental stores like Blockbuster stay in business with all the options out there. It must be video game rentals., my diet/exercise plan has taken a beating these last two weeks.
...that I need to get back to sermon prep for today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fear and Loathing In FloMo?

Remember how I told you that my Rolling Stone "cover to cover" discs will allow you to create a reading list much like an iPod lets you create a playlist? Well, I spent some of my day off making sure it worked. I tested it out by compiling all the works of Hunter S. Thompson and Allan Ginsberg. It worked. It's grand, and I'll set up some more lists by favorite bands, interviews and such.

Anyway, I started with the classic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream." Supposedly, this was the beginning of what has become known as GONZO JOURNALISM.

Wikipedia describes gonzo journalism thusly: "Gonzo journalism tends to favor style over accuracy and often uses personal experiences and emotions to provide context for the topic or event being covered. It disregards the 'polished' edited product favored by newspaper media and strives for the gritty factor. Use of quotes, sarcasm, humor, exaggeration, and even profanity is common. The use of Gonzo journalism portends that journalism can be truthful without striving for objectivity and is loosely equivalent to an editorial."

Now, from what I gathered from the initial parts of the reading, this involved Mr. Thompson and his lawyer taking an unbelievable amount of drugs, instigating all sorts of chaos on their way to as well as in Vegas and then writing what they could remember down. Oddly, for all their "gonzo" posturing, I discovered that Thompson went through five edits of his first book.

But that's neither here nor there, really.

What intrigued me was that other art forms adopted the term "gonzo" and applied it to their work. So, for example, you might have "gonzo filmmaking" or "gonzo painting" or even "gonzo mountain-biking." Over time and through these various incantations, the term has since evolved to mean things like "wild; crazy; a bizarre, idiosyncratic style; extreme."

So, I've decided that I might want to be the first Gonzo Pastor.

If that's the case, you're going to have to help me define and/or describe it, though! I'm guessing drug use is out. But feel free to use Wikipedia's definition & the evolved meanings to tell me what it would look like...and feel free to add/subtract as needed. Hey! This is gonzo pastoring!

Have fun with this one, patrons!

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Thoughts On Jeremiah, Chapter 12

Hakuna Matata.

That little brain-worm stays with us, doesn't it? That problem-free philosophy, right? Means 'no worries' for the rest of our days, right? Kind of a Disney G-rating of Buffett's "Margaritaville" where your worst worry is finding that lost shaker of salt, right?

But I did some thinking about that. You know, about the "slippery slope" argument of the espoused philosophy of Timon & Pumbaa.

It'll lead to isolationism. If you mix with people, you'll inevitably run into conflict, no matter how minor. So, in order to make it work you have to avoid folks.

It'll lead to laziness. If you work, or have a hobby, or pursue any endeavor at all, you'll have problems, no matter how minor. So, in order to make it work you need to keep yourself bored.

It'll lead to selfishness. If you ever acquiesce to the desire of others, you'll be sacrificing your own wants, no matter how minor. So, in order to make it work you have to have more concern for yourself.

It'll lead to hedonism. If you deny yourself any desire, you'll be at conflict with yourself, no matter how minor. So, in order to make it work you have to go after your wants.

It'll lead to a negative impact on society as a whole. If you're eating grubs, well, Hakuna Matata didn't work out so well from the grub's perspective. In order to make it work, you have to trample on others, no matter how minor. So, since no man is an island, those that are Hakuna Matata-ing are going to slice away at the "rights" of others.

It'll implode on itself. It can't be truly lived-out. Even Timon took the time to file down Simba's claws just in case Simba decided his hunger outweighed Pumbaa's lack of problems. Even when it was just three of 'em out in the wilderness they took precautions just in case things went awry. Then they'd have problems. And, in the movie, the big conflict was when they undertook responsibility together for huge problems that technically, weren't their own.

Now, I realize it's a catchy song. I realize it's a no brainer Disney movie that follows a formulaic pattern into my wallet. But I think it makes an interesting point...

...that lots of people at least try to live this idea out in one form or another, and that trying to live that idea out will not fulfill us.

That Jeremiah's life, as full of problems and negatives as it was, was actually a deeper and more meaningful life than most people will ever live.

Let me explain.

In chapter 12, after Jeremiah is troubled because his life is threatened...and because he finds out that God's plan involves putting the nation of Israel out of business (at least the Southern Kingdom, anyway. The Northern Kingdom had fallen nearly 100 years previous) and dispersing them. So, Jeremiah raises a lot of questions that we tend to ask:

12:1 Lord, you have always been fair
whenever I have complained to you.
However, I would like to speak with you about the disposition of justice.
Why are wicked people successful?
Why do all dishonest people have such easy lives?
12:2 You plant them like trees and they put down their roots.
They grow prosperous and are very fruitful.
They always talk about you,
but they really care nothing about you.
12:3 But you, Lord, know all about me.
You watch me and test my devotion to you.
Drag these wicked men away like sheep to be slaughtered!
Appoint a time when they will be killed!
12:4 How long must the land be parched
and the grass in every field be withered?
How long must the animals and the birds die
because of the wickedness of the people who live in this land?
For these people boast,
“God will not see what happens to us.”

Jeremiah gets very human for all of us here. Why do the wicked get away with it? Why do folks who give lip-service to God and live differently seem to escape Your eye? Why do your people have to get disciplined? And for how long? He seems to be asking God why not just take the most expedient route to fixing things and just smite the folks who need to be smited and fix everything. It's causing Jeremiah pain to watch his family die (read the next verses), and the folks in his hometown have to suffer in a siege by wicked nations that don't follow God. So, Jeremiah, trying to make it as problem-free as possible, seems to suggest that God just do what He has to do quickly. Then we can move on, right?

God, in effect, tells him that He will not only NOT do it Jeremiah's way, but that it will get worse. Jeremiah, how do you expect to run with horses when you can't even run with the infantry? Jeremiah, when it's pleasant now in the open country, how do you expect to hold up when you get to rougher terrain?

Problem-free? Hardly.

Life lesson #1: Our pasts are prologue. The events we've been through, the places we've been, the people we've met, the people we were back then...well, they all are preparing us for "something else." When God says that stuff is coming, the things we are going through now have suddenly become a time of preparation. You'll see all this stuff again, folks, in some way, shape or form.

Life lesson #2: God hurts and feels. Read the rest of the chapter (try the online Net Bible. I'm a big fan.) to see that God tells Jeremiah that the personal pain he's going through is something God can relate to. He has pain because His "beloved" has turned their back on Him. The people He set apart He has to "break up" with...what kind of parent would He be if He didn't discipline and correct them? Ever seen kids raised by Hakuna Matata parents? This comforts me in strange ways...but I like the idea that God isn't making the puppets dance on this big blue marble, and that He does hurt for all the right reasons. Jesus wept coming to Jerusalem, didn't He?

Life lesson #3: God has a plan. He tells Jeremiah at the end that He will bring them back to the land when the time of correction is finished. And that, in the end, the wicked will get what they have coming to them. That, in the end, even the most wicked will have a chance to accept Him. God is ultimately loving, gracious and caring in the execution of His plan...and will walk through the muck with us.

And this gives us hope.

And hope is what separates the follower of God from the "wicked" when it comes to practical living. I mean, the same good and bad stuff happens to everybody on the big blue marble, right? But "hope" gives a proper perspective on both. That it isn't about me on my own living out Hakuna's more of the Haitian proverb that involves living patiently and hopeful in a hard world (and let's be honest, Haitians have it tough and need proverbs like this) that reads simply, "Dye mon, gen mon."

Behind every mountain, is another mountain. When times are good, you have a good view...but there will be more to climb and conquer and cause problems.

They have another that says, "Bondye Bon." God is good...which has a balance of optimism amidst the pessimism. Even if you don't see the plan or understand it or it looks ridiculous or whatever. God is in control, and He is good.

Maybe either of those would make a more accurate Disney song...even if they aren't as catchy.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that mid-February is the worst time for entertainment options. The movies that are released are usually the worst of the year, the NFL's gone but no baseball and regular-season college/pro basketball just doesn't get it done, and released music is done later in the year to get Grammy buzz. And with the TV writer's, it's a wasteland out there.
...that it's interesting to me that I can get into double-digit comments with a "love compatibility checker" but no one comments on the Jeremiah entries. And folks wonder why I don't want to get into the publishing world.
...about how the folks that run bookstores must keep up with pop culture, because Kid2 purchased a book right after seeing a movie (our newest strip mall allows for this behavior) in which one of the characters had a love for "Jane Eyre." I wondered how many other girls did the same thing, and if B&N had enough copies. I'm okay with this behavior, and hope the retailer is well stocked.
...after I read an article about how school kids were inspired by reading "The Great Gatsby," I wondered what required reading book in high school inspired me. There weren't many, but I distinctly remember that Golding's "Lord of the Flies" really got me thinking about the nature of human nature. I did a big report on that, and still am fascinated by that topic.
...that I got a ringtone maker for my birthday and I understand that music I purchased from the iTunes store won't convert, but I can't understand that not all of the music I installed from a CD made it to the files I need them in. They're in my iTunes library, and some of the stuff I loaded is in there, but others I loaded can't be found. Weird. It's fun picking out songs for friends and family to make ringtones out of, though.
...that it's awfully hard for me to enjoy the week that I'm preaching. It's a strange time, really, and it already has dawned on me that I have to get a sermon polished this week. I'm not even finished with my teaching for today for cryin' out loud.'s pretty funny about how certain habits move through generations. I had a very brief reaction after having a glass of red wine on two occasions and began to wonder if I might need to go see a cardiologist. Kid1 had a 24-bug and she sensed larger issues were afoot and "something is really wrong." My higher-order life-liver sister and I chatted about that and remembered that, in our family, we were conditioned to "expect the worst, and hope for the best." This might explain why, after I trip on the last step while wearing Birks that briefly slipped off my foot, I wonder if I need a chromosome test to determine if I have a degenerative muscular disorder.
...that, to hear the Alabama papers tell it, Auburn should cancel football due to The Dark Side's recruiting class this year. Poor old Auburn, just can't catch a break, after only beating Alabama 6 times in a row and winning 41 games in 4 years. Am I the only one that thinks AU is in the best shape they've ever been in football wise?
...that if I hear anybody else my age talk about mid-life crisis I think I'll puke. I have no idea what they mean by it, and maybe I can't because I've always had a job I enjoy and been happy with my family life, but to hear guys buy jet-skis and have nice cars and 3,000 square foot homes surrounded by family that love them and all that jazz gripe about how they feel "empty," well, I can't relate.
...that I've been having some interesting conversations about what an "ideal" men's ministry and an "ideal" women's ministry look like and that gets the creative energy flowing. I like working together with interesting, talented and creative people. I think that's where I get inspired.
...that I don't get why stores get amped about sales for President's Day. Are folks getting a day off tomorrow for that? And shouldn't advertisers stop using "Hail to the Chief" in their promotions for it? I was cleaning the kitchen last night and during that half hour I heard the song four times in during a commercial break for a show.
...that the thunderstorms yesterday were nice because we didn't get the hail and such others in the area got.
...that it's very interesting to compare what you were taught or might've heard about history with what the magazines of that time period were saying about those same events (see yesterday's birthday entry). I think Americans might be the world leaders in glorifying the past. At least concerning the events of popular culture.
...Hemingway was a jerk. Talented and amazingly gifted, but by his own account awful to people. But don't think for a second that I wouldn't have wanted to hang out in Paris with him and Ezra Pound and Picaso and the other writers and artists that were there in the 1920's. I wonder if those kind of collectives exist during our times. too. My guess is that they'd be in places like New York and San Francisco or maybe Amsterdam.
...that I need to get on with my day.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


The higher-order barnstorming Sentz family sent me this for my birthday:

Now, this may not seem like much to you, right? It's Rolling Stone Magazine, right? Just a bunch of music reviews and hippie political stuff, right? Maybe some cool pictures of famous people, right?

I don't think you get it, folks.

This is America as it was happening during my lifetime. Granted, from a certain perspective, and certainly focused on pop culture...and obviously on music. Every edition. Every cover. And the software it comes with flips through the magazine just like you're reading the original as it was laid out. Including the ads and classifieds. Every edition from #1 to May of last year (and each year, for $12, you can get the new ones in December).

But it was my lifetime.
My music.
My pop culture.
And embracing a perspective that I've gravitated towards since I escaped Alabama.
And those photos are some of the coolest photos ever.

Thumbnails of each edition. Tables of contents. Find an original article on the Ramones? Click on it and it will also bring up--in 2 seconds--every article on that band (or any other) with photos, etc. It will add things to a "reading list," which is nothing more than the literary equivalent of an iPod playlist, so you can organize what you'd like to read.

Oh, man.

I now have something to do...


...for about 40 years.
Hey, Everybody! It's My Friend Donna Riskey's Birthday Today!

So, let's all celebrate by...

...opening our homes to college & high school students to watch trendy television shows, and making it the kind of place where one of them would actually propose to his intended on your sidewalk.
...keeping loads of food & candy--the good kind, not the cheap stuff--around, all of it delicious.
...sitting around a table with friends you've known for years playing Russian Rummy.
...looking forward to sporting events, not necessarily because you like the event per se, but because you get to go with your spouse.
...raising two children who not only walk with Christ but seem reasonably well-adjusted.
...using your spare time to lead a small group Bible study for girls. Sophomore girls at that.
...and actually enjoying/defending the suburban lifestyle!

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Donna!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Cat's Out Of The Bag...

...thanks to Jilly and Kendra in yesterday's comments.

See, generally speaking, I'm not much of a birthday-recognition kind of guy. For years, I kept it under wraps due to the reality that if the students I worked with discovered it, the results would involve me having to clean my yard, house, office and/or car. But, as I got older and those ideas had been pretty much exhausted, and the patronage here at The Diner kept bringing it up...

...well... is my birthday. 42nd for those scoring at home.

And, in traditional Diner fashion, we take the time to celebrate birthdays by partaking of an action that person is known for, or undertaking a habit they do, or observing something from their lifestyle. But today, YOU, the patrons, will be writing. So, without further adieu, I'll get us started:

Hey, Everybody! It's My 42nd Birthday! Let's All Celebrate By...

...hoping it drizzles, romanticizing the Pacific Northwest, and listening to Nirvana. Which CD, you ask? All of them, including "With the Lights Out." (their compilation of B-sides and other recordings that didn't make their albums)

Oh, man.

Have at it, patrons.
Just To Make Jilly Crazy On The First Day of Organized Major League Workouts (a.k.a. "spring training")

Both from the movie "Field of Dreams," which Kid1 and I watched last night--as is tradition in our family to begin baseball season (along with the reading of "Men at Work" by George Will, which must be completed by Opening Day).

"Well, you know I... I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?"--Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham to Ray Kinsella.

"Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. I've heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that been dust for over fifty years. That was me. I'd wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet... The thrill of the grass. Man, I did love this game. I'd have played for food money. It was the game... The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?...I used to love travelling on the trains from town to town. The hotels... brass spittoons in the lobbies, brass beds in the rooms. It was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep. Shoot, I'd play for nothing."--Shoeless Joe Jackson to Ray Kinsella.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

True Love

You're going to find some way to get to a locale in which you can get away from the white noise of your day.

Once you do, close your eyes and listen.

Really listen.


If you're doing it correctly, you'll eventually hear some faint noises. They'll sound like muted "pops" from your fireplace when it uses real wood. These sounds will have a certain rhythm, even if that rhythm is unpredictable. These sounds will cause great joy in your life even if you're not exactly sure why. You'll just have an inner peace. Indescribable peace. Your body will feel as if the universe has some sort of harmony and you are right there with it.

These faint sounds will emanate from central Florida and the deserts of Arizona...but by the time they get to you they will be like music.

A horsehide covered & laced baseball, when it connects with a leather glove, makes beautiful music, folks.

And pitchers and catchers report to spring training today.

Professional baseball has awakened.

Hope springs eternal...even for Rangers fans who hope that we can find some pitching.

The universe is in harmony.

It's baseball, Ray. It's bigger than all of us.
Happy Valentine's Day Everybody!

In today's morning news there was a True Love Compatibility Checker. What I liked about it was that it claimed to be based on an "algorithm used by 5th grade girls everywhere" and that it said Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo were only 35% compatible. Cowboys fans know this bodes well for our playoff future if he abides by the findings.

Anyway, Tracy and I scored 73%. Pretty good start to Valentine's Day, if you ask me.

Until I realized our compatibility was only 2x better than Tony and Jessica...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thoughts On Jeremiah 11: 1--17

Most scholars agree that the events of Jeremiah 11 & 12 follow from the historical events of 2 Chronicles 34. Basically, that's a story about how Jeremiah's father (likely, anyway) found the book of the Law, which began a short-lived spiritual revival in the land. It didn't take long for that spiritual renewal to become more of a renewal in national pride--which are two distinctly different things.

Notice first that Jeremiah was supposed to "hear" the terms of the covenant, and then "pass them on." Isn't this always the order we should follow when it comes to our own spiritual walk? I mean, we've got to internalize and personalize these things before we give them to others. How can we give to others what we don't own ourselves?

Seems to me that cause and effect is in play here. There are curses for failure to follow the covenant and blessings for keeping the terms. I think that's the way life is, even if we aren't directly involved in this particular covenant. Our actions have consequences. Most times these consequences aren't "God-driven" but rather more of a natural outflow of the choice. In other words, maybe God didn't cause the heart attack, but it was the 30,000 Big Macs consumed from 1975-2008 inclusive. But the bottom line is that actions have consequences. The good actions and the unwise alike.

I don't think we often respond to God like Jeremiah did: "So be it!" Especially when the news isn't pleasant. Or even if the news is along the lines of cause/effect.

I'm always fascinated by the use of language...little colloquialisms and such. In this case, telling these words "in the towns of Judah and in the streets." Basically it means to speak these words wherever you go.

God's pretty patient and longsuffering, and in this case it'd been around 100 years since He felled the Northern Kingdom, but man, when He's had enough, He's had enough.

The stubborn and wicked heart is the cause of pretty much everything bad. How in the world to people really believe that mankind in innately good? It's beyond me.

The plot of "revolt" in 11:9. When I think of this, I think of a mob of people who have organized and are systematically plotting the overthrow...OF GOD HIMSELF! Really? No matter how big the mob or how organized the group it seems pretty much a guaranteed loss. Oddly, we do this so often that we're numb to the reality that we all have little nooks and crannies of our spiritual lives where we do this very same thing. Now, it may be our own little revolt, but our odds are just as slim no matter how many we could even draw into our little plan.

One last thing: Isn't it interesting that these people were creating their very own little gods out of wood and stone and painting them and having elaborate ceremonies around them. They carved them. They painted them. They danced around them while they just sat there. They made unrequieted sacrifices to them. And, when calamity came upon them, they turned to the very things they carved and painted and danced around and made unrequieted sacrifices to. This seems like peculiar behavior...that you'd ascribe power to something that you created and then fall back on that very creation to fix the problem. What's strange is how often we do that in our own lives when we make gods out of money, jobs, spouses, education, etc.

In the little poem in verses 16-17, the nation of Israel was created to be something very beautiful and functional (fruit and form)...and it wasn't fulfilling that beauty or that function. Interestingly, some 700 years later, Christ would do the very same thing in that revolutionary call in the Sermon on the Mount. Something about salt and light.

It seems to me the theme of this section is revolution. You're either in revolt against God or you can allow the revolution to occur in your own heart and mind. This usually involves a change in thinking and action. In that order. What's so peculiar is how resistant we are to the very idea of change.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


You know...when your internet is down at work, it changes pretty much your whole day and way of doing things.

Especially when you have to blog from home when you were planning on doing it first thing when you got in early to do it.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Gearing Down

The weekend flew by.

Our annual leadership "retreat" took place. Lots of eating, lots of laughs, lots of deep thinking, lots of planning. This was on the tail end of the normal work week. Friday night and 3/4 of the day Saturday.

Kids in various places doing various things.

Teaching a class Sunday morning. Started a class--that went better than expected--on Sunday night.

And an even busier week at work upcoming.

And today is my day off...sort of a parenthesis between the two weeks (and don't even get me started on the week after that as I'll be preaching on Feb. 24) and Valentine's Day looming.

It already seems so busy...

...even flipping the newspaper seemed hurried.

I'll be slowing down by intent in minutes: Hammock, Hemmingway, Great Dog, Nap. Maybe I'll work out...

But everything seems warp speed right now.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Once Again, In Case You Missed It, Theology Matters

It's been done before.

Too much, really. The point's been made and the dead horse still gets beaten.

But in today's Dallas Morning News there was a Chris Lehmann Sunday Commentary regarding Joel Olsteen (of publishing & Lakewood Church renknown). Like I said, lots of articles have been written about Joel Olsteen's books/CD's/Church and he's quite the easy target. He's done it to himself, frankly. But there seem to be 47,000 folks that he's "reaching" each Sunday, not to mention book sales and such. I'd imagine he's doing quite well for himself in a number of "quality of life" index categories.

But that's not what the article is about. It's about his theology. The author refers to it as "Word-Faith," but the label is irrelevant. Lehmann is bringing to the forefront the logical "ends" of what the pastor believes. His theology. His theos--Godhead--logos--word. His words about God. And what he believes about God has an effect on his life and those who hear him. The article closes this way: "This is a long, long way down the road from the inscrutable, infant-damning theology of this country's Calvinist forebears – it is, rather, a just-in-time economy's vision of salvation, an eerily collapsible spiritual narcissism that downgrades the divine image into the job description for a lifestyle concierge."

It isn't Joel Olsteen I want to talk about, though.

It's the reality the article sets forth: That your "god words" affect your life. The things you believe about God all have logical "ends" and ways you live that out in the moment-by-moment of your day. Every day. From now through eternity and beyond. It's just how it is.

Hence, theology matters.

Now, it's obvious to some (apparently there's 47,000 and change that aren't so quick to grasp it) when you get to an extreme like Olsteen's that there might be something fishy going on. More or less "cooking the books" or whatever you want to call it.

But every pastor/teacher has theological underpinnings and beliefs that affect their life & teaching in such ways. We all have 'em. They all show up in our teaching from time to time. Our "god words" touch every facet of our lives, from how our church services look & our body is governed to what we teach about the spiritual life now to what we believe about the end times to salvation to how we treat our wives/children, to how we view authority, to how we treat the grocery clerk, to how we drive, etc. You get the point. Every facet flows from a belief system.

Which is why it came to a head yesterday.

A family who used to go to our church was out and about and I bumped into them. We chatted and got caught up on kids and such. I mentioned how much I enjoyed one of their children--a former student--and missed their family being around. It was very pleasant. In fact, the mom said, "Listen, we love you and appreciate all you've done for our family. And we kind of miss Crossroads. So many great people and so many gifted teachers and so much good stuff going on. But, our kids had more friends going to [current church] and we got tired of fighting that battle every week."

Now, don't get me wrong. The church they mentioned is a fine church. As far as I know, their staff loves the Lord and all that jazz. But I can read their doctrinal statement.

And I know the logical "ends" of that theological bent. In fact, I could get anyone that asked to some web sites that would help them think through the ramifications of that theological bent.

And I'm not against someone choosing to go to that church because they're in alignment with that theological bent. Obviously, I disagree with it, or, frankly, I'd probably go there. Like I said, they've got staff that love the Lord from what I can tell. They've got decent programs. Fair enough. I understand why folks like the place. Really. I do.

Ultimately, though theology matters.

Those little underpinnings that don't show up at first will rear their ugly heads in places folks least expect...

...and legalism will rule the day. In their lives as well as in the lives of their kids and all their friends who go there.

And, I can't for the life of me figure out why grownups would let their kids pick a church for the family. Or because of any pastor. Or because of any program. Or because of convenient times or location. Those things are nice to have, but they're the gravy. And, to be honest, I wouldn't want folks to choose my church because of our "gravy." The meat & potatoes are the god words at our place or anyone else's.

I guess their theology matters, doesn't it?

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Most of you know I'm a morning person. I get up early. I like it.

The exact time varies. Depends on if I'll be working out, or have a meeting, or if it's a weekend. No two days in a row are exactly the same time.

For the last three days it's been 4:45AM, 5AM and today was 6AM.

For the last three days I woke up at 4:44AM, 4:59AM and 5:59AM.

No alarm. Just had my eyes pop open, roll over, look at the clock and say, "Cool. I'm awake before the annoying beeps." Then turn off the clock before those imminent beeps fully realize. When that happens, I roll over, smack the button and say, "Ugh. Gotta get up. I'm kinda tired."

My day just started better the last three days.

This reminded me of something the Smokin' Hot Shutterbug Trophy Wife and I decided to do early on in childraising: Wake them up gently, with little kisses and stroking their hair...and make the morning as pleasant as possible. No rushing around (which meant preparing the night before, mostly just before bedtime as part of the winding down process) to get last-minute minutiae squared away, no harassment about chores left undone, no jumping on them about them not letting us know something until the last minute...

...just choose to be pleasant. Not full-throttle fun or joy. It doesn't all have to be Fatboy Slim in the AM. Just relaxed and pleasant. Like maybe R.E.M. or the Talking Heads. I mean, why saddle their teacher with a child's grumpiness that we instigated anyway? A kiss and an "I love you" and a "have a good day at school" (which, as they got older morphed into "please come home smarter than you are because I like to see the results of my tax dollars in tangible ways"--which they never thought was funny but I sure did, 185 times a year).

Seems the world beats on us all the time. And home is the place that should be a haven rather than a continuation.

Waking up before the alarm reminded me of that.

And I'm glad to be reminded of that.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I Was Kinda Tagged...

Retrophisch had a blog "tag" but did it very politely by mentioning that his readers didn't have to do it and he wouldn't tag them...but I'm pretty sure he'd want me to follow his meme of a few days ago. So, without further adieu:

Eight things you probably didn’t know about me...

The rules:

Link to your tagger and post these rules.
List EIGHT random facts about yourself.
Tag EIGHT people at the end of your post and list their names.
Let them know they’ve been tagged (I won't be tagging anyone in Retrophisch's example, but feel free to have at it, patrons).

1. I have never smoked anything. Ever. Really. Not a pipe. Not a cigar. Not a cigarette. Not pot. Nothing. My dad smoked and I got it in my head at an early age somehow that this was a nasty habit and didn't bother. I've been tempted at bachelor parties and on several occasions when former students wanted me to smoke a celebratory cigar after their graduations...but the situations never worked out.

2. I was voted "Most Unpredictable" in the high school yearbook and "Most Changed" at my high school's 20-year reunion. Actually, the two guys that were actually voted "Most Unpredictable" ahead of me wound up either getting suspended and/or changed high schools by the time they took the yearbook photos and I finished third. But my photo is there. At the 20-year reunion, most of my classmates hadn't seen me 70 pounds heavier than my last day of high school or the goatee or ponytail. A far different look than my senior class president days with the W.A. Berry High School Buccaneers.

3. I can juggle surprisingly well. Sure, most of my students have seen it at one point or another, but very few people who know me know that I can go behind the back, over the shoulder, off knees, "hackysack" type and all sorts of changes in speed and rhythm.

4. I haven't had a traffic ticket since the week after I got my license at age 16. No kidding. I got one showing off in front of friends early on and realized the stupidity of that little misdemeanor/money waste. I've been pulled over a handful of times for "slow rolling" stop signs and once for 47 in a 40...and I got a warning for pulling off the interstate and onto the service road via the grass between the two during a traffic jam and my kids had to go to the restroom. But no tickets. I'm a pretty defensive driver.

5. I've seen 4 professional wrestling championship bouts. Ric Flair vs. Nikita Koloff for the championship of the NWA. Hulk Hogan vs. Bad News Brown for the WWF championship. Tag teams Road Warriors vs. The Midnight Express (with manager Jim Cornett) in a scaffold match. And finally Lex Luger vs. Sting for a later NWA championship. Each and every night I had a blast. Of course, all of them were 20 or so years ago...I have no idea how that would play out now.

6. I once spent about 45 minutes with Motley Crue. The Crue had just released their "Shout at the Devil" album and was playing Birmingham. They were doing a record signing at the Turtle's Records & Tapes next door to the movie theatre I worked for. I was working that day and a huge crowd gathered early in front of the store and they called police and all that jazz to help keep order. Anyway, the record store manager asked if we could let them in our back theatre and walk them down the hallway our businesses shared to get the band into the store safely. Our manager agreed and put me on it--which didn't take any arm-twisting on his part. I let them into the theatre back door from their limo and got them seated about an hour before the signing. I got them popcorn and cokes and such and sat with them while they watched a part of "Bachelor Party" with Tom Hanks in it. Literally, I sat there with them (they actually watched the movie like they'd paid to see it. They certainly didn't appear to be hard-driving partying rock stars. they just ate popcorn and watched the comedy like everybody else) and when they walkie talkied me to bring them to the record store I walked with them and let them in. Later, they had the manager give me their two records as thanks (unsigned, which I thought was odd)...but what made me happiest was about two weeks later when the store manager showed me a photo of them signing Tina Donze's chest--and seeing one of your classmates chest/bra--even in a photo--was pretty great as a high school junior.

7. My mom let me and three friends go to Auburn when I was 15 and I drove her Chevy Citation! I'd been driving my mom's car to the store (about a mile, if that) for errands for about a by the time I got my permit I'd driven a bunch on my own, and nearly 8 months after I got my learner's permit I'd been driving a TON in my neighborhood. Due to our family dynamics with my dad gone I'd been driving to school a lot on my own to school and around my little suburb by myself, too. Often I'd get to use my grandmother's Caprice (Hal better remember the snow day we drove home down Columbiana!) Classic on weekends. Anyway, I'd gotten four tickets on the 50 yard line to Auburn's first night game ever and all my rides fell through. My mom felt sorry for me and told me that I could drive to Auburn (about two hours of interstate time) as long as Frankie rode with us (he was 16). So, at age 15, me and Baker and Hal and Frankie headed off to AU, watched the game and drove back...even if we took the long way back by simply going with the flow of traffic--an entirely different route than we took to get there.

8. I was about to take a job as a mortgage banker about 12 hours before I got started in youth ministry. See, I'd graduated college in three years, planning on going to Dallas Seminary. Well, I'd dropped out (very long story, involving a combination of the stock market crash in 87 and my bad attitude towards the dress code among other things) of seminary and was unemployed for nearly 4 months. I lived at home, engaged and was getting married soon. Well, I was getting ready to start work in April for a mortgage banker and was going in to fill out the final paperwork to start work in a week, when they called and said they'd lost all my paperwork and not to come in until they found it. They called a couple of times to let me know they were still working on it. In the meantime, my former youth minister called and said one of his staffers had resigned and the job was mine if I wanted it. Oddly, I still told Tracy I should hold out for the bank to get the paperwork in order. She knew me well enough to know that I'd not only make a lousy mortgage banker, but also that I'd be miserable. She had to talk me into doing the very job I had been going to seminary to train for.

So, what 8 things do we need to know about you?
For Those That Have Asked...

...Kid2's injury to her foot (which are pretty important to ballerinas) has been diagnosed as a stress fracture. The treatment primarily involves rest, but she should be up to full strength in a month. While you don't want your kid injured ever, of all the things this could've been...

...this has turned out to be the one that has the easiest treatment and best prognosis. So, she'll miss one show all in all. And while Diner management is sad they won't see the Ballet Center of Fort Worth's Spring Show feature their daughter, they're pretty glad this is a minor hiccup.

Special thanks to all who asked!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I Got Tagged

My friend Lauren tagged me and I'm supposed to list a few things that I "love." I get the gist of what the question's asking and hope you understand that I reserve the word "love" for more meaningful things--but here's a list of things I really enjoy/dig:

* When your spouse gives you that look.
* Watching your kids be who they're supposed to be...and liking the interesting people they're becoming.
* A fire in the fireplace burning "real" wood.
* Reading the morning newspaper from any city I'm currently in. This is enhanced by a good cup of coffee & quiet environs.
* A good dog to hang out with.
* Spaghetti & pizza.
* The spontaneous laughter with my wife and children when it appeared not much was going on in our house.
* The introductory sounds of a song by Nirvana, Social Distortion, Stavesacre or Pearl Jam when you're in the exact mood to hear them.
* The anticipation of the morning you know you're going snow skiing and the mountain just got 5 inches of powder overnight. Eating breakfast in the lodge and loading your gear onto the outside ski racks on the busses with that feeling of excitement it a pure life moment.
* Opening Day for the major league home team for the same kind of feeling all morning.
* Browsing in a really good bookstore with a few bucks in your pocket.
* Knowing you're getting a really good gift for someone and they didn't ask for that particular thing...and wanting them to open it right then.
* Teaching in a classroom setting. It's always fun for me to walk through my subject matter and see where my student's thoughts are going.
* 65 degrees, gentle breeze, good book, good dog, my hammock.
* The beach at night. Not during the day, but definitely at night.
* A really good movie comedy no matter how silly or stupid. If it gives belly laughs I couldn't care less.
* Having a car that starts pretty much every time you turn the key, an air conditioner that works and the interior doesn't have rips in it.
* That feeling I get when it becomes apparent the Auburn football team has just ensured a win for the Tigers.

Now, I'm not going to tag anyone, largely because everybody I'd tag has already been tagged, but feel free to get in on this if you want to...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Stuff I Learned Yesterday

That sometimes, we have little idea just how powerful our words are. It reminded me of that line from a song by Kimya Dawson on the Juno soundtrack that says, "I'll ask you what you think because your thoughts and words are powerful."

That sometimes, the most loving thing you can do doesn't always appear or necessarily feel like it's the most loving thing you can do. This applies to both the person doing the loving thing and the person who is listening to the loving thing.

That sometimes, you think somebody's telling you the truth but you aren't exactly sure because they have a million different reasons for not wanting to tell you the truth.

That sometimes, in Texas the weather can drop from 83 to 33 in about four hours.

That sometimes, cheerleaders don't always want their team to win. They might be cheering on the outside but thinking about other things on the inside. It's an interesting irony.

That sometimes, you can literally and completely forget something that's very important to you.

That sometimes, people don't like being on Double Secret Probation. But it's very easy to stay off of it here at The Diner. All you have to do is make a blog entry once a month.

The sometimes, passivity is a mode I fall into and don't see that I'm doing it.

That sometimes, when a discussion of worship music preferences takes place, I don't think I can add much to the discussion. This is because what I want and what's best for my church are two different things. I'll never get what I want. I'm okay with that.

That sometimes, most people have no idea the theological underpinnings and nuances that permeate every pastor's message. These matter a great deal, no matter how dynamic the speaker is. Even if the end result is more or less the same, how they got there and how they believe that fleshes out in the day to day at the end result of these underpinnings and nuances is terribly important.

That sometimes, all the people who get concerned about where an 18 year old is going to play college football need to spend more time doing something else.

That sometimes, people will pay $400 for a video game guitar when you can get an pretty good electric guitar and amp and cords for less. And with the time spent mastering the game they could actually be a guitar player--I mean, the Beatles made tons of money with catchy hooks and basic chord progressions.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I like movies.

I like writing.

So, why not write a movie?

At least that was the idea. So I did what anybody who knows nothing about a particular subject and wants to learn about that subject would do: I got a book. One from the teacher of big-time screenwriters. I read it. Cover to cover.

And I discovered that I no longer have a desire or have the ability to write a movie. See, movies depend on ideas to be communicated visually about 80% of the time. They actually write movies without dialogue and add only the necessary words later. Since the medium I communicate best in (which, in no way means I'm good at it) is writing and words are used 100% of the time...I might want to find another hobby.

Anyway, I ran across this little piece of gold when McKee talked about what goes on behind writing a good comedy:

"When we peek behind the grinning mask of comic cynicism, we find a frustrated idealist. The comic sensibility wants the world to be perfect, but when it looks around, it finds greed, corruption, lunacy...These angry idealists, however, know that if they lecture the world about what a rotten place it is, no one will listen. But, if they trivialize the exalted, pull the trousers down on snobbery, if they expose society for its tyranny, folly, and greed, and get people to laugh, then maybe things will change. Or balance. So God bless comedy writers!...

The dramatist is fascinated by the inner life, the passions and sins, madness and dreams of the human heart. But not the comedy writer. He fixes on the social life--the idiocy, arrogance and brutality in society. The comedy writer singles out the particular institution that he feels has become encrusted with hypocrisy and folly, then goes on the attack."

And this got me to thinking about comparisons to ministry...

I mean, I think that pastors tend to be idealists. I am. I want the world to be perfect but focus on all the bad stuff.

Then he implied that comedy writers are "angry" about this. You know, I get angry about those things.

And I do like to expose these things...and I often use humor to do it.

And I do want things to change. I think it'd make me happy if there was even a balance.

And I do focus on the social outworkings of these realities a lot. You know, how our actions affect relational aspects of our know, like our ability to influence society, particularly when were so influenced by the very society we're trying to change...or at least have balance.

And, sometimes I use my platforms to "go on the attack."

So, I think I relate to the comedy screenwriters more than the drama creator. Even if I'm never going to write a screenplay as one of my platforms.

But all this does have me thinking about what I might want to use The Diner platform even moreso to go on the "attack." Like I've said before...

...I must be well rested these days...

And reading Jeremiah more these days...

Because I'm getting that Stavasacresque mindset again: "I'm crawling out of my skin/I hope I get under yours." I think I like the change.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowl Ads

Here are my favorite Super Bowl ads by quarter. The only qualification was if I laughed out loud, so, yes, I recognize that others were "better" (like when Doritos recognized little-known music) or "more effective" (like when Budweiser trained the Clydesdale like Rocky). But, here are the ones that cracked me up:

1st Quarter:

Diet Pepsi Max Super Bowl Ad: Wake Up People Ginseng & Caffeine

Add to My Profile | More Videos

2nd Quarter:

T-Mobile Super Bowl: Barkley Adds Dwayne Wade to MyFaves

Add to My Profile | More Videos

3rd Quarter:


4th Quarter:


eTrade Super Bowl Commercial: Talking Baby Rents a Clown

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Bud Light Super Bowl Ad: Will Ferrell as Jackie Moon, Semi-Pro

Add to My Profile | More Videos

So...which were your favorites in a year when, overall, the commercials just weren't up to snuff?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that the reason I like Super Bowl Sunday is that it's symbolic of the orthopraxy of the American Dream. July 4 is the orthodoxy, the philosophical underpinnings.
...that the only logical pick is to take the Patriots and give the 12 points (say, 31-17), I have a gut feeling the Giants just might win this thing.
...that yesterday I learned that ballerinas can show guts and be brave. See, it turns out that Kid2's got some injury to her foot (which, if you didn't know, is pretty important in ballet) that we're awaiting MRI results on, and this weekend was an important competition. She realized after her first solo that she couldn't do the more difficult 2nd one...but that the evening ensemble pieces didn't have understudies. So, she literally smiled her way through it so her studio could compete. Tough kid, man.
...that usually the thrill I have watching Kid2 dance was missing yesterday. When you know the pain she's in but no one in the crowd does, those 3 minutes she's on stage on 2 different dances can be excruciating for a parent.
...that, until now, nobody would've picked up on my kid fighting through the pain she was in, which makes me even prouder.
...that it's my friend Kate's birthday today!
...that my Jeremiah study gets more under my skin too much to make it what I'd call...enjoyable...but I'm having a great time teaching through it.
...that I'm starting a class next Sunday night that's going to have a minichurch kind of feel to it, and it's on Proverbs. I'll be teaching it from a marriage/parenting/life perspective and I'm actually enjoying prep for that class. It should be great for parents & couples.
...that I'm on edge an awful lot these days in the best possible ways.
...that I think I'm going to avoid all the Super Bowl hype and check out a bookstore and maybe an afternoon movie and get home just in time for the game.
...that the Dallas Stars won all three road games in regulation after the all-star break and look serious about making some noise once the playoffs start.
...that I think it's great the negative publicity Jerry Jones is getting for his new Cowboys stadium season ticket plan. For the uninitiated: Personal Seat Licenses (where you pay a one-time fee for the "right" to purchase season tickets) are nothing new. Auburn has had them for a long time, only the money goes to the university endowments. And in the NFL, the highest cost of a PSL is $12,000. Until now. Jerry has them starting at $16K, and, depending on the location of the seat, up to $150,000. Apparently, there's a lot of season ticket holder backlash. Which, I think is a good thing. I don't like the idea of the tailgaiting face-painting jersey-wearing fan being priced out of stadiums. But hey, it's his investment. He can do what he wants and most likely he'll sell it out at whatever price he sets. Let that supply and demand thing work, man.
...that Kid1's optimism for the Texas Rangers is a trait I wish I had. Yesterday, she said, "You know, Dad, I think this could be our year." I said, "Maybe so. You never know." But I thought, "We just signed a pitcher who was 2-7 to 'shore up the starting rotation' and bankrolled a centerfielder who hasn't played in 4 years due to drug problems (which apparently are behind him now)." That doesn't sound like it's going to be our year, man.
...that this entry is way too sports intensive, so I'm signing off. Happy Super Bowl, patrons!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

My Adult Crusade Here

Call it whatever you like.

Maybe it's the old youth pastor in me or whatever, but it always made me crazy to listen to adults use whatever forums and platforms they have to bag on teenagers and teenage culture. It always sounded to me like grumpy old people having a bad case of "good old days" syndrome so I have no idea how it sounded to them.

But they did it. Failing to realize that they tuned them out just like we tuned our parents out.

And they did it again today in the local neighborhood section of the local paper. It's a "sound off" kind of column which puts faces of local teachers and homemakers and business folk and other concerned citizens and they each get a sentence or two in which they can opine.

Today's topic was "Your Teenage Crusade Here." As if that wasn't bad enough, the respondents were boringly maddeningly predictable: Pull your pants up. Use good grammar. Get good haircuts. Don't have sex, but if you do, be responsible. Respect your elders. Don't smoke. Volunteer (when in reality, they're forced into more volunteerism than adults). Don't get tattoos.


So, here at The Diner, I'm all about "My Adult Crusade Here."

Live Out Your Convictions: If your spiritual life is truly the most important thing to you and what you want to impart to your children, then live them out yourself. Don't load your weekend up with tons of activities and then talk about how tired you are and just need a break so you can't go to minichurch or church services. They make the disconnect, folks. When you say things like, "You can go to youth group/Bible study/spiritual growth activity after you finish your homework." Or that after the extracurricular activity they've got to get their homework done so they can't go to the youth group/Bible study/spiritual growth activity...well, they just learned that it isn't the most important thing. How about making the choices between sleep and homework, rather than homework and church. Or between computer time and homework. Or video games and homework. They pick up when church is the last option.

Shut Off Technology: We've become the ones that drive while talking on cell phones. We're the ones who turn on the DVD player while running an errand and have the kid in a car seat. We're the ones who let them text message in church or small group meetings. We're the ones who let them play the PSP while taking the family to breakfast. We're the ones who let them come into the house and veg for an hour in front of a computer screen. We're the ones who let them iPod the world away in the classroom. We're the ones who build restaurants with (literally...I counted) 12 HDTV's within clear view of my seat. Maybe we should let them see us put the cell phone away and turn the visual/audio stimulation off and communicate that the time with you is the most important time.

Be The Grown Up: Sure, we all like to be carefree and enjoy life. Keep the top down and the music up and dance and sing and make out like crazy with your spouse. There are times for all of that and more. But there are also times when the most loving thing we can do is discipline our children. If I hear one more parent say they want to be their child's best friend I think I'll puke. Be a parent. Your job isn't to trust them or to have them like you. Your job is to show the most love you can, which might mean saying no or not giving them lavish gifts or not trusting their human nature and checking up. Sure, it's more work and we aren't liked as much...but that's the role we chose to undertake. You can be friends after the quarter century of involvement you signed up for.

Remember They're Watching Every Move You Make (And Making Judgments): When you cut through the church parking lot to save three minutes or cross the double line into the HOV lane rather than waiting the quarter mile or bad-mouthing the administration/teacher/pastor or treating the clerk like dirt or lying or being a lousy spouse or living materially or whatever...they're watching it all, man. And when they see hypocrisy, they may not say anything, but it is all duly noted.

Stop Fighting Kids Battles: Follow chain of command...which usually involves letting the kid approach the teacher when they presume an unfair grade. Don't believe your kid when they come home with stories about the teacher or youth pastor or coach--take a deep breath and remember that there are two sides to every story. Sure, your kid will get screwed here and there. But the world's an imperfect place. Screws fall out all the time. They'll have spouses and bosses and kids to deal with and it's better they learn now to fail and deal with their own heart and develop integrity, even if it means a lower grade or they don't get to start or they didn't get to go on the trip.

Stay Alert: Sometimes, your children lie. And steal. They have human nature, too. While we don't like to think that about them, they're selfish beasts who aren't the innocent angels we desperately want them to be. You better bring your "A" game to the parenting stadium every day. Somebody's kids are out there doing drugs and having sex and bullying and all that jazz. Why are we so quick to think that they aren't ours?

Don't Condescend To Teenagers: Their world is stressful enough. You don't like it when those who have authority condescend to you, so don't do it to them. Teach them to think. Their brains haven't developed fully yet and they need help. That doesn't make them stupid or less valuable, that just makes them inexperienced.

Oh, man...

...I'm just getting started.

I thought this would make me feel better...

...but it just got me more worked up.

So, I'll let you take it from here.
The Funnies Are Us

Friday, February 01, 2008

More Thoughts On Jeremiah

Brain Ramblings from Chapter 7

I like the confrontational posturing God used to get the attention of the hearers. Very likely, the "standing in the gates" was a practice that ended during the reign of the previous king (Josiah's father)...where the prophet would stand in the gates as the hearers entered and proclaim truth. I have little trouble with confrontation and think this action of Jeremiah would certainly get the nation's attention.

I wonder what Jeremiah must've been experiencing when told to standin the gates...what he was thinking & feeling. Especially knowing what the message was going to be. I wonder how he dealt with whatever the feelings were.

It's obvious that these words were given to a collective people. Any individual application would fall in the context of their role within a larger group context.

Notice what they weren't to trust in: Deceptive words. Evidently, these people were taught that they were special and set apart because of who they were with respect to family/national lineage. In other words, we go to the Temple, hence we are God's people.

Notice the "if/then" propositions: IF you (plural)

...amend your ways (thought processes) and deeds (actions resulting from those thought processes)
...practice justice with yoru friends
...don't oppress the aliens (those that the nation was supposed to be "salt & light" for), orphans/widows (their society's "helpless")
...don't shed innocent blood (this was actually going on in the Temple!)
...or walk after other gods (the very place they were going was the dwelling place of one specific God--the One they claimed as their Father. Ironic, eh?)

True repentance has outward manifestations. Always.

THEN they will get their promised blessing.

The promises to Israel and the promises to the church are distinctly different. There is a clear distinction between the two. Many doctrinal errors and misinterpretations occur when readers fail to apply that reality.

In verse 9, they were violating the Law...and not even the more difficult portions when you think about it. The command not to covet (inward) wasn't even brought up. Those that were outward actions, easily measurable, were brought up. Very objective.

They were coming to the Temple with very hard hearts. And, all too often, we have this image that as long as the Israelites went to the Temple and "covered" their sins temporarily they were good to go. The reality is that it has never been that way. God wasn't interested in their sacrifices as long as they were being done for the sake of doing them. And, God told them (in verses 22-23) that it was NEVER about the sacrifices in and of themselves. When they came from Egypt, before the Law was even issued, it was always about walking with their Father.

Ever felt like your spiritual life is going backwards and not forwards (v. 24)?

Ultimately, I think we can take these principles and apply them to the Church at-large...the same principles are reiterated in the NT, so it isn't too much of a stretch to make the application...

...that when looking for a church the primary concern should be doctrinal. See, under the surface of this entire section is that there is one true God and He can be known. They're already into doctrine just on those points. All too often, followers of God now look for bells and whistles and a type of "feel" when looking for a church to be a part of. Doesn't matter what those bells and whistles are, either. But sound doctrine and the resulting values and beliefs (orthodoxy AND orthopraxy) should be the concern.

...what attitudes do we bring to worship services? Are we simply doing these things because they are "what we do" or are we attending to worship along with other believers? And, are we okay if what that looks like isn't necessarily our cup of tea? What is my role in the corporate gathering? do my actions affect our corporate life together? How do we "look" to the aliens we come in contact with? See, I think that all too often we spin in our own little Christian bubble and we alienate more than we draw.

...Church/corporate life ins't about "me" at all. It's about "us" walking humbly and authentically with our God in concert. Sometimes we just have to get over ourselves--like the "surface" issues brought up yesterday: Sleeping in, blowing off body life for ourselves, blaming others' behavior, looking for "common interests" or a great (insert your wanted/desired program here), or the great/awful personality of the pastor, excusing our behavior--anything and everything mentioned in the comments from yesterday--it's not about me at all. When I don't seek to serve, the Body misses what I bring to it. It's the same for all of us.

As you can tell, I'm kinda chippy about all this stuff today. Your thoughts?