Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Milestone And An Announcement

The post below was number 2,500.

That's a lot of posts. A lot of topics. A lot of coffee. A lot of energy poured into it. A lot of community developed. A lot of words, man. A lot of a lot of things (insert your own adjective here).

It's averaging out to more than a post every day since June 23, 2003. That's 2,501 posts in 1,911 days for those of you keeping score.

And, it's time for a little break. I know this is existential, but I just feel it, kids.

How little of a break?

That depends.

It'll start with two weeks...

...and we'll see if I have a seizure and fall over without the daily discipline of public writing. So, expect me back on October 1. And, don't think for a second that it doesn't bother me to be taking this break when I'm having the best football picks of my life (for the record, 21 wins, 8 losses, 1 push--are you freaking kidding me against the point spread?!) that I won't have that little feature at the ready on your Friday mornings.

If I like going back to private journals, I may extend my little blog vacation longer...especially if I wind up writing for a book and focus my energies there with the extra energy.

So, I hope you understand that 2,500 seems like a nice place to take a little break and hang the "Gone Fishin'" sign out for a couple of weeks. And, don't worry, I'll still be lurking around on your blogs and such, commenting here and there. Sure, you're welcome to hang out and such and chat amongst yourselves.

See you on the other side.

Godspeed, patrons!

Blowing Somebody Else's Horn

Not that Oprah needs anyone to give her props, but today The Diner would like to give her props. Here's why:

See, she had actress Hillary Swank on her show to help a worthy charitable cause...and one that I was looking for. On three different occasions I've donated my hair to Locks of Love. It's an organization dedicated to making wigs for children and I was of the impression it was for cancer patients. However, a couple of years back I discovered that their primary beneficiaries were afflicted with alopecia areata. Don't get me wrong. It's a worthy cause. But not where my heart is.

And, Oprah, after the press covered her cutting Hillary Swank's hair, led me to Pantene Pro-V's Beautiful Lengths Campaign. This organization works directly with cancer patients, which is what started me growing my hair out to serve. I'm glad to have done this yesterday:

As the folks at Pantene are trying to get 1 million inches of hair, here's 9 more. And, having had a couple of former students who needed wigs, as did my own mom, thank you to everyone involved for the chance to make somebody's day just a little bit brighter in the midst of a ton of bad days. I hope you get your million inches.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sonic Light

One of the best kept secrets on the Internet for members of our Tribe:

Sonic Light.

See, one of my professors has been taking notes on the Bible...

...each and every verse of the Bible...

...for the entirety of his career.

He's made them available for free to anyone that wants them.

Whether or not you line up theologically or not with his perspective is irrelevant. It's a fabulous, free, tool to help you out, and I figured I'd give some shouts out to Dr. Tom Constable, head of the Bible Exposition department at Dallas Theological Seminary (and extraordinarily talented teacher of those written notes, btw), for making them free for all of us.
Remote Controls

Remote controls can get misplaced in your home, right? Falls between the cushions. Maybe set on a counter. Slides underneath a coffee table. But you know it's in the room or close, right?

Try finding one in a 60,000 square foot church. One in which no less than 4 different ministries use that very same remote control to run the DVD player. Each time, when training their staff to use our stuff, we tell them to put the remotes back in the basket in the sound booth.

Now, keep in mind that most machines have no buttons on them anymore and to pause, fast-forward, rewind, move menus, etc., you need that remote control.

So, imagine my surprise when I came to set a DVD and there were ZERO remote controls in the basket in the sound booth. I've got four different machines that will play our multimedia but can't set said multimedia to where I need it set. Real nice.

And, that little suggestion about running it all from computer that you're about to make? Yeah, it's Windows based. Read: Prone to lock up in crucial moments if you've got different things running (which we always have).

The simplest solution, and lesson for today, kids, is simply to put things back where they belong after you use them.
Why The System Stinks

It's obvious that U.S.C. will win the extremely weak Pac-10.

It's obvious that the Big-10, well, ain't so big, man. Michigan is way down, and Ohio State couldn't stay within 4 TD's of a championship caliber team.

And the rest of the nation seems to think that the Southeastern Conference is so good that nearly HALF of the conference in ranked in the TOP TEN in the nation. And, that's with Georgia dropping AGAIN even though they won (bringing up, again, 2004 when the logic was, "The teams ranked #1 & #2 didn't lose, so they can't drop. Sorry, Auburn.") to #3.

Now, here's what will happen...

Georgia has to play Florida, Bama & Auburn.
LSU has to play Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Auburn.
Alabama plays Georigia, Tennessee on the road & Auburn.
Auburn's got Bama and Tennessee on the road, Georgia at home.
Of course, the Gators have Florida and LSU.

Interestingly, the Gators have the inside track if they get by the Vols this weekend.

There's just no way all those teams are going to be unbeaten...especially when the rest of the conference can rise up consistently and steal a win. Teams like Tennessee, Vandy, Arkansas, South Carolina, etc., all can go 4-4 in the conference.

So, the Big 12 will come down to two legitimate teams that have a shot: Oklahoma and Mizzou. The winner of that game will play U.S.C. for the national championship.

And neither will be the "best" team in the country over the course of the season.

The S.E.C. should just secede from the NCAA, declare their champion, and just let everybody else have at it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


If you're here in Texas, you've been inundated with news about Hurricane Ike. Those who keep track of such things knows that even if you're 500 miles away, you probably have friends and/or family in the path of the storm. And, in Houston, those in charge of such things evacuated folks who lived in low-lying areas, but told the rest of the citizenry to...

...and this is an exact quote...

...hunker down at home.

I wasn't exactly sure what it meant so I looked up "hunker" in the dictionary. It has origins in a Dutch word that means, "to squat." The definition mentioned to settle in or dig in for a sustained period. So, kudos to those leaders who used the word correctly in a sentence.

And, it got me to thinking.

What if, for no reason at all, our leaders told us that we should all just hunker down at home. Maybe they could tell us to hunker down at home for a whole weekend sometimes or maybe just an entire Saturday...then follow it up a month later with just a hunker down at home two hours. You know, closed all businesses and such and had mandatory time at home with the family. You could do what you wanted with your two hours or your weekend, but the entire citizenry just...

...hunkered down at home. No job. No games. No outside world responsibilities.

And, in your hunkering, you could use the time to get organized and clean out closets. Or change your oil. Or grill meat & stuff. Or play Wii or Uno Attack. Or nap. Or read. Yes, I think it'd be okay to have group hunkerings, too, especially if they were only the two-hour variety.

Now, I'm trying to figure out who I talk to to get this ball rolling. Because I don't think we should hunker down for only safety reasons (which, I'd imagine, would take all the fun out of the hunkering).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'm Sure Most Of You Have Seen This By Now...

This got forwarded to several co-workers on Thursday.

Just thought I'd share...

I laughed.

I cried.
Music People vs. Non-Music People

My family members are music people.

What I mean is this: We enjoy music and really feel that it makes our lives on this big blue marble a little bit better. Sure, we have different things that get us going. Like Black Flag or Motorhead for dad, something about "apple bottom jeans and boots with the fur" or indie rock that gets the girls going or old school Prince or John Mellancamp that the Mrs. likes. But we all have music going a lot.

In fact, as I was doing what everybody now has to do with the new updated version of iTunes last night (re: get all the album art you didn't get the first time around and load it into the library so that little music note will go away) there was this obscure single I had converted from cassette tape a few years back from this obscure band a lot of my friends liked when we were in college. Sure enough, I was able to find the art that came with the 45 (look it up) I recorded it from.

This reminded me of the guy in my fraternity who was a SERIOUS music guy. So SERIOUS that he was the music director at the campus radio station when so many great bands were only being played on college radio...like REM, B-52's, the Pretenders, the Talking Heads, Sigue Sigue Sputnik...right.

Anyway, because my friend Dave and I keep up on Facebook, I sent him a note saying I'd found the artwork, he then mentioned that he had several bootleg live CD's of Mr. Resistor and the Incapacitators and he could e-mail me some songs he remembered I liked.


He was THAT music guy. The guy that you helped put together those album crates because he'd just purchased four more and didn't think that was enough. The guy that could tell you when he saw that band at the 688 Club in Atlanta in '83 and they were AWESOME that night. The guy that had every single album you could possibly want to record a song or two off of and then he'd recommend a couple of other songs off a couple of other albums you'd never heard of and pull them out of his library, knowing precisely where they were. He was the Amazon recommendation feature in human form. He should've been the music director at WEGL (short for War Eagle, get it?) and his current career is in the music industry.

Flip that over and I had friends that only listened to music if there was a funnel and/or beer involved and some party involved. Even then, their entire repertoire involved songs about "cheeseburgers in paradise" and/or "blowing out a flip flop and stepping on a pop top." They put their arms around each other a lot and sang these songs. The kind of guys that would borrow a record and leave it laying out on their desk. The kind of guys that would pick the needle up at the end of one of those songs and move it back to the groove of the first tune.

I've been in rooms where you mentioned Maralyn Manson and all the parents nodded. I've been in room and made a reference to Jimi Hendrix and had someone in their '60's ask "Who is that?"

So, I'm wondering if you're the kind of person that is close to filling up in iPod with music or has the extra hard drive to store it all, or if you're the kind of person who doesn't even own an iPod because they can't figure out why anyone would want one...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mum's The Word

When I was in high school and homecoming was afoot, you went to the local florist and picked up a mum for your date. It was roughly the size of a softball, and in pipe cleaners in your high school colors were letters were attached to the top of the flower. There were ribbons roughly six inches long in school colors with the words "homecoming" and "1984" on them. They cost about 10 bucks or so, and every girl had pretty much the same flower in the homecoming photos.

Well, in Texas, this is another one of those things where "everything's bigger." The homecoming mums have looked like this for years:

And, I didn't even take a photo of the garters that the girls give to the guys. They're roughly the same size!
Friday Football Picks, Week #3

Well, The Diner is on an pretty good roll against the line this year! 7-3 in week one, and last week we went 8-2. That's 15-5 against the point spread, which for the uninitiated, is excellent! So, with all that momentum, we're heading into week three...

Auburn at Mississippi State (+10.5): Auburn has finally settled on a quarterback, even if it's the one fans didn't want. Their defense is stout and the Bulldogs have already lost to a lesser opponent. While giving that many points to an SEC home team is rarely a good thing, I think Auburn's got revenge on their minds after last year's upset at home. AU begins a five-game SEC stretch in impressive fasion. Diner Prediction: Auburn 28, Mississippi State 17

U.C.L.A. (+8) at Brigham Young: Rick Neuheisel sent a message with their home upset of Tennessee. It's the same message that got headlines in L.A. when he said that the dynasty "across town" was officially over with his arrival. He's a good coach and can get the best out of his team. If U.C.L.A.'s quarterback plays at all like he played in the 2nd half against the Vols, they win going away. If he plays like he played the first half, they lose by three touchdowns. I think it'll be the former. Diner Prediction: U.C.L.A. 37, Brigham Young 21

Georgia at South Carolina (+7): Okay, in the nutso world of the SEC, South Carolina loses to Vandy. Yet, they're only a one touchdown underdog to a team many feel like is the best team in the nation. So, what is being said is that the Gamecocks at home have a shot against the Dogs. I don't buy it. I think Georgia is for real and Matthew Stafford is surrounded by talent. Diner Prediction: Georgia 31, South Carolina 20

Georgia Tech (+6.5) at Virginia Tech: For some reason, I love the old-school triple option. And, I can't get VaTech's loss to East Carolina out of my head. It just doesn't compute that the Pirates are really that good. I'm trying to balance that out with the fact that the Hokies are at home in an ACC battle and they'll be more focused. But my head tells me that Paul Johnson's option threat can beat Boston College on the road, then they're for real. Diner Prediction: Georgia Tech 23, Virginia Tech 20.

Michigan at Notre Dame (+1.5): Remember when this would've been a good game to watch? The only question is which program has fallen the farthest. My guess is that it's the Irish. Diner Prediction: Michigan 26, Notre Dame 23.

Stanford (+13.5) at T.C.U.: The Horned Frogs are usually underrated because they play in the Mountain West, but they're the true class of that conference. TCU has the rep of being a place where gifted young coaches get their start, but Gary Patterson is finishing there. He can win, espcially against a lower-tier Pac-10 team with the talent at-hand, and I think the only issue is whether or not Hurrican Ike will make things nasty enough to keep them from covering the spread. I don't think it will. Diner Prediction: T.C.U. 31, Stanford 16.

Oklahoma at Washington (+20): Again, I think Stoops is going to do everything he can to cover so he can get his Sooners some poll positioning. They beat a better-than-average Cincinnati team last week and they did what they could to dismantle the Bearcats. I think they'll try again, and while 20 points is a lot to give Ty Willingham at home, I think Oklahoma will walk. Diner Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Washington 21.

S.M.U. (+36.5) at Texas Tech: Oh, man. Tech can light it up like a pinball machine when they want to. S.M.U. is really a bad football team, too. To me, the defense at Tech is better than in the past...but more than 5-TD's? I'm not to sure about laying that far out. I think Tech will actually use this game to play some younger guys and while they'll coast, I don't think they'll cover. Diner Prediction: Texas Tech 45, S.M.U. 10.

Iowa State (+13.5) at Iowa: I like rivalry games early in the season. And the Hurricanes are a scrappy bunch under Gene Chizik. They play SERIOUS defense in Ames, and even though they're on the road this week, I think it'll be low scoring. I like taking these road points. Diner Prediction: Iowa 17, Iowa State 13.

Ohio State (+10.5) at U.S.C.: Again, this is one where you try to get it out of your head how the Buckeyes have been taken apart by the cream of the SEC these last couple of years. But, when you look at how much they've struggled against lesser teams (needing special teams to bail them ou against cream puffs) thus far this season...and how the Trojans looked fantastic on the road in week 1, well, I think the Buckeyes are in for a very long day. In fact, I'll double the line and feel pretty good about taking U.S.C. Diner Prediction: U.S.C. 34, Ohio State 13.

There you have it, kids. What do you think will happen this weekend?

Thursday, September 11, 2008



...I do not forget.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that I like Sarah Palin. This is different than voting for the ticket she's on, but what I've seen thus far, I like.
...that one local high school's homecoming parade is tonight. According to the students, they can't throw candy off the floats any more because the leadership is concerned about lawsuits. Maybe the town doesn't want to do clean-up. I think any reason they won't let the kids do that is silly.
...that the movie Death Race is aptly named. Much like Dumb & Dumber.
...that I'm looking forward to having the high schoolers back in my house on a consistent basis. I'm convinced this is one of the best ministry tools available to any youth minister.
...that it rained yesterday in my fair burg like I love it to rain: Steady, consistent rainfall with intermittent drizzle. Love love love it.
...that I blew a good teaching moment yesterday. Instead of showing my daughter how to change out wiper blades, I just did it. Only after she came walking out did I kick myself for doing something because it's faster rather than what's best for my kid.
...that the new iTunes update couldn't be cooler if it tried. I spent about 30 minutes last night just getting album art for the DAYS of music I don't have album art for.
...speaking of album art, I think with iTunes and small CD covers, album art is, well, a lost art.
...that the only people who bring up the supposed value of IBM/Windows over Mac are people whose livelihoods depend on it. Those PC vs. Mac commercials are correct, and Jerry Seinfeld can't fix it.
...that my friend Baily has had these little pieces of gold on her blog (she just headed off to Auburn last month after her HS graduation): "if you just sit down and really think about grace and what it means in your life, it can be paralyzing." And, "You can literally drive yourself crazy thinking of all the things you shouldnt do. And its frustrating and overwhelming and discouraging. So instead, I try to focus on what I should do, which is simply to know God and live for Him as He lives in me. It's much easier to try to live for God than against the devil. And its a much more peaceful struggle." This is why I dig this kid, in addition to her texting me from the student section at football games.
...that, along those lines, some former students' adjustment to college life is harder than for others. Particularly those that don't go somewhere where at least a handful of friends go.
...that you can get lost for an hour EASY on Facebook.
...that I kind of miss having a four-year-old around to read to at night. I don't want one. But I wouldn't mind borrowing one.
...that I've got a kid who commutes to downtown Dallas every day, and there was a major accident/fuel spill that has made all traffic north a parking lot and it's taken her two hours to go 8 miles. I'm amazed that you can check up on the accident on web sites.
...that one of the best questions your daughter can ask you is, "Dad, are you free for lunch today?" I don't care what Kid2's motive might be, I'll take it.
...that I really should get to work. I have a LOT to do today.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Writing Update

I'm glad I posted the first draft of what I'm working on. Really. I am.

But it's going through a re-write. I'm not happy with it. It's not writing, really. Like Truman Capote said of Kerouac, "it's not writing, just typing." There were some things I liked. But I missed a crucial point, folks. You didn't see it, I don't think. But I did.

So, good things came from that post of a few days ago.

A start to writing something.

A direction to go.

An accountability. I think it's good to tell folks you're doing something like this...or training for a marathon...or taking guitar lessons...or any hobby/pursuit that takes a while. This way, because they care about you to some degree, they'll check up on you and see how it's going.

An encouragement. I've discovered these last few days that the patronage wants to read more of what I wrote. Funny how they won't comment publicly but they'll come alongside and whisper out of the corner of their mouths. They'll also e-mail stuff about "ministry" and "pressing on" and they'll even text message little bits and pieces of advice/encouragement.

Some cool points at the Starbucks in Fort Worth where I overpay for coffee so I can loiter. Yesterday, I was scribbling some thoughts on the re-write in my journal during a brief splash of creativity. It was raining outside. I had my Fourbucks Machiato on the table next to me. A lady asks me what I'm scribbling so quickly about, and I mumbled something about some ideas for a book project I'm working on ("project" sounded a lot more task-oriented than "a jumbled array of ideas I'm trying to put in some semblance of order so I can try to publish something," so I went with that). She responded, "Well, you certainly look like a writer." Now, I don't know what that means, exactly. I took it positively. Maybe they weren't cool points at all but rather dork points, now that I think about it. Let just say I went from loitering to "hanging out with purpose" and accept whatever points those give you.

A head start on my Bible study for the junior and senior guys.

So, the writing's a good thing thus far. I've started. I'm working at it. The process is frustratingly enjoyable in the best of ways.

We'll see what the new re-write brings ASAP...

...and I'll also keep up what made The Diner The Diner with random typing, too. It's just a lot of my brain power is along the blank page these days.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Just Letting You Know...

If you're looking for another installment of the book I've started, you're going to have to wait. I mentioned that it'll be sporadic and will have to come when I've got days off (can't use company time to write that stuff, man!)...

...and Sunday's a work-day for me. So, there'll be other entries along those lines here and there...but not daily, OK?

And, oh, yeah...

...did anybody else notice that I was 8-2 against the line on Friday's football picks?

One more thing: Shouts out to "jb" for visiting my Sunday School class yesterday! She got to see me in my natural habitat and it was a nice surprise.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

First Draft Essay #1

Solomon was a better person than me.

I don't think it necessarily had anything to do with upbringing, though. Sure, he was raised in a palace by a king and one of his wives. But that would have it's very own set of drawbacks. I mean, he probably never saw his parents in his childhood. Dad off at war with enemies of his state. Mom chatting it up with the concubines and straightening up the palace. The whole bit.

Granted, I was raised by a school teacher and a steel worker in a cozy house in the suburbs. That has it's very own set of drawbacks. I mean, I had my parent's undivided attention from 1966 to 1971. Dad off making sure the sheet metal did whatever it was that sheet metal is supposed to do. Mom chatting on the phone and watching soap operas. The whole bit.

But Solomon was a better person than me.

See, he had that moment in real life that we use as a hypothetical situation: He got one wish granted to him.

Sure, we watch Disney's Aladdin with our kids and then over dinner imitate Robin Williams' genie and ask our spouse what they'd do with three wishes. Then our spouse deflects the question at first by commenting on how lousy you are at imitating Robin Williams' as the Genie of the Lamp, but eventually plays along. Over the clean-up, she wants you to play along.

So I do.

My list varies from time to time, but thematically, there are consistencies. Some type of recognition is involved, for example. Either professionally or personally...in the form of fame--or at least minor celebrity even if it's within the realm of my tiny profession.

Then there's some form of security involved. Making sure that I don't have material wants distracting me from whatever else it is that I want to be doing. You know...like enough cash in the bank to make sure that my wife and kids are provided for or maybe enough for me to rearrange my time & priorities so that I can focus on stuff that seems more important to me. But cash seems to be a priority when it comes to defining "secure."

Finally, there's some lumping together of toys to try to skirt the "three wishes" addendum of "no asking for more wishes." I can usually work in a High-Def TV, several vacation retreat centers and any number of vehicles into a gift package that resembles the Showcase Showdown on "The Price is Right." Then I can (since I'm using '70's TV show references) go all Perry Mason and legally defend all those gifts as "one wish." I mean, on TPIR, they get the entire prize, which consists of lavish vacations and...

...A NEW CAR!!!

But I digress.

My point is that it rarely--if ever--hits my brain to ask for anything that doesn't reek of selfishness. Well, at least has some thread of selfishness in it. Or for world peace. Or anything else of noble origin. Nope. The Genie wouldn't even have to add caveats if he were making me the offer in the Cave of Wonders.

But, that's what Solomon did.

If you take a look at 1 Kings 3 you get the story in full. The gist of it is that God appeared to Solomon in a dream. God asked him--well, commanded him actually, "Tell me what I should give you." Now, this amazes me on about 100 levels. My dreams usually involve a mash-up of freaks & geeks & situations. I can't think of a time when any of these freaks & geeks offered to give me anything in a dream. And it's safe to say that not once--never ever--has the King of Kings and Lord of Lords ever shown up. Maybe I shouldn't eat pizza before bedtime and I'd have a better class of dream.

So, here's Solomon. A child of privilege. A bookish, engineering sort of guy. His dad was a warrior who wanted to build God a Temple. David was told by God that his son would build it and that he should raise the funds to get it done. God tends to put people in their areas of strength and lets them do what they do best. Warriors don't build, they do what warriors do and keep the spoils. Bookish, engineering types design and build and spend the spoils. That thing where God puts people in areas of strength and then lets them do what they do best was true then. It's true now.

And now King Solomon has the King of Kings and Lord of Lords show up in his dream commanding him to tell Him what he wants. Some guys have all the luck.

This is why Solomon is better than me: He's having an encounter with the Living God--even if it's in a dream--and he starts his answer with a review of God's faithfulness to his father. He brings up His faithfulness to him. He brings up the reality that the only reason he's on the throne is because God put him there...and, oh, by the way, as an aside he mentions his youth & inexperience, too. Simply put, he knew that a king can't do the king thing all alone.

This is another reason why Solomon is a better person than me: He can get whatever he wants and chooses, as the Hebrew reads, "a hearing heart." Some Bible versions translate that to mean "wisdom." Or "a discerning mind." His rationale was that he'd need some help leading God's people. He didn't even ask it for himself. My guess is that he understood His universe and his place in it. The world would be a better place if we all "got" the universe and our place in it.

The request made God happy. Solomon's request had been approved...and because of his humility, God also gave him riches and honor and freely offered to make him the greatest king of his generation. Oh, yeah. He would also be known as the wisest man who ever lived. My guess is that the request made God super-happy. Not just ordinary happy.

The wisest man who ever lived--and he was a real person and these things really happened, just like George Washington was real and that stuff really happened (well, the cherry tree and silver dollar at the Potomac remind us that the myth grew, but at the end of the day the history books got a lot more than the gist of it)--

...wrote a book.

One that tells us how to live life.

And since I'm not the wisest man who ever lived, or the greatest king of my generation or have riches and honor, well, Solomon's a better person than me.

I should learn from him.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Before We Get Started...

Many of you know that I've been wrestling with the idea of writing a book for quite some time. Issues abound. Topic? Target audience? Time prioritization? I could go on...but they all sound like excuses--to me and to everyone in orbit around me. And then I'd set up this false dichotomy of closing down The Diner and writing the book.

Like I said, the dichotomy is false (but made for a good excuse) because the reality is the two can be blended...and my guess is that blogging constitutes a "poor man's copyright" as you'd have proof of date on publication. Hence, I thought I'd combine blogging and one feeble attempt at essaying around Proverbs.

By way of the ground rules, please feel free to critique and correct, but keep in mind that I'm not editing in this arena. It's the UNEDITED first draft and they will remain so as this series sporadically meanders. So, my concern isn't necessarily with typos and choice of words (there's always a better word, right?), but rather with your reactions. The way your brain reacts and the way your heart reacts. That's of greater concern than the editing discipline at this point.

So, I saw in a movie I saw a couple of nights ago, an aspiring playwrite decided to corner his nemesis/critic and tell him the idea behind the new play he wanted to write--before he started writing. In the dialogue, the writer had been given a "definite maybe" by the critic (who was 13 and only wrote for the school newspaper, which made the scene funnier) regarding the idea. Then he grabbed the critic by the shoulder and asked him, "But...what if it sucks?"

To which the critic replied, "That's the chance every artist has to take, isn't it?"

Well, I think it's time to take at least one chance...


...before I get started...

...do we have a deal on the ground rules?

Friday, September 05, 2008

New Series


...I haven't forgotten the parenting stuff, but I'm kind of removed from reading that book so the urgency of posting about it has subsided. Not sure when because...

...I'm going to start writing the book.

Right here.


At The Diner.

Probably tomorrow.

Working Title: Guaranteed Ways To Mess Up Your Life.

It's going to take the flip-side of the book of Proverbs. You know. Look at the various Proverbs and then write essays on how I've seen the very opposite choice affect lives. I'll be writing in that Mike Yaconelli/Donald Miller type voice.

And, I'll be wanting all the patrons to give their feedback...we'll write the stuff together, more or less. And who knows? Maybe if it works out I'll say "thanks" on the acknowledgements page! So, watch this space!

Yesterday I had driving responsibilities for Kid2's ballet regimen. This is no problem as it gives me time to spend with Kid2 and while she's working I can get all sorts of stuff done with the three hours.

The issue is this: I stepped outside myself at about 6PM and caught a glimpse of me doing what I was doing.

Namely, I was sitting in a coffee shop.

Reading David Sedaris.

Drinking green tea.

And it hit me:

I have become that guy.
Friday Football Picks, Week #2

Did anybody else notice that I started the season 7-3 against the line? Not too shabby to start the year...only missed badly on the Kentucky/Louisville game, too.

And, what did we learn from week #1 of the college football season? We learned that U.S.C. can rewrite the rules (remember when they started number 1 in 2004 and the logic for Auburn not moving up despite beating better teams was, "Well, U.S.C. was #1 and they didn't lose." Well, Georgia was #1 and didn't lose.) for the polls--but this year they just might be the best team. We learned that the ACC might not be what people thought they were. And, we learned that the Southeastern Conference is just as big and bad as ever, if not bigger and badder than ever. Well, okay, maybe we already knew all those things. But they were certainly reiterated last weekend.

Anyway, on to the picks for week #2:

Southern Mississippi (+17.5) at Auburn: The concern is that Auburn hasn't settled on a quarterback for their new spread offense (they only passed for 85 yards, but ran for 320)...and without a defensive touchdown and a punt return TD last week the Tigers could've been in real trouble. The Golden Eagles, on the other hand, had over 500 yard total offense against an inferior opponent. Plus, Southern Miss is known for giving SEC teams fits. Still, giving SEC teams fits is different than having better players than SEC teams. I think Auburn sputters again on offense, but eventually, depth wins out. Diner Prediction: Auburn 28, Southern Miss 13.

Tulane (+29) at Alabama: Nick Saban has been preaching consistency all week...I mean, how many Sports Illustrated covers have told us that "Bama is Back!" only to have the Tide lose to Louisiana Monroe the next week? And, Bama throttled Clemson last weekend (I thought the Tide would win, but not destroy the Tigers). The only issue is whether or not the players listened to Saban when he says he needs his team to be more consistent. Combine that with Tulane's players being relocated during Gustav and I think the Tide rolls, and rolls big. Diner Prediction: Alabama 41, Tulane 10.

Miami (+21.5) at Florida: I never thought I'd see the day when the Gators would be favored by three TD's over either of their in-state rivals. I think the Gators looked great last weekend and are wanting to whip any and all comers in the Swamp as they really only look forward to the Georgia game later in the season. There'll be a lot of offense, but I don't think the Hurricanes can keep Tebow and Harvin in check. Diner Prediction: Florida 45, Miami 20.

Cincinnati (+21.5) at Oklahoma: I think the Sooners are walking around with a chip on their shoulder in Big 12 country as the Red Raiders in Lubbock have become the media darlings in the area. They hung half a hundred on the scoreboard by halftime last week and then called off the dogs. Sure, the Bearcats are a better opponent, but I think Stoops knows he needs to make a statement to get some poll momentum going and will do everything he can to do that very thing. Diner Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Cincinnati 17.

West Virginia at East Carolina (+7.5): Yes. We all saw the Pirates beat VaTech last week. But there was an awful lot of special teams play and freak bounces of the ball that made that happen. Even then they only won by 5. My guess is that the Mountaineers and Pat White will go on the road and make short work of ECU...even if Hurricane Hannah brings rain. Diner Prediction: West Virginia 27, East Carolina 13.

California at Washington State (+13.5): Washington State looked confused and disorganized last week against Oklahoma State, losing by nearly 4 TD's. Cal is better than Oklahoma State. Cal beat Michigan State by a TD...and Michigan State is better than Wazzu. Even on the road, I think Cal can cover even if the Cougs make marked improvement between weeks 1 & 2. Diner Prediction: California 35, Washington State 21

Georgia Tech (+7) at Boston College: Last week, BC was less than impressive against Kent State, while Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets took care of business against transfer Ryan Perrilloux's Jax State team. The question is how will the old-fashioned triple-option work against better teams. My guess is that BC held back on the game plan after getting up by two quick scores and then rested folks, which GaTech went after the Gamecocks. Of course, what's to hide with the triple-option? This looks like a pick 'em game to me, so I'll take the points, even on the road. Diner Prediction: Boston College 24, Georgia Tech 20.

Oregon State (+16.5) at Penn State: The Nittany Lions rolled Costal Carolina last week as they should've, while the Beavers had trouble with Stanford. And, while I think that the upper echelon of the Pac-10 (read Cal & USC) is pretty stout, I have little regard for the rest of that cream puff conference. At least the Big 10 will smash mouths against anybody they play that doesn't have a stadium below the Mason-Dixon line. Penn State at home is always tough, anyway. Diner Prediction: Penn State 35, Oregon State 17.

Texas A&M at New Mexico (+2.5): First of all, is anyone else asking the question as to why any athletic director at A&M would EVER agree to a road game with a team like New Mexico? Aren't those the folks who take money games AT YOUR Big 12 85,000 seat stadium? Since when does a Mountain West team dictate where big boys play? Whatever. And, yes, we've all heard about how dark it was as the Aggies lost AT HOME to Sun Belt's Arkansas State. Folks here are calling it the most embarrassing loss ever (who seem to have forgotten the 77-0 pasting by Oklahoma). But, I think A&M rights the ship and maybe going on the road is the best thing for them right now. Diner Prediction: Texas A&M 27, Ne Mexico 20.

Stanford (+14) at Arizona State: Stanford certainly wasn't dominant in beating Oregon State last week, and the Sun Devils took care of business without showing much against Northern Arizona. Stanford can run and keep the clock moving but struggle throwing. My guess is that Arizona State can stop enough run and get enough offense against a Cardinal defense that gave up nearly 500 yards last week to win big. I think this line might actually be a mistake. Arizona State 37, Stanford 14.

So, what do you think, sports fans?

P.S. As to why I don't pick the high school games anymore is that I just don't know enough about them. Pure and simple. But I do think Marcus, Flower Mound & Lewisville will all win again this week...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Drinking Age

Nearly two decades ago, in the great state of Alabama, the legal age at which you could purchase alcohol was 19. Now, I wasn't much for drinking when I was in high school but I had friends who had little problem getting a six-pack of beer or a couple of bottles of Boone's Farm Tickle Pink whenever the mood hit. I had my first beer and Boone's Farm (we were nothing but class, man) on the night of graduation...and a couple of nights later got my first mixed drink--a Long Island Iced Tea--in celebration of grad week. There was little problem getting any amount of alcohol whenever and wherever we wanted. There was always somebody 19 around.

I went off to college at the age of 18 and turned 19 in the spring semester of my freshman year. Having joined a fraternity the previous fall, suffice to say that beer, wine & liquor trickled down to those brothers & pledges who wanted it. I wasn't much for drinking that first semester, either. In fact, when our pledge class played football against the Kappa Sigs next door, we bet 25 cases of beer and one case of Mountain Dew especially for me. But, if I'd wanted it, it was a slam dunk to get it. And, keep in mind that, at that time, the great state of Alabama controlled the sale of hard liquor through special stores owned & operated by the Alabama Beverage Commission. Still, no sweat.

Here's my experience:

Those that wanted to funnel beer and play beer pong and do 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes and have a bike race and wanted to do Jell-O shots and slam 8 Snakebites in an hour and drink Vodka & Gatorade (supposedly got things to the bloodstream faster--urban legend or no? we had no internet to do research then so the belief went unchallenged) to celebrate the Tigers' victory over rival Alabama in the SEC Championship basketball game or who would sneak a flask into the student section to mix the drinks in the "commemorative" plastic stadium cups did that very thing.

The legal age had nothing to do with it.

Well, today's Dallas Morning News weighed in on the recent discussion on lowering the legal drinking age from the current 21 to a proposed 18.

Their argument AGAINST THE MOVE goes like this:

"The argument for lowering the drinking age to 18 goes like this: They're old enough to fight and die for our country, to vote, buy cigarettes and serve on a jury. Under the law, they're adults. So why can't they drink?

If only it were that simple. Ever wonder why Texas law doesn't allow anyone under 21 to obtain a concealed-weapon permit or why car rental companies reject renters under 21?

It's not just age but maturity that defines adulthood. And there's a far greater assurance that 21-year-olds are closer to the level of mature responsibility – including the ability to restrain impulsive behavior – that must be required of people who drink."

And their conclusion is that the current law should remain in place.

Now, there might be good reasons to keep the drinking age at 21. That isn't my point. My point is that their reasoning is flawed.

See that little phrase "including the ability to restrain impulsive behavior?" Yeah. That's demeaning to anyone who is a teenager.

To suggest that the average 18-year-old can't restrain impulsive behavior? That's your rationale? C'mon. You should be smarter than that...especially editors of a respected newspaper, man.

What I've found is that I can roll into an area sports grill in my community at 9:30PM on a Tuesday night and there are 45-year-olds carrying on in such a manner that would indicate they were not restraining impulsive behavior. But, in reality, they knew what they were doing. They were just carrying on and having a good time doing shots at the bar. That street where "maturity defines adulthood" runs both ways, DMN.

And I've seen 18-year-olds who know right from wrong choose to refrain from consumption. I've seen 18-year-olds who know right from wrong throw up in the Wendy's parking lot.

My point is that to suggest an 18-year-old can't control their urges in any sense--firearms, sex, drugs, rock 'n roll--demeans them. 18-year-olds are fully aware of what's up. Some are wise. Some aren't. Some have momentary lapses of reasons. Some choose the wisest course of action. And those that did well yesterday might not do well the next day.

But 45-year-olds are the same way, man.

Character isn't about age...and there are kids in Holland who can drink beer & wine legally at 16 (please, correct me if I'm wrong on that, Dutch readership) and some of the kids have a few beers and dance to bad techno music and that's the end of it. Others drink too much and throw parked/locked bicycles into canals.

But the issue is character, in my way of thinking.

And if I can count on a recent high school grad to keep their weapon clean, I feel like somebody can teach an 18-year-old the ability to consume moderately. Like I said, the issue is character...not treating an adult as if they can't control their impulsive behavior. So, DMN, while there might be 100 good reasons to keep the legal drinking age at 21, this one isn't the right one.

Maybe, just maybe, if we raise the bar of expectation (much like boot camp does for 18 year olds) they might just rise to meet them...instead of dumbing it down and saying they can't control themselves. Well, they just might meet that expectation, too.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Has It Really Been 17 Years?

Hey, Everybody!

It's Kid1's 17th birthday today! Let's all celebrate by...

...hanging out with the art school kids.
...driving around without using air conditioning to save gas, and turning up the music as loud as you can.
...watching "The Secret Life of the American Teenager."
...trying to figure out what college we're going to go to.
...going into your art studio room, cranking up the music, and then coming out four hours later with an amazing painting.
...reading Marie Claire magazine.
...baking apple pies, and leaving the kitchen a mess.
...text messaging someone with one hand while carrying on a conversation (complete with looking the other person in the eye) with someone else and not missing a beat in either.
...being incredibly loyal to our friends.
...making our parent's lives easy by making wise choices & being responsible, while at the same time being hilariously immature in the best of ways.
...being a daughter parents don't even have to try to be proud of.

Happy Birthday, Kelsey!

I have so much to do these days.

Manalive, am I ever under the pile.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It Was Labor Day Yesterday...

...so I didn't go to work.

But if I had gone to work, it would've been my 12th anniversary of working at Crossroads Bible Church.

Well, I guess it WAS my anniversary nonetheless. But it just felt like a day off.


And I'd be remiss if I didn't say thank you to the church family I serve.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't say thank you to the pastors I work with, the staff I work with and the elders & deacons I serve alongside.

And I don't want to be remiss.


...thank you, CBC, for allowing me the privilege of serving folks I regard, truly, as family.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Dads & Daughters

Katherine just sort of dropped into my ministry...I don't remember ever being introduced to her or her first night at the middle school meeting or whatever. She was just there.

And she stayed there. She went from middle school through when I hired her as an intern years later. I can't think of a two-week stint that went by that we didn't at least exchange an e-mail.

She asked me to be a part of her wedding ceremony and that experience was enjoyable in every respect...but that isn't what I want to talk about today.

Because, see, her dad is knocked out by her. He couldn't love his daughter more if he tried. And he tries. So, since I have those same proclivities, in the past, I leaned on him for advice about daughters. I do lean on him for advice about daughters. I will lean on him for advice about daughters. There are others in my orbit that I lean on as well, but I lean on Dan more than most because I've noticed we look at life the same way in so many respects. I think every dad should have folks they trust to lean on for wisdom & insight. I'm not to proud to say I can use every bit I can get.

Anyway, because I was privvy to inside scoop on their relationship, I watched this particular father of a daughter like a hawk over the course of the weekend. Granted, I had a lot of stuff of my own to do and stayed out of their way. But I paid attention. Just observed from a distance.

Because what I've gathered is that the days are long but the years are short (first person I ever heard say the quote: Ma Deb Stevenson--maybe it's hers, maybe it isn't.). It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in one of those cool glider/rockers at the hospital holding Kid1. And there have been plenty of moments since then that something happened and I flashed back to that cool glider/rocker moment and wondered how the heck did it go so fast.

And, so while Katherine was as beautiful as a bride can be and the groom was excited as a groom should be and the parents were as happy as parents can be and it was a truly joyful and happy occasion for everybody involved...

...well, the music changed, the mother of the bride stood (followed by the rest of the family & friends), the doors at the back of the church opened and I could see dad & daughter's silhouette in the back of the room. My thoughts were with my friend Dan.

What a cool moment that must be.
What it must be like to have confidence the man you prayed for your daughter to walk through life with was truly God's provision.
What he must be feeling and thinking escorting the girl he invested so much into and how proud he must be of the woman she's become.

And then you get here:

That moment where you hear the Biblical definition of marriage from Genesis 2. The first order of business is to leave father and mother. And that's what's about to happen in the photo above. The groom'll say "I do." The bride'll say, "I do." Then the dad'll say, by way of blessing the couple, "Her mother and I do."

Then, he'll kiss her on the cheek. He'll shake his new son-in-law's hand.

And, then, he'll, in common vernacular, give her away. Professionally, that means that he has just transferred Biblical authority of his daughter to her new husband.



Before that ceremony, there was a video slideshow of photos of the couple from birth to now. There was a picture of his two year old daughter sitting in his lap about to kiss him on the nose. 5 minutes after the crowd saw that photo, Dan gave her away. My guess is that if I were to ask Dan, it would feel like the 25 years felt like about 5 minutes long.

And, yes, they got a great son-in-law. Their Christmases from here on out will be loud and fun and all that jazz.

And, yes, dad danced with his daughter at the reception.

And, yes, dad toasted the new couple. His daughter teared up. So did he. I got it. I get it.

And, yes, it was a truly joyful day and lots of fun. I was glad to be a part of it, too.

But, just know, Dan, that I think I've got to schedule a lunch for the two of us in a decade or so (give or take a few years--hopefully more on the "give" side than the "take" side, right?)...

...because I think this is another one of those things I'm going to need somebody who has been there to walk me through it. Because only dads of daughters can get this one, man. It's a very exclusive and elite club, and we have to stick together.

And, maybe we should make that a ballgame so I can take the whole 9 innings to pick your brain. I'll treat...both tickets and beer/hot dogs, Dan.

That might be the best $100 bucks I could spend.

(photo courtesy: Lisa Loniewsky)