Monday, June 29, 2009

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that summer seems like it's going by so fast, but yet it also feels like it's just getting started.
...that with mission trips and all that jazz my brain hasn't settled into coherent thought just yet enough for more consistent blogging. last thing on summer: Did anyone else check the L.I.S.D. calendar for next year and catch that their last day of school is set for June 9? June 10 if there's a needed snow day? This means that graduation festivities will span the following weekend, so summer won't get up and running until June 14 or so. Seems weird to me, but I have a kid in the Dallas ISD, too, and they get out on June 3. That seems more reasonable.
...that I'm glad my mother-in-law is progressing nicely. For those of you unaware, she was having chest pains and went to get a stress test last Thursday. They got her off the treadmill and into surgery to perform a quadruple by-pass. Suffice to say that the doctors seem pleased with the results and she is beginning what I assume will be a lengthy recovery period. Tracy is there and I'm glad to be getting consistently positive updates.
...that I'm letting all of you know that Transformers 2 was truly terrible. Sure there was some eye-candy (either stunning computer generated images or Megan Fox, depending on your bent) but if we keep spending money on this kind of stupidity Hollywood will keep making 'em. my friend Melissa had her last Sunday on staff at CBC yesterday. She's ministered to my family (my Christmas tree decorating every year is highlighted by ornaments that were inspired by years of December crafts in her Sunday School program). She's ministered to me. We've laughed and been through an awful lot together over our 10 years on staff, with 6 of those having an office right next door to hers. It's rare you get to work with somebody you truly admire professionally (and personally, for that matter--if you know her story, well, she's a pretty tough cookie). Neither of us are big on goodbyes so we've just avoided that. But I'll miss her, that's for sure.
...Regina Spektor is a truly brilliant artist.
...Kid1 returns Thursday from, well, 24 days of London, Madrid, Rome, Florence, Venice, Luzern, Paris and Amsterdam. I'm pretty intrigued about seeing the kid I get back from this kind of experience.
...that with Tracy with family in Birmingham, Kid1 traipsing around Europe, and Kid2 at a sleepover, I had a bachelor night last night. There was pizza. There was DVR'ed baseball (of which our team got one hit. Against a 3-6 starter. The slide has begun and I believe we'll see a .500 team by the end of July). There was Saving Private Ryan. Not bad for a bachelor night, but I'm glad it's an exception and not a rule. I think it's fair to say I'm a better person because of the women in my life.
...chatting with a fellow dads-of-daughters club member, we were trying to decide what the best words were for a dad to hear from said daughters. We came up with "Daddy's home" when said by truly excited under-10 girls, and "Dad, you're the BEST!" when said by truly grateful teenage daughters.
...that our church has 7 former students serving at Pine Cove Christian Camps this summer as counselors. I'm grateful to the Pine Cove staff (that I've worked with for 13 years) for taking our students to the next level after they leave our ministry. It's pretty cool to plant and watch them water truly gifted ministers.
...I'm grateful for friends that look me squarely in the eye and ask me how I'm doing. And then don't let me get away with pat answers. No. You don't get details on this one.
...that last night's mission report to our church was very cool (and Bill and Charlie's video was underrated, if you ask me. I loved that). I like the reality that our service time changes give us the chance to do more stuff like that on Sunday evenings.
...why is it that I go to the trouble to shine my Doc Martens and then regret doing it? I shine them for weddings (and, if you missed the former Anne Radimecky's wedding day, well, she was happy and beautiful and A.J. has chosen very well by making her the current Mrs. Ridgeway) and it makes 'em look like they haven't been through all they've been through. If I were on one of those clothes makeover shows, I'd fight tooth and nail to keep the Docs and the Chuck Taylor All-Stars. They'd make me throw them away, though, which only hurts their own credibility if you ask me.
...I wish I could spend more time with some of the great couples I've done weddings for, but they haul off and get lives of their own. What's that about?
...starting up the new session of P90X today (yes, I know I was going to do that earlier, but mission trip prep and the actual execution of the trip got me focused on other stuff). Gotta get the veggies and yogurts and good carbs and such after dropping off bags of clothes (me and the missus have decided to de-clutter after living in this house longer than any place we've had, so we'll see how that goes) at the local charity. So, I need to get on with my day off.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reason #15,639 Why I Love Working With Teenagers In Student Ministry

I had a student send me this via e-mail, and asked for anonymity if I used it in a public forum. Well, The Diner is a public forum so I'll honor the request. Although, once you read it you'll wonder why this student wanted it to be so...but I know writers (especially poets) and they tend to believe the reality that there is *always* a *better word* and you never *finish* but you find as good a place as any to *stop*. They also lean toward the belief that no one would care what they write because they don't think it's very good.

Combine those realities with the normal insecurities that teenagers have and, well, that's as good an explanation as any as to why this student wants it to be anonymous. Anyway, here's the work--about the end result of our hot and sweaty service mission to the folks of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina:

Transformation--by Anonymous

Perfume turned into bug spray
Carpet turned into dirt
Sandals turned into work boots
Makeup turned into sweat
Clean turned into dirty
Dr. Pepper turned into water
Laying around turned into work
Perfect hair turned into ponytails
Shorts turned into jeans
Sleeping in turned into 5:30 Am
Air conditioning turned into humidity
Silence turned into laughter
Singing turned into worshiping
Comfort zones turned into trying new things
Judging turned into understanding
Highland Village turned into reality
Listening turned into interpreting
Texting turned into conversations
Shyness turned into being yourself
Taking things for granted turned into being thankful
Separateness turned into unity
We turned into a family

Some days I just laugh when I remember I get paid for this gig.

And, I'm about six minutes from starting a CBC student ministry writer's collective blog. Would you guys come visit there if we put it together?

Monday, June 22, 2009

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...the mission trip to Mississippi got my brain going in all sorts of ways. It was a mixture of laughter and misery, truly needy and systemic manipulators, teenagers and adults--both of whom showed deep spiritual maturity and stupid-head moments, beach devotions and cramped quarters, bad CD mixes and a stirring rendition of "Hey Jude" (that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. You *had* to be there, but I can count on one hand the times that level of magic has happened on a youth trip), heat/humidity records and restful breezes on the coast at night. It was everything a youth ministry trip should be.
...turns out the Mississippi trip was indeed the right decision as the violence in Juarez is back up to 10 killings per day if the news reports are accurate. They've increased military presents by 30% as of yesterday.
...that most of you don't know the U.S. men's soccer team is involved in the Confederations Cup (a tune up for next year's World Cup tournament) and needed to win by 3 goals yesterday and have Brazil beat Italy by 3 goals to move to the next round--a virtual impossibility. The U.S. went up 3-0 at 2:45PM, after Brazil went up 3-0 about five minutes earlier. Switching back and forth for the remaining half hour hoping neither Italy or Egypt score a goal was pretty fun. Now they play Spain (the world's #1 ranked team) on Wednesday.
...that getting a phone message from your daughter (who is traveling in Europe until early July) because you missed her Father's Day attempt will cause you not only to smile but replay that same phone message 3 times as well as save it.
...that when your wife has 3 bags of clothes from a cleaned-out closet and says, "These need to go to CCA (a local charity)," even if she never says so, it implies that I should probably have an equal number of bags of clothes done before you make the trip to CCA.
...I think it's hysterical that native Texans go on vacation to Colorado come back and say how much they "missed the warm weather" of Texas. It was a toasty 97 degrees. To the rest of the world, the word they'd choose for that temperature would be "hot."
...VBS starts at our church this week and it has a space theme. Our very large lobby at our church was decorated with black wallpaper and planets and rocket ships and black lights in hallways and such. My first reaction was how cool it looked and how creative/hardworking our volunteers are. I actually heard some senior citizens say it looks silly and they should've waited until after the services to decorate. One even asked the other, "What would visitors think?" I injected myself into their conversation and said that visitors might think that we had a children's ministry and wanted to teach them God's word in a creative and relevant way. I also said a little prayer asking God that if I ever start saying things like that, He would find some way to remind me that serving Christ ain't about me, but about furthering the Kingdom. Yes, it's silly in the same awesome way Sesame Street is silly. But I think we all need a little more of similar childlike silly in our lives.
...why does it seem that almost every president makes a much better ex-president? But when they aren't in the daily political grind and say what they want, those are the things that we seem to need to be doing.
...I purchased a "grunge" playlist from iTunes as a Father's Day treat for myself and am floored by how much really great music came out of the early-to-mid 90's.
...I've officially had enough of Jon & Kate and their 8. And I'm hoping that anybody that wants their marriage to work might realize that a sure-fire way to keep that from happening would be to be the subject of a reality show.
...with graduation celebrations behind us and the mission trip over, it feels like summer is starting. That and the warm 97 degrees.
...that it's time to start the next round of P90X.
...I picked up my first pre-season college football preview magazine. All those make me happy.
...I've actually got a bunch to do even if it's my day off, so I need to get on with my day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

On The Road Again

Today, we're off to the great state of Mississippi. And by "we," I mean the 87 people who've agreed to serve those still in need from the ravages of 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

We'll be doing all sorts of labor that will prepare sites for other skilled crews to come in and finalize homes so families can finally move back in. When we traveled to Juarez, we actually built homes. Apparently, here, there are all sorts of building codes and stuff that have to be adhered to. Go figure.

Anyway, thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

Oh, yeah, and if you're thinking about it, pray for my poor wife. She'll have 6 entire days (after work, of course) all to herself. I'm sure it'll be a struggle for her to relax and enjoy the quiet knowing that Kid1 is bounding all over Europe and Kid2/me will be away in Mississippi. Just her and Lloyd with books and movies and a house that stays clean. :)

See you guys next week...

(and, oh yeah...don't be afraid to comment even though I have started moderating them. I'll eventually get around to it)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Stuff Christians Like?

There are a couple of web sites that are a great satire of the sub-culture of my Tribe. Stuff Christians Like and Stuff Christian Culture Likes are both written by Christians and poke fun at us where we need to be poked. I'm a fan of the spirit of the sites.

Anyway, I'd like to make an addition to their sites that I haven't seen on either one yet:


Of course, they never bother to check with Snopes before doing so...which would take them all of about 8 seconds. However, the gist of it involves taking James Dobson/Chuck Swindoll/Joel Olsteen/famous leader off the air and an imaginary bill with a made up number is in front of Congress right now and we need to call our representatives and put a stop to this madness because the government has it out for Christians blah blah blah.

Another twist is that they're going to take "Under God" off coins or memorials or whatever blah blah blah.

Just letting all of you know that I'm a big fan of activism in our governmental process here in the U.S. Let's just make sure to check the facts before we forward them, okay?

But is it bad if I have a little moment of enjoyment right after I hit "reply all," type, "It's a hoax" and then post the link and hit "send?"
The Pendulum Begins To Swing Back?

It's been one of many consistent topics of conversation here at The Diner. That style of parenting that makes an icon out of a child and causes parents to live vicariously (voraciously?) through the accomplishments of their child. And it goes by a lot of names. Over-Mom. Helicopter Parents. Harvard-Or-Bust Parenting.

Whatever you call it, it appears that it's beginning to ebb. Books are being written about how awful these children are turning out. Studies are being done by university professors who are tired of being called by parents arguing grades. Even businessmen report that parents actually negotiate the terms of a job offer. This "ebb" is fabulous news for teachers, pastors, and anyone else who has to deal with these parents on a consistent basis.

The New York Times Sunday Magazine (May 31) had an article on this topic written by Lisa Belkin that had a few little nuggets of excellent writing and insight that I thought I'd share:

"But whatever you call it, and however it began, its days may be numbered. It seems as though the newest wave of mothers is saying no to prenatal Beethoven appreciation classes, homework tutors in kindergarten, or moving to a town near ther child's college so the darling can more easily have home-cooked meals. (O.K., O.K., many were already saying no, but now they're doing so without that feeling that a good parent would say yes.)"

After listing a few blogs and books that discuss this topic, highlighting that a movement may actually be taking place:

"By far the most chipper is Tom Hodgkinson, whose book 'The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids' was just published in England...Pay attention to your own needs, he writes, back off on your children and everybody will be happier and better adjusted."

Once again, we're living in an age where common sense is cutting edge, huh?

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Legen...Wait For It...DARY

I can't go.

Bummed about that reality.

But for $15... 10PM tonight... "Pearl at Commerce" (a blues club in Dallas)...

...John Lee Hooker will play until 1AM.




If there's been a better deal in this town on live music, I've never heard of it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just A Little Mind Vitamin

Like many of you who have been involved in church circles for quite some time, I've heard a bunch of sermons and such on what has often been called "The Prodigal Son." I've been reading a book by Timothy Keller that has a fresh perspective on the section of Luke 15.

Got my thoughts I thought I'd return the favor. Keep in mind that the use of "younger" (mocking God and morality) and "elder" (religiously moral but lacking in relationship with God) refers to the character traits of the two sons in the story.

"Jesus's teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-guard ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren't appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we'd like to think."

Ummm. Wow. Did you catch the description of the type of people churches attract vs. the type of people we don't?


"They both were using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving for his own sake. This means that you can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping them diligently. It's a shocking message: Careful obedience to God's law may serve as a strategy for rebelling against God."'s that for provocative?

There's a lot more, but I'll save it for later. This should be enough for today, patrons.

*fires up the coffee machine, listens to the neighbors fire up chain saws and wood chippers to clean up after last night's storms, and looks forward to good conversation today*

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thoughts On Megachurches

About 20 years ago or so was when I first started noticing "megachurches" (the term commonly used to describe any church that averages over 2,000 in Sunday worship services). Maybe there were a bunch of them out there before that but I guess I wasn't paying attention given that most of my church experiences involved an Episcopal church in Alabama (the denomination and location lends to a weekly attendance of maybe 300 at Easter) and a series of Bible churches (generally the type of places that don't use programs to draw large crowds, so any growth is slow and allures those looking for "depth" from Scripture). The biggest churches in my city usually had First Baptist in front of the name or the big Presbyterian church that had a dynamic pastor.

Over that time frame experts who'd been involved in planting churches that grew into megachurches wrote books and sponsored seminars which instructed people on the things they did that encouraged explosive growth. Naturally, when those arena-sized churches began popping up all over America, the critics started writing.

Some of the things the critics wrote, I agreed with.

Others, not so much.

Eventually, the experts involved began doing studies on their effectiveness and leveled criticism of themselves as well as plans to fix those flaws they found in their findings. Tough to disagree with them on their own findings, eh?

So, I tend not to bash the megachurches. I mean, much of what they do isn't my cup of tea. If they want to drive a tank on stage to discuss spiritual warfare, well, it seems to me that if they can blow it by God, then I'm the least of their worries. Even if I find it hokey and their marketing methods derivative, some folks are coming to Christ and thriving in those environments. Lots of money and resources are poured into missions work and programs that serve people in all sorts of states of life (think single moms and divorce support and addictions, etc.). Rock on, megachurches.

I also have seen the flaws, too. If you treat worship as a show or a program, well, expect that people who attend will become spectators or audience members. And, we all know that a lecture hall of 6,000 people is pretty ineffective as a discipleship tool. But it isn't like I'm telling tales out of school. Willow Creek's own research in 2004 revealed that church activity and programs didn't do much for true spiritual growth. So, like I said, they know their own flaws.

They're working on them. The same study included Willow Creek's resolve to get back to exegetical teaching of Scripture as well as focus on small group discipleship.

But I've come to the conclusion that the era of the traditional megachurch is pretty much over. The focus on building a megachurch in a "just-add-water" kind of way in which you couldn't tell if the method was creating the crowd or the Holy Spirit was at work has crested.

And a couple of things stood out from this morning's Dallas Morning News article: First, the average age of a regular attendee of a megachurch is 40. Think about that for a second. 40-somethings are average in these places. I think that means that those of us who grew up in youth ministries where current megachurch worship services look a lot like our old youth group gatherings during the Golden Age of Youth Ministry (where all these things were fresh and new) are comfy in these environs, but the polish and flash is lost on those younger.

Second was that nearly 45% didn't get involved in anything other than the service itself. They didn't give financially, either. Again, you put on a show, expect the crowd to be passive. Even if you stress that growing is important and service and ministry are vital the the Body, well, they tend to ignore those but keep showing up.

As I see it, the megachurch research is right when it points the way toward the attempts to change their culture:

Teach the Word of God, exegetically, in context, wherever you have teaching opportunity--from nursery workers to retirees, in large and small group settings.
Provide meaningful ministry opportunities for people to use their gifts, talents and passions.
Corporate worship is NOT the best place for long-term growth through teaching, but rather through collective experience of God together as a family. We've got to stop reducing worship to song alone...we can learn a lot from liturgy and the practices of the Church throughout centuries.
Small groups are the best environment to experience family and love one another to the full.
We need the older and more mature leading the younger and growing, from nursery workers to retirees.

And I think all of those things can be true if your church seats 16,000 or meets in a living room.

But it ain't rocket science, folks. That's for sure.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Things I Never Thought I'd Hear Myself Say, Installment 4,268

"Today my oldest daughter, her art-school friends, and one teacher, leaves for 24 days in Europe to check out museums and such."

They're doing it on the cheap, the way young people should, with hostels and peanut butter for lunch and all, but still, it's...

...and finally, Amsterdam.

The high art moment of my summer will be if I can catch the fountain at the Shops at Highland Village doing a water dance before the kids play in it.

I'll miss Kid1.

But, while I can't give her much, this is one we could. I'm glad we can do it, and I can't wait to see the kid that comes back and how she's grown from it all.

Godspeed, Kid1.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Big Picture Thinking, Part 2

For those that missed a couple of days, I've been involved in a lot of detail work in my job lately and wasn't feeling very innovative/creative...and this is a time when I probably should be doing some big-picture thinking about who I am and what I do. In my professional circles, they call this stuff like "vision-casting." So, I read a book written for grownups to kind of get you thinking like a high-school guidance counselor might get you to think about your future/life.

It has a few creative exercises that I thought I'd work through here at The Diner. And, as I said before, if you've got a blog and want to tag along, consider yourself "tagged" and have at it.

Anyway, here's today's question:

What would your life look like, day to day, if you had $100 million in the bank?

Most all of my days would start much the same way they currently do. I'd get up at 5AM, shower, spend time devotionally reading the Bible (I use "The Message" for my devotional reading) and pray. Maybe journal if the mood hits...sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Then I'd read the daily miracle that is a newspaper. Generally speaking, all this is done by 6:30AM or maybe 7AM. I get more done in the quiet before my family gets moving.

Side note: This book's author says he stopped reading a paper and watching news and checking internet news sites and listening to news radio. Said it freed up lots of time...and he gets that information from social interaction asking questions of people. Close to election time he e-mails knowledgeable people in political fields and "targets" the information he wants. I'm a bit different...the local paper gets my brain engaged. I think of it as an on-ramp to the freeway of the day.

Then, I'd spend two hours in my writing area of my downtown loft. It's hard to write creatively when there are blow dryers and
iHomes cranking out iTunes and such and Good Morning, Texas! people with their fake happy mornings. I truly believe that creativity requires discipline and routine (which may be why I'm not all that creative, but my particular creativity comes in short bursts at the same time every day).

Followed by an hour and a half of P90X and lunch after that.

After lunch, I'd spend studying and reading for my doctoral work...and since I'd probably be some sort of teaching assistant as part of that process, my guess is that I'd probably teach a class in youth ministry on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons. My Wednesday/Friday afternoons would be involved in actually doing my youth ministry I currently do. So, there might be preparations for Bible studies or the various teaching times I have with my students.

Early evenings would be set aside for ministry with my know, going to coffee and such.

After dinner, I'd spend another hour writing...this is another time when my creative bursts happen.

This would be followed by my evenings free to do stuff like go to hockey games/baseball games/football games with friends or family (this is why I wanted six of the ticket packages--it's not really all that fun to just go by yourself). Or go on real, live dates with my wife and/or daughters...even if that's just sitting on the roof of my downtown loft (you really don't think I'd be in the middle of the building if I had $100 million in the bank, do you?) with them. We might imbibe from my really cool bar in the media room or we might not, or if the weather's bad we might watch a game/movie/show in that very media room. Or we might go out to great restaurants and such. Whatever. My nights, from like 7PM on, would be relational fun stuff. Of course, some nights might just be reading or extra writing.

Naturally, there'd be breaks in all if I were writing a book that required significant travel or speaking at conferences and such. But, that'd more or less be my days.

So, it's funny when I re-read this because I'm surprisingly close to what I'd consider my ideal life. I mean, sure, the reality is that I do have a suburban home with all the warps and woofs of that...and I have a job that, in order to do it, requires about 6 office hours and 4-8 after-hours to do that, depending on what one-on-one or family meetings I need to have. But, an awful lot of the elements are kind of there already.

Maybe I don't have all that much creative vision-casting going on. Maybe I'm in some sort of rut where I can't see out to do something more ambitious and big-picture. This I'd blame on my father. He was a blue-collar steel-working guy who went to work so he could hang with family or spend his weekends hunting/fishing/sports-watching/golfing. At least this was my impression before he died when I was 13. Maybe my worldview is too small.

Or maybe I'm just closer to doing what I want to do than most people are at my age. Without the money in the bank, anyway. Maybe I'm generally happy.

Either way, that's what my days would look like.
We've Lost Our Collective Minds

School ended in our community on Friday.

The weekend has been stacked with commencement exercises and such.

And, this morning, the teens have early morning exercises in soccer, drum line, band performances, and football drills.


This is nuts.

Open message to all the coaches and faculty advisors and administrators: Rest is valuable. You don't have to fill up every possible down moment with your activity. It might be good for our students to at least take a week to decompress and hang out with friends or maybe work a job with nothing else going on. And it might be good for you, too.

Open message to parents: How long before organized resistance takes place?


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Big-Picture Thinking

As I said in yesterday's entry, I've been involved in minutiae and mundane at work lately. Hey, it happens to all of us, right?

So, I read a book for grownups that gets you to think about life the way your high school guidance counselor might've done it. The author says the idea (at first) is to list five things that, if you could, you'd want to have, you'd want to be, and you'd want to do in the next year.

You're not supposed to limit yourself in any way other than that the things are supposed to actually be doable (so things like, developing a superpower or going to Mars or being an opera star if you can't sing, etc. aren't supposed to be part of the deal), or worry about precisely how they'd be accomplished. Just blue-sky, big picture those things. The author says the point of the exercise is to reverse, here we go:

Five Material Things I'd Like To Have In The Next 12 Months

1. A loft in an urban environment, complete with my own writing space and media room. Any big city will do. Ideally, New York...but I'd take Dallas, San Francisco, Portland or Seattle (those are in reverse order, btw, but all good ones).
2. Six 20-game ticket packages to the Texas Rangers and six 10-game ticket packages to the Dallas Stars and Dallas Cowboys full season tickets with great seats and parking passes. I really don't want season tickets to hockey and baseball because I really think I'd get bored if I went to all the home games. 25% of the home games with friends seems about right for those.
3. Some way to get airfare taken care of to go see my sister/brother-in-law and sister-in-law/brother-in-law and nieces and nephews whenever I wanted to go.
4. A fully stocked bar/wine cellar with only the finest brands of each in stock. Maybe on one end of my media room or something. I don't really enjoy the club lifestyle, but having friends over and enjoying the finer things would be nice.
5. I'm not much of a car guy, but I really wouldn't mind a Mercedes-Benz 350 CLK-class convertible. It doesn't have to be convertible if I'm living in Texas, though. Hard top or soft top is fine.

Five Things I'd Like To Be In The Next 12 Months

1. A professor teaching Youth Ministry classes to seminary and/or Bible college students.
2. More proficient at guitar. I mean, really proficient. I don't know that I really have musical talent, but the songs I enjoy playing really involve more enthusiasm than talent. So, even in dream-big I'll settle for proficient.
3. 20 pounds slimmer and way more in shape. Not only would this be a nice challenge, a side benefit will be that my Wii Mii would look all in-shape when he pops onto the screen.
4. A published author...not only books, but magazine articles and such.
5. A speaker at a seminar or break-out session at the Youth Specialties Youth Ministry Conference in all three cities.

Five Things I'd Like To Do In The Next 12 Months

1. Go all "Kerouac road trip" and get in a car, drive to watch a game in every single major league park over the course of a baseball season, and muse about comparisons and contrasts between baseball, traveling America and the true Christian life. The end result of this would be a book. By Kerouac road trip, I'm hoping you know I mean that in the driving cross-continent sense without the drugs, booze and women. Well, maybe a little booze at appropriate times, but just because you're dreaming doesn't mean you can play fast and loose with morality.
2. Begin work on a doctorate degree.
3. Take my wife on that honeymoon we never got around to. She could pick the place or places. Since I don't like travel (but LOVE the destinations) I'd prefer to get to one spot and stay put and kick back and do nothing...but for two to four weeks I'm guessing I could be a good sport and hop if she wants to. The girl waited nearly a quarter-century for it, so I imagine I'll need to be flexible on that deal even if this is MY dream big. My dream-big is really her happiness.
4. Write the children's book that's been percolating in my brain for well over a decade now and also write the parenting/being a better child (why does it always have to be top-down, right?) book that's been percolating in my brain for about a year and a half now.
5. Go all "Ernest Hemingway" and run with the bulls in Spain. Not even kidding. For some reason, that's always had a fascinating appeal to me. By "Hemingway", I'm hoping you know that's without the booze. I can't imagine a scenario that involves drinking AND running with the bulls. Well, maybe a little AFTER the run, but just because you're dreaming doesn't mean you can play fast and loose with morality, right?

Man...this was a lot harder than it looks.

And, I'm sure you can tell that this is just the first exercise. It's intended to show you things about yourself and such that you'll be using later beyond a "rah-rah, live-your-dreams" kind of manner...
Apparently, This Kind Of Thing Happens In Real Life

So, my barnstorming brother-in-law Shane recently had a son with the higher-order life-liver sister Jilly. They've been busy with all the kinds of things that keeps parents with two kids under two busy.

I'd had just seen a movie that I felt pretty sure he'd like and I sent him a text message saying that if he had some time to get out and see a movie, this particular one might be a nice two-hour break from the rigors of parenting little ones.

The premise of the movie I thought he'd like involves a bunch of thirtysomethings getting a bit out of control during a bachelor party in Vegas. They actually lose the groom. You don't have to think...and it's a pretty wild movie with several moments of genius. It is rated R for a reason, though. My point was that it's just the kind of movie break he might want to take.

I get an e-mail that was sent 10 minutes after my text.

The comment said that he might eventually get around to seeing the movie, but he was ACTUALLY IN LAS VEGAS getting ready for a bachelor party that very night. It included a picture that said, "this is IN our room":

It dawned on me at that moment that I'm the kind of person who goes to a movie about bachelor parties in Las Vegas, and my barnstorming brother-in-law is the kind of guy who goes to bachelor parties in Vegas.


A bowling alley in your suite.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Trying To Empathize

Pomp: A show of magnificence; a ceremonial or festival display.

Circumstance: Ceremonial, attendant formalities.

One of my occupational hazards this time of year is there's a significant focus on both pomp and circumstance. There's a repetitious song they play while graduates enter and exit a room that consists of both words in the title.

And, yes, it's a reality worth celebrating. Family will add plenty of mileage to odometers or SkyMiles to watch the ceremonies. Parents will host "open houses" to show their excitement. Gifts will be given. Slide shows with requisite pictures from age 1 to yesterday will be shown and my friends will say things like, "Yesterday, I was giving her a bottle and then I blinked and today she's wearing a mortarboard." We'll spend a great deal of time the next few days eating off small plates while we stand up. There will be hugs. Lots of photographs will be taken. It ain't Carnivale in Rio, but it's not supposed to be. It seems to me to be the right balance of fuss and muss.

It's a parenthesis of sorts.

See, this time is sandwiched between the last few months of stresses and strains that are involved in what you're going to do "after you graduate." Which college? What major? Which branch of the military? What trade/apprenticeship? Getting the loan to start the business?

On the other side of the parentheses are bigger picture questions involving what you're going to do with your life. Career? Marriage? If so, who? Stay close or move away? More degrees? Go for cash or happiness or both or neither? Children? If so, how many?

I've spent the last few months dealing with high school seniors who've been wrestling with the former. I'll spend the next few years dealing with collegians/young adults who will wrestle with the latter. Another occupational hazard.

Anyway, I recently read a book about thinking "outside the box" for grownups regarding the latter questions that you thought you answered when you wore the mortarboard from undergrad days or started the business or got entrenched in your career or started your family. Just what the doctor ordered for me as I'd been spending too much time pouring over details at work rather than thinking deep thoughts or pushing creativity/innovation.

And, the book gave some of those questions that our high school guidance counselors gave us to think about what we wanted to be when we grow up. Of course, they had a new twist as it was written for people who made all those choices once or twice and more or less had fallen into ruts.

So, I'm going to spend the next few entries answering some of those questions...if that's okay with you. And, if you have a blog and want to play along, consider yourself "tagged."

Because, as you and I both know, the parentheses of the in-between times don't last very long. They're nice to visit with family and friends and get/give gifts and watch slide shows and say "mortarboard" and eat off small plates standing up and celebrate that which is celebration worthy...

...but then you gotta get moving.



And, for me, anyway, it's fun to think about that stuff again.
No Frame Of Reference But I'm Glad I Paid Attention In History Class

My only experience with this is via movies.

And I read a few books about it.

And maybe I stopped down to watch a few documentaries on channel surfing expeditions around the History or Military History channels.

But that doesn't mean I'm not thankful.

And that doesn't mean that I don't remember.