Friday, July 31, 2009

One More Mind Vitamin

One last one from Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, on the role of rational apologetics:

"How do we know the power of God? Not primarily through rational argument or healing miracles or political influence or spiritual disciplines or media presence or alternative worship or managerial skill or megachurches or inspirational leaders or sociological theories. Human wisdom does not recognize divine wisdom. We know the power of God through the message of the cross.

This does not mean that there is no place for rational apologetics. But it means that such approaches must be less ambitious. Their role is not to pursuade unbelievers. The role of rational apologetics is to demonstrate that unbelief is a problem of the heart rather than a problem of the head. People may claim that the obstacle to faith is the problem of suffering or the implausibility of miracles or the existence of other religions. The role of rational apologetics is to show that these are not the real causes of unbelief. It is to strip away the excuses and expose the rebellious hearts."

Just so you know, this is foreshadowing to the sermon I'll be delivering in the main services at my church on August 9.

Have at it, patrons.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mind Vitamin

Once again, from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in their book Total Church. Keep in mind that this book is a call to every Christian to be a functioning member of an active, involved small group and for churches to design systems to make this a reality if the church is large. This time, on the idea that most "counseling" could be handled by the loving discipleship of a community (extreme cases notwithstanding):

"One of the most significant issues faced by anyone involved in pastoral care is the explosion of counseling within contemporary Western society. There is something of a therapy culture developing...The problem with this therapy culture, according to Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent, is the way it has made therapy into a way of life. People are encouraged to define themselves as victims who have suffered at the hands of parents, employers, or through pregnancy and any other number of other things. A belief system has emerged, the credo of which is that people cannot cope 'on their own.' Furedi argues that a therapy culture is bad for individuals and a significant threat to public health. As long as people are encouraged to seek professional counseling to help them with everything from dealing with an unpleasant incident to raising their children, argues Ferudi, individuals become disinclined to depend upon each other in the normal routine of relationships."



Have at it, patrons.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mind Vitamins

Once again from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in Total Church:

"Some people take a fluid view of church in the name of the universal church. They go to a conference, join a short-term team, participate in a parachurch organization, claiming all these constitute their commitment to the church. There may be some validity in calling these things the church in some sense. But they are not a substitute for the community that the New Testament presupposes is the context for the Christian life. It is easy to love the church in the abstract or to love people short-term. But we are called to love people as we share our lives with them. This is the pathway to Christian growth and holiness. Commitment to the people of God is expressed through commitment to specific congregations."

Think of all the ramifications to our lives if we applied that. Ummm. Wow.

How about this one:

"Still today, some Christians want to extend Christ's kingdom through the sword. They many not advocate forcible baptisms. But they expect the state to defend the interests of the church or legislate Christian values or protect the Christian heritage of their nation. So-called evangelical groups campaign to defend Christian influence in state education or a distinctly Christian coronation or inauguration oath. The cause of Christ, it is assumed, should be pursued through political means. this is the reflex of Christendom, the alliance of Christianity with earthly power. But as the Great Commission makes clear, Christ's kingdom is extended through the proclamation of the gospel. Christ's people should expect to be persecuted by the world (Matthew 5: 11-12). Our King does not reign from a throne but from a cross."

Yeah. That runs pretty contrary to what I see.

Your thoughts, patrons?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mind Vitamin

There may be a lot of mind vitamins in the next few days, patrons. I'm on vacation at the beach with lots of down time and good books to read. So, while I'm taking time for some deep thoughts, feel free to comment away!

Today's are from Total Church: A Racial Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis:

"In the church the risen Christ rules through his word. This is why the only skill required of church leaders is that they can teach, rightly handling and applying the word of God. Their authority is a mediated authority. They have no authority in and of themselves...They should not exercise an authority that comes because of the position they hold or the force of their personality."

On the balance between the intellectual side of our faith and the emotional part of our faith:
"Spiritual experience that does not arise from God's word is not Christian experience. Other religions offer spiritual experiences. Concerts and therapy sessions can affect our emotions. Not all that passes for Christian experience is genuine. An authentic experience of the Spirit is an experience in response to the gospel. Through the Spirit the truth touches our hearts, and that truth moves our emotions and affects our wills.

This also means that Bible study and theology that do not lead to love for God and a desire to do his will--to worship, tears, laughter, excitement, or sorrow--have gone terribly wrong. True theology leads to love, mission, and doxology (1 Timothy 1:5, 7, 17). We should not expect an adrenaline rush every time we study God's word. We all express our emotions in different ways. But when we study God's word we should pray that the Spirit of God will not only inform our heads but also inspire our hearts.

Part of our problem is that we often assume an experience of God will be some kind of revelation--a dream, an inner voice, a guiding sense of peace, an encounter, a word. This assumption is reinforced by mysticism and existentialism. But we have no reason to need or expect a revelation from God. God has revealed himself in his Son and in his word. And God's word is wholly adequate and sufficient. But the Bible does lead us to expect other experiences of God through the Holy Spirit--love for God, love for others, assurance, joy, confidence, peace and so on. Word and Spirit give us a new desire for God (Romans 8: 5-9, 14: 17; Galatians 5:17)."

Provocative enough for ya?

Have at it, patrons.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

15 Books

Here's a blogging meme I found that I liked:

Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. List 15 books you've read that WILL ALWAYS STICK WITH YOU. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

1. True Spirituality, by Francis Schaeffer. I first read it in college and it profoundly affected me. I read it almost yearly.
2. Men at Work, by George Will. Anybody that loves baseball, well, this is a must read.
3. Generation X, by Douglas Coupland. The first influential author born in my generation. I've read everything he's written.
4. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut. Some things speak for themselves.
5. Reclaiming History, by Vincent Bugliosi. Everything you wanted to know about the Kennedy assassination. Nearly 1,000 pages of debunking goodness, complete with a CD to enhance each and every footnote.
6. The Stand, by Stephen King. He's been pigeonholed as a horror writer or verbose storyteller so most "serious" readers dismiss him. But this is a great story and well-told. I couldn't put it down.
7. The Grace Awakening, by Chuck Swindoll. The right book at the right time. It made all the scholarly works I'd read about grace in the spiritual life practical--which is what I needed when I needed it. There are better books on the subject, but this one meant a lot at the time.
8. Punk Rock Dad, by Jim Lindberg. I know. A parenting book written by the lead singer of a punk band? But it's HUGE on common sense and since it's written by a misfit in the world, well, I related and wish more parents would use common sense. What's the phrase? We live in an age where common sense is cutting edge.
9. Journals, by Kurt Cobain. Well, it did seem creepy reading somebody's journals who you never met posthumously. But it really was insightful, even if you knew his wife was making a buck off his personal journals.
10. Classic Christianity, by Bob George. I knew the ghostwriter. Still one of the best books on what the Christian life should be that the average joe can read.
11. The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis. I read them as a kid. The reason they're all lumped as one book is that I think they should be. I mean, the series is like potato chips in that you can't eat/read just one. The reason they stick out is one of the most enjoyable memories I have with Kid2 is that we read them aloud to each other one summer every night in my hammock until we finished them. I strung out the last few chapters of the last book because I didn't want it to end.
12. Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Suess. Again, some thing speak for themselves.
13. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst. Every kid gets it, and it's even more meaningful as an adult.
14. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott and...
15. ...On Writing, by Stephen King. One of these days I'm going to write a book and I'll thank them for the practical insights. Not even kidding about both comments.

There's mine, the top of my head and within the 15 minute time-limit. I'm sure if I thought it through more it'd be different, but this is what came out when I played by the rules...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Viva Cha Cha, Roberto, and Pudge!

It was about 10 years ago or so.

We were one van in a caravan of 5 in Juarez heading to our campsite after crossing the border. There were probably 10 or 11 of us in the van I was driving.

We'd crossed the border minutes of my students, Liz, asked what a word on a sign meant.

"'Chicken.' 'Pollo' means 'chicken,' Liz."

"Wow. It's like Mexico has a different word for everything." She was a freshman at the time. She rebounded nicely and is a college graduate taking Master's level classes now so no need to worry. It's best as the youth pastor to just chuckle to yourself at that moment and glance at your assistant sitting next to you, who will, in turn, chuckle to himself.

Well, on the way to the campsite, the route we took pushed us through several roundabouts. In the middle of each was a statue, usually in some way indicating military significance. Occasionally, on this particular route, we'd pass a park with some other statue outside the park of monks or whoever else the park might be named after.

Needless to say, one of the students who keenly observed the subtle differences between Spanish and English or who said something like, "Man. I'm glad I took Spanish this year. I knew it was required to graduate but I never realized that it would have a practical application!" would take the time to ask, "Hey, who's that statue of?"

While I'm flattered these students think I might have some knowledge of Mexico's history, each and every time I was on these roads I was more interested in successfully navigating the roundabout than I was in learning the reason for the statue. I can't read Spanish anyway, much less at 35 m.p.h.

So, more to entertain myself, I'd answer something like, "Orlando Cepeda."

The kids would reply, "What'd he do?"

"Military general. Led the victory at the Battle of Juarez."

"Oh. Cool."

Little did they know Orlando "Cha Cha" Cepeda was a 7-time All-Star first baseman for the San Francisco Giants. I don't know that there was ever a Battle of Juarez or not. I feel certain that if there were, Orlando Cepeda had nothing to do with it, seeing as how he was from Puerto Rico and began his major league career in 1958.

Repeat process.

"Who's that statue of?"

"Roberto Clemente."

"What'd he do?"

"Started an orphanage here in Juarez that gave thousands of kids a better life because of the school he funded."

"Oh. Cool."

Really what he did was be a 12 time All Star player for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He, too, was Puerto Rican.

"What'd that guy do?"

"That's Ivan Rodriguez. He was the first mayor of Juarez."

"Oh. Cool."

"WAIT A MINUTE!!!!" from the back of the van. Wes, a staff intern at the time and avid baseball fan, takes note of the Texas Ranger's 14 time All Star. I have no idea why I recall Puerto Rican born ballplayers with such consistency when passing a statue.

"Ivan Rodriquez is the Ranger's catcher," Wes continued. "And I know Roberto Clemente is in the Hall of Fame, but I thought maybe he was named after the founder of the orphanage and maybe that's why he was always doing that kind of stuff in Puerto Rico! And I'm pretty sure Orlando Cepeda was a baseball player, too! YOU'RE MAKING ALL OF THIS UP, AREN'T YOU???!!!!"

Nathan and I laugh out loud and playfully chide Wes about blowing the game for us. The kids are now in playful revolt and certainly doubt any and all historical knowledge we dispense for the next four years whether it's true or not. We try to pull off the same thing every year after that, but the kids had all remembered Wes' discovery and warned the incoming newbies, "Don't believe Nathan or Brent! They make up stuff about the statues! Don't fall for it!"

So yesterday I get a text message from Nathan.

He's now a youth pastor in the Pittsburgh area and a choir from his church was singing the national anthem before the Pirates' game and their church had a block of seats. The text message read something like, "Looking for the Roberto Clemente statue. Going to send a photo to Wes if I find it."

I laughed out loud. I hadn't thought about that afternoon in the van in years.

But then another thought hit me: This was a random afternoon on an hour-long van ride on a mission trip that took place nearly a decade ago. The fact that there was a Roberto Clemente statue to be found, photo taken and sent to Wes, was a reminder that we've done life together.

Wes and Nathan have since gotten married, gotten mortgages, had children and dogs. Moved away. Become part of other church families. It happens.

But I think it's a cool occupational hazard that a simple text message reminds me that we've got mileage together. That we've sharpened each other. A reminder that we did that particular part of our journey together. And yesterday, I was really thankful for that reminder.

And that I get to do what I do for a living.

And that I get to do it with others who are gifted, talented and funny and who have become family.

Even if part of our history is falsified information about Puerto Rican born major league baseball players.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Slouching Toward Idiocracy (or, Another Thing We Do That We Know Better

From Sunday's New York Times:

"Extensive research shows the dangers of distracted driving. Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe."

Yet Americans have largely ignored that research. Instead, they increasingly use phones, navigation devices and even laptops to turn their cars into mobile offices, chat rooms and entertainment centers, making roads more dangerous.

A disconnect between perception and reality worsens the problem. New studies show that drivers overestimate their own ability to safely multitask, even as they worry about the dangers of others doing it."


Sunday, July 19, 2009

I Might Be Going To Hell In A Bucket, Baby, But At Least I'm Enjoying The Ride...

Good Old Days Syndrome.

We all have it from time to time, I suppose. The big hit in the Little League game. Inner-tubing with buzzed uncles driving the boat. Vacations. Prom night. The fraternity Luau. The wedding day. The births of the kids. The first home. The first big move. I could go on. We all have moments from our pasts where we look back fondly.

But there's a dark side to those moments from our pasts where we look back fondly, if we're honest.

The times you wanted to quit Little League for whatever reason. The things that caused us all to have baggage we all have from family. The "we'll-turn-this-car-right-back-around-if-that's-what-you-want" moments. The first-love break-up or times we couldn't run fast and far enough away from high school. Same for college. The stresses and strains of planning a wedding. The moment in the labor room with doctors conferring in hushed tones. The hassles of buying a real fixer-upper. The tears of pulling away from family. You get it, right? Those moments of fondness we tend to look back on all have another side of the coin.

The Grateful Dead sang that every silver lining has a touch of grey. They might've been on psychedelics or otherwise chemically/herbally enlightened, but they hit the nail on the head with that one.

And, I'm intrigued by this reality...largely because I'm middle-aged and my peers are beginning to start more sentences this way: "Man, trying to raise children is so tough these days because the culture is going downhill so fast." Or something along those lines, anyway.

Oh, it can come in any form.

Maybe it's on how "music isn't music anymore." Or it's obscene. Or lewd. Or leads to gyrating hips. Or long hair. Or shaved heads.
Or how movies/television is just so obscene these days.
Or that "our culture" doesn't value the institution of marriage these days.
Or that this government is getting us away from the original intent of the Constitution.
Or that the Internet has exposed our kids to so much garbage.
Or that video games are causing unprecedented violence.
Or that our universities have become bastions of liberalism.
Or that (insert any organized political group here) are trying to eliminate our rights.
Or that (insert any organized political group here) is trying to sway our children.
I could go on. You get it, right?

Quick question: Do any of those sound like something you heard when you were younger?


We all heard the previous generation talk about how the Rolling Stones or Rhett cussing at Scarlett or the divorce rate or FDR had nothing on Thomas Jefferson or The Catcher in the Rye nees to be banned or the Wild West where Jessie James sat in a corner so he could prepare for rival gunslingers who hit the saloon or Kent State or the homosexual lobby trying to crush the institution of marriage or J.K. Rowling wants our children to all become witches...

...I could go on. You get it, right?

But what I'd like for all of us to do is to take a deep breath.

Just remind ourselves that the mood of the culture was, is, and always be, antithetical to the belief system of the Tribe Known as Christians.

It will have varying manifestations depending on the time period you're living in. I mean, this ain't the 1780's is it? Or the 1880's, is it? Or the 1920's is it? Or the 1960's is it? Or even the 1990's is it? Can you imagine raising children at the time of the American Revolution--and maybe explaining to your kids the Biblical insights on civil disobedience? Or the horrors of the Civil War? Or what "flappers" were or why prohibition is all the rage these days? Or theories on a "just war" or "free love" or drug use? Or materialism?

It will have varying manifestations depending on where you live, too. I mean, this ain't 1st century Ephesus, is it, with Temple prostitution being the main tourist draw (unless you happen to be living in 21st century Las Vegas, then you get a relative free pass on this one)? Or Europe in either World War? Or Chicago during Al Capone or Dillinger? Or The Wild West during the Gold Rush? Or the U.S. Northeast during the American Revolution? Or Dixie during Sherman's march?

It will have varying manifestations depending on your social status as well. Try to tell me that peasants and serfs, slave or free, married or single, child or adult, oppressor or oppressed, rich or poor or middle class, soldier or officer, employee or employer, on and on and on, well that affects how you view the culture as well.

But at the end of the day...

...culture is what it is. In the time frame it occurs. In the location it occurs.

It ebbs and flows in varying degrees but it's always antithetical to our Tribe.

You don't have to revel in it or glorify it. What's the Bible say? In it but not of it, right?

You don't have to whine about it or denegrate it, either. What's the Bible say?

Do justice.
Love mercy.
Walk humbly with your God.

Because the good old days ain't as good as we remember.
And in 20 years we'll look back fondly on these days. And they won't be as good as we remember, either.

And doing justice.
Loving mercy.
And walking humbly with your God...

...are timeless and beautiful and fit well with any culture.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that Texans are some of the few people on the planet that talk about how nice it is outside when the temperature drops to 90F at 10:30PM. it me, or does it seem like there aren't nearly as many good movies this summer as in the last two or three?
...belated "congratulations" go out to my higher-order life-liver sister Jilly and Barnstorming brother-in-law Shane on their 4th anniversary (which was yesterday). Their wedding and reception was big fun and I remember so much of that weekend vividly.
...I'm wondering where all these members of my Tribe were when the previous Republican administration was playing a little fast and loose with the U.S. Constitution. Don't get me wrong here. I'm not much for either of the major political parties in the U.S. But let's be equal opportunity dissenters, shall we?
...and, let's be equal opportunity encouragers, shall we? Case-in-point: President Obama's speech to the NAACP was the stuff of real leadership. Funny how Bill Cosby said these things a few years ago and got raked over the coals, huh? one whose profession allows behind-the-scenes views of wedding ceremony preparations, I'll be happy when people put as much effort into getting ready for the marriage as they do for a 25 minute slice of time. Think small ceremony, big party, long life, okay? Some people do this well. Others not so much. Of the six I've seen this summer, it's about half and half. of my friend alerted me to something that will help those members of my Tribe who want a real growth opportunity for free: Dallas Seminary is offering 20 classes free on their website. Recommended: "Spiritual Life" and "The Gospels" for those of you who might want to dig a little deeper.
...going to seminary before the Internet means all those notes I had to buy and classes I had to pay a bundle for then are now available for free. If you guys want to reimburse me, well, I'll cash the check.
...crucial homestand for the Rangers got off to a poor start last night. We'll really need to make some hay with 12 of 15 games at home.'s only fair that the media make a bigger deal out of tributes to Walter Cronkite moreso than Michael Jackson, don't you think?
...Auburn picked 5th in the SEC West this year, only ahead of Mississippi State? Suffice to say Auburn relishes the underdog role and I believe will be better than most expect. The talent level CAN'T have dropped that much, can it?
...I have 8 former students who are working at Pine Cove summer camps this summer. Tough gig. Low pay. Big spiritual development, if the past students who've gone are any indication. There's something to "The Pine Cove Way," man. Their training/staff is top drawer.
...our local high school rivalry game is trying to get the game moved to the new Cowboys stadium this fall. I'm hoping that works out because I think that's the best chance for me to get a look at it up-close this fall.
...summer feels like it's flying by, doesn't it? We just started making plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas this week, and we haven't even gone on vacation yet. I can't imagine what it's going to feel like next summer when the school district finishes classes on June 9, with graduation stuff running through the 14th.
...sometimes, hanging out with your dog is the best therapy you can have.
...there's an art show at my church the next two weekends, which I think is a good idea.
...well, better get on with my Saturday...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

21 Years Ago Today...

Thank you, Tracy. And, Happy Anniversary!

The adventure continues...


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mind Vitamin

"Many of us, though, face a new poverty. We are no living on the streets, but we're stuck in a rut. We are in danger of gaining the while world and losing our souls. What we have received from God has taken preeminence over the God who has received us. His gifts are for us to enjoy, but not for us to worship. If what He has given us now stands between us, we must again lay it at His feet. No matter how rich we become, we must always remain poor. We must ensure that while we celebrate the goodness of God, we do not neglect the purposes of God."--Erwin Raphael McManus, in Chasing Daylight

Saturday, July 11, 2009

iTunes & Amazon, It Would Behoove You To Be A Bit More Vigilant...

I don't care about all the mining of information iTunes and Amazon has done on me. I buy stuff on their sites. I look at stuff I might buy on their sites. I've checked boxes saying I already own something they recommended. In turn, they make recommendations of other stuff on their sites that I might want to buy. It's understood by all of us that this is how it works.

Now, I've purchased every single Son Volt CD...the last two were from iTunes, the first two from Amazon.

So, imagine my surprise when the new CD I thought was coming out later this month was being discussed by some guys on the radio yesterday. They mentioned it came out last Tuesday.

So, I checked the iTunes Store "Genius Just For You" section only to find "Better than Ezra" and "Audioslave" and "Enigma" all posted for me to purchase. I mean, with my taste in music I never scan the "New and Noteworthy" section. That's all Hannah Montana and Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey and Party Rock compilations.

I mean, all that information you mined of my 66 songs on 5 CD's and 3.8 hours of Son Volt music taking up 265.6 megabytes of hard drive space and somehow your very own store failed to even recommend something I'd for sure purchase!

However, all was forgiven when I noticed that an obscure little, wait, one of MY all-time favorite bands that happens to toil in obscurity, was highlighted in the "New and Noteworthy" section.


Amazon, you however, have no excuses...two purchases as well as all those boxes checked "I own it?" Come on. At least recommend it, man. If you're gonna mine my information, let's at least let it function on the MOST OBVIOUS ones.

Uncool, Amazon. Uncool.

Friday, July 10, 2009

FloMo Primer

In case you missed it yesterday (and, likely, you did. Unless you happen to read Forbes magazine on-line. Which I don't. But apparently Retrophisch does and alerted the local masses), our beloved Flower Mound has been named the #6 Best Place To Move in the United States.

That's right.

We thumped burgeoning Frisco (#7), and I'm guessing it's because we don't have to pay the toll on 121 every single time we go in and out of our community.

We spanked Carrollton (#12), which is no real surprise because their only claim to fame is that they are the first city north of 635 and pretty much dominate when it comes to access to DART's public transportation. I'm not sure what else they've got going because the only time I ever go there is actually when I'm going through there to get to downtown.

Plano (#25) rounded out the list. We all know that Plano has had all sorts of issues with the heroin thing, the steroids thing, and the cheerleader thing. Even the magazine hinted that Plano is no longer hip/with-it as now it's a place that has no land for new stuff and the old-folks like to retire there, but not for young families.

And, yes, we'll have to keep an eye out for the up-and-comers the magazine listed. Corinth is kind of cool but you gotta cross the bridge over Lake Lewisville, which is a hassle. Southlake is kinda happenin' but for those that don't live there it seems to have that Desperate Housewives thing going on--you know, where everything looks fine on the outside but something's lurking around underneath the surface. Coppell is nice, too, but it seems hard for locals to pinpoint exactly where it is on a map.

And, so, for those that might read the magazine (which cracks me up because if you click on the link, it's going to show you a photo of the actual "Flower Mound" which has been spruced up and protected even though it's surrounded by retail. Nobody goes there except for the community sunrise service on Easter or to show folks that there actually is a flower mound, but you just drive by and point) and want to move here and get all excited about it...well, you should. It's a nice place with nice people for the most part. Good churches. Good schools. The cops don't have much to do except hassle the teenagers driving 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit or bust teenagers for curfew violations or loitering. If you're asking me, well, there's a reason that magazine has us #6. It is a nice place.

But there are a few things lurking in our own little burg that you might want to know about before you purchase the land:

Those orange barrels. Yeah. They're temporary. And, by temporary, I mean two or three more years. See, there's a lot of construction going on because we have to get those 66,000 people into the Shops at Highland Village much more quickly than we used to because there weren't any Shops at Highland Village. But Highland Village put shops there before the infrastructure was ready and gets all the tax dollars and we have to get there. So, right now there's a lot of construction. We absolutely cannot be bothered to drive all the way to Lewisville for our Wal-Mart, Old Navy or Barnes & Noble and we're absolutely NOT going all the way to Grapevine Mills for our movie theatre. Our city council decided long ago we don't want the tax revenue but we do want to spend tax dollars fixing the roads so we can get to the other cities getting the tax revenue. When you ask why this is, you'll hear the words, "Master Plan." Don't ask. Nobody really knows.

We let Lifetime Fitness and The Shops at Highland Village babysit teenagers during the day and weekend evenings. Apparently, you can just drop the kids off there and let them run amok. It's okay. We have the cops on full-time teen alert so they don't get out of, no worries there.

If somebody tells you that it's near a strip mall that has a grocery store on one corner, with a Starbucks/Blockbuster in front of that, with a bank on the other corner near some fast-food joints...well...that's every corner.

Over time, you will master the airport run. You will make deposits into the airport drop-off/pick-up account and then make withdrawals. They do balance out. You'll learn to check web sites for terminal letters, gate numbers and baggage claim carrells. You'll also be able to plan times if your pick-up checked luggage or didn't. It's an art form. All our residents are very good at this game.

If you hear the coach/director/advisor say that your child's activity is "voluntary," you'll need to fudge the definition of "voluntary." Oh, yeah. I forgot. Like Lake Wobegon, all our children are above average. WAY above average. They're all actually in the Top 10% of their class. Not even kidding. Don't believe me? Check all the minivan bumper stickers.

This is more Texan than specific to our community, but you'll want to familiarize yourself with both Sonic Drive-Ins and Dr. Pepper products. Both are crucial to our community.

You might wonder why Flower Mound is building our second 10,000 seat football stadium. You won't wonder once you live here for one football Friday night. It'll become obvious...and, truth be told, they'll both kinda galvanize our town.

You'll have to make an effort to meet your neighbors. The architecture here is big on privacy fences and drive-in garages. There aren't any front porches or chain-link fences that allow for spontaneous conversation and such. You have to spot the neighbor going to get the mail or walking their dog. Which is fine. Just gotta stay alert. We do have a version of front-porch, where parents take collapsable chairs to outdoor sports practices and sit and watch and gripe about the coach and why their above average--check that, WAY above average--kid isn't getting enough playing time.

Our town lists 20 churches available in various denominations. If you have trouble finding one on the list that you like, drive by any public school on Saturday afternoon and there will be signs for a new start-up church meeting in most of their lunchrooms/auditoriums.

We have great parks for kids to play in. You'll drive by them while you're house hunting. What your realtor won't tell you is that they can't be used unless it's during the school year. The rest of the time when kids are out of school it's too hot.

One last piece of advice from me before I open it up to the patronage: Toe the line with your HOA. If you don't know what that is, you will.

So, if you're moving here because you read the article, that's a few things the article didn't tell you. What else do you FlowerPlexers have for the influx of new neighbors we'll be getting?

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Pendulum Continues To Swing Back

It's been a continual drumbeat here at The Diner: The helicopter parents. Those hyper-achieving (re: resume filling, not necessarily enjoying the ride) teenagers all after scholarships and top-10 and championships. And, lately, I've been seeing books and articles that are starting to point out the downfalls of this type of lifestyle.

And, browsing through the extra-special Sunday-only miracle that is The New York Times delivered each Sunday to my driveway encouraged me a bit that some degree of sanity is returning to parenting.

First, in the sports section, in response to whether or not the U.S. men's soccer team's run in the Confederations Cup was a defining moment in U.S. soccer, there was an opinion that read, "But until our children's first choice for fun is to play soccer unshod in the streets simultaneously toughening their feet and softening their ball touch, with no structure imposed by grown-ups, we are years behind the competition." Did you catch that? Unstructured soccer PLAY, like those who learn the game in the rest of the world in streets and fields as children, develops great soccer PLAYERS. Not travel teams with great uniforms who play on manicured fields with adults trying to teach them strategies and such. Just kids actually playing and learning all by themselves...kind of like when we played pick-up basketball, football or baseball because we had time to.

Then, an article entitled "Say Hello to Underachieving" had a few quotes that might show that things are slowly but surely changing:

First, on the reality that coveted, high-paying summer jobs and internships are dwindling in the current economy: "They were always given trophies for just showing up. Now they're being told 'no' when they really want a job or internship." The idea is that they're losing a sense of entitlement their parents gave them through all the years of constant stroking and praising. Now, they're not getting everything they want, and they're struggling.

Second, from later in the article:
"In the short term, the lost summer of 2009 might actually be a blessing, some psychologists said, especially because members of this generation have lived their lives like track stars trying to run a marathon at the pace of a 100-meter dash — their parents typically waiting at every turn with a stopwatch.

'Parents have really put a lot of pressure on the kids — everything has been organized, they’re all taking A.P. courses, then summer hits and they’re going to learning camps,' said Peter A. Spevak, a psychologist in Rockville, Md. Now, he said, with opportunities for achievement at a minimum this summer, 'there is something to be said about sitting out on a warm evening and looking at the stars — they need more of this contemplation and self-evaluation.'

Is it me, or does it look like we're at the beginning of coming to our collective senses?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Mind Vitamin

Jesus hates suffering, injustice, evil and death so much, he came and experienced it to defeat it and, someday, to wipe the world clean of it. Knowing all this, Christians cannot be passive about hunger, sickness and injustice. Karl Marx and others have charged that religion is 'the opiate of the masses.' That is, it is a sedative that makes people passive toward injustice, because there will be 'pie in the sky bye and bye.' That may be true of some religions that teach people that this material world is unimportant or illusory. Christianity, however, teaches that God hates the suffering and oppression of this material world so much, he was willing to get involved in it and to fight against it. Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opiate of the people. It is more like the smelling salts."--Timothy Keller, in The Prodigal God.
(emphasis mine)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Thing Of Beauty

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."--From 1776's Declaration of Independence

"The emigrants who fixed themselves on the shores of America in the beginning of the seventeenth century severed the democratic principle from all the principles which repressed it in the old communities of Europe, and transplanted it unalloyed to the New World. It has there been allowed to spread in perfect freedom, and to put forth its consequences in the laws by influencing the manners of the country."--Alexis de Tocqueville, in 1835's Democracy in America.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty thankful that the emigrants that fixed themselves on the shores of America in the beginning of the seventeenth century severed the democratic principle from all the principles that repressed it and transplanted it unalloyed in the New World, and allowed it to spread forth in perfect freedom...

...and put forth whatever the consequences may have been, are, and will be.

Happy Independence Day, patrons! Now get out there and pursue some Happiness!

Friday, July 03, 2009

More Thoughts On The Generation Gap

In my July 1 entry, I mentioned a news article that tells us that the generation gap is wider than at any point in American history...including 1969, when that gap was exposed by the rapid-fire cultural changes during those days. While I think about pop culture a lot, I'm really more concerned with how that generation gap affects my job as a pastor at a church. I mentioned that because I'm in youth ministry I spend a lot of time with members of the (let's say, 3. Maybe 4.) generations represented in our church.

So, one random thought about the effects of the gap as it relates to my church:

I don't think we'll see any sort of increase in protests or mass gatherings to highlight issues or be the spark for change. From my vantage point, the young people in the '60's believed--really, truly believed--they were in a position to right the wrongs of the big picture of society. Race relations. Wars. Government policy. There were organized protests and marches and the like to create public awareness and highlight the issues and attempt to spur change in the various areas of society. Well, a couple of differences in this group of teenagers as I work with them every day lead me to believe you won't see cultural upheaval from this bunch. First of all, they don't think in terms of changing the world but rather in terms of doing whatever I can--big or small, but mostly small--to make my little corner of the world better. Their parents duly noted that all those protests really didn't revolutionize society much so now the kids we raised think more in terms of making one family's life a little better, or our group's ability to make 15 families Christmas a little better or that homeless organization's day a little better. They don't view societal change as much of a possibility.

The second reason they don't protest much is because their institutions (think public schools) are regimented and structured in such a way that any type of deviation or protest will result in discipline that in some way harshly punishes the individuals involved--including expulsion.

Finally, they've been trained by their parents to be good-busy so you can achieve achieve achieve. It's hard to organize a protest when you know you'll be kicked out of school or off the team which will crush your resume thereby killing your chance to get into a good college. It's also hard to truly serve an organization passionately when most of their opportunities to make their corner of the world a better place are mandated by school leadership in the form of required service hours. Lastly, when you're in school from 8:45am to 4:10pm, followed by 3 hours of band practice, Bible study and homework that can last a couple of hours, throwing in that grass-roots Tea Party Rally Against Taxes is the throwaway of all your options.

If this is true, what's the response by youth pastors/pastors? What I'm learning is that we need to cut back on the methods of youth ministry that are programmatic and/or entertainment based to bring in kids. I've discovered that most Christian kids are pretty much church-hopping with each other anyway on that stuff (in other words, if your youth group is going to the Big Area Water Park this week, I'll go, too, with my friends from that youth group. Next week, when my youth group has a movie night with pizza, all my friends will come with me to that.--The same things happens with parents enrolling their children in 6 different Vacation Bible Schools in the area. We're really not reaching out to the community all that much, simply providing a quality program for Christian parents. This ain't all bad, but let's see if for what it is. I mean, families that left our church years ago enrolled their kids in VBS and it was nice to visit and get caught up, but they're happy at their current church.)

What we need to be doing is finding service projects and mission trips that allow students to serve because they love Christ and the people that He loves. Usually, this doesn't have many, if any, tangible benefits to the individuals going. This is why I really liked our church's recent mission trip to Mississippi. We partnered with a government agency, and every now and then we'd serve truly needy folks. But some days, you'd wind up working for a system manipulator getting their deck washed and stained with your tax dollars. They learned from that, got frustrated by that, served through that, etc. Sure, the kids had fun relaxing together each night and certainly had a lot of laughs and bonding time, etc. But most of the trip was very hard work in extreme conditions, which isn't what you really hear about. Kind of like stories from when we were in college. The fraternity stories get a lot of play and are entertaining and nobody wants to hear about the 30 hours of work you put into writing that paper.

How does this affect the older generation? Programming is dead. What "worked" for us that came through the Golden Age of Youth Ministry has come of age in the church at-large as we move into leadership positions in churches. We grew up in a world where you could put the Super Bowl on a big screen (well, what passed for big back then, anyway) and give out pizza and tell everybody, "Invite your friends to our Super Bowl watching party here at the church!" And we would. We'd have teaching times with cool lighting and maybe even a smoke machine and use video clips from movies on the big screen to highlight the lesson...and now many church services look just like old youth group meetings from the mid-1980's. Coffee shops in church buildings popped up. Having concerts to "bring your friends" under the guise of "outreach" is dead. Officially. You didn't hear it first here, but you heard it reiterated here. Giving away an Xbox 360 to whoever brings the most friends on "pack the pew" Sunday is long-gone. Nobody brings friends to church because there is a coffee cafe available.

In other words, the church needs to get back to loving the people that Christ loves in a genuine manner. Not viewing them as evangelistic "targets" to seek and "save," but love people anyway expecting nothing in return. Simply be salt and light in areas where we're already place (on teams, in jobs, with families, etc.) and love people. If you love people, you'll see needs. If you see needs of people you love, you'll find creative and innovative and meaningful ways to serve.

And, if you're asking me, that works in concentric circles of influence. We need to serve and love those in our community. Sure, you can haul off to Africa or Haiti or Mississippi, too...and we should. But this generation thinks in smaller terms with more limited time-frames. With a more limited schedule to serve people and families, we should be using those times not to get together and entertain ourselves, but rather be finding ways to serve and love and make various little corners of the world a little bit more reflective of Christ's love.

So, patrons, your thoughts?

Next entry on this topic: The role of Scripture/classes/worship services in developing that love & service it plays out in how the previous generation gleans information and this one does.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Throwing Off My Groove, Part 2

Remember, I treat horoscopes the same way I treat fortune cookies: Silly fun.

And today's rating for Aquarius was a 5 out of 10. I've never seen anything below a 5, because I guess you can't very well maintain readership, even if it's silly-fun readership, if you're bumming folks out with 2's and 3's...and heaven help us if our day was a 1. I guess a zero would mean that all the Virgos die.

Anyway, my day will allegedly be a 5...for all practical purposed the WORST. And the reason: "There's a logjam out there that will not break up for a while. Find something else to occupy your mind."

So, the generation gap will NOT be occupying my mind today, that's for sure.

And whatever logjam is out there, well, I'll just have to sit and wait, apparently.

But to all you Pisces out there, you got a 10 workin' for ya rock on!
Thrown Off My Groove

I have a LOT of thoughts on the Generation Gap entry from yesterday...and...seriously, I was going to fire up a series of entries on that starting today.

But I got this video from the Van Gogh Museum sent from Kid1 and her friend.

That little line about "we're coming home tomorrow"...



...that means TODAY.

My little girl is coming home from Europe TODAY.

I pick her up at the airport this afternoon.

And that little reality has me preoccupied enough to NOT want to get all into the lack of absolutes blah blah blah.

So, carry on with your own insights and we'll see about writing tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Generation Gap

My parents weren't even married when JFK was shot.

I was toddling during the Summer of Love.

I was 3 years, five months and five days old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. I was 3 years and six months old when Richie Havens played "High Flyin' Bird" to kick off Woodstock.

It's fair to say I have few, if any, memories of 1969.

According to experts, that's when the so-called "Generation Gap" was the widest it'd ever been in America. Now, I'm not sure how they came to that--largely because I don't think social scientists were measuring the disconnect between parents and kids while they were busy throwing tea bags into Boston Harbor--but we certainly saw a cultural shift during that time.

Haight-Ashbury. Martin Luther King, Jr. Woodstock. Vietnam. Watergate. All the stuff Forrest Gump covered for those of us that didn't live it. No one can argue (generally speaking, of course. There are always exceptions to the rule) that there was a significant difference in the way the younger generation and the previous one interpreted the exact same events.

Case in point: My Aunt Vicky--the closest thing my family had as far as liberal thinking goes--and I were having a discussion after I'd gotten all hot and bothered by watching Oliver Stone's conspiracy-laden movie about the JFK assassination. During my rant about all the ways the government covered everything up, I asked Aunt Vicky how it was that all these rebellious activist '60's Children could let the government get away with lying to the American public. She said something that highlighted the generation gap between us: "Brent, we grew up in an America where we never imagined that our government would lie to us. All that changed about five years later, but you grew up in an America where it's assumed that the government is lying to you...or at the very least not giving you the truth."

Now, I've since recanted my conspiracy theories on J.F.K and the Warren Commission. You can learn more from well-written books than Oliver Stone. And those theories were much more fun that the truth that Oswald acted alone. But that's not my point. See, my Aunt Vicky pointed out a generation gap. The way she interpreted information and the way I interpreted information were completely different.

And that generation gap in 1969 led to all sorts of cultural change, didn't it?

So, I read an Associated Press article that discovered that the generation gap is actually GREATER now than it was then.

Think about that for a second.

The generation gap is bigger now than it was during a very significant time of cultural change for our country.

Be careful not to think of that gap in terms of things like music. You know, like when your parents called your music "noise" like their parents called their music "noise." Or in terms of fashions, like when your parents said your parachute pants were stupid like their parents said leisure suits were stupid. Or even in terms of a cultural morality, like when your parents said language in movies has never been worse, which is what their parent said about Dennis Hopper, which their parents said when Rhett told Scarlett he didn't give a damn. These things were always thus, and always thus will be.


Think in terms of how information is interpreted.

Like the election of Barack Obama...which highlights this gap more than anything else I can think of (and the article highlights). Ask the over-50 crowd their thoughts about our president and his policies and ask the under-30 crowd and you'll get bipolar responses (again, think in general terms).

Like the use of technology. Last night I sat in a room with 7 teenagers playing Mario Kart on the Wii. At some point, each and every one of them got text messages. Not one of them thought it rude to read them immediately, and, in fact, when they did check the messages, it actually enhanced their interaction with the others in the room when the content was shared. An over-50 person likely wouldn't think the same way about it. Same for Facebook and Twitter. Older folks tend to think they detract from "real" relationships, while younger folks see them as an enhancement to their "real" relationships.

Like social morality. Want to see the gap in full-force again? Bring up the issue of homosexual marriages. You'll see one group believe that to be the downfall of our culture. The other group will take a "what do I care?" mindset and that we might was well "live and let live" on that kind of stuff...hence, no big deal one way or another.

I could go on.

But what I'm highly interested in is how this generation gap affects churches and the spiritual life. I mean, it is my job and all. I do sit uniquely between generations and much of my job involves ping-ponging back and forth between older generations and younger ones.

Suffice to say that I have strong opinions about this...which I do want to discuss in the next day or two.

However, before we get going, I'd like some conversation among the Diner patrons...

In what ways, if any, do you see this generation gap?
If you see a gap, to what degree do you think it impacts our American culture?
If you see a gap, what should our role be as a Christian community regarding serving the next generation?
What attitudes and actions would the Christian community need to change in order to serve the next generation? What should we cling to strongly?

I'll chime in tomorrow, kids. Have at it, patrons.

*pours coffee, rubs hands together, glad to be thinking deep thoughts again*