Monday, August 31, 2009

Writer's Block


Many of you have asked, "Is something wrong? You haven't blogged in a couple of weeks." I appreciate your concern, patrons. Truly, I do.

And, it's fair to say that something is wrong. And, no, I don't want to talk about it. It's nothing that hasn't happened every now and again, and, as usual, Dr. Suess said it best:

"I'm sorry to say so, but sadly it's true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you."

"And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done."

"I'm afraid that some times you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you."

So, yeah. Something's wrong. No worries, though. Bang-ups and Hang-ups happen. Slumps happen. Lonely games get played.

And, the Bang-ups and Hang-ups give way eventually.

I'll un-Slump.

The lonely games will end.

And... the meantime...

...if you want me to blog...

...why don't I open the floor for some Q&A from the patrons?!

What do you want me to blog about or want me to answer?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Foreshadowing: The Key To Quality Literature

My fraternity brothers used to give me a hard time because all my majors (there were 7 over the course of my undergraduate work) involved heavy doses of reading. Philosophy. English. Psychology. Religion. History. You get the drift. Anyway, they'd come into my room and jokingly ask me if I'd found the instance of "foreshadowing" yet. That's all they remembered that they were supposed to look for from their high school forays into literature. Business & engineering majors. Sheesh.

Anyway, I mentioned briefly yesterday that Donald Miller (a writer I enjoy who takes normal situations and writes about them from his position in Christ--which is what I started to do here and The Diner and, well, I suck at that. So, now I prattle on about whatever's kicking around in my brain.) has a new book coming out. He's doing lots of promotion and such and amping up for book tours so I'm getting all sorts of updates about it.

And, if you want to get a taste of where his new book is headed, you can read his latest blog entry right here.

Your day will be better for it, too.

Don't judge my writing by his, either.

That's just not fair.

I wasn't there.

Through no fault of my own, mind you. My parents decided to start a family a couple of years after they got married and I came along in 1966. And, frankly, young marrieds from Alabama with toddlers aren't exactly the type to make the excursion to New York for three days of peace and love. Don't even get me started on the reality that, unless Buddy Holly or Chubby Checker or Sam Cooke were on the docket (or Charley Pride and/or Johnny Cash if my father had any say so) then my parents weren't interested.

So, I missed Woodstock. 40 years ago tomorrow.

But, like everybody else, I put on tie-dyed shirts and peace signs and wigs when our school had "60's dress up day." That's all we really knew about the 60's.

Those three days of peace and love have become mythic in our culture. I've had conversations with people that were there (or so they say...I've heard that some 400,000 were actually there, and some 1,000,000 say they were). Like any good college kid, I watched the movie--and did so again a couple of nights ago--and I've picked up books and read news accounts and seen interviews and the whole deal. In reality, it seemed like I missed something really great.

So, it was nice to read some balanced perspective today in the daily miracle that showed up in my driveway:

From the Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts:

"...Woodstock was the distillation of an ideal which held that avarice could be stilled, hatred could be silenced and the disparate tribes of humanity could find reconciliation in the chords of song...But if the ideal was neither born nor died on Yasgur's farm, it nevertheless reached its fullest expression there. Granted, Woodstock did not stop the war in Vietnam, even for a week. Indeed, young people left the farm, cut their hair, put on suits and ties, pantsuits and sensible shoes, and became doctors, cops, TV executives, mothers, fathers--respectable and responsible...They joined the world they famously opted out of."

From the Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman:

"Boomers are risk-averse as parents because they realize they haven't changed the world. If anything, the world is more dangerous now that it was in 1969, when Woodstock's public address announcer was intoning that 'the man next to you is your brother.' We've spent much of the past decade wondering whether the man next to us is a bomber...This notion that Woodstock was supposed to be more than a party, that it was supposed to define how a generation felt about itself, to crystallize its political and cultural potential--it's such a heavy load. Looking back 40 years, Woodstock has managed to inflate boomers' expectations of themselves and, sadly, to amplify many of life's inevitable disappointments."

Like I said.

I wasn't I don't really know the times and context. And, yes, my view of it is great music, peace signs and tie-dye in an almost cartoonish portrayal.

Not too shabby for an event that became what it became because the organizers goofed up so much.

And I think there's a lesson in that.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that, for those of you that asked, here's the link to the sermon I gave at our church on Sunday. Thanks, Barry! And, also, I'm my harshest critic on stuff like that, so I NEVER listen to me speak. However, feel free to fire off constructive criticism.
...I heard that there are now bars and parties where, before you enter, you sign statements and turn in mobile phones/cameras/recorders to a valet, that you will not, under any circumstances, blog or twitter or Facebook or describe anything that went on at that bar or party on the Internet. Yep. It's come to that.
...some more affluent school districts are choosing to provide a Kindle to their students and downloading textbooks. Over 4 years, it actually saves money. I get it. I like it. But somehow, someway, the less affluent school districts will fall even farther behind.
...I think it's pretty funny what author Donald Miller is up to for his new book's September release. He'll be updating his Twitter feed and Facebook page as to what city he's hidden two autographed copies of his new book and then folks in those cities go find 'em. I intend to go see him speak when he's in Dallas in November. I've read all his books, but I haven't heard him talk about 'em.
...I like having meaningful baseball in my city in August. This weekend could determine if it's meaningful in September.
...bummed about the late Mexico goal yesterday when the U.S. was oh-so-close to getting a point in World Cup qualifying AT Azteca. Even more bummed about our captain saying that it was okay because they needed it more than we did. Umm, Landon. Isn't World Cup qualifying the most important thing you'll ever do in your professional life? You only get two or maybe three chances EVER on that stage. I'd think every single one of those 30 games or so would be the highlight of your life. How could anyone want or need a win more?
...Also looking forward to Pearl Jam's new CD coming out in mid-September.
...wondering if blogging is on serious decline or if it's actually the fault of The Diner. Readership is down SIGNIFICANTLY.
...things in Juarez don't seem to be getting any better. I know this is irrelevant to most of you, but I have big decisions to make that affect our student ministry schedule.
...looking for a date movie that's pretty enjoyable? Try Julie & Julia. If you're younger, (500) Days of Summer. I was surprised by Julie & Julia. Both are well-done. Looking forward to Paper Hearts coming soon.
...I may have underrated Austin, Texas. My apologies.
...Once again giving serious consideration to torching the old journals. All of them. And starting anew with the new one purchased yesterday. Seems redemptive somehow. Theraputic, somehow.
...not digging the news coming out of Auburn thus far about our chances this season. Sounds like going to a bowl game will be an accomplishment.
...pretty excited about going to visit the higher-order barnstorming Sentz family over Thanksgiving. Yep. Already excited to goof off with the niece and nephew.
...certain roads are starting to re-open in my little burg and it makes me happy that I don't have to go the long way anymore. I still avoid left-turns onto 407 at all costs.
...I'm annoyed that when they tell us that school starts in late August, well, that's hogwash. All the extracurriculars cranked up August 1. State legislature, you left a tiny loophole by not requiring the U.I.L. to move to two weeks before the start of school. Either fix it or go back to the old way of doing business. Kids getting out on June 10 is too late.
...I'm pretty stoked about my junior/senior guys Bible study this year. Looking forward to getting that up and running. got their school schedules yesterday. I have no idea how the local high schools ever educate any students with all the teachers that "suck" or teach "blow off" classes. Are there any good ones? :) Teenagers. Gotta love 'em. Oh yeah, students, do you know that teachers say similar things about you? Hehehehe.
...well, I gotta get on with my day.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

When The Cat's Away...

...the mice get to preach the sermon in the main services.

For the first time in well over a year, I get to teach to our congregation.

I'm nervous about it. I always am. I mean, my teenagers "get" me and my style but it's a different venue than I'm used to.

I'm excited about it. I always am. I mean, are you kidding? I get paid to do what I love, no matter the venue.

Of course, it exhausts me in about every way... there will be a nap this afternoon. Bet the farm on that.

But right now the primary emotion is excitement. We'll see if that translates to the listeners.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

And, So, It Begins

Took a road trip to Austin with Kid1. Kid2 came along for grins.

And last night, we ate dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant that's a big hit with the locals. There's a reason it is, too. Kid2 also had a cupcake that is so good a business can make a living off 'em. We took a field trip to fabled 6th street.

But the real reason we're here starts today: Kid1 checking out the college of communications at the University of Texas.

We'll be taking several trips to colleges over the next 8 months or so. Kid1 has big decisions about that stuff to make, too.

And this morning we'll try to determine what is a sales pitch against what is stuff she can really use.

But, since this is the first time we're at one of these things, it seems like it's the beginning of something...

...and also the beginning of the end of something.

*deep breath*

Away we go.

Friday, August 07, 2009

I Read The News Today, Oh, Boy

Well, actually, I read the news yesterday.

John Hughes, writer & director of a HUGE percentage of the movies I purchased on DVD because they were distinctly from my generation's movie watching menu, dead at 59. Heart attack. In Manhattan of all places.

Anyway, in remembrance today, I will...

...tell people that I'll be using 220 or 221, whatever it takes.
...driving the family cross country in the Family Truckster. Farmer Ted a buck to see a girl's underpants.
...spend all day in detention because I don't have anywhere else to go.
...try not to throw up when Chet tells me he's going to serve me a greasy pork sandwich in a dirty ashtray.
...choose to hang out with Duckie at the record store instead of with Blane's friends.
...lead a parade and dedicate a song to a young man who didn't think he saw anything good today.
...listen to Watts when she says if I want shallow, I should call Amanda Jones.
...sell shower curtain rings as jewelry so I can get home for the holidays.
...and perform a choreographed lawnmower dance with my neighbors as we mow our lawns on Saturday.


If you know those movies...'s safe to say John Hughes made our lives a little happier an hour and a half at a time.

Over and over again over the years, too.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tying The Knot

I got married at age 22. 21 years later, we're still together, man.
I've performed weddings where the bride was 18. They just celebrated their 4th anniversary and still seem pretty happy about it all.
I've performed weddings where the couple was in their mid-30's. 2 years later, they just purchased a home.

I know couples that got married at 22 and didn't make it.
I've seen young brides get divorced twice by age 25.
I've known couples that got married later and didn't make it to their 2nd anniversary.

So, there was an article in this month's Christianity Today, titled "The Case for Early Marriage" that piqued my interest (it had been bouncing around Twitter and Facebook circles I run in). The tag line under the article reads, "Amid our purity pledges and attempts to make chastity hip, we forgot to teach young Christians how to tie the knot."

Here's the first couple of paragraphs of Mark Regnerus' cover story:

"Virginity pledges. Chastity balls. Courtship. Side hugs. Guarding your heart. Evangelical discourse on sex is more conservative than I've ever seen it. Parents and pastors and youth group leaders told us not to do it before we got married. Why? Because the Bible says so. Yet that simple message didn't go very far in shaping our sexual decision-making.

So they kicked it up a notch and staked a battle over virginity, with pledges of abstinence and accountability structures to maintain the power of the imperative to not do what many of us felt like doing. Some of us failed, but we could become 'born again virgins.' Virginity mattered. But sex can be had in other ways, and many of us got creative.

Then they told us that oral sex was still sex. It could spread disease, and it would make you feel bad. 'Sex will be so much better if you wait until your wedding night,' they urged. If we could hold out, they said, it would be worth it. The sheer glory of consummation would knock our socks off.

Such is the prevailing discourse of abstinence culture in contemporary American evangelicalism. It might sound like I devalue abstinence. I don't. The problem is that not all abstainers end up happy or go on to the great sex lives they were promised. Nor do all indulgers become miserable or marital train wrecks. More simply, however, I have found that few evangelicals accomplish what their pastors and parents wanted them to."

So, grab a cup of joe, and read the article...

...and I'd like to hear your thoughts on when you got married, as well as what you'd advise any couple in a similar situation as you were then...the benefits and the drawbacks. Yeah. This might get serious conversation going again here at The Diner. If you haven't noticed, we're experiencing our annual summer commenting slump. And, as a side benefit, it'll help my pre-marital counseling!

Have at it, patrons!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Proud Uncle Alert

After a week of vacation with niece and nephew on Tracy's side of the family, it's time to give a well-deserved shout-out to the stunning Margaux Childress Sentz who turned two yesterday!

And I think it's impossible for anyone who looks as sweet as this to experience the Terrible Twos, don't you?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Shaking The Rust Off

It's been well over a year.


I'm on the hook for the sermon in the main services at our church this weekend.

It's a laborious process for me, largely because it isn't the only work-related responsibility I have. I mean, when the teaching pastor gives the sermon it's part of the job. Wednesday/Sunday. It's right there in the job description. For associates, well, it's an add-on to an already busy getting-ready-for-the-fall workdays.

So, it'll be another 20 or so hours of study, thought, prayer, conviction and planning. How can it be fresh and real to others if it isn't fresh and real to me, right?

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad to have the opportunity. It stretches me. And I'll have fun doing it. Really.

So, if I seem a little distracted and preoccupied this week...'s because there'll be a lot of processing going on.

Like I said, I haven't done this in well over a year. But as a seminary professor once told me, "Sermon preparation is like a gas. It expands or contracts to whatever space you have allotted for it. Put people before paperwork. And Sunday at 9AM is coming whether you study 20 hours or not. Just prepare as best you can, and draw on the Holy Spirit. He's the teacher anyway."

Good advice.

Now if only I can take it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Proud Dad Alert

So, we're heading to the last 25% of our 11.5 hour drive back to Texas from vacation and were at the Texas rest stop. We had a few minutes and decided to get all touristy and take a photo. Is it bad that, right as I was taking the photo I thought to myself, "I could not be prouder of two girls if I wanted to be?"