Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Just in case you were wondering, I'm spending a lot of time outlining the book...coming up with a writing schedule, more or less.

See, as I started writing, I noticed that I was bringing up something that I KNOW would come up in a future topic. Then I noticed a couple of more instances of "overlap."

So, I figured it'd be better to spend time thinking through now rather than have extensive re-writes later. Anyway, I should have a new entry or two by the end of the week.

Thanks for checking up on me!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Art of Hitting .300

*I said that this year I was going to start writing a book, a spiritual memoir of sorts. The deal is I was going to write out-loud here at The Diner, and you all agreed to give loving, constructive feedback. Here's the forward.*

A book about George Brett and a book about Jesus Christ hit my radar at roughly the same time.

For the uninitiated, George Brett played 3rd base for the Kansas City Royals. In late August of 1980, he was hitting .400 and was attempting to be the first player since Ted Williams to finish the season with a batting average that would have baseball fans bringing his name up for the next half-century. I read somewhere that if he'd just gotten one more hit each month of the season he'd have pulled off something that hadn't been done in 40 years.

For the uninitiated, Jesus Christ was a noted first-century historical figure from the Middle East. In late August of 1980, he had been relegated to the white noise of the Bible Belt and rumored to have some connection with the morality of an alleged majority. I read somewhere that he'd risen from the dead and pulled off something that hadn't been done in history.

Now, don't get me wrong. I wasn't a fan of the Royals, but my family had cable television, and a new all-sports network gave me nightly updates and highlights on Brett's chase. As a little-league baseball player with big aspirations I knew enough about hitting to know that I wanted to imitate that batting stance and swing. It was, in baseball parlance, "sweet."

He batted left-handed. So did I. That's about as far as the comparisons go.

And I found out that Brett's hitting instructor, Charley Lau, wrote a book. It was called The Art of Hitting .300 and it wasn't long after I found out that it existed that I owned it. The cover had George Brett's perfect swing frame by frame, and if you held the book and flipped the pages by leafing the upper right-hand corner, it looked like a movie of the swing I'd seen every night on SportsCenter.

I studied the book, man. I learned. The major flaw I had was that I'd never been taught the importance of shifting your weight while the pitcher was in motion. In other words, your backswing is just as important in hitting as the moment you actually hit the ball. Charley Lau said that every hitter needed to understand that "you have to go back to go forward."

Now, don't get me wrong. I wasn't a fan of Christians, but my family had gone to church, and every Sunday gave me ritual and stories about Jesus' life. As a 13-year-old whose father had unexpectedly died the year before, I knew enough about Jesus to know that I didn't want to imitate Him or his followers. It was, in religious parlance, "apostasy."

He was a carpenter. I mowed lawns. That's about as far as the comparisons go.

And I was well aware that Jesus' students, the disciples, wrote a book. It was called The Bible and it wasn't long after my father's death that I ignored it. The cover was leather and had my name on it, if you held the book and looked at the side, you'd note that the gold-embossed pages hadn't been separated, anyway.

I never studied that book, man. I ignored. The major flaw I had was that I'd never been taught the relevance of the history in that book while life was in motion. In other words, my churchgoing was all ritual and habit and had little importance in life when the rubber met the road. The church said that everybody needed to just show up to be one.

But things began to change in the fall of 1980.

George Brett went into a slump in late September. I started high school.

Early on I met a guy. He was just a guy from one of those campus ministries that were really big at that time. He was married and I'm guessing around 30 years old. He came to our lunchroom. He came to football games. He showed up at basketball games. He led these meetings we'd go to at somebody's house every now and then. There were skits and games. There were snacks. There were topics to discuss. Then there was some Bible lesson.

I went because my friends went.

And because girls were there. I was 14. Cut me some slack.

I don't remember paying attention to anything but girls. I was 14. Cut me some slack.

But I do remember that the guy paid attention to me. He knew my name. He said hello to me every time he saw me. I didn't know he had a mild, well-intentioned, hidden agenda:

To get me to look at that book about Jesus Christ.

And find out what it said about Him.

Not about what an allegedly moral group with an alleged majority said. Not about what my friends said. Not about what my church said. Not about what movies said. Not about what girls said. Not even about what my Mom said. Not what my teacher said. Not what politicians said.

What that particular book said.

About the same time George Brett was slumping I had no idea that I'd be putting down Charley Lau's book and picking up the disciple's book. I might've been younger than most but I was going to be faced with what every person on the planet is going to be faced with:

Making a decision about what you believe and why you believe it.

Every person is going to have to deal with Proverbs 1:7. "Fearing the Lord is the beginning of moral knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Net Bible)

..."Fearing"... The word implies a lot: Intense fear. Awe. Reverence. Respect. The idea of running away screaming while at the same time drawing near and bowing before a king.

..."the Lord"... Somebody specific. In this case, Yahweh. The I Am. The God of Israel.

..."the beginning"... Don't get too fancy. It's the starting point.

..."of moral knowledge"... This is one of those places I wish I'd studied Hebrew in seminary. The word here refers to the application of what you know, not simply the understanding of what it means. Like we all know that"eating less/better and exercising more" is the way to lose weight or get in shape, but that doesn't mean we actually do it. A synonym of this word is "wisdom."

..."but"... We're about to get a contrast.

..."fools"... People who lack sound judgment.

..."despise"... The idea of treating something that has value with contempt. Another moment where I wish I'd studied Hebrew. The verb tense suggests that this is something they've always done, are currently doing, and will do in the future.

..."wisdom and instruction"... What have they despised in the past, currently despise, and will despise? Applying knowledge and being taught information along those lines.

Because, according to the Bible, there really are only two kinds of people in this world: Wise and foolish.

And what differentiates them is whether or not they choose to


...the Lord.

That's it.

Either Yahweh, the Lord of Israel, is God, or He isn't.

If he isn't, well, somebody's got some explaining to do.

If Yahweh is, well, we're not Him. And we've got some learning to do.

See, there's an art to hitting .300. There are principles to learn and then tinker with to fit our individual, subtle nuances.

And, there's an art to living well, too. There are principles to learn and then tinker with to fit our individual, subtle nuances.

And, if we're going to learn, we're going to need a teacher. In this case, we can pick our teacher. If there is somebody that discovered the art of wisdom, and wrote a book about it, well, wouldn't it make sense to learn from the wisest person who ever lived?

So, I choose Solomon.

And this is my story. Hopefully, if you leaf the pages just the right way, it'll look like a life well-lived. A wise life. Fearing the Lord. Like hitting .300, living well is, well, an art of sorts if you think about it.

And, like Charley Lau said, I have to go back before I can go forward.

Monday, January 11, 2010

No Excuses

...but here's what I've learned:

My family's morning routines and when my mind seems to work best for creativity collide with ferocity.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Brent'sList: Push-Pinned Index Card on The Diner Bulletin Board

I've still got a set of Wilson Advantage Plus (including 3 additions: a sweet driver, a loft wedge, and Taylor-Made putter) golf clubs looking for a good home.

And, we've got some SERIOUS baby furniture that we paid WAY too much money for when our first-born showed up. It's got a fabulous dresser and sturdy changing table (with two storage shelves) and of course, the crib. It might be the best furniture we ever bought.


All serious offers entertained.
Proud Dad Alert

Kid1's latest opinion column was published in today's Dallas Morning News.

You can read it here: Sleep It Off: Everyone I know is tired, says Kelsey McKinney, and we're paying a high price for our exhaustion.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Muse...

...kinda showed up. I got some stuff written, but it isn't complete yet. And the day has started now. So, maybe I can wrap up later tonight or this afternoon.

Sorry if you were expecting something completed by now.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's Resolution


I've been dreading this.

But I think I've got something to write about by way of a book.

The working title is going to be "Pursuing Solomon" and will be a spiritual memoir of sorts, really focusing on the overall spiritual journey with observations from 21 years of professional pastoral ministry. Obviously, it'll focus on the life and writings of Solomon, so there'll be a kind of "guide" for folks to read along and maybe journal their own thoughts and such. Or not.

Anyway, the reason I've been dreading it is because it'll require a lot of change personally. We all know that definition of insanity that people parrot that goes something like "doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result," right? Well, I think maybe blogging about random thoughts that hit my brain (which I imagine I'll continue with some degree of frequency) early in the morning for the better part of 6 years might've gotten me close to the 10,000 hours that Malcom Gladwell says are required to become good at any craft.

So, while I may or may not be good at the craft, maybe it's time to figure out if the proof is in the pudding.

And, I heard a writer I like talking about how he wrote "spiritual memoir" type books quote some famous writer saying that "the muse honors the working stiff." In other words, he showed up and wrote every day. At the same time. Knowing that some days the words wouldn't be used at all. Some days some words would get used. Other days the "muse" showed up and gave him 3 chapters.

Hence, I thought it'd be fun to write "out loud" here at The Diner.

Which means that you'll have to understand that it's unedited and rambling and a work in progress. But, at the same time, helpful critiques and insights are highly sought after, kids.


There it is.

And now I'm accountable to the patronage.

You have a job to do now kids, and hold me accountable.

First entry should be Monday.

Just Some Record Keeping...Sorry For The Interruption

Books I Read in 2009:

Why We're Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be), by Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck
Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments, by David Foster Wallace
Essential Church?: Reclaiming a generation of dropouts, by Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer III
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University, by Kevin Roose
Girl Meets God: A Memoir, by Lauren F. Winner
The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferris
Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, by Denis Leary
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, by Timothy Keller
Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever, by Walter Kirn
Chasing Daylight: Seize the Power of Every Moment, by Erwin Raphael McManus
Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community, by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell
I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, by Tucker Max
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, by Chelsea Handler
Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, by Hugh MacLeod
Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir, by Susan E. Isaacs
Save Me From Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story, by Brian "Head" Welch
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, by Donald Miller
Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne
Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman
Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide, by Reggie Joiner
Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, by Jim Belcher
Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp, by C.D. Payne

Movies I Saw In 2009:

Valkyrie (2008)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Bride Wars
The Wrestler
He's Just Not That Into You
Last Chance Harvey
The Reader
I Love You, Man
Fast & Furious 4
State of Play
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The Soloist
Star Trek
Terminator Salvation
The Hangover
The Proposal
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
Year One
Away We Go
Public Enemies
(500) Days of Summer
The Ugly Truth
Funny People
Julie & Julia
District 9
Inglorious Basterds
Post Grad
Sunshine Cleaning
Whip It
Couples Retreat
Law Abiding Citizen
The Road
The Men Who Stare at Goats
Pirate Radio
Ninja Assassin
The Blind Side
Up in the Air
Everybody's Fine
Avatar (in 3-D)
Taking Woodstock
Paper Heart

Music I Purchased in 2009:

UB40: Red, Red Wine
Kings of Leon iTunes Essential Playlist
U2: No Line on the Horizon
Green Day: 21st Century Breakdown
Eminem: Relapse
Tesla: Time's Makin' Changes, The Best of Tesla
Grunge: iTunes Essentials playlist
Regina Spektor: Far
Moby: Wait for Me
Son Volt: American Central Dust
Cage the Elephant: Cage the Elephant
Pearl Jam: Backspacer
Muse: The Uprising
Son Volt: Straightaways
Nirvana: Live at Reading
Them Crooked Vultures: Them Crooked Vultures