Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's That Time of Year... some point every year, The Diner opens the floor for questions from the patrons.

It can be anything.

Church (my own or in the broad sense).
What not.
All the above.
Or none of the above.

Feel free to go off the board for your own topic.

So, have at it, patrons.

Friday, June 18, 2010

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that something has to change about the local school district's calendar. The students weren't dismissed until June 9 (a Wednesday). The graduation exercises kept most folks around through the weekend, the 13th. So, summer really didn't begin until that Monday. And most other districts around us were out AT LEAST a week before us, some two, and some private schools a month before. The kids will have to be back in town for their clubs/teams/extracurricular activities the 2nd week of August. That's six--maybe 7--weeks of summer. (and don't get me started on how some sports/band organizations have "voluntary" camps and contests during those weeks) I'm not sure that our elected officials truly understand that affects employment opportunities for the students, or vacation realities, or even the need for rest/down-time. But it's in stone for next year, too. Ugh. And we all know that it's about the Benjamin's, too, which doesn't really help.

...that all the Big 12 conference did was delay the same discussion about teams leaving for about 4 or 5 years. Nobody endures a system where the rich get richer forever. And, while I'm on sports: The Rangers little 5-game winning streak while on the road has been pretty enjoyable to watch (and don't even get me started on Josh Hamilton's play this month--which has been nothing short of amazing). And it seems strange to have high expectations for Team USA in the World Cup.

...not to blow my own horn here, but I donated my hair again (5th time), this time a gift to Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign, who works exclusively with cancer patients. It's funny how I've done it so often now that I find myself giving instructions to the hairstylist on how this organization likes it done and all that jazz. I'm sure they appreciate that.

...that I'm amazed how I can have a meeting with parents in which I tell them how to handle certain circumstances that come up in my youth ministry, among them: "Don't start a phone call to me with, 'I know it's your day off, BUT...', "Don't have a conversation regarding your teen's needs or situations with me in a hallway where others (including the teen) can hear," or "Don't contact me on my mobile phone for convenience if the answer is written on a list that you don't happen to have while you're out." All of those were broken within a week, and while I try to be gracious...sometimes it's hard to understand how I'm the bad guy here.'s kind of weird when things happen in my little suburb that remind me how long I've been here. Today, I read about the resignation of a local high school women's basketball coach. She started the same week I did 14 years ago, and I've had a lot of students play for her. She's noted for stomping her high heels when the kids don't play well so hard that on the hardwood floor where the team sits there is an incredible amount of pock-marks. She's won several district championships and been coach of the year the last three years. Now she's off to another high school...and she'll leave some big high-heels to fill.

...I had to do a double take because, for some reason, a Good Morning America thing is going on in my living room and I saw Bret Michaels and Miley Cyrus performing together. And I thought, "That can't be right." It was. Um. Wait? What?

...that today we begin packing for what will be my 20th mission trip with a group of students. We're off to Arizona to serve the Apache Nation by doing work on the reservation to provide better housing. Our teens raise the money and provide the labor, and I'm pretty excited about seeing how the kids come back viewing the world a little differently than when they left. And most will. Not to mention the group unity that comes from 17 hours on the road together, camping out for a week with no electricity, and working alongside each other.

...that I don't understand why it is that parents want to go to things like their teen's college orientation. My parents never went on mine or even expressed a desire to. And back then, there wasn't a parallel "parent orientation," either. You just went, stayed in a dorm, saw the video that talked about how great the university experience & traditions are, listened to the dean of your college talk about how well prepared you'd be for life after grabbing that accounting degree, signed up for your schedule, struck out at the street dance, and then went home. Conversely, I do understand the desire to drive your kid to college and help them get settled in their dorm.

...that I think it's hilarious when former students from 13 years ago still text me movie quotes they find funny, and/or when they're in Las Vegas they actually wanted me to hop a plane and join them. I think it's even more hilarious that I likely would've done it if I wasn't leaving on a mission trip this week.

...that satellite radio was one of the best Christmas gifts our family has gotten. Our home is filled with more music than television on occasion.

...that if you're a U.S. Representative who gets about $100,000 per year in campaign financing from big oil companies, you might not want to pop off about how they're getting fleeced by the U.S. government. Side note: when you apologize for how we misunderstood your words, well, that's not really an apology.

...that I'm continually floored by how my former students grow through things like being counselors at summer camps, interns at churches, mission trips, serving in homeless shelters and the like. It's a reminder that spiritual growth is a slow business and sometimes it's better to step back and take a look at the forest instead of focusing too intently on the trees. Some of the students who looked like they were stepping off the path (some further than others) are now inspiring me with their innovation and vision.

...that my relatively newly-wed and newly-expecting neighbors were out doing yard work the other day. Well, the husband was on his hands and knees weeding and planting while the 6-month-along wife was pointing and directing. I walked over to say hi and asked the husband how he was doing. While still on all fours, he glanced at the pile of weeds he had made, glanced at his wife's bulging belly, then back at me and said, "Oh, just livin' the dream, Brent. Just livin' the dream." I just gave him the nod that let him know we've all been precisely where he has been.

...that with 3 people working retail in my house, we've become that family that has a schedule on the refrigerator to figure out where everybody is at any given moment. I'm sure there are folks out there who would give me the nod and let me know they've been precisely where we are.

...that I need to get on with my day in order to finish the yard work before I leave, pack, pick up the vans, stop by the packing group and check on them to get ready for my 5:30AM go-time tomorrow morning. After 19 previous trips, there's a routine you get in, and you can't goof that up!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short

I attend graduation ceremonies like nobody's business...because...well... is my business.

See, when your business is serving high school students it's a natural outflow that you'd be there to celebrate this milestone with them. By my count, over my 22 years of student ministry involvement, I've now attended 83 ceremonies.

But this one was different.

This one was personal.

Because the name that would get called would be the one that my wife and I spent hours trying to decide upon. It was a name that's been said with great patience and instruction in the child-rearing process. It's a name we've cheered at early-age dance recitals and game-winning hits. It's a name we've uttered wondering where she was when she didn't respond to text messages. It's a name we heard her friends ask for on the phone when they called. It's a name we've whispered trying to make sure she's awake when she slept in later than we expected. It's a name we've called out in warning to keep her from some sort of toddler danger. It's a name we saw on countless (and I do mean countless) catalogues and letters from colleges.

And we'd hear it called out at the Meyerson last week at the graduation ceremony for Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

But this time it wasn't business related.

It was personal.

And I'd been given plenty of warning from friends a little further down the path than I am. Well, moms. They all seemed to say things like, "You'll cry thinking about how fast it all went." The dads were a bit more reserved, "Yeah. It's pretty cool seeing your kid walk across the stage."

So, I went in not knowing what to expect.

But we headed downtown (which I always enjoy) and got there in plenty of time. We were given 10 tickets...9 of which were eaten up by family. The extra was eaten up by Kid1's boyfriend. Everyone was only given 10 so the math worked for us...and we scored pretty decent seats given that we were trying to find 10 together in "festival seating" fashion.

And this graduation was better than most. Let's just say art school kids get the chance to show the paintings, interpret the dance, perform the song, and act the scene for about 5 minutes each. Then they got to the business of calling the names--which for 181 kids took roughly 20 minutes.

The teacher called the name we put so much thought and effort into giving.

The users of our 10 tickets cheered and took pictures and whooped.

It was indeed pretty cool to see your kid walk across the stage.

But I was nowhere close to crying.

The moment was more surreal than emotional for me. I couldn't believe that I was standing where I was doing what I was doing and hearing what I was hearing and seeing what I was seeing. Ferris was right. Life moves pretty fast. So, I took his advice and just slowed down and enjoyed the moment.

Maybe it wasn't sad for me because Kid1 has made it pretty easy for us to be first-time parents of a preacher's kid.
Maybe it wasn't sad for me because Kid1 has been celebrating for the better part of a month with awards ceremonies and sermons in big church and recognitions and invitations and general celebrations of her.
Maybe it wasn't sad for me because Kid1 has big plans for the future that we've been spending a lot of time focusing on.
Maybe it wasn't sad for me because Kid1 has made us plenty proud of her accomplishments in her four years of high school.
Maybe it wasn't sad for me because Kid1 has friends and family that were all about celebrating this accomplishment.
Maybe it wasn't sad for me because Kid1 has and end of summer move-out-date that has more potential for sadness than this night.

I don't know.

What I do know is that it was fun and I was happy and I enjoyed the moment. It was beautiful. And I enjoyed the post-ceremony dinner with family. And I've enjoyed the hoopla surrounding it.

But I can assure you of this: It's much more enjoyable when it's not work related. When you share a genetic link to the person all the hoopla is about, well, sometimes you simply marvel at how blessed you are.

***Anyway, I'll have some more thoughts on graduation and my life station in the next few days, but here are some photos and commentary of the big night.

Aunt Jodie, my nephew Peyton and partner-in-crime Katelyn who all came in for a visit before the big night:

The Higher-Order Life-Living Sister Jilly came in for the big night. Check me out in a suit!

Father-in-Law Murray with his two daughters. I imagine at some point in the future I'll take a similar photo. I'd bet his pride in raising these two women runs pretty high.

Kid1 & Kid2!

One of the few recent photos of our family together in one spot. Usually, Tracy is behind the lens so it's some combination of the other 3...even if in this one nobody was sure exactly which family member to look at as they were all holding cameras.

The proud grandparents. It wasn't until I looked at this picture that it hit me that I'd pay any price to have another one with Charlotte and Eddie. My parents would've loved this moment if they'd lived to see it.

Aunt Jodie with the graduate!

Aunt Jill with the graduate!

Like I said earlier, I'll have some more thoughts on graduation and my life-station, but suffice to say it was a wonderful night with family that I wouldn't trade for a million bucks.