Tuesday, December 16, 2008

O Holy #$*&%!


OK, folks, it's that time of year. It's time for my favorite Christmas song performed by my favorite artist of all time. I don't know his name, but he's a genius. Listen and enjoy the most beautiful version of O Holy Night you've ever heard:

Click here to listen

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I'm doing a 4 week series this month called "Surprise!" I've challenged my church to wake up each morning for the next 30 days and pray these three words: "Surprise me, God." I also had journals printed up for them and have asked them to record God's activity in their lives. I can't wait to see what happens! I started a new blog to chronicle what happens in my life as I set forth on this new experiment. you can read it here.

When I was a kid, Christmas was always surprising. Now that I'm a grown man, not so much. I've heard all the stories and I know what to expect from this culture during this season. Seems like the surprising birth of Jesus has been buried by other things. I'm hoping this little experiment will change all of that. Perhaps it will shake the dust off of this season and bring a refreshing and simple perspective to the Christmas event.

My first surprise entry is below. I'm dying to see what the next month will bring.


So, I did it. I woke up this morning and asked God to surprise me. It felt risky and a bit scary. It also felt good to just say it. Most of the time when I pray I'm pretty much saying a lot of the same things that I always say. It was good, for once, to pray something different and unusual. Can't wait to see what happens!

My first surprise hit at about Noon when I spoke to Kim on the phone and she reminded me that we had to go to the First Baptist Academy Christmas party that night. Ughhhh. A Christmas party with a bunch of people whom I hardly know. Sounds dreadful. Add to it the fact that attending this Christmas party would be infinitely inconvenient. I was ready to pull the plug on this whole deal. Kim also informed me that there would be a $20 fee to attend. That was all it took to set me off.
"$20! So, let me get this straight. You have to drive home from Dallas, drop the kids off, freshen up, and then you and I have to get in the van and drive all the way back to Dallas to go to a party that we have to pay to attend? It isn't enough that we have to pay for gas and a babysitter? We need to back out of this thing! I'll go, but I'm not going to be happy about it."
We climbed into the van at about 5:30pm. By 6:35, we were lost in Oak Cliff. The directions Kim had been given were a little off, and we were aimlessly touring South Dallas at night. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

Somehow, by sheer dumb luck, we managed to navigate our way to the party. It was at a little restaurant called Eno's, and it was nestled in a quaint and beautiful part of South Dallas (the Bishop Arts District). Apparently one of the graduates of Kim's school owns and operates this wonderful Italian tavern. If you have the chance, check this place out. The atmosphere is amazing.

We entered the party and enjoyed some really good pizza, pasta, and - get this - they had root beer on tap! After our meal, everyone got a root beer float, and it was heavenly. We sat with the head basketball coach at Kim's school, and he was a delightful person. We talked for at least an hour and a half, and he told me all about his hometown of Roswell, New Mexico. Yep, Roswell is where all those supposed alien sightings occurred. Supposedly the governement has some secret alien laboratory hidden in the Roswell area. Urban legend? Depends on if you like The X-files or not!

Anyway, God managed to surprise me in spite of my horrible attitude. He showed me that long, irritating, inconvenient journeys sometimes lead you to the best, most enjoyable surprises. Isn't that the whole lesson of the Israelites journey to the promised land? I guess sometimes you have to wait to judge the journey until you've reached the destination.

Can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Random Stuff

Feeling foggy today.  Tired.  Lonely.  Discouraged.  

Here are some things I'm pondering:

  • I've been doing a series lately on the book of Proverbs called "How's Life?"  It's been extremely challenging to my congregation and me.  Proverbs is a book full of very direct moral platitudes.  I am not a person who prefers to think in these terms.  I'm a wrestler who tangles with issues and leaves room for the grey areas.  Proverbs has no patience for this kind of thinking.  I am not a Proverbs kind of guy, but I've learned a tremendous amount from this series.  It reminds me of something of GK Chesterton's that I read: "There are many, many angles at which one can fall but only one angle at which one can stand straight."  Proverbs is a book of straight angles.
  • Although this series has been really good, our attendance has declined.  Not sure what that's about, but I'm trying not to let it discourage me.  It's not working very well.
  • We're trying to get Pierce's therapy covered by insurance.  It's a daunting task.  Insurance is like toilet paper: You don't particularly like it, but you're glad it's around when you need it.
  • It's that time of the year when people's lives start to fall apart.  Not sure why that is, but I've found that this time of year brings with it a lot of pain.  Like the leaves fall from the trees, so the joy seems to fall from the lives of many people as the holidays approach. Part of what I do is help rake the leaves into a pile and encourage people to jump in them.
  • This commercial cracks me up.
  • I recently bought two books that I can't wait to read (reviews are forthcoming).  The first is "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller, and the second is "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" by Rob Bell and Don Golden.  Tim Keller's book is destined to be a classic.  I've read half of it, and it is in the same vein as classics by CS Lewis and AW Tozer.  It's just an amazing book.  Rob Bell's book seems like a pretty significant can of worms that I'm curious to open.  I'll tell you what I think after I've finished both books.
  • I'd rather watch The Steeler's vs The Redskins than go to elder's meeting.  I'm pretty sure God doesn't like me very much.
  • LSU is playing Alabama this weekend.  Nothing would make me more happy than to see the guy on the left beat the guy on the right.
  • Unless Barack Obama goes on a Jeremiah Wright-style rant on Monday Night Football, he'll probably be the next president.  We'll see if hard hitting reporter Chris Berman will ask something that will turn the tide.  
  • Soccer season is finally over.  Thank the sweet Lord!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Site Alert!! Check it out!!

My good friend Robert Johnson has recently launched a new web site called Practicing Theology. Robert is a gifted person with the mind of a theologian and the heart of an activist. I thought this article on his web site was particularly striking. I can't imagine the struggle of a young black man who is wrestling with race and conviction in the current presidential election. If you want an honest view of faith and issues, check out Robert's new site.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Check Out My Latest Article!

I'm going to be a little giddy and self-promotional for a second (Hey, let's face it... why else would anyone have a blog?). For years I've wanted to write and contribute to something worthwhile. Well, I finally have my chance, and my new article that I wrote for the Small Group Exchange is up! You can read it here.

The Small Group Exchange is a resource for small group leaders all over the world. It's an off-shoot of Blue Fish TV, who produces great video resources for churches and small groups. I'm excited to be a contributor, and blessed to work for such a great group of people!

Pretty exciting stuff for a small church pastor in a funny little Texas town! This blog has helped me a ton with writing, and I probably would have never even tried to write for anything else if I hadn't started this thing on a whim. If you're out there reading, thanks a bunch for the support!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Lord in the Attic

I'll never forget the day that my wife, Mother, sister and I went on an expedition in Amsterdam to find an off-the-beaten-path tourist attraction known as "Our Lord in the Attic." The only remaining "clandestine church" in Amsterdam, "Our Lord in The Attic" is a typical canal house designated by its narrow rooms and multi-floor design. The attic, however, displays an ornate and lovely cathedral. The Catholics, banned from worship in Amsterdam after the Reformation, met secretly in attic cathedrals. Witnessing this truly unexpected marvel of architecture and beauty was one of the highlights of our trip to Amsterdam.

It was the walk through Amsterdam's infamous red light district, off of which "Our Lord in the Attic" sits, that made this trip singularly unique. I mean it's not often that you have the chance to walk down a street flanked with hash houses and brothels with the three most sainted women in your life. Filling the uncomfortable role of having to distract your Mother from noticing hardcore sex shops is not what typical sonship requires. Polite hash refusals are not what you expect to hear from your wife. Witnessing these naive women marvel as they stood before a brothel that boasted window shopping for prostitutes was something I would've never imagined. It was the most surreal moment of my life.

Like a divorcee trying to avoid her ex, I embarassingly shuffled my "girls" through all the debauchery as quickly as I could. We finally made it to the other side, and anxiously entered the museum. Still reeling from the barrage of images, we walked ourselves through each narrow room and up each steep stairway. It was a nice place, but a bit boring and uninspiring. By the time we reached the third floor I was ready to move on to a real exhibit, like the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum. Why were we waisting our time touring this boring little place? And to think all the junk we had to pass just to get there!

Our steepest climb came as we worked our way to the fourth floor, the attic. The stairs seemed to go straight up to the ceiling. At the apex, we entered a room so surprising and magnificent that it almost made me forget all that had come before. The attic revealed a miniature cathedral the likes of which I had never seen. The ornate carvings, marble columns and intricate paintings that filled this room were spectacular. I was immediately moved by the holiness of this place. To think that persecuted people sought refuge in this little slice of heaven was sobering and moving.

We stayed for a while, soaking in the complete otherness of this magical monument. We didn't talk much. Words would have only cluttered such a pristine moment. Finally we whispered our goodbyes and navigated the narrow, stair lined path to the outside world. I felt like I was dreaming.

Back on the street I thought of the two worlds I'd just experienced. One full of carnality and hedonism and the other so serene and holy. I was saddened by the fact that these two worlds existed in such close proximity to each other, but never overlapped. The church, though no longer facing the threat of persecution by reformers, still met in secret, fleeing a wholly different kind of threat. Perhaps the worst place for our Lord to be during times of religious freedom is in the attic.

Many churches could probably change their street address to "attic." Instead of proclaiming "our Lord in the open", or "our Lord in the neighborhood", or "our Lord on the street", most churches keep "our Lord in the sanctuary", or "our Lord in the fellowship hall", or "our Lord in the prayer room". Thankfully God didn't take this approach. Instead, he sent our Lord to our world so that our soul might find freedom. Our Lord can't afford to be in the attic any longer. He was never intended to be there in the first place.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Buy This Book

My friend, Mike Foster, wrote a book, and it is now available for purchase. I haven't read it yet, so I'm not sure if it's good, but I know that Mike is very cool and creative, and the book is probably those things as well. Way to go Mike! You inspire me.

Go buy Mike's book. You can do it here.

Statistically Speaking

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, we're having our fifth child, and it is a boy. We're certainly excited about this surprising turn of events (this was not planned, and the little guy fought through a lot of barriers to get here!), but we're also a bit frightened. Scientists estimate that, in families with one autistic child, the risk of having a second child with the disorder is approximately five percent, or one in 20, which is greater than the risk for the general population. There's also a much greater chance of Autism in male children as opposed to female.

These kinds of statistics can make you crazy. The thought that something might be wrong with your kid is already the ambient noise in your mind, but any slight rise in the probabilities brings this background thought to the forefront. Five percent's not a lot, but it's enough to make you lose sleep. You lose sleep because you're not real sure you can handle another one. You're pretty sure you can't handle the one you already have.

Pretty amazing how a 5% chance there might be a problem virtually erases the 95% chance everything will be fine! If you told me I had a 95% chance of winning the lottery, I'd run - not walk - to the local Quickie-Mart to buy a ticket. Shoot, I bet I don't have a 95% chance of making it to work in one piece, but I still make the three right turns that get me there every morning (right out of my driveway, right on Northwood, right on Beaton).

Point is, you can't live life statistically. If you did, you'd probably never drive a car, get married or eat any of the various foods that will, statistically speaking, give you some terrible disease. The only statistic, in the end, that really matters is that God is 100% in control. Doesn't really make it easier to sleep at night, but it'll do for now. The longer I live the more I have to cling to this life-giving statistic. It helps me make it through about 85% of the time!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tigers Beat Tigers!!

What a great game between LSU and Auburn! LSU looked like they were in BIG trouble in the first half, but the coaches pulled out all the stops and THE Tigers took home the victory! Jarrett Lee, LSU redshirt freshman QB, pulled himself together after an early interception, and showed great poise and impressive arm strength in leading LSU to the comeback victory. And watch out for Charles Scott! The guy has rushed for 100+ yards in every game this year, and he looks like the best LSU back I've seen in a while.

#6 LSU - 26 #10 Auburn - 21

Friday, September 19, 2008

Normal Surprise

I've been thinking a lot lately about surprise. Seems these days that new and unexpected things happen too often for the term to fit. When surprise becomes the norm, perhaps the norm becomes the surprise. For instance, I was more surprised by the fact that I got to enjoy a relaxing day of football watching and general laziness last Saturday than I was when my son developed a finger infection that looked like what I would think leprosy might look like. Saturdays like the one I described used to be the norm. Grotesque finger infections used to be surprising.

This ironic twist in the way I view surprise is not unique to me. We process change at such a phenominal pace that surprise is more defined by simplicity than complexity. We are surprised when things are quiet in our audio barrage. We are surprised when the pace of life is manageable rather than overwhelming. We are shocked by the regular and at home with the fantastic.

We found out the other day that our fifth child will be a boy. When we tell people about it they are surprised. They're not surprised by the fact that we're having a boy; they're surprised that we're having a fifth child. They look at us like we've grown a third eye. They say things like "You do know what causes that, don't you?" Uhm, yeah, we do know what causes "that" (although we're somewhat surprised when time permits such activity).

Isn't it funny that we've come to a place in society where sexual intimacy between husband and wife that results in conception and child birth is surprising? Isn't that the natural outpouring of this sort of union? So we've come to a place where what is natural and common sense is surprising. Interesting, don't you think?

All of this leads me to this thought: How does God surprise us at this particular place in time? How do we (the church) surprise others? God used surprise throughout Scripture. Abraham faced the surprising (and terrifying) murder of his own child. David was the kind of surprise pick for King that would have made the Sarah Palin VP nomination look humdrum. Paul was shocked full circle on the road to Damascus. Jesus' surprise birth, surprise death and surprise resurrection were, well, surprising. So what is God up to now?

Perhaps He's standing behind the tree you're about to walk up on with a noise maker and a bag of confetti, just waiting to jump out and yell "Surprise!!" Kind of ridiculous, right? Of course He's not behind a tree with confetti, but He might be in the next cubicle with the guy who's marriage is falling apart because of a porn addiction. He might be with your daughter's teacher who's secretly struggling with insecurity because of her experience as an abused child. He might be in the coffee shop with the college kid who's so unsure of his future that he's thinking of ending his own life. After all, it's not surprising that people are dealing with painful lives. What's most surprising is that God's people aren't there for them. Not sure He'd have gone through such trouble surprising us if He'd have known how unsurprising we'd be.

Where can we look today to be surprised by God? What can we do today to be God's surprise?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Palin Breaks the Mold and Confounds Both Sides... and I love it!!


The world has gone insane (Not that this is news to any of you). Since Sarah Palin announced her intention to become Vice President of the United States, craziness has ensued. Hard core liberal women have suddenly decided that women can't do everything they dream of doing, and are best suited at home with their kids, and hard core conservatives have suddenly decided that a whole new world of professionalism exists for women, even those with 5 children. Seriously, what's the world coming to?

My good friend (and mother of 3), Tempi, sent me this article discussing the pros and cons of Sarah Palin's VP aspirations. Personally, I like the lady. If she and her husband think they can handle it, it's really nobody else's business to tell them otherwise. Time will tell if liberals are ready to treat a strong, independent, professional, tough-minded woman, who - oh, by the way - has five kids and a Christian value system the same way as they would any other woman running around Washington in a pants suit. Time will also tell if conservatives are ready to say that women with 5 kids should leave the traditional role of house wife behind. Both ideologies are having a tough time being consistent with this one, and that makes the world go crazy.

Meanwhile, I am sitting here rubbing my hands together with a twisted grin on my face. I love it when people actually have to think through things for a change instead of simply buying in to what "liberals" or "conservatives" have to say. It's extremely entertaining for me to see so many contradictions on both sides. I love it when folks like Sarah Palin come along and break all the stereotypes. It's good for America.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Pit Bull Palin Wows the Political World

Before the proverbial ink was dry on my last post about Barak Obama, Sarah Palin storms to the stage of the Republican National Convention and delivers a whale of a speech. In the most intense and nerve wracking setting possible, under the scrutiny of the media and the watchful eye of many unconvinced Americans, Palin stood with all the poise of an unflappable veteran and ripped off the speech of her life. In so doing, she may have built a dam high enough to impede the progress of the Obama tidal wave.

Like a sports team who grasps victory from the jaws of defeat, the Republican ticket - though not quite achieving victory - has certainly gained a tremendous amount of momentum. Sarah Palin has come pretty darn close to matching Barak Obama's star power, but she didn't do it by becoming a media darling. Instead, she pole vaulted over an impossible bar and put her party back in the fight. The next few months are going to be very interesting.

I found two things about Palin's speech extremely refreshing:
  • Mrs. Palin spoke very genuinely to the families of Special Needs children. I can't tell you how much it means to my wife and I to have an ally of this stature on our Special Needs journey. Her words to Special Needs families were like honey. She, perhaps more than any other candidate that I can remember, knows what its like to serve the neediest of all people. I find that extremely compelling.

  • It was great, for once, to see a female stand on stage in something other than a pants suit. Finally a woman in the presidential conversation who actually looks like a female. I don't think anyone can doubt her toughness... She's a pit bull with lipstick! But she's still feminine. I have no problem with a strong woman, but I do have a problem with women who think that looking like a man makes one strong. Palin nailed this one, and she looked the part.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Obama Tidal Wave

I'm feeling more and more like there's no way John McCain can beat Barak Obama. Last night at the Democratic National Convention, Obama spoke to a crowd of 80,000 people at Invesco Field in Denver, CO. It was electric. I certainly don't agree with Obama on a litany of issues, but he is the single most gifted politician I have ever witnessed. The man can deliver a speech. He is a force like none other in the political realm, and it's hard for me to see how anyone can knock this guy off course.

McCain, in an interesting move, has asked a woman named Sara Palin to be his Vice President. I like Palin, at least what I know of her. I like that McCain picked her. I love it that she decided to keep her Downs Syndrome child instead of abort him. I like knowing that the Vice President can relate to what it's like to have a special needs child. I really like this pick. But...

...It will not be enough. Obama is just too polished... too genunie... too good at being extremely like-able to be unseated. McCain has taken a huge risk on this one, and I genuinely hope it pans out. As much as I respect Obama's talents and intellect, I simply can't vote for him because of some of his radical views (particularly on the military and abortion). I actually like Obama more than McCain, but I think McCain and Palin will be better for the country.

Lord help us as we wade through this fascinating political season!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's that Time of Year!!

LSU kicks off its season in 3 days, and I couldn't be more excited! There are huge questions at Quarterback, but I'm confident the Tigers have enough talent at that position to find someone who can make things happen.

A few players to watch on this year's team:
  1. Ricky Jean-Francois - Just because his name sounds like that of a Parisian hairdresser doesn't mean the guy's not a beast. This guy will make you forget all about Glen Dorsey. He's big, fast and aggressive. Watch for him to be extremely disruptive to any and offense the Tigers face all year.
  2. Brandon Lafell - All the tools to be a great reciever. If he can catch the ball consistently, he'll be a first round draft pick by the time it's all over.
  3. Chad Jones - By year's end he will be thought of as one of the best safeties in the country. He's only a sophmore.
  4. Trindon Holliday - The fastest man in college football. Might also be the shortetst man in college football. Despite his diminutive stature, Holliday won't hesitate to run a kick back on you. He's just like that. Dynamite every time he touches the ball!
  5. Richard Murphy - Every time I've seen this guy get some playing time, he's looked fantastic. He tore it up in Spring practice, and continued to do well this Summer. Look for Murphy to give the team an explosive spark in the running game.
  6. Special Teams - The Tigers will be looking for an edge in every game this year because their QB's are unproven. My guess is that they've put a lot of work into special teams this year to help create an edge that will give our young, unproven QB's an advantage. We'll see!!
Check out this video. It will give you a passionate desire to watch LSU football.

Monday, August 25, 2008

IBC and Women

DMN File
My old church, Irving Bible Church, has gotten a lot of press lately due to their recent position on women in ministry. The Dallas Morning News wrote an article about the issue as well. Many people have asked me about IBC and this issue, and all I can say is that I love IBC and think very highly of the staff and elders. I wasn't a part of the decision making process, but I was at IBC when this issue was discussed, and when the elders came to their stance on this issue. Although I don't have a problem with the stance that IBC has taken, I do understand that this is an issue where many Godly people hold many different opinions. I am one of those people who can see both sides of this one, but I trust the process that the leadership of IBC went through to get to the stance that they have taken, and I have no problem with it.

This Sunday Jackie Roese preached at IBC. I have heard Jackie preach before, and I think she is truly gifted. She and her husband, Steve, are wonderful people who deeply love Jesus. They are unique and sometimes misunderstood, but I trust them, love them, and support them fully.

The most disheartening thing about this to me is that folks on both sides of this issue are using IBC as a battleground to air their theological beefs. I find this extremely distasteful. This is a very polarizing issue, but it is not an essential aspect of Christianity. This is not the Virgin Birth of the Diety of Christ. There should be grace and liberty exercised with this issue, and I see a frustrating lack of both. It saddens me.

This is an issue that should be honestly discussed, but it is becoming an issue that is dividing God's people. I find that very troubling. That's my 2 cents.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Autism: The Musical

Since we just moved, and we signed up with a new cable company, we're receiving a few free months of what they like to call "Premium Channels."  We're now able to watch HBO, Showtime, and a few other channels that we've never had access to before.  It's kind of a nice little perk!

A couple of nights ago while I was channel surfing to find something interesting I noticed a show on HBO called "Autism: The Musical."  Just what we needed, right?  Another serious issue relegated to the status of "Musical."  Don't get me wrong, I like the occasional musical, but this genre can sometimes make serious situations seem like trite scenes from Grease.  That's the last thing I want to see when it comes to Autism.  Out of curiosity I decided to record this show.

I watched it tonight.  It's incredible.  It's actually a documentary about a lady who had a dream to teach Autistic kids how to perform a musical on stage, for an audience.  It details the lives and struggles of the children who play the main characters in the musical, and it tells both wonderful and excruciating stories about their lives with Autism.  What a wonderful, terrible, beautiful, horrible film.  It both breaks your heart and inspires your spirit.  I highly recommend it, and I fully realize that it may have particular interest and emotional weight for me due to the fact that I have an Autistic child.  Who knows, it may not hit you the same way.

If you have the chance, check it out.

You can read more about it here.

Here's a clip from the film:

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Fun Movie Memories


Had a great visit the other day with my old friend and distinguished professor, Dr. Kreider. He'll probably hate the fact that I'm mentioning him here, but he's sort of old and grumpy, so he's prone to hate things without my help. Anyhow, he reminded me about two of my favorite movie experiences of all time. Dr. Kreider was with me for both experiences, so he can vouch for the following details.

The first movie memory happened when Kreider and I decided to go see this new science fiction movie that was just beginning to generate some buzz. We sat calmly, not really expecting much from the film, and were slowly transported into one of the most amazing films I can remember seeing at the theatre. It was one of those great feelings you sometimes get at the movies when you meander upon something that revolutionizes the way you look at things. I remember feeling that way when I saw E.T. as a kid, and even more when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. Both films hit the theatres with relatively little fanfare, but both changed the way we looked at life.

In the same way, when Kreider and I stumbled upon The Matrix on that fateful night, we enthusiastically fell down the rabbit hole into an amaizing world of technology and special effects, theology and philisophy, and jaw-dropping action and adventure. All the things we were discussing in pursuit of understanding culture and theology were being played out on screen in this epic film. It was like we were watching the modern era give way to something else... something we couldn't define, but something that was indescribably resonant.

It was a cool experience, and it was only fitting for both of us that we witnessed this film together. It's just the kind of experience every student should have with his teacher, and every teacher should have with his pupil. It's not often that both encounter something fresh together. Very cool!

The second movie experience was much less cool. We went to a late showing of the film Magnolia. I've heard from many folks who really liked this movie, but Kreider and I were less than impressed. It wasn't so much that the movie was bad, but that the experience was totally horrid.

There was a constant barrage of noise, moving people, and, well, Kreider's snoring, and it had to be one of the worst movie watching experiences of my life. An entire group of folks sat behind us and barked orders at the screen like drill seargent's at boot camp. It seemed like a steady stream of people had to go to the bathroom, and they seemed to stagger themselves so that they left at every key moment of the film. How they knew to plan this is beyond me, but I could swear they were doing it just to make Kreider and me crazy.

If that weren't enough, I think Kreider just gave up about half way through the movie and decided to doze off like grandpa after Thanksgiving turkey. It wasn't long before I began to notice a chainsaw-like snore eminating from the seat to my right. Hey, I should have known better. Give the guy a comfortable seat, a tub of popcorn, and an incredibly boring film, and who can blame him for snoring like my drunk uncle after a bender?

Anyway, those two experiences were quite memorable and I just thought I'd share them with you. No point whatsoever. No spiritual crumbs to chew on... just a couple of friends at the movies. Kreider! Let's do it again soon!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Black Monday

I'm finding out about a phenomenon I've heard about for years, but have never really experienced. Preachers call it "Black Monday", and I can already tell I'm going to have to fight it. It refers to the depression and let down associated with preaching in front of people on Sunday and feeling the "rush" of a week of activity that culminates on Sunday, ends on Sunday night and zaps the life right out of you. I remember having the same feeling when I played football and we'd end the week with a game. The next day was always kind of blah, and I never thought much about it as a young man. As a man in his thirties, I'm starting to think about it.

In an article called "Birthing a Sermon", John Ortberg suggests that sermon preparation and delivery is like giving birth. Although this metaphor is very extreme (it's actually ridiculous, but I still like his point, so don't email me barking about this metaphor), it describes well the kinds of feelings involved in planning and executing a sermon. In the article Ortberg writes, "Sermon preparation is a complex process. When I think about constructing a message, I use the metaphor of having a baby, because I believe the stages are quite similar. There's the initial conception, which is often quite a lot of fun. Then there is gestation, which is increasingly difficult. Next, there's the delivery, which can be a combination of euphoria and intense pain. And finally, there are some post-delivery details." What Ortberg fails to point out is the post-partum depression associated with sermon preparation and delivery.

Today has been a difficult day.  I had trouble waking up and have felt somewhat funky all day.  Thoughts are hard to hold captive, and my energy level is very low.  In the back of my mind I've experienced feelings of dread and despair.  All I can chalk it up to is that there was a lot of build up and excitement for me on Sunday, and when it's all over it's kind of anti-climactic.  

Just thought I'd give you some insight into the mind of a pastor.  I'm better now, but there is some residual lull plaguing me still.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back in the Saddle

It's been a crazy month, and I've been less than diligent in blogging on a regular basis. Sorry about that (on the off chance that anyone out there really cares!). Here's the latest:

  • I'm doing a series on the Gospel of John at my new church.  It's been pretty cool, but I have a feeling we'll be looking at John for a long time.  It's been four weeks and we're still not out of chapter 1!  The most striking thing about John so far is the humility of this loving apostle.  Instead of claiming any authority or power for himself, his life is totally and completely dedicated to pointing others to Christ.  I love it when he says of Jesus, "He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:27)"  Talk about a guy who knew his role and embraced it wholeheartedly!!
  • We've been on a couple of cool trips this summer.  First we went to family camp at Horn Creek in Colorado.  The coolest part of that trip was our venture to Great Sand Dunes National Park.  They say certain scenes from Star Wars were filmed there.  I kept hoping to see a Jawa, but lucky for my droids there were none to be found.
View from Star Dune
  • Our second trip was to Navarre Beach in Florida, and it was good as well.  The highlight of this trip was our stop in Baton Rouge on the way back.  Mike the Tiger was active and ready to pounce (no doubt on a Georgia Bulldog or an Ole Miss Rebel!).  The kids enjoyed it, and it was my wife's first time to see the new habitat built especially for LSU's famed mascot.  Oh yeah, and the beach was cool too!

  • We're finishing off the vacation season with some time at our family ranch in DeRidder, LA.  This is the place where I grew up swimming in mud holes and shooting snakes with bb guns.  It's not the prettiest place in the world, but it's home.  Ahhhh nostalgia!

  • I'm finishing up a project for Blue Fish TV that should go to press soon.  It's a study guide for an upcoming video series on Erwin McManus' book, Uprising.  Bet my high school English teacher never thought I'd be published!  Take that Mrs. Z!!

  • Looking forward to being back in Corsicana this week.  VBS will be in full swing, and I'm hoping to finally settle in to life as a sr. pastor.  The honeymoon will be over soon, but I'm hopeful and excited about the future.  
I'll write again soon, and maybe next time it won't be all about me!  Probably not, but maybe.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Don't Do It!

Johnny and Chachi are back with this hilarious new video designed to help men know where to draw some crucial lines. These guys are awesome! Enjoy!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

LSU Baseball Does it Again!!

This season's LSU baseball team is amazing! They have won 24 of their last 25 games, and they broke out the big bats tonight by hammering the University of California Irvine 21-7. With the win, LSU advanced to the College World Series. The Tigers led from start to finish, and proved to be too much for the UCI pitchers.

I used to love watching LSU baseball in the 90's. It was during this decade that the Tigers won 5 National titles in 10 years. This year's team looks like it could make a run for the title, and it's just so good to see the Tigers advance to the College World Series once again. Who knows, maybe we'll have another Warren Morris moment! If you don't know what that is, watch and enjoy. This was probably the greatest moment in LSU baseball history.

Moving, Driving and Spinning

Moving is horrible. As I write this I am surrounded by boxes and clutter. Each box signifies disorder, and although I'm ok with the occasional lack of order, it's a different story when the only thing that characterizes your life is mass chaos.

Add to that the fact that I'm driving to and from my new home, Corsicana, TX, about three days a week. I love to drive, but with gas prices soaring to ridiculous new heights, it's not as fun as it used to be.

In short, my life is spinning like a race car tire, and I'm having trouble sleeping. Crazy thing is, I'm doing really well! I love my new church, and feel energized by thoughts of the future. It seems, for me, that I'm at my best when things are spinning out of control. It's when things become boring that I stumble around, like a kid stepping off a merry-go-round, dizzy from the furious wave of activity.

We'll be in our new house this Thursday, June 12. I've already preached my first two sermons at my new church, and things are going swimmingly. In all, things are going very well, and the Lord is giving me the strength to maintain a pretty high level even through all the changes. I'm just hoping and praying that I won't crash and burn when the dust settles a bit.

I'm going to bed now so that I can continue to fidget like a kid in church until I finally nod off at about 5am. Good times, man... Good times.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I'm a Senior Pastor Now!!

Corsicana Country meets Culture

I can't believe it either. Who'd have thought that I would have become a Senior Pastor? I got a call a while back from the first church to give me a full-time job, asking if I'd consider becoming the Senior Pastor. I worked there for 4 years as the Youth/Worship Pastor, and loved every minute of it. It was the perfect place for me, and it gave me confidence in my calling. Words can't express how happy I am to return to Grace Community Church in Corsicana, TX (Check out the sweet football facilities for Corsicana High School!!). Thanks for giving me another chance!!

It's bitter sweet to leave Irving Bible Church, which is the best thing I've ever had the chance to be a part of. IBC is unique and wonderful, and it's tough to say goodbye. Ultimately, though, IBC prepared me for this chance to take what I've learned and use it to impact my new community. I'll always be an IBC'er!!

Pray for me in my new role. I'll keep you posted on how it's going. If I don't blog for a while, it's because I'm kind of busy these days. Just keep checking in and I'll get around to it soon enough!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Expelled Review (as promised)

Well, I saw Expelled, and I'm going to try to briefly describe my thoughts on the film. First off, I can say that this movie, contrary to the views of atheist and molecular biologist Richard Dawkins, was very well made. It had all the herky-jerky filming that we're used to seeing in a documentary, but there were also some scenes that were marvelously photographed and the movie, on the whole, was slickly produced.

The movie was also quite effective in demonstrating some of the weaknesses of Darwinian theory, and it made establishment scientists such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers look condescending, and often times foolish. These folks had a particularly difficult time finding plausible answers to the question of how life begins. Their stammers and far-fetched explanations were somewhat alarming (Dawkins posits at one point in the film that the first cells were "seeded" on earth by some sort of alien force. Sounds a lot like Intelligent Design!).

There were two areas, however, where the film fell short (in my opinion). One was that the producers failed to give a clear understanding of Intelligent Design, and why it should be considered. They did a great job of showing the problems of Darwinism, but they didn't give a clear solution for those problems. They merely stated that other options should be considered. Who knows, that may have been their point, but I would have loved to have heard more about how Intelligent Design helps fill in Darwinisms gaps.

The second area of concern I had was with the turn in the second half of the film that sought to show the link between Darwinism and Nazi Germany. There is no doubt that Hitler and his minions were heavily influenced by Darwinian thought. There is also no doubt that Darwinian thought naturally lends itself to certain atrocities. After all, when your theory is based upon the survival of the fittest, it stands to reason that the least fit in society will be marginalized. If you're at the bottom of the food chain, you will be eaten.

There is a problem, however, with linking the brilliant scientists of the day with Nazi Germany just because they believe in Darwin's theories. The film was too heavy-handed in its approach to this issue, and it only served to close any doors to dialogue that may or may not have been opened as a result of the legitimate information the film highlighted.

In all, the film was good, but it had its shortcomings. It's still worth seeing, and my hope is that some eyes will be opened by its claims.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Everybody Loves Juno... except me

For months now all I've heard, when asking the generic question, "Seen any good movies lately?" is "Have you seen Juno? Oh my gosh! It's so awesome. Seriously, one of the best movies I've seen in a long time." I usually just turn around quietly and wish I hadn't asked the question. I saw Juno several months ago, and I'm pretty sure I didn't like it. This may sound a bit Obama-esque, but I'm not quite sure why I didn't like it.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I could barely understand Juno, the main character, and her quirky band of whiz kid friends. I wanted to ask them, "Is there a reason you're talking like what seems like a teenager designed by a committee of adults that have researched youth by watching MTV around the clock?" The dialogue was clever... too clever. And where did all this cleverness lead us? Well, the most annoyingly intelligent teenager ever to grace the silver screen brought us the warm tale of teen pregnancy, marital strife, divorce, constant references to unborn children as "it" or "the thing", and overbearingly child-obsessed suburbanites. It doesn't get much more clever than that!!

I kept asking myself if I was supposed to be happy with the way things turned out in Juno. Everyone else I knew walked out of the film pretty excited about the way it ended. I just kept thinking, "That's it? I'm supposed to feel good about that? I'm supposed to think it's great that the girl gave up 'the thing' for adoption to the most emotionally disturbed character on the screen?" But hey, at least she didn't get the abortion!

Don't get me wrong, Juno is funny, light-hearted, and complex. Ellen Page is great as the main character, and her Father uttered one of the funniest lines I've ever heard in a movie ("I'm gonna punch that kid in the wiener the next time I see him."), but let's face it, teenagers aren't that clever. Most of them are pretty un-clever. Instead of uttering quick quip after super quick quip, most teens I know are busy exclaiming, "Dude, check out my new ringtone!"

The movie does demonstrate that there is a frightening stupidity in our society about children, what a blessing they are, and how wondrous the path to new life can be. Kids in this day are objects of consumption and convenience, and that's pretty sad.

So, I thought Juno was clever (cue annoying indie song). It was cool for shizz, but in a totally hamburger phone kind of way. In other words, it was so clever that it almost made me forget how stupid it was. I liked the movie. I found it enjoyable on the surface, but underneath it seemed shallow to me. There were a couple of times when I felt like I was watching a bad action movie or a cheesy horror film. I wanted to yell at the screen, "Oh, yeah right!! Like that would ever happen!!" Then I'd look around to see if anybody was with me, only to find that the film had found a captive audience, believing every over-intelligent smirk.

In conclusion: Teenagers aren't that smart, and they don't really talk that way! Plus, kids are good, and they aren't "things." The end.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled: Darwinism Finally Questioned Publically

Kim and I are going to try to go see this Saturday night. I'll give it a critique after we see it. It's interesting to see a movie like this, and it'll be really interesting to see how the intellectual community deals with the claims of this film. People like Michael Moore and Bill Maher pride themselves on their rebellious stance on so many issues, so it's nice to see someone from a Judeo-Christian background challenging the rebels who now make for the American establishment. That's right, the Moore's and Maher's are now the establishment, and the rebels are now those who challenge secularism. Kudos to Ben Stein for bringing this issue under the light. If you disagree with him, fine... Just give him the same courtesy you expect from others, and listen to his claims. Isn't that the American way?

Here's the trailer, and it's very compelling.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Autism Poem

I haven't written a poem in a while, but I had a little time today, so I wrote one about Pierce. It was therapeutic. Some lines were totally difficult, and others were healing. Such is the layered existence of an Autism Dad. Even if you don't have an Autistic child, you can probably relate to the paradoxical lines of this poem. I hope it proves therapeutic for you too.

The Spectrum

There's a feather in your hair and a sparkle in your eye
You're living in two worlds that fall under a seamless sky
There's a song in your head and it's waiting to be heard
But you struggle for your voice, you wrestle for a word

There's a part of you that soars on clouds to worlds so far away
And a part of you that's tethered to the darkest shade of grey
You're as clear as a water color hanging on a wall
And as stable as a Summer leaf clinging in the Fall

I cannot understand you and I don't know why I try
When you're near I miss your presence, when your gone I do not cry
Your the most painful love I've ever known, the best/worst thing I have
And I love you dearly for it all, the good times and the sad

I wonder if I'll ever really know quite who you are
Like a dream remembered dimly or a far and distant star
Hidden in your face lies your personality
One of many things about you that reamain a mystery

Friday, April 11, 2008

Review: "The Culturally Savvy Christian"

Dick Staub's "The Culturally Savvy Christian: A manifesto for deepening faith and enriching popular culture in an age of Christianity-lite", is the latest in a stack of books by my bedside.  The cover got my attention because it has a picture of a man on the front, and from the urban belt buckle to the suit-coat-with -t-shirt look, this could be a picture taken on any given Sunday at my church.  The striking aspect of this photo is the picture of Jesus, slightly obscured by the cross-necklace, that is printed on the t-shirt.  Is this the culturally savvy Christian, or is this the brand of Christianity that the author is writing against (A brand that is consumer driven, spiritually shallow and entertainment crazed)?

The first chapter is full of quotes and stats that tell us how bad the culture is.  It's interesting, but you've heard it before.  Paris Hilton has no talent, Oprah is the prophet of choice and television will rot your soul.  Tell me something I don't already know, right?

But the second chapter turns the light on "pop-Christianty", and reveals that television is not the only thing that will rot the soul.  Church, with its cineplexes... uhm... I mean Megachurches, and its "anything you can do, we can do cheesier" mentality may be just as dangerous as anything pop-culture throws your way.

Here's the quote that got me:

"Others believe that our apparent success has been accomplished by conforming to American culture rather than transforming it, pointing out, as Alan Wolfe observed, that instead of theological, it is therapeutic; instead of intellectual, it is emotional and revivalist; instead of emphasizing a serving community, it is consumeristic and individualistic; instead of producing spiritual growth and depth, it is satisfied with entrepreneurialism and numeric growth.  Instead of being a moral and spiritual beacon, evangelicalism is viewed as an important political and economic niche."


The rest of the book gives some guidance as to how Christians can become "serious about faith, savvy about faith and culture, and skilled in relating the two."  The sections are divided as such, and Staub has some great things to say about what it means to go a different direction than the current trend of pop-Christianity in a world that has so many opportunities in the areas of intellectualism, art and depth.  

Staub is well-intentioned, but only time will tell if his thoughts truly shape the scene.  Evangelicals, as Staub notes, are well-intentioned and sincere in their desire to reach the culture and transform it.  Staub also has good intentions, but who's to say that his ideas won't end up becoming the next wave of pop-Christianity, or worse, cocooned Christianity.  There is a balance to the Christian life in this world, and few ever achieve it.  Those who do seem to have an intangible quality that allows them to be thought provoking, personable and street smart about the culture.  They make the Gospel look beautiful and believable, and they are rare indeed.  I'm not sure they achieve this balance by reading books... although it probably doesn't hurt.

Oh yeah, about the picture on the front cover... I think this is the person who fails to achieve the balance.  He looks kind of cool, but kind of goofy.  Jesus is great, but he should never be charicatured on a t-shirt.  And the gold chain with the cross is a bad look.  I bet this guy has a gotee!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Anybody Listening?


"Nobody ever listens to my pages!" said the girl at the Barnes & Noble checkout counter nearly five minutes after she called over the speaker system for a manager to help her figure out the glitch that was preventing her from processing my payment. She was obviously irritated, but continued to smile in a self depricating manner, as if to say "Oh well! What are you gonna do?!"

I could feel her pain. There are times when I feel like nobody ever listens to my pages either, and there's nothing more frustrating than being pushed to the back burner, or - even worse - never making it to the stove. Most of us are in need of some type of attention... Any attention! Like an American Idol contestant standing insecurely before the judges, we desperately long for positive feedback, or at least contructive criticism.

So what do we do when there's nothing? What happens when we've sung our song, poured our heart and soul into every detail of it, and there is no applause, no Randy/Paula/Simon praise or criticism? What then?

Perhaps we do as the girl at Barnes & Noble did. Maybe we lament the fact that nobody's coming to bail us out, but we don't let it ruin our day. Could it be that we sing the song not for the audience applause, but for the art and the beauty of the thing?

I read a portion of a book today that asked the question, "What if you had just thirty days to live?" Great question. Would we spend our time nervously waiting on the audience's response, or would we re-imagine what matters and fight like hell to sing the song we're supposed to be singing? Howard Thurman said it best with these words: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

The next time no one's listening, ask yourself if you're doing what makes you come alive. If you are, it doesn't matter who's listening, you will be heard. If you're not, find a song you love, and sing it like nobody's business!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

I Could be in This Club!

Check out this really fun and cool way of supporting the idea that less stuff in our world opens up more opportunities to serve others. This makes me proud to own a 1996 Toyota Avalon with 296,000 miles! Sucker runs like a top!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Caedmon's Call at The Door

Went to the Caedmon's Call show last night at The Door in Dallas. It was great. Here are a couple of observations:

1) Derek Webb was with the band again, and he was wearing a white t-shirt. I picture him opening his closet and grabbing one of the 50 identical white t-shirts he has hanging neatly in a row. Good to know that going solo hasn't affected his sense of style.

2) Todd Bragg has an awesome beard. Nothing else to say about it. That beard is phenomenal.

3) Andrew Osenga stole the show. The solo at the end of "Hold the Light" was wonderful. He is unique and original, and he doesn't even try to be. It's just who he is.

4) The Door is now in the old Gypsy Tea Room building, and there were a lot of wild bands who played that joint over the years. The Backstage "green room" was loaded with interesting wall art. There was a picture of a Unicorn - the most mystical and sacred of all mythical creatures - that was quite disturbing. No one should do such things to Unicorn's. Here is the only part of the picture I can show you that will leave this poor creature with some dignity.

5) The show was impressive, and it was good to see the band back together. CC is a great group of people, and I love watching them play live. I was asking my wife the other day if we liked them because we know them or if we'd love their stuff even if we didn't know them. We both concluded that we'd dig them even if we didn't know them. You should probably buy their stuff.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Beef Eclipses 200 Posts!!

This is post #201 in the illustrious life of Cajun Roast Beef!! "Who cares?", you may ask, and the answer is probably "very few people, and none of them really matter." So, here's to all you people who don't matter. The Beef is here for you, bro. Now go try to do something cool and fail miserably!

To commemorate this awesome event, here's something I think is funny!

Thoughts from a Christian Zombie

Spent the morning at Barnes and Noble after dropping Pierce off at therapy. Looked around the Christianity section for a while, aimlessly wandering the aisles for something that might waken me from my zombie-like trance. Max Lucado... yawn... Chuck Colson... sigh... Latest hip pastor with a gotee... snooze... New book by George Barna... Hmmmmm... "Pagan Christianity"? Must look at book... May find interesting stuff... Feeling blood flow again...

So, I open this book and find a very interesting thesis:

"Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we "dress up" for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries? This volume reveals the startling truth: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence in the first-ever book to document the full story of modern Christian church practices." - taken from the "publishers description"

Only got about 30 pages in before I had to go, and I didn't have any money to buy the book. First reaction: Duh! Of course the church today doesn't look anything like the church of the New Testament. That's probably a bi-product of the fact that 2000 years has gone by since the inception of the church. Anyone who is naive enough to think that what we do on Sunday's is anywhere close to what was going on in the New Testament is fooling themselves. So what if we aren't "doing church" like they did it in ancient times? As long as we're focusing on the glory of God and the magnification of Christ, I'm not sure methods matter much.

Second reaction: Wow, we really have made up some crazy stuff. Not sure Jesus would like us too much.

Final reaction: OK, so now what? Say we're doing it all wrong... what do we do about it now? Do we just blow the whole thing up? And if we do, how can we be certain that what is put in its place will be any more true to the ancient church than what we've done so far?

Not sure where I'm going here, but you might want to check out the book. It raises some interesting questions, but it kind of smacks of the same kinds of ultra-literalism of the fringe elements of religion.

At least that's the opinion of this Zombie..

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cajun Roast Beef: The Origin

When I started this thing a while back, I had a primary task: find a good name. So, I thought and I thought... What would be a cool name that would be fun and a bit mysterious? What would reflect my heritage, while at the same time demonstrate some level of intrigue? After minutes of thought, I finally settled on "Cajun Roast Beef".

Today I went to the place that inspired the name of this goofy little experiment. We are in Lake Charles, LA (my home town) for spring break, and we just had to head over to Kirkman St. to Pronias Deli for the famous Cajun Roast Beef sandwich. I took a picture of the deli and the sandwich for your viewing pleasure. Any place that's advertising "Homemade Family Size Gumbo" has got to be good! Enjoy!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Violently Original Quote

I have a new favorite quote. Not sure why something someone else had to say or write ignites such intense thoughts and emotions, but this something someone else had to say or write certainly stirred my innards into a frenzy. Here goes:

“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
- Gustave Flaubert

I hadn't heard of Gustave Flaubert before, so I did a little research and found his story to be sad and interesting. Flaubert was a French writer who is widely recognized as one of the greatest Western novelists of all time. He lived a very lonely life, and threw himself relentlessly into his work. A true perfectionist, Flaubert would close himself off from the world and write for weeks and months at a time, sometimes spending an entire week on one sentence or passage. His obsession with writing came from his constant quest to find "le mot juste" ("the precise word").

I am not Gustave Flaubert. I lack focus and find it very difficult to limit distractions. There are a million "violent and original" thoughts in my head, but my life is not "regular and orderly" enough to bring to fruition my creative punch. I often feel guilty about all the things I fail to accomplish because of my inability to impliment ideas into action. It is a paralyzing affliction.

What I find interesting is that Gustave Flaubert was not me either. Flaubert was very lonely, and only had one romantic relationship in his life. Ironically, this relationship was an affair with poet Louise Colet, and it was more tortured than fulfilling. Flaubert was also plagued by venerial diseases, mainly due to his relations with prostitutes. He was financially destitute and lived through hardship after hardship. His greatest struggle, however, was his inability to achieve perfection. He often complained to friends about the strenuous nature of his work, and told of his insecurities related to his lack of true understanding of literary form and structure. He died of a stroke in 1880, alone and broke.

Funny thing is that to this day, Flaubert is used as a model of literary form and style. He is studied by writers throughout the world, and is thought to be near perfect in his exactitude and stylistic precision. Unfortunately, I suspect, none of that mattered when he lay dying and alone.

So here we are, Flaubert and I, both longing for that which we seem unable to obtain, and struggling with insecurities from opposite ends of the spectrum. Regardless of how we get there, the key is that the "violent" and the "original" be unleashed. These are reflected in the epic stories of belief, and they are vividly interwoven into God's story about Himself. Samson's story is so violently original that it hurts, but it is God who weaves these qualities together to bring about His glory in their fulfilment. David's story is a creative masterpiece, although it is not David who achieves stylistic perfection, but God who tells us what it means to follow after His own heart. David is the Flaubert of the story, and God is the one who pieces it together in such a way that we are still studying this masterful model of form and style.

Ultimately we find that regardless of which end of the spectrum we may find ourselves, our stories fail to achieve the perfection that we hope for. What makes our stories "violent and original" masterpieces is the author, not the characters flaws or strengths. In His hands, "le mot juste" is achieved. The perfect work is not negated or fulfilled by my lack of order, or Flaubert's mastery of it; it is achieved when God's pen perfects our faith. And if we have no faith, God's pen finds glory in that as well.

May your "regular and orderly" life be filled with "violent and original" moments.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

New Site Alert!! Go Check it out!!!

Check out this pleasantly deep site from musician Andrew Petersen and some of his counterparts. It's called "The Rabbit Room", and it's very cool. Buy some music while you're there.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The High Price of Greatness

I come from a family of ministers. My Father was a pediatrician who spent every spare moment working to give good health care to the needy by opening a Well Baby Clinic in the middle of the most poor neighborhood in the Southwest Louisiana town of Lake Charles. My Mother was a high school guidance counselor who worked tirelessly to help kids make it to college, and she also opened up her home to troubled kids when they needed a place to stay. My big brother is a pastor at a church in the Atlanta suburbs, and is undergoing some pretty heavy criticism for trying to establish a Hispanic ministry at his mostly white church. My big sister is a podiatry resident in Pennsylvania, and she's probably got the biggest heart of anyone I know. So, while us Hayes' have our fair share of dysfunction, we hail, nonetheless, from a rare line of walking wounded who call themselves "ministers".

I bring this up not to toot our respective horns (if you knew my brother, you'd know that he can toot with the best of them!), but to share a truth about ministers and ministry of which many may not be aware. "Minister" is the Latin word for "doer of little deeds", as opposed to a "magistrate", who is a "doer of great deeds." This stands in stark contrast to the idea of ministry as it has come to be understood in recent times. Many look at the minister as someone who is God-like in both thought and deed. Ministers are thought to be "perfect" or at the very least they are considered "better" than most ordinary folk. They are the keepers of the great truths of God, and are shining examples of holiness.

What we see in the Latin, however, is a dramatically different inference. Here we see that ministers are servants, humble and lowly. Ministers are more likely to find the short end of the stick than the pot of gold. Ministry, in this light, is characterized not by the high offices of church or state, but by the lower, more hands-dirty types of tasks. As such, ministry is humiliating.

The reason I'm writing this today is because my sister and I were lamenting my brother's recent troubles as a pastor, and she shared with me my brother's insight into the whole matter. "Anyone who has ever become great has gone through the harsh fire of criticism." was my brother's wisdom on the subject. Spoken like a true minister. Helen Keller, no stranger to hardship and ridicule, had this to say about becoming great, "I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker." In other words, God honors and uses the humble, however humble they may be.

Perhaps the high price of greatness is not the hard work and years of practice it takes to become a doctor, but the one contagious act of humility that turns medicine into ministry. Maybe the greatest thing is not the up-front pulpit savvy of the pastor, but the lowly vision to reach the diverse and marginalized in our ever changing society. God may not use anything more in this world than the accomplished man or woman who commits to become the "doer of little things."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

For My Sister!

This guy is a total tool, but this post is pretty stinking funny. Enjoy, Donna!!


Monday, February 25, 2008

Nanotechnology freaks me out

This little video details some of the changes in nanotechnology that will no doubt be realities in the not-too-distant future. This will make the iPhone seem as out-dated as the Commodore 64.  I particularly like the part at the end where the device is color-coordinated to the girl's outfit by snapping a pic and watching the device morph into the picture's design.  Crazy!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mandles: The Scent of a Man

This is too funny!! I could create several of these in my own private laboratory (a.k.a. "The Crapper"). I'd like to see new scents such as "Mentho-lyptus" or "Toe Cheese". If I know my readership like I think I do, I'm almost positive some of you guys could come up with a few choice new fragrances as well!!

Watch and enjoy!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rambo, John J.


I went to see the latest installment of the Rambo franchise last week, and - I gotta say - I really liked it!

First Blood introduced us to the reclusive John J. Rambo, a post-Vietnam wanderer with a serious mean streak. When pushed, Rambo strikes small town America with shock and awe the likes of which Baghdad can't even imagine. His superior officer, Colonel Troutman, gives us some context into this ticking time bomb when he tells the local sheriff, "Rambo's a killing machine... Trained to eat things that would make a billy-goat puke. He won't stop... ever." Troutman's prophetic words hold true, and Rambo leaves a trail of destruction like only a billy-goat eating, Medal of Honor winning, killing machine can.

Verdict: I loved every minute of it. From the prison camp flashbacks to the rat-infested mine shaft, to the emotionally charged, nearly inaudible rant at the end of the film, First Blood is still a favorite. Can't wait for the sequal!!

Rambo: First Blood Part II was perhaps one of the most hyped movies of the 80's. Sylvester Stallone resumed the Rambo character, but this time Rambo had been in prison for some time, and making big ones into little ones had further refined this born killer into something far more viscious: a body builder. Rambo rarely wears a shirt in the sequal, and his gaping physique reveals what we all fear to be true: prison gives the criminal element the rare opportunity to work out all day long, thereby making the dangerous even more dangerous. Rehabilitation never looked better!!

The government, in need of a public relations boost (imagine that!), decides it'd be a good idea to send a maniacal ex-green beret - who also happens to be incarcerated - into the Vietnam jungles to search for POW's. Ahhh that military intelligence! But Rambo, not the type to let POW's rot in the jungle, starts an all out war against the Vietnamese, the Russians, and even the corrupt Murdock, leader of this incredibly well thought out use of taxpayer dollars. Armed with a bow and arrows, a gigantic knife, and his heaving pectorals, Rambo rescues the POW's and thwarts his enemies in a series of very plausible combat scenarios. Let's face it, the guy's a tactician.

Verdict: Amazing!! We want more!! Rambo, you not expendable!!!

Rambo: First Blood Part III was a very forgetable film. This time Rambo finds himself in Afganistan fighting against those old cold war pinata's, the Russians. After all, American hero's + Russian commies = box office success!!

I don't really remember much about this movie, but it seems to me that Rambo demonstrates that he is like the mail man of military combat: neither rain, nor sleet, nor Vietnamese jungles, nor Middle Eastern caves can stop this guy from delivering the goods. We also see that although Rambo hasn't been to prison in a while, he is still ripped like a Greek god. Must be that diet of billy-goats and foreign enemies.

Verdict: The franchise has jumped the shark (that's pop-culture lingo for "this movie sucked, and the Rambo name has run its course").

But wait... In the distance voices are heard speaking of a new hope... What was once lost is now found... Rambo returns!!

The latest film, entitled simply "Rambo", takes us back to that ruggedly quiet wanderer we fell in love with in the very first film. We realize, very early on, that Rambo's new home offers more than small town America or prison could ever hope to give... Steroids!! Rambo is now a genetic freak who catches cobras for a living. We learn, without even hearing a word from Rambo's genetically altered lips, that he is still one bad mofo! If you handle cobras, what's overthrowing a genocidal regime gonna do? Scare you? It's a cobra, dude!

Anyway, we also see that this film is very different than the others. This movie is serious. Rambo, regardless of his veiny, swollen appearance, sheds light on one of the most heartbreaking realities of war: genocide. We are taken into a graphically brutal world of random occupation, rape and mass murder. It is sobering. Even the violence, which at one time in my life made me think that war was a cool thing, was gruesome and nauseating. The evils of war were clear, and the internal struggle for Rambo's soul was real and conflicting.

In the end, like always, Rambo wins, but you get the feeling that winning for Rambo is the most overrated thing in the world. He is beaten, lonely and so full of pain that he seems sub-human. Only at the very end of the film are we presented with the hope that change could be a possibility for this war torn veteran.

Verdict: Stallone has managed to take a character that had become a charicature, and turn him into a great character again. The man deserves some credit.

In all, the world's a better place because of Rambo. Thanks for the memories you bloated freak of nature!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New LSU Championship Shirt!

My good friend, Marc McCartney, brought me a shirt back from the National Championship game. For those of you who have forgotten, LSU won that game by whipping Ohio State like a rented mule.

Check out my sweet shirt!!

2008 Hooters Calendar!!

Some of you may find this very offensive...

If you're scared of graphic photography, you may want to look away...

I'm warning you, these pictures are hot.....

Clinton or Obama... Obama or Clinton...


Now that I'm back in the blogging game, I'd love to know your thoughts on the Democratic Party's nomination of a presidential candidate. John McCain pretty much has the Republican nod tied up (Personally, I like Huckabee better, but what the heck do I know?). In light of that, if you had to vote today, would you pull the lever for Clinton or Obama? I'll give you my answer later.

New Post!! More to Come

So, I haven't posted in a while. Honestly, I've just been very busy, and have gotten out of the habit.

For my first post in a long time, I'd like to share this little gem with you from a Japanese game show. If only I'd have known about this game when I was a youth pastor!