Archive for the ‘Ten Questions’ Category

Ten New Questions

Posted: October 6, 2010 in Ten Questions

A few years back, I came up with ten questions that I wanted to use to govern my life. Answering them literally (via my blog) didn’t last long, but I think the effort was worthwhile and had its effect. Still, I have long ago forgotten the specific questions.

Recently, I have struggled through redefining “meaning of life” stuff once again, and when my efforts unexpectedly resulted in ten questions, I thought I should compare the two lists. In so doing, I was interested to discover how different the two lists were! Just goes to show me how much my life perspective can shift in a few short years.

For what it’s worth, here are my new ten questions:

1. Am I providing a happy life for those who depend on me?
2. Am I compromising social walls and making friends I’m not supposed to make?
3. Am I resisting the urge to love and focus on institutions/ideas instead of people?
4. Am I living a simple life and resisting the urge to always have or do or be involved in “more?”
5. Am I living a healthy life?
6. Am I finding joy in everyday life?
7. Am I working hard and being a productive member of society?
8. Am I taking time to relax, remembering that the world doesn’t revolve around me?
9. Am I dreaming about healthy things to dream about?
10. Am I regularly spending time with a close friend(s) who share(s) my outlook on life?

So Here’s the Deal…

Posted: April 2, 2008 in Ten Questions

I’m scrapping the once a week Ten Questions. Well, not scrapping the questions so much, just the doing it all once a week part. So check back here more often – hopefully you’ll get more than just the Countdown on a regular basis.

Ten Questions…

Posted: March 31, 2008 in Ten Questions

1. Did I help make life better for anyone this week?
I’ve had some phone conversations with a friend who is going through a horrible time. The jury is still out on whether I’ve been any help at all, but I sure hope so.

2. Did I reach across lines that divide and meet someone new this week?
Habitat for Humanity to the rescue again. I briefly met Jeannie (our volunteer coordinator) at a community leaders breakfast in Biloxi Friday morning. The breakfast was a big deal, complete with Governor Haley Barbour and new U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (Trent Lott’s replacement) in attendance. I enjoyed sitting between two new friends, Erica and Art, at the breakfast and hearing both tell stories about their law school days (Art in San Diego, and Erica at Louisville). I especially enjoyed seeing my friend, Diann, get an award at the banquet!

3. Did I learn anything worthwhile this week?
Yeah, I did. I learned that our popular conception of the “sins of Sodom” is a bit incomplete. Ezekiel 16: 49 says Sodom was “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Okay there was some sex stuff going on, too, but God mentions these first. Sounds a lot more like “us” than I suspect we care to notice.

4. Did I spend time with close family and friends this week?
Jody & I set aside Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings to walk together. I already think these are going to be some of my favorite times in the world.

5. Did I take the time to notice nature this week?
Click on El Whoppo below, our fourteen-foot-long alligator friend, from the Honey Island Swamp tour in Slidell, Louisiana.


6. Did I laugh this week?
We had a great time on the swamp tour (click on the pic below to see 15 of the 19 of us that went). On the way back, our preaching candidate friend, Roddy, told us about car shopping a few years ago. His daughter suggested he buy a baby blue Volkswagen, to which he replied, “Honey, they don’t even sell cars like that to guys!”


7. Did I do my best at my job this week?
Yeah, I did my best navigating a tricky subject in my class Wednesday night, but today I got to sit and listen to someone else preach and teach!

8. Did I engage in a discussion of things that matter this week?
Our CASA group had an in-service training Thursday night, and we talked about a cool event coming up soon called Walk of Hope. We are going to try to get 100s of people to join us in walking across the brand new Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge on April 12 to raise awareness and money for what we do to battle child abuse and neglect in our community.

9. Did I read or hear or see a good story this week?
Roddy told a fantastic story this morning about going to a crack house in Chicago to rescue a girl on behalf of some friends. Are we willing to answer God’s call to adventure?

10. Did I feed my soul with music this week?
In honor of the beginning of baseball season, and in honor of my friend, Scott, who died far too soon, I found the best song of all time on YouTube and watched, listened, and enjoyed. You try it, too!

Posted: March 24, 2008 in Ten Questions
Emily on Miss Jody’s lap at the Seawolves game


1. Did I help make life better for anyone this week?
After an awkward court date recently, I was able to deliver Easter baskets to my CASA kids this week. The baskets were donated by a local organization, and I hope they made the kids smile.

2. Did I reach across lines that divide and meet someone new this week?
I had the honor of reading John 19: 1-37 in a Good Friday service at Christus Victor Lutheran in Ocean Springs at noon this past Friday, followed by attending a funeral at Bible Baptist Church in Pascagoula at 2pm. I enjoyed hanging out with my preacher friends in Ocean Springs as well as giving hugs to my grieving friends in Pascagoula, but I also enjoyed meeting new people in both places across denominational lines.

3. Did I learn anything worthwhile this week?
I learned from the cardiologist that my heart is in really great shape! Now, on to the gastrointestinal doctor in about ten days.

4. Did I spend time with close family and friends this week?
We really enjoyed a huge Easter dinner with our friends, the Smiths, today. They are such a special family to us, and we had a lot of fun hanging out there. With our impending move, it seemed like we talked way too much about us, but the Smiths are such gracious friends they didn’t seem to mind.

5. Did I take the time to notice nature this week?
We busted our tails working on our yard yesterday, but the day was so beautiful. When I stopped for lunch, I sat outside in a lawn chair (mostly because I was nasty!), and I should sit outside in lawn chairs more often. 70 degree temps, blue skies, cool breeze, and bumblebees and butterflies flitting around the air.

6. Did I have fun this week?
Tom and Laura coordinated a young adult group trip to a hockey game Friday night. Around 30 of us watched the Mississippi Seawolves put the hurt on the Texas Wildcatters to the tune of six goals to one. The Havards sat on our left, the O’Connells on our right, and the Raifords behind us. It was extra fun to have fun surrounded by such neat people.

7. Did I do my best at my job this week?
I delivered an Easter sermon for the 10th year in a row, and I did a pretty good job if you count how good you did by audience tears. I told the full story about Jade and seeing her at Mallonee’s wedding a couple of weeks ago, and it was interesting to see the tears scattered throughout the audience. Telling the story of Jade on Easter Sunday just seemed like the right thing to do.

8. Did I engage in a discussion of things that matter this week?
I have had mucho fun discussing Barack Obama’s speech on race with my Hungry Hungry Hippo friends. I love talking about important stuff there.

9. Did I read or hear or see a good story this week?
I read “Soul Among Lions: Musings of a Bootleg Preacher” by Will D. Campbell this week, and I also made progress on my other two books – “Jesus For President” by Shane Claiborne, and “Grace (Eventually)” by Anne Lamott. Lamott is irreverent, and there was a great line in her story about parenting her teenage son: “You’ve got to wonder what Jesus was like at seventeen. They don’t even talk about it in the Bible, he was apparently so awful. ” I know this is sacrilege to a few hundred million people, but it made me laugh out loud. Which is dangerous when you’re reading a book.

10. Did I feed my soul with music this week?
I have two new friends with the same name, and they took care of me in the world of music this week: (a) Jamie from Arkansas led me to my “crank it up” song of the week – “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” by Warren Zevon. I found a version on YouTube with Zevon performing unplugged on the BBC, and I’ve been singing the chorus all week long; (b) Jamey from Mississippi pointed me toward another great Todd Agnew song, “Mercy in Me.” I found this one on YouTube, too, and to tell the truth, I actually liked the video someone made to it even more than the song! Give it a search and check it out.

Posted: March 17, 2008 in Ten Questions

Hillary (aka Dian Fossey) With Her Connections Teacher After the Time Machine
TEN QUESTIONS:1. Did I help make life better for anyone this week?
I’d like to think I did for the Whitman family when I conducted the memorial service honoring Mr. Lyle’s life this past Wednesday. The family seemed to be pleased. I honestly can’t say I’ll miss delivering eulogies, but in a strange way, the act itself feels like the highest honor.

2. Did I reach across lines that divide and meet someone new this week?
I met Kevin from New Jersey Thursday afternoon. I went to the offices of Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a Governance Committee meeting, and on the way out I commented on Kevin’s Saturn car (since I was driving one, too, a couple of parking places over). When I got into mine to drive home, Kevin came over and introduced himself. He is here to work with our affiliate, primarily to help pull off the massive Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter Work Project in May. As I’ve said before, Habitat for Humanity has introduced me to the most interesting people – people like Kevin.

3. Did I learn anything worthwhile this week?
Jody and I watched part of an interesting television show. It was one of those “Primetime” news specials called, “What Would You Do?” The part I watched was cool: they told people the story of the Good Samaritan before sending them on a walk across a park to do what they thought was a television interview; however, they stationed an actor crying on the side of the sidewalk and secretly filmed how people would react. It turns out that one of the biggest factors in whether people would stop or not was “time.” If they felt rushed, they wouldn’t stop. If they weren’t rushed, they would stop. Consistently. So I learned something important: acting like Jesus requires me to slow down.

4. Did I spend time with close family and friends this week?
We got to see our good friends, Beverly and Emily, this weekend. They were in from San Antonio on Spring Break, and we enjoyed a beach bonfire with them Saturday night, and worship services today.

5. Did I take the time to notice nature this week?
Definitely. The sunset at Front Beach Saturday night was awesome. Then, when I was driving to work Sunday morning, the sunrise burst into my rearview mirror and blew me away. I just happened to be listening to an old worship song performed by artists from Third Day and Caedmon’s Call called “God of Wonders,” which was absolutely perfect. Absolutely perfect.

6. Did I have fun this week?
I had a blast at Hillary’s school program Monday (the Time Machine). Her Connections class has been researching famous Americans for a long time now, and Monday, they put on a killer show at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center. They are unbelievably talented, and the whole program was first class – funny, informative, and entertaining. Erica was in town and sat with me, and Jody got to catch the biggest part of it on her lunch break.

7. Did I do my best at my job this week?
I had a really good week. I finally taught a decent Wednesday night class, and then I felt like my morning sermon today was much better than the past few weeks. Maybe I can go two for two this “holy” week.

8. Did I engage in a discussion of things that matter this week?
I spoke with a school counselor Monday about my CASA kids. It was an important discussion, but it’s depressing to learn that people misunderstand what you’re trying to do. Not the counselor, but others who talk to her. Welcome to life, huh?

9. Did I read or hear or see a good story this week?
Several – once again, wrapped up in Anne Lamott’s “Grace (Eventually).” I’m reading it as a devotional book – one chapter a day – and I’m enjoying it as much as I expected.

10. Did I feed my soul with music this week?
So I run across an old Seal CD when I’m cleaning stuff out this week, and listen to what he wrote in the jacket:

“One of the most popular questions people seem to ask is, ‘Why don’t you print
your lyrics on the album?’ Well, the answer to that is that quite often, my
songs mean one thing to me and another to the listener. But that’s OK because I
think it’s the general vibe of what I’m saying that is important and not the
exact literal translation. How many times have you fallen in love with a lyric
that you thought went, ‘Show me a day with Hilda Ogden and I’ll despair,’ only
to find that it went, ‘Show me a way to solve your problems and I’ll be there.’
I guess what I’m saying is that the song is always larger in the listeners mind
because with it they attach imagery which is relative to their own personal
experience. So it is your perception of what I’m saying rather than what I
actually say that is the key.”

I get it. And I perceive that his “Prayer For The Dying” speaks to my feeble attempts to care for the downtrodden in my life.

Posted: March 9, 2008 in Ten Questions

Me with my twenty-one year old daughter!


1. Did I help make life better for anyone this week?
I sure hope so. I had a court case this week in my role as a CASA, and it wasn’t fun. My job is to speak up on behalf of the children, and sometimes you have to say things that are hurtful to others to accomplish that objective. That’s what it felt like this past Wednesday.

2. Did I reach across lines that divide and meet someone new this week?
I met Dorothy in Biloxi. I am convinced that nursing homes are home to many of our modern-day lepers. Ushered out of sight and out of mind by our society, many of the human beings stored there are destined to live life alone, and the tragic sounds one might hear in the hallways are our version of yelling Unclean! I am equally convinced that one of our most subversive acts is to visit a nursing home, not for friends and family, but to minister to the least of these – which is why I try to go to a Biloxi nursing home every other week for a short visit. My normal routine is to talk to Miss Katie who is consistently staring at the lobby door when it opens, say a prayer with Mr. Flowers if I bump into him along the way, and then hang out with my buddy, Hezekiah. On occasion, I bump into my friend, Margie, who works there as an angel of mercy. This week, however, I realized that I’m still a jerk. I still avoid many of the residents – I get in, and I get out, often as fast as I can. This week, I stopped to meet Dorothy. Dorothy usually sits in the lobby, though I’ve never stopped to meet her before. She sits in her wheelchair in her sweat suit and house shoes, not bothering anyone. Occasionally, she tries to talk to someone, but people like me usually smile and walk on by. On Monday, I chose not to walk on by. Dorothy doesn’t communicate well, but I got that she wasn’t feeling good. I complimented her on her colorful Mardi Gras beads. She tried to say a few more things that I couldn’t understand, and then she turned shy. I told her I would check on her next time, and I will. I won’t pass her by again. I won’t allow myself to miss that blessing.

3. Did I learn anything worthwhile this week?
I learned that resurrection is a reality, all wrapped up in the beautiful Jade Baker. My family went to our friend Mallonee’s wedding yesterday. It was beautiful, but my favorite part of the entire event was getting a hug from Jade. You see, Jade was in a horrible accident years ago now, just after she graduated from high school. I was called to the hospital as soon as the crowd began to form in the ICU waiting room to pray with the family and friends. I went to the hospital every day to pray with Jade’s family, and it was doubtful that she would survive. But she survived. After a lengthy hospital stay, her family relocated to Cincinnati where a good rehab hospital and her dad’s new job made a perfect match. I haven’t seen Jade since then, but yesterday, I watched her walk down the aisle as one of Mallonee’s bridesmaids. Better, at the reception, I got a big hug. She claimed that she remembered me, and though her body reacts a little differently than it did years ago, she still has the same beautiful smile. And when she told me in her halting voice, “I bet you prayed for me,” I thought my heart would just explode everywhere.

4. Did I spend time with close family and friends this week?
Erica came to town for her Spring Break, which just happened to coincide with her 21st birthday. She and I ate together at the Hard Rock Café in her honor, and then our whole family attended the wedding on Saturday. There, we got to see David, Debra, and Harrison Carter, and we enjoyed seeing them so much. Harrison is now the age I was when I married Jody, which means I must be really old now.

5. Did I take the time to notice nature this week?
A major storm woke me at 2am Friday morning. Instead of just going back to sleep (as is my tradition), I decided to lay awake and listen to the sounds. I heard it whistle like a train, then rev up like a motorcycle, and before long I couldn’t help but begin to worry. Katrina-memories I guess. Maybe I shouldn’t have noticed nature and just went back to sleep.

6. Did I have fun this week?
I discovered Google Earth this week, and enjoyed my trip to Malibu. We found where we will live, and we found where Hillary will go to school. She is totally pumped that she will be going to a school with a huge outdoor pool. And we noticed that we’ll be living close to Cher. That’s cool.

7. Did I do my best at my job this week?
I did my best. I did a pretty good job teaching on prayer in ladies class, and a better job on my Wednesday class on 1st Corinthians this week. My sermon and class today weren’t earth-shattering, but passable I guess. I started cleaning out my office this week, and I did a good job with that! It isn’t easy for me to throw away memories, but I’ve sent several large garbage bags full of memories to the dumpster so far…

8. Did I engage in a discussion of things that matter this week?
Very much so, with a VERY good friend going through a completely difficult time.

9. Did I read or hear or see a good story this week?
Oh yes. I began reading “Grace…Eventually” by Anne Lamott. She is an amazing writer. Her essay “Dance Class” is my favorite so far. She and her friend, Neshama, went to be volunteer helpers at a special-ed dance class taught by their mutual friend, Karen. The way she ended her story took my breath away. She wrote, “When Karen and I were hiking a few days later, she told me that after the class, one of the dancers had exclaimed, ‘I liked those old ladies! They were helpers, and they danced.’ These are the words I want on my gravestone: that I was a helper, and that I danced.”

10. Did I feed my soul with music this week?
Crank-it-up moment of the week: Paradise City by Guns ‘n Roses. There is hardly a better crank-it-up song in existence.

My new friend, Jamey, introduced me to some great lyrics from a musician named Todd Agnew. I found the song on YouTube and listened to it – what a powerful message. Here are the haunting lyrics from My Jesus:

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with theives and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that
You follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right on by on
the other side or fall down and worship at His holy feet

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me in I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus
Not a poster child for American prosperity,but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I’m not sure what that
means to be like you Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You
but then You died for me

Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like my Jesus

Posted: March 2, 2008 in Ten Questions
Pelican at Inner Harbor Park in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
TEN QUESTIONS:1. Did I help make life better for anyone this week?
I’ve been privy to two death watches this week, and I hope I’ve been helpful to those poor family members in so much pain. I have learned over my years as a preacher that my profession is useful at such times, not because of any words of wisdom we provide, or any scriptural analysis we might share, but because oddly enough, we represent God in the room. Right or wrong, this is what we do.

2. Did I reach across lines that divide and meet someone new this week?
It is so easy for me to avoid people. I’m a friendly sort of guy – I’m the guy that initiates conversations in elevators and waiting rooms, but if I can avoid people, I do it every time. But I want to stop. On my way out of Inner Harbor Park, I saw two paths. On one side I saw beneath the trees the red Crocs of an old woman walking her dog. The other path was people-free. Everything in me wanted the people-free path. On Friday, I chose the path with the old lady. It was a windy day, and she had on a blue hooded sweatshirt. I chose her way, caught her eye, and said Hello. I told her the pelicans were impressive today. She asked me if they were diving, and I said Yes. She said, Oh, I always forget my camera on days when they’re diving. I had mine in tow and said I had tried my best to catch them. That was it. We went on our way. But I think I did something good. I chose the people way. Sure, the good preacher isn’t happy because I didn’t set up a Bible study, and the good businessman isn’t happy because I didn’t sell her anything. But I’m happy. I chose a path that led me to exchange words and smiles with an old lady walking her dog, and that is the way I know is best.

Oh, and I went to a bar this week. On purpose. It is hard around these parts to garner a reputation as a bar. Wal-Mart serves alcohol, as does every convenience store – and every food establishment above the level of Ronald McDonald. When Government Street Grocery opened up, it had a nice plate lunch special, and our group of preachers went there one day. Before long, however, it became known as a bar. Nominated for best bar on the Gulf Coast, actually. So since I’m a preacher I hadn’t been back to eat there – since preachers don’t go to bars. I went on Friday for lunch anyway. Since I was alone, I didn’t choose a table. I went to THE bar for lunch. The waitress wasn’t overly friendly, so I didn’t talk much, and I sat by myself for much of my meal. Eventually, two guys came in for a Corona, and two more guys came in for a Bud Light, and then four other folks who ordered unsweet tea. I sat in the middle of them all with my ice water and eating a dang good muffuletta . Once again, I didn’t change the world or anything, but I did go somewhere I wouldn’t have gone naturally, and I sat in the middle of people. Trying to ignore the lines drawn for me.

3. Did I learn anything worthwhile this week?
* Well, I learned that the mitral valve of my heart has a small leak (which is no reason to call a plumber just yet). Other than that, my heart is strong.

* I learned that a quarter of a muffeletta at the Government Street Grocery will fill up a grown man with a slightly leaky mitral valve.

* I learned at the post office that the rims on my Saturn Ion either look like or otherwise have something to do with the movie Spiderman 2. Some cool dude took a picture of one on his cell phone and actually shook my hand. Can anyone help me out with this one?!?

* And I learned (YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) that Hillary received the all-clear from the surgeon!!!

4. Did I spend time with close family and friends this week?
Jody & Hillary & I enjoyed hosting the 5th graders prayer group last Sunday night. Jody fixed burgers and ice cream sundaes for the kids, and after we prayed together, we played a couple of games of Clue. When all the kids were leaving, the Martin family dropped by to say “hi” and stayed for awhile. Alia and Jody sneaked back to talk on their own, and Steve, Hillary, and I watched part of the Oscars together.

Diann Payne is an awesome person, and possibly a better friend. After Hillary’s hospital stay where she had to go without real food for so long, Diann sent her a $50 gift certificate to the Outback Steakhouse as a gift. Hillary LOVES her some steak! Hillary, Jody, and I went to Outback in D’Iberville Thursday night and spent a couple of hours eating great food, laughing, and engaging in great conversation around three slabs of meat, tasty side dishes, and an ice cream sundae. It sure beat gathering around chicken broth in the hospital.

I had a great time driving to Hattiesburg with my good friend, Tandy Shaw, to watch Southern Miss play Memphis in basketball Saturday. It was a great game, though the heavily favored Memphis Tigers pulled away in the end, but it was even more fun getting to see Erica for a few minutes and getting to swap lots of stories with Tandy all day long.

5. Did I take the time to notice nature this week?
I went to Inner Harbor Park in Ocean Springs and chased pelicans around with my camera on Friday. It was a blue-sky day, windy, with a temperature of sixty-five degrees. Malibu Weather, I thought. Inner Harbor in Ocean Springs will always be one of my favorite places in the world, however. The boats swayed playfully on their leashes in the brisk wind. There was little sound: the occasional small plane flying overhead, the plock-plock of a friendly tennis game in the background, and the shriek squawking of the seagulls. I love watching the waterfowl. I still don’t know how to tell an egret from a heron, or vice-versa, but I love to watch them anyway. My favorites are the pelicans. I love to watch them soar low over the water, their wide wing spans resembling the airplanes that fly overhead. They are majestic in the air, soaring. Their heads do not bob up and down in flight, but remain steady like a queen on parade. I could have stayed and watched them all day long.6. Did I have fun this week?
I had a blast playing with Natalie at The Studio Tuesday night while Hillary waited to have all her dance pictures taken. For some reason, this gorgeous preschooler decided I would be her friend that night, and she crawled up on my lap with her stuffed animal and purse and began to play. We played for a good hour. And it was a good hour.

7. Did I do my best at my job this week?
Well, yeah, I guess. I did a sucky job teaching class Wednesday night on 1st Corinthians chapter eight. After class was over, I figured out the approach I should have taken: peer pressure. Too late now, but what do you do? And my Sunday morning sermon was alright, but nothing special. Always next week, right?

8. Did I engage in a discussion of things that matter this week?
I had a good talk with Christopher Gates Tuesday night. Christopher is cool. He was in show business for many years, most of them as a Houdini-style magician. Along the way he fell in love with Jesus, and since I’m a preacher we always have something to talk about. He asked about my law school search, and I told him all about Pepperdine. From show business, he knows all about that area (in a Freudian slip, he referred to Los Angeles as “Hell-A.”) But he thinks it is super cool how the stars have aligned for us in our move. In the middle of our conversation, he broke out in prayer. He does things like that from time to time.

And I had some great talks this (Sunday) morning and afternoon with new friends, Jamey and Karen Landry. It is no fair that I’m getting new friends that I’ll have to leave this summer, too!

9. Did I read or hear or see a good story this week?
I read Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, which is a pretty amazing story. What a creative way to teach that humanity has a penchant for putting ourselves in the place of God, and how learning to get out of God’s seat is sometimes a long learning process.

10. Did I feed my soul with music this week?
Crank-it-up moment of the week: Thunderstruck by AC/DC (on the drive to the cardiologist, which is probably not the best place to be listening to Thunderstruck).

I’m weak on my protest music, but I discovered Jackson Browne’s “The Rebel Jesus” as I read Brian McLaren’s book. Here are the penetrating lyrics; made better only by adding the gift of music (you can find a good version of this on YouTube):

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
They’ll be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all gods graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by the prince of peace
And they call him by the savior
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worshipped in
From a temple to a robbers den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But please forgive me if I seem
To take the tone of judgment
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

Posted: February 24, 2008 in Ten Questions
My fellow HFHMGC board member, Cindy, and I, followed a peacock around the courtyard of the Magnolia Plantation Hotel in Gulfport after our board retreat in search of a good picture. This was the best I could get.

TEN QUESTIONS:1. Did I help make life better for anyone this week?
I hope so. The specific instance that sticks out in my mind was the second hospital visit I made to Ernie. Ernie is an old man with some amazing life experiences, but I think preachers are special to him. After I prayed for him on Tuesday afternoon, he seemed speechless, something neither he nor I are very often. I’m not sure what it was, but I think I touched something deep inside. Maybe he saw himself in me a long time ago, or maybe he heard something he needed to hear in the wintering of his life. Whatever it was, it seemed to make him happy. And if I could do that for an aging man lying alone in a hospital bed every week, then I’d be happy, too.2. Did I reach across lines that divide and meet someone new this week?
I met an impressive class full of eighth graders and an even more impressive teacher in Mr. Philippoff at St. Martin Middle School Thursday morning. For several years now, I’ve been giving Mississippi Scholars presentations to eighth graders around this time of year. Mississippi Scholars is a program that brings community leaders into the classroom to impress upon eighth graders the importance of taking challenging courses in high school and pursuing higher education. This was the first time I’ve made a presentation in St. Martin, and this class was the most fun I’ve ever had. I give all the credit for that to a most impressive young teacher, the kind I’d wish for my own kids. I’d not only like to meet a Mr. Philippoff every week; I’d like to be in his eighth grade class.

And I met Gary on Saturday. We are both members of the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and we had a board retreat at the Magnolia Plantation Hotel in Gulfport. Gary has been on this particular board longer than me, but because of his teaching schedule at William Carey College he can’t make our monthly Thursday night board meetings. Gary is a former Baptist pastor, and as sad as it is to say, there is a definite line drawn historically between Church of Christ folks and Baptist folks. It was good to reach across that line once again this week. I’ve always been able to depend on Habitat for Humanity to help break down those particular barriers.

3. Did I learn anything worthwhile this week?
I learned an awful lot about the human body this week, mostly because I’ve felt like mine is falling apart. On Tuesday night, my left ear and jaw went numb, and once I added that to the chest pains I’d been having for several days, I became extra nervous. I called my friend/nurse practitioner, Gina, and she and I agreed that a trip to the emergency room was a smart move. (I also learned that Gina is awesome – that she is a minister of God, whether she realizes it or not.) At the emergency room, the EKG looked good (the doctor told me he wanted an EKG like mine), and the chest x-ray revealed nothing wrong. They gave me a horribly tasty green drink called a “GI cocktail,” which didn’t help my pain, and they sent me home about 1am. On Thursday, I went to the cardiologist in Biloxi. They helped me feel better in one way by confirming that my pain doesn’t seem to be heart-related. Still, we have lots of tests scheduled for Monday morning just to be sure. I think what I learned the most was that I am getting older, and my own body has been the teacher.

4. Did I spend time with close family and friends this week?
I did, but not as much as I would have liked. The only time I think the three folks who live at our house sat down together all week was watching “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann” on Monday night. We laughed together watching the Dancecenter clips with Kenny Maine, who is hilarious. And Erica came in on Thursday evening so she could go with Jody and the ladies from church to a ladies retreat in Florida, so it was good to see her for a little while. But we didn’t spend nearly enough time together as a family. I’m really hoping our move next year will allow us to refocus our family times.

I did have some good talks with friends this week:
* Jason Webb called Tuesday afternoon, and his “when the stars align, follow the stars” advice was well-timed. Jason is one of my soul friends, something I cannot describe in words. He is in my DeJon category, which is an awfully good category to me.
* I enjoyed a great debate with my friend, Dave Fain, and Steve & Alia Martin after Bible class Wednesday night. About “church” in general. My kinds of thinkers.
* After the ladies left for Florida on Friday, my friends Tom and Gene ended up in my office for an hour or so shooting the bull about all sorts of things. Tom and Gene are the sort of people I’d choose to sit around with to shoot the bull anytime. They are also the sort of people I’d want with me when the chips are down.

5. Did I take the time to notice nature this week?
I decided to watch it rain early Friday afternoon. It was a gloomy, gray sky sort of day, but I thought I would return to the last place I intentionally watched nature (the front awning of the church building during Katrina) and watch it rain. It was a gentle shower, silent but for the patter falling off the roof and the sloshing of the busy traffic on Washington Avenue. I sat and felt the cool, ocean breeze and watched the cars race back and forth, back and forth. I saw myself drive by repeatedly, especially in the accelerating cars. I have to hurry, hurry, hurry! But on Friday, I stopped and sat in a folding chair to watch it rain. The clock dragged. It was wondrous. I decided to walk out into the steady rain and feel it on my skin. I never do this, nor do many others I think. I mean, we lounge in the shower for an hour, and we splash around in swimming pools, but we race through the rain covering our heads like its poison. But it’s not. The cold rain felt good on my skin. I’m glad I took the time to notice since I never ever do.

6. Did I have fun this week?
I saw the hilarious YouTube video of Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher Brett Myers pulling off an elaborate practical joke on teammate, Kyle Kendrick, making him believe he had been traded to Japan and had to leave the next morning. Go search for it if you haven’t seen it! Laughter is good for the soul.

7. Did I do my best at my job this week?
I have done my best, but it has been difficult in a couple of ways: (1) still worrying about Hillary’s health as well as my own has made focusing hard, and (2) the call of law school and my concern about submitting a housing contract at Pepperdine on Friday has been distracting. But I have done my work conscientiously. (My second problem will continue it seems: on Friday, it suddenly became clear that we will be moving to Malibu, California this August. Which opens up a whole can full of distractions. Good distractions in my book!)

I preached a somewhat controversial sermon this morning titled “A Place For Everyone” from Matthew 21: 12-17. It was mostly controversial because I was specific, and I had several people “thank me” afterwards for things I said. No one accosted me, but I doubt everyone was thankful for my message. If it needed to be said, however, I’m glad I said it.

8. Did I engage in a discussion of things that matter this week?
I had a lengthy discussion with my CASA director, Frances Allsup, about my case Wednesday morning. I have a permanency review hearing coming up very soon, and to think that what I have to say in court will help determine the trajectory of life for five children is humbling. Some things matter without bringing a smile, or even a lick of peace.

Our Habitat for Humanity board retreat was chock full of important things to discuss, mostly because our brilliant CEO engaged us in a “mission, vision, values” conversation. Excellent stuff.

9. Did I read or hear or see a good story this week?
I read unbelievable stories this week, all wrapped up in a book called Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. I am so sad that I am finished with the autobiographical trilogy (Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, and Teacher Man). I wish there were more books to read, but Teacher Man would tell me it is time to write my own. I would highly recommend McCourt – an unbelievable writer and story-teller, and from his last book I can tell, an unforgettable teacher, too. Kind of like Mr. Philippoff.

10. Did I feed my soul with music this week?
Crank-it-up moment of the week: Where the Streets Have No Name by U2 (Wednesday morning on the drive to the Youth Court in Pascagoula)

I bought my 10-year-old the Daughtry CD for Valentine’s Day, and we listened to it together on the drive to and from ballet class Tuesday night. If I had a style of music, Daughtry would fit into it somewhere – the phrase “rock anthem” comes to mind for some reason. But the music that fed my soul this week came from the backseat as Hillary belted out the perfect lyrics to “Over You.” The music is quite a step up from Hannah Montana, and it reminded me that my little girl is growing up. I heard a man say the other day, “Kids are so cute, too bad they have to turn into teenagers.” I’m a few days late, but my response to that familiar line is Bullcrap. That’s my nice response. Turn into a teenager, my little girl. Show me the meaning of the word angst. Find music I can’t understand, think thoughts I cannot follow, and dream dreams I’ve never even imagined. You even have permission to hate me from time to time as you sort out the new and passionate feelings that are not far away. Find your song, and sing it loud. And I will be proud of your song. Not that you will need it, but you have my full permission to grow up.

Posted: February 19, 2008 in Ten Questions

I hit the big time today. Bobby Ross, Jr., managing editor of the Christian Chronicle, mentioned my blog as one of three blogs he enjoys reading (check it out HERE). Though the list was in no particular order, I took great pride in noticing that my name was mentioned above John Dobbs (who is the reigning king of the blog world).

The problem is that all these people will check out my blog now, and I really haven’t been writing much recently.

This will be no surprise to those who know me best, but I have a new plan.

In our Blog Learning Time sessions (BLT), Professor John Dobbs instructed his apprentices to blog every single day. But since I have now vaulted past him on the Ross list, I will ignore his advice and blaze a trail all my own.

Here is my new plan: I am going to post a really, really good blog entry every weekend, starting this weekend, and hope to carry on a few conversations from it throughout the week. Each weekend, I will publish my favorite picture from the week (or, the only picture I took that week – or, will take a picture of something just beforehand) and answer for myself (and the 1000s and 1000s of readers out there) the following ten questions:

1. Did I help make life better for anyone this week?
2. Did I reach across lines that divide and meet someone new this week?
3. Did I learn anything worthwhile this week?
4. Did I spend time with close family and friends this week?
5. Did I take the time to notice nature this week?
6. Did I have fun this week?
7. Did I do my best at my job this week?
8. Did I engage in a discussion of things that matter this week?
9. Did I read or hear or see a good story this week?
10. Did I feed my soul with music this week?

This is my plan. Criticize at will.

By the way…

* On the Hillary front, she is still recovering nicely from her ruptured appendix. Thanks for the prayers, and keep ‘em up please!
* On the Law School front, I’m still waiting to see if we can get into married/family housing at Pepperdine. If so, that’s where we’re headed. If not, well, the jury is still out (heh – like the lawyer reference!)