Friday, December 25, 2009


Hello, dear readers of David's blog.

For those of you who do not know, David passed away late last week. Details of the memorial services, held December 30th in Austin, TX may be found here and here.

Also, an Austin-American Statesman article by Eileen Flynn.

Thank you for reading his words.

Peace & love.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hannah...Havin' a "Wales" of a Time...

All five of you who read this blog from time to time know that I have three wonderful daughters, whom I love and adore. They are all equally talented and gifted, albeit in mostly different, but specific arenas of life, unlike their dad who is mostly a "Davy of all trades and master of none". Hannah is my middle daughter and from the time she was toddling, she was entertaining the world. She loves people...and I don't mean it in the Charlie Brown speaking to Linus way, "I love is people I can't stand"...Hannah really loves people. We would walk into a restaurant, even one we had eaten at before, and Hannah would say, "I don't want to eat here...let's go somewhere else." When quizzed as to her reason, she informed me that there weren't enough people at the joint...she didn't care about the food, she just wanted to be where there were lots of people around. Hannah would tell you herself that her academic career in high school was not stellar. She was a good student, but she wasn't a straight "A" student either. She loved being at school, but it was not the insatiable desire for knowledge (that did come a little later as she went to college) that pulled her back there was people. Hannah loves people.

As she entered her senior year in high school she and her friends were exploring their college choices. Hannah came to me that fall and expressed a desire to delay the beginning of her college career to apply to be a part of the Mission Year program. This is a wonderful ministry begun by Bart Campolo (inspired by his dad, Tony) out of Eastern University in St. David's PA (near Philly) that placed young adults 18-28 in groups of six to live for a year in some of America's most impoverished and dangerous inner cities. Their job was not to evangelize or proselytize, but to live in community with the poor and love like Jesus. The motto of Mission Year is "Love God...Love People...Nothing Else Matters." I was a youth minister by profession who felt like his calling was to call God-given uniqueness out of students and challenge them to live and love dangerously in the world. Now, my 17 year old daughter was telling me that she believed God was calling her to go live among the poor and take a year of her life devoted to loving the folks in the fabled "Lower Bottoms" area of West Oakland. I struggled and prayed and worried, but in the end I had to put my parental money where my ministerial mouth was and trust Hannah's sense of calling and purpose. She did, indeed, spend her first year out of high school living with five other young adults ages 22 and younger (Hannah was the youngest at age 18) and they all worked in inner city schools (Hannah was a teacher's aide in a kindergarten and 1st grade class) and the year changed her life. She was still compassionate and tender-hearted toward the suffering of the world, but she became tough and wise as well.

As that year drew to a close she began to research again where she would go to school. Belmont University in Nashville rose to the top of the list, she was accepted there and began her studies in the fall of 2005. In her freshman year the President of Mission Year came to visit and speak at Belmont, and while there he asked Hannah to speak at a chapel assembly and share her experiences with MY, which she did, like a pro. Wanting to continue to serve as a part of her studies, she went downtown to sign up to volunteer as a Big Sis with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Nashville. and after looking at her resume, her interviewers asked her to become the liaison on the Belmont campus for BBBS. Later she and several others helped establish a BBBS's chapter on the Belmont campus, the first such chapter in the state of Tennessee. At the end of the year at a university assembly she was presented the annual outstanding freshman service award. In the years that followed Hannah continued to work with BBBS, but also longed to, in some way, replicate the Mission Year experience on the college campus. In her sophomore year the university responded to her requests and put Hannah and three other female students in a house off-campus for the purpose of living in community with the neighborhood. They called it "Service Year". That program is still in effect today.

On September 12th Hannah flew out of Austin headed for London, and eventually Bangor, Wales where she is continuing her social work studies in the Study Abroad program. She will be there through the end of the semester, and is loving seeing a new part of the world (that's getting to be a habit for her these days) learning all her pretty little head can hold and doing what she does best... meeting and caring about people. She is scheduled to graduate from Belmont in May. To say that I am proud of her goes without saying...what I am most proud of is that she is her own beautiful, compassionate, funny and God-listening woman, charting her own course and making, literally, the world a better place.

If you want to follow her journey in Wales, and see some of her lovely photography, you can check out her blog, Observation Full and Felt.

Journey on Hannah...I love you!



Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Lord Save Us..." The Movie

Can I just say that generally speaking, I avoid movies made by Christians about Christianity. It is not that I don't appreciate the attempt to redeem the arts and give a talented individual a venue for using his or her gifts. I don't even fault them for using film as a way of espousing a particular theological or philosphical viewpoint...filmakers and screenwriters do that all of the do musicians and authors. I guess that my beef has always been not that it is Christian film-making, but that it is bad film-making. I remember back in the 60's when Pat Boone starred in "The Cross and the Switchblade". Then in the late 70's and 80's there was a rash of rapture/second-coming movies. The "Left Behind" book series spawned an equally insipid movie, and then there have been a few more in recent years that have been more universally appealing and higher quality. I'm not saying that you have to have a big producton budget to have a quality movie. Independent films and documentaries have proven that is not always the case. Last year our friend Justin Dillon did a marvelous job with limited resources and donated talent to make a startlingly beautiful and compelling rockumentary, "Call and Response", addressing he issue of human trafficking in the world.

Well another such noteworth effort by a Christian just trying to raise the valid question about the state of the church and its ineffectiveness in meeting the needs of the world it professes to love is documented in Dan Merchant's wonderful documentary openin in austin this weekend, entitled, "Lord Save Us From Your Followers - Why the Gospel of Love is Dividing America!". I had coffee with Dan a couple of weeks ago as he was making a whirlwind pass through Texas trying to get some inertia for the opening of the moving in the Christian community. The Portland native is funny, down to earth, refuses to take himself too seriously, and has a deep passsion for helping the followers of Jesus rethink the way they relate to culture and to the needs of the world. He began his pilgrimage to engage people on he street with discussing the their perceptions of Jesus, God, followers of Christ and the Church by standing in Times Square wearing a garish jumpsuit (Sorry Dan, you looked like my Grandpa Tony ready to roll up on a creeper under a jacked-up 51' Chevy pick-up) decorated with bumper stickers carrying varous Christian sayings and messages. He gets some interesting and insightful responses, as you would guess. He also interviews talking heads from both sides of the theological and political aisle like Tony Campolo, Michael Reagan, Sister Mary Timothy, Al Franken, and many more.

I believe Dan's movie raises some valid questions about the way we has followers of Jesus are hurting the cause of Christ and not helping. I urge you to take some time to see it this weekend if you are here in Austin (Gateway Regal Cinema)or to check the movie website to find out if it is playing in your area.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and Nostalgia

I'm not sure exactly when Ariele got her copy of Judi and Ron Barrett's Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. She was either one or two years old, but she says "I don't ever remember not having that book." I would put her to bed each night and not only would we read the book from cover to cover, she always wanted to play the "Show Me" game which meant that I had to pick out some obscure object or person on a particular page, and it was her job to locate it. It was kinda like our own personal "Where's Waldo" game. It was easy and fun to do with this book because there was so much going on with every page. The tradition continued as both Hannah and Calla got old enough for me to read to them at bedtime as well, and that old book became worn and tattered as the years passed. Several years ago at Christmas, with all three girls in college, I got each of them a brand new copy of the old book we had all loved, and gave it to them in their stockings at Christmas.

It was spring of this year when, Ariele heard the rumor that there was going to be an animated movie based on the book. We were, of course, excited until we saw a brief trailer. The animation didn't look like the illustrations in the book at all, and it was obvious there were major plot changes in the storyline. Our hearts sank. This summer when Calla and Ariele and I were at the midnight show of the latest Harry Potter movie installment, they ran the theatrical trailer for the Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs movie, and again we were disappointed in what we saw. There was also that same night a trailer for the amazing children's classic "Where the Wild Things Are", and not only were we blown away, but the trailer got a round of applause when it concluded...yup, the trailer...I was shocked... and still disappointed that CWACOM was not going to make the grade.

Well here we are in September and the movie opened here in Austin and around the country to decent reviews. It was actually the highest grossing film in the country last weekend, so I couldn't help it...I went tonight to see it. Not only was I not disappointed, I was delighted. Yes the storyline doesn't look much like the book's, and the animation is completely different than the illustrations in the book...and it is in 3-D. It may come across as a little preachy on the subjects of relationships to parents, taking care of the environment, wasting food, and world hunger, but this film was cleverly written and voiced, and those are all messages children and adults in our world can't hear often enough. Even the 3-D worked to enhance the experience and not detract from it.

But...mostly the movie tonight was a trip down memory lane for me, as I remembered those nights at my children's bedside, reading and laughing and ending the day in a way that no mom or dad can get enough of. As parents, we have worked all day long, either at a job or as a caretaker at home for our kids (sometimes both), but those few, precious moments are cemented in their hearts, and in ours, for eternity.

Keep reading, keep talking, keep praying with and for you kids,



Monday, September 14, 2009

Serena Williams outburst at US Open semi-finals

I Still Get Surprised...

I know in my head that big rap stars, tennis champions and congressmen are all just people, and they lose their cool like I do... all of the time, but somehow I still get surprised when folks like that pop off, make fools of themselves, and in the process, their sport or vocation. It is an embarrassment for them and others to be sure, but the part that bugs me the most is the arrogance to think that you can say anything you want anytime you want...with the direct and collateral damage ending up being the intended targets of your spoken diarrhea. Last week during President Obama's address to Congress, Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, heckled the President in the middle of his speech with a boisterous, "You lie!". My guess is that particular criticism could be yelled at any of us at different times in our lives, as well as Barack Obama, but to choose to do so in the middle of a nationally televised presidential address was both disrespectful and rude. Wilson did apologize, but has also gotten significant political mileage out of the incident, seeing a boost in fund raising and fan mail.

I've been watching the U.S. Open Tennis tournament with interest, as there have been several compelling stories running throughout the tournament. First the skyrocketing interest in 17 year old American Melanie Oudin was a delightful story as this spunky, tenacious 5' 5" ball of energy defeated four consecutive Russian, highly seeded opponents on her way to a spot in the quarter-finals. She would fall there to a young Danish player, but it was an inspiring run. The other intriguing story was with Belgian player, Kim Clijsters, who retired from tennis after winning the U.S.Open in 2005 at the age of 22 (there were injuries and she wanted to get married and have a family) who had returned to competitive tennis earlier in the year. She indeed had married in the years that followed and now has a beautiful one year old daughter. The Open was only her third competitive tennis tournament back, and frankly no one considered that she would be a threat to compete for this major championship (or any other for that matter) anytime soon. Yup...So much for assumptions...Sunday night Kim Clijsters, the wife and mother, defeated that same Danish teenager who eliminated Melanie Oudin in the quarterfinals in straight sets to take the Championship. That is not what surprised me. In the semis Clijsters was facing the powerful, experienced, and heavily-favored Serena Williams. Kim played well...Serena did not... and after taking the first set, Serena was serving to stay in the match at 15-40. On the next serve she was called for a foot fault, which just means that the line judge, observed that Serena's lead foot touched or crossed the baseline as she was serving. The rule is, in fact, that the server must not touch the line with his or her foot until the serve crosses the net, BUT it is very rarely called, and almost never at this stage of an important match. That meant that Serena had one more serve chance to put the ball in play, but instead of serving she chose to approach the line judge and threaten to cram the ball down her throat, with several F-bombs inserted. It was a little scary and a lot bewildering that Serena chose this time to completely meltdown emotionally. The chair judge then assessed a point penalty to Serena, because she had gotten a warning earlier in the match for slamming her racket to the court, which meant she lost the point, and as a result, the match.

Last night at the VMA awards, 19 year old country music phenom, Taylor Swift won a video music award for female artists and in the middle of her acceptance speech, Kanye West walked on the stage, took the microphone from Taylor and proceeded to insist that that Beyonce's video should have won the award. Interestingly enough, when Beyonce actually did win something a little later, she chose to call Taylor back on the stage and gave her part of her own acceptance time to finish her speech. To his credit, Kanye later apologized.

Tonight on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Conan quipped that NBC was piloting a new show starring Kanye, Serena and Joe Wilson, entitled, "America's Got A-Holes".
He's right, we do, but I still get surprised. Maybe I should be surprised that I still get surprised...or not.



Friday, August 28, 2009

Don Mclean - Crossroads

No Matter What We May Have Planned...

I sat in a small, casual music venue on the campus of Baylor University in the spring of 1972, with my jaw on the floor, my brain in overdrive, and my heart in my throat. There were less than a hundred of us who sat and marveled at the guitar artistry and storytelling brilliance that was and is Don McLean. "American Pie" for which he is forever known, had been released the previous year, so there were a majority of folks present only to hear that song...while others of us who loved "Vincent" and "Babylon" had come to see if there was more beauty tucked away in that distinctive voice and those nimble fingers. McLean did not disappoint, and I heard one of my favorite songs of his, "And I Love You So" for the first time.

I do remember that there was one song on the "American Pie" record, "Crossroads", that was hauntingly moving, but disturbingly unsettling for a young man in the throes of trying to figure out what decisions to make at the crossroads that lay immediately out ahead of him. The plan was to go to summer school and then graduate in December. That would have me finishing college in three and a half years, but that was important because I was putting myself through school since my blue collar middle class parents back in Baton Rouge now had three, yup, count 'em, three, kids in higher education at the same time. I had been a youth minister at a small church on the outskirts of Waco since my sophomore year, had a girl there in Waco I thought might possibly be a future Mrs. Gentiles, was debating the pros and cons of seminary graduate school (both if, and where) and trying to get some read on whether my vocational future was in teaching and coaching, youth ministry, municipal recreation, or as a professional ping pong player...what can I say...I spent a lot of time at the Student Union. I knew the "Crossroads" song from the album, and wrestled with it every time I listened, but on that night it sounded and looked like Don was singing that song right at me... just to piss me off, or maybe to taunt me. I brushed it off, dismissed it as I often did (and still do) things that push me and stretch me beyond the comfortable, but I've never forgotten that song. As it turned out, I did graduate in December, headed to seminary in New Orleans and accepted a position on staff at a church in Baton Rouge (I commuted from BR to NO 4 days a week), retired my ping pong paddle, and the Miss Right in question found Mr. Right...I just didn't happen to be the right Mr. Right.

I have an old turntable here at the house and several times a week I break out the LPs and spin the wax, and last night I pulled out the "American Pie" record for the first time in years. "Crossroads" is the last cut on Side 1, and when I heard the opening piano notes, I stopped in my tracks. I think the reason it was so uncomfortable for me back then is that it messed with, not just my theology, but bigger than that, it messed with my idea of how God was supposed to lay things out for me. I wanted guarantees...I wanted a gameplan...I wanted an assurance that if I made the right choices, that I would have the kind of life I had always dreamed I would/should have. So when, McLean says "So there is no need for turning back, cause all roads lead to where we stand. And I believe we'll walk them all, no matter what we may have planned" it was disorienting. It was also an admission that life was messy and imperfect, and I wasn't ready to hear that.

Well, three plus decades later, my illusions about what would/should happen in my life have changed radically. Divorce, bankruptcy, single parenthood, disappointments in ministry and friendships, shattered dreams, colossal failures, et al., have been tempered with unbelievable opportunities, amazing friendships, a new relationship and a fresh picture of a God who trusts me enough to be a Father and a friend rather than a puppeteer or a travel agent/administrative assistant/miracle dispenser.

The entire lyric of this song is worth reading, so here ya go...

I've got nothing on my mind: nothing to remember,
Nothing to forget. and I've got nothing to regret,
But I'm all tied up on the inside,
No one knows quite what I've got;
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be, I'm not anymore.

You know I've heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free
And find they've gone the wrong direction.

But there's no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I'll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.

Can you remember who I was? can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain? can you heal it?
Then lay your hands upon me now
And cast this darkness from my soul.
You alone can light my way.
You alone can make me whole once again.

We've walked both sides of every street
Through all kinds of windy weather.
But that was never our defeat
As long as we could walk together.

So there's no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where we stand.
And I believe we'll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned.

So, Don McLean, wherever you are tonight...I'm a slow learner, but I finally know why you seemed to be singing straight to me that is because you were.



Monday, August 24, 2009

This Is Why I Love Baseball...

Last night in a see-saw affair between the reigning World Series Champion, Phildelphia Phillies and their division rival, the New York Metropolitans, the game ended in a walk-off, unassisted triple play by Phillies second baseman, Eric Bruntlett. First of all, this doesn't happen every be exact, only one other time in baseball history (1927 - Tigers vs. Indians), has the game ended on an unassisted triple play. For those of you who might have difficulty conceptualizing what we are talking about, one defensive player, without a throw or assist from another teammate, gets three runners, or a batter and two runners out on one continuous play... all by himself. It certainly does involve some skill and quick-thinking, but believe me, this is usually a clear case of being in the right place at the right time.

It was the bottom of the 9th for the Mets, who had played catch-up all game long and had pulled to within two runs of the Phillis in their last at bat. The inning started when first baseman Ryan Howard misplayed a ball that went all the way into the corner and the batter ended up on third and Howard charged with a three-base error. The next ball was hit to Bruntlett at second who bobbled the routine ground ball and threw late to first, allowing the runner on third to come home making the score 9-7 Phillies. Bruntlett who came into the game hitting at .198 (for those of you who don't know...that's don't last long in the majors hitting a puny .198) has always been known as a solid glove man who could play a lot of poitions and held his own with the bat, which, fortunately for Eric he did on this night going three for five with a hit taken away on a reversed call. I saw him play numerous times for the local Round Rock Express baseball team when he was part of the Houston Astros organization. He was a clutch hiter, a solid defensive player and I hated to see him traded away.

Again, baseball is a mysterious lover who will tempt you, tease you, then take away her affection at the batting of an eyelash. The Mets have closed to within two, with a runner on first base and the next batted ball is hit to the left of first base. Bruntlett moves quickly to his right but can't handle the ball cleanly and both the runner and the batter are safe. It is officially scored a hit, but most people watching give Bruntlett his second consecutive error...a nightmare for any player, but especially a sure-handed middle infielder. Then it happens...Jeff Francour is at the plate for the Mets and his coach calls for a hit and run, which means that both runners are racing to the next base as soon as closer Brad Lidge sends the pitch to the plate and the batter is swinging away. The play is meant to keep you out of a ground ball double play or even to give the runner on first a chance to score if the ball is hit deep in the gap and tie the score. As the runners break, Francour scalds a screaming line drive past the pitchers ear headed into center field to score at least the runner on second who is off to the races. Bruntlett, in the meantime has edged toward second base in an attempt to be ready for the double play as well as moving in to cover second base in the event that a throw comes in from the catcher to prevent the steal. Eric is in infielder's no-mans-land. He has left a gaping hole in the right side of the infield, but as he moves closer to second base he runs right into the line drive by Francour which normally would be headed bouncing in front of the centerfielder. He catches the line drive retiring Francour, steps on second in one motion retiring the runner from second who is almost to third at this point, and then sees the runner from first barrelling down on him headed to second base. There is an awkward dance, but he can't avoid Brunlett's tag for long, and there you have it...Bruntlett to Bruntlett to unassisted triple play. The game is over, Francour slams his helmet to the ground in disbelief and the Phillies and Brunlett begin the celebration.

Ah, have wooed me once again.



Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Social Media Revolution

For those of us whose lives, vocations and callings are linked to connecting with people...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Marching to the Beat of a Different Accordian

I don't write much directly about Journey, the little faith community I am grateful to be a part of. It is not that I am ashamed of is just that it usually comes up in the conversation normally without trying to do a hype thing, and that's the way I like it, but I'm going to make a bit of an exception here because yesterday was a weird and bizarrely interesting day.

Rick is our lead pastor and is our primary communicator and teacher. He's good...very good...but not in a creepy, sketchy, preachery kind of way. He is funny, articulate, incredibly well read, and handles discussion and feedback from the group as well as anybody I've ever seen. Rick was out this week, so when that happens I usually speak in the service, which is all the reason you need for it to be weird, but that's not what I am talking about. Rick also teaches a large group Bible Study between the early and the late worship gathering times. Lately we have been getting some of our talented Journey folks to teach during this time and this Sunday was no exception. David Johnson is a math professor here in town, who is a vital valued Journeyer. By his own admission, David is a cynic and a skeptic concerning the existence of God, but he is in Bible study every week listening, asking questions, and offering important insights. He recently embarked upon a 40 day fast and Rick asked him to share his thoughts about his experience during the Bible Study time this week, which he graciously agreed to do. It was wonderful...he talked about his motivation from a both a curiosity, as well as a health and spiritual perspective, and as always Journeyers listened and questioned and supported David in his sharing.

Immediately following the worship gathering a roomful of 20 folks talked about the way the 10% of all funds that come into Journey are distributed out to various ministries, social service organizations, and individuals as a response to the mandate of Journey that we are to love God with all of our heart soul mind and strength, and our NEIGHBOR as ourselves. Almost all churches are involved in missions and service in some way, but I sat in gratitude and amazement as I listened to the stories of how this tiny little faith community is making a difference in the lives of so many in Austin and around the world.

It was almost two o'clock by the time we broke up and Julie Reese finished her meeting. JC ad I loaded up two beautiful Lazy Boy recliners that were donated for the warehouse into my truck and were led by Julie to the home of two of our Journeyers who are visually impaired and have just moved into a new apartment. They needed chairs for their place so Julie suggested that we give them the two recliners they sit in almost every Sunday morning in worship. We rolled in, told them we had a gift for them and had them sit in their new furniture, and they immediately recognized that these were the very same seats they sat in every week. It was moving to watch their delight, and the tender, genuine friendship Julie had for her friends.

I guess maybe this kind of thing goes on in churches everywhere in some form or fashion...Journey is not really that unique or is just a bunch of regular people doing their best to follow Jesus...but it sure made me proud to be one of his followers along with this delightfully awake and humble group of misfits.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Joan Osborne - One of us

One of Us

I have one of the strangest neighbors on the planet. I've lived here in central Austin, in this venerable old neighborhood for two plus years. I love it...I rent a modest little duplex that fits my needs perfectly these days. It gets a little crowded when the girls are home, especially with one bathroom, but they are constantly gallivanting around the country and the world so it is plenty of room for Cleveland and me. The duplex is on a corner lot and there is a traffic light at the intersection which makes for interesting vehicular noises most of the night, and the train tracks are less than a mile away, so I get some occasional late night rumblings and whistles, but it is a delightful location with mostly older houses, a few of which have been remodeled and gentrified. My next door neighbors are a delightful young couple who are a writer and school librarian respectively. You probably guessed that the wife was the librarian and the husband the writer, but you would be incorrect. We watch each other's houses and they gave me a sprig off of their aloe vera plant last week and I planted it and put it on my is doing well. They wanted to buy one of the electric companies old electrical wire spools (you can buy one for $5) but they didn't have way to transport it so I took Clementine (my old truck) and picked up the spool for them. They are great neighbors. Directly across the street is a guy who moved in a couple weeks after I did. He is a single parent dad who has his kids every other week so we talk parenting shop fairly regularly, but he has boys, so I have to depend on youth ministry experience rather than parenting expertise to chime in. He's a good guy.

The elderly gentleman laterally across the street is bit of a hermit and I speak to him when he takes his garbage can to the curb, but not much else. I took his recycling out for him a couple of times while he was out of town, but he doesn't socialize much. Then there is the guy diagonally across the street from me. He walks around most of the time with no shirt on, cut off shorts and no shoes. He looks like a refugee from a Jimmy Buffet music video and/or an episode of COPS... and he is loud and profane. He plays music LOUDLY into the wee hours of the night, and has assorted lady friends over, all of whom eventually get into a shouting match with him...usually after midnight. The cops have been to his house at least a dozen times and the EMS folks about a half dozen. Not long after I moved in, a fleet of fire trucks raced to his house, sirens blaring, because he was burning trash Aggie Bonfire-style in his backyard. Several months ago, after an altercation with one of his female companions at 2 a.m., he got into his car in his own drive way and proceeded to sit on his car horn...on then off, on then off, on then off... for 47 minutes (yup, I timed him) until the battery finally gave out, mercifully, at 2:47 a.m. He and I met briefly because he gets upset if Cleveland barks at the postman, but mostly he just goes about his loudly-lost-in-the-70's ways to the chagrin of most of the neighborhood.

So today I took Cleveland outside at 7:00 in the morning to feed him and take care of dogie business, and not surprisingly, bare-chested Bon Jovi boy has got the Hi-Fi cranked up already. I shake my head in disgust, and then stop because I recognize the tune. It is Joan Osborne's "One of Us" and at that moment it reaches the chorus, and Joan's voice is joined by a screechy male voice singing at the top of his lungs, "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, What if God was one of us...Just a slob like one of us...just stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home...". Honestly it pissed me off at first, that he was ruining this great song...and then it occurred to me that, I was the one involved in an adventure in missing the point. A very obvious point at that. It is easy to love my sweet, artsy couple neighbors, my fellow single dad neighbor, and my lonely old man neighbor...but come on, God...this guy is a menace to neighborhood peace and quiet, and he hates my dog. So I softened a little and when he came out and flipped me the bird as I led Cleveland through the gate I tipped my Indians hat in a polite acknowledgement. The next song came on and he was back to screamsinging at the top of his lungs...this time to "My Sharona". It would be nice if God could at least sing on key. It's gonna be a while before I can watch "Joan of Arcadia" again.



Monday, August 10, 2009

Time to Begin Again...

Yeah, I has been four months since my last blog post. My friends Milton and Jack have nudged me gently, but the stuff of life kinda got in the way of me writing about the stuff of life. My life is good...much better than I deserve, but there are some things that need a reboot, a new beginning to move to the great next. Twenty five years or so ago a friend of mine, Kenny Wood wrote a lyric for a song...the lyric was initially rejected by execs at Word records. Here's the part they didn't like..."It's time to begin again, let yourself go, stop your holding on. Sometimes you just can't win. That's when you know love will carry you and never let you go." The reason the execs gave for removing it from the record list was... "Christians don't want to hear, 'sometimes you just can't win'". Thankfully Billy Crockett insisted on including it on his record and he and Kenny prevailed, because it is a reality...occasionally we all need a do-over. As it turns out Kenny is one of us who qualifies as well, and after a number of years of battling back from some very difficult times, he has begun writing again. That's a good thing. He has a blog called The Woodman and I wanted to repost his writing from today.


A father took his son fishing off an old pier. They stood 10 feet apart with a red cooler between them. They didn’t talk, they fished.

The boy made his first cast hoping his father was watching. Lucky for him he wasn’t because something went wrong. Maybe he was trying to cast too far out, but for whatever reason he ended up with a nasty backlash. The line looked like a bird’s nest had exploded.

It was his father’s reel, handed down like an heirloom, like an old watch, from his father. The boy had begged to use it. Now look at it. One cast. He turned his back and tried to untangle it. He couldn’t have done it even if he had fingernails. He was afraid the reel was a goner.

His father finally turned and noticed his son wasn’t fishing. He saw him bending over, working on the reel. He knew what was wrong without asking.

“Let me see the old girl,” he said. The feel of it took him back to his own boyhood, to the same pier and to Saturdays like this one---his father’s arms behind and around him, big hands over smaller hands, casting sidearm, practicing.

He worked at untangling the line but it was hopeless.

“I knew this day would come,” he told his boy.

He sat down on the edge of the pier, opened the tackle box, pulled out a new reel still in the package, unscrewed the old reel, wrapped it in his handkerchief and laid it down in the box like a loved one. Then, he mounted the new reel onto the rod, handed it to his son and said, “Now you are ready to do some fishing with your own rig.”

Backlash. There’s no way around it. And it’s easy to get the idea from well-meaning doctors and friends that we are supposed to trace the mess back to the beginning, find the root cause and untangle our knots. But sometimes all we can do is hand it over to someone who recognizes what is beyond repair and needs to be laid to rest. Often it’s the very thing that stands in the way of beginning again.

I encourage you to read Kenny's other stuff as well. Maybe it is time for you to begin again...let go...let go of your attachment to winning...and know that Love will catch you and never let you go.

Pling, Pling...


Monday, April 13, 2009

"The Bird" Flies...

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, was found dead at his home today, where he died working on his 10-wheel dump truck. He was 54. Now some of you who aren't old enough or aren't a baseball fan might have no idea who this oddly curious fatality might be. In the summer of 1976 as the Detroit Tigers were mired in futility, this tall, skinny, New England kid with the blond Afro curls and the gawky bird-like delivery (people thought he reminded them of Sesame Street's "Big Bird") began to pitch and began to win. He would go on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award and a total of 19 games for the Tigers who finished the season entrenched in 5th place. It was not just his appearance though...he was truly eccentric when he got out there on the mound, talking to himself and to the ball. He would also get down on his hands and knees and fix the holes in the dirt by dragging and pushing the dirt around with his hands, and the crowds loved it. Even though Detroit was losing, whenever The Bird was scheduled to pitch, they packed out the house. Most of you know that I am a Cleveland Indians fan, but like everyone else I was fascinated by this soldier in the baseball army marching out of step with the rest of of the ranks, and I, like the folks in the stands, would rise to my feet and flap my arms when he took the mound. It was a bizarre and remarkable phenomenon. Following that incredible year he picked up right where he left off the next season. winning his first six starts and filling the stands once more. In his 7th start he felt a twinge in his shoulder and came out trailing in the 3rd inning. He would make a handful of major league appearance in the next few years. The arthroscopic surgery that so easily takes care of those kinds of injuries now was not available and he mostly labored in the minors for 7 more years before hanging it up.

I've tried to pinpoint what it was about Mark that drew me and so many others to him. He was successful, he was eccentric, he was an icon for a city...but I think for me what I loved about Mark Fidrych was that he was a little boy in a man's body playing a boy's game. You understand that I love the game of baseball...not as a corporate entertainment product or a marketing angle...I love the game of baseball. There is something deep in me that I learned and lived on the sandlots of my childhood that gets great joy at watching this game played with abandon and passion.

I attended a baseball game tonight for 8 and 9 year old boys. David, one of our Journey kids was pitching so I went to see his game. It is his first year playing and David is a good athlete. He has a lot to learn about the game, but what he does already have is a passion and an instinct for the game, and when he threw a strike he would pump his fist and push his hat up to show a tuft of his blond hair. He never looked over to the stands to see if his parents or other fans were looking...he was totally engrossed and present in the game. When he got up to bat he dug in at the plate and took his cuts confidently and aggressively. He made good contact both times even though he was swung at pitches a little high in the strike zone...this kid wanted to hit! In contrast a couple of his teammates in front of him struck out...often while taking decent cuts...hey, it is part of the game...Babe Ruth led the league in strikeouts as well as home runs. But these two young men cried as they got to the bench. Those who know me know I am an emotional guy and I cry at a lot of stuff...but never at striking out. Baseball is a game...just a game...a profoundly beautiful and complex game with incredible nuances...but it is just a game. Somebody...a coach, a parent, somebody had forgotten to tell those kids that baseball is just a game...enjoy the fact that you can run, and throw, and hit, and slide in the beauty of a spring is a game. Mark Fidrych was getting paid to play baseball, but he never forgot the sheer joy of pulling on that glove and facing off against 9 other guys who are there to play PLAY...a great game.

One of my musical heroes is a guy by the name of Bob Bennett. A craftsman of a songwriter, and an artisan of a guitar player, he has an obscure little song from back in the 80's about his brief baseball career. Bob did not have the jock physique as a kid, and, by his own admission, was not particularly athletically gifted, (and he lived in the shadow of an older brother that was) but this tune called "A Song About Baseball" is one of my favorites. Here are the lyrics...

"Saturday on the baseball field, and me afraid of the ball. Just another kid on camera day, when the Angels still played in LA. I was living black and white. Baseball caps and bubble gum, I think there's a hole in my glove. Three and and death...I was swinging with eyes closed holding my breath...I was dying, on my way to the bench.

But none of it mattered after the game, my father would find me and call out my name... a soft drink a snow cone, a candy bar, a limousine ride in the family car...he loved me no matter how I played...he loved me no matter how I played.

But none of it mattered after the game my father would find me and call out my name...dreaming of glory the next time out, my father showed me what love was about...he loved me no matter how I played... he loved me."

You are gone too soon Mark Fidrych, but you reminded us how the game should be a game...because we have a father that loves us no matter how we play.

So what are ya waiting on...PLAY BALL!



Friday, April 3, 2009

Slim Shady to Teacher of Promise

I met Brian Hill the summer following his junior year at Connally High School. His single parent mom signed him up for our high school youth camp and even though he didn't know a soul, he came. He was bright, funny, made friends easily and oh yeah, he was dressed like rapper Eminem and even had his head shaved with the bleached fuzz. He was an immediate hit with the rest of the youth group and he quickly became a regular. When he graduated he went off to college at North Texas in Denton. Like many students, his freshman year of transition concluded with less than stellar results. He was on academic probation. He wasn't sure he wanted to return to North Texas, and after a stint working with a youth camp in North Louisiana (Camp Fuego) he decided he wanted to transfer to East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas...and in addition, begin studying to become a youth minister. Those of us who had watched Brian grow in those few short years knew that he was a natural in working with kids, and in the summers that followed we always had him back to intern or help as a camp counselor.

Brian graduated in 2005 and immediately began seminary work in youth ministry at Truett Seminary on the Baylor University campus. I needed a summer college intern at Riverbend, so we hired him to help me in high school and college ministry, and since his mom had remarried and moved to Houston he needed a place to stay for the summer so he moved into my house up in Cedar Park. Calla was still there (Ariele in Portland and Hannah in Nashville) but she had just graduated and would be leaving for North Carolina at the end of the summer. I ended up leaving Riverbend for Journey at the end of the summer as well. but Brian stayed at Riverbend becoming the interim high school minister as well as staying on at the house. He would be there for two years until he and Caitlin married, and Caitlin didn't want to join the boy's club at the Gentiles house so they moved to East Austin after the wedding, and I moved down into town near the warehouse. Riverbend would hire Nick in the spring to take over high school ministry and he and Brian became fast friends and were a wonderful team for the year that Nick was there. But there were changes afoot at Riverbend and Brian found out that at the end of last summer his job would end there, so he began to look at other church positions. He also began to consider going through alternative certification programs and becoming a public school teacher.

I have left out a significant part of the story though. While attending classes at Truett, Brian began to be more and more interested in the issues of justice and the poor. He met an old college buddy of mine, Jimmy Dorrell who has run a ministry to the poor and the homeless in Waco for many years called Mission Waco who was teaching several classes on missions and slowly but surely with Jimmy's and several other key professors influence, Brian's calling shifted from traditional youth ministry to living in community with and ministering to the poor. I say all that to say that Brian's interest in teaching public school was not just to teach, he wanted to teach in the inner city where he knew the challenges were tough, the rewards were slower to come and the burnout rate was astronomical. He began to interview for jobs and even though he had several years of experience working with kids in the context of the church, he had no education degree and no classroom experience, so the beginning of the school year quickly approached and he still did not have a placement. A week before school started he called because he had an interview with the principal of a fairly new elementary school in East Austin, Overton Elementary for a position as a 4th grade teacher. After the interview he was encouraged, but he had been encouraged by several interviews before this one as well. What was different was that Principal Hicks seemed to want to take a chance on a guy who was creative and brought something fresh and new to the classroom. Brian was hired and the saga began last August.

There are still two months left in Brian's rookie year as a 4th grade classroom teacher, but oh what a year it has been. The stories, the text messages in the middle of the day, like the one he sent out on a standardized testing day when a little girl in his class farted and belched at the same time and the smell was curling up artificial plant leaves in the back of the room. As if teaching was not tough enough, Brian also volunteered to be the assistant coach for a basketball team made up of boys from his school that consumes his nights and weekends as well. And then there came Thursday night. The Austin Independent School District not only recognizes Teachers of the Year from each of its schools, it also honors Teachers of Promise who are 1st year teachers from each school who have distinguished themselves as wonderful young leaders of students. Brian was selected the Teacher of Promise from Overton. And that's not all...he was selected to speak at the recognition service last night at the Delco Center as a representative for all of the winners from the 65 elementary schools in AISD. He did a great job...he was funny (my girls think Jimmy Fallon reminds them of Brian, and vice versa) he was impassioned, he was poignant, and he was...well...Brian. I was so stinkin' proud of him...and yes...I teared up a little...yeah, I know you are shocked! (By the way...kudos for the youth ministry program at Riverbend, because amazingly three of the new teachers recognized Thursday night as TOPs were a part of the youth ministry program at that astounding or what?) case you are one of the folks who are convinced the world is going to hell in a handbasket...I got news for you...Slim Shady is now kickin' butt and taking names...and coaching basketball, and changing lives one 4th grader at a time.

I love you Brian Hill...teach on my brother...

Pling... Pling...


Thursday, March 19, 2009

You Gotta Have Balls...

So this morning I headed out early to meet Bob Carlton at Tacodeli for a breakfast taco, coffee and catching up. As it turned out Bob got tied up with a conference call at work that started at 7:30 a.m. and lasted for several hours, so instead of heading on in to the warehouse to work, I chose to sit on the patio in the cool morning, enjoy a miga breakfast taco and read the new edition of The Onion. I was already laughing at several articles when I came upon the advertisement you see at the beginning of this post. I don't know if Kenny Hilbig is an effective agent or if Moreland Properties has anything going for them in the real estate business, and the ad gives no indication that those guys know squat about anything other than how to take advantage of the AIG fiasco to make a funny ad for their real estate business...but that they got was very funny and I salute them. And I hope they get some much needed business for their timely humor.

Speaking of beautiful, timely favorite of all time was 16 or 17 years ago when I lived in Plano and a little golf driving range on the edge of town (no such thing as undeveloped real estate in Plano anymore) had the misfortune of having their little business burglarized and had thousands of range balls stolen, and damage done to the pro shop, so they were forced to suspend business for a couple months. When they reopened two months later they placed an ad offering a free-bucket-of-range-balls-with-every-bucket-bought special in the local weekly paper with the headline, "You've Got To Have Balls To Run An Ad Like This!". Yes...Yes you do.



Monday, March 9, 2009

And A Chili Parlor Shall Lead Them...

Monday night I met Jack Morton, a fellow Journeyer and dear friend for a quick supper before we went to the Erwin Center to see the Horns knock the snot out of the Baylor Men's basketball team. It has been a disappointing season for the Bears who made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in many years last season, and who had been resurrected from college basketball Sheol by Coach Scott Drew and a scrappy, tenacious group of players. They spent several weeks in the top 25 early this season, but then four weeks into conference play began to struggle and have not been able to climb out of the funk...and will disappointingly miss the tournament after high hopes early on.

But, I digress, because the little establishment near the Capital (where Jack works a great deal during the legislative session) is actually the focus of this harping. It is a modest little downtown bar and eatery called The Chili Parlor. If you are a fan of grindhouse movies and saw the enigmatic Robert Rodriguez/Quintin Tarantino double feature, the little roadhouse featured at the beginning of the film with Kurt Russell is actually...the Chili Parlor. I have been in Austin for 15 years and heard about this legendary establishment for years, but alas, and alack, had never eaten there. We are perusing the menu and Jack is giving me the lowdown on the finer points of Chili Parlor ingredient nuances when the waitress informs us that the special of the day is chicken and sausage gumbo. Now those of you don't know me well are not aware of the fact that I am a bona fide gumbo snob. I grew up eating good gumbo in South Louisiana made by my pure-blooded Cajun mama, I make a very good gumbo, and I can count on one hand the restaurants I have frequented down through the years who made a gumbo that was anything more than a notch above average to lousy. Like I said...a gumbo snob.

At any rate, I was intrigued by the idea that a chili parlor would have the stones to offer gumbo and put it on the menu with their specialties, so both Jack and I ordered it...It was good...not just passable, but very, granted, a chicken and sausage gumbo is much easier to pull off than seafood gumbo, but it was surprisingly tasty, with a thick hearty roux...which is the name of the game for me. The chunks of chicken were substantial and the sausage was andouille...add several dashes of Tabasco, and it was a very satisfying surprise in dining disguise.

We are well into the Lenten season, and frankly I'm having a difficult time feeling it the way I have always expected. Things at Journey are scarily wonderful...we are bad-dog broke, but that seems to have no effect on these brave strange fellow Journeyers. My girls are terrific, each off doing their own thing and continuing to grow into amazingly gifted and powerful young women. I've had the gift of having Ariele around on a daily basis for a few months and am loving spending time with her, discussing, arguing, dissecting, deconstructing and dreaming a world of subjects. I have connected with several women of past and present interest who have stirred me to think about being in a relationship again after fourteen years and that is a little disorienting. I feel good physically and am managing the financial stress of having at least one child in college continuously since 2001, at one point having all three in college, and having two in at the same time for the last four years with another two years probably on the horizon. By the way...don't ask me how that is possible with the modest salary a youth minister and associate pastor makes. I have no idea. I am grateful that somehow we have managed...but I got nothing. What I do know is that in the confusing days approaching Easter, Jesus' disciples spent most of the time scratching their heads and wondering what the heck was going on. They got introduced to many surprises in disguises, some thrilling and some terrifying, in those days heading toward Jerusalem so I'm taking a little gumbo at a chili parlor as a nudge to pay attention a little better... and pass the Tabasco.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Only One Jinx...

Jinx of the best friends high school students in Austin ever had, died yesterday morning.

I met Jinx Lacey fifteen and a half years ago when I moved to Austin to become the Youth Minister at Riverbend Church. I had been in youth ministery, working with students, families and volunteers for 23 years at that point...there wasn't much I hadn't seen or experienced in that field...but then...I had never met Jinx Lacey. Jinx was a counselor at the recently opened McNeil HS in the Round Rock Independent School District. A couple of our students Kim Luckie and Jeff Lee, attended McNeil and Jinx was a member of the Riverbend congregation. It was obvious from the day I stepped on campus to go visit Jeff or Kim for lunch that Jinx loved kids. We became fast friends and I would go every year at her request in those early days to help with her begining of the school year lock-in to train her BITS (Jinx's version of Peer Assistance League) students with training classes as well as good ole all night games and fun. I loved being with the kids, but truthfully it was just as much fun hanging out with Jinx, who was teaching and leading and mentoring, but having every bit as much fun as her kids.

The other thing that made us fast friends was our mutual admiration society for the lights in each other's middle daughter Hannah and her grandaughter Katelin. To this day I love Katelin like she is my own, and Jinx felt the same way about Hannah. I got the privilege of performing Katelin and her amazing husband, Brad's wedding over a year ago and I knew that as proud as I was of Katelin, no one was prouder than GranJ, as Kaitlin affectionaltely calls her. As they made their way through elementary school, middle school, high school and off to college, Jinx and I would always compare notes and brag about how "our girls" were doing. I left Riverbend three and a half years ago to go to Journey and so my contact with Jinx was not nearly as often as it should have been, but when we talked it was always about Kaitlin and Hannah.

Those who know JInx would attest that she was one of the funniest human beings on the planet...and NOBODY lived with as much passion and joy as Jinx. I know that is what attracted kid after kid after kid to her. She loved unconditionally, but was tough when she needed to be...but those kids never, never doubted that Jinx loved them. I ran into Chawn, a sophomore McNeil student, today who had not heard that Jinx had passed away since it happened over the weekend, and this 6'9" young man went weak in his very tall knees when I told him the news, and he just kept muttering..."no, no...Jinx was awesone!" In recent years she had also served as one of the campus crisis counselors, so part of her job everyday was to sit with students in turmoil, anguish, depression, discouragement and confusion. Those kids knew they had a friend and advocate in Jinx Lacey. As a matter of fact all of us who called her our friend, knew exactly the same thing.

One quick Jinx story...Part of our friendship also came because we both were, and had been, single parents. I did a stint in singles ministry for a few years while I was at Riverbend in order to perserve my nights and weekends for my three girls (nights and weekends are primo in youth ministry because that's when kids are not in school). As we began to set up specific ministries for single parents, since I was learning how to be one, I often brought Jinx in, not just because she had been a single parent, but because he had such a wonderful gift for saying things that I could never get away with saying about the way things really were...and she had incredible street cred because of her work in the school system. One of the cool things we did while I was working with singles, was that we were able to host the Baptist General Convention of Texas State Singles Conference on two separate occasions. One of those years, Jinx and I were leading seminars next door to each other in the Quad to singles from all over the state. My seminar was on humor in the Bible (Jinx should have been leading that one, too) and hers was on single parenting. As I finshed up my seminar, I walked next door to Jinx's room to see how her session had gone. She informed me that she had a room full of only women...not a single man in the room. Then she she said, with a twinkle (she had that twinkle a lot) "Uh...I guess I oughta tell you that you might get some complaints about this seminar." I stuffed down a laugh and replied..."OK Jinx, what did you say?" "Well", she started, her smile getting larger as she talked, " I was talking about the things that you don't prepare yourself for when you are wrestling with all of the things you are juggling as a single parent...and really David, I didn't mean for it to come out..." I shook my head and repeated, "Jinx...what did you say?". By that time she was giggling and she said, "I just told them that if I would have known that the last time I had sex was going to be the last time I had sex, I would have put more into it." That is a direct Jinx Lacey quote. After I composed myself enough to get up off of the floor from laughing, I told her that it was OK, she had just made this Baptist conference way more interesting than any other Baptist conference any of those ladies had ever been to.

There will never be another Jinx Lacey...and there are literally thousands and tens of thousands of young men and women and parents whose lives she touched, blessed and enriched. I'm simply one of them...

I happen to one of those old school folks who believe in a heaven...a final soul destination in the presence of divine Creator. Nope, I am not sure of all the details, but I am pretty sure that the One who spoke the world into existence is getting an earful from Jinx...and I'll bet she has that twinkle in her eye...and so does He.

I love you Jinx Lacey...



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Choosing Love and Light...

I've watched a lot of presidential inauguration ceremonies in my lifetime...twelve or so that I remember watching...and interestingly enough the first one I remember reminded me the most of this one today. In 1960, we elected a young, charismatic statesman who also was a that case, our first Roman Catholic president. He had a strikingly, beautiful, mysterious wife and two adorable children and the country sensed that a page had turned in American politics. What happened today, was, of course, unprecedented as well, as two million people jammed into the tiny District of Columbia to be in the general vicinity of our first African-American President, Barack H. Obama being (sort of) sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts. In all of those past inaugurations, I had never gathered with a group of people specifically to watch all of the inauguration festivities...until today. A number of us were invited to our friends, the Manroe's home, where we had food, whooped and hollered, oohed and aahed, cried and laughed, and eventually toasted with champagne when the oath was repeated as well as noting the individual and collective turns as this epic, landmark moment unfolded.

The brightest and best political and social commentators have chronicled every second of this historic event, so I don't imagine I have much of value to add except that my favorite moment of the day was when Barack entered the landing adjacent to the speakers platform to thunderous applause, he passed by his family and his daughter Malia stuck out her arm and gave him a huge dramatic thumbs up gesture. Obama who had been stoically, expressionless as he walked the ramp to the platform burst out in an irrepressible grin...That's the response not of a commander-in- chief, or leader of the free world...that's the response of a daddy who loves his little girl. The good thing to me is that I have my highest hopes of my lifetime that the daddy of those two girls also is a commander-in-chief and a leader of the free world that leads with love...not wimpy doormat love, but compassion that sees all of the world as God's creation... a leader of the free world that knows that he is called to lead with light that casts out darkness and exposes injustice and suffering. In his speech I heard a man who will take the high road of integrity and strong compassion that will not be compromised or diluted. He called on each of us to be a part of that mission...Sorta sounds like the words of that first inauguration call I remember from 48 years ago, "Ask not what your country can do for you...".

One of my favorite newly discovered music groups is a band called The Submarines, and their song made famous because of its use in the iPhone commercials is called "You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie" which frankly, is a tad ironic because the message of the song is about curbing materialism and waste, and disdaining hate and apathy. The chorus begins with these words that reminded me so much of the message of hope soaring in today's events.

"Every day I wake up, I choose love, I choose light..."

Let it be.



Friday, January 16, 2009

John Denver ...Poems Prayers and Promises..

A week of beginnings and endings

Life and death, new and old, fresh and stale, and the world keeps on turning. It has been one of those weeks when reminders of that fact are all around. Ah yes, I am listening to vinyl right now...John Denver's "Poems and Prayers and Promises" and that may be part of it...I saw him perform live in 1972 at Baylor University in Waco Hall, and have always been prone to sappy sentimentalism when I listen to John, but occasionally that's the guy I am.

I've been a single parent for the last 14 years. 14 years ago this week I received divorce papers in the mail. I wasn't expecting them. We were in our 14th year of marriage. The girl's mom had moved out a couple of weeks earlier. The previous six months had been spent in counseling, discussions...some of them more civil than others...and agonizing prayer, but as the new year of 1995 rolled in I became a single dad raising 3 girls, 11, 8, and 7 years old. I thought I knew what the challenges of being a single parent were...after all, I had been a youth minister for almost 25 years and had been a parent for over 12, what was there not to know? You can guess that a single guy with 3 young daughters would have his hands full and his eyes opened and that certainly was the case, but I wouldn't trade my life and my relationship with my girls since then for anything.

So a week ago, I get a call from Hannah who is driving from Nashville to Asheville, NC and who gets her first speeding ticket. She's been driving since she was 16 and has never gotten a ticket of any kind. She's lived in inner-city Oakland for a year working with the poor at 18 years old. She has excelled at Belmont University, winning the Outstanding Freshman Service Award early on, and since establishing herself as a leader on campus in community development...she can handle her first speeding ticket.

Earlier this week Calla and I were scheduled to drive all of her stuff back up to Arlington for the new semester of classes in nursing and into her new apartment. I have done that for all three girls throughout their college careers Baylor, Belmont, UNC Greensboro and UTA. So, last weekend she sheepishly approached and asked if it would be OK if Alex, her boyfriend, borrowed his dad's truck and moved her back to Arlington. My first reaction was, "NO, it isn't... that's my job...I'm the dad...I've moved all of your sisters and you up until now and no boyfriend (Alex is a good guy) is going to take that privilege away from me." I sat with it for a while, and saw that he REALLY wanted to do this and she REALLY wanted him to do this, (they have been dating for over a year) and this was not about me it was about them, I relented and said yes.

Last night Ariele, my eldest, sat in a cushioned chair next to her co-author Bob Carlton, in front of a crowd of folks at Book People for a book-signing to support her and Bob's book, "Barack Obama: An American Story". I watched as she responded to questions and then sat and chatted with the many folks who stood in line to have their book personally endorsed. I flashed back to some of the thoughts I had 14 years ago about how these beautiful, talented young ladies would survive the experience of their parents divorcing, their mother starting a new family and moving across the country, having to put up with a well-intentioned, but clueless single dad, who was also attempting to be a minister 50-60 hours a week to other people kids as well as be the primary nurturer, protector and provider for his own. They endured a great deal, but I look back on that ending and beginning 14 years ago and I with great pride believe that those three young women are among the finest women on the planet. I am genuinely proud of each one of them.

So, I'm admitedley a little nostalgic and perhaps a bit maudlin, (as the John Denver listening would suggest) but as we approach another ending and new beginning next Tuesday (with the inauguration of a good man into the highest, amd most unenviable responsibility in the land) I am filled with gratitude, and with hope that I can see miracles happen again, as God and his creation take difficult times and forge new beginnings.