Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wow. Just wow.

We've been away from the blog for a while due to bad weather and generally not being clever enough to come up with something fresh. So here is an offering to fill in the gaps. Don't try the eyebrow thing at home... these are highly trained professionals; plus, your eyebrows may stick that way....

Wow. Just wow.

Cadbury Eyebrows from Nils-Petter Lovgren on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Historic Day

This day signifies a remarkable turn of events in our nation's storied history. As the Inauguration ceremony for our 44th president begins, millions will gather in our nation's capital to celebrate. Many more millions will gather around their televisions and will celebrate in their native tongue all around the world. As the most powerful nation on Planet Earth peacefully changes its leader, the world watches. Many nations envy our political system; our economic system, and our freedoms. While this country is far from perfect, and, depending on whose side you are on, is succeeding or failing, today is an unprecedented day in our history.

No matter whose side you are on, you have to be thankful for the system of government that peacefully changes leadership , with careful regard to dignity, integrity, and character. Democrat and Republican and Independent must celebrate today. No matter whether your team won or lost, today we show the world what it looks like for a Republic with a democratic, representative system of government to do what it does best- represent the people.

Will today's inauguration of the first black president change the world as we know it? I doubt it. Wars will rage, people will be hungry, crime will continue to ravage communities and cities. No, the ceremony of his inauguration will not change the world, but his actions, his policy, his leadership as President surely will.

Good or bad, get behind the process. Celebrate your voice in the system.

Let's party!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Plain with No Cheese

One of the drawbacks to serving a church is the unusual meal times that often come from unusual work schedules. Late meetings, hospital or other emergency calls, late rehearsals and video shoots often come with no regard to my biological clock telling me the tank is empty. If you have seen my tank, you know that it looks as if it has never been empty; like this old wineskin is overfilled to the bursting point with new wine, old wine, deep fried with extra gravy. However, that is a tear-jerker for another time.

Back on track....

Often, on my way home following a long day at work, I will order a meal through the drive-through window at a favorite local fast-food joint in our small town. It is a national chain restaurant whose name you would recognize, but for liability reasons, I'll let her remain anonymous. I had great respect for her dad, but Wendy's has gone down hill some since he passed on.

Anyway, when I order a burger combo, I order it without cheese. As odd as it sounds, I am one of the few authentic American-born conservative musicians who don't like cheese on their sandwiches. There; I said it. I don't want cheese on my burger.

At the drive-through window, I always order the same combo, using the same delivery and words each time. I say, "I'd like a Number 1 Combo, PLAIN with NO CHEESE; and I'd like a Diet Dr. Pepper to drink". They enter it into the computer, and the display at the drive through shows it exactly as I ordered it. Success!


I have learned that when the server hands my food through the window, I must check the sandwich before I pull away. Four times out of five, the order will be prepared incorrectly, leading to a bit of stress at the drive-through. Tonight was a repeat of the usual dance of the drive-through.

She handed me the sack with my prized sustenance inside. I thanked her, she smiled and replied, "you're welcome". But instead of driving off, I put the transmission in park while I checked the sandwich in my treasure bag. Sure enough, the sandwich was dripping in cheese.

So, I sat there.

I did not pull over so the next costumer could have their order filled. I waited for the server to notice that I was still there, waving a double-meat burger WITH CHEESE out of my window to try to get her attention. She saw me, but acted like she didn't. I don't know how she could miss me- the grease was running down my arm, and I accidentally slung some ketchup on the window.

When the guy two cars behind me blew his horn, she finally came to the window. Instead of the pleasant smile, I was offered an icy frown; at least it looked that way through the ketchup. Without a word, she took my sandwich from my greasy hand. While I think she knew what the problem was, I felt obligated to tell her that the sandwich was covered in cheese, and I had ordered it without cheese. I was still talking as she closed the window and walked away; the guy two cars behind me continued to blow his horn.

When the nice lady returned to the window with my supper in her hand, she yanked open the window and practically threw it at me. This action activated my mercy gene which caused me to ask, "Is there some kind of secret password I need to use that allows me to order a sandwich without cheese? Is there a certain phrase, or a specific order of my wording that will result in having my order completed successfully? Or maybe you don't sell sandwiches without cheese, and I am asking something that this restaurant is not equipped to do. If so, what exactly do I need to say to avoid this problem in the future?"

She coldly replied that I need to clearly and concisely say that I'd like my sandwich with no American cheese. Which prompted me to ask, "Isn't that what I said ten minutes ago when I originally ordered this meal? What did I do wrong? And how many ways can I say it- NO CHEESE!?"

By this time I noticed that she was holding some kind of butcher knife in her hand, rolling it over and over in her palm. I'm sure I looked surprised, for when I looked up to ask her if she was ok, I could see a weird vein pulsing violently on her forehead, just off center toward her right eye. Which was twitching.

In that singular moment of clarity, waves of hunger and weakness ravaged my body, so I quickly pulled away without benefit of honest answers to my queries.

But I only pulled up so far as to clear the drive window. Yes, I stopped to check my sandwich. It was greasy and cold.

Plain with no cheese.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I'm cooking pork shoulders today for a party I'm having tonight for our worship teams. I really enjoy the science, chemistry, and art of cooking shoulders! It reminds me of Dad, and is part of the legacy he left for the rest of us.

It doesn't take a lot of work to cook shoulders, just a lot of time and patience. I cook them the way Dad did, which is not the way people cook them here in Oklahoma. But that's ok- Dad didn't do a lot of things the way others did them.

I like the process of cleaning the grill, preparing the grate for the meat. I like selecting the shoulder by weight, fat content, and color. I have a special charcoal recipe that usually will give the meat a nice hickory flavor without being too smokey or too hot.

After my Dad died, I bought a special grill just for shoulders. It will hold three picnic shoulders, two large full shoulders, or four picnic roasts. It has a fire pit with adjustable height, which allows me to control the amount of direct heat. It has a pull-out tray for charcoal ash, making cleaning the ashes an easy proposition.

I start the fire 40 minutes before I put the meat on the grill. The coals are orange-white hot, no flame, but lots of heat. I level those coals in the bottom of the grill. I then slip on my dad's leather cooking gloves and hoist the 20lb. shoulder onto the grill. It is comforting to know that my Dad used those very gloves for years, on the same hands that offered help to the needy, that served discipline when my sisters needed it, that pulled me out of the river, and that held his worn Bible when he read scripture in church. The hands that are now physically at rest, but in Heaven, are certainly getting used in praise and worship.

I check the thermometer every 15 minutes or so, never letting the temperature get above 325. Dad checked his about every 45 minutes. He had cooked enough that he had his pattern down pat. Me, I'm still learning....

After 4 hours of hickory smoke and heat, I wrap the shoulders in a double layer of heavy-duty foil. I don't really know why- but because Dad did it, I do it too. I think it helps keep the juices inside the meat better. At least that is what I tell myself.

I have to keep hot coals ready at all times, in case the coals on the grill are drowned out by grease, or just go out from lack of fuel. I keep my feeder coals in a grill that my sweet family bought me for Father's Day several years ago. Dad kept his feeder coals in an old galvanized percelain sink. It was weatherbeaten, rusty in spots from years of abuse, and on the ground. Dad had to lean down to gather a shovelfull of coals and bring them up to waist level for use in the grill. I can't tell you how many times he dropped some hot coals on the ground, catching whatever was laying there on fire. I stomped out many patches of grass over the years!

I'll turn the shoulders with their foil dressings about once an hour for 8 more hours. Now, though, I can maybe nap just a little. The last time we cooked together, we didn't nap at all. We knew it was probably the last time we'd cook together. No, there was no sleep; there would be plenty of time for that later.

After about 13 total hours, I'll check the shoulders by pushing- through the foil- on the bone of the shoulder. When the bone slips around loosely, the shoulder is ready to take up. I'll let them cool for a good while before unwrapping the meat. Time for a nap.

When the meat has cooled, it is time for the big reveal. I carefully unwrap the meat, freeing it from the foil container that has kept juices from excaping the meat. The shoulder, still well over 170 degrees, is alomost too hot to touch. But as the meat falls apart into the pan prepared for it, it is easy to tell if this has been a successful cook. For Dad, it was the best time of the entire experience, followed by the worst time.

It takes quite a bit of time to pull the tender meat from the shoulder. The strips are placed into a glass bowl, salted, and mixed with a little bit of Dad's secret recipe sauce. Yes, I still have some, and will serve it tonight with my friends.

The very best time comes when it is time to eat. For 30 years, I have always compared every bar-b-que sandwich I have ever eaten with the flavor of the bar-b-que that my dad makes- used to make. I will compare the flavor of this meat tonight with his. I can cook for another 30 years, and will always compare the flavor of my bar-b-que to his; my sauce to his; my life to his.

Some people play golf, some cards, some bet on horses. My dad cooked bar-b-que. We called it Bob-a-que. It was the best.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I am looking at a photo of family from Alabama. The photo is of my mom's sister and her beautiful daughters. That photo is called "Family", and it has caused a flood of memories....

When I was a kid, my family didn't take many vacations. We lived in West Tennessee near the cotton fields and river bottoms where my Dad was raised, but my mom grew up in the hills of North Eastern Alabama. So our vacations always (all but two) consisted of loading the station wagon and heading to Memphis, turning east down Highway 70 through Mississippi into Alabama, and on to Sand Mountain, to visit Mom's "people".

The aunt in the photo looks just like my mom, who passed away in 1996. My aunt's house was always one of the fun places to visit on our treks to Alabama, because she had daughters. And she had several daughters who liked to mother me. I was always entertained, coddled, and cared for. I do have one or two embarrassing memories at my aunt's house, but I try not to drag those out too often.

I liked to visit my aunt's house because she always made my mom laugh. They laughed big and loud- and often! My mom was a rather serious person most of the time, but she really enjoyed going home to visit. My dad enjoyed going there as well, continuing to visit long after mom had died- he always thought mom would want him to keep up with "the Alabama families". And now my aunt and my step-mom have become fast friends. Relationships are a beautiful thing!

When I first saw the photo on FaceBook, I thought it was an older photo of my mom and some of her family. As I read the caption and studied the photo, I recognized it to be my aunt and her girls. My aunt looks unbelievably like my mom did, with that silver-white hair and thin-framed glasses. All the women in the family have the high, distinct cheekbones that betray their Cherokee heritage. In the photo, the daughters have beautiful, dark hair that compliments those cheekbones- but since I have been married 22 years, I now know that I, too, can have that same hair color for about $12.50 and an hour or so.

As I look at the faces of the daughters, different memories come to mind; the Christmases, the pictures of their families and kids; Mom making my sisters and me play impromptu piano recitals for them; ginormous feasts at the home where my mom grew up, consuming vast amounts of fried foods and fresh vegetables. Of the five daughters, I can remember having crushes on at least three of them, even though they are all way older than me....

I see my aunt in the photo with her girls, and I also see a family held together with faith and love and hard work. I see smiles on every face; smiles that display the affection awarded only to those relationships found in a loving family. I see my mom, and wish I could make another family photo with her, seated in front of us, wearing a tiara, confirming the matriarch of the family is still here, still in charge. Still proud of her kids, as is my aunt, in the photo.

We haven't been to Sand Mountain in long time. Maybe it's time for me to head to Memphis, turn east down Highway 70 through Mississippi into Alabama, and on to Sand Mountain, to visit Mom's "people".

My mom would want me to keep up with her family.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Go Gators!

Go Gators!

There. I said it.

Tonight, the Florida Gators won the BCS National Championship in college football over the Oklahoma Sooners. They played a defensive battle to a 24-14 score. In actuality, a good part of the game was boring. Turnovers, penalties, just sloppy play. But that isn't my problem.

I grew up in the shadow of SEC central in West Tennessee. It is an obvious fact that SEC football is the strongest, toughest conference in all of college football. I will put the SEC against any conference, and tonight, the SEC champs prevailed.

As a fan of Tennessee football, I naturally hate Florida. It is a well-known, documented fact that most Vol fans hate the Gators. It is a genetic thing, born from the depths of my cotton field and river bottom soul, that I just cannot change.

My team (the Tennessee Vols) did not play in a bowl game because they stink. So, I pulled for the Gators.

My problem is that I now live in Oklahoma.

All my Okie friends and co-workers are loudly and obnoxiously pulling for the Sooners. My competition shooting friends are worse than anyone in raising the merits of the Sooners and trash-talking the Gators.

It is not that I dislike Oklahoma- far from it. I just dislike the Oklahoma Sooner fight song. "Boomer Sooner". What is that? The melody is not musical, and it is just nauseating to hear that collection of harmonies played through time and time again. Here, it plays on TV; cell phone ring tones; door chimes; baby toys; car horns; birthday cards. Anything that might play some music, generally plays that Boomer Sooner mess. And I believe that is reason enough to dislike the Sooners, the team representing the state in which I now live.

But that isn't my problem either.

When it is all boiled down, I dislike the Gators less than the Sooners because they are part of the SEC.

So what is my problem? My problem is that I now have 8 months before I can begin disliking Florida again.

Go Vols!

I hope we don't stink again....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

History in the Making

Today, all living former and current U.S. Presidents will meet with President-Elect Barack Obama. They will sit down together for lunch in the small mess hall adjoining the Oval Office. They will have an opportunity to share the ups and downs of the responsibilities of the leader of the greatest nation on earth.

I hope this is good for Obama, for our nation. I hope he gets it that this is not a democracy, but a republic. I hope he hears the regrets that follow long after you've left office; the lingering doubt over controversial decisions that only he can make. But I also hope he hears the pride in serving, the pleasure taken in a job well done for the nation, not for his party or even his particular beliefs.

I applaud Mr. Obama for asking for this meeting. He would be wise to pay very close attention to those who've served before him. God bless him with wisdom from You, and with peace. We all need it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Changing the World

Man, am I square.

Pasty white, overweight, Bible-belt buckle born and stuck in the NIV. I've survived the worship wars simply to get caught up in the energy of keeping everything running smoothly each week. I generally don't say what's on my mind; it has always been easier for me to listen to others and agree out loud or disagree in silence. I'm simply another cog in the machine.

I'm not hip like a lot of guys whose blogs I read. Not skinny, not bald, no ink. Some of their questions, positions on culture, worship, and what Jesus would do make me uncomfortable. But I will tell you what I admire- men and women who are courageous enough to voice their opinions, their concerns, their beliefs without fear of having to measure up to another human being-type person. Guys and girls willing to sacrifice their careers to plant a church in a bar in the wrong side of town. Men and women who are not ashamed to be bold and creative in the planning of worship or service or budgets.

I am bothered by our roles as a cog in the church machine to excuse or justify our lack of creativity, our lack of cultural confrontation, our failure to risk for Christ.

Please don't misunderstand- I am a huge fan of the local church and am convinced the local church is God's organization for impacting and changing the world. What I am weary from is that most of us in the local churches are satisfied to continue to perpetuate ourselves, to continue to generate what we need so we can get what we want out of church.

What I want to do is to change the world.

I am thinking and praying through Matthew 5:38-48 where Jesus is teaching about loving our enemies. I can't say that I really have any enemies. I'm a quiet, likable guy, non-confrontational, I know my place in the church and community. Maybe that is my problem. I haven't been lovingly outspoken enough in my faith to find challenge in the culture at all. I haven't made friends of non-believers who force me to exercise my faith and my ministry. I don't risk... well... anything, really. The culture in which I work, live, and my family lives is safe.

I have a Pastor friend who is not afraid of challenging the machine, the status quo, the self-perpetuating ideas that have served small churches so well for generations. However, all is not as it seems. Once, in a conversation, he told me that it would really be nice, for a change, to be persecuted for Christ by someone other than the church.

I think it would be a good start if some of us were just active and vocal enough to generate just a conversation in the church. Consider Matthew 5:44 where Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I bet if we decided to invest our money, time, and resources on folks who were not like us, did not like us, and disagreed with our politics and our faith- and we did it in genuine love and compassion- and we did it consistently, and we did it globally, and we did it for the cause of Christ-

Then, maybe, we would begin to change the world. In the process, we might upset the balance of the machine, and pasty white folks like me would get uncomfortable.

Maybe I'd lose a little of my squareness.

I believe God would be pleased.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Serving the Least of These...

This showed up on Facebook. It is the kind of story that followers of Christ should embrace and duplicate in settings all across this country. I don't know the author, but it is an important lesson in serving others.

Gainesville State players douse head coach Mark Williams in celebration.

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.


It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.


Sunday, January 4, 2009


It's early here; 6:30 am. The canyons of downtown Tulsa are dark and windy. I've been here for a little while now, getting my tools and my heart ready for worship.

We have a service that lots of folks attend. We call it the worship service. It is the service in which we worship. Pretty simple, huh?

That leads me to two questions:

1) What happened to the biblical imperative to worship the other seven days, 23 hours each week? Why is this service not a public opportunity to express the private worship we've experienced all week long?


2) I think the hour (two for us) that we spend in the "services" are called service for a reason. We must not neglect our biblical imperative to serve others. While we focus on establishing what we are against, please, lets not forget that we are called, instructed, ordered to be for people. Not just those who share our faith, either. Our love for a Beautiful Saviour is demonstrated in the service we give to others, not just to the time we spend in church.

Now I'm ready for worship... and the service that follows....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Resolutions

Gotta get back to writing regularly. I know how my fan base is devastated by having nothing to read....... uh, yeah. right....

We travelled this holiday season to visit family in Kentucky and Tennessee. It was a journey through six states, but it was a wonderful time. It is a good thing that I have unusually good mechanic skills....

As we were prepared to leave the garage on Monday, December 22, the car wouldn't start. The battery, my wife said. No, I said, drawing on my vast knowledge of automotive detail, function, and diagnostic skills. It is the alternator. We'll jump it off, take 'er to Auto Zone, test it, and I'll prove that I'm right.

So, we finally got the car started; drove to Auto Zone and put it on the tester. Of course, I was right- the battery was nearly completely dead. So, after spending $105 which included a battery and some other odds and ends, we headed for Kentucky.

The rest of the trip was uneventful.

However; I must tell you of Jane's parents- they are the best! Jane's mom Frances is so careful to take care of all our needs- she works in the kitchen to make sure our favorite dishes are served (really that our favorite foods are served- I could not care less what dishes they are served in). She makes sure we are warm and comfortable when we sleep, and would do just about anything we ask. She is gettin on in years, but still lets us know how much she loves and misses us. Well, really she loves and misses Jane and the kids; but she's nice to me....

And Jane's father George is a beautiful man. He served during the great War, and is as patriotic and tender a person as I have ever known. George has many health issues and problems related to a motorcyle accident when he was in his 60s (go, Grandpa!) He gets around quite well with a walker and is a music lover. He also loves his children and grandkids, and after 22 years of my being married to his youngest daughter, he has developed a tolerance for me that looks alot like friendship.

Really, we are so blessed! Jane's parents are so loving and kind. And the more people I meet, the more I cherish Godly parents. We are blessed- and indeed, life is good.

I was blessed to spend some time with my sisters and their husbands as well. We had our family Christmas at my OLDER sister's home (dang these computer malfunctions) and we had a wonderful time! I cannot remember laughing that much! I long for that. We spent the next day together at our Ponderosa, 65 acres of timber and food plots with a cabin and an outhouse. We rode 4-wheelers, shot multiple caliber firearms, and reminisced about Pops, our Dad who died from that evil disease cancer on Easter Sunday of this year.

The next day, we worshipped with my younger sister and her hubby at their church, then lunch with my beautiful stepmom! God has been good to all of us- better than we deserve.

It is easy to lose sight of what is really meaningful in times of frenzied busyness and frenetic pace. In 26 years of serving churches, I have never taken more than a week of vacation at a time. However, this season, I took 2 weeks off from church. And they had worship without me; everything carried on as planned. Those two weeks were such a blessing to me- to get to visit family I haven't seen in months (some in over a year); to have the opportunity to slow down, to live a litte, to laugh a lot, and to be reunited with people and places and things that really matter.

I'd encourage you to do the same....

After all, Life is Good....