Month: January 2012

Ten Things I’m Thankful For Tuesday

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1. Dreamland Bar-B-Que. Do not go to Birmingham (or Huntsville) without stopping for this food.

2. Photographs. The old fashioned kind you can hold in your hand. I have always loved looking at pictures. Can’t explain it.

3. Hiring season. Every spring, we get busy recruiting, interviewing, and hiring new students and professionals to work for our department. It’s always fun to find out which new people you’ll be working with for the next year.

4. Kimbra – for reminding me of Motown. And for being pretty fantastic.


5. Peer mentors. Some of my cherished mentors are guys who happen to be a little younger than I am. It’s unexpected, I guess; still, there’s no denying they influence my life significantly.

6. Sir Philip Sidney. He wrote lines like this:

“So while thy beauty draws the heart to love, as fast thy virtue bends that love to good.”

7. Community. Specifically, my community group. And also my childhood friend, who is closer to me than a brother spiritually.

A decade ago, I heard someone define “intimacy” this way: the freedom to know and be known without the fear of rejection. That’s what community can lead to.

8. Bella Napoli. A restaurant that advertises authentic Italian food. I have yet to dine there; I just saw their television commercial and got the feeling their pizza might be worthy of praise. Must try soon.

9. For a few weeks now, I have been so blessed by the thought of how good it is that faith in Christ is something my mother and I share. We have such a great friendship, and there’s nothing like being able to “walk” and minister with her.

10. Lessons from my current workplace situation. Invaluable is a good word to describe the collection of things I have heard and observed while working with bosses, supervisees, and colleagues. Some of the biggest lessons came from experiences with my bosses – two people who were committed, courageous, and skilled enough to compel me to change.


The Last Words of Ray

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Hello, men.

Last year, one of my pastors struck out on his own to plant a new church in a nearby town. His final message at our church consisted of “8 Commandments” he wanted to leave with us. One of the commandments has been in my thoughts for a few weeks. It went something like this:

Take sin seriously.
Don’t let sin’s roots grow deep and strong for years and then try dealing with them.

That idea resonated with me when I heard it nearly a year ago, but it has begun to echo inside me again. I know what a mistake it would be to let sin’s roots grow deep and strong for years and then try dealing with them. Trying to uproot that kind of sin would be a nightmare.

It all makes sense in light of my own experiences and intuition, and it also reminds me of what married guys tell me. My married dudes say they wish they could go back and deal with sin before marriage so it would never enter their marriage relationship. Very sobering thought.

My prayer for you and me is borrowed (and paraphrased) from a song the high school choir used to sing:

“God, please give readers and me grace to amend our lives, decline from sin, and incline to virtue so we may walk with a perfect heart before you now and evermore.”

Ten Things I’m Thankful For Tuesday

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1. TuneIn Radio. An app that lets me listen to my favorite radio station back home while I’m 200 miles away in Nashville.

2. Good listeners. These people are perfect when you need to process something externally. I have always been an internal processor, but I am learning that the other method also has benefits.

3. Travel. It has a way of making me want to keep exploring the world. More importantly, it renews my enthusiasm for breaking out of the same old routines at home.

4. Philip and Melanie Shepard – one of my favorite married couples. Phil and Mel have been friends of mine since we were kids, so there is a richness to our relationship that makes for great fun whenever we get together. I even like their dogs, which is nothing short of a miracle.

5. Poetry. Actually, I am not a poetry person. Definitely never thought I’d be saying I’m thankful for poems.

Of all the art forms I’m obsessed with, poetry was always one that didn’t speak to me. Then someone shared a few with poems with me at a retreat last weekend, and somehow they managed to resonate when I read them. Go figure.

6. Growing up. Deciding not to behave like a child is a drag when you really just feel like being petty about something. Even so, I’m glad for the developing maturity that is enabling me to act my age more and more.

7. Options. Those of us who keep having to ask ourselves questions like, “Should I stay where I am, or consider changing jobs, or pursue another college degree?” can at least be grateful to have these kinds of options.

8. Almond milk. Can you imagine a world without dairy? No ice cream, cheeseburgers, milk and cookies…

Anyway, I think I read somewhere that we are all lactose intolerant to some degree. I have realized that eating two dairy dishes in one day could spell trouble for me. But with the help of almond milk, I can indulge now and then without protest from my stomach.

9. Anticipation leading up to a fun calendar appointment. Gotta love having something to look forward to.

An example would be dinner plans with Caleb and Emily Weeks next month. It seems I’ll never forget the time I heard the song Caleb composed for Emily before they were married or even dating. Please do not ask whether the song suddenly made my eyes fill up with water.

10. The fact that art affects me so deeply – deeply enough to suddenly make my eyes fill up with water.

Some Things Bypass Mind, Go Straight To Heart

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Someone took me to a free concert at Lipscomb University the other year. Amy Grant and Kix Brooks performed, among others.

Gretchen Wilson sang a ballad written by Rivers Rutherford and sounded like an angel. That was the night I realized Gretchen is the real deal vocally.

The other remarkable thing that happened that night was my introduction to an organization called The Folds of Honor Foundation. The founder gave a short message about families of military members who have been disabled or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he spoke also about the way decisions in life define a person.

I was moved by it all, but more than that, I knew without a second thought that I would become involved with Folds of Honor.

Check this out.

Alive Alone

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Alive Alone

We are all alive alone.
Neither friend nor lover
Child nor mother
Can light our way for very long.
Out of loneliness
Arises the self we never knew.
Out of fear
Comes the wisdom of our ancestors.
Out of impatience
Grows the persistence of old age.
These shadows of our memory
Create new pathways to the soul
So that in being alive alone
We become alive together.

-Nancy Wood

Ten Things I’m Thankful For Tuesday

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Photo from

1. Kay Bob’s. This is a Nashville restaurant that serves me grilled flat bread sandwiches with fries and Barq’s root beer.


3. Chai tea. Discovered this after moving to Nashville. It’s great for the person who loves coffee shops but hates coffee.

4. “Simply Jesus and You”. A book written by Joseph M. Stowell.

5. Man Night. Guys just need to be with the homeboys sometimes.

6. Girlfriends and wives who can handle the fact that guys just need to be with the homeboys sometimes.

7. Praise & worship tunes that transport me beyond ideas of good things or hard things about life on earth. There’s something special about a lyric focused only on heavenly, eternal, “To Him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and power forever.”

8. The world’s greatest sofa. I bought it several years ago when I was living in the mountains of north Georgia. Enormous and extra comfortable.

9. Quick, handy photography tips. Maybe someone should start printing them on the inside of candy wrappers.

10. Good friends to celebrate with. I don’t take for granted the number of people I get most excited for whenever congratulations are in order.

Fancy Dinner In Exchange For Affection?

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The other week, a group of us tripped into a conversation about dating and dinner and paying the bill. Maybe a few men in the world think buying an expensive meal for a woman obligates her to sleep with him. I’m just hoping not even a few women in the world have bought into that.

This week, I saw an internet forum discussion about the same issue. Some of the responses were interesting — see below to read them.

Author’s Question: Does accepting an expensive dinner from a man obligate a woman to sleep with him?

Original Post: “I overheard this conversation while playing poker the other day. Some guy was telling his buddy about this date he had. Seems he spent quite a bit of money on this date and got “nothing in return” (his words, not mine).

He was saying that if a woman accepts an expensive dinner from a man, she is pretty much obligated to put out at the end of the night. If not, he concludes she has broken some kind of unwritten rule.

Now I have no idea of what he looked at as expensive, but I am guessing anything over a few hundred dollars. If a woman accepts such a dinner from a man, is she them obligated to have sex with him?

Have any of you women encountered this kind of man?
Would a man really accept guilt sex from a woman under those circumstances?


“Some men have enough money to wine and dine a different woman each evening. Don’t get too dazzled by his spending or think you owe him something in return. He CHOSE to pay. Another gentle warning: often guys who spend a lot on the first date are the same guys who have superiority complexes and have a wife or girlfriend on the side.”

“There are men out there that think if they buy a gal dinner off of the dollar menu at McDonald’s, the gal is obligated to put out.
Since this rule is ‘unwritten’, then I can only guess it is one this guy and a few others who think like him made up on their own to try and guilt a woman into doing something she does not want. Unfortunately, I have encountered this kind of guy. He did not get what he wanted since he could not back up his argument that I ‘owed him’ with proof of this oh-so-silly rule over a $60.00 dinner.”

“Only if she is a hooker and that is her price. Dump the creep.”

“You are kidding right? Dinner equates with sharing you’re most personal expression of love is way to unbalanced. Anyone that thinks sex is “fair payment” for a meal has a serious problem with self worth.”

“Well… for starters… I work and get paid, so I don’t go out on dates just to get a free dinner or free drinks. I would never go to a super expensive restaurant on a FIRST date. But if I did, I would make sure I have enough money to cover for my “share” of the bill. There are enough moderately-priced restaurants in my area where we can have a delicious meal without having to pay an arm and a leg. When I go out on a date, I always make sure I pay for something. If he gets dinner, I’ll get the drinks or ice cream or something, and if I don’t get to pay for anything that first night and there is a second date, I’ll pay for that. I just don’t like the feeling of “owing” someone, since there are obviously guys out there who think like that.”

“What a load. If I take a lady out for a nice meal, it’s because I want to, not because I expect anything in return but the pleasure of her company. She owes me nothing, and I never let a woman pay on dates unless she absolutely insists on paying her half -and I mean INSISTS, which I have had happen a time or two.”

“I’m either just lucky or have a sixth sense about men but I have never had a man even insinuate that I owed him anything after an expensive date. Maybe you should “raise the bar” when accepting dates.”

“I encountered this more often in my younger days. When I first started to actually go out for dates, Dad always gave me money. At first I couldn’t figure out what I needed extra money for, but he said, “It’s just in case.” I soon found out what that meant. I remember the first time I had to “use” some of the money when a guy basically said, “You won’t go home with me after I spent X amount of dollars on dinner?” I handed him my share and said, “I guess we are even. Please take me home.” As I get out of the car, he says, “Maybe I’ll call you.” I said, “You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath. Now, came the hard part – telling my father how I had needed to use some of the money. Much to my surprise, he told me that was exactly why he always gave me the money.”

“Unfortunately, there are damaged men out there who will accept “guilt sex” or any kind of sex, short of forcible rape or flat out paying a hooker. Smart women simply avoid allowing a man to spend significant money on them until they are fairly certain the man is not in that pathetic category. On a couple of occasions, when I’ve heard men whining about asking a woman out, showing her a good time and getting “nothing in return”, I have offered the suggestion (loudly and bluntly!) that next time he should just hire a hooker in whatever price range he’s happy with.”