Friday, August 01, 2008

In My Spare Time

I recently got off a mini-kick where I read the biographies of famous comedians. The two most recent reads were Steve Martin's autobiography "Standing Up" and the biography of Chris Farley. Both were great reads. Did you know that Martin dated Christian writer Stormie Omartian for quite a while? Just a little trivia minutiae. I recommend both books. The language occasionally gets a little salty in Farley's biography, but it's hard to put it down. A unique writing concept helps peel away the layers of one of my favorite comedic actors. What a waste of a gifted life!

I'm currently reading three books that are challenging, informative, and thought-provoking. Jim Wallis's The Great Awakening is a call to social revival, a revival that must come from those who share the Christian faith and have a moral conscience. Wallis (founder of Sojourners) points out the historical significance of previous social revivals that helped shape our nation, such as the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement. His call is for the church to actively care quit hoping that politicians will solve culture's ills. Many of the church leaders and lay people that I know are more concerned with enforcing a catalogue of rules (many of which aren't even in the Bible) than they are with loving people. They're also often set on pushing a Republican political agenda than they are with reaching out to real people with needs in their community. A sad commentary on the church. And, trust me, I often find myself in that trap. I'm admittedly on the Republican side of most issues, but I've figured out that they don't many more answers than the Democrats. While I don't agree with everything Wallis proposes, I'm all for a reviving of the church's social conscience.

Clinton in Exile has been an excellent book so far. President Clinton has always intrigued me, even as a teen I remember wondering what kind of guy he was. My perception has been that he's a hedonist to the very core, compromising morality and conviction for pleasure and poll numbers. This book has yet to point to anything that would sway my opinion. I really do think I would like Bill Clinton if I had the chance to meet him, though. He definitely has a winsome personality, portraying a caricature of being one of the boys. This book looks at his life after leaving the White House, exploring his psyche as he came to grips with becoming just another American. Carol Felsenthal does a great job of bringing Bill Clinton the person to the microscope in a non-partisan sort of way.

Church Unique is my favorite read of the three, so far. Will Mancini argues that strategic planning isn't necessarily the method churches should employ when determining their future. He proposes a visioning process that is driven by a church's gifts, a focus on it's community, and one that involves the entire church from the member to the janitor to the ministry volunteer to the senior pastor. The focus is outward instead of internal. Mancini points out that many churches get so caught up in fulfilling their strategic goals that the plan becomes an end in itself rather than a means to the end. A missional leader (and church) identifies the main thing(s) that they're good at and they then refine, enhance, and implement those gifts. Mancini contends that churches need clarity, not complexity; synergy, not accountability (in the sense of fulfilling a proposed set of goals); adaptability, not predictability ("the assumption that the near future will resemble the recent past"). When changes to the plan come they aren't necessarily viewed as a negative because the end result is driven by the church's mission. Missional leadership is fluid and adaptable to the circumstance. It definitely debunks the myth of the cookie-cutter, one style fits all mantra being proposed by large churches such as Saddleback and Willow Creek. Your church is unique, specially crafted and gifted by God for a specific ministry to a specific community. The timeless message of redemption is carried out and implemented by playing to the gifts. An interesting point that Mancini makes is that churches spend more time on shoring up weaknesses than they do in fine-tuning their strengths. Read this one.

I've also been jamming away to some new music lately. Matthew West is currently one of my favorite CCM songwriters. If you want to be challenged while enjoying a fresh musical sound I suggest West's latest release Something to Say. My favorite tracks are "The Motions" and "Stop the World". WOW! Highly recommended.

A little while ago I shared how I've been trying out new artists by buying a CD here and there at the pawn shop (yes, I know it's cheaper to check them out at the library). Well, I found a gem: Natalie Merchant's Tigerlily. Natalie's been around forever, but I don't listen to secular stations much so I haven't heard her music. I was blown away by her voice. This is a great mellow CD. If you like folksy, laid-back grooves you'll dig this CD.

One of my favorite purchases in the last few weeks has been Rodney Atkins project If You're Going Through Hell. I heard "Watching You" on the radio a year or so ago and actually had my eyes tear up while listening to the lyrics. This CD is awesome. For those of you who have written it off already because of the title, let me assure you that it's based on a Winston Churchill quote: "If you're going through hell, keep on going" and an old Irish toast that says "May you be in heaven five minutes before the devil know you're dead". I like every song on this CD. I rarely buy country music, but this is a must-have.

I bought Toby Mac because nobody knows how to jam like the old dcTalk frontman. Welcome to Diverse City is an infectious CD with great tunes, witty lyrics, and the occasional provocative message.

Every song on Selah's Bless the Broken Road is a duet. Some of the artists featured include Nichole Nordeman (what a voice!), Barlowgirl, Jason and Aaron Crabb, Christy Nockels (of Watermark), and Cynthia Clawson. This is an awesome recording! Beautiful songs featuring big voices. I'm hear to tell you that Selah's Todd Smith has one of the best voices in gospel music. He's a vocal animal.

I've enjoyed listening to Legacy Five's latest release God's Been Good. This a solid recording from a solid group who is starting to find their niche since Roger's death. These are great guys and some of my best friends in the biz. While this isn't my favorite recording they've ever put out, it's still worth buying. Frank Seaman sounds better than he's ever sounded on this recording, while the rest of the guys put forth stellar efforts on their featured solos. Good stuff.

So, that's what I've been reading and listening to for the last month. What about you?


I'm now a published writer. Well, kinda. was kind enough to ask me to be a contributing columnist for their online magazine. Today my first column appeared online (just look for my mugshot). Thanks, Rob and Karen, for the invite. You have NO IDEA what you just got yourself into.

One Family's Journey

Well, I survived two weeks of bachelorhood while Lori and the kids trekked back east to visit family and spend a week at Appalachian Youth Camp. I rarely cooked for myself and depended on my skills of appearing as pathetic as possible to weasel dinner invites out of friends. It worked. So, thanks to Marc and Talisha; Royce and Tammy; and Doran and Diane for the delicious meals. Oh, yes, and Melissa Roskam for the outstanding cheesy potatoes (she came over to the Ritcheys, too). As much as I enjoyed the culinary delights of Wendys, Taco Bell, and the ilk I was SO ready for Lori and the kids to come home.

They had a great time hanging out with siblings, parents, and cousins on the visit. They flew into Indianapolis, spent a day in Cincinnati, and then traveled to Pennsylvania to spend a long weekend with Mom and Dad Frederick. They dined like kings, feasting on scrapple, Philly cheesesteaks, east coast pizza,while enjoying cultural favorites like Italian ices. Yeah, all this while I was eating chicken nuggets from McDs. Here are a few pictures from the visit:

Lori, the kids, and Nanny and Pop-Pop.

Lori, Char, and Dave pose with Mom and Dad. Dad's hoping to get this photo shoot over as soon as possible while Dave tries to see how far away he can get from Char while still staying in the picture.

The grand kids and Nanny and Pop-pop Frederick. Back row: David, Alicia, Ankie, and Christy. Just so you know, I told David back in the day that if he made those weird faces that it would stay that way. You can see what happened...

Trey gets swatted by Ank. Ankie is Trey's new hero. They hung out quite a bit.

Kass enjoyed a little 3-wheelin'. She's got her game face on.

Running the break. Reminscent of Nash and Stoudemire (that's for Trey).

The red hat ladies captured by roving paparazzi (read: Char). I enjoyed Lori's retelling of the sales clerk's explanation of what the red hat craze was all about. She told them that it was a fad that was way too old for them. Since, Char was wearing her covering she inferred that she (Char) probably wouldn't be interested since it was a "social club" and that's probably something she wouldn't want to be a part of. "Covering discrimination".

Lori and the kids left on Tuesday for AYC. I'm on the youth camp board, but due to a scheduling conflict couldn't make it this year. I was pretty bummed. This is one of the highlights of my summer. Nothing beats making fun of my cousin Ray Mac all week while trading insults with Tony and Abby. I also missed directing the AYC choir. They are incredible! The best music groups I've worked with have been found in Roxbury, PA every July. Lori spent the week helping Char with the Kidz Adventure portion of the camp. My kids loved hanging out with the Frederick and McCrary cousins all week. From what I hear it was a great week. Jeff Keaton was the evangelist and they had some incredible worship services with many, many teens giving their lives to Christ. Awesome! Every evening they have an afterglow and due to a rainstorm they had to host an X-games-type competition in the tabernacle after one of the services. Kassady told me about it and said, "They rode skateboards and bikes in the church, and Dad, that just isn't right!" Trying to synthesize her church-behavior training with what she just witnessed was a little difficult.

The Hawaiian luau was a great success and quite the hit with my kids. They loved hanging out with the "big" kids and doing the hula, the limbo, and pineapple bowling. Fortunately, the authentic Hawaiian Hut was available for a photo op.

Cheers to everyone!

Trey tubin' down the water slide. Definitely, the highlight of camp!

Kass can do anything her big brother does. Don't believe it? Just ask her.

After AYC, they drove back to Cincinnati, getting in about 11:30 PM. Kassady and Christy decided to stay up and watch a Disney movie and didn't fall asleep until after 1:00 AM. I called Lori after our concert on Friday and was shocked when Kass got on the phone. She's her mother's daughter, that's for sure.

On Saturday, the fam went to see a Reds game at Great American Ballpark. Yes, I was a little jealous. Trey is a huge Reds fan (I've trained him well) and he felt like he was coming home to Mecca. There was a rain delay, so the players didn't come out for batting practice. Which meant that he didn't get their autographs. He did get Gapper, the mascot, to sign his hat, though, so it was all good. Trey called to tell me that his favorite player Ken Griffey, Jr. blasted homerun 607 in his quest to pass Sammy Sosa on the all-time homers list. You have to understand that Trey is a walking sports encyclopedia, and he's been obsessed with Griffey's progress. I tried to explain that there was a good chance that Griffey wouldn't hit one out at his game, but his faith endured. Of course, less than a week later (yesterday to be exact) Griffey got traded to the White Sox. I'm glad Trey was able to be there for one his final games in a Reds uniform.

Trey thought he'd died and gone to heaven. Great American Ballpark! Cincinnati Reds! Ken Griffey, Jr.!

Trey nearly wet himself with excitement when Griffey belted home run number number 607. He was there. Here's the swing...

...and, the butt-slap from his teammate. Trey and I are still Griffey fans even though he was traded to the White Sox less than a week later.

Sunday afternoon, found the Waggoner fam headed to Frankfort, Indiana to meet up with my family. Mom and Dad picked them up in Indianapolis and brought them on in to Mamma and Pappa's house. I hated hearing about all the great food they were eating. Mamma is one of the greatest cooks this world has ever known. Her Sunday dinners are legendary. So, yeah, I was pretty homesick. Bobby, his kids, Alyssa, Alyssa's son Josh, Mom & Dad, Sharilyn, and Mamma and Pappa grilled out on Tuesday night (I had a frozen pizza) and had a great time together.

These women are SO much alike: Mamma and Kassady. They're both independent, opinionated, mouthy, and loyal as can be. And I love 'em both!

The kids and uncle Bob gang up on Sharilyn for a ticklefest.

One task I was always dragged into as a kid was husking corn and then silking it so we could have corn on the cob. I used to hate it! That and breaking beans. Man, if only I could go back in time...

Trey and Kassady got a taste of gardening. They enjoyed it. Of course, when Bobby and I had to do it we were working with several thousand bushels of corn (or so it seemed). It was usually a 3 or 4-day ordeal. But, I'm telling you, nothing tastes as good as the corn out of Mamma and Pappa's garden!

Dylan, Jillian, Josh (Dylan's buddy), Kassady, and Trey. What a bunch of posers!

These are the steps leading up to the attic of Pappa's barn. There have been more kids that have fallen off of those steps across the years. Most of the accidents were caused by shoves from well-meaning cousins or siblings. At least the ones involving me and Bobby. Fortunately, the kids survived. It's about 145 degrees up in that attic, but that was the coolest place to hang out. I'll bet the only things up there to this day are some croquet mallets and wickets. And, maybe a shuffleboard disc or two.

Absence did make the heart grow fonder. I missed my family so much. Finally, Wednesday evening found Lori, Trey, and Kassady home in Idaho where they belong. And, I ate well.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bus Driver

Thanks to one of my loyal readers, Ellen, Liberty's version of Bus Driver is now available. Check out my shaved head. I've gone Bic and I'm not looking back.