sailboats and gold teeth.

In an effort to make a little money between "real jobs" I have been subbing at various schools. I have my name in at two Christian schools, both of which are attended mostly by white, suburban, upper/middle class kids and an inner city school specifically for very poor inner-city kids. As one would imagine there are many distinct differences between these two environments. A 5 year old at one school has only size in common with a 5 year old at the other school and it can make for some very interesting observations. Here are two stories that fully illustrate what I am talking about.
The following is a conversation with a third grader at the upper-class, private school and would NEVER happen at the lower-class, inner-city school:
Me to a group of students- "So what is something that you enjoy doing during the summer?"

Student to me- "Well, a lot of times on my family's sailboat........." Yes that sentence says SAILBOAT. Her family owns a sailboat.

The following is a conversation I had with a 3 year old at the inner-city school and would NEVER happen at the upper-class private school:
The kids were drawing smiley faces on paper plates...
Me to a student- "Ty'Rick, where are the eyes on your smiley face?" (he points)
"Where is the mouth?" (he points)
"Ty'Rick, what is that?" (me pointing to a yellow line)
Ty'Rick to me- "Dats my gold toof!" His smiley face had a gold tooth.
It is the little moments and contrasts like these that make me realize how much I enjoy working with inner-city kids! They never cease to surprise you in the most hilarious ways.


magic capri pants.

I went to Austin last weekend for a wedding. It was an AMAZING weekend for so many reasons. The Hill Country is so beautiful. I could live in Austin for a second....such a neat city! But this is not the point of this post. The point of this post is the picture to the left. There is this neat town just south of Austin called Gruene, TX (pronounced green). It is a small little community nestled on the Guadalupe with some famous restaurants, music menus and little local country stores and shops. There is a music hall there where many famous country musicians, including George Strait, got their start.
One of those little country stores was selling whats in the picture-Magic Capri Pants and Magic tank tops. They are tiny and compacted in plastic wrap until you emerge them in water and before your eyes they expand into life-size, wearable, articles of clothing. The only thing something like this leaves me saying is, "Why?" I mean can you imagine being in that product staff meeting? "Alright guys, we need a really good idea, something that is sure to sell!" And some guy says, "I have just the thing. Magic Capri pants!" What will people come up with next?


choice and other universes.

I have had a lot of time on my hands lately, being in between jobs and such. So how does an intelligent person capitalize on all of that free time? You adopt a new TV show to watch. I have recently begun watching the show Fringe. Now Fringe is a somewhat Sci-fi-ish show about something called Fringe science and how this science has gotten into the wrong hands and a special division of the FBI has been created to stop these crazy events from occurring-riveting huh? There is an episode where they are discussing the existence of alternative universes and how people from other universes have come over to this one. (bare with me) These universes exist because of personal choice. What they say is that life is not linear as we suppose, but that every time we stand at a crossroads and make a choice we create a break off of that line, a sort of split, that creates two paths and a different version of you is now on that other path. For instance, in one episode the other universe contains the Twin Towers still standing because those people made a different choice. Essentially, no path ever dies based on our personal decisions.

Now, of course this is science fiction and isn't reality. We know that there is only what we do, not what we could have done. But it occurred to me the other day that maybe this idea is not entirely flawed. There is a song off of Hillsong's newest album called Arms Open Wide. A short phrase in that song pierces my heart every time I hear it. It says:

Take my hands and make them clean
Keep my heart in purity
That I may walk in all You have for me

It gets me because it reminds me that the Lord, in His infinite wisdom and mercy has gone before me and marked out a path for my life. He has prepared, in advance, things that He wants me to do and all of these things lead me to the person He desires me to be- the best version of myself. But He has given me choice. He has set before all of us life and death and urged us to choose life. In other words, there are 2 universes; the Kingdom of God and the world and we can choose which one we want to live for and in. One leads to life-the other death. One is a better choice than the other. We will still be us in both, but very different versions of ourselves. This song verse hits my heart because I realize the gravity of this whole thing and it makes me want to fall face down and beg God not to let me miss it. The thing about paths is that we only get to choose and live out one. Even in the show the characters are completely unaware of their "other self" in the other universe. They only get to live out their choices. I desperately want to be able to look back on my life and see that I chose the Kingdom instead of the world, the Lord instead of my own sinful desires, and that I missed none of what He had for me.


kindergartners (and I) are evil

I have been substituting recently for a school called Yellowstone Academy in Houston's historically poor, gang and drug riddled area, the Third Ward. On Wednesday I subbed for my roommate's class- 5 year olds. She was sick so they called me in. I had been to volunteer and I had heard her horror stories, but I could have never imagined what a full day would be like. I had no idea people who had only lived for 5 years could be so terrible-TERRIBLE. Anyone who thinks we (humanity) are not born broken and messed up has never spent much time around children. There is no way all of that badness is learned in 5 years-its just not possible.
It was a crazy day. There are at least 3 kids in that class who are CONSTANT nightmares. They have to be reprimanded hundreds of times a day. We had pouting, thumb sucking, stomping around, lying face down in the middle of the room while kicking and screaming, beating on the classroom door and just flat out refusal to listen. One kid in particular can be told what to do or not do every 5 seconds and the next moment she is doing the same thing. She even sees kids doing the wrong thing and copies them as if she enjoys being in trouble. I found myself thinking all day long, "Why don't you just do what you are told!" As an older and wiser, higher thinking, rational adult, I can look at their world and say, "I know what is best for you. The successful world does not run on chaos, but order. Learning to behave and obey now is what is best for you in the long run. Bad choices will lead to destruction in your life. Don't you see that?" But of course they don't even know how to read, so how would they understand long-term consequences and rational explanations. It is easy for me to see because I am no longer there-I am beyond that so to speak. And then it hits me (as it usually does when I am in a place where I understand something that I feel others should clearly understand), this is what it is like to be God-or at least a sliver of what it is like. This is what He deals with (to the billionth degree) every single day, since shortly after the beginning of Creation. He is above us, infinitely wiser and more intelligent than us. He knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows the potential that can be found in our lives. He has shown us what He requires and given us instructions on how to live the best life possible. He has even told us how it ends if we do not walk in His ways- Sin leads to death and destruction, Satan has come to steal, kill and destroy, etc. And what do we do? We are like ignorant kindergartners who have emotional meltdowns in the middle of the floor. And to top it off, when these kindergartners refuse to follow the rules they know they are suppose to follow and therefore get in trouble for it, their response is anger and outbursts at the teacher, instead of remorse for their mess up. So often when we stray from God's path and try to get things our own way (SIN) we stomp our feet and point our frustration towards God when it goes horribly wrong, because it always does, eventually. We get angry at God instead of humbly repenting, admitting that He was right all along and He knew what He was talking about.
And this truth makes me angry-because when I want to say to anyone, "why can't you just see what I see and understand and act differently" I am confronted with my own ignorance-that there is someone wiser than I who could say the same to me. But God has always known that and so instead of making us conform to standards He knows we cannot meet, He sent Jesus, to pay the penalty we could not pay and to give us the Holy Spirit to empower us to live life in a way that we could not live in our own power. In Christ we are no longer in kindergarten; we are in the Kingdom of God.


humanity or hushpuppies

On Thursday I took a little road trip with one of the Senior girls in our student ministry. She had an overnight college preview event at Ouachita Baptist University near Hot Springs, AK. We drove the 7 hours up and I dropped her off and checked-in to my hotel. I was going to have the next 15 hours or so to hang out in the Ozark area. I found this little family owned seafood place around 8:00 p.m. and went in to eat. This middle-aged couple came in about the time I did and sat down. With your meal you got hushpuppies and all these other fixings. I listened as a waitress told the couple they were making more hushpuppies and they would be out really soon (they were close to closing time so I think they were cleaning up). About 10 minutes later the waitress brought the couple their food and the woman, without looking up and with a slight scowl on her face said, "Are the hushpuppies going to be ready anytime soon?" I could hear the agitation in her voice and I knew this could potentially get ugly. I watched a little more closely because events like this make me sad to be a part of the human race. I noticed the lady seemed to have permanent down-turned lines around her mouth as if she had a permanent frown on even when her mouth was closed-as if she had spent so much of her life angry the lines were etched into her face. And I wondered what it must look like on the inside if her anger was so evident on the outside. About 10 minutes later the young waitress brought out a huge basket of hushpuppies to their table, sat them down and apologized for the delay. The woman, without looking up from her plate and in a tone communicating her extreme dissatisfaction, snapped, "We are done with our food now. We're not going to eat those." She continued to scowl and the waitress apologized again. Moments later they got up and left, leaving the hushpuppies untouched.
I found myself embarrased and saddened. I hate rudeness. It is so unnecessarily. Is anything worth treating someone as if they are not human? Are hushpuppies really worth treating your waitress as if she is the lowest of all life? When we do this it is as if we are saying to someone, "You exist for nothing more than to serve me and serve me to perfection and if you don't fulfill that obligation I will treat you like the dirt under my shoe." It is one of the must ugly things. It is that kind of hate (in the very beginning stages) that leads to great atrocities. The thing that scares me the most about moments like these, is that I see this in myself. I would never treat a waitress like that, but I am not immune to using people and thinking that they exist for me. I see ugliness in me and I beg Jesus to dig it out. People (every person) exists for Him, not me-to bring Him glory not meet my needs. This is why our interior life is so important. What is on the inside cannot help but come out. If we do not have love in our heart for our neighbor it will be evident and Jesus says that if you don't love your neighbor you don't love Him. My prayer is that God would give me the heart of a servant-that the Body of Christ would be the opposite of this lady in the restaurant and that we would make ourselves a slave to our neighbor for the sake of Christ, rather than see others as objects at our service.


a beautiful life.

I was watching TV this afternoon and a commercial came on advertising a medical facility that does "body surgery," otherwise known as plastic surgery. Their procedure seek to alter things about yourself that you do not like. Their slogan is that their procedures will "lead to a more beautiful life." They basically promise you that the a beautiful life can be attained if you can attain outward beauty-if you can alter the things about the outside of yourself that you do not like. This struck me because I just finished reading Donald Miller's new book and he addesses this very issue- how advertising is just a manipulation of story. First, they make you see that you are not content or that your life is not complete. Second, they show you how their product is the solution to your empty, incomplete life and that if you buy it will fulfill your dreams. We fall for this all of the time. If we were to just stop and analyze this idea for only a moment we would realize how ridiculous this is. Can plastic surgery really lead to a "beautiful life." Will outward attractiveness translate into a lifelong journey that is full of beauty and fulfillment? I know a lot of very unhappy attractive people. I know a lot of attractive people that live ugly, miserable and empty lives. And what is even more interesting is that some of the most outwardly beautiful people in the world are not satisfied with their outward attractiveness. Michael Jackson had countless surgeries to make him more beautiful on the outside and though many would argue he made "beautiful" music, I think few would advocate he lived a beautiful life.

Wanting a beautiful life is a wonderful thing. A plastic surgery facility (or any company for that matter) hijacking this human desire and manipulating your feelings so that we will buy into something false and they will get rich is the ugly thing. We want it to be simple and it is not. We want someone to say, "here is a remote, press that button and your life will be what you have always dreamed it would be." It is just not that simple. The beauty of life is that it is a journey. It is not the destination, but everything in between that is life. I have a feeling a beautiful life is much more dependent on the quality of your inward life than on the quality of your outward appearance. I have a feeling that most of us miss the most beautiful moments in our lives because we are too busy looking to a destination or for a quick fix. No product will EVER equal quality of life. A beautiful life is something that can't be bought-it must be lived. Read Donald Miller's new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years if you get a chance. It will really make you think and hopefully change the way you (I) live life.


the lady with the umbrella hat.

On Saturday night I went with my friend Melanie to the Greek festival in Houston. I genuinely enjoy city events like these for many reasons: good food, cultural, something different to do for fun, etc. But my favorite reason for attending events like these is the people watching. It always brings to mind that phrase, "It takes all kinds." I have yet to figure out exactly what "it" is that takes all kinds, but that is beside the point.

You can see some of the most fascinating things at events like this. I enjoy playing this little game where I will pick out the most bizarre or strange thing I see. At this particular event the lady pictured below was the winner. It was raining and instead of carrying an umbrella like most people she was wearing hers on her head. The fact that she was smoking and had a hilarious toothless grin also helped her take the title.


in honor of October

Many people ring in the October season by decorating their yard with goblins and ghouls, but since I do not own a yard I made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies instead-because the only thing better than a front yard full of spider webs and tombstones is a belly full of yummy cookies. For those of you who do not own a yard, or simply enjoy a good homemade cookie, I have pasted the recipe below.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


  1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
  2. Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.
  3. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

once I was a pirate...

There are so many moments in our past that we would just rather forget or deny- the big mistakes we made, the embarrassing story your family member tells yearly at gatherings or the photo that makes you think, "What in the heck was I thinking."

The other day I was on the facebook page of one of my best friends from childhood. I noticed a picture her cousin had posted entitled "old pictures." It was a picture from Halloween when she was a kid and when I looked closer I noticed that I was also in the photo. My friend and I were pirates for Halloween-not princesses or something cute like bunnies-PIRATES.

My initial instinct was to hide this photo from the world and make sure nobody ever knows that I thought being a pirate for Halloween was a good idea. This photo proves several things though. First, it shows that our brains are not fully formed until much later in life. Second, it proves that even the strangest kids can turn out okay. We need a sense of humor about ourselves. I don't want to be embarrassed about a photo taken when I was a kid. I want to laugh about it and embrace it. I do wonder though if my poor mom laughed about it and embraced it. She probably wanted a cute little bunny or a princess and instead she got a one-eyed swashbuckler.