Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Graduation!

It was in the Fall of my Senior year of high school, 1987. Our football team was preparing to play our arch rival on Friday night, October 23. Thursday night I joined a group of friends and we paid a visit to our rivals' football stadium where the game would be played. We snuck in and decorated the field in our school colors. After making our escape from enemy territory, I returned home and crawled into my warm bed about 1 A.M.

As I recall, the phone rang around 4 A.M. It was my brother calling from Waco (where he was in law school) to let us know his first child was soon to arrive. I jumped in my car and followed my parents the 90 miles to Waco because I knew they would want to stay and I was planning to return home that night in time for the game.

I must admit I don't even remember who won the game, but I have vivid memories of seeing my oldest niece for the first time. Jordan Elizabeth Bailey was about the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen! It seems like only yesterday.

In fact, yesterday that little jaundice baby graduated Summa Cum Laude (4th in her class of 424) from Birdville High School. She is a Texas Scholar, member of the National Honor Society and has received the Harding University Chancellor's Award and Freshman English Major Scholarship and the Birdville High School PTSA Council Award. She has had quite an illustrious high school theater career including being named best actress and making All-Star cast twice during One Act Play competition this year and being named the Artist of the Year by the BHS Theater. Did I mention she was also voted most likely to succeed and she was a Homecoming Queen nominee?

Yeah? Well I decorated our arch rivals' football stadium in our school colors! So there!

Congratulations Jordan! Your Uncle Stephen is just a little proud of you!

The graduate with her proud cousins and sister. (Top Row: Bailey Brown, Jordan Bailey, Hutton Brown, Caitlin Bailey. Front Row: Rainey Bailey, Connor Brown, Reagan Brown)
Jordan (who was born during my Senior year of high school) with my daughter Emily (who was born during her Senior year of high school).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


My wife Stephanie is a violinist and in the past has been a part of several orchestra's. Through years of training and experience, being a violinist has become part of who she is. She understands her own abilities and weaknesses and she understands her role in the orchestra.

When the piece they are playing is not her favorite, she plays.

When the conductor is old and his baton is shaky, she plays.

When others around her are not prepared, she plays.

When she is playing in a huge symphony hall, she plays.

When she is playing for our family after dinner, she plays.

When she is the most talented player on the stage, she plays.

When she is the least talented player on the stage, she plays.

You see, she's a violinist, she plays the violin. It's what she does. It's who she is.

I think that is why she understands so well what it means to be a worshiper. I've worshiped with her in all sorts of settings with organs, hand bells, bluegrass bands, rock bands and acappella. In Lutheran churches, Baptist churches, Assembly of God churches, church of Christ churches, community churches, backyards, log cabins and living rooms. Through years of training and experience, being a worshiper has become part of who she is. She understands her own abilities and weaknesses and she understands her role in worship.

When the song is not her favorite, she worships.

When the worship leader is old and stodgy or young and screamy, she worships.

When others around her are disruptive, she worships.

When she is in a beautiful cathedral, she worships.

When she is in the woods or on the beach or in an ugly 1960's church of Christ box, she worships.

When the notes are flat and so is her mood, she worships.

When she's not sure what part to sing, she worships.

You see, she's a worshiper, she worships. It's what she does. It's who she is.

Monday, May 15, 2006


My four year old Rainey, is way into make-up right now. WARNING: Sarcasm Ahead Thanks so much to those of you who have encouraged her by giving her make-up kits as gifts.

Fortunately, her little sister Emmy doesn't seem to mind being made over. She also gave her mom a make-over today, but strangely I was not sent a picture of that.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Shared Experience

Okay, here goes. I'm not sure if what I'm about to write down will make any sense at all, but it is rattling around in my brain and the attempt to communicate it, I feel certain, will at least be beneficial to me. Read on if you wish.

I hate competitive arts. I don't want to compare my painting, song, play, book or sculpture to someone else's. The power of art is in the experience of creating it and then sharing it with others, not to be judged, but to simply be experienced.

My oldest niece Jordan is an excellent actor. She has been performing in regional and school productions practically all of her life. Last weekend I traveled to Austin to watch her perform in a one-act play competition. It took a lot of work to get to the state finals in Austin and it is an accomplishment she should be very proud of. However, because it is a competition with winners and losers, I have heard little talk about the rich shared experience of putting a cast together, rehearsing a piece and then including an audience in that experience. On the other hand, I have heard a lot of talk about bad productions, idiotic judges and pressure to win, win, win.

This started me thinking about what I miss most about being in the entertainment business. Oddly enough, I don't really miss performing for drunk cowboys as they spin their rocky mountain clad ladies wildly around the dance floor. What I do miss is rehearsing. I miss the creative process of sitting in a room with other musicians and trying new things. I miss sharing a song I'd written with people who would give me honest feedback; not so I could sell the song and get rich, but simply for the joy of sharing it. I miss the freedom to mess up and try again. What I miss is the shared creative experience.

Now, come to church with me. What happens there? Supposedly a group of people come together to honor God, to worship Him and in the midst of that to encourage, challenge, love, comfort and support each other. A shared experience.

Unfortunately, what often happens is a sort of competitive church, not unlike competitive art. It becomes all about who has the best performance, lights, sound, and who gets the biggest crowds and we miss the shared experience. My point is not that we necessarily need to unplug the microphones, sell the buildings or even change the seating arrangement (although we might need to do all of that). I'm simply saying we need to gather for the shared experience and then let it happen. We need to dive into it, engage with it, regardless of style, format, place or who else shows up to participate.

Worship is art and I can't help but believe the Creator of everything, the great Artist agrees with me about competitive art.

Does that make any sense at all? Oh well, I warned you.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Consumer Church

If you have 5 minutes, I beseech thee to click the link below and watch. It seems the Hills had a dispute over a "pew situation" at their church and are now searching for a new home congregation. It's only funny (and sad) because it's true.

Monday, May 01, 2006


When World War II ended in 1945 my mother was 9 years old. When she heard the news, she went directly out in front of her house on Prairie Avenue on the North side of Fort Worth, Texas and waited for the parade to come by. There was no parade on Prairie Avenue, but there were certainly huge celebrations elsewhere.

I often wonder how the war we're in now will end. Unless your name is Dub-ya, you are surely aware that victory has not been obtained and it's difficult to see how it can be when the objectives are so hazy.

I have trouble imagining an ending that will warrant a parade on Prairie Avenue or anywhere else. Only relieved reunions, grateful tears and rest for the weary. And that will be enough.