Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ouiser's Closet

Kaarin, our costumer for Steel Magnolias, just raided my closet for possible costume pieces. Presumably, she found some costuming pieces for Ouiser Boudreaux. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I'm fairly certain I don't want to think about it. What I do think is that it's time for me to do some shopping.

Come see the show!

Friday, August 29, 2008

God at the Billboards

About once a year, we do two series at NCC, God at the Billboards and God at the Box Office, which explore spiritual themes in popular music and movies, respectively. They are great series to invite people to, and they give us an opportunity to speak to some of the issues and questions that culture is exploring and juxtapose them against the Bible. The vast majority of people in our generation get their theology from movies and music, so we've decided to step into that Areopagus and contend for the Gospel.

Sometimes folks assume these are "watered-down" series or that we are "preaching from movies and the radio." On the contrary, they are the most hard-hitting series we do because they touch on some of the most raw and emotional places of the human heart.

I was doing a little reading on blogs and message boards earlier today on Thom Yorke and his song Videotape, which we will be including in this year's God at the Billboards. One fan wrote this:

It's like a love song, twinged with death. Very Thom Yorke. Very beautiful. If Thom Yorke started a religion, I would have to join it.

And that's exactly why we do God at the Billboards.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Steel Magnolias

Last year, I posted a ton about Godspell. It was our first full-length production at Ebenezers, I was working behind the scenes, and I was so proud of our team that I couldn't help but gush. Okay, and I was also partly in charge of the marketing so I blabbed about it a lot.

This year, I've not said much about our show because, well, I'm in it so it just feels weird.

We are doing Steel Magnolias, and I'm playing the grumpy but lovable wealthy curmudgeon Ouiser Boudreaux.

Here are the details:

Where: Ebenezers Coffeehouse
When: September 4-14, 2008

Three generations of women discover the meaning of courage and strength in this classic, timeless play. Steel Magnolias is the emotional story of a young woman battling diabetes, a mother who sacrifices everything for her, and how both women find hope in their community of friends, even in the midst of heartbreak.

Based on a true story by Robert Harling, Steel Magnolias premiered and received critical acclaim Off-Broadway, and then went on to earn an Oscar nomination as one of the most poignant films of our time. This heartrending tale holds layer after layer of humor, wisdom, loss, grief, and the power of enduring friendship. As each unfolds, you’ll cry, then laugh when you least expect it.

Tickets are only $10 and they’re already selling quickly! Reserve your seats now!

September 4 - 8:00 pm
September 5 - 8:30 pm
September 7 - 3:00 pm
September 11 - 8:00 pm
September 12 - 8:00 pm
September 13 - 8:30 pm
September 14 - 1:00 pm

Bekah Kitterman as M’Lynn Eatenton
Jen Barrie as Annelle Dupuy
Amanda Giobbi as Clairee Belcher
Lindsey Vogt as Truvy Jones
Lisa Overman as Shelby Eatenton
Heather Zempel as Ouiser Boudreaux

Scotland- Day...What Day is It?

I ran out of internet access during my last couple days in Scotland, so I wasn't able to keep up the blog posts. And I'm still a bit jet-lagged, so I haven't had a chance to post any new stuff.

Here are some random pictures from the last few days of the trip.

Forecourt of Holyrood Palace.

Holyrood Palace Abbey.

Urquhart Castle.

Entrance to Urquhart Castle.

Loch Ness (no monster)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Scotland- Day 4

We decided to hop on a tour bus outside the city yesterday that took us to Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, Aberfoyle, Stirling Castle, and everything in between.

Here are some of the views from the past couple of days:

The William Wallace Memorial from Stirling Castle.

Hamish the Cow.

Robert the Bruce standing guard at Stirling Castle.

Stirling Castle.

On top of Stirling Castle.

Edinburgh Castle.

Juliet catches her lion at Edinburgh Castle.

Robert the Bruce watching out from Edinburgh Castle.

Walking the streets of Edinburgh.

Sailing on Loch Lomond.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Scotland- Day 3

This blog post will be boring and lame because it's like 12:30am here and I can't remember when I slept last.

Finished up the Unplugged Europe Conference today. Had a blast sharing about NCC's small group strategy and learning from what other folks are doing. It sounds like these churches are experimenting with similar forms of small group expressions. I'm also very excited about taking a team to Andrew McCourt's church in Northern Ireland in February; it's going to be an awesome trip!

This afternoon, Juliet, Dave, Ryan, and I took off for a little sightseeing. We hit Edinburgh Castle and got a tour from a jolly young Scotsman. Then, we took a plunge into the Whiskey Heritage Experience. Um, that was dumb. Dave Schmidgall told us the whiskey tour was fantastic; evidently, there's more than one along the Royal Mile.

Tonight, Ryan and I hit Songs for a New World at the Fringe. It was really good. Better than Assassins. The cast was kinda young, so I'll give them some slack on some of the vocal weaknesses. And the band was fantastic. So was a win.

I'm too tired to download and upload pictures, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow. I know you are all on pins and needles.

Did I mention I'm really tired?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Scotland- Day 2

Had a great time hanging out at the Unplugged Conference today. Just a few nuggets:

Tony Foley, Eikon Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • "Truth is not a precept; truth is a person."
  • "Does the Bible give you a relationship with Jesus or does Jesus give you a relationship with the Bible?"
  • "Whether you are harvesting in a wheat field or a quarry, Jesus is with you."

Andrew McCourt, Cornerstone City Church, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
  • "You can only reproduce who you are."
  • "Our highest call is not the work that we do but the worship that we give."
  • "Being relevant does not just mean being recent."

After the conference, Joel, Juliet, Ryan and I headed up The Crags with Kate Schimdgall. Fantastic view of Edinburgh, but I should have stopped at the hotel to change into my hiking boots. After enjoying the view from the top, I literally did the butt-scooting boogie down the hill. Kate got some sweet video that I'll have to post later.

Speaking of Dave and Kate Schmidgall, their apartment on the Royal Mile is amazing. Here are some shots from their living rooms windows.

The Fringe Festival is in full swing, and Ryan and I were thrilled to find a theatre group was performing Assassins. Had we known that Mark, Juliet, Joel, and Dave C would want to go with us, we probably wouldn't have acted so thrilled. Now, they want to shoot us. I was actually fairly happy with it, given it was a Fringe performance by a bunch of very young European actors trying to channel frustrated Americans disenchanted by the American Dream.

Tomorrow- less conference, more conversation, and more Fringe.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Scotland- Day 1

So it's actually like Day 0.5. Or to be honest, I'm having trouble figuring out what day it is exactly. Juliet Main, Dave Clark, Ryan and I left DC yesterday at 6pm and landed in Edinburgh at 10am this morning. Our official reason for being here is the Unplugged Europe Conference, but we are also planning to do some sightseeing when that's over.

Today, Ryan and I played tour guide to some pastors who probably knew the city better than we did. We met folks at the train station and walked them to their hotels. We soaked in some of the Fringe Festival street performances. And we attended the welcome session of Unplugged Europe.

Had a blast hanging out with Dave and Kate Schmidgall and Michael McNamee and enjoyed getting to know some great new friends.

Looking forward to the conference tomorrow...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Am a Pharisee

It just occurred to me that I am a modern-day Pharisee...

I'm on deck for this weekend at our services, and I'm kicking off the fall small group semester. Whenever we launch a new semester of groups, we like to focus on the topics of friendships, community, spiritual growth, etc. to encourage people to find a place to plug in.

This semester, I'm taking a unique angle. I'm encouraging people to not find a group for themselves. That's right. Don't find a group for yourself. Rather, look for a group that would appeal to a friend who is far from God and invite them to come with you. I'll be speaking primarily out of Matthew 9 and challenge NCCers with the question, "Who are you bringing to the table?" I'm challenging us to be a friend, to invite friends into environments where they can encounter Christ, to invite friends into an environment where they can question Christ, and to become spiritual tour guides.

As I review my notes, I'm feeling super convicted. Because I'm not really sure who I would invite to a group...much less what group I'd invite them to. When you are in full-time ministry, it's easy to get so busy "ministering" that you stop caring about the people that God cares about. For me, it's a priority to have dinner with my small group leaders. For Jesus, it was a priority to have dinner with "notorious sinners." That means I look more like a Pharisee than Jesus.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stressing vs. Listening

Somehow, I have trained myself to believe that it's easier to stress over my ministry responsibilities than to simply listen to God and obey him. Why and how have I done this to myself? What a blatant display of pride and sinfulness. Whether it's gearing up for another semester of small groups, navigating tricky leadership decisions, or preparing for an upcoming sermon...all I need to do is listen and obey. Why is that so hard? Am I scared of what I might hear? Or am I just consumed with the crazy idea that I am somehow in charge of keeping the planets in orbit?

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who does this, though, since there is encouragement in both the Old Testament and the New Testament to let God take care of it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Leadership Retreat 2009

My favorite event all year is the NCC Annual Leadership Retreat. And I've started brainstorming for 2009. The inspiration always hits sometime in August. I don't plan it; it just strikes. Usually when I need to be doing other stuff, like sermon prep.

So here I am, August 13, dreaming about January 30. The Leadership Retreat 2009 Idea Sheet was created yesterday, and we've already got some stuff up our sleeves. I know we say it every year, but I'm pretty certain the next one will be the best ever.

One Idea

This summer, I was privileged to be a part of a group of women leaders who wanted to carve out some time to grow in their leadership and be encouraged and challenged by one another. For our last day of group, I asked everyone to come share their one compelling leadership idea. If they had 5 minutes to share a leadership idea with a group of leaders, what would it be? If they could pass only one nugget of wisdom about leadership, what would it be? It was an amazing experience.

Here is what some of these amazing women shared:

Allison: Don't forget to take care of yourself. There is a difference between being willing to do anything for anybody and actually doing everything for everybody.

Melani: Leadership is connected teamwork, which involved trust, equality, attitude, mutual respect, work ethic, originality, role and responsibility, and knowledge.

Sarah S: Keep growing. Make sure you are still learning. Know your strengths and manage around weaknesses.

Sarah E: Leadership is love. Everything we do in leadership is an expression of love. For example- delegation is an act that shows trust and combats pride. Focus on becoming a more loving person and you will become a good leader.

Angelyn: Know how to take the leadership seat. Assume the position. (HZ Note: John Maxwell has some great teaching on this topic in 360-Degree Leader)

Jana: Encourage the people you lead. And make sure encouragement is coming from you and to you.

Christina: Leadership is really about managing interpersonal relationships. You can't please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Know when you will confront and when you will compromise.

Kristen: Be cognizant of where you are looking when you are leading. If you look around, you trap yourself in the comparison game. If you look down, you trap yourself in the fear of failure. The only way to be effective is to look to God.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Group Life Trailer

I'm so excited about the upcoming Willow Creek Group Life Conference. I went last year, and it was such a great time of connecting, learning, and reorienting my vision.

They've got two new trailers up. Check them out!

Watch the Conference Trailer (1:00)

Watch the Conference SuperTrailer (2:30)

Begin to Live

I'm fairly certain that fall has not descended upon us here in DC, but the past two days have surely felt like it. It's been great to get outside and feel the cool breeze. I love the fall season. For most people, January marks the start of a new year, but I always associate the new year feeling with September. I’m not sure why that is; perhaps it stems from the decades I spent in the academic setting. As the temperature drops and the calendar turns, I’m whisked back to the excitement that fall brought in the shopping excursion for new school clothes and school supplies. I look forward to a glorious new season in Death Valley where the LSU Tigers will pummel the Roll Tide of Alabama. My calendar fills with hikes along colorful trails and days at the pumpkin patch. Fall is a time of new beginnings for me.

New beginnings is a theme we see throughout the pages of Scripture. God promises to give us a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19) and he has created a new covenant (Hebrews 10:16). He makes us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), He gives us new commandments (John 13:34), and His mercies begin new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). One day, He will make a new heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:13), and in the meantime, He has left his church to spread his Good News (Mark 16:15).

As I enter the fall semester, I'm challenged to make some new beginnings. Proverbs 9:6 says, “Leave your simple ways behind and begin to live.” What a great commandment; I need to obey it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Small Group Exchange

I love free resources, and I bet you do, too. So I wanted to make you aware of a new website from the good folks at the Rightnow Campaign. It's called The Small Group Exchange, and it's packed full of helpful articles and resources for leaders of group life movements.

I'm also a contributor to the site. :)

Laughable Vision

I read something on Steven Furtick's blog this morning that really challenged me:

"I’ve heard it said that if people have stopped laughing at your vision, you’ve stopped leading."

That's good. What visions do I have that people are laughing about? Probably not enough.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I Want to Meet DC-Area Discipleship Leaders

I'm getting really excited about the upcoming Willow Creek GroupLife Conference. Yes, I'm getting a little time to spout my ideas about discipleship. Toot, toot. But the reason I'm writing today is that I'm excited about the Pre-Conference Coffee meeting we are hosting for discipleship pastors and group life leaders in the DC metro area.

If you live around these parts and will be attending the conference in Chicago, we'd love to meet you so we can share ideas and learn from one another. The last I checked, there were 5 seats left. Sign up here.

If you aren't heading to Chicago for the conference, but you'd be interested in being part of a DC-area network of discipleship pastors and group life leaders, shoot me an email.

Door or Distraction?

In my women in leadership group this summer, we talked a good bit about the difference between doors and distractions. When opportunities come your way, how do you discern if it's a Godly priority or a distraction from where God wants you to be focused? Not every opportunity, no matter how good it is, should be embraced. Saying "yes" to one thing always means saying "no" to something else.

As I head into the fall semester of groups, I'm doing some serious analysis of what I've said yes to, the consequences of that, and what things I should be saying yes to that I've neglected. I want to look at and pray every opportunity through the filter of Scripture, my family, and my gifts.

And if you've got any good advice on discerning between doors and distractions, I'm sure my fellow women in leadership would be grateful to hear it.

Things I'm Excited About

There are a few things coming up in the next few months that I'm excited about. Why I think you might be interested...I don't know. But for whatever its worth...
  • Visiting with Josh and Beth Karrer this weekend and preaching at Crossings Church.
  • Unplugged Europe in Scotland.
  • Preaching on Small Group Evangelism at NCC next weekend.
  • Kicking off our new semester of Alpha- Who are you bringing to the table?
  • Steel Magnolias opening night on September 4.
  • Willow Creek Group Life Conference.
  • Zone Leader/Team Leader retreat in November.
  • Getting a few more weeknights back. :)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Baptism by the Bay Video

I was out of town when they showed the video of our latest Baptism by the Bay at church. Wow. Jeremy Sexton is the man!

Check it out here.

Preachin' in Richmond

I'm so excited. This weekend, I'm heading down to the Richmond area to preach at Crossings Church. Pastor Josh and Beth Karrer served with us at NCC for a number of years, and then we kicked them out to go plant a new church. Okay, so we didn't exactly kick them out. In fact, we miss them a good bit. But we are super excited about their church, and I can't wait to get down there, meet their people, and hang out at the church. And most excited about seeing Josh, Beth, and Aiden.

If you are in the Richmond area, come check out the service. It starts at 10am. I'll be speaking on Community: The Final Apologetic.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Dream Desert

A few years ago, I prayed a prayer that I was reminded of recently. Our staff was praying about the future of NCC, and I prayed that God would "make us a dream factory." I desired that we would dream the dreams of God's heart for our city and the people he was bringing to us. I had forgotten all about that prayer until recently when Mark Batterson reminded me about it. The reminder came at a fairly critical time because I found myself in a bit of a dream desert.

Dreams typically come pretty easily to me. Since I was a kid, I had an imagination that ran incredibly wild. I had dreams about jobs I would have, awards I would win, positions of influence I would hold, and things I would get to do. As I grew in my relationship with Christ, those dreams turn into sanctified visions of God doing his work in me and through me. It's pretty easy for me to come up with a list of life goals. Last year, God brought me through 4 things that I had been dreaming about for years. I had been dreaming about one thing in particular for 15 years. It was absolutely amazing and humbling and invigorating all at the same time.

Then the dreams dried up.

What do you do in those times? I don't have the answer, and I've not even been very proactive in figuring it out. I think it probably has something to do with making sure that our primary dream is a life filled with the presence of God. A life filled with his joy and spreading his love to those around us. No matter how many missions trips we take, sermons we preach, books we write, or groups we lead, our dream should ultimately revolve around growing more and more in love with Christ and looking more and more like him.

I know we go through seasons, and I think this is a season for me of falling more in love with my Creator. Dreams are a stewardship issue. And before I start dreaming too intensely about the next stuff, I want to make sure they are sanctified dreams. And dreams worth living.

Psalm 63:1, "O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water."

Vacations Are Not Restful

This is going to be a ramble, but oh well. All life is journey. And when journey is the primary activity of life, I don't rest. I live more. My senses are more acute, and I am super sensitive to the new stimuli around me. And I leave vacation exhausted.

I agree with Mark Batterson that stamps in my passport are acts of worship. When the Scripture says, "Go" in Matthew 28, it can be translated "as you are going." Scripture also tells us that God's glory fills the whole earth. I want to be in the process of going and uncovering every bit of God's glory in his creation that I can find.

One area in which I absolutely did not rest on this last trip was in the realm of scientific mental meanderings. Whenever I am outside in the middle of amazing surroundings, I worship God. And that certainly happened in Newfoundland. But that always leads this biological engineer to thoughts about the earth's origins.

On the first day we were there, we visited the Geo Centre, which introduced visitors to the history and geology of Newfoundland and Labrador. We learned that the impressive rock formations were created over millions of years of tectonic plate shifts. We learned that some of the oldest rocks in the world- dating back 4 billion years- were discovered on the Eastern shores of Canada. I was amazed. And I worshiped.

Let me make one thing very clear. I believe God created the world and everything in it. I honestly don't understand how you can be a scientist and not believe that a higher power had something to do with the miracles that surround us every day. I believe God created. But I also suspect the world is billions of years old. That doesn't diminish my view of God. On the contrary, it diminishes my own sense of self importance.

I can spin myself into all manner of scientific and theological conundrums. I absolutely wore out my brain cells trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together (I can argue with myself). But that doesn't leave me frustrated. It leaves me in awe and wonder at the majesty of God and worshiping him more than before.

It also leaves me tired. What a great experience-- to worship God so much that you are exhausted. What a great vacation.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Random Newfoundland Pictures

Here are some random pictures that didn't get included in any of the previous blog posts.

Row houses in downtown St. John's

Tors Cove

The Narrows of St. John's Harbor

Walking the streets of Pepperrell Air Force Base

On Duckworth Street in Downtown St. John's.

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto.

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, again.

Torbay Beach

Cape Race Lighthouse

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill.

Fort Amherst

Fort Amherst Lighthouse

Battery on Signal Hill

Inuksut at Cape Biscayan

Delayed in Newfoundland

We wound up staying an unexpected Day 7 in Newfoundland because of flight delays. We had the option of staying another full day in St. John's or hanging out in Newark, New Jersey last night. Newfoundland...or New Jersey. Whales or petrochemical refineries. Not a difficult choice.

So we rented the last car in St. John's (I'm not kidding. It was a mini-van) And we decided to attempt another spin around the Irish Loop. I don't have great pictures because it rained the entire day, but here are some of the highlights:
  • Ate moose for lunch at the Riverside Restaurant
  • Went whale watching at St. Vincent's
  • Completed the Irish Loop
  • Walking through a movie set while trying to check into the hotel (seriously, we could barely check in because the lobby was full of crew and extras)
We thought about visiting our friend at the Portugal Cove South Visitor Centre again and heading up to Cape Spear, but I was not about to attempt that in a mini-van.

Now, we are delayed in the Newfoundland airport again, but I'll hopefully get back to the States tonight.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Newfoundland Day 6

Last day in Newfoundland, and my alarm was set for 4:30am. I wanted to make one last attempt at seeing the sunrise at Cape Spear. But the hotel fire alarm beat my clock when it started blaring at 3:55am, which meant I didn't oversleep for the sunrise but I got just shy of 150 minutes of sleep last night. So I'm pooped. If this post doesn't make sense, that's why.

5:00am. Cape Spear. The most easterly point in North America. We finally saw a sunrise. Sort of. We'll call it that anyway. Why were we so focused on seeing that sunrise? Because standing on the tip of Cape Spear means that we are the first to see the sun rise in North America.

After that, we headed back downtown for breakfast, and I had some fantastic fish cakes at Bagel Cafe. Yum!

Then, we headed over to the old Pepperrell Air Force Base where my Granddaddy was stationed from 1952 to 1958. My mom showed me all her old haunts.

And then we headed up to the battery to look at the houses built on the rock.

Tire Update
After poking around the old base, we returned back to the hotel for a few moments for mom to make a pit stop. On the elevator ride, she ran into a woman who claimed she had been up all night trying to change out a rental car that had a flat tire. My mom asked, "Budget?" And indeed, it was. That means that the Budget Rental Car had four...count that FOUR cars with flat tires yesterday. And it gets better. The car that they finally gave her today was the Grand Prix that gave us TWO flat tires yesterday. The comedy never ends.

From there, back to Cape Spear to hike around and tour the lighthouses.

Then, we went to a new Art Gallery and Museum called The Rooms. Really cool building and exhibits. Though the Graeme Patterson Woodrow exhibit left me intrigued but completely befuddled.

Now, it's back to the hotel to pack up, get some sleep, and prepare for the trip home. It's been a great week!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Newfoundland Day 5

Oh boy. Where do I start? When the women at Tim Hortons told us this morning, "You are in for a trek today, ladies," they had no stinkin' idea. It all began with an early morning spin around the Irish Loop. Our second attempt to make it all the way around (too much historical and cultural exploration yesterday).

It all started great with a quick stop at Tors Cove where we spotted more wildlife. Most significantly, these fun little sea otters.

At Portugal Cove South, we hit the beach to see the caplin roll in. These fish spawn on the beach, and most of the males die in the process. There were thousands rolling up onto the beach.

Then, we made our way to Cape Race. That's when it all went downhill. Well, it actually started going uphill. Background: Cape Race is located on the southeast tip of the Avalon peninsula of Newfoundland. It's claim to fame lies in its role in the Titanic disaster. During the fateful night of the disaster, the Titanic wireless operator was busy sending telegraphs from wealthy ship patrons to Cape Race for relay to New York City while ignoring the ice warnings from other ships. After the ship struck the iceberg, Cape Race was the first to receive Titanic's distress signal.

Cape Race likewise became associated with disaster for us. It's a long journey along a loose gravel road to get to the lighthouse, and halfway up, our tire went flat. Flat, flat, flat. I pulled out all the gear and removed the lug nuts. Thank goodness Don and wife came along to help. He jacked up the car, I removed the tire and placed the little donut tire on, and we began to proceed back down the hill.

Side story- Mom forgot to bring her cell phone with her today. I had no cell phone because mine doesn't seem to get a signal anywhere around here. So, no cell phone.

Back at the Portugal Cove South Visitor Center, a wonderful lady named Carol helped us out. She made us take her cell phone in case we needed assistance en route to the service station. I repeat, she gave us her cell phone. What the heck? These people are ridiculously nice. After a short detour rooted in a misinterpretation of directions (related to Canadians' varied use of the word "right," which is sometimes used in forms other than to give direction), we arrived at Molloy's Esso station where we got a good as new patched tire.

Back to Cape Race we go. Yay! We returned Carol's cell phone and made it to the lighthouse. We celebrated.

But the celebration was short lived. Three quarters of the way back down, the tire went flat again. In we go to the Portugal Cove South Visitor Centre... a second time. As I'm removing the lug nuts, guess who comes walking up behind me...Don. Once again, he jacks up the car, I remove the flat tire, hook up the donut tire, and we laugh. As he drives off, he verifies our direction and makes sure to drive in the opposite direction.

By this time, neither Molloy nor any other tire repair specialist was still in their shop. So we drove the entire way back to St. John's on that donut tire. Did you know they are engineered to withstand speeds of 65 mph and distances up to 3,000 miles? The things I've learned from this trip...

Needless to say, we did not complete the Irish Loop. Two strikes, and I think we are out. The whole episode was really funny, but I just don't have the time or mental capacity to do it justice right now.

For whatever its worth, when we returned the car to the rental company tonight, we discovered they had three cars with tire problems today.