Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Press Release...

To All The Press:

Craig Nash had planned on making an important announcement tonight. However he is tired after having been awake since 4:50 this morning, so he has postponed it until tomorrow. You will want to be on the lookout. It will be quite significant and earth-shattering. It will literally shatter the earth.


Craig's Handlers.

Sad News...

I hated reading Molly Ivins' stuff because I disagreed with her most of the time. But when I got to the end of one of her columns all I could say was "Damn, she's a great writer." I hope to someday have a fraction of her talent. She was a true artist and patriot.

She died this afternoon at 62. You can read about it HERE.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I've read two blogs in as many days where the author shared their day hour-by-hour, "24" like. Lacking inspiration to post anything more creative, and wanting to go to sleep, I thought I'd be a copy cat. So here goes...

5:30 a.m.-- Alarm wakes me up. I realize I don't have to be to work until 11:00, so decide to go back to sleep until I wake up.

6:50 a.m.-- Woke up.

Between 7:00 and 11:00-- Did a bunch of stuff, including but not limited to:shower, check blogs, read the news, make chocolate chip/ peanut butter chip pancakes for myself, drink coffee.

11:00-- Go to work.

Somewhere around 1:30-- Have discussion with one of our mentally off-balance, yet extremely kind and enjoyable regular customers who informs me that if we ever have a problem with her credit card we can just call her, or send her a letter to her physical address because she has had much success over the years with the United States Postal Service.

3:00-- Go to lunch at Fazoli's, get my frequent diner card initialed. Read some of Soul Survivor for Sunday school, since I'm one of the teachers and didn't even read last week.

4:00-- Return to work.

4:00 through 8:00-- Work.

8:00-- Return home, blogs, eat, play a little with dogs, listen to songs, play with the "aerial view" of mapquest to see places I've lived, write this post.

9:07 p.m.-- Post this then go to sleep, as I have to be to work at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

Setting a bad example...

On Saturday afternoon I took Sutton and Jude to MLK park on the river. One of them was about to throw a piece of trash on the ground. I told them we should not litter, that we should put trash in the trash can.

Later, in the car, this conversation occurred--

Sutton: Craig, what was that word?
Me: What word?
Sutton: The word for when we don't put trash in the trash can?
Me: Oh, "litter."
Sutton: Oh. (Long Pause.) You sure do litter in your car a lot.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Relevant Nation...

Since The Compass Christian Superstore is closing I've been visiting them about once a week to take advantage of their crazy going-out-of-business-sale. Last week a book caught my eye. The title was The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists and Innovators who are changing their world through faith. I've always been a sucker for a good old list, so I picked it up. Flipping through I landed on page 171 with a picture of Kyle Lake.

My heart stopped.

But it picked back up again, as many of the paralyzing surprises of grief have fallen away, and I read on. I scanned the paragraphs to see the same biographical information you can find about Kyle on a million websites. But toward the end my eye pulled my head in the direction of my name. What!? How did my name get in here? I then began to vaguely remember some sort of questionnaire I filled out for someone a few weeks after Kyle's death, and figured this is probably what it was for.

The most hilarious thing about the article, aside from a misspelled word, was that they had a list of Kyle's "mentors" at the beginning, and I was listed, as was El MOL. I'm not quite sure where they got that I fall into the category of mentor, but all I can say is that I didn't just MAKE the cut, I was listed BEFORE the likes of Brian McLaren and Dallas Willard.

Does this mean that I should call McLaren and Willard and ask if they'd like to be my protege's?

Anyway, the book is actually quite good. You can check it out HERE.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Friends of God...

I watched Alexandra Pelosi's (yes, daughter of Nancy) documentary on evangelicals this morning on HBO called "Friends of God." She went on a road trip around America filming and interviewing the powerful and not so powerful.

I was surprised at how enjoyable it was. It was very bare-bones. Not much commentary, just a lot of footage.

In a way I saw Pelosi as a missionary of the "secular left" to evangelicals in that I got the impression that she was the first outside-of-the-fold person many of them have ever seen. Like an endangered species they remember reading about in school. Occasionally she would ask them a question to get to the heart about what they really think about those with differing viewpoints. In one instance she asked a college aged girl at a pro-creationism who was sharing the six-literal-days gospel, what she thought about "People like me who believe in evolution." The girl was actually quite respectful and handled it with tact, although you could tell that once she realized she was talking to "one of them" she got a little nervous.

In another case Pelosi followed a gentleman, who was probably in his early 60's, who had John 3:16 written all over his pickup truck. The guy was affable and humorously boisterous and seemed like he really enjoyed the possibility of being filmed. He made the comment that those who accept Christ are winners. She asked him about those that don't follow Christ. His body tightened because he realized what he was about to be forced to say, and a little concern registered on his face that one he thought was probably on his side may not be. But he went ahead and bit the bullet and said "Those who don't follow Christ, well, they are losers." And in a gesture I've seen by many an elderly gentleman trying to gauge where you stood asked a simple, "Amen?"

Polosi retorted, "Amen," and the guy looked visibly relieved.

There were surely people who weren't Christians where I grew up, but none dared speak up too loudly. If they did they were the high school goth kids who were going through the natural rite of rebellion that most of the rest of us were groomed from an early age to shun.

This is what happens when you live in a monolithic culture-- those on the outside are only given one mental slot in the minds of citizens: Outsider. Sure they may be nice and wear good clothes and have a good education, but they just don't understand and they aren't part of us. Ergo, they are bad.

Later on we were actually chided a bit by our elders for not having friends outside of the church. "If you only have Christian friends, there is a problem," they (and I) would say. But the implication was that you should have non-Christian friends for the SOLE purpose of "winning" them.

The Evangelical Movement needs people like Alexandra Pelosi. Not someone to poke fun at them and marvel at the circus they believe us to be. Just someone who doesn't think, believe, act like us-- and probably never will. We need that mirror.

Funny thing is, most things I see like this documentary make me hate my upbringing. This didn't. It put a big spotlight on much of the ignorance that passes for Christianity, but it didn't seem to be promoting an angry reaction. If anything it made me a little proud of who I am, where I've been, and hopeful that those of my spiritual heritage can take all the good our faith gives us, shed what doesn't belong, and move forward in a manner that Christ would approve of.

You can check out the schedule for the documentary HERE.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

At the end...

I've been thinking about the phrase "At the end of the day." Anyone who has ever enjoyed a little pontification, (and who doesn't need to pontificate once in a while?) has used this phrase in one form or another.

"At the end of the day..." It's used often by those seeking to win an argument. "At the end of the day, when you lay down your head and really think about it, you KNOW I'm right." I think this is an effective tool of rhetorical ambush, not because the user actually thinks his or her prey really lays in bed at night thinking "He/She's right, I really do believe this way." But rather because it plants seeds of doubt in someone who is not as good at winning a dialogue. "You know, maybe I am wrong about this. They sure seemed to know what they are talking about."

But usually intentions are more pure when using "At the end of the day..." I actually love the phrase because it encourages us to strip away all the surface crap and get to the bottom of what really matters.

"At the end of the day, all you really need is Milk and Cookies" equals "The only thing that really matters are the simple enjoyments of life."

Or take this quote I used recently, from Grey's Anatomy: "At the end of the day, all we really want is to be close to somebody" equals, well, it's pretty self explanatory. What really matters is having somebody.

What's interesting, however, is when we talk to people we get a million different "At the end of the days," suggesting what really matters isn't universal, but rather conditioned by circumstance.

But I find this hard to believe. Maybe at the end of the day there are LOTS of things we need, but in order to press our agenda or to make life easier we pretend there's really not that much.

The only things the apostle Paul believed mattered at the end of the day were faith, hope, and love. We read this famous passage in Corinthians and say "Look, it's really VERY simple. Just three things, and really only one, when you consider love is the greatest." But how simple do we really believe faith, hope, and love is? Sometimes I don't even know what faith MEANS.

But I try.

I usually wake up very early, so at the end of my day I'm usually not thinking about much except closing my eyes. But like many people I spend a fair amount of time winding down at night, contemplating. Work factors in a lot, as do finances. Mostly, though, I think about people. People I miss, people I've spent the day with, and people I hope to see soon. I sometimes say a prayer. I've even been known to cry myself to sleep, although that hasn't happened in a while.

At the end of the day there are a million things that matter. Some simple, some as complicated as hell. But this is what I love about the Christian message of heaven, and I do mean the Old Time Religion version of heaven: There will come a day when all we find important at the end of these days will be shown for what they really are-- dreams and indicators of Another Place, a place, as Margaret Becker has written, "Where hope reigns supreme. Where thoughtful, demonstrative love is shown in microscopic ways."

The end of that day will be worth getting to.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What I Think About...

Many of us spent a lot of mental energy thinking about worship. We debated it, argued our position, tried to convince the others that while they may have some things right, there's still an angle they haven't quite considered, and basically just placed ourselves as close as we could get to the Almighty and accentuated the distance everyone else still had to travel. We made the point that we saw worship as so much more than music, yet we hardly ever spoke of it without alluding to songs and styles. Which, for me, is quite alright, since I can't conceive of how someone would "live a life of worship" without a song running through their heads.

And oh, how tight I used to close my eyes. It really did hurt. But it hurt so good. The pain was from trying to see something-- a light, a metallic glow, perhaps the shadow of angels wings. Others closed their eyes tighter. At first I thought about how much holier these people were than me. Later I discovered cynicism and clung to the belief that they were just pretending to feel moved.

Does anyone else remember these things? The pride we felt knowing these songs before anyone else, the way we belted out a harmony line we thought no one else knew, even the intricate clap rhythms we tried to impress each other with? (For you who didn't grow up the way we did, yes I said "clap rhythms.")

Now, though, I mostly think about stories while we are singing. Yes, stories. Stories from books, stories from movies, even stories from my previous week. (Of course it helps having someone creating music that could be the soundtrack to any number of lives.) Davy's trip through paradise in Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. The anguish expressed by Adah in saying "Help Me" when the ants came in The Poisonwood Bible. The Grey's Anatomy bomb. Smiles I remember, hugs I had, fights I fought. Standing at a grave in the freezing cold and sitting at a bar laughing my ass off. Even, many times, you. A montage of scenes from this life that is equal parts comedy and tragedy-- often both.

And we used to call them "distractions." You know what I'm talking about. "I want you to forget about the week you've just had, the trials and tribulations, the work and the study. Just forget about those distractions and focus on Jesus."

But these stories that run through my head are not distractions. They are the real deal. If Jesus moves in my life at all it is through conflict, struggle, and redemption of all the stories I've ever told, been told, or taken part in. These stories are my bright light, my metallic glow, the angel wings that take me to That Place.

So let the music begin...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

So this is where I talk about the State of the Union Speech.

I think the president succeeded in exposing the thoughts and feelings of a majority of Americans on at least one point, which is that we are in LOVE with Baby Einstein.

How I wish I would have had documentation of bubbles floating through the air and balls bouncing up and down to the tunes of classical music.

Who knows, maybe I would have turned out much more succesful.

All joking aside, have you seen babies in front of Baby Einstein? It's like acid for these little tykes.

That's all I've got for tonight. A lot of stuff to write about, but too tired. Look for something new (fingers crossed) tomorrow night.


I've said the reason I believe Grey's Anatomy is such a powerful show for anyone who has ever lost someone is because it captures death so well. I think THIS ARTICLE from the writer of the last two shows may help explain why.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Holding on...

Of all the decisions we make, few are more difficult than determining what to hold on to and what to let go of. A family in a hospital room choosing to remove life support. The once-wronged deciding they can no longer hold on to the animosity they had for a particular group of people. Communities and coworkers letting go of the illusion that it will ever be as good as it once was, or seemed to be.

Letting go. Holding on.

A couple of weeks ago I took Sutton and Jude out to Poage park. They ran around like mad men for quite a while before realizing they had yet to eat their afternoon snack. I handed them each a package of those orange colored cheese crackers with peanut butter in the center and a small bottle of red Gatorade. We were at a park bench that sat upon a slab of concrete. I was hovering around the table with Jude, who wasn't eating and somehow using my attention. Sutton was sitting down, but on his knees. Something happened that he deemed necessary to jump up for. When he did, his balance was lost and, for me standing a few feet away, time froze. His body twisted in a weird direction and his head was on a collision course with a chunk of rocky cement.

I couldn't do anything, but in that moment a million thoughts raced through my head, the most prominent being, "Sutton, please let go of the bottle of Gatorade and crackers and brace yourself."

He didn't let go and he didn't brace himself.

On a head with dark colored hair, blood can hide in the shadows. On a snowy blond little boy in doesn't hide but creates a terrifying reminder that an accident has happened.

I've been around kids enough in my lifetime to know they usually aren't fragile china dolls, but actually quite sturdy. This didn't immediately register though, as I panicked. Luckily there was a nurse at the park with her kids who looked him over and said he'd be fine, he just may need to go to the hospital to get stitches. (Which he did later in the evening, but they were those "invisible" stitches."

The nurse calmed my nerves, allowing me to gain composure enough to round up the boys' stuff and head to the car. Sutton was still crying, but at this point had settled to a constant whimper. I looked down and saw something that I've been laughing on and off about ever since-- Blood trickling down his forehead mingling with dirt and tears, package of cheese crackers in his left hand and a bottle of red Gatorade in his right. His upper lip pressed hard against his teeth in a noble but futile effort to "be a big boy" and stop crying, only stopping for a fraction of a second to take a bite out of his snack.

Sometimes we just know in our gut when we should let go of something and when we should hold on to it. Sutton's instincts worked for him, so who am I to judge?

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Luke has caught me in a lie. I have stated a couple of times that I have only recently become prone to keeping my eyes open and looking around during corporate prayer. What I did not remember while sharing this fact was that I was caught red handed back in '96.

I was in a little church in Estonia, singing in the choir. One of our team members had a video recorder to document the trip and was recording that particular service. Toward the end there was a LONG prayer, and I grew weary of it, so I just opened my eyes to start looking around. When I scanned to the back and saw the camera rolling, I immediately closed my eyes and bowed my head in a frantic manner that showed the fear I had of being caught in a grave sin.

Watching the video was quite possibly the hardest AND longest I have ever laughed before or since.

Do you ever feel that as you grow older you lose the ability to laugh as hard? I do a lot. I laugh just as much, and feel joy often. But I miss those times when I was still a little bit of a kid and could laugh until my stomach hurt.

Oh well.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Just off Lake Shore...

Since one of Britt's many Rock And Roll bands (as Josh would call it) had a show tonight at Beatnix coffee house over on Lake Shore Drive, we decided to do Happy Hour at the La Fiesta located not too far from the airport. I've always wanted to visit this place because it reminded me of the Gilbert's El Charro #2 in Tyler. Owned and run by the same people, but with the feeling that the second one is more of a secret, reserved only for those with the fortitude to get there.

After a heartier-than-normal round at the bar, Lindsey came and drove Josh and me to Beatnix so we wouldn't have to be behind the wheel, which was a wise idea. At the end of the night, after being dropped off at my car, I began the journey home. It's a top-shelf night weather wise. It's cold but not miserable. Overcast without being gloomy. In short, it's what January should be. Weather like this always makes me reflective.

The bartender told us that most of their business comes from China Spring. After pondering this I actually felt a twinge of shame at having lived in Waco for 6 1/2 years and never been to this place they call "China Spring." It's akin to living in Tyler and never visiting Whitehouse. Dallas without the joys of Forney. It's just not right.

The area over by the lake and airport is actually quite nice. On my way home I passed a tiny little tobacco store just off the road. It was before Lake Shore Drive, in that seemingly endless stretch into the city, which is actually probably only about a mile. Beatnix up ahead, the lake to my right and river leading to downtown to my left, I couldn't help but feel at home in this just-before place. I thought about that blue aluminum tobacco store that had closed for the day and felt at peace with what these quiet places outside the city limits bring to me-- bearing, perspective, and even a little proud defiance and having largely avoided the loud and busy places for most of my life.

In this place there is a fine line between rural and urban, and nothing lays that bare like a trip down 19th from La Fiesta #2. Peace and chaos hang in a fine balance, with little, if any, neutral ground.

With all my bravado about loving this place, which I do, I have this uneasy feeling at times that I don't belong-- that only circumstance and a few well-timed friendships are what give me the energy to keep hanging my hat. I long sometimes for the confidence of that tiny tobacco store perched next to a secret hideout Mexican Place outside of town, where drinks are consumed and friendship flourishes outside the boundaries and with little fanfare.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tonight's Grey's...

Of all the visitors I get on a weekly basis, Thursday nights after Grey's is by far one of the highest times of concentration. I think America flocks to the internet after an episode to find out "What was that song at the end," and ends up checking their daily blogs while they are at it. I know I do. And in case you haven't found the song of the week yet, it's Gary Jules' "Falling Awake." Already downloaded it.

Isn't this a great show? I think the reason it is so popular is beause it is so damn good. Yes, it's melodramatic at times, but these writers have a firm grasp on human nature and, as I've said before, understand death and all that goes with it.

I read something extremely interesting about the show lately. There's been at least two instances, (three if you count the bomb-squad guy) in which death has been a prominent storyline. (Denny and, now, George's father.) Yet we've never seen a funeral on Grey's Anatomy. The creator and head writer, Shonda Rhimes, has stated that she will probably never allow a funeral to take place on the show. She says that no matter how creative writers are, she's never seen anyone produce a scene on television or in film that comes anywhere close to capturing the feelings and essence of the funeral. How cool is that, to know that someone has a understands at least a small part of the sacred, so much so that they refuse to even approach it?

Them's fightin' words...

I grew up just a few miles from Athens, the Henderson County Seat, so I've been privy to THIS LITTLE CONTROVERSY for years. But it's finally made it to CNN. You've got to love the Texas State Legislature for the important bills they try to get through.


We sat in the sanctuary of a church not too far from here. I was young, in college, and other than a summer on foreign ground, had never experienced a worship service that was a whole lot different from those I grew up in. The liturgy that morning was slightly more sophisticated than I was used to, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

I was in Waco visiting Luke, who I had become my friend after we spent the summer of '96 as summer missionaries to Estonia. Scott, Luke's partner that summer, and also someone I had known from Tyler Junior College and was pretty green behind the ears as well, was also with us.

I was familiar with most of the songs sung, and although the preacher read straight from a manuscript, which I had never observed before, things were still slightly within the template available for my mind to comprehend.

And then it happened. Something I had never even considered as a possibility occurred. The sermon finished, the invitation was given, then the prayer prayed. During this prayer, which was a segue from everything previous to the taking of the offering, the ushers came forward. After the amen we opened our eyes (keeping my eyes open during the prayer was also an act not believed to be available to me.)

And we saw what we saw, Scott and I for the first time, Luke, perhaps, for the millionth.

A female usher.

The shock registered on our faces before Scott and I slowly and melodramatically turned our heads to each other to see if we were each seeing what we thought we saw. Before you knew it Luke recognized the blowing open of our tiny little East Texas doors and began laughing hysterically right there in church.

This is not a story about how I got my first glimpse into a world in which both genders carried equal weight and shared identical roles in a worship setting. Those discussions have been done to death. It's about something much more basic-- Discovery.

If your life path took you on a trajectory similar to mine, then the years in college and shortly after were a whirlwind of discovery. (Which also could be a sign of how little I was exposed to as a child.) It seemed like everywhere I turned there was something going on that was new to me. In most periods of my life, including the present, if I wanted to find out things previously unknown, I had to go on a deliberate quest to seek those things out. But between the ages of 18-24, those things just fell in my lap.

I sit at an interesting vantage point. Living in a city and going to a church that sees a constant flux of students, I get to witness on a yearly basis new people who are discovering. It's quite exciting, but it has its moments. Legion are the times I get stuck in a conversation with someone sharing with a theological, sociological, political, or just plain academic point they had just learned, and giving their explanation in such a way as to suggest they have always held a certain opinion as gospel truth.

Inside I just laugh. And it's not necessarily an "I can't believe they are just now discovering this thing, I've known this forever" laugh. Many times it's something I've never considered or even heard about.

I suppose my inner laugh is at me sitting in the pew of Calvary Baptist church and being shocked by something happening that, now, would cause me great unease if I found myself in a situation where it didn't happen. Maybe I'm laughing at my current condition, where when forced to work hard to find little treasures here and there, I choose instead to return to home base.

Maybe I'm just laughing out of a nervous suspicion that there is something lurking around the corner that will, once again, take me by surprise-- and which ten years from now I will laugh at being taken by surprise.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cabin Fever...

I'll be honest with you, this is kind of miserable. The store is closed for the day. That combined with the fact that I have tomorrow off has given me an unexpected weekend in the middle of the week. I usually crave times like these. Maybe the sign of having reached adulthood is when weather that shuts things (especially roads) down isn't quite as fun anymore.

I woke up and fully expected to spend the day resuming my part time job of writing this blog, but it hasn't happened. Well, I guess it has because I'm writing.

I guess I'll give you some bullets...

-- I read about the most horrible thing yesterday. Did you know there is a video game based on the Columbine tragedy? Yes, there is a special room in hell being constructed as we speak.

-- Obamania is about to hit. Barack announced his plans for an exploratory committee yesterday, which basically means he's running but wants an amount of time where he can raise money and opt to save it for another campaign if something unfortunate happens. Go ahead and sue me and tell me how you made it to the party before me, but I really like this guy. Should get interesting...

-- My car is still running, so thanks to all of you who have enquired about it's health.

-- I'm expecting many of you are iced in as well and about to go out of your minds. Here's a couple of things I've read this morning that I found interesting, or at least worthy of being used to pass the time: Exiles in the Heartland, Part 1. Grey Matter. MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

-- When I was in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade I had a friend named Tammie Adkins in my class. In 3rd grade she didn't show up, so I began my investigation. Tammie's parents decided to homeschool her this year, a teacher told me. "What? Homeschool, what's that? People do that?," was what I thought. Homeschooling is still a strange concept to me. A lot of times people come into the store looking for homeschooling materials, and after a brief conversation with them I'm reminded why we have public education. Yet I have pairs of friends-- very intelligent, funny, and some of the most well adjusted people in the world-- who have begun homeschooling. These people will do a wonderful job. One of them is chronicling her adventures and it makes for some VERY enjoyable reading. You can check it out HERE.

-- Ok, I have broken. I finally watched my first complete, (well, more than half) episode of American Idol, and I feel I have it within me to become hooked. I need to fight the urge.

-- So this is kind of funny. After making the joke that I was going to nominate myself for the Trib's contest to find Central Texas' Hottest Bachelor, I was told by three different people that they had already decided to enter me. No joke. I'm about to milk this for all it's worth. Go ahead Waco Tribune Herald, turn me into a piece of meat. If it gets me married, my mom just might purchase a hundred lifetime subscriptions.

-- That's it for now...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's cold and there is some kind of something falling out of the sky. A little snow and a little sleet, but not quite either one. Usually when these things occur in Waco it's exciting. This time it seems just a tad burdensome because it's not bad enough to justify mass hysteria and it's not good enough to feel safe. Oh well.

The weather has made our internet intermittent. I'm stealing this window of opportunity to let you know I've got some stuff cooking in this little head of mine. I'll keep you posted.

Other than that, not much going on. My eyes are heavy so I'll give in.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

About a Dream...

Like many of my generation, I learned about the civil rights movement from Al and Arthur. It was the 60's and Al, a small business owner in Milwaukee, read about the struggles for racial equality going on in the south and decided he was tired of sitting on the sidelines. He wanted to do something. So he let Arthur, his business partner, know he'd be out of town for a little while. Al was hesitant to reveal his reason for leaving, but Arthur coaxed it out of him.

Al was a kind and gentle man, giving rise to Arthur's fears for his safety. Arthur also became interested in what was going on down south, so he decided they could both close up shop for a while in order to take care of more significant matters. So off they went to participate in the nonviolent resistant movement going on in the American South. Two white guys, one portly and soft, but determined to help make a difference, the other young and energetic, who could change the hardened hearts of a segrated country by his sheer "coolness": Al Delvecchio and Arthur Fonzarelli, "The Fonz."

No, this wasn't real. This was Happy Days.

The episode first appeared on ABC in January of 1982. By then, things were different. I was seven and had never been a part of an all-white classroom. Although the term "nigger" occasionally came out of the mouths of my grandparents, it was something that was said so infrequently that I rightly categorized it into a set of words that not only were bad to pronounce, but which indicated a horrible way of thinking about a group of people. (By seven, I had also already made the discovery that my grandparents were crazy.) I had black friends, teachers, and even was quite unmoved at the apparently scandalous occurrence of an interracial couple on The Jeffersons. (Yes, I watched way too much television.)

Yet the unfortunate thing is that those of us in similar situations, by virtue of having lived in a different time and under greatly improved circumstances, drank the comforting elixir of belief that everything now was just fine. In our estimation, justice had already rolled down like a mighty river, and we were bathing in the utopia it had created.

Yet our houses were not quite in order, as we had thought. Although I attended school with black students, the issue of them underperforing academically because they had been reared under the affects of years of systemic oppression was never addressed. Our elders, while seeking to appear upright, still insinuated it was a lack of intellect and not of opportunity that placed these friends of mine at the bottom.

It is true, I had black friends. Quite a few, actually. But if you were to ask me why I was friends with them I would have said, with a pious tone, "They're just great people. I don't even think of them as black because they seem kind of white." Yes, I was very progressive.

I'm co-leading a Sunday School class that is using Phillip Yancey's Soul Survivor. In the book he profiles several people who helped salvage his faith. The first chapter is on Martin Luther King, Jr. I read it a few weeks ago and had this strange urge to begin reading up on the civil rights movement. I was a little hesitant, what with MLK day coming up. (It's a sickness we suffer from, this avoiding things that may make us appear to be jumping on a bandwagon.) But I read and I read and in my reading I've come to discover something about American history.

We all have heard it said that Lincoln freed the slaves. And he did. Although it took a while for the Emancipation Proclamation to take root, it did and set into motion the possibility that a little boy in Chandler, TX would sit next to people of color at school. On paper, it appears that King's mission was also to free the black men and women from oppression. And he did. But as I read his speeches and learn how his theology developed, I've come to see him not just as someone who aided the African Americans, but as one sought to liberate white people from the pain that is inflicted on themselves as a result of the injustices they perpetuated. Lincoln freed the black man. King freed the white man.

For several years I've had this nagging thought, and it's one that many of my friends have shared. If the generations before us believed they were so right about something, even to the point of using biblical texts to justify their hate, then what evils do I, and those like me, hold to that I have no clue about.

If I may take a slightly Catholic (big "C") turn to end this post, I'll just say that as we take this day to honor Martin Luther King, I can only pray that he has compassion on whatever wretchedness is within me that I am blind to, and that, as one of the host of witnesses talked about in Hebrews, will see fit to intercede for me.

Pianos and Proof...

I doubt I'll ever run across incontrovertible proof for the existence of God. Not on this side, anyway. But legion are those things which bear witness.

(Nerd alert.) I remember my high school band director giving his first of the year pep talk every August. He sat at the piano, after having worked himself up in a militant frenzy about the power and virtue of discipline, and began to clunk away at individual notes, one at a time. "You hear that?!," he would yell. "That is proof that anything, when banged up against something else, will make some noise." Slowly he would make the individual notes get closer, then eventually flow into each other into beautiful harmonies, driving a melody that seemed to mean something. "But that," he would whisper, "that is proof of the existence of God!"

Proof? I'm not sure. What is proof anyway but data presented by someone who wants you to come over to their side. I'm also quite sure the legalities of practicing apologetics, (and shady apologetics at that,) in a public school classroom were quite suspect.

Yet that speech has always stayed with me. My guess is that it lingers throughout most of our minds. And while I question whether or not it is proof of God's existence, I don't doubt it's one of the million signposts left along the path for us to find our way. I think this a lot when the music starts playing at the end of Scrubs or during an especially emotional scene of Grey's Anatomy. The fight songs played at the sporting events of our favorite teams seem to pick us up by our collars and carry us to another place. A higher place. This place, yes, but without the heavy stones that burden our beings.

The music tells our stories and, I can't stop believing, is an echo of the place after this place.

So let's keep plunking away at those notes until they drift together and carry us to places of beauty...

Friday, January 12, 2007


I was going to use this space to create humor around my Friday night by sharing all I have done since leaving work at 4:00 this afternoon. The funny part was going to be in how colossally unexciting it was, while pretending, by a sarcastic writing demeanor, that it has been one of the most monumental evenings in the history of my life. In it I would have shared how, upon finding out that none of my Happy Hour crew would be in town, I decided to screw it and headed to La Fiesta anyway for a Dos and chips. I then would have described in great poetic detail how I headed home, fed the dogs, then sat on the couch to try and take a nap while the evening news played in the background (NBC with Brian Williams,) but instead flipped over and watched an episode a piece of Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends. I would have then shared about my decision to embrace the boredom and settle in to the evening by watching the E! True Hollywood story of Seinfeld. Since every good story needs a little conflict, I would have been dramatic about noticing that my cell phone was about to run out of power, and since I left the plug-in charger back home at Christmas and have been relying on the small sliver of time I'm in my car during the day for it to charge, it then became necessary for me to get in my car and drive somewhere to have enough power for the phone to last through the morning so my alarm clock (which is the actual phone) would go off and I wouldn't be late for work. The plan was to describe my decision that I needed a few things from the grocery store anyway, and the several blocks it would take to get to Fiesta, my new grocery store of choice, would be plenty to provide adequate charge for said need to wake up in the morning, and how I went. I was then going to get real funny on your asses by sharing everything that was on my receipt, like this:

Your Checker Today is Griselda (Seriously, even though the purpose of my
story would have been humor, this name was
not made up.)

*Munchy Dog Strips 1.99 T
Oatmeal 3.59
Zatarains Jumbalaya Sausage Meal 3.49
Coffee Creamer 1.89
Ojarascas 1 lb. 1.89

Knowing you would have been on the floor laughing at this point, I would have put the dagger in and sealed the deal of success by sharing how I used the three quarters I received back for change to put in one of those machines (which are probably illegal, like other things at Fiesta-- ooh!, that was low) where you drop a quarter in that lands on a bed of quarters and you pray the quarter you drop causes an avalanche of quarters to flow over into your hands, and how out of the three quarters I used, I actually got one of them back and how considering it was worth around $.50 of enjoyment, then I actually believed I had WON a quarter, rather than losing two.

That's what I was going to do, because I felt like you would have enjoyed it.

I instead decided to forego the bravado and just share with you that I have had a very pleasant Friday night doing not much of anything, enjoying a couple of well timed conversations with old friends over the phone, and am excited it's almost 10:00 and I will be able to get a good eight hours of sleep before heading back to work.
*The receipt doesn't actually read "Munchy Dog Strips," but rather Munchy Strps. Believing you lacked enough context to decipher the true meaning of Munchy Strps I decided to lengthen the item to it's appropriate words.

I should also define Ojarascas. These are tiny little cinnamon cookies that are available in most Mexican-themed markets here in town. They are quite tasty.

EDIT: I can't believe I just posted this and didn't share the actual funniest thing I was thinking about placing in the post. Somewhere I was going to slip in the comment that I'm considering nominating myself for a contest the Waco Tribune Herald is putting on to find Central Texas' Hottest bachelor. This would have been so subtle you may would have missed it. I would have tried to make the implication that if it was discovered that I am, in fact, the hottest bachelor in Central Texas, then perhaps my Friday night would have looked a little different.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

We Are Marshall...

I'm probably one of the only people who believe Matthew McConaughey is way underrated as an actor. True, he's one of these guys who typically plays himself in just about every role. But hasn't Jack Nicholson made a name for himself among the critics doing just that? Perhaps it's because McConaughey is a fellow East Texan, but I believe few people play "real people" as good as he does. He didn't disappoint in his turn as Coach Jack Lengyl in We Are Marshall.

I saw the trailer for the movie while waiting to see Jackass, and it moved something in me. (The trailer, that is-- not Jackass.) I was vaguely familiar with the story, but other than that I assumed it would just be another football movie that stirred up testosterone-laden emotions with hard hitting and a good soundtrack.

Yet I went into the movie without even thinking about football, but rather with something my good friend Melissa said was in her mind throughout the entire film, which was UBC. So that's what I carried with me as I sat down.

And rightly so. The stories are different, but the themes were the same: As a community that has faced tragedy, how do you balance moving forward with remembering? How do you decide the proverbial "What they would have wanted," when there are a million different interpretations of what that means? How do those left behind deal with being a small remnant of the former world while all around them are new people who don't fully know the story and are seeking to put new fingerprints on their shared sacred place? All good, and gut-wrenching questions.

I've quoted Woltorstorff a million times over the past year or so, but I believe his words age well with time. He makes the comment that grief isolates. Our grief is so different that there can develop animosity between those who share it because we all feel the others are doing it all wrong. This is why into the metaphorical recovery room we need someone to enter who is not grieving, a doctor, if you will, who can empathize with us and diagnose our situation, and begin to help us heal.

And this is the part played by McConaughey in the movie. For us it was played by people like Brian McLaren, and Rob Bell (whose church leadership warmed all our hearts by simply being with us,) and in the kind words and hugs from others around town who hurt for us, but not with us.

Some people have velvet hands when it comes to walking others through difficult situations. They say things that need to be heard, but they say it with a delicate touch unavailable to most of us mere mortals. Marshall was blessed with a Coach Lengyl. We were blessed with others. One of my prayers is that, when the time comes, and if the situation demands it, I will be able to step into that position for someone else.

Oh, yeah, this is kind of a review, so I should say: Go see it. I cried like a baby. And it was good, even if you don't like football.

Politics and Religion are Nothing...

One of the most poignant, and funny, moments from Friends was when the group was sitting around the coffee shop and the uncomfortable subject of money came up. The conflict was between Monica, Chandler, and Ross, who all had decent jobs that supplied adequate incomes and Joey, Phoebe, and Rachel who were still struggling financially. The latter group was becoming increasingly frustrated with the others not taking into consideration the cost of doing certain things together, like dining at upscale restaurants or going to Hootie and the Blowfish concerts. Someone (I believe it was Monica) implied that their friendship was based on more substantive things by saying "I guess I never really see money as an issue." To which Rachel replied, "That's because you have it."

For several years I've been very sensitive about the fact that the phrase "I'm broke" is extremely relative. For some of my friends, "I'm broke" means they are always just a couple of days away from their creditors reaching their dirty little hands into their paycheck. For others close to me it means they'll only be able to take one long-distance vacation this year. I'm at neither extreme, but come very close to being part of the group who feels the impending footsteps of the Vikings from those Capital One commercials.

Somewhere in the Friends conversation Chandler jumped up and physically squirmed at being placed in such an uncomfortable conversation. The humor was in the truth. Who of us has not felt a little icky when the subject of money comes up? I have, and I do. But it's something I need to get over, so this is me pulling the band-aid off in one quick swoop.

About a year ago one of my closest friends began encouraging me to "put myself out there" a little more with my writing and other gifts. As the year progressed the encouragement became less a suggestion and more a "push." Many of you who I know in person have also suggested I work hard at getting my stuff published. This is all still very strange to me, as I'm just one of the millions who began writing with the blogging revolution of the past five years. I'm not the only one named Time's Person of the Year.

Regardless of how weird it seems, it also feels good knowing that you actually enjoy what I have to say. I would have quit this and purchased an expensive leather journal from Barnes and Noble a long time ago if it weren't for all your support.

I spend a considerable amount of time with this blog. It's time I enjoy, but time is time.

This is where the ick factor gets kicked up another notch.)

So, in an effort to avoid getting a night job to generate a little extra income (it's something I've seriously considered,) I'm making an attempt to make writing my second job. (The next sentence will hopefully be the closest I ever come to being a televangelist.) And I'm going to give you the opportunity to support me in this endeavor. I've set up a PayPal account to make the option available for you to donate to the cause.

This is something I want you to do only if a.) you can afford it, and b.) you REALLY want to. I'm not going to, nor will I ever, require payment of anyone to read this blog. In fact, I'm still trying to figure out exactly how PayPal works and want to find a way to make any donations completely anonymous.

This will be the last time I ever write about this. The donation button, along with a link to this post, will appear at the left of the page.

Regardless of whether or not you decide to help me out financially, I want you to know again how much I really appreciate all of your encouragement. I want to continue writing about the people I love, my church, my places, and my God. I'll keep letting you know what I ate, what Jane did and how hot I believe Addison Montgomery is. But hopefully the extra intentionally I put on writing will produce something that is, well, consequential.

I feel like I should end this with a hug. Or at least a Thank You.

Thank You.

EDIT: For some reason the button in this text is not working, but the one on the left is.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


As you can see, things are changing. I'm playing with this and that, trying to work out kinks. Please forgive me while I go through a mid-blog-life crisis.

I'm wrestling with an important post for tomorrow...

(Don't worry. I'm not quitting.)

Listening and Lost Legs...

I was always a mama's boy growing up. But as I get older, I realize the two people whose blood flows through my veins more prominently than any other are my dad's and my mother's father. Reason being, I'm extremely, what's the word?... inquisitive? curious?... nosey. Yeah, nosey. I have to know people's stories and, more than that, if two are more people are having a conversation, even if I don't want a part in it, I want to know what's being talked about. Or, to put it more bluntly, I need to be all up into your business.

Here's one of Luke's favorite stories, and one of my earliest memories. My family, along with my mother's parents, were on vacation somewhere along the coast. We used to own one of those tiny pop-up trailers that are about the size of a Radio Flyer before being expanded... three radio flyers after. For a few years we would occasionally travel the "campgrounds" of East Texas, (quotes meant to denote derision at a place making room for white-trash-like-us calling itself a campground.) If you ever want to see the underbelly of society, visit one of these places.

We were all sitting around, my family and my grandfather. My grandmother was approaching us from one of her walks, but was still approximately 20 yards away. Coming up about 20 yards from another direction was a middle-aged man on crutches and missing a leg. My grandmother, being fully able to see the future, began a fast walk shouting "Floyd Neil," (my grandfather's first and middle names,) "Don't you even think about it!" Not hearing or (more likely) ignoring her, he yelled out to the man, "Floyd Neil Coleman is my name. How'd you lose your leg?"

A man's got to know these things.

I took my dinner break last night at Rosa's. Sitting next to me was a large table full of college guys. I knew deep down in my gut they belonged to a particular church in town, so I eavesdropped. Little clues, here and there, began to tip me off. Then a statement was made, and it sealed the deal.

I've got to know.

I've spent the past couple of hours at Panera. In this little area tucked away in the back gathered a group of mom types. My first guess was pastor's wives, because there was a new person in their group asking a lot of questions about what Waco is like. (Incidentally, I came very close to giving her my blog address with all the "Why I love this town" posts. But I didn't.) As the conversation drew on I discovered the new lady is married to a guy about to begin a surgical residency at one of the hospitals in town. Of course I wanted to ask a Grey's anatomy question, and also make a funny comment about how they are all white and female, meaning, in all likelihood, their significant others where all white male doctors and how that would never fly at Seattle Grace. But I kept quiet and just listened, picking up bits and pieces of information as I went.

I can tell you a lot of things about people in this town, but most of it would bore you. I guess it can all be summed up in the quote I used for the previous post-- at the end, (and the beginning) of the day, all we really want is to be close to someone.

So I'll keep listening and, when the time is right, I'll get closer. In the meantime, you'd better watch what you say. I'm more Floyd Neil than you know.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why I Love this Town #7-- The End...

At the end of the day, when it comes down to it, all we really want is to be close to somebody. So this thing where we all keep our distance and pretend not to care about each other, it's usually a load of bull. So we pick and choose who we want to remain close to, and once we've chosen those people, we tend to stick close by. .. The people that are still with you at the end of the day, those are the ones worth keeping. And sure, sometimes close can be too close. But sometimes, that invasion of personal
space, it can be exactly what you need.

--Meredity Grey, from Grey's

At the end of my day, my very shitty day taking
care of the needs of some very inconsiderate people for such little pay, a day that saw me begin to get sick both physically and emotionally, one that perhaps marked the beginning of the end for my once invincible car... you know, just one of those days... at the end of this day these words from a fictional intern at a fictional Seattle hospital have become my gospel.

We just want to be close to someone. At times, anyone will do. But usually we want the people we have chosen, Our People, near us. With us. Personal space be damned.

If you've read long enough, you know the story. I moved to Waco in 2000, spent a few years job hopping, then landed at one that (at one point) made me very happy. I've been many different people. I've been the fat guy, the skinny guy, and, now, the in-between guy. I've been an Uncle Dan's man, then Michna's, and back again...and again. I've loved Baylor, then hated it, then tolerated it, then respected it, but from a safe distance. I've taken many turns.

Yet the one constant as been the group of people I've chosen to cast my lot with. In the early days I was center-section, fourth or fifth row. It wasn't too long before I was center-section, front row. Kyle, Jen, Me. Then tragedy struck and I didn't know who I'd be. I became the people I always admired from a distance... the stage left people. Phil and Lance and Ann and Chris and that whole cool-Austin-bound crew, I filled their place.

But really, it doesn't matter. Put me where you will put me, but make sure I am close to those I have chosen... because it's all I really need right now.

I've talked about leaving. And some of my talk wasn't joking. I'm not always happy there. Some things just plain piss me off. I had a conversation with a guy today who, in essence, offered me an amazing opportunity, but I'd have to leave.

I'd have to leave.

Not, "I'd get to leave" or "I would leave," but, in my mind, "I'd HAVE to leave."

And, of course, my mind went to Thursday night Grey's night and Friday Happy Hour and "Where are we going to eat lunch after church," and, most of all, to three little kids who dance around my heart every single day... and it was a no brainer. Perhaps, sometime in the future. It's possible I won't be here forever. But I'm here now and it is what it is. I have chosen the people I want to be close to.

I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined church could be like this.

Reason #7, and the last reason, I love this town-- Was there ever any doubt where this was headed?

I feel slightly trapped.

Four years in retail has taken its toll, and never is it felt more than after the holiday season.

I'm reading this biography of MLK and have just completed a section which described King's struggle between the optimistic view of society espoused by Walter Rauschenbusch and the more realistic view of mankind's (in)ability to be good people. I'm sure he spent hours reading volumes by each, but all that is necessary to make up your mind is working with people in a retail system for any amount of time. There are just too many mean people out there.

And the hours. The human body is conditioned to work, but not during the day some, at night some, and somewhere in between some.

I need out, and I need out quick. If you have any suggestions, I'm open to anything.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Running from yourself...

It would have been nice if someone I really trusted would have told me that no, there was actually nothing made by the Christian music industry that came close to being good to the other stuff on the radio. I could have also used a heads up as I went about in my belief that, although I liked people my age, I never thought they quite measured up to my high spiritual standards.

Yes, in High School, I was "That Kid."

What frustrated me the most was not that the "pagans" at school weren't part of my God Squad, but that those in my own church youth group didn't want to take part in the Holy Huddle I was seeking to create. I cringed when they would curse and roll my eyes in disgust when they mentioned or alluded to drinking alcohol or going further with the opposite sex than I deemed appropriate. In other words, I kind of hated them for being normal.

How great would it have been if someone had pulled me aside and told me that it was me who needed to change. None of the adults would do that because I was what they wanted a child to be, and I reveled in the attention. I was the slimeball that I've learned to disdain.

(Carney and I have talked about how interesting it is that the people we like the least are those we most see ourselves in.)

Over Christmas I visited that tiny church I grew up in. Sitting in front of me was a friend I hadn't seen in many years. She was one of those that I have since come to realize put up with my arrogance for so many years. (Really, since we were born.) I decided to try and make amends for my sins.

The prayer came and I, as is sometimes the case, had my eyes open. I noticed she also was not bowing her head and closing her eyes. Later in the service I scribbled on a piece of paper and passed her a note, (one of the many things every other kid did, but which I looked down on.) On it was written: I saw you with your eyes open during the prayer. You know you can go to hell for that.

She looked back with a somewhat disgusted look on her face and, when she did, I realized my foible. To her, I am still the guy who BELIEVES THAT. Shit, I thought. She wasn't there when that church hurt me. She missed the long nights of me wrestling with God over who I'd become. She was not around when I had my first beer and she totally missed me becoming best friends with a pastor who had no problem dropping the 'f' bomb. She missed a decade and a half of a journey. To her I was teenage Craig looking down on her less-than-stellar church behavior.

Cross Canadian Ragweed got it right. You're always 17 in your home town.

Afterwards I made some sort of comment that perhaps somewhat salvaged myself. I told her I thought she could use some humor. It was stupid, but it was all I could get out.

Sometimes we have to come to grips with the fact that the damage is done. We can move on from our sins and all that "blood of Jesus" and "white as snow" talk we learned about in Sunday School is true. But the ripples keep rippling.
1:00 a.m. The latest I've been up in a really long time. Nothing makes me feel the years piling on more than drinking a cup of coffee at 4:00 in the afternoon and it keeping me up nine hours later.

Or maybe it's the weight of things that keeps me stuck in yesterday when I should be in that middle place.

The other day, during a normal happy hour moment, Potter says something to the effect of "I know it's been a long time since I've done happy hour-- but this is REALLY good." He was looking at his beer, but I can't help but thinking it was more than a brewed liquid that merited such a pleasant comment.

As I do every couple of months, I spent a couple of hours tonight after coming home from work perusing some of the old email exchanges I saved between Kyle and me. There's some very special things in there. Some deep theological conversations, a little playful "love you man" comments and some well placed genuine heart-felt "I love you's." Even a couple of arguments laced our interactions. But the things that are the most meaningful, the ones that make me shiver with the grief at what I lost, are the more common exchanges. The one's that went unnoticed. The "hey, I had a great time yesterday." The "what's up?" The fleeting comments.

It doesn't matter how much you hear the words "cherish every moment you have with your friends" phrase, it still remains nothing more than a Lifetime Movie trailer or a Hallmark card phrase until you actually lose someone. Yet when it happens, and this is one of the unwanted gifts we receive with grief, it's hard to look back on several weeks of "just normal moments" with those close to you without feeling a little bit guilty for not recognizing how holy they were while you were in them.

I'm trying my best.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Time Off...

I worked seven days straight after Christmas, so I felt I truly deserved the previous three days I've had off. They have been quite rejuvenating. The following things I got accomplished...

-- Written two fairly short posts to try and get the blogging back on track.
-- Watched Borat. (Hilarious.)
-- Watched We Are Marshall, of which I plan on writing about very soon. (Cried.) (Melissa, you were right.)
-- Watched the first five episodes of the first season of Scrubs. (Laughed AND Cried.)
-- Read Cormac McCarthy's latest novel, The Road. This book was on just about everybody's "Best of 2006" lists, so I had to give it a shot. It's the best work of fiction I've read in a long time.
-- Had lunch with my friend Jonathan.
-- Had a New Years night dinner with a bunch of UBC'ers.
-- Began work on a chapter of a possible book.
-- Changed the light bulbs in my room. I really wanted to use those expensive ones that will save the universe, but Fiesta didn't carry them. Next time, though.
-- Took naps.
-- Woke up at 5:00 every morning to watch Imus in the Morning. He has become my news source and he always has the best guests call in.
-- Began reading David Garrow's Pulitzer Prize winning book "Bearing the Cross," which from what I understand is the definitive biography of MLK's adult life. It's already more interesting than any history book I've ever read.
-- Began reading Joshua. (The Bible one.)

Well, that's a lot of stuff. And you know what? I didn't think about work hardly at all. What a great feeling.

That's it for now. Good night.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Give me that old time...

If you thought a small-town Baptist considers being called "religious" a compliment, you were wrong. Many in the circles I found myself in as a child even went as far as declaring that Christianity is not a religion and that religion will, in fact, send you straight to hell. Christianity is not a religion, but rather a relationship with Jesus. Religious people perform empty ritual while Christians experience a relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ. Religious people go to meetings. Christians walk hand and hand with their homeboy, the Big J.C.

I do understand the distinction that is trying to be made. In using this rhetoric pastors are trying to hammer home the fact that the message of Christ is incarnational. Our communication with, and submission to, God is something that should be embodied on Friday night as much as on Sunday morning. In short, we should take our faith seriously.

But I've often believed that what is really at work in the "Religion is bad" language is the creation of yet another tool used by many people of faith to attack other people of faith and discredit their beliefs. By saying that religion will send people to hell they are really just creating a condition by which THEY can send people to hell. "That girl that I don't like and does worship different from me-- she's not a Christian. She's just religious."

But why drag a great word down in the mud with our own personal battles (and insecurities?) The word religion comes from an ancient Latin word religare, which means, loosely, "to bind." It carries with it the idea of a bond or, if you will, relationship with God.

Of all the things to be called, you could do a lot worse than "religious." It's good enough for me.

The Humor of it All...

I suppose you have heard by now that God is talking to Pat Robertson again. The Almighty has revealed to Mr. 700 Club that a major U.S. city will be attacked this year. Although he's not necessarily (wink, wink) saying the attack will be nuclear, he believes it will affect millions of people. And across the country, in front of screens a segment of our population is providing a hallelujah chorus of "Amens."

I saw Borat yesterday and thought it was absolutely hilarious. The critics loved it because it, in their minds, pulled the veil back on the supposed progress of social attitudes in their country. They believed the humor in it all was that it spoke truth.

I'm, however, increasingly under the persuasion that these things are funny for the opposite reason. I believe their humor lies in the fact that they are so decidedly out of place. We get a kick out of the anti-Semites in Borat because the majority of people in this country are not anti-Semitic. Pat Robertson is nothing more than a circus act to us because most people of faith, while still possessing strong opinions about God, seek to approach their understanding of ultimate issues with humility and reverence.

So while Sascha Baron Cohen and Pat Robertson do alarm us in revealing segments of our population that are a little off-balance mentally and emotionally, the encouraging thing is that we are in a society that has learned to laugh.

And laugh we will.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Letter...

Dear Natasha Bedingfield,

One of the great shames of my life is that your song "Unwritten" moves me. Not "moves" as in being inspired to live life more fully or to move me into the direction of significant action, but "moves" as in I kind of want to dance a little when I hear it. But don't get too excited, I'm easily manipulated.

With that said, however, I need to let you know that the song is full of crap. It would be nice if it were true, especially during the first week of a new year. And, to be sure, we typically approach the beginning of a new year as if we were staring at a blank slate before us. Signs on top of product tables at my place of business read "New Year, New You." Tabula Rasa. The idea that what happened before today doesn't matter tickles our emotions and makes us think we are in total control.

Yet I'm of the belief that even a newborn isn't staring at a blank slate. We all have marks ranging from virtuous to downright dirty, hopeful to absolutely horrifying, scribbled all over the slate of our lives. The sins and blessings of the mothers and fathers, all that jazz.

Today is not where my book begins, but this does not mean I shouldn't live with my arms wide open. I keep them wide open to acknowledge and embrace not just what will become, either by my choice, mere chance, or other circumstances, but also to accept that what was affects what is and what will be. There is no 2007 without 2006. And 2005 will still color this year more than I would like, but my arms will remain wide open.

Natasha Bedingfield, I never believed I would write you a letter, but I felt it was necessary.

Drenching myself in words unspoken, and unwritten,