Saturday, March 31, 2007

Palm Sunday...

I wrote the following thing for our Palm Sunday service three years ago. I'm hoping to throw some more things together like it throughout the next few days. It was around the time of my doing this that I had the thought, "Gee, I might like to be a writer..."


Once again the city of Jerusalem was abuzz with anticipation of the yearly Passover celebration. The sweet aroma of bread being baked in stone ovens could be smelled throughout the alleyways. Sounds of Jewish children playing games and singing the songs of their people floated throughout the streets like a disjointed but highly melodic chorus. Those same children would be stopped in their tracks and forced to listen respectfully, once again, to the old people telling the stories of times past. Abraham…. God’s promise…. Idols….. Wandering…. Captivity….. Moses….. Frogs, Blood, Darkness, Locusts….. and, eventually, freedom. A special gleam would appear in the storyteller’s eye whenever the tales were extended to include the time when Israel had a king. Those were the glory days, they would say, and sometime in the future, maybe even the near future, the throne of David would be restored.

Isaiah 9:7

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
The children rolled their eyes at the old people. “Can’t you see that Roman soldier over there with the sword, just waiting for you to make a wrong move?” the children thought. “Don’t you see the crucifixions that take place almost every week at the hand of those who occupy our land? What makes you think we’re ever going to have a king again?”

This cynicism of a future king was a youthful necessity, to prevent their hopes from being shattered. But they had heard the prophecies and, deep down, they believed.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely.

The predictions of these wild-eyed crazy men from years ago began to take root within the minds and hearts of the Jewish people. Perhaps a king for Israel would be provided once again. And now was as good a time as any.

king. Noun. One that is supreme or preeminent in a particular group, category, or sphere.

There were rumblings going on. There were always rumblings going on. But this had a different feel. The electricity in the air felt just a little more real when people started talking about this man named Jesus. He had conspicuously avoided Jerusalem for the greater part of the past three years, but that didn’t stop the stories from being spread to the holy city. Supposedly he had turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana just three years before. Many who had left Jerusalem in bad physical shape to wander out to the countryside to find this man, returned with whole bodies. Healed bodies. There were even rumors floating around about a ship and a storm and something about Jesus walking on water. One of those stories could have been dismissed, but they kept coming in one after another. Perhaps this guy needed to be taken seriously.

As exciting as those stories were, though, they didn’t match what those in the city heard he had been teaching. It was told that he talked a lot about love and compassion and sacrifice. That was good and all, but the thing that interested the people more than any was this man's repetitive use of one word: Kingdom.

The pieces started to come together within the minds of the people this Sunday morning. The guy coming into the city today has been performing miracles and talking about the Kingdom of God. Husbands and wives and friends and children, after a morning of pondering these stories, slowly began to look at each other and realize that they were thinking the exact same thing. Our king is coming! Today!

At first the amount of people walking out of their houses and toward the city gates was just a trickle. But as the morning progressed the crowd grew exponentially bigger and began to run a lot faster. The noise became almost unbearable as the stories of Jesus began to be told over and over again in groups of people.

A quiet woman is standing among the crowds, listening to all that is being said. The prospects of this guy coming in town and establishing a Jewish kingdom doesn’t do much for her. Sure, she thinks it’ll be great and all. But lately she’s been feeling this weird feeling, like something isn’t quite right with all these “kingdom” expectations that are being imposed on her by these people surrounding her. Her pain extends much deeper than that caused by foreign occupation. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but it seemed like she needed delivered from something more imposing than just Rome.

Nevertheless her heart started beating fast when, over the horizon, she spotted a group of people walking slowly towards the city. She had to tip-toe to see over the crowds. Her ears began to ring when a leader of the crowd remembered a song of David and began the chant “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.” As they got closer and people began to throw onto the ground their cloaks and palm branches from the nearby trees, she started to notice through the heads of the people more and more features of Jesus. He had the most kind face. It’s almost as if he was glowing. As she strained a little more to see through the crowds she noticed the children running around his entourage yelling his name over and over.

It seemed she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. The peace on his face, the strength of his gaze, the way he rides that………

Donkey? The person who is supposed to be the King of my people is coming into town on a donkey? Not a Stallion or a Mustang, or even a camel or a mule, but a donkey? The animal that is notoriously lazy and stubborn and dirty and lowly is the animal that a king is coming to town on? Over history the only things donkeys will be remembered for are taking those Brady kids into the Grand Canyon to be scared by the Native Americans, and as the mascot of what some consider the greatest cultural achievement of the south—Hee Haw—this is what he chooses as his mode of transportation? What kind of king does he think his is, coming into town on a donkey? And these people, they don’t even notice. They’re so hungry for power to be placed back into their hands that they can’t even notice their “king” is coming in on a donkey.

She had had enough. Making her way out of the crowd, being pushed and shoved around from the excited admirers of Jesus, she thought about what a fool she had been to even waste her morning to get a glimpse of this guy. A king, on a donkey.

As she traveled some distance away from the crowd those feelings began to come back. You remember the feelings. That unsettling deep down within her soul that things in this world, things in her life, are not as they should be. In the past her people could rely on miraculous deliverances from God… a sign…. a cloud by day and fire by night….. rivers being parted…. to know that God was near. That he could be touched and heard from. At least they could go to the temple with sacrifices to ease that nasty feeling of messed up humanness.

And then she stopped in her path. The noise of the crowd was now a considerable distance away. Her mind raced. Bits and pieces of remembrance passed across her mind. Other words. Other prophecies. Other declarations.

Isaiah 53:3-5

He is despised and rejected by men. A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem him.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.

And then……

Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey.

Having walked too far from Jesus to run back, yet coming much closer to truly seeing him than those crowds who were off in the distance shouting his name, she fell to her knees and whispered to herself…… “Could it be?”

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Small Break...

I'm going to take a few days off from posting. I'm in the middle of three very good books and want to finish them. Beginning Sunday I'll probably have several things up for Holy Week.

Here's hoping your world is well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Recycled Material...

I'm often tempted to delete my archives. I look through some of my old posts and cringe. Many people Google certain phrases and make it to some of my "early works." When my Site Meter tells me this I wish they would include a phone number so I could call my random visitor and say "Look, that thing I wrote back in '03, that was a bunch of crap. Make sure you look at my newer stuff."

But then again, these things I write have a very short shelf life even with me. I can look back on something I've written even a few months ago and think to myself how ancient it sounds.

But I did dig up this old thing that brought back a lot of memories and tears. It was from the end of March, three years ago. (Notes: 1.)I let some of the typos and grammatical mistakes remain. 2.) Please see the footnote at the end when you finish.)


March 31, 2004

A Letter I Wrote to Jude.....


Last night, some 20 months after the day you were born, I found myself once again at your house looking after you and Sutton and Avery while your dad took your mom out for her birthday. We had a fun time playing and reading books and watching Mr. Rogers. Sometime during the evening the neighbor kids came to visit with their grandmother, who was also babysitting them. Caught up in the neighborly moment we all found ourselves walking next door to visit. Avery ran ahead of all of us with her friend, Sutton walked with me holding my hand, and you were somewhere in between. As we made our way into the garage, Avery and her friend disappeared in the house while you were left exploring on your own. You walked through the door and into the living room. Eventually Sutton and I, in our fat-boy gingerly manner, made it into the house. One second I saw you in motion roaming the house, and the next you stopped to look around. Very quickly panic set in and you realized you didn't know where the hell you were. When this happened you panicked, began to cry, and ran as fast as you could to my arms. (One day you'll be able to deconstruct this entire letter and figure out that a lot of my reasons for writing this are to express how good I feel about myself that you knew me well and felt that I was a safe place to run. When you figure that out, please don't judge me too harshly.) You didn't run like you normally run, like when we are playing, with short and choppy steps. You had the stride of an Olympic sprinter. (Perhaps one day you will become an Olympic sprinter and this letter will make it into NBC's coverage of your gold medal performance. But please don't think I'm putting undo pressure on you to be an Olympic sprinter. A discus thrower will do.)

Outside I was laughing because you were so damn cute. But inside I felt your fear; because it's a fear you will likely face many more times in your life. It might be in a specific place at a specific time, like at a party or in a class or in a hospital room or even in a religious service. Or it may be in a general period of your life like when you finish high school or when you've been in a career for a while, or when you are facing old-age, like your dad is now. (That was a joke more intended for him than you. He's only in his early thirties as I write this. You'll see the humor when you're in your early thirties.) However and whenever it happens, you will realize that the place you are in is not familiar and not where you belong. It's even a little, or perhaps a lot, scary.

This is the first time I¡¦ve ever told this story to anyone. One night, some 20 years after the day I was born, I found myself in the middle of a religious service that was very scary for me. Much like your inquisitive entrance into a strange house, I found myself drawn into a particular church that seemed interesting. It was different from the tradition I had grown up in, so I naturally thought it was better. (Deconstruction will also bring more understanding into this. I'm sure there'll be a different word to describe it by then.) I barreled into that place like nobodies business. And then this particular service occurred where things began to happen that didn't seem right. I didn't think they were wrong, just not right. And I got scared. Extremely scared. But I had no one to run to, because everyone in the room seemed to be very comfortable with what was going on. But still, I ran. I left the building (it was a school) and ran out to the woods. Some 20 years after I was born I could actually run pretty fast. If I said I ran somewhere yesterday, run would be a metaphor for moving. But again, that humor will make more sense when you're older. I sat amongst the trees and you know what I did? I cried. I cried much harder than you cried last night. And much longer. My estimate is that I cried solid for at least an entire hour. Your brother Sutton can cry for an hour like a professional, but he's still just a baby. I was twenty.

And I prayed. I cried and I prayed. Actually, and this was the first of many times this has happened in my life, my cries became my prayers. I wanted God to tell me why I felt so scared. I wanted God to explain why everyone else felt so good about what I was so scared of. I wanted to feel God.

And you know what? I did feel God. I felt the breeze going through the trees, and I knew it was God talking to me. I don't think God made the breeze just for my benefit. It was a cool windy day long before I got scared. In retrospect I think that at that point God was trying to communicate to me that what was going on inside the building was how some people understood him, and it wasn't up to me to place or take away value from that. But out there in the breeze, in the quiet, in the open places that are more suitable to be experienced alone or with a small group of friends, that's where God will show up in my life.

I loved the people in that church service. I still do. In fact I spend every Christmas with one of the families that was a part of all that. But they're not the people I typically run to with long strides and tears on my cheek when I get scared.* (This running is also metaphorical. As well, sometimes, are the tears.) I run to my friend Jason who listens better than anyone else I know in the world. I run to my friend Blake who allows me to be quiet in his presence. I run to my friends Wesley and Tracey who know how to care. I run to my friend Robert who makes me laugh so hard it hurts, and who isn't afraid to say "I love you" in a genuine manner at the most random times. I run to Ben who understands the mystical, spiritual, existential value of snow cones and Bush's chicken with friends better than anyone, even if he has a hard time spelling existential. I run to your mom and dad who perform the all important task of understanding me and making me feel I belong. And I run to you and your brother and your sister who constantly gives me the most joyous joy I could ever experience, and who let me spoil you with extra snacks when your parents aren't looking.

My sincere desire is that you will find people who mean as much to you as all these people mean to me. That every time you enter a place that doesn't seem right, you will always have someone to run to, just as you ran to me last night. And when you find that, know that it's not an accident. Those people, in a very real way, are Jesus to you.

My guess is that you will have no problem finding people to run to. But always remember there are people who are in scary places who have no one to run to. Be that someone to them.

And when you're on the podium accepting your gold medal, remember me.

posted by Craig @ 11:36 PM
* This is in reference to TONY and MELISSA. For several years my contact with their family was a once every twelve months occurrence. As the years passed and I came to realize how special and important they are to me, I've tried allow our friendship to flourish more. At this point in time I'm very likely to run to them when things make me scared. My life is exponentially better for having them in it.


I'm not typically a big fan of big groups and chaos. Occasionally, though, I'll have a moment where I can't get enough of it. I'm off today so I headed to Common Grounds to loaf around. Three minutes ago I found myself doing four things at once: 1.) Listen to an old acquaintance tell me about a new business he is starting, and also the stages of being a nerd (he's a computer guy,) 2.)Eavesdrop on a conversation going on right next to me, 3.) Enjoy the music playing over the loudspeakers, and 4.) Plan on writing a blog about how cool I am for being able to concentrate on four things at once.

My enthusiasm lasted only a moment, however. I started to get a headache, and I felt bad for not listening to the person who was actually talking to me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Just Today...

It's almost seven o'clock and my body is telling me it's time to go to sleep. But the sun is still high in the sky and the neighbors are in their back yard playing baseball.

Spring hit with a vengeance in Central Texas today. Yesterday and this morning the rain fell hard. This afternoon the colors gathered together in their most concentrated effort so far this year. Soon the bluebonnets will fill I-35 and parents will be racing against time to get a picture of their young ones doing their best Laura Ingals Wilder impression.

I can't remember paying much attention to the changing of the seasons when I was young. Of course, I spent most of my childhood years on the couch, drinking Dr. Pepper, eating fried whatever and watching Alf and Doogie Howser M.D.

I suppose these are the signs of age, at least for me-- Noticing spring and feeling pain.

I forgot to mention that. A few weeks ago I hurt my knee running and I've felt off kilter ever since. I grunt like an old man when I bend down and wonder to myself if I'll be able to get back up. I used to be jealous of all the athletes because they were cool and had hurt knees all the time. I secretly wished my knees would be hurt. Be careful what you wish for.

Not much going on in my world, really. Just a bunch of work. I'm off tomorrow, though, and I plan on spending it writing and reading. I'm in the middle of my first Sci-Fi novel (other than, of course, Fahrenheit 451.) It's by Neil Gaiman and the title is American God's. Many of the well informed people I know read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, so I thought I'd join their ranks. So far, so good. Although I do catch myself reading along (in a Science Fiction novel, remember) and tell myself, "This is stupid. THAT can't happen." But it does happen and I have to remind myself it is fantasy.

Alright, I've held out long enough. I'm off to bed, and I don't care who judges me.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tell me, am I very far? I'm on my way to see Her...

I've been talking to someone about God.

I know. How the hell did that happen? I was just going about my business, being a part of an emergent community that thinks it's cool to drink beer and doesn't look down on the occasional swear word uttered, even in church. I was happy sitting back and silently (and not so silently) judging those in other congregations who dedicate every waking moment of their lives to trying to find a way to shove God into a random conversation. My credo was that I felt it should be a more natural occurrence, that trust should be built and you should value the person solely for being who they are before you presume to talk to them about your faith. But seriously, who of us actually believe that conversation will ever occur? It has occurred and it's been an off and on conversation for a couple of years.

It's on again and the scary part is that this person is the one who has taken the initiative, not me. (Part of me feels wrong for even talking about this.)

We've talked about the limits of knowledge and how there's really no way to be certain. On this we both agree. We've come to the conclusion that both of us are standing at the dark abyss wondering what's there. I've concluded there is something on the other side, based solely on a few shreds of shaky evidence and the fact that because I, and most of the rest of humanity,want something (or Someone) to be there suggests there may be. And basically, I've chosen to believe. For this person, the jury is still out.

The other day I was thrown for a loop. This person asked me if I can still feel Kyle with me.

Utter silence overcame me, and then I began to verbally stammer and stumble.

I lied. I said I did. But I don't. I think about Kyle almost constantly. Sometimes when I look into the face of Jude I can hardly keep myself from crying because the resemblance is so strong. Strong memories overcome me when I find myself in certain places or certain conversations. But what does it mean to feel someone with you after they have died?

I plan on telling this person about my lie. I guess I believed if I could say that yes, in fact I do have a strong tangible feeling that my deceased friend is with me, then it would somehow be stronger evidence for this God I say I believe in.

There's some pretty convincing stuff out there that seems to disprove the existence of God. Among them-- my lack of faith in Jesus to truly follow him... writings from guys like Sam Harris, Carl Sagan, and Richard Dawkins... and the 2004 cancellation of "Ed."

But I'm still a blind man listening to the echoes, holding out hope they are real.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

All Your Ways...

By most standards, the most important person ever to come from Chandler, TX was Ralph Yarborough. Elected to the Senate in a 1957 run-off election, he retained his seat in 1964 by beating George Herbert Walker Bush in the general election. He was defeated in the 1970 primaries by the great Lloyd Bentsen. Among his many significant achievements was that of being the only Senator from a former Confederate state to vote for every significant piece of civil rights legislation. Not too shabby for someone who grew up in a town that just recently hit the 2,000 population mark. (Senator Yarborough's Chandler boasted just under 600 residents.)

Yet if you asked anyone at First Baptist Church of Chandler when I was a child who the most imposing figure in our faith community was, they would have undoubtedly said Senator Yarborough's older sister, Nell Yarborough Mallett. Born in 1896, Mrs. Mallet was 76 years old when I entered the world. She died in 2001 at the age of 105.

I can remember from a very young age the imposing presence that frail little lady had when she entered the church sanctuary. Not a bit over five foot two with platinum hair and the granny glasses that pointed out to the sides, complete with polyester dress suit, pearls and high heels, when Sunday School was over and it was time for morning worship Mrs. Mallett would inch her way to her seat, tiny step by tiny step. Most of the admiration our congregation had for her bordered on reverence. It was rumored that she had never missed a Sunday in church, and this was a big deal to those of us in the evangelical world.

We also feared her, for she knew her Bible and was sure to scold us with it if we got out of line. When I was a teenager and got my ear pierced (you know, because I was extremely cool) there were only two people whose possible reaction worried me. Number two was my dad, the first-- Mrs. Mallett.

Sometime during the mid-90's, when I was in college, they placed Mrs. Mallett in a nursing home. I visited her randomly over the years, until around '99 when my grandmother was placed in the same place, at which point I would see Mrs. Mallett on my monthly visits.

I would usually find her in the cafeteria, sitting by herself in her wheelchair and praying. During every visit she would tell the same story I had heard her tell for over ten years, about how she remembers my dad coaching me up and down the aisles of the church when I had just learned to walk. She would always say how proud he was of me and how everyone in the church just thought it was the greatest thing. Her voice had become strained. Staccato, but tender beyond measure.

She told stories of how she and her husband would read the bible together every night and would ask me if I knew what her favorite Bible verse was? I did, because she'd told me since I was a kid, but when I told her I knew she would say "How can you know? I haven't even told you yet!" So I learned to say "What is it, Mrs. Mallett?"

Trust in the Lord with all Thine heart; and lean not unto Thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

She would then lead me in a short devotional thought about how I should trust in God and not in my own understanding. After that she'd grab my hand and pull me close to her and pray for me. Her prayers were normally for strenght to follow God and for me to find a Christian girl to settle down with and to serve the Lord until the day we are called home.

Much of who I am spiritually is a direct result of Mrs. Mallett. Now, don't get me wrong, it isn't all good stuff. When I walk into the sanctuary and see someone about to sit in "my seat" I start to feel a little judgemental. When a visitor came and didn't know to stay out of her seat, Mrs. Mallett had a grimace on her face aimed directly at the newcomers throughout the entire service. In fact, many of church people developed a protocol when this would happen: Before Mrs. Mallett could see the indiscretion, we would introduce ourselves to the visitors and ask them if they would like to sit with us. It was quite smooth.

Mrs. Mallett loved her church, even if she was a bit too possessive of it. She wanted it run her way. And her church loved her. We generally learned to look past her quirks judgemental eyes and respect her for the years she had spent in her pew, praying for us all.

In fleeing from the strict requirements and judgmentalism that characterizes much of evangelical life, many in my generation (including myself) have sought to create Christian communities free from fear, opting instead to explore the great depths of our faith from a safe place, (all the while acknowledging that ours is not a "safe" faith.) We don't have Mrs. Malletts around to tell us not to drink, smoke, or receive tattoos and piercings. (In fact, in some instances we are looked down upon if we choose NOT to do any of those things.) And this liberating atmosphere we seek to embody, I believe, is a wonderful thing.

Yet one thing we have lost is the great compass of history. Oh, I believe we have the long view of history down pretty well, more so even than the "older" congregations. But just as the older congregations miss out by not reading and embracing the great works Augustine and Aquinas, so do we miss out by not having a Mrs. Mallett in our midst. I think she could teach us a thing our two about this thing we call "community." She would call it "church," and that term would be just fine for her. She would also be praying for us, and I experience shame when I think of the infrequency with which I pray for my church.

Wow, this has been long. I was really going to just write a little thing on a little old lady. Well, I guess I'll end with a verse, rendered from The Message:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Happy Birthday...

Behold my friend Blake
He's one of the best people in the world
(I'm serious about that)
I mean, he's blue and green, how much cooler can you get?
Today is the day, you should make Blake a cake
This is a way, to say Happy Birthday!

The poem's not that good, but if you want to see some of the most kick-ass poetry around, check out HIS BLOG. And tell him Happy Birthday. He's definitely one of my favorites.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Can Dee Dee and Me...

A lady came into the store today asking where she could find Voltaire. I asked if she was looking for Candide ,and she said she was. This sounds innocuous, but it wasn't, for I'm an uneducated buffoon.

You see, when I studied Candide at the nation's largest junior college (TJC,) it was pronounced Can-dee-dee by my rather eccentric English professor. So when I asked today's customer if she was looking for Can-dee-dee, she rolled her eyes in my direction just a split second before her neck commanded her head to follow, and said, with a disdain reserved for the lowliest peasants she obviously has to put up with daily, "It's proNOUNCED Can-deed." Knowing I was right, I decided to humor her and just said "OK." (I've since found through Wikipedia, which others have lately used to discredit one of my posts, that she was right. But that doesn't help my rant here, so we'll just tuck that bit of knowledge away as we move forward.)

I also didn't read Candide, but was able to get my hand on a copy of an old television movie rendition of the novel to watch before my class. Because the book is in my mind in visual form, I could have swore it was in our drama section. So I told her I knew exactly where it was, and proceeded to take her to the appropriate section for Voltaire and all his wonderful plays. I didn't find it there, at which point she said, "Sir, Candide is NOT a play, it should be in your Classics section." At which point I remembered that it was, in fact, in general fiction.

There are several copies of the book in the appropriate section, so I handed her the most expensive. If anyone deserves to be bled dry by a corporate giant, it is this snob.

"Have you actually read Candide?" she asked her servant.
"Yes ma'am, I read it in college."
"Well I'm buying it for a niece of mine. She's a freshman in college and is taking philosophy. I want her to be exposed to the GREAT works."

I already wasn't coming out of this conversation looking good, so I decided to go ahead and ham it up. I stepped into the role of the proletariat. No one plays that part better than me, even if it is sometimes just an act.

"I took philosophy in college. I never knew more about life and the minute intricacies of reality than I did at the end of that class. It's been all downhill since then." (At which point I should have belched to add emphasis.)

My biographical snippet was about a class I took in college. The subtext, however, was "Bitch, you think you know shit, but you don't!"

It wasn't my best moment.

All throughout school I was typically at the bottom of the top academically. I scammed my way into honors classes as a sophomore and felt like a fraud most of the time, as most of the others in those classes were labeled GT, Gifted and Talented, when we were in Junior High. But I somehow fooled the powers that were and made it in with the Brownsboro cast of Head of the Class.

At ETBU I was sold on the liberal-arts-is-the-best-way-to-go-because-you-become-a-well-rounded-person philosophy, which can also be described as the get-ready-to-bust-your-ass-for-the-rest-of-your-life-because-you'll-never-escape-your-student-loans school of thought.

Somewhere in the midst of all this I began to develop a mild interest in intellectual conversation. Some periods were more intense than others, especially when I was needing to find out where I belonged in the world. I tried putting on the smarter-than-you-could-ever-dream-of-being hat, but it didn't work. First of all, I wasn't. And secondly, I've always been a people pleaser, and it's hard to please others when you are looking down on them.

But I try to endure the glare of the intelligentsia. Deep down I tell myself I'm just as smart as any of them, even when I'm not.

I guess we are all looking for something. We want to know the mysteries. Finding the solution to ending injustices in the world is on the top of many lists. But mostly we want someone to tell us, "Hey, that thing you do. You're good at it."

When the lady walked away she looked back and said "You really should read Candide. Voltaire gives you the best of both worlds."

I have no clue what she meant by that, but maybe she was inviting me to affirm her passions. I hope someone takes her up on it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Old Form...

In honor of Donald Miller's apparent disdain for bullet points, I bring you my once regular post full of them...

-- I stopped by the hospital this morning to see the new baby. To get to the baby wing at Hillcrest you have to go past the registration area downstairs. It was around nine and there was the feeling of excitement in the air, almost as if the people were registering for some conference they have been waiting years for. It also felt like an airline terminal.

-- On one of my next future posts I will address one or both of questions that have recently been solicited from me: What I thought about Donald Miller and what I think about George and Izzie gettin' it on.

-- Ella, who is Tom and Beth's dog, had to spend some time in surgery the other day. On Monday Tom noticed she was throwing up. Jane's collar had been missing for a couple of days and I made the joke that Ella probably ate it. It turned out not to be a joke and they had to cut her open to dig it out. They also gave her an I.V. and she has been walking around with a bandage around her arm.

-- The Compass is just a few days away from closing and you can get Gospel Tracts for only a dime. I'm waiting until they go down to a nickel before I scoop them up. There's also one of those old time wooden boards that announces the Sunday School attendance and tithe amount in country churches. Waiting for that to get cheaper as well. (The latter I really am eyeing.)

-- I'm hoping Grey's Anatomy gets better quick, or I may have to become one of those people who gives up on television.

-- It's bedtime. I work at six a.m. Later.

Welcome to our world...

You can check out more picture's at ROY'S DAD'S BLOG.

Roy is taking this all in stride. I've never seen a baby as calm, cool, and collected as him.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Births Day...

It's almost 8:00 in the morning and I'm sitting at Common Grounds. I don't have to be at work until 11:00, but I woke up early today anyway because this is the day Roy Carney will be born. As a matter of fact, Lindsay is probably entering the induction chamber, or taking the inducing pill, or whatever it is they do to make you go into labor when your doctor is about to go on vacation and wants to get it over with.

It's overcast outside and frankly, it feels nice. The cool air is hanging around, giving it's own special invitation to feel, to live, before the heat arrives. I drove to Beatnix in total darkness, past the opening shops and school zones of 18th street. They were having connection problems, both with their credit card machine and the life giving force that is wi-fi, so I jetted on over to MLK on a journey to the other side of the MCC/Baylor divide of this town.

By the time I arrived the dark had retreated and what passes for light on a fully cloudy day had made it's presence known. Entering the back door I looked to the left to see Kyle's seat, his picture beaming the billion dollar smile from the back wall.

Days seem to pass faster than the speed of light.

Friends are meeting each other in this place, reunited after days apart because of Spring Break. Sitting on the couch, I look out and see them greeting each other, giving hugs, and smiling. Until this moment, I thought I was the only person who smiled in the morning. Apparently I don't have a corner on that market.

They are now seated across from me, having a Bible Study slash Prayer Meeting of some sorts. On any other day they would be met by my cynical eyes. But today, they can go ahead and fall headfirst into public evangelicalism. They are together, they love each other and miss the company of their friends. Hey, whatever props we need to bring us in proximity to the people we love, let's embrace them.

They just prayed, and it was loud. They asked God to sustain them throughout the day. They invoked his protection and pleaded with him to move in ways he's never moved before.

The Goo Goo dolls are playing through my headphones and Johnny Rzeznik is asking me if I lost my self somewhere out there, if I got to be a star. And if it makes me sad to know that life is more than who we are.

Why would that make me sad? Some days it's the only thing that makes me happy. This belief that there is more than being born, feeling the cold and the heat on our skin, then dying, this is what makes me smile. The Antioch girls across from me believe life is more than who we are, and they look like the happiest people in the world.

I'm about to go to the hospital before work. Perhaps Roy will be quick and I'll get a glimpse before I have to rush off. On my way out I'll look over to Kyle's seat, and whoever is sitting there will wonder why I'm making a point to turn around to look at them. Maybe I'll tell that person to smile, life is more than who we are. So go ahead, embrace it.

Here's a hearty happy birthday to Roy. And to all of us. Through the course of these hours may we all be born in ways unseen before now.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Green Like Polka...

Donald Miller spoke at church today. The jury is still out.

But here's a funny story. Somewhere in the myriad bullet points he was throwing our way in narrative form (one of which seemed to be that bullet points suck,) was a very articulate and moving one concerning the importance of fathering children through life, and it's metaphorical significance to how we slowly progress in faith. About that time (some seven hours into the sermon) a lady came into the church with her baby, and here's the scenario that went through my mind...

The lady keeps walking until she gets to the stage, holds the child up to Miller and yells "Remember that night two years ago in Topeka?! Well THIS is what happened, so how do you feel about fathering now?!"

I'm twisted, I know. You can't tell me, though, that it wouldn't have been the most awesome thing to ever have occurred within these city limits.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Time Out...

A couple of months ago I had a conversation with a coworker about the word myriad. She's a word person and shared with me the common mistake of placing of after myriad when it is used as an adjective. (She noticed the myriad of colors in the Picasso= Incorrect. She noticed the myriad colors in the Picasso=Correct.) I had never considered this, but was quite intrigued.

After the informal lesson something strange happened. I can barely remember encountering the word myriad before, but after the conversation I heard and read it everywhere I turned. It appeared in at least two different magazine articles within a couple of days. People all of a sudden began to use myriad in every day discourse. I marveled at the myriad situations it appeared.

There's an interesting lesson here somewhere. I'm sure it has something to do with paying attention, but I don't want to force it. I would like to use it as a segue to my day of Michigan.

This afternoon a lady came into the store looking for a book to help her son with a project about Lake Superior. She told me they've exhausted all the travel guides of Michigan and surrounding states and that they now needed more academic sources. So I spent the better part of too long trying to find all I could on Michigan. Not five minutes after I finished helping her someone else came in looking for a travel guide to Michigan.

So far, not so weird. If you've worked in retail you know about the mystical side of public action. The rules are simple:

--If someone asks for something out of the ordinary, you can bet that someone else
will ask about it soon.
--When you walk away from the phone, it will ring.
--In any store, about every twenty minutes all the customers get together to decide
that they will all go to the cash registers at the same time. The larger the
amount of people, the more apt they are to do this.

Because of this, having two people ask about books on Michigan is not that odd. But then a family came into the store, all of them wearing Michigan Wolverine gear. On my way home I heard on the radio about how Michigan hasn't made it to the NCAA tournament since '98, and that their coach has been fired. I then dove to the store and heard a commercial on the radio with the celebrity Jeff Daniels (of Dumb and Dumber fame,) talk about how amazing it is living in Michigan, and how you should.

Am I going crazy, or is the great spirit in the sky trying to tell me something?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Just Rambling...

I can sleep anywhere. It doesn't take a lot to make me comfortable. When I was a teenager and our youth group would drive all night to New Mexico for our Spring Break ski trips, I would sleep in the narrow passage on floor of the side aisle of the church van-- on top of the hump where the tire is. I can sleep on a love seat, in a school desk, or outside on the ground. It doesn't take a lot to make me comfortable.

And this will make many people squirm: I don't even have to have sheets on my bed. Nope, it's never been a big deal to me. A pillow is nice, but I can make do with a wadded up t-shirt.

I know, it's gross.

I've always wanted to be someone who has a made up bed with sheets and a comforter to comfort my sleepy body. Actually, I've never really cared. I just don't want you to think less of me. I guess you should say I've always wanted to WANT to be someone who has a made up bed with sheets and a comforter to comfort my sleepy body.

But times they are 'a changin. After eating lunch with my mom at the Jason's deli in Tyler a few weeks ago, she wanted to go shopping. Shopping period is living hell for me. Walking around a store with my mom is worst nightmare I can imagine. Seriously, who actually enjoys walking up and down the aisles of a store just looking at stuff you don't really need? I don't.

But something happened. We went into Linens and Things. In the aisle, on sale, a bed in a bag. Sheets, pillowcases, comforter. And they all matched. Mom told me she wanted to buy it for me and I did not complain.

The purpose of this post is to announce that I am surrounded by sheets and a comforter. Your life can now proceed to be better off for the knowing.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


When Jude and Sutton were three and would give me weak hugs I would tell them "That felt like a two year old hug. Are you two?" At which point they would kick up the intensity. When they turned four I accused them of doling out three year old hugs. It's been at least four or five months since I've played that game. They're still four.

Tonight I watched them while Jen had dinner with some friends. (Avery is with grandparents.) As I was getting their dinner out of the oven and listening to all the questions and comments that come from four year olds, Sutton told me this:

"I'm giving seven year old hugs now. If you stick around maybe later I'll show you."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Private Conversation...

(If you've read Crowder's newest book, you'll recognize that I'm not being original here. But I thought it was funny anyway.)
Edit: I've cleaned it up to make it easier to read.

Jason says: christy says she dogs on w. bush a lot in Plan B

Craig Nash says: yeah, that's why i didn't like it as much. too vitriolic.

Jason says: I figured it wounded you
Jason says: no one likes it when people talk bad about their daddy
Jason says: :D

Craig Nash says: in this one she expresses her dissatisfaction, but she actually addresses how she had to get over her hatred for bush. in plan b it really was "i hate bush," and she was seriously hateful.
Craig Nash says: yeah, funny.
Craig Nash says: maybe if i'd read plan b now, i might like it more... because i've "progressed." although not as "progressive" as she is.

Jason says: speaking of hating bush, we watched "an inconvenient truth" the other day

Craig Nash says: yeah, i hear it's good.

Jason says: I don't know if I'll ever be as progressive as she is
Jason says: yeah, I liked it

Craig Nash says: she killed a guy.
Craig Nash says: there's a chapter in this book about how she performed an assisted suicide to a guy who had cancer.

Jason says: I wish he would have left out some of the partisan politics

Craig Nash says: that was rough to get through.
Craig Nash says: that's the deal... i think many people would become much more environmentally friendly if they didn't feel like they were being politically attacted. the effect is, "well you think I HATE the environment? then fuck you, I'll show you hate for the environment." no one ever appeals to people's good natures.

Jason says: I enjoy reading her stuff, but she's not my spirtiual guide

Craig Nash says: she's mine.
Craig Nash says: you'd better hope you never get cancer.

Jason says: inconveniant truth was great....if not for the obvious partisan parts I would consider showing it in church some day, but I think you could divide a church over just a few of the partisan inuendos
Jason says: I do hope that I don't
Jason says: but if I do, I'll keep you at arms lenght

Craig Nash says: me too. i thought that joke might would have been funny, but it didn't come out very funny.
Craig Nash says: in my head it was.

Jason says: no, it was funny

Craig Nash says: good.
Craig Nash says: that was a close one.

Jason says: I think we're both funnier on chat
Jason says: everyone is funny on chat

Craig Nash says: i'm immensely more funny typing, especially with people i know.

Jason says: maybe we should start a chat comedy routine

Craig Nash says: ha!
Craig Nash says: serious audible laughing.

Jason says: people could tune in once a week for our chat cast
Jason says: complete with a range of emoticons

Craig Nash says: more audible laughing.
Craig Nash says: (puke)
Craig Nash says: that is funny, vomit.

Jason says: :x

Craig Nash says: it has to be at this time, though. i'm not as funny in the mornings.
Craig Nash says: i'm happy in the mornings, but not funny.
are you still here?

Jason says: yeah...still here
Jason and Christy Edwards says: I had to check something

Craig Nash says: can i post the last portion of our conversation on my blog?

Jason and Christy Edwards says: which part
Jason and Christy Edwards says: sure

Craig Nash says: good, because i think it's funny. starting when you say you watched inconvient truth.
Craig Nash says: because the chat cast comment made me laugh, so i figure it may make others laugh as well. and maybe i'll get a load of comments saying, "You two should most definitely do a chat cast...I'd tune in."

Jason says: then we just have to figure out what a chat cast is

Craig Nash says: we have to invent it.
Craig Nash says: i mean, you just did invent it, we just have to work out the kinks.

Jason says: you have to promise to change my spelling errors

Craig Nash says: actually, i think it's already been invented. they are called chat rooms... but if we called it a chat cast we would remarket it to a new generation.
Craig Nash says: we'll be the new youtube.
Craig Nash says: we'll have an automatic editor.
[11:42:45 PM] Craig Nash says: for the errors.

Jason says: you're not going to include the part about bush being your daddy

Craig Nash says: yeah, i thought i would.
Craig Nash says: because i laughed at that.
Craig Nash says: but not that hard.
Craig Nash says: it hurt a bit, but i also saw the humor.
Craig Nash says: i'm including all this also.
Craig Nash says: even the part after i asked your permission... so watch your language.

Jason says: oh
Jason says: it's tempting to type a "word here
Jason says: to be funny
Jason says: but I won't
Jason says: future search committees might be reading

Craig Nash says: it is, it's almost like I'm writing a blog post as we talk. (btw, i've already used the "f" word... should I delete it for the search commitees? or just use the f%$#?

Jason says: no, no, you can use works for have to be authentic
Jason says: you know, bc you're emergent

Craig Nash says: very.
Craig Nash says: i'm remergent.
Craig Nash says: im merging back into what i emerged out of. it's a new theology, and it will catch on.
Craig Nash says: i'll be the new mclaren.

Jason says: see, now I have chat fright, because I know people are eavesdropping on our conversation

Craig Nash says: alright, this is enough material. i've got to go to bed... the parents are visiting tomorrow. that'll make for a funny future chatcast.

Jason says: sleep tight

Craig Nash says: i will, have a good day. and stay away from the south.
Craig Nash says: and have fun at the wedding.
Craig Nash says: send my greetings to all present.

Jason says: I will
Jason says: later

Craig Nash says: later.

A Letter...

Dear Roy Carney,

You don't know me yet, even though you've heard my voice at various times throughout the past nine months. You have no clue how much we all already love you. I'm sure I'll write many things about and to you over the next years of your life, but right now I need to ask you a very important question.

You and your parents stopped by my house this evening to pick something up. Actually, your parents came, you were just along for the ride. As they were leaving I told them I think tonight is the night you'll come. So, I was wondering, could you go ahead and arrive tonight? I've always wanted to be a prophet, and this could be just the start I need.

Plus, how cool would it be when you are hanging around fifteen or twenty years from now talking about your birth, if part of the story would be that your parent's friend Craig predicted you would come that night, and you did. You could tell it to your grand kids, and then I'd live on in infamy for years to come.

So, if you go ahead and do this for me, I'd appreciate it. I'll buy you a beer when you turn the appropriate age.


#1 Part Two...

I suspect those who know me only peripherally believe I am not very forward thinking. When asked what I see myself doing in 5, 10, 20 years, I no longer have an answer. Namely because "Living in Waco, TX and working at Barnes and Noble as a lower level manager," would have been the most comical thing to have come out of my mouth ten years ago. I'm serious about this. People would have LAUGHED.

But it's not that I don't think about the future. It's that I think about it a bit too much, and my thoughts change hourly. When I was in my twenties I thought this would end and I would eventually be given a clear path to walk. But I'm beginning to suspect the path is never as clear as we'd like it to be. The best we can hope for is to have people we love walk beside us in the dark, alerting us to the stumps and weeds as they trip and fall.

A close friend likes to quote another friend who quotes C.S. Lewis who said "Whatever you do, try as hard as you can to live near very good friends." And, honestly, this is my only desire. There is definitely something to be said for moving out of your comfort zone if it is for the greater good of serving God, humanity, or really anything outside of yourself. But there's also something to be said (and it isn't said enough) for staying put. Planting gardens. Getting to know the cook they call "Shine" down at Dubl-R-Burgers on 18th, or becoming a local legend because of my working knowledge of all 100 beers on tap at Crickets. I'm very Garrison Keillor that way.

But, then again, Garrison Keillor lives in New York City, not Minneapolis.

So, enough of my evasion. Ten years from now...

If I could make a living corralling words into sentences, and sentences into a string of paragraphs that are bound and put out for people to exchange their money for, thereby allowing me to eat... that would be Grade A.

I also like talking. I like it so much I do it often when there isn't even anyone else around to talk back. Sometimes people pay other people to sit on a stage with a microphone and something to say. Maybe if these people thought I had something to say they'd give me the microphone, and a little money as well.

Maybe I'll end up being the husband of a pastor and stay home with the kids. I always thought that might be cool.

I like listening as well. There's a pastor in town who I see from time to time and in all our conversations he tells me I should go into counseling. Maybe his is the voice of God speaking into my life and I will be doing that in ten years.

But, you know, being a lower level manager at Barnes and Noble in Waco, TX isn't so shabby, either.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

#1 Part One...

(A fictitious post from ten years ago.)

March 13, 1997
Ten Years From Now

We are in our cars driving from Sedona up to the Grand Canyon. Several of my college friends and I have decided to spend spring break together traveling out west. So far it's been a great trip, even if some (read: one) of my companions have been getting on my last nerve.

But that's neither here nor there, as I'm in the back seat admiring the wilderness of a part of the country I've only seen in movies. It's good to have these quiet moments to think and take stock.

Being one of the many who messed around at the beginning, I still have a year left before I graduate. Most of my friends will be done at the end of this semester. But I'm actually ok with this. It'll give me more time to figure out what I want to do.

I mean, I already have a good idea, I just really don't know what it looks like. My experience as a summer missionary in Estonia is still jarring the tectonic plates underneath my soul. I love that place and the people, and am thankful to God for my time there. I'm starting to see what I've heard preachers talk about, that He really does have a heart for all the nations to come to a saving knowledge of Him. And as much as I loved Estonia, their people are living in so much darkness. You know, because of all the alcohol they drink. I just want them to know that there is so much more to life than beer. I can see myself going back there to live, but I'm not sure I want to do it in a traditional missionary position.*

Like I said, I'm not sure what all that looks like, but perhaps this next summer will help clarify. Because of connections I made in Estonia, I've been selected to intern on Capitol Hill for Senator Hutchison. I feel it's the duty of a Christian to live out their faith in the public square, so I'm hoping to find out how to do that while I'm in D.C. Perhaps my time there will open up doors to serve overseas with the state department. That's a good thought, I'll work for the state department overseas while I minister to those who are hurting on the side. This will help fulfill my passion for the nations, while also using my interest in political action for the good. I'll be a Roaring Lamb!

So, that's it. Ten years from now, in March of '07. I will probably be living in another country, ministering to those living in darkness, and working for the United States government.
*Note on "missionary position."-- Ten years ago this gaffe would have passed me by, so I chose not to address it here, just to let it be.
When I was a kid and couldn't get to sleep, I would walk into my parents room and announce "I can't sleep." At which point my mom would instruct me to drink a glass of water, lay down, and just be still.

It didn't work then and it doesn't work now.

And I'm haunted. I'm rolling over in bed constantly and thinking to myself that I've recently missed the birthday of a close friend, but I can't remember who. If it's you, let me know.

Monday, March 12, 2007


I was given an early heads up that Erin and The Ponds would be in town, and it was a pleasant surprise seeing Lance and Big Phil.

Because of the gravitational pull a certain institution of higher learning in this town has on our quirky church, the ebbs and flow of our attendance can be slightly different that what is typical of a more "grown up" congregation. Easter and Christmas are dead, but break out the extra chairs for when Homecoming and an eerily strange little ritual called "Sing" rolls around. Summers can be busy, but mostly with people passing through town hoping to catch a glimpse of some dude named David. (Incidentally, there's a joke floating around that we should purchase one of those neon signs, like Krispy Kreme, that is lit up when the Crowder Band is in town, and turned off when they are not. This would help navigate church vans full of disapointed youth groups away from town and to their destinations earlier than expected.)

And then there are the surprise Sundays. Like creatures following a sweet song back to the place that feels like home, the home of their spirit, the plot of ground where the walls of an ancient faith came down and the light began to shine.

Am I being melodramatic? So be it.

We are young, but twelve years is old enough to have a hell of a past. Sometimes the characters of a story come back for a cameo. When this happens we are reminded who we are. We introduce the old to the new, knowing full well they are parts of different acts of the same production. George Clooney meets John Stamos, if you will.

At any rate, yesterady was a great day.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Not #2...

There's a plant downstairs trying to cope with the harsh reality of having me as it's owner.

Jen's garage was full of memorial wreaths, flowers, and other varied flora and fauna after Kyle's funeral. Her brother and dad, I hear, are experts at the botanical sciences, so they took several. She also kept quite a few for herself and gave the rest away. She offered one to me and I enthusiastically leapt at the opportunity to be a first time plant owner. Like the rest of us, I was clinging to the hope that if I just did this or that, then perhaps things would be alright. My adoption of the plant was a valiant statement that Kyle's memory would remain with me and grow and flourish, enriching my life for years to come.

A month later it was on it's deathbed, so I gave it over to foster care. Pat, my coworker DESCRIBED IN THIS POST, was the doctor assigned to the case. As always, she was blunt-- "That thing is going to die. Oh, hell, I'll see what I can do." So she took it home, cared for it, probably cursed it (and me) on a daily basis, and brought it back to life. Resurrected, if a little incomplete. Several of the shoots were destroyed beyond repair. Actually, all but one were. The plant I received back was one long stem with a couple dozen healthy leaves flowering out.

I'm trying to be diligent. I really am. I water it every two or three days and have it by the window where the sun can get to it. But it's just hanging on. The other day I decided I'd put it outside. That's what it needed, I told myself, fresh air. Still, it's just holding on.

And then tonight came. Thunderstorm. On my way home from work I remembered the plant was in the front yard and felt like a failure. I'm serious, it hit me hard. I actually believed I was being a horrible friend to Kyle because the least I could have done was to take care of that damn thing that was entrusted to me, but I couldn't do that. It's insane, I know, but it's what I felt.

If I were a more skilled writer, I could give you a better and less cliche' metaphor for friendship than taking care of a plant. But I'm not, so I can't.

They both seem easy enough. Water, sun, soil= Good conversation, speaking into each other's lives, time near each other. It should be that simple. But no. Not only do you have to have the right ingredients, but they have to be applied in very specific proportions relative to the individual (or the plant.) The windows of opportunity can be painfully small. The wrong words can inflict damage, as can the right words spoken at the wrong time. It's enough to drive you crazy.

I've never claimed to be good with plant life, but I always believed myself to be a pro at the friendship thing. Sometimes, though, I'm not so sure. I can be equally healing AND hurtful, thoughtful AND inconsiderate. The dark side can be painful, because as much as I love my solitude, I live for the small group of people I call "friends." So when I feel I've hurt someone, either by deliberate action or careless neglect, I literally fear for my life, believing I'm losing a piece of myself.

I raise my glass to many things, but none higher and heartier than to those I love. So here's to the dance of friendship-- sometimes clumsy, often ugly, but always the conduit through which grace generously flows.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My night at work...

Two things about tonight at work...

1. A few years ago I would have never imagined hearing this sentence come out of someone's mouth: "Excuse me, sir. Are these the only Biblezines (pronounced to rhyme with magazines) you have?" I also never would have thought that we would have another place for our Biblezines, and that I would know exactly where they were.

2. You should be jealous of me. The new Anne Lamott book Grace (Eventually) doesn't come out for another week or so. We can't put them out for you, the commoners, but we can read them. I finished the preface and the first chapter today and was laughing so hard I had tears. Reading her stuff is like having God answer a prayer I didn't know I'd been praying. Since you've been good, I'll share a paragraph...

At twenty-one, I still believed that if you could only get to see sunrise at Stonehenge, or full moon at the Taj Mahal, you would be nabbed by truth. And then you would be well, and able to relax and feel fully alive. But I actually knew a few true things: I had figured out that truth and freedom were pretty much the same. And that almost everyone was struggling to wake up, to be loved, and not feel so afraid all the time. That's what the cars, degrees, booze, and drugs were about.

Later gators.


Forts, Huts, and Tepees were not what he was looking for, but they are what he got.

After a heroic and illustrious career (albeit accidental) in the U.S. Army, John Dunbar was given what he thought would be a prime assignment in the American West. Instead, he rounded the corner of the overgrown trail to see in the distance what appeared to be nothing more than one of the many abandoned huts he'd encountered on his journey. But as his horse galloped closer it became more clear, this was the fort of his outpost.

Going against the apparent wisdom of his drunk and cantankerous traveling companion, he unloaded his gear and began fulfilling his responsibilities. Little did he know that just a few rolling hills away, among the fires and tepees of the Sioux, walked a community of people he would one day become a part of, and love.

It's been 17 years since the classic Dances with Wolves was released, but the ideas and questions raised by the movie still linger in many of our souls.

The dilemma to be faced at the end of the movie is one we've all no doubt wrestled with: How can we look back on atrocities inflicted by our government, condemn them, yet continue to bathe ourselves in lifestyles that would not be possible if the original evils were not committed?

Doesn't it feel a little weird celebrating racial diversity when, in the long view of things, racial diversity would probably not exist in our country if it weren't for our sinful history of slavery?

When you look at the panorama of history, isn't it a little interesting that the people of California are the champions of human rights, when to get to California from the east we practically destroyed an entire race of people?

Is it strange that many of those who (perhaps justifiably) are angry at our government for invading Iraq "for oil" are not getting rid of their SUV's and moving out of the suburbs because it's not "practical?"

What would have happened if we were all like Jon Dunbar, shedding the communal vices we truly believe to be so evil and making the extreme sacrifices of becoming new people in the process?

(Wow, that one was difficult.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Not #3...

(#3 on Jason's list will be the most difficult. I still need some time to think it through. In the meantime I thought I'd share something else. As you know, my recent vacation was for the purpose of writing. I've been thinking there is enough distance from October '05 for me to have good perspective, but it's still fresh enough for me to feel it-- making it a perfect time to write a bunch of stuff about Kyle's death and my life (and the life of our church) since. The following is a short chapter...)

Ben appeared in the doorway with the hospital chaplain. He asked if I wanted to see Kyle’s body. I said yes and was escorted by the chaplain and my friend Carol, who had arrived shortly before. There were hundreds of people in the waiting room from all over town, and I felt their eyes on me, as my slow movement toward the ER parted the crowds.

The metal doors opened and I told Carol I wanted to go in by myself.

The chaplain walked me through a short corridor to the room, holding on to my arm to steady my gait. She told me there would be some hosptial staff in the room and prepared me for what I sould see. She opened the door and on the table, wrapped in white sheets up to his neck, was Kyle’s body.

Guttural cries. The word no. Dizziness. Screaming.

I am a very composed person but I showed no composure in that room.

I would never claim to know all the specifics about what happens when you die, but I buy into the line of thinking that says your spirit leaves your body and sticks around a little while longer before it goes to the next place. I have no scripture or theological constructs to flesh this out, but all I could feel in that room was the great big fact that Kyle was there and that he was leaving.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


If someone had trained me in the proper use of tools, such as the Swiss Army Knife, things may have been different. But no one did, and they weren't.

I sucked at the Pinewood Derby.

Royal Ambassadors, or RA's for short, is an organization of the Southern Baptist Convention that is basically Boy Scouts with Bible verses. We met on Wednesdays and (supposedly) talked about God and the bible and missions. We also went camping, fishing, and raced little hunks of wood carved into mini unmotorized motor vehicles down a preassembled track.

(I also was first exposed to pornography at an RA gathering, but that is a WHOLE other post screaming to be written.)

The point of the Pinewood derby was to practice your woodworking skills and to be with your father. I had (and have) a great dad, but he was not a handyman. Ours was the go-to-sporting-events-and-only-talk-about-touchdowns type of father/son relationship, not the let's-spend-quality-time-carving-wood variety.

As a result, I waited until the last minute before telling my RA leader Mr. Butler, who was also my neighbor, that my car wasn't ready. Not only was it not ready, it had not been worked on at all. Just a big piece of wood. He helped me out a little, but it was too late. Every year I was destined to lose.

I learned to soften the blows of losing, (and face it guys, losing at something like that is a gut wrenching event,) by convincing myself that the cars that won were not made by the sons and fathers, but only by the fathers. And, really, this was true. The winning cars were never simple things whittled by a Swiss Army Knife, they were fancy racing machines created with buzz saws and sanders-- tools only an adult can use.

But it's ok, don't feel bad for me. In my recent foray into East Texas I visited a Christian bookstore in Longview. I made two purchases, one of which will be the subject of a future post. The other is a Pinewood Derby patch to be given to finalists. It was only two dollars and I felt like a happy fraud when I walked out the door with it. I'm considering having it sewn on one of my jackets.


Before I tell you about my Dreamgirl, I should get something out of the way.

I'm not gay.

(Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that. Or, rather, not that the wrongness or rightness of that has anything to do with this post...but I digress.)

I recently had a conversation about this with one of my few remaining single friends left in this town. He asked if I ever wonder that other people think I'm gay because I'm in my thirties and not married or attached. The truth is, when I was in my mid to late 20's, as he is, I did worry about that. But I slowly came to the realization that people will think what they want to think, regardless. Most in my hometown would get married at 12 if it was legal, so they will always raise their eyebrows at someone who is 32 and single.

It is possible, though, that the reason I'm not married is because of a guy. His name is Josh Harris and he began writing these Christian books against dating in the early 90's. I would give anything if I could tell you I didn't jump headfirst into the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" revolution, but I can't. I wasn't the most ardent disciple, but the movement did come along and affect me at a time when I should have been coming into my own in the area of relationships.

By the time I shed the puritanical fear of eternal damnation if I kissed or lusted or went on a date, I was living in Dallas and focusing on work and survival. I then went on a series of moves, eventually landing here in Waco. During this span of several years, I went on less than a dozen dates. In the meantime, I began focusing on spending as much time as possible with my close friends and also on shedding the effects of a lifetime of unhealthy living.

As a result of all of this, I became an adult all by myself. You could call me a single adult, as a million churches do these days, but that would be defining me by something you think I lack. If I'm 50 and still unmarried, I will still feel complete.

With all that said, a girl would be nice.

It should go without saying, that as a teenager my standards were purely physical. Blond, thin, pretty. The only requirements I had that weren't visible to the eyes was that she was breathing and had a pulse. Everything else was negotiable.

In my early 20's I would have gone for someone with the same physical atributes I wanted in my teens, but who "loved the lord" and wanted to have a family and devote her life to pleasing and taking care of her man. Beth Moore, without the preaching, if you will.

In my late 20's it was the opposite-- Strong, independent, already complete. I always said it would be someone who could live without me, but chose not to.

But the older I get the more my parameters seem to expand. Feminists, please don't stone me, but attractive is sill a must. (Although my tastes on what is "attractive" are much more diverse than they were at earlier times.) I want someone who wants a family AND who is devoted to whatever vocation she is passionate about. She has to look good in blue jeans. It'd be nice if she thinks I'm the funniest person in the world, even when I'm not. I'm still enough of a fundamentalist to hold to the "equally yoked" theory, so she should be a Christian (and pretty serious about her faith.) She doesn't have to be a Republican, but she shouldn't think I'm a sinner for being one. Someone who expects her husband to be financially set need not apply, for I received a liberal arts degree. She should know how to walk into a room and make it stop, or at least make me stop. I reserve the right to choose where we spend Christmas Eve (Lindale,) everything else is up to her. She can be loud or quiet, but annoying is out. She should like hanging out with my friends, and it'd be really hot if she could hold her own at Happy Hour. It'd also really turn me on if she made people think I was smarter than her, even though I probably won't be. Her friends shouldn't judge me. I'd like it if she breaks out in song and dance every now and then, and at least some of it should be country.

I could go on and on. But mostly, I'm holding out for someone who is my partner in the music video that is constantly going on in my head, which is to a song that encompasses all of life-- grief, joy, the mundane, and love.

Cue the cheese...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Road...

Several weeks ago I mentioned reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. It was on everyone's Best Of list last year, so I decided to give it a chance. It was haunting and inspiring and has been one of those books that creeps into my mind at random times.

The story follows an unnamed man and his son roaming the American West after what is presumed to be a nuclear holocaust. It is about survival. It's also about fear and the primal drive we have to seek out fellow travelers. The two characters are heading to the coast. They don't really know why but the father suspects that perhaps the "good guys" will decided to gather near water. It's a stab in the dark, but they take it. The father constantly tells the son where they are heading, and the son constantly asks, "So we can find the other good guys?"

I'm laying in bed thinking about distance and this feeling within me that everything I do in my life is just the deliberate action of putting one foot in front of the other, trying my hardest to bridge the distance between me and those I belong with, and the One I belong to.

Give me words...

Jason told me a few weeks ago that he'd send me a list of things to write about. But he hasn't been a very good friend because I haven't received it yet. Something about being "out of town." Geez.

Life has been blah, drying up my stories. So I'm needing you to help me out.

Leave me words, phrases, prompts, questions, whatever you'd like to hear from my minuscule mind about (within reason, of course.)

I've been importing my blog to Facebook. If you read it from there and ever want to comment, please come to I'm here more than I'm there.

I do have one funny story to tell. Unfortunately I need to go get ready for work, and also receive clearance from the parties involved in said story before the telling.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Seeing the Light...

"...When I'm gone and at my grave you stand/ Just say God called home your ramblin' man" -- Luke the Drifter.

Sometimes when my friends and I ask others about their experience with church, what we are really saying is "Tell us how bad church screwed up your life like it screwed up ours." It's hard for us to conceive of someone making it to this side of a lifetime in pews and Christian Camps without having at least the hint of a nervous tick jerking through their bodies.

Luckily, though, I often encounter those for whom church was the best thing that ever happened to them. And these are also normal and well adjusted people, not the freaks we expect them to be. There are churches out there that want you to be transformed into a person that looks an awful lot like Christ, but who don't require you to already be walking on water before you enter the doors.

I think this is what we want from a church. In some way we have experienced God, which has left us with the suspicion that we are not what we should be. We want to be with a group of people who will help us become the new creatures that Paul says we are. But we want to be the same person everywhere we go, and when we carry our "outside of church" persona into the four walls, we still want to be taken in. Many of us learned early on to become someone different when we walked through the doors-- and that has made us angry.

Yet we also want the opposite to be true. We've been bathed in the great Truth of the ages, and it would be nice if we could carry that out with us.

In 1985 George Jones released Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?, a classic lament to the fading away of traditional country music in the 70's and 80's. The song is a virtual walk through a museum, mentioning the names of Jones' musical heroes. Toward the end he makes this proclamation: "You know, the heart of country music still beats in Luke the Drifter. You can tell it when he sang I Saw the Light."

Luke the Drifter didn't sing I Saw the Light, Hank Williams did.

Early in his career Hank Williams wrote a series of improvised "talking songs." (Country roots of hip/hop, anyone?) They were, in essence, the blues. He recorded these songs under the name of his alter ego, Luke the Drifter. Some have suggested Luke the Drifter was the yin to Williams' yang. The common thought is that Luke was the preacher to Williams, the sinner.

When I listen to the dozen or so Luke the Drifter Songs I hear the voice of one who knows full well, and perhaps dwells a little too much, on the depravity of humanity. Yet it's someone who spent his life preaching to the choir.

I Saw the Light was recorded under the name "Hank Williams" the sinner, not "Luke the Drifter", the preacher.

George Jones pulled Luke the Drifter out of the pews, introduced him to Hank Williams, and made them both dance in the streets at the Joy of Seeing the Light.

I'm happy there are churches like Dayspring, Calvary, Lake Shore, UBC, along with others in this town that are refusing to let each of their children be two people at once. They are insisting we be who we are, with a constant eye to who we should be.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sweet Fountain...

There was a used book sale going on this past weekend over at Calvary Baptist. It was put on by Truett to raise funds for Africa, or social justice, or the democratic party, or something like that-- I can't remember. I came away with some good stuff.

The biggest treasure I found was a copy of the 1975 version of the Baptist Hymnal. Snatched that thing for a buck, yet it's worth it's weight in gold. This is the hymnal used in the church I grew up in. I actually remember when the newer hymnal came out in the late 80's or early 90's and there was great controversy over whether or not we would "switch over." (We eventually did.)

I authenticated that it was in fact the '75 hymnal by turning to two separate pages that are seared into my mind: Hymn 107-- There is a Fountain and Hymn 255-- Sweet Sweet Spirit.

I've begun to think we need to get back to the blood songs. I talked to an old acquaintance this weekend who said he and his wife are at a certain congregation in town because it's comforting to stick close to the "blood talk." I agree.

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emanuel's veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away

Ever since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be 'till I die

Are there words less "relevant" in our vernacular, yet more needed and charged with meaning than these? What I wouldn't give if I was known as one for whom "Redeeming Love" is his theme.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

New Link...

I've become someone who doesn't take kindly to new people walking into my life. The quote from Meredith on Grey's Anatomy about us choosing the people we want to be close to applies to me a lot. When it comes to friends, I'm extremely loyal and even a little protective and territorial. These aren't always good and noble virtues. It especially creates issues with trying to be part of a church where there is a yearly revolving door.

There's an art to walking through the doors and pulling up a chair in someone's life. You can't be too timid, less others think you are a piece of work and would require too much effort. Yet you also can't be too bold, barging in and immediately rearranging the furniture to suit your fancy. When this happens I think "who the hell do you think you are," and find ways to ignore you.

In film, television, literature, and in real life, a graceful entrance is as beautiful as a graceful exit. It's also as elusive. Not many people can pull it off.

Hannah can.

In the year after Kyle died, many of us closed ranks and found little ways to comfort each other. We needed someone to hold and to allow us to cry a lot and to read our emotional blogs and to help us remember our collective past. But as the year went on, we also needed a fresh breath of air. To ward off paralyzing depression we needed new things and people to remind us that there is a world outside of our tragic one and that the sun is always coming.

Enter the Howards, a family who has also had their share of pain after the loss of their husband and father a few years ago. Somewhere in the midst of our difficult year, Robyn, Shane, and Hannah walked in.

Hannah is a 12 year old genius and lover of life. She's young but has an old soul and can make you feel valued and glad you woke up on a Sunday you otherwise would have advised yourself to stay in bed. Today Potter told her he'd already sold his house on his slow exit out of Waco, and Hannah just walked away. It was cute and adorable, but has anyone in the history of the world yet found a more genius way to tell someone you don't want them to leave?

Anyway, the reason I'm writing this is because a.) It's true and b.)Hannah is a great writer and has had a blog for some time and I've felt guilty for not putting the link to it. But I have and it's on the left. You can also check it out HERE.

Here's hoping everyone has a Hannah to gracefully walk through the doors of your lives.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Letter...

Dear whoever was in the committee of people at the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1989 that decided the theme of that year's Super Summer and Youth Evangelism Conference would be "Shout it Out Texas!" based on the verses found in the book of Joshua that describe the activities surrounding the Israelite destruction of Jericho,

I'm beginning to wonder, have you ever read the book of Joshua? I've been trying to read it for the past few weeks and can't get past all the killing. Today I finally got to chapter 12 and am just plain exhausted.

Were you aware that after the people of Israel "shouted it out" and the walls fell, that they then proceeded to kill almost every single person in Jericho, including women and children AND animals? Spears pierced flesh, hearts stopped beating and blood flowed in the streets, forming puddles like the one we see on the news today, near the same place. Whoever wrote the book of Joshua didn't make that part look pretty, so why did you? I was left believing the walls just fell down and God's people moved into the neighborhood and woke up the next morning to knock on the Jerichoans door to ask to borrow a cup of sugar and a couple of eggs. And if I would just "Shout it Out" by telling people about Jesus then the metaphorical walls of people's hearts would fall down and they would love Jesus like I was taught to love him.

And what about the whore? Why didn't you tell me God used the whore? I remember hearing about Rahab in Sunday School as a young child. But it seems once I hit puberty all talk about this important prostitute ended and it was all just about the walls falling down. I left Super Summer and the Youth Evangelism Conference that year with a "love for Jesus" and a disdain for the whores. Yet it seems to me that God honored the faithfulness of those I came to believe were God-forsaken. Why didn't I learn that summer that God works through those I was "shouting it out" to?

Please don't think I no longer follow the God you taught me about. I try to give my life to God, yet it's much harder now than you made it out to be back in '89. I can't read these things anymore and moralize and spiritualize the lessons without first wrestling with the brutal plot twists and turns. I get to chapter 12 now and have to ask myself, "This is the God I follow?"

It is, and i'm on a runaway train. I've made my choice and I'm sticking with it. But I'm not always a gung-ho member of the "Shout it Out" club. When I read our story I cannot gloss over the ugly parts.

I guess what I'm saying, whoever was in the committee of people at the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1989 that decided the theme of that year's Super Summer and Youth Evangelism Conference would be "Shout it Out Texas!" based on the verses found in the book of Joshua that describe the activities surrounding the Israelite destruction of Jericho, is that I appreciate your willingness to teach me about God. But I hope and pray in the future you think twice about taking war narratives from the Old Testament and turning them into a cheerfest for a group of rowdy teenagers. Kids need to know the God they follow is not tame and whose story is full of weird things that should make us scratch our heads more and "shout it out!" less.



Thursday, March 01, 2007

I'm still on vacation, but back in Waco. I'm lacking inspiration. Today I have sat down to begin at least a half-dozen posts, but I can't bring myself to care enough about any of them to finish.

I'm with Huey Lewis. I need a new drug.*

*Do not take "drug" literally.