Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Brandon was a resident in Feagin Hall at ETBU when I was the director. We always had a good cordial acquaintance, but were mainly friends through Robert. Brandon was, and is, one of the funniest people I know and a better person to be around would be hard to find. One of the greatest things about the past couple of months is that Brandon is now my neighbor. I discovered he moved to Waco then later discovered he lives two door down. Fate, and a little bit of romance brought him to Waco. The romance ended, but he's still around and for that I'm grateful.

One thing a lot of people don't know is that Brandon is an amazing writer. The quote below is from his "About Me" section on his Facebook and MySpace. Hope you enjoy...

When I was younger I had it all; fame, fortune, good looks, popularity, power, and prestige. My life was good. I was the envy of all my friends. But I had one dark secret that loomed over me like the ominous grey skies of a cold rainy mid-winter day. I knew that if that secret ever got out, it would be my downfall. So, I vowed to guard it with my life. As a result, I could never let anyone get too close. People tried, but every time I felt threatened I would cut them off. I was a vicious heart breaker. My love life stayed in constant turmoil. But then one day, I met a girl who loved me so completely, so freely, that I felt compelled to share my burden with her. I was tired of living a double life, of constantly hiding in the shadows, lying to protect myself. I wanted to come clean and start a new life; quit running, maybe settle down. But I never got that chance. At the end of the year, the girl I loved suddenly moved away. I was devastated. I didn't understand. We were young lovers, perhaps too young. I longed to go after her, the only true happiness I’d ever known, but there was nothing I could do. After all, we were both just in third grade. I never got to tell her….that I still wet the bed.

Yep, that's Brandon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dos Anos...

"...and the psalmist says 'God has always been our dwelling place,' always has been, always will be, still is for Kyle and for you. So here is a notion today that you might cherish and imagine-- The reality, the realm in which we all exist connects us in living communion. And I'm imagining that today. I'm imagining Kyle smiling about that too. In some sense waiting for us all, but waiting beyond time. So maybe somehow for Kyle it's all in this great eternal now, I imagine him smiling because in some miraculous way that we can't understand here, he is smiling because we are with him. As the poet said 'There has to be another time, there has to be another place, where all the love you ever missed, is given by the Father's grace.' So he's smiling because somehow, in eternity, we are together."

--Burt Burleson in the sermon for Kyle Lake's funeral.

Occasionally one of the Lake kids will ask me how old Kyle is, present tense. I try my best to do the math out loud, reminding them that he was 33 when he died and that was two years ago so now he would have been 35. They accept the reminder wholeheartedly, but I'm expecting and dreading a day when the follow-up question becomes, "So, how old his he? 33 or 35?" It never ceases to blow my mind the depths children dive in their minds to try to figure out the complexities of reality.

Some of the most beautiful words I've ever heard were given by Burt Burleson at the funeral. I've been to numerous funerals in my life. I've heard meaningful sermons about the beauty of a life well-lived and a good amount of calls to cherish our future hope. Yet Burt's message transcended ideas of past and future. It brought time, experience, and yearning all together into a seed that, if those of us who heard the words allow them, has flowered into our very present lives. He spoke of the communion of saints and how we are all, the living and the dead, on a journey to our creator. And we are on a journey together.

Today, along with experiencing a continued sadness, I am trying to live in gratitude. My heart overflows with thankfulness for autumn and for days off of work that have helped to center and give perspective...for time spent over the past few days with Blake, Jason, Christy, Mark, Brandon, Josh, Lindsay, Roy, Tony, Melissa, Matt, and Brooke...for the upcoming weddings of Britt and Holly, Jason and Stony...for being able to protect Jude and Sutton from the wasps at the park yesterday...for still being able to pick Avery up, if only for a little while longer...But mostly, today, I remember and am grateful, truly grateful, that I had five years to be friends with, to learn with and under, to laugh with and at (and be laughed at by,) to eat and drink with, to argue and struggle with, one of the greatest saints, Kyle Lake. And I'm thankful that, in some strange way I've yet to fully understand, he is still with us, on the great journey to the One in whom we live, move, and have our being.

Monday, October 29, 2007


I'll tell you what I like about Joel Osteen. He never seems to be concerned with answering his critics. I've seen him interviewed a handful of times on news programs and every last journalist, regardless of the subject at hand, wants to bring up the differences other people have with Osteen's message and get a feel for his response. It's an obvious bait. But he never falls for it. Yet it's not the type of silence us cool emergents give, almost as if we are above being pulled into futile arguments over "old questions" that will have no resolution and will prove that no one will ever understand us. His restraint seems (to me, anyway) to be solely out of a conviction that goodwill should exist among people with differing messages.

I've been reading up on the Baha'i faith. Followers of Baha'i don't worship a deity per se, but rather celebrate an amorphous idea of diversity. Unity seems to be the object of their affections, a shared table where every idea is equally valid the goal. I'll never be a Baha'i an. I'll always believe there are some ideals and beliefs (including many espoused by Joel Osteen) that deserve to be questioned and spoken out against.

With that said, I still think that we spend way too much time defining ourselves by pointing out the chasm between ourselves and others. We are not, to loosely quote from Chocolat, defining ourselves by what we embrace, but rather by those we disagree with. It happens in pulpits across America, even those seeking to hover "above the line." In an otherwise meaningful and substantive sermon I have heard recently, the speaker used a clip of a well-known fundamentalist pastor in a debate with a well-known emergent pastor over the practice of churches offering yoga classes to their congregants. Both gave compelling arguments from their epistemological and theological backgrounds, ones that would have one over their respective followers. It's no secret which side the speaker (and myself, for that matter) fell on the debate. From my perspective, the fundamentalist was made to look foolish. From the perspective of some of my friends, he probably looked as intelligent as he could possibly be. But, in the end, was this device necessary? The obvious intent was to use an easy target to hit a bulls eye in front of friendly listeners.

I've recently read A.J. Jacobs' book The Year of Living Biblically. A writer for Esquire, Jacobs is one of the millions of Americans who, since the beginning of the Bush presidency, has become fascinated with the influence the Bible has on so many. He sought to get inside the world of the Bible and live out all the laws and rules, including the ones that time has made irrelevant, as close as possible. To do this, he found several different groups of people who follow certain precepts to the core, and he hung out with them. He visited numerous Orthodox Jews, a Creationism museum, Amish, and Jehova's Witnesses.

On a trip to Tennessee, he visited Jimmy Morrow, the pastor of a snake handling church in rural Appalachia. An agnostic, Jacobs could have said any number of divisive and contentious things about these people who occupy the far margins of our society, but he didn't. He was kind and respectful. His conclusion was extremely moving. He said when he was safely back in Manhattan he began to have this great concern for Jimmy Morrow. He had a great urge to call Morrow up and tell him to stop handling snakes. Of all the religious people he had met during the previous year, Morrow, an uneducated man with a vastly different worldview, was by far the one he liked the most. An he put his life on the line every time he handled a snake, and Jacobs wanted to protect him.

How many of us, followers of Jesus, can say we possess this kind of goodwill for those we disagree with? What would happen if we spoke out against the televangelists of our day not because they are silly caricatures, but because we genuinely are concerned with the damage their theology does, not just to their followers, but to themselves? I know this gets into murky waters with the dangers of patronization lurking on every corner, but it seems like a healthy ideal to shoot for.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Just Miss...

Many of you know what a huge fan I am of Bob Phillips and Texas Country Reporter. When I was a kid we would pick up the antenna signal of several Dallas stations. The show was then on Channel 8 out of Dallas and was called 8 Country Reporter. Back then it came on early Saturday evenings, and I would watch it just before I switched over to NWA Wrestling on WTBS. (Yes, I was alive when there was a "W" in front of "TBS.") I was always fascinated with Phillips' stories about the out of reach places in Texas. He has always had a knack for finding those characters and stories that no on else in the world cares about, except in novels celebrating the idea of small-town life. These are the people and narratives that are in theory celebrated, yet in reality disdained by the intelligentsia.

In recent years I catch the show here and there, as it comes on sporadically and at odd times here in Waco. But I'm still a fan.

After packing up camp and getting ready to come home on Thursday, I decided to take a stroll through Jefferson. When I'm around the area I always love stepping into the General Store there and sampling the various array of Jams, Jellies, Salsa and Apple Butter. As I walked in I saw a sign that said that a local poet would be there in the afternoon for a booksigning at noon, and would be interviewed by Bob Phillips, THE Texas Country Reporter at 2:00. I looked down at my watch. It was 4:00.


I asked the lady at the counter if Phillips was still around, and she told me he had left about twenty minutes before, but that he might still be around town. I walked around and never found him.

Oh well. Someday.

Friday, October 26, 2007

After purchasing some necessities, I arrived at Caddo Lake State Park early on Monday afternoon. I was on the front end of the cold front, which I have learned after many years of watching the Weather Channel, usually means rain. But in a place like Caddo, heavy rains usually means you can stay dry under the canopy of Cypress and Pine until a big wind blows through and shakes the water off the trees, which happens about every two minutes.

So I set up the tent, got in it, and slept one of the longest, most peaceful naps in recent memory.

The next couple of days were spent walking, sitting in front of a fire, and reading. But mostly, a lot of just sitting and being quiet. I needed the past few months to leak out of me, and that's what I tried to facilitate. The great thing is that I had the entire park to myself. This is the advantage to being childless-- You can take your vacations during times when normal vacationers are at school and work.

Utter silence is what I was surrounded by, and it was healing.

I finished reading A.J. Jacob's The Year of Living Biblically and began reading Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow. Look for posts about both soon. In the meantime, here's some pictures. (They actually aren't from this trip, but from a trip I took earlier in the year. I found the roll of film when I was cleaning out the Talon to part ways.)

Monday, October 22, 2007


After a truly great time at Brent's wedding Saturday, church yesterday and a visit to Soma, my friend Tony and Melissa's wonderful new church, and an as-always special time with them, I'm now in Marshall. Heading out to Caddo Lake.

After talking with Tony and Melissa last night, I realize why I try to come out here as much as I can. Any other time-off activities make the days go by so damn fast. But nothing goes by fast at Caddo Lake. Time moves so slow it is almost in reverse.

So I'll be there for a few days, just sitting, reading. An the great thing is, I'm on the front end of the Great First Cold Front of the year.

So take care. There probably won't be another post from me until much later in the week.

Friday, October 19, 2007


If you think you live an uneventful life, think again. It's Friday night, 10:00p.m. and I just spent the evening watching a recording of the Waco City Council's work session on the Cable Access Channel.

I know, I know, I need to slow it down a little. But you can't stop me. I'm living on the wild side for my vacation, which began this afternoon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vote Now, Vote Often...

One of my links on the left is to Mike and Melissa Pond, some old school UBC'ers and about the greatest people you are likely to find anywhere. Check out their blog with all the pics of their beautiful baby Noelle.


Once you've realized that I'm not kidding, this kid IS extemely beautiful, then let the world, or at least the DFW Metroplex know. Click HERE to vote for Noelle in the KissFM Most Kissable Baby Contest. Noelle Pond's picture is about halfway down the page. Let's bring this kid to victory!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm about to begin a much needed vacation. For some reason I'm at a time in my life when I feel like the only one around who is dying inside. All I've got is a life that was and a life I believe may someday be, but in the purgatory that is now only a few grains of goodness scattered in the weeds. In many ways I'm dealing with the universal issues of identity and worth that the great Christian theologian and poet Michael W. Smith sang about many years ago when he talked about his place in this world. So, all that to say, I need a break from this place.

Here's my itinerary... Saturday I'm heading to Dallas for my good friend Brent's wedding. I'll be back in Waco for church and hopefully lunch with friends on Sunday, then in the afternoon I'll be heading to Tyler to hang out with the Herrings and to visit Soma, their new church. Early Monday I'll be heading far east to the Carthage area to stop by the graves of my grandparents. I'll spend the next two or three days camping out in Caddo Lake. Hoping to get some good reading and possibly writing done during that time, but mostly just relaxation. I'll be back around Waco toward the end of next week and will play it by ear for that weekend. I don't have to be back at work until the Devil's Birthday, praise Jesus.

If any of you who read this reside between here and any of the aforementioned theres, I'd love to sit down and shoot the bull over a cup of coffee, if you are so inclined.

That's about it for now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I am struggling to find time to write. I'm also struggling to find things to write. Somebody help me.

Monday, October 15, 2007


This afternoon Avery, Sutton and I went to the Waco Art Center to take a look at the Steve McCurry exhibit. I'm pretty ignorant of what seperates good photography from excellent photography, but his is one of those talents that requires very little imagination to figure out that he is one of the best. It was my fourth time to visit the exhibit, and I'm continually amazed that we have something like it in Waco.

Ocassionally when I have the kids I'll try to do something that's a little more substantative than analyzing Zach and Cody's "suite life." It rarely works. They remain interested for a few moments then return to being children, as they should be. But by the end of the afternoon, I was glad we came. We played a game where I pretended I was blind and had the kids walk me around and describe the photos for me.

Before that, though, when we walked in we saw McCurry's most famous subject, and one of the most recognized photographs in history, Sharbat Gula, also known as Afghan Girl. The kids were unimpressed, which disappointed me a bit. But I found it interesting that when we found the photograph taken of the Afghan Girl just a few years ago, Avery needed no help in noticing that it was the same girl. We walked by the adult picture, she looked up, and shrugged "It's the same person." I asked how she know it, because the first one was a girl and the second an adult.

"She has the same pretty eyes," Avery said.

I'm not being paid by the Waco Art Center, but you should really check it out if you are in town. It's going on until the end of next March.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Here, There, Everywhere...

It's Sunday night. Needing to get a few weekly food items, I drove down Bosque to the grocery store. On my way past the Fair Grounds, I remembered something I learned in Sunday School as a child. God is everywhere. Later I learned the word omnipresent , which sounds much more intelligent, but doesn't carry the same punch as saying God is everywhere.

This past week was the Heart of Texas Fair and Rodeo. Last night was the last night. Tonight, in the darkness, surrounded by a breeze that wants desperately to be cool, and in the midst of gathering rain, the fair grounds are desolate, despite the numerous displays and attractions that have yet to be disassembled. I imagine the wind blowing through the asphalt and exhibit buildings, thrashing about discarded tickets, popped balloons, and the remains of what amounts to junk mail collected at vendor booths.

I suppose if God is everywhere, if God is, indeed, omnipresent, then the Holy Spirit is having a field day in this insignificant corner of the world, abandoned temporarily by human activity. I also suppose this thought doesn't excite many people, me included. Speaking of God's everywhere-presence carries little weight when the setting doesn't lend to our lives being important. Plots of land existing a day after massive activity has ceased lends nothing to my striving to be consequential. They are just places with wind and junk and the ghosts of revelers past.

Driving by the fairgrounds, contemplating the emptiness of it all, I thought of loss. I thought of how we are all walking around with the weight of loss, both experienced and inevitable, and how in many ways loss defines the condition we are in. We once were lost, now we're found, once were blind, now we have sight-- But we just keep losing until the end.

In light of all this, all we have to offer is a scratched-voice cry for help. Luckily, God is here, present, ready to fill the empty spaces, even has he dances along the trash filled streets of a now-over county fair.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Wheels...

Driving something a little beat up and a little out of the ordinary is a good way to be recognized. Driving it for almost ten years will in some ways marry your image to the image of that car. Such has been the case with a little red '96 Eagle Talon and me. If someone sees a car that looks like that car, it is likely me behind the wheel. The rusted black rooftop, spider-web crack in the windshield, missing driver side mirror coupled with a door handle that doesn't work on the driver's side, all say one thing-- Craig.

But no more. After years of prodding from those who love me most, I'm now driving a new car. '96 Eagle Talon has gone to the graveyard of 16-year old's first vehicles, and in it's place '07 Saturn Ion has emerged. I'm now a mortal, just like the rest of Waco.

Damn, I'll miss that Talon.

Who am I kidding? No I won't.

I will, however, miss the feeling of not having a car payment due at the end of the month.

Monday, October 08, 2007


5-0 (By the grace of the Almighty.)

Still Here...

I read something recently that addressed the state of the blog. It spoke of how "wired" the whole world is and how bloggers have to constantly be updating their site or it gets ignored. One pastor of a fairly large church resigned his position just so he could minister to the world through his blog. Another blogger stated that if he went more than six hours without posting even the slightest "I have nothing to say," then he would start to receive emails wondering if he was ok.

This is constantly in my mind. I've been spending a lot of time just taking care of myself and my dog, and working. But there's always that voice that says if I wait much longer to start writing, then people will stop reading. And, over the past few years, some of my self-worth has been based on knowing many of you are reading. I've recognized this and have tried to deliberately pace myself with everything I do.

So this is me saying thanks for reading, and be patient. I'm trying to prioritize.

But I'll give you a tiny nugget of something insignificant, but somewhat humorous, going on in my life-- You know those movies that give voices to animals? And how extremely awesome they are? Well lately, in my mind, I've given a voice to my dog Jane. It's the voice of Queen Latifah.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I believe in the "T" of Tulip...

(Fair Warning: F-Bomb contained herein)

This isn't a post about injustice or racism. It's about depravity.

In all the media frenzy over the injustices being done in Jena, La., the thing I hear most often from commentators is some version of "Can you believe people are still acting like this in 2007?" And it's not just with this situation. I watch a lot of cable news, probably way too much. This entire genre of journalism thrives on filling what used to be empty hours for news with the tales of the idiotic. It's really just Cops for the white collar crowd.

Over and over what do we hear? "Can you believe people actually act this way and do these things?"

And I just sit back on the couch and shake my head in wonder at the surprise of the elite that the human race is so extremely messed up. My only thought is that anyone who would be shocked at the behavior of people has never in their lives been responsible for the restrooms of a retail establishment.

Over the course of five years, spend hours plunging toilets, cleaning defecation off walls, and mopping sexual fluids off the floor, and then assess whether or not you can believe that people are fundamentally jacked up. A former, now deceased pastor and friend of mine would describe this condition as us being "Totally fucked up individuals," and I can't think of a phrase that better describes the state we are in.

Anyway, all that to say... No CNN and MSNBC, I'm not surprised. I actually CAN believe people are still acting this way. Here's a plunger, come see for yourself.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Don't let them all fly by...

Ask the Lake kids what Craig's favorite day of the week is and they will tell you "Monday." Ask them why and they will say "Because he loves us and he gets to see us on Mondays." They'll tell you this because they have been trained to. They'll also say it in a monotone disinterest, acting bored at such an obvious fact.

A typical Monday has me getting off of work around 3:00, heading home to change clothes, then waiting on the front porch with my dog. Since the house I'm now living in is just around the corner from the kids' school, it is not a long wait.

It used to be that when Jude first saw me he'd come running with his arms open wide for a hug. Today, however, I got a cursory wave and a "Hi, Craig," as he bolted toward Jane. He loves that dog so much. Jen tells me he sometimes mentions her in his nightly prayers for the things he is thankful for. She is resting quietly on the floor beside me right now, and perhaps this is her doing the same. Who knows?

After taking Avery and Jude to help me run an errand, (We are rotating weeks where Jen has one kid, I have two,) we then went over to MLK park for a few minutes of play. When we got back to the house I had Avery and Jude take turns walking Jane. She is so good with them. With me she runs against the leash, coming close to pulling my arm off. With them, however, she was calm and relaxed, as if she were training them in the ways of the world.

By this point my old friend and new neighbor Brandon Durham had ridden up and was hanging out on our front porch. (Have I mentioned I have a front porch?) I suggested to the kids that we join him as we were waiting for their mom and Sutton to return. I told them we could sit on the front porch like old people and talk about our tomato crops, fig preserves, and pickled okra. Pulling the humor from my past, I didn't expect any reaction. But both Jude and Avery gave a hearty chuckle, as if they understood all the nuances of nostalgia and East Texas folklore. I suppose, though, it was just that the words "fig preserves" and "pickled okra" are funny on the ears, especially if they are not a part of your common lexicon.

Jen eventually drove up and she and Sutton got out of the vehicle to visit for a bit before she had to take them all to get ready for a soccer game. We shot the bull, our conversation running the gamut from tatoos to landscaping, to lying to the kids about the "Coke" bottle caps they found on the porch. (They were "Miller Lite" caps.)

After the Lake clan headed off, I sat with Brandon, talking about our days, my upcoming vacation, and what a great dog Jane is. In the midst of all this Britt dropped by. He was running his final errand of the day, taking his office deposit to the bank across the street, so he stopped by to say hello. I introduced him to Brandon, trying to make the requisite connections, which was easy because both grew up in East Texas.

Brandon went on his way to work related chores while Britt and I remained. Then Holly, Britt's fiance' and my down-the-street neighbor showed up and more talking about days ensued. We were all hungry and so they suggested we head out to China Spring from Zebbs Grill, or something like that. Since it was Monday and Monday's are always the day I begin and end my commitment to healthy eating, I thought why the hell not? So we went and we ate and enjoyed each other's company.

Later I was walking Jane and the words to a Keith Urban song got lodged in my head and I realized once again that these mundane days are about all we've got. But they've been given and that giving is a gift. And the best response is the opening of hands in acceptance, acknowledging the Gift Giver as merciful, graceful, and full of all-that-is-good-about-Mondays.

...what's your hurry, son, slow it down
taste wild honey, listen to the sound
of the wind that blowing through the trees
river is flowing to the sea
yeah they're all heading home just like you and me
life's for living, boy can't you see
that these are the days that we'll remember...
--Keith Urban, These Are the Days