Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Jayber...

Last night I spoke at a church about books. I was asked to share things that I'd been reading, things that have meant a lot to me, and lead an open ended discussion. I was happy to do it, not knowing how much I would thoroughly enjoy the experience. The church was one of a handful of moderate to left leaning Baptist churches in the area, and full of some extremely intelligent people. (I don't believe, as many, that the two always go together.)

I talked about Jayber Crow. After the meeting, a sweet middle aged woman came up to me and told me how much the book had meant to her husband. After a good two minute conversation she grabbed the book from me and found a quote and read it to me. I remember reading what she read, but felt as if she was reading this to me, in some sort of prophetic manner. (Creepy, I know.) Here's the passage, hope you enjoy it...

If you could do it, I suppos, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line-- starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King's Highway past appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not hte way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I have deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led--make of that what you will.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I'm working on something but haven't had uninterrupted time to write it for several days.

In the meantime, I should go all Oprah on you and share with you one of my favorite things. On my way back from a day in Dallas hanging out with my friend Jason, I stopped off at the most holy of restaurants, the Waffle House. On the menu is a pie referred to simply as "Pecan Pie." However, if you know the secret workings of the Waffle House culture (as I have spent many years mastering,) then you know there is a method of preparing said pie that will bring you to the threshold of paradise. Simply ask for the pie to be warmed.

Warmed Pecan Pie at the Waffle House is not thrown in the microwave for twenty seconds and then thrown on a plate. Warmed isn't put in the oven or even just taken out of the refrigerator for an extended period of time. No, when the geniuses at the Waffle House warm pecan pie, they place it on the griddle. They then proceed to drop a few dollops of butter on top of the pie, then place a domed lid over it. And this is warmed. Pecan pie simmering in a sauna with pure butter-steam penetrating every pore.

Yes my friends, this is one of my favorite things.

Monday, January 14, 2008


One of my close friends, who is about the best gift-giver there is, has made it possible for me to share pictures with you. I spent the afternoon getting the Lake kids ready for karate and gymnastics. I bribed them with letting them watch Nickelodeon, and spent the time taking their pictures...

Since he was a baby, Jude has always fidgeted his fingers around while they are held up near his chest. It's involuntary cuteness.

Avery gets stopped in public constantly by people telling her how much they like her glasses. Like a little lady she says "Thank you." One time when this happened and the person walked away, she looked at me and said "People ALWAYS say that."

Watching the Fairly Odd Parents, Sutton cannot be distracted. He is the ultimate thinker, always pondering what is right in front of him.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I've been tagged by JOSH. Here are my answers...

1. One book that changed your life. (I'm going to cheat and go with two.)

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul and Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I know, strange combination. I'm not a Calvinist like Sproul, nor am I near as liberal as Lamott. In my early 20's Sproul's book revealed to me in a meaningful way how far the distance is between me and God. In my late 20's Lamott's book helped me see how small that distance is. (I'd pay a few bucks to see Anne Lamott and R.C. Sproul hanging out together.)

2. One book that you have read more than once.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Of all the "classics" I've read, this is by far the best.

3. One book you would want on a desert island.

Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. Being on a desert island would probably be what it would take for me to finish this book I've read the first fifty pages of about half a dozen times.

4. Two books that made you laugh.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Sedaris is about the funniest writer around.

5. One book that made you cry. (I'm going to cheat with two again.)

The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. If you've read them, you'll know what I'm talking about. The first one-- Ants. The second-- The next to the last chapter. (Runner up-- The Kite Runner.) (I cry a lot in books.)

6. One book you wish you'd written.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.

7. One book you wish had never been written.

I can't think of one for this.

8. Two books you are currently reading.

Fundamentalism and American Culture by George Marsden and Life of Pi by Yann Martel. (I've been reading the second one for years now. I can't get through the first third.)

9. One book you've been meaning to read.

Dreams of My Father by Barack Obama. Hey, I like the guy. Who doesn't?

10. Five people that I tag: Jessica W., Jason, Blake, Tracey F., Jeanne D.

Monday, January 07, 2008

This Year...

Like many people, I've spent the past few days thinking about both the old and new years. Last year was not my best. In many ways it was worse than 2006, where I spent the majority of my time grieving the death of Kyle. I spent 2007 bitter. Circumstances and movements on at least two fronts of my life gave me the opportunity to respond with love and understanding. I refused, opting instead to harbor resentment and feel shafted. Not my best days.

This has aged me in ways good and bad. The gray hairs have sprouted like weeds, I'm not as healthy as I have been, and the amount of grumpy days are slowly catching up to the days of good moods and humor. But I've also lowered my expectations with people in such a way that has made me more able to see the work of God in their lives. In my youth, I always hoped for the best in people, which left me disappointed time and again. I'm trying to learn to give people some slack.

I'm not sure if you can call it a resolution, but I'm going to try to relax more in the coming year. I read an interview recently with Anne Lamott in which she was asked if she ever wished that there were more hours in the day. She said no. She lives her life with a liberal amount of margin. A few hours of her day is spent working. The rest of the time is spent just hanging out with her son, taking long walks with her dog, and spending a lot of time on the couch watching the news and reading gossip magazines. She says she has plenty of hours in the day to do all she needs to do, and there are still a lot left over. In this new year I'm going to try to create a similar situation.

There is one resolution I have made, and it scares me a little. I've spent the last several years obsessing over this blog. I have loved the way it gives me a forum to air my thoughts and in some cases reconnect with many of you from all over. I will continue to try to use it to improve my writing skills and to express my opinions. (It is an election year.) But sometime a few months ago Jen Alexandar left me a succinct little bit of advice on my comments section, and I have decided to heed it. She said I should write more and blog less. So keep checking in, but don't' be surprised if there are only one or two posts a week. In the meantime, I'm going to make my latest of many efforts in writing a book. There was a writing group I was involved in a couple of years ago that will be meeting again this spring, and I'm hoping it'll a good catalyst for me to get stuff done.

I hope you all have a great year. I'm going to do my best to try to get out of town and visit friends more this coming year.


Thursday, January 03, 2008


I usually give an end of the year post where I share my favorites over the past twelve months. 2007 is a blurr to me. I don't remember seeing many movies, listening to any spectacular music, or participating in things that lend themselves easily to a list. I did, however, read quite a bit last year. With reading I seem to go months without wanting to lay my eyes on anything, followed by a time when all I want to do is read. This year was the latter...

My favorite books of 2007
(Not necessarily published in 2007.)

5. Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See, by Robert Kurson.

Mike May lived an exceptional life. He was a decorated speed skiing champion, had a beautiful family, and was a tenacious business man. His being blind since early childhood was, for him, a relatively peripheral aspect of his personality. After early attempts by the world's best ophtamologists, May seeing again was a lost cause. This was until a chance meeting with his wife's eye doctor introduced him to a new (non embryonic) stem-cell procedure that could potentially restore his sight. The options are not as clear as you think. This book was an inspirational story of identity, passion, and (for me,) the complexity and beauty God has placed in the human brain.

4. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, by A.J. Jacobs.

I briefly mentioned this book in THIS POST. Jacobs, a Brit, became interested in the large amount of people who profess to have a literal belief in Scripture. He followed his curiosity by visiting the Amish, Creation Scientists, and Orthodox Jews. Jacobs' wrote about those he encountered with a kindness and generosity not often found by skeptics of faith (or us "emergents.")

3. Little Chapel on the River, by Wendy Bounds.

It's the true story of a Wall Street Journal Reporter who was forced out of her apartment after the 9/11 attacks. She found temporary housing in Garrison, a small town about fifty miles north of New York, just across the Hudson River from West Point. Bounds discovers, almost by accident, an Irish Bar tacked onto an old general store and chronicles the struggles and joy of the family that owns the place and the lives that frequent it. It's one of the most moving portraits I've ever seen of what makes true community exist-- struggle, commitment, loyalty, memory, and an understanding that place matters. The title of the book comes from a guy who drives over sixty miles once a week to the bar, and considers it his church-- The Little Chapel on the River.

I wrote Bounds to tell her how much I appreciated her book. She was kind enough to reply with this...

Craig -- thank you so much for taking time to send this thoughtful note.Obviously you've got a great many books at your fingertips to read, so I'mreally glad that Little Chapel made it into your hands. I like what youwrote about the cynics and small towns. When I went out to do publicityfor this book, I was taken aback by how cynical much of NYC media wasabout the lure of small towns. Suppose I should have known, given that I'min the media, but there you go. Still, once folks read it, I think theydeep down wished for a community like that themselves. I'm glad you wrote.Keep in touch. Wendy

I received a recent unfortunate update from Wendy that the Little Chapel is closing down at the end of this month. (If any rich benefactor would like to fund my trip to Garrison, I'll be greatly obliged. :)) She has started a blog about Guinans HERE.

1. (Tie) Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry.

I wrote about this book HERE.

1. (Tie) The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

McCarthy is a master at using a small amount of words to convey a large amount of subjects. This was one of those few books that I stayed up late to keep reading until the end. The story is about the fallout from a catastrophic disaster, but ultimately it probes the depths of the love between two people, and how far that love will go. It's about the power of good. I can't say enough...


So, that's that.