Wednesday, April 16, 2008


With the exception of the year I spent working in Dallas, I have been surrounded by students since I entered college fifteen years ago. There is something invigorating about this, but I've also tended to move toward a state of cynicism where young people are concerned. Their idealism can seem especially naive'. Because they know they only have a small amount of time in the stage of life they are in, they can come across as pushy and impatient, needing to impact people around them as quick and forcefully as they possibly can. It's hard for young people to take the long view of things.

Case in point: A couple of weeks ago someone recited at THIS SERVICE what I will call The Prayer Heard Around the World, (or, at least the prayer heard around the vicinity of I-35.) I was at the service, but I don't remember noticing anything strange about it, other than perhaps it was delivered with a certain amount of passion consistent with the personality of the guy praying. To be honest, I often take the prayer time as an opportunity to look around at people, or possibly contemplate where I'll eat lunch after church. Later in the week, however, I found out that everyone was talking about it because of it's politically-charged content. When told what was said, I immediately thought yeah, I have a problem with that.

But I believe I had a growing-up experience as well. I connected the person with the prayer and realized that some people, like this guy who I consider a cordial acquaintance, by virtue of their service and compassion for people, get more free passes from me than others. As long as there is enough people in a community who serve as a balance by standing up and bitching about what they consider uninformed youthful zeal (and assuming there are leaders who are not threatened by this,) does it hurt to have someone say a prayer that is slightly misguided, but that at least makes us think and may nudge us out of our comfortable existences?

Earlier this afternoon I was listening to that Rob Thomas song Little Wonders from some kids movie that I have yet to see. It's one of those songs that tries to remind you the things that are really important. As I was listening, I found THIS STORY on the Waco Trib's website about a woman who was killed in a traffic accident at an intersection that I cross several times a week. I was stricken and finally realized that maybe taking the long view of things IS the uninformed way to live. What if there is no long view? Our lives are made in the twist and turns of fate, in the small hours, not in decades but in moments.

I think it was Ann Lamott that said we have to all make up our minds-- Is life too short to be minding shit, or is it too short to be taking it? Well, I've yet to decide which it is for me, but I do believe life is short regardless of what you pray for. So understand that things will be made more clear as time rolls along, but don't let fear stop you from praying with passion out of the depths of your right now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The only John Waynes left in this town...

After work I took Jane on our fairly regular Saturday afternoon stroll down Austin to the Suspension Bridge and along the river. As we passed Heritage Square and rounded the Convention Center, with all the dressed up prom and wedding revelers of a typical spring weekend in Waco, I noticed the sound of music. Approaching University Parks Drive I remembered Britt telling me about Smoke on the River, an annual event put on by the Junior Chamber of Commerce to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.

It was near the end of the day and almost everyone had gone home. (Assuming anyone had been there to start with.) The band playing on the street was a relatively decent oldies and country group, singing a range of tunes from Elvis to Johnny Cash, Josh Turner to Don Williams. The day was beautiful and I assumed there would be a good crowd. As I got close I realized it was not. Other than the people walking their dogs and riding bikes around the river, there were eight people in the vicinity of the band. Eight, and one of them was the sound guy.

I thought about why the band chose to go on. Kyle and I used to joke that the only thing worse than no people showing up for a group meeting was just one or two people showing up. It's easier to just go home than to try to pretend that you aren't disappointed that more people didn't show. But this band kept on playing, and I think I know why.

I sat down on the curb to listen. The sun was bright, air cool. I was sitting on a curb in the middle of the city with my dog next to me, licking my face. Ashamed that I have never owned any alcohol-themed apparel, I have recently purchased a Miller Lite ball cap, which I was wearing this afternoon. I was feeling quite badass.

Then an elderly couple, probably in their early 70's, took the street to dance, diminishing the crowd of onlookers to just under a half-dozen. As they were sitting on their lawn chairs they seemed fragile, ready to break and just happy to be out of the house. But arm in arm, swinging and spinning to the music, they were as vibrant and alive as the teenagers in the Convention Center next door, horning it up to the loud beats of a washed-up D.J. It was this couple, in fact, who were the true badasses, taking to the dance floor of an empty street being inhabited by the music of a handful of middle aged band members who were playing just because they had the stage.

When the music ended, I clapped. I was the only one, but it didn't matter. It would be blasphemy not to recognize the genius that was occurring before my eyes.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Meeting David Wilson...

I just spent my Friday night watching Meeting David Wilson, which turned out to be an extremely moving documentary. I have nothing more to say, other than that I recommend it highly. It aired on MSNBC, a network that has a tendency to put repeats in heavy rotation, so if you see it rerunning, record it. It will be well worth your time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

And they're always glad you came...

Everyone should have a place to go that they can never remember a time when they didn't go there. For me there are a few places that fit the bill, most notably the Brownsboro football stadium that hugs Hwy. 31 and deposits kicked field goals into oncoming traffic. The Lake kids have several, but my favorite to take them to is Mr. Snow on New Road in Waco. I can remember Kyle and Jen bringing the kids when Avery was barely two and Jude and Sutton were in baby carriers. The twins would be set up on a stool while Avery made her rounds, sampling everyone's flavors.

Today was the first day of the year I've had a chance to bring them. And I have pictures...

Monday, April 07, 2008

My Weekend...

"For no greater treasure could there be under any lock and key/ Than to be a beggar fully freed/ Poor in Paradise with Thee..."-- Margaret Becker.

I think it was the weather that did me in. I walked outside after a rough day at work on Saturday and stopped. Right there in the middle of the parking lot, I stopped. Seven in the evening, middle of spring, the air a perfect mixture of the remembrance of cool breezes and the anticipation of sun on the back of my neck, I said thanks, but no thanks.

A promotion that has passed me by several times is available again. I've wanted it, contemplated how much better it would be if I had it, and have become bitter every time I was denied it. For what? A few extra bucks and six-day workweeks during the holidays?

Hell no. I can eat bean soup for a few years longer.

The next day I found myself at Indian Spring park sitting on the grass, looking up. After taking communion toward the end of UBC's outdoor service, I sat next to Roy Carney, sound asleep in his stroller, as his parents went up receive communion themselves. In the sky were two small birds flying in random patterns, as if in play. I marveled at how HIGH they were, and then wondered why this surprised me. Birds fly high. Of all the things I should have learned by now, that is definitely one of them.

I'm not sure what significance that little bird story has, other than to let you know that there are things, very holy things, that I stopped noticing far too long ago.

Earlier, after a song was sung and we were sitting down, Keely Browning, nearly-three year old daughter of Blair and Jordan, decided that no, this song is most definitely NOT over. So she kept singing. Later, as we were milling around and with music playing over the speakers down by the river, Keely decided that whatever song was playing needed to be jumped to. So she jumped, and some of us joined in.

Sometimes I think the memory of Kyle is now like a ship finally out of reach. It is still fully visible, yet acceptance has set in that even the strongest swimmer will not be able to reach it. It moves out further by the day. We've all successfully (to varying degrees) reordered our lives without him in them. This has long since become, more or less, ok.

But occasionally we stop, turn around, and face the water. We see the waves lapping against the rocks on the banks of the Brazos and without actually saying it, we know Kyle would be laughing right now. Maybe, in some strange way, this is his laughter-- Taking communion to actively remember, with each other, the only One who truly gives life. Refusing to cease our singing even when the music has stopped, and jumping up and down when the music just simply requires it. Taking naps in the middle of full sunlight and eating lunch around the people who make your heart drive along just a little faster, ignoring the professional and social hoops that so many people think you should be jumping through in order to be "successful."

We stood, facing the water, and recited the words that I think have burrowed themselves deep into our being-- As we approach this week, may we Love God, Embrace Beauty, and Live Life to the Fullest. And who among us didn't believe that we were doing just that in those moments?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

So here's something.

Last night I was hanging out at the Dancing Bear because I'm cool and me and all the gang hang out there pretty much every night. Actually, this is not true, but I would love to be young and energetic enough to be a regular at this new treasure of a pub over by Baylor. But alas, this is not about the pub, which only serves as the setting for my neurosis.

We were there to celebrate Brian's birthday. (Brian, by the way, is young and energetic enough and I think he spends his life at this place.) We could have had a UBC community group right there, for all flow of parishioners who were walking in through the doors. So it was me and church people and other acquaintances that I have picked up through the years and the guys from Dutton, those up-and-coming future Christian Worship Superstars, of which Brian is one.

I, being one of the oldest people in the place by quite a few years, decided I need to get home, so I ask for the check. Logan, frontman for aforementioned up-and-coming future Christian Worship Superstars, asked if he could have a ride home. I said yes and then my first thought was "Oh. Shit. What do I have in my CD player?" I honestly couldn't remember and was terrified that it would be something unacceptable and honestly thought for a split second of telling Logan that I changed my mind, he in fact could not catch a ride with me because I did not feel we were far enough along in our friendship for that.

So that was seriously the funniest story that came out of an otherwise dreary weak.

Oh, and for the record: Keith Urban's Love, Pain, and the Whole Crazy Thing, which received the Dutton seal of approval.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

About once a year I get the opportunity to make some of my fellow book-loving friends jealous because of my position as a bookseller. The catalyst for this is the fact that publishers occasionally send Advanced Reader copies of a book several weeks before it comes out. Usually the book is junk, but every now and then something will come in that I really want to read. I've been waiting for four years for this...