Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I got up this morning and messed around. Decided to go to Dallas to look for a Halloween costume and to see if my friend Brent was free for lunch. He is one of my best friends. We met working at Timberline back in '91 and have been close friends ever since. Roomed together in college. I used to talk to him almost every day. This year, though, we've really grown apart. I haven't talked to him in a couple of months, and hadn't seen him since January, until today. We met up in Deep Ellum which is right next door to Baylor Hospital where he works. It was cool catching up with him and sharing our knowledge of what's been going on with the rest of our friends.

The cool part of the day was when I came back. Tim found out that Dr. Beck was giving a "Last Lecture." Appearantly Campus Living and Learning started this thing last year where they'd have a distingushed faculty give a lecture as if it was their last. Dr. Beck was my favorite seminary professor, and right on up there with Dr. Tankersley, Mr. Yancey, and Mrs. Fisher as my all time favorite teachers.

In her lecture she explored three questions: What is my purpose? When do you say enough is enough? and Why do I get up in the morning. It was wonderful.

The thing that really hit home was the part about when enough is enough. I read that on the paper and was thinking it probably had something to do with when is it ok to stand up for yourself, or something like that. But she actually talked about possesions. She encouraged us to ask the question, is what we have more than enough, and if so, is it too much? She talked about St. Francis of Assisi who founded the Franciscan order, and how he never took any possesion that didn't ultimately bring joy to himself and other people. In other words, when he had the opportunity to have more stuff, he always asked himself, "Will this really bring me joy." He found that really the only things that bring true joy are God and people.

I have wrestled with these ideas for several years now. I'm pretty sure where I stand spiritually and very sure that how I live doesn't match up with what I believe. I have WAY too much shit. I spent over fifty fucking dollars on a damn halloween costume today. I've got more food in my pantry than I could possibly eat in a couple of weeks, and yet about every other day I spend a shitload of money at some restaurant.

Not really sure what all this means, but I know I need to change.
There are at least two things that have made me happy over the past couple of days.

Thing one. Tonight was the finale of the Joe Schmoe Show. Matt Kennedy Gould, as he has shown all along, is the model Christian-- even though he probably isn't even a Christian. At least he's a model person. The guy is the nicest guy ever. Continually, throughout the show, he always calculated in favor of others. He was always consistent with who he was. He was not enslaved by the artistic irony that seeks to slyly place ourselves about everyone else in culture, and cynicism that demeans ideas that is so prevalent in our generation. He took the hits as they came to him. He valued truth. He stood up for those that were demeaned. Being nice to him was a virtue. That's one thing that's missing these days. Nice people, in our culture, are either considered fake or oblivious. No one can handle nice people, and even the words "nice person" is seen as quaint and belittling. It's far better to be angry and mean in our culture than it is to be nice. But Matt seems to live his life counterculturally-- which is to say, in line with traditional American culture. He wasn't without flaws, and he made no bones about his shortcomings-- he didn't gloss them over as being "just who he is" but he didn't let his flaws imprison him either. I'd love to be considered just a Joe Schmoe if it means being like Matt Kennedy Gould.

Thing two is very closely in line with thing one. Coming home from watching the kids in Hewitt last night I noticed something that was very hilarious-- a triumphant moment for small town community and locally controlled capitalism. The Church's chicken that was built less than a year ago on Hewitt drive across from Bush's fried chicken has closed down. I smiled so hard on that one my face almost broke. Somewhere in the corporate world not too long ago a meeting took place. In that meeting a group of executives, trying to squeeze as much money out of the market as possible said something along the lines of this-- "There's this small town fried chicken chain near Waco TX. It's ok, but these rednecks don't know what they're missing. We will build a Church's chicken directly in front of this place, driving them out of business, thus taking the entire fried chicken market in Hewitt TX." Needless to say, they got their ass kicked. Mr. Bush's, you're a hero.

Just two more triumpths for the Real America-- not the Hollywood or Harvard America.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I have been blessed with so much. That's all I'm really able to say right now.

This poem by W.S. Merwin has been on my mind all day:

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
Without critiquing too much, let me just say this: Church this morning was amazing. From the worship to the sermon, it was the perfect ending to my weekend. I'll elaborate more when I get off of work this evening.
As I began my drive from Waco to Brownsboro yesterday, I was a little nervous to tell you the truth. I didn't think I'd be, but I was. I hadn't seen most of my classmates in over ten years. I was scared I wouldn't remember many people. Worse, I was scared there wouldn't be many people that remembered me. And the biggest fear of all was the fear that people WOULD remember me, but wouldn't care to talk to me. Because that was, and is, pretty much the only true source of fear for those in high school as well as those of us ten years removed from high school. Not that people wouldn't know you, but that people do know you but consider you irrelevant.

But somewhere around Murchison, which is the last little town before Brownsboro, I had this thought: Who gives a flying fuck if I'm ignored at my reunion? Do I really have anything to lose? The following names and faces began to appear on the screen of my psyche: Tim, Ben, Kyle and family, Tracey, Wesley, Susan Matthes, Jason and Christy, Blake, Robert-- and I realized that there are people with whom I have cultivated many years into building a safe place of community around me, and I've got everything, relationship-wise, I could ever need. This thought freed me up to really just be myself and fall headlong into having a good time at the reunion.

With this out of the way, I became comfortable about seeing my old friends, but I wasn't expecting a whole lot. I was expecting to enjoy seeing everyone, but not to really be emotional or too excited about it. I mean, after all, I shouldn't feel weird about not gelling with people I haven't seen in ten years. We've all been many places, experienced more stories, had more pains and joys, ten years worth to be exact, since high school.

Something very interesting happened though. My heart became very soft to the touch when people started to walk up. Yeah, it'd been ten years since I saw them, but one thing I forgot was this-- For many of my classmates, I'd spent thirteen years of my life with. THIRTEEN FUCKING YEARS! There were also about half a dozen that I had gone to daycare with since I was born, bumping that number up to 18 years. That's a lot of time.

And suddenly the ten lost years were no longer important. The fact that I have worked for a U.S. Senator, been overseas, had a wonderful college experience, have a good life now, meant jack shit. The only things that mattered were 15-18 years worth of stories. Being back at Lamplighter, playing in the sandbox with Hallee and Matt and Trista and Joyce-- that mattered. Being in Mrs. Oliver's kindergarten class, anticipating which learning center I'd get to go to that particular day-- that mattered. Being in Junior High, joining up with the Brownsboro elementary students such as Tracey and Kevin and Cliff, that mattered. Playing spades in Government with Susie and Benji and Misty and George mattered. At that moment, band trips and summer rehearsal mattered immensely. And really, above all else, what mattered was us creating a safe place, putting behind us all the differences and fights and the deeming of relevance, and genuinely showing care for each other. Showing sadness at the dissolved marriages. Showing we care about each other by the passing around of babies. Asking about parents. Sharing the lives we live now.

Relevance at that point was irrelevant. What was important was that we were fully there in the moment.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Tomorrow after work I leave for my ten year high school reunion. Not quite sure what to expect. It's weird, but I kind of feel like this is a very important event.... like it's almost necessary for me to get it over with in order to move on with the rest of my life. Strange.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

If we lived in a world without conflict, would there be such a thing as story?

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I'm a total Real World junkie, and not in the least bit ashamed.

With that out of the way, let me just say that CT must be doing something to his housemates off campus to piss them off because, based on what I've seen, I don't see why they give him such a hard time. I think they all have some serious identity issues and are just using him as a scapegoat so as to not have to deal with their personal issues.

So I've got too much free time on my hands. Who doesn't?
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to preach at UBC. Out of all the times I've preached, I've felt better about that Sunday than all the rest. I spoke on the UBC Core Value of the Experiential.

Two things I need to work on, though. First, I have a tendency to throw in tons of shit that isn't in my notes. I've got to stop that. I normally end up saying something real dumb when I do that.

Lastly, I need to learn to make my sermons MUCH shorter. The CD that was made of it went 46 minutes-- and that was with a little bit cut off of the beginning and the end. I don't realize they're taking that long when I'm giving them, they just do. More on the sermon later.
It's the next Tuesday after the Tuesday in which I said I'd be blogging quite a bit. It's also the last day of my vacation. So I'd better get busy.

A few weeks ago, I believe it was on a Tuesday night, I went to bed around 9:45. It had been a long day and I had to open the store at 7:00 the next morning. If you don't know me very well, let me clue you in to a very important truth of my life-- I love sleep. I love knowing I get at least eight hours of sleep a night. I am constantly calculating what time I need to go to bed in order to get at least eight hours. I'm weird like that.

Tim calls me around 10:30, asks if I'm asleep, then says he wants me to wake up. He wants to invite me to something very special. I'm thinking possibly that he wanted to come over and drink or something, since he can't do that on campus. He told me to take a few minutes to wake up, then he'd call me back.

He called back and told me that Maik had decided that this was the night he wanted to be baptized, and that he wanted to know what I thought about it. My conservative, traditional side automatically kicked in, and I told him that I think big time things like baptism should be done within the context of a church community. So Tim said that he'd talk to him about that and get back with me.

As I was waiting, my mind went back to students at ETBU baptizing recently "saved" people in the Quad Fountain. I remember how, at the time, even though I was open to "outside the box" type shit like that, I really thought it was very pretentious to think that you can just baptize people wherever and whenever the hell you felt like it. I guess this just stems from my strong view of the importance of church. Church, not in the universal sense, but in the sense of being a community of faith in which people make a very deliberate decision to walk alongside each other for an extended period of time-- not just a group of Christian friends

Anyway, Tim calls me back about five minutes later and informs me that, even though they appreciate my opinion, they are going to go ahead and do it and would like me to be there. And so, of course I went. Even though I really felt that, for me, the time and place weren't real appropriate, I still appreciate other people's view and would definitely not pass up an opportunity to be a part of something so special.

I got to Tim's place. As we were waiting for other people to come over to figure out where we'd do this, Maik kind of walked me through his thinking. About how Tim had led him to Christ a few years before and how he'd been considering baptism for quite some time, and how he really appreciated my imput but how being in a building really wasn't that important to him (which showed a huge misunderstanding of the reasoning behind my view. I could care less about having a building either... it was more about the community aspect.)

Anyway, people came over, we went to the Baylor Marina, sang some worship songs that I had no clue how to sing, and Maik was baptized.

So, here's what was reinforced to me. Christianity isn't always nice and neat and pretty. Sometimes we have to be in places that are uncomfortable for us to really experience God in special moments. But, less you misunderstand me, that truth goes for all different types of people. Perhaps God wanted to stretch me to be in a place where I was uncomfortable-- a place that was not encumbered by all the trappings of institutional religion. But it's also true that maybe God wants to stretch the thinking of more progressive people by placing them in a place with more order and stability. We love to think of traditional people as being closed minded, but it's also true that progressive people are just as closed minded.

Despite all my misgivings, I was very glad I was able to be a part of such a special moment in the life of a new friend. My prayer is that Maik, in his continuing journey with Christ, will continue to experience God through all the joys and pains of this life-- and that we can all appreciate a God that sometimes is comfortable with a very messy reality that doesnt' always have our preconceived notion of what is good or right in mind.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Ben brought to my attention something that I'm well aware of... It's been many, many days since I've blogged. Truth is, I just haven't been motivated. But, with this being my vacation, I'll get motivated.

Here's just a quick synopsis of the things that's been going on and which I will be writing about sometime in the near future: Maik's baptism, my sermon, my ten year reunion coming up, more thoughts on place, me getting old, me trying to get healthier, etbu recruiting trip, and other random shit.

So, stay tuned......