Friday, December 31, 2004

YES!! YES!! YES!! IT'S TRUE!! January 17, Noon.


Sacred Text...

I just realized today that I have not purchased a Bible since February of 2000 when I was working at ETBU and took a group of students to the National Black Student Converence in Atlanta (Georgia, not Texas) and upon realizing I left my Bible at home stopped at a bookstore in a mall and bought a $7 (coincidence? I think not) paperback NIV. I held on to that Bible for quite some time.

Truth is, since college I have rarely had to purchase a Bible. With a 12 month exception, I have always worked at places (Christian Universities and Churches) where there were Bibles just laying around. Well, add to those 12 months another however many months it's been since I haven't worked at either, but have had regular access to the lost Bible filing cabinet in my church office. Generally in my world Bibles are like pens. Who buys pens? Seriously, I bet about 7% of the world buys pens for those 93% of us who don't buy pens. Take the pen you have closest to you right now. Did you buy it? I didn't think so.

Today I decided it was high time I stop letting other people buy Bibles for me and buy one of my own. So I went to my place of work, which happens to be a bookstore and happens to sell Bibles, to purchase my first Bible since Atlanta.

I was not expecting the Bible search to be as daunting as it was. A couple of things aided the daunt.

I have and will always speak well of my Christian liberal arts education. Most people leave ETBU and enter "the world" with an inferiority complex. Not me. I feel I was well trained to think on feet and to be fairly confident in the midst of society. But one negative my theological education placed on my psyche was a fear of getting the Bible right. It seemed like all manner of sins would be forgiven. Sexual sins, alcoholism, theft, sloth, even missing a couple of Sunday morning services. All would be covered by the grace of an ever loving God. But getting the Bible wrong. You're on shaky ground there.

I've actually forgotten what type of Bible I am supposed to own in order to be a Good Christian. Because, when you think about it, well, when I thought about it on my Bible shopping excursion today, what type of Bible you own says a lot about what kind of Christian you are. I know Dr. Bob advocated looking at several texts side by side to see where they lined up and where they differed. But surely he had a preference, didn't he? Not too long ago I acquired from the Lost Bible Filing Cabinet at UBC a New American Standard Bible. I read it a little and decided it would do. But recently I seem to remember someone... was it a professor or a classmate?... from ETBU who said something negative about the NASB and I have since been real hesitant about letting people see the spine of my New American Standard out of fear that I would be given a questioning glare. I remember in high shool and college using the New International Version but I know some people who think the NIV is like a training Bible.. something to be used to get you accustomed to God's Holy Word before you move on to the real stuff. I know it's ok not to use the King James because it's a bad translation but I really like the New King James but I have voices in my head from the past saying the New King James isn't good either. Those same voices tell me to avoid paraphrases like the Living Bible and the Message. But my pastor generally uses the Message and I like reading the Message and I've yet to hear anyone question Eugene Peterson's scholarship, although I'm sure there's someone somewhere concocting a challenge to it. And do I really want people thinking I need a paraphrase to understand Scripture? Aint I supposed to be smart? Damn, the voices.

I knew there were questions about translations and paraphrases and versions but I faced something in the store today that I never faced before. Something that cuts much deeper than what type of Bible I purchased. Something that transcends questions of Greek and word-for-word vs. phras-for-phrase translation. The Cover. Back in the day Bibles came in leather of various single tone colors, paper of various single tone colors, and a hard cardboard of varios single tone colors. Not today. You should have seen the choices I had. If I go with The Message do I go with the leather bound, which costs more than I was willing to pay (perhaps a sin? I don't know,) or the paperback or large hardback with dust cover or smaller hardback titled THEMESSAGE//REMIX, with a cool picture of a wooden slat wall covering the book and which my pastor and good friend owns and preaches out of and might suggest that I do everything my pastor does because he's my friend and people think he's cool. Another think I didn't have to contend with in that little bookstore in Atlanta were the metal bibles. Yes, metal. The bible itself isn't metal but it has a metal casing to protect the bible, I guess, and to make a statement that your faith is hardcore or airtight or cool or radical or something like that. We just have a silver metal at Barnes and Noble but when I got fed up with our lack of selection and I walked down to The Compass I then had to contend with not only a silver metal but also a cool green colored metal. The Compass also offered me the Policeman's Bible, the Firefigher's Bible, the Soldier's Bible and I think something like The Nurse's Bible. I scoffed at all of those but you can bet your ass that if I had seen The Bookseller's Bible I would have scooped that baby up without a second thought.

The think I forgot to mention about the types of Bibles was what to do with the choices of having a Study Bible where the notes were created by a group of scholars vs. having a Study Bible written by a famous Christian (John MacArthur, Max Lucado,) vs. not having a Study Bible at all because I can read and study for myself and what do these guys know that I don't? Other than Greek and Hebrew, that is. I knew not to go with Lucado because I didn't want people to accuse me of being overly sentimental and John Macarthur was out because I didn't want to be accused of being a fundamentalist and that guy was a total dick when I saw him on Larry King Live a few months ago. In the end I decided against a Study Bible.

When I finished at the Compass I headed back up the steps to Barnes and Noble with my mind set on picking a Bible no matter how hard of a decision it was. I narrowed it down to two. The leather NASV with gold siding, which I decided against because it was skinny and tall and made me look pastor-pretensious when I walked around with it in my hand like you would a pair of shoes in the shoe store to see how they fit.

I picked up THEMESSAGE//REMIX with the wooden slats which Kyle uses and which I decided against earlier because even though he's my friend I don't want people to think I'm his disciple. As I was putting it back on the shelf I noticed a blurb on the back of THEMESSAGE//REMIX. You know, like an acknowledgment on the back of any book by a famous or smart person. The things I look at to determine who I want to align myself with.

The first blurb was by Bono. I didn't bother reading it. Took that Bible to the front and purchased it right on the spot and right now I'm a proud owner of THEMESSAGE://REMIX. Screw what people think of me.

I'm with Bono.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

I Met God's Will on a Halloween Night, He was dressed as a bag of leaves...

This song was an honorable mention on my "best of" musical list, but only because I just heard it for the first time a couple fo days ago.

But I now elevate "God's Will" by Martina McBride from honorable mention to "Song that most conveys my feelings about relational theology."

Watch the video.

Go to "videos" and click on "God's Will." You knew that, you're smart. Both cognitively and experientially.


The toughest part of the past couple of days is that I have been healthy, got to see the kids last night, have enjoyed good naps and good reading and good television. I've thought with anticipation about the new year and what it will bring and I've thought about who I want to become. And I've done this with the knowledge in the back of my mind that one of the greatest natural disasters in all of history that has claimed over a hundred thousand lives has just occured. I'm so extremely shallow.

I don't want to get into the "where was God in all this discussion," because I don't know the answers.
I don't know.
I wish I grieved more.
What do you do with that?
How should we think and how should we feel?
There are no compartments yet created for this one.
So I guess we just pray and give but our prayers should consist of one word.
Perhaps two.
God, help.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

2004 In Review (This is Long)...

I thought it would be a good day to treat my readers, both of you, to a year end post looking back over the past 12 months of my, and our, lives.

I welcomed the New Year with a party at my place hosted by Stephanie Spitzer and me and including around sixty of my most peripheral friends. There was an initial invite of around 15 people. But each person had a group of friends who had no plans so we welcomed them with open arms. Let's just say it was, hands down, the party of the millennium. Well, the parts I remember anyway. I "fell asleep" around 11:00 p.m., woke up on my couch to find the place had been turned into a dance party, Usher blaring through the speakers, and everyone dancing, um, how do I describe, close together. I later found myself taking a nap in the yard. It's one of those things that was wrong and irresponsible to do and didn't help me at all, but I don't regret it one bit. Does that make sense? I should have done it in high school. But I didn't, needed to get it out of my system, and did. I've had people all year come up to me in town and say "Man, your party was THE BEST!" At which point I think to myself, "Who are you?" I've already made the decision to go out of the New Years Party business on a high note and not have one this year.

In terms of excitement, everything this year was pretty much downhill from there, with a few exceptions. In mid-January I drove myself to the emergency room in the middle of the night because I couldn't piss. It was one of the most painful things ever, but has caused me to drink much more water and actually helped spur me on to get a bit healthier. More on that later.

In January the rumblings and rumors started floating around the net that "Ed," my favorite show of the previous four years and one of the things God used (I seriously believe that) to get me through a couple of difficult years after moving to Waco, would be cancelled. It's cancellation was finally confirmed and in February me and my closest friends watched the final episode. If you were there you probably knew how moved I was and sad to see it go. But it was also an extremely joyful time because I saw that the quirky little community of Stuckeyville that I had loved and romanticized for four years had been created, in it's own distinct way, around me.

The spring saw what I believe to be the final heyday, at least for the time being, of Coffee and Culture, the community group I've led in various forms for a couple of years at church. It would be renamed in the Fall and moved to a different place, a move that I consider our jump the shark moment. Don't get me wrong, there were some great discussions this fall, but most of the energy had left. If it weren't for the election I feel it would have been a dead fish. In the spring, however, there was still that perfect mix of extremely heated discussion coupled with a genuine friendship that had developed among those in the group. I personally think the departure of Gabe, who was the explosive powder, and Wesley, who reminded us who we were, helped put the nail in the coffin. It was a wonderful two years, but time to move on.

Sometime around late February and early March I decided it was time to lose a little weight and get in shape, so I got my rear and gear and started making use of the $35 a month that had been being taken out of my bank account monthy for a year to pay for my gym membership. I was motivated by several things-- seeing pictures of myself from Jason and Christy's wedding and knowing Blake's wedding was coming up (how girl of me,) and having been sick more in the previous couple of months than in the previous ten years. But mostly, my 30th birthday loomed large in September and I though six months would be a good amount of time. All said I lost sixty pounds in 2004, although about 8 of those have found their way back over the holidays. I feel great and am looking at running a 1/2 marathon in February and possibly a full one in October of next year.

I spent a large part of the first few months of the year proofreading and offering suggestions for Kyle's book. It was great fun to be able to see the process of writing a book. Hopefully it'll be helpful to me in the coming year. :)

Speaking of Kyle, I also had many wonderful times this year hanging out with the Lake family and babysitting the kids. The boys turned two in July and Avery turned four in August. There was an extremely fun time had by all at their Kidsville Birthday Party. I fell deeper and deeper in love with those kids every single week.

The summer, as usual around here, was quite uneventful. Having been in my job as Department Manager at Barnes and Noble for a year, I finally began to settle into a routine. We had normal summer activities at church, Sno-Cones on Mondays, midweek Bible study and bowling on Wednesdays. Other than that I worked 8 hour days, worked out a little, and read. After "Ed" finished in February I kind of went on a television sabbatial. Call it grief or call it not having anything good to watch.

I preached at UBC more in 2004 than ever. Some were good some were bombs. Around Easter I preached about Judas, in June I did a God in the Music sermon on Mindy Smith's "Come to Jesus," and in October I preached on Acts 17. There were a few more, but I can't rightly remember what they were about. That was great but what was even better was the opportunity I had to write a couple of things for our alternative services. I was extremely pleased with how those two items turned out.

If I had to single out a highlight of my 2003 it would be Jason and Chisty's wedding. 2004's highlight would be Blake and Karla's wedding in Seattle. It was my first trip to the Northwest. I was awed by the city and landscape. But none of that held a candle to being together with some of the greatest people in the world.

The election dominated the news and my mind and the minds of my friends during the fall. This election, more than any I can remember, brought out the fighter in me. It was difficult having friends who saw things so differently from me. Disagreeing on things such as music and entertainment and food and trivial things is one thing. But it's a totally different thing to disagree with your friends on the decisions each other makes in deciding who will be the leader of the free world. In the end, my candidate won. But in the end there were friendships that needed mending. I hope the doomsday prophets on both side of the political aisle will calm down for at leas a couple of years and stop seeing the other side as the enemy. I have little assurance this will happen, but I can hope.

Blogs made quite a splash this year. In the spring of '02 a friend in a community group mentioned her "blog." Everyone in the group scratched our heads and said "what the huh?" By May 2 of that year I had posted my first post on I played with it for a couple of years, but in mid '03 kind of got serious about it. This year, however, the blog revolutionized my relationship with a small community of my friends. It really is something special that has happened here. I know it's impersonal and in writing a blog you can make your life prettier or uglier than what it really is. But there are friends whose blogs are to the right of what you are reading who I would have never kept up with and years would have went by without contact had it not been for their blog. I kind of see it as a group email forum. I'm happy we are here. Together.


I've spent quite a bit of time talking about events and occurrences. However, everything that happened this year served to change me in little and big ways. A couple of things come to mind...

1. In 2004 I became more confident with who I am. Actually, I think this year I came to understand myself better than I ever have before. It's a wonderful thing to find out that you aren't crazy or weird or anything else, but that you are just you.

2. This was the year that I came to terms with Estonia. If you know me well, you know my trips to eastern Europe in '96 and '98 shaped me in monumental ways. I spent several years coming to grips with how those experiences changed me. I dreamed of returning. I yearned to return, perhaps permanently. But this year I came to realize that it was what it was. One of those many things God uses to shape you. I'll forever cherish the friends I made there and how it shaped me as a person. But I've finally moved on.

3. As a corrolary to #2... 2004 was the year I became a Wacoan. My first two years here were spent hating the place. My third year was spent bearing it. This year I finally admitted it... Waco is my home, and will probably be my home for a long time. The lack of trees and the presence of a certain institution of higher learning that I care little for and the general dreariness of the place is still here. But in light of the world I have carved out for myself here, none of that means jack crap.

No year in review would be complete without a couple of lists. Here are some of mine. When I mention my favorite books and music and movies of the year, I am not limiting them to those things which were released this year. They are the things I took note of this year.

Top 5 Books...

5. "The Lost Message of Jesus," by Steve Chalke. -- I haven't talked much about this tiny little book (probably less than 200 pages,) that I read in January, but I should have. This book made me struggle with ideas about Jesus in 2004 in much the same way Phillip Yancey's "The Jesus I Never Knew" made me struggle in 1998. Of significant note, this is the only purely theological book I read this year.

4. "Newsweek: Election Issue." Alright, this is a magazine, not a book. But at over 150 pages, it should be. Writers from the magazine followed both the Bush and Kerry campaigns for over a year and had unfettered access, with the understanding that they would wait until after the election to tell their secrets. This was extremely engaging reading.

3. "My Faith so Far: A Story of Conversion and Confusion," by Patton Dodd. This guy had a wonderful idea: Write a memoir about his faith development between the ages of 18-20. Reading this was extremely healing for me, because he is the same age as me and went through some of the same struggles with faith I was going through at the exact same times. Extremely well written, Dodd exposes certain secrets of evangelical Christianity with grace, understanding, and, the thing I've needed for some time, forgiveness.

1.(Tie) "Understanding God's Will: How to Hack the Equation Without Formulas," by Kyle Lake. I know, I know, I'm probably obligated to put this in here and am very biased because of my friendship with the author. I acknowledge those things. But those things aside, this is a really good book. I would have given anything to have had this book 12 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of headaches. Kyle wrote this book the way he writes his sermons, in a very personal way to expose those things about God that we always suspected and hoped were true, but could never bring ourselves to admitting it or saying it in front of our peers and leaders.

1.(Tie) "The Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini. This book was to me in 2004 what "The Poisonwood Bible" was to me in 2001. The characters I fell in love with and yearned for their lives to turn out better. The plot twist in the center of the book had me speechless and in tears. The last half of the book I couldn't put down. I read it until 3:30 in the morning, even though I had to be up at 6:00. For someone who needs his sleep, this was big. I wept at the redemption that occurred in the last five or six pages.

Honorable Mentions: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo , Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington.

Top 5 Movies...

5. "About a Boy"-- I actually first saw this at the end of '03, but I led a Sunday School class at 1st Presbyterian on it in January, so it still counts. This movie made me smile, a lot.

4. "Love, Actually." Another Hugh Grant movie that I can't remember if I watched a the first of this year or the end of last. Aside from the fact that this movie was marketed as a family movie, and it definitely wasn't a family movie, I loved it.

3. "Mystic River." This is the first move where I read the book first. The book was better, but the movie was amazing. One of the first movies that made me appreciate good acting, thanks to the performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins.

2. "Saved!" I wrote about this here. I watched this and laughed a lot, but mostly cringed a lot, because I was Hillary Faye at one point. This movie needed to be made. Unfortunately, most evangelicals won't get past the liberal bias of the movie to see what it really says about us.

1. "In America." This was one of those movies where I couldn't talk afterwards. The depiction of everyday life was breathtaking.

Honorable mention: "Ray."

Top 6 Musical Moments... (Albums, songs, artists...)

6. "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," by U2. I have to admit, the reason you don't hear as much about u2 from me is because everyone always talks about u2 and I don't like bandwagons. But since "The Joshua Tree" I have loved these guys, and since "Achtung Baby" I have seen how extremely historical they are. This album didn't disappoint.

5. Big and Rich. Out of all my choices I'll probably get the most grief over this one. And, I admit, I may look back years from now and wonder what I was thinking. When I first heard "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy," I thought these guys were nothing more than cartoons. But the song grew on me, then I heard them sing the cover of "Seven Spanish Angels" and their new song "Holy Water," and I have slowly gotten hooked on the Big and Rich phenomenon. Big is eccentric and Rich has an angelic voice. Ten years from now they may be in the trash bin of history. Or they may be grouped alongside the likes of other outlaws like Waylon Jennings.

4. "One Moment More," by Mindy Smith. I first saw her video for "Come to Jesus" on CMT and was hooked. I'm still hooked. Wonderful album.

3. "Genius Loves Company," by Ray Charles. I grew up in the 80's, which led me to believe that Charles was only a country singer who sang a lot of duets with people. This album brought that Ray Charles back to me. Phenomenal.

1. (Tie.) "Be Here," by Keith Urban. This album is just fun to listen to. Urban has an amazing voice and his songs are laden with hooks of gold. He uses the bridge and crescendo for country songs like Bebo Norman does for Christian songs.

1. (Tie.) "Mud on the Tires," by Brad Paisley. I can think of about a half-dozen people from my hometown who could have written these songs. I think about Chandler when I listen to Brad Paisley. In the summer I was driving back from the Lake's ranch in Bosque when I first heard his duet "Whiskey Lullaby" with Allison Krauss. It was the first time I can remember that a song made me cry. A hundred years from now that song will be sung by country artists.

Honorable Mentions: "God's Will" by Martina McBride, "God Bless the Broken Road," by Rascal Flatts, "Long Time Coming, by Jonny Lang, and "Heavier Things," by John Mayer.


Well, that was long. Thanks for reading, if you made it to the end. Here's a sneak peek on what's on the horizon for Craig in 2005. And what better way to do it than with bullets...
  • 2004 helped me get on my feet a bit financially. I'm hoping the next year I can see the end of the tunnel.
  • Starting in January I'll be one of the contributors to a blog about Kyle's book. I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully it will be good writing practice.
  • The rumors are starting to come at a faster pace over at, and it's looking more and more true. On January 17 TBS will start airing the first season of "Ed" on weekdays at noon. Tivo will be busy this year.
  • I'd love to lose 25 more pounds before the end of the year.
  • I've done a good job of staying in touch with my ETBU friends this year. In 2005 I really want to reestablish contact with people from earlier in my life like family and those from Timberline and Lindale.
  • After a couple of years of running from many of the spiritual disciplines that were rammed down my throat by well meaning people growing up, I'd love to reapproach prayer and scripture reading.
  • My number 1 resolution for 2005 is to finish writing a book of memoirs. Being published would be nice, but I'd love to have a finished product by the fall to give to friends.

For all of you who read faithfully, through all the crap and struggling and the occasional nugget of good writing, I want to say thank you . For those friends of mine who continue to share your lives with me and who incarnate Christ's love on a daily basis, thank you. You mean more to me than you know.

Here's to another year.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

With the Dawn of Redeeming Grace...

Here on Austin Avenue in Waco, TX it is an extremely silent night. Not only are all my friends in various states of movement to and from this town, but it seems as if those parts of the town that occupy the peripheral borders of my attention are in flux as well. I woke up this morning early to be at work by 7:00. The day was spent putting stickers on books that we hope to clear out of the store, thus their moniker "clearance." People came and went but my fingers were busy pushing a big rubber button on a device called a PDT, short for Personal Data Transmittor, or so I think, determining which books need stickers and placing the said stickers on the said books. Seems boring but my mind needed a break.

I needed to be reminded of the mundane.

It's a tendency among those of us who have progressed slightly in years to lament the fact that the magic of Christmas isn't quite as, what's the word, magical anymore. We want Christmas to feel like it used to feel. We want it to be the shining oasis in the midst of an otherwise dreary cycle of seasons. But mostly, I think, we want something to look forward to. Isn't that really what we lose when we grow up, those out of the ordinary times that shuttle excitement into our thoughts through the vehicle of anticipation?

So we look to Christmas to be the greatest make and model of that anticipation vehicle. We look back and we tell the great stories of Christmas. Wonderful, even, yes, magical stories. Angels fill the story at every turn. Miracles explode into the world of a young woman and her future husband and an old couple for whom the possibility of miracles seemed to fade long ago. Shephards, poor men who occupied a the lowest rung of the social ladder, were treated to a sneak preview of the greatest story ever told before or since. Men from the east made extravagent investments of time and money to see what this star really meant.

But one thing I have to remind myself is how localized the Great Story was at first. It's an extremely large world and Bethlehem is an immensely small place. That night may have been bustling with cosmic activity around the manger, but in Rome a servant fell asleep before her head hit the pillow because of a long day of labor. Shephard's may have quaked that night, but in northern Russia a man was placing wood in the night fires to keep his family warm, something he had done, and would do, for years without fanfare. Zechariah and Elizabeth stayed up that night and wondered in amazement what the news of Mary's child meant and how it fit into the great miracle they had received. But somewhere around Waco that night Native women were washing ceramic pots after dinner.

Such is the nature of the miraculous. Magic and wonder fill the earth, but not all at once. If it were so it wouldn't be magic and wonder. If magic and wonder filled the earth all at once, do you think we would yearn for the mundane? I think we would.

Not too long ago, and some of you noticed this, I changed the name of my blog from the extremely generic "What I'm thinking these days," to "Every Day is a Revolution." I think at one point Jason noticed and made a comment about it. I can't remember where I came up with the phrase, but I think I heard it in a song somewhere.

I know, of course, you are smart enough to figure out that "revolution" means two different things. Inittially when you read the title the intended affect is to make you think that every day is revolutionary. But then, when you think about it, every day isn't revolutionary. In fact, most days aren't. I would dare say there's been no more than one hundred revolutionary days in all of history.

But every day is a revolution. Every day this big ball occupies one place in the universe and travels at great speed in a circle (roughly) headed right back to where it began. Another opportunity to do those every day things all over again. Another opportunity to find that great events are revolutionary but so or ordinary events.

And such, I believe, is the nature of the Christmas story. At one part of one day a couple of thousand years ago the earth occupied it's place and moved away from it. When it made it back to it's place, everything was the same and yet everything had changed. A lady and a baby and heavenly beings was the story in Bethlehem. Same ol'- Same ol' was the story in Central Texas. But you know the thing about stories. They get around.

So my day was just a day. Putting stickers on books, buying groceries, seeking to fill the hours in an empty town with books, movies, and an attempt at writing. And yet my day was much more than just a day because it was spent in a world that the God of the Heavens deemed worthy to visit, to touch, to redeem.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Before I Slumber...

I just finished watching "Love, Actually" which has quickly become one of my all time favorites. Don't you love this opening monologue from Hugh Grant at the beginning of the movie?...

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."

Christmas Evening...

I wanted to sit down and write a warm and fuzzy, sentimental post. You, know, with it being Christmas night and all. But I can't. Oh, I've got stories and insights and things that would make you cry. They're in my head and in my heart. But in my stomach is the residual effect of two days of binge eating on nothing but cookies, pie, turkey and ham. So instead, your Christmas gift from me is bullets. Real ones, not those dashes I normally lazily do. Real. Live. Bullets...

  • Thursday night wrapped up my seven day stretch of working. My body and my mind are still extremely drained from all of that.
  • Friday morning I woke up late, around 9:30 a.m. Tim came over for a little while and we exchanged Christmas gifts. I scored the third season of Will & Grace on DVD from him. It's a great gift since I didn't actually start watching the show until season 5, and I've seen bits and pieces of the first two seasons, which didn't impress me.
  • I left for East Texas around 11:30. After my yearly drive around Lindale to see how Timberline has changed, etc., I headed to Prairie Creek for the Herring-Antal-Slaton-Cheney, etc. family Chistmas, which was determined that I've participated in for the past 10 years. Long story how I got hooked up with those great people. Actually it's a pretty short story. I worked at a church, became friends with Tony, Mellissa and Marvin, the rest is history. I'm family.
  • Had a wonderful time, as usual, in Lindale. Went to Chandler this morning to be with my family. I came out good this year. Money and a blanket, which I love.
  • Having been a part of several different kinds of churches, I've been exposed to differing things that are stressed during Christmas. Some focus on baby Jesus, some get straight to Crucifixion and Easter type stuff. It's powerful to think of what the Orthodox stress. The incarnation. God.....With.....(can you believe what comes next?....).... Us. God. With. Us. Wow, wow, wow. Have you ever stopped to realize how extremely inefficient the Gospel is? I know some of you will say otherwise, that Jesus somehow was obligated by his word or his glory or something to come share this place with us and die a horrible death. But Jesus was obligated to do jack squat. Wouldn't it have been much easier for God to say "Alright, here's the plan. I'm just going to say right now that I forgive you. If you will, come to me?" Yes, yes it would have been much easier and more effecient. The incarnation suggests that there must have been something more than just forgiveness and grace and redemption involved in this Christmas story. It seems as if God is making a statement that this place we call home, matters. The dirt we walk on and the converstations we have late at night, matter. Our relationships and our joys, matter.
  • I guess I'm preaching.
  • With so many people out of town, I'm hoping to write quite a bit over the next week or so.
  • Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


The entertainment news just keeps getting better and better...

Since February, when "Ed" last aired, I have been in a television slump. (Perhaps this has aided in my weight loss.) But, in 2005, I'm back, baby!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


If this news turns out to be true, then it is literally the greatest Christmas present since Jesus!

6:20 A.M.

It's Thursday. Day six of a seven day stretch at work. Got to bed at 12:30, woke up at 6:00.

My stress dream had me walking from Chandler to Edom, small town between Chandler and Van, population less than a hundred. Growing up I never walked from Chandler to Edom but in the dream I was telling my walking companion, Casey O'Dell, that I used to do this all the time.

It was night, we came across a haunted house. Walked through it. I remember a lot of stairs and a piano and talking about arts and crafts. (Real life fact: Edom is the Arts and Crafts Mecca of East Texas.)

We walked through a secret door into what we later found out was a private residence with people living their lives. Casey ran on through while the ladies screamed in horror at the two people walking through their houses. I decided to stay because I thought there'd be less a chance of me getting shot at if I ran. I didn't want to get shot. I was near the kids room, though, and thought I may get shot anyway.

I held my hands up and apologized. The lady said "Oh, are you just looking through the house?" and I said "Yeah, I used to do it when I was a kid and wanted to do it again." She said, "Ok, as long as you mean no harm." I looked down at the kids and said "I bet you get this all the time." To which one of the boys sighed, said "Yeah," and ran off to show me the piano.

Monday, December 20, 2004

After a Long Day...

I got the call that Kyle and Jen needed a babysitter because they didn't want to take the kids to dinner with the staff for their Christmas night out, so I reluctantly agreed and sighed "I guess I can do it just this once."

When I knocked on the garage door I heard Jen yell into the boys room "Boys! Craig's here!" From the other end of the house I could faintly hear Jude yelling something. It got more and more clear as he got closer and closer to the door. He was screaming "Craig's home! Craig's home!"

And I was and it made my day.

Today I had to remind myself that those idiot customers are really just people who have others in their life that they love deeply, as I love Jude, and are looking for ways to say "I love you," and that's why they are stressing out because it's probably only once a year that they actually tell those people "I love you," and they want to get it right this time.

So, even though my nerves were shot today, I tried to extend a little more grace to the little old lady who made me pull down every single Children's Dictionary for her to look at, only to get the first one I showed her.

And I told my friends I loved them.

And I am telling my friends that I love you.

I love you.


Holding Pattern...

-- There's about a half dozen things I've wanted to write about over the past few days. Unfortunately, by the time I get home from work and my daily activities I am just too drained to write.

-- I don't work any more during the holidays than during the rest of the year (other than the fact that I work more consecutive days.) But the stress of one Christmas-Season-Day is equal to an entire weeks stress during the year.

-- Because people are stupid and holidays bring out more stupid people.

-- "I'm looking for a blue book that has 'ground' in the title."

-- (In a yelling voice,) "You had the book last week!" "Yes, m'am, I know. But sometimes we have people come in and actually buy our books."

-- (On the phone,) "Yes, ummm, there's a book that I was wondering if you could possibly...." (What I want to say,) "Dammit you son of a bitch, we are an effing BOOKSTORE! Yes I can find your damn book if we have it but cut that 'yes, ummm, i was wondering' shit out and tell me the name of the book you want for chrissake."

-- Sometimes conversations with old friends can be just as draining as a day at work.

-- Sometimes conversations with friends can breathe new life into your world.

-- I had weird dreams last night. I think they call them stress dreams.

-- I was hiking in the snow with people I work with (Myles, Kelly, John Warren, and others,) when I realized that we were close to the North Pole. We passed a house that I assumed belonged to Santa. I made the comment about how excited I was to see the North Pole. I then asked someone how much further it would be until we got there and they said about 126 miles, and I said 126 miles? Shi-ut, I aint walking no 126 miles just to see the doddamned North Pole. (If you are the language police, this paragraph doesn't count. It was a dream.

-- Well, Got to get dressed for another day.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I know 200 sets of parens who should be sued for endangering and neglecting their children.


It's a week until Christmas and it feels like it because most everyone is either leaving town or prepararing to do so. It seems this has been my lot since being at ETBU. I generally stay in the town I reside until Christmas Eve, which has been spent for the last 9 or so years (I really can't remember how long) with some very close friends from a church I used to work at. Christmas day is at home, then return to place of residence. My jobs usually have not been conducive to take long breaks during the holidays, and this year is no different.

Last night I had a wonderful Christmas evening with the Lake's. Went to Ninfa's, back to their place, exchanged gifts and watched the Charlie Brown Christmas movie. Had you forgotten, as I had, how freaking incredible that is? The simplicity of the Christmas story is breathtaking.

Tomorrow is a going away party for Tracey, who will be going away to D.C. after the holidays for an internship. She will be staying with my friend, and Aaron's sparring partner, Luke's family.

Sunday is church and taking Jason to the airport.

Sometime next week I plan on cooking lunch for Tim's family, who is in town for the holidays from Germany.

Every day until the 24th will be spent at work for at least 8 hours. Hopefully I'll be able to keep a decent workout schedule. Should be easier after Sunday, when everyone leaves town.

Remind me to tell you about Christmas in Marshall, 1996, Pizza Hut, and driving through the lights. Can't do it now, too tired and have to be at work early.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This was going to be a continuation of a comment on my "Sweet by Design" post, but I've decided that length dictates it be its own post...

As far as original intent goes, let me share the original intent of my post.

The second you think you understand people they go and do something or act in a manner that blows the door off your assumptions. In one of his previous posts Myles made an extremely perceptive comment that it's a sin to reduce people to verbs or adjectives.

For centuries this is what society had done, not just to individual persons but to entire genders. They defined masculinity with the adjectives strong, wild, passionate and with words such as leader, protector, provider. They defined femininity with words such as delicate, nurturing, needy.

The feminist movement, though flawed and even dangerous on so many levels, sought to recognize that you couldn't pin down femininity or masculinity with a canon of adjectives. If you have been exposed to even a small amount of the world and are honest with yourself, you have to admit that there are women who do not fit the mold you have for women and men who don't fit the mold you have for men. Once this is recognized, you have several choices.

1. You can try to convince yourself that what you've believed all along about people is right, and try to mold and stretch the characteristics of individuals to fit the categories you have for men and women. Robert did this. He took the description I gave for myself and said that, in fact, all the things I've stated DOES fit the "wild at heart" category for men. While I love Robert deeply and appreciate his kind words, I just can't agree with his assesment.

2. You can take your views and perceive a false attack on them, not address the real question at hand and seek to defend what you perceive an attack. I was not saying, nor do I believe, that complementarians treat women poorly. I think most of them probably love their wives greatly and treat them with respect. I just believe that the universal application of their views of women is unfair to individual women who do not fit their perception of femininity.


3. You can continue to defend your beliefs without dealing with the reality of real people. My post was personal for a reason. I described myself as someone who doesn't fit the mold of a traditional male and spoke of women who don't fit the mold of a traditional woman and asked the question "Where do we fit in your worldview." I wanted a personal answer to my personal question, and didn't get it, except from Robert. I want to be told what you do with people like me. If you believe I've been "tamed" or that I have shunned what God has designed me to be, then I want to be told that. I want you to tell women who pastor churches, personally, that they have misunderstood God's calling on their lives. None of this "What they do is between them and God." If you believe Julie Pennington-Russell, the woman who married our friends Jason and Christy and was ordained by my friend Luke's dad, is a sinner for pastoring a church, then I want to hear it.

Disclaimer: Please don't misunderstand my original post as me saying that I have feminine qualities or that I am in touch with my feminine side. Please don't think that women like Christy who are in egalitarian marriages or Julie who pastors a church have masculine qualities or are in touch with their masculine side. That's not what I'm saying.

What I am saying is that I'm a masculine man but that you can't narrowly define what masculinity is.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


It's 3:00 a.m. and in three hours I have to be awake to get ready for the seventh day of a seven day work-week.

It's been months since I've been awake at this hour. Years since I've been awake at this hour for a worthy reason.

After work and staying up to watch the last seconds of Monday Night Football to make sure I landed a spot in the playoffs with my Fantasy Team, I decided to read a little bit more of "The Kite Runner" before I went to bed. I had read slowly and was only around page 225 when the clock struck midnight. I read a little, decided I needed sleep, put it down, turned off the light... five minutes later I had to read on. I did that several times until I decided to screw it. I'm going straight to page 372. The End.

I used to stay up late thinking about God. Time has assisted that habit into obscurity, unfortunately. The passions of youth awaken thoughts and desires and, well, passions that will not be settled by mere sleep. Although I preach the value of sleep, I regret that my life over the past 6-8 years did not provide cause for missing a little sleep.

But at thirty years and a few months I stayed up like a kid trying to squeeze the last bit of the day out of existence.

Get the book and read it. If, as is generally the case, you are not as moved by it as I am, that's ok. Often I give an endorsement of something and days later regret it because it didn't evoke the same emotions in others as it did in me. In those cases I generally think less of the person who didn't like whatever it was that I endorsed and question whether or not they understood what they read or watched.

But, this time I really don't care. All I know is that it is 3:18 a.m. now and my eyes are still red from the weeping the ending evoked in me. That Switchfoot line, about redemption having stories to tell.... I thought it was pretty stupid until now. I thought it was using two popular and powerful words in our culture, "redemption" and "story" , and raping them for dramatic effect. But after 372 pages, I understand about redemption telling stories.

I'll share a line from near the end then go to bed...

"...I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unnanounced in the middle of the night."

Goodnight my friends. And good morning.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Sweet by Design...

As the flow of our blog discussions go, I'm probably a little late in posting this. But I want to weigh in with my personal (as opposed to theological, which, of course, informs my personal) opinions about this whole man/woman thing. My thoughts were spurred on by the discussions on Myles', Aaron's, and Starrla's blog, but they are by no means an attempt to discredit. I just think you should know my dilemma.

I hesitate to critique John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart," because of Blake and Robert's endorsement, and because of the fact that I've never actually sat down and read the entire thing from front to back. But I think I've got the general idea-- Men are, by nature, wild at heart. They are the bread winners. They are the one's who go out and slaughter the animals to bring home to feed the women. They have a passion burning in their belly. Men are chivalric warriors, leaders. Women are, by nature, nurturing. They support their husband who is the head of the family. They take care of the husband by cooking the slaughtered meat. They are sweet.

Women like Pretty Woman, fairy tales. Men like westerns, action movies, and Braveheart.

Here's my problem. I fell asleep in braveheart. I am not, by nature, wild at heart. My ideal wife is an independent woman. (Perhaps this is why I've been so slow in matters of love.) In looking for a spouse I want a partner, not a follower. I am, to put it bluntly, a "sweet boy."

So the question is, in your "man=warrior, woman=princess" Christian world, where do I fit in? My guess is that your assumption is I have either been tamed by my mother or society or that I am gay. Well, neither is the case. I am, by nature, not "wild at heart." I'm sensitive, by nature. As long as my wife will clean, I'll cook every meal for the rest of our lives. My ideal movie is never one that depicts a warrior whose obstacle to overcome is a physical enemy, like Braveheart, but rather one that depicts a flawed individual whose main obstacle to overcome is himself, ala Rocky 1-4. I am not gay and no one has "tamed" me. This is who I am. So what do you do with people like me?

In every description of this way of thinking I've been exposed to there is an interesting word that pops up even in the most diehard Eldredge fans. That word is most. MOST men are by nature "chivalric warriors," and most women by nature are delicate and nurturing. So again, I ask, what do you do with those who require the use of that word?

The tone of my post will probably be interpreted as an attack on Starrla's comments. But I can assure you they aren't. I am personally very happy that she, and millions of other women, have found just the right person to complement their needs and desires. I'm am sincerely glad there is a world of nurturing women who have found the warrior husband they are looking for.

My issue is with taking a general tendency that may be true for a whole lot of people and building it up as the standard for all male-female relationships and human development.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Before I slumber, let me say
To Jason Edwards


Congratulations, you're one step closer to the dark side.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I'm Just Saying...

  • I had a habit beginning in early November of buying a Peppermint Mocha at work. It got too expensive so I've switched to Hot Cinnamon Sunset Tea, in a mug, room for cream. That's about as European as I'll ever be.
  • Donald Rumsfeld got drilled today by that soldier. I think it's good. It's time we really started sacrificing financially, rescind tax cuts for a year, take care of Iraq with a vengeance until they can experience some kind of democratic freedom, then get out. That soldier really made me happy to be an American. To be able to question your top commander like that and not fear for your life.
  • It's 7:15 and I have told myself no more telivision tonight. For a while I was watching nothing, but lately I've spent a lot of time with Seinfeld and Friends and random crap. Time to take my life back.
  • I'll try to get back into "The Kite Runner."
  • In the past month I've noticed more hair loss, more gray hair, and more hair protruding from the nose and ears. I'm getting older. But I feel better than I have since I was a senior in high school. Ran my longest ever yesterday. 7.5 miles.
  • Last night I went to bed with Rascal Flatts playing in my ear. The old one. The first one. Right now I'm listening to Ray Charles et. al. "Genius Loves Company."
  • Speaking of music, the Grammy awards nominations were announced yesterday and it's time for us all to start jumping on bandwagons. Is it to late to start liking this Kanye West and still be legit? It seems the window of opportunity gets smaller and smaller every year.
  • I've said this before, but there should be a book or television script written about the characters at my work. Sometimes I can't believe that I get paid to do what I do and be around the most interesting group of characters in the world.
  • That's all for now, but maybe there'll be more later this evening.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

For Langston...

Not too long ago I posted a little teaser of some of my potential future blogs. In it I mentioned the possibility of me someday running for public office. In true Mark Penick fashion I never followed up on writing what I suggested I would write about. As I'm the one who subtly just mentioned to Mark that he should do what he suggested, Matt Langson was that person for me, gently nudging me in the form of an email.

I think I've mentioned before that I grew up in a fairly political family. Dad was a Union Man and Mom worked for the State of Texas, making it impossible for the decisions of lawmakers in Austin, Washington, and even Athens (county seat of Henderson County) and Chandler to go unmentioned in our household. Looking back I realize that the discussions were extremely overgeneralized, (So-and-So, aka "The Democrat" is for the Working Man while So-and-So, aka "The Republican", could care less if the Working Man dies starving in a gutter.) But they were discussions nonetheless which exposed me to political figures and ideals early on.

Because of this upbringing, the possibility of being a politician, while extremely difficult, was never out of the question or even out of reach. While the idea of running for public office has never been a driving passion of my life, it has been the Dream da'jour on several occasions. I think about it seriously probably 13-19 days out of any given year, give or take.

As some of you know, I was close to the power once. Through contacts I made in college I became an intern in the summer of 1997 on Capitol Hill for Kay Bailey Hutchison. That led me into my first real post-college job as the Staff Assistant for Sentator Hutchison's Dallas office. It was honorable work and extemely enjoyable. After a year the Pine Trees wooed me back to East Texas to be closer to friends and what could best be described at the time as "home."

The next few years had me meandering along through different jobs and further away from the political life. Only once, in late 2000, did I consider getting back into the political fray by spending time (secretly) researching the logistics behind a run for the Texas House of Representatives. Around that time was when I decided I needed to plant my feet somewhere and the community that was surrounding me at the time seemed to be as good a place as any other, and political ambitions crawled back under the surface.

The election cycle of this past year helped those ambitions surface slightly. If I ever decide to put my foot in the ring, I want it to be a well thought out move.

  • As someone (either Rich Mullins of C.S. Lewis) said, politics is such an important calling because it's not so much concerned with ideas that are "out there" but rather with real people and real situations. The opportunity to serve a constuency of people is very appealing.
  • Regardless of your Church-State issues, it must be conceded that Jesus called us to be Salt and Light and what better place to be Salt and Light than in our public institutions?
  • There is a certain amount of celebrity attached to being an elected official. Who, if we are really honest with ourselves, isn't at least a little intrigued with the idea of public recognition.


  • There is a certain amount of celebrity attached to being an elected official. The really big names (Senators, Presidents) have to spend hours a day shaking hands and smiling and remembering thousands of people's names whose feelings will be hurt if they didn't. Even small time politicians can't avoid being harassed in the store by old ladies who need the potholes fixed 0n the black-tops in front of their house.
  • Politics is mean. (Or is it Politics are mean? I don't know.) In this last election Kerry was accused of not being honorable enough in Vietnam, even though he was SHOT. Bush was accused of any potential flu outbreak that may occur. The local Rebublican, a young guy in his 20's running against Jim Dunnam, was dissed for not paying property taxes. In other words, he wasn't rich enough to own a home. I get my feelings hurt if people criticize my theology or my occasional use of profanity in my blogs. I'm not sure if I could take the personal attacks that would come with holding public office.
  • I make between 20K-30K a year. (I'll keep the exact number a secret so you don't pity me or ask me for money.) If I were to be in the Texas Legislature, the most feasible first job for a young politician, I would make around 7K a year. The job is set up to where laywers and business owners who can afford to be away from their jobs for six monts out of every other year, are the only people who can possibly handle the demands.
  • Avery, Jude, Sutton, Kyle, Jen, Ben, Jamie, Jason, Chisty, etc., live in Waco, not Austin or Washington.

So there you have it. Who knows? Of course an alternate route would be to get back into non-elected government work. Many big names have made a huge difference in politics without ever being elected. Colin Powell comes to mind. As does Elizabeth Dole, who only recently was elected to an office.

That's a lot of rambling to say that I don't know. I'm open to nudging and caution.

Well, Matt, there you have it.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Christian Spirituality and Major Movements....

I've got three minutes to type before I go to work.

I just got finished with a conversation in which I referenced my friend Luke Smith, who occasionally reads my blog. Luke is someone who, for as long as I have known him, has a vibrant Christian faith that is quite independent from any major movements.

That's what I want. It seems like my whole life as a follower of Christ, and those of most of my friends, has ridden the ebb and flow of popular Christian movements. Either we experience their coming and going or we use these movements as a trajectory to shoot us into eternity.

Louie Gigleo and his elevation of John Piper through the Passion movement
Experiencing God
Prayer of Jabez
Ron Sider and Social Justice

Is anyone following Christ for the sake of following Christ? I'm not, but I want to be.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Putting off Sleep...

It's midnight on a night before I have to be at work at 7:00 a.m. I should be in bed right now. But for some reason the humming of the computer and clicking of the keys comfort me more than the thought of being asleep. Which is odd since I normally choose sleep over just about anything.

On my way back from hanging out with Jason tonight I had this thought that there are tons of musical artists I enjoy listening to now, even that I put down fifteen bucks for one of their cd's, but that I know in twenty years from now will have no relevance to my life. And there are some who I enjoy hearing on the radio but don't spend money on who I will look back on in twenty years as someone who helped define my life and the life of our culture.

These thoughts came from hearing Alan Jackson's 9/11 song "Where were you (when the world stopped turning?)" And it's not just that particular song but everything I hear from him just screams instant classic.

Enough of that.

Bush is at it again. Oppressing the minorities and women. I mentioned this last week, but it's getting even worse. If you haven't heard, a new cabinet official has been named and, once again, it is not a white male. Carlos Gutierrez, a Cuban born immigrant who climbed the ranks at Kellog from truck driver (yes.... TRUCK DRIVER) to Chief Executive Officer, was named to replace Don Evans as Commerce Secretary.

And once again, don't look for the NAACP, or any other Civil Rights groups for that matter, to praise the president for his affirmative action choices because it's clear, as Aaron has pointed out, that the only minorities who count are minorities who agree with the Democrats.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

If you start on a new post, save it as a draft, and publish it at a later time, it is placed in the date order from when you started. Therefore, I need to draw your attention to the fact that I have a post that I just published, but which shows up under last Thursday....

Saturday, November 27, 2004


--I've been working on something about my Thanksgiving but haven't had the time to finish it. Actually, I haven't had the motivation. All of you who read are away and when I don't think someone might look at my blog within the next few minutes it's hard for me to get moving.

--Yesterday I got to work at 6:00 a.m. to prepare for Black Friday. I stopped by Wal Mart to pick some things up and it was crazy. When I drove into the B&N parking lot there were hundreds of people waiting outside of Circuit City. I'm thinking Adbusters should choose a more practical day to have the "Buy Nothing Day." It just makes them look silly. Why not choose March 4?

-- Today I work from 3-close.
-- Tomorrow, no morning UBC service. I've gone to Calvary for the past two or three years on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I think I'll continue the tradition.
--Ben is preaching tomorrow night and I'm looking forward to hear it.
-- Aaron, why did you delete the controversial post?
-- I got an email from Jessica Varner today letting me know that she heard from Benji (her husband) and that he is doing alright and in good spirits. It looks like his company of Marines will be leaving Falluja by mid-January. Keep praying for his safety.
-- Ran 4 today. Should have done twice that to work off the incredibly sinful amount of eating I partook in on Thursday and yesterday. Yesterday was worse than Thanksgiving.
--Last Tuesday Kyle, Jen, and I took the kids to see Santa. It was wonderful. Avery loved it and the boys were horrified and screaming bloody murder. We loved it. It was at it should be.
-- I'm stressing out over Christmas presents. I think people are getting tired of books. Not sure what direction to go in this year.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


I sometimes like to think of the Nash family of East Texas as a blue collar and not quite as influential or educated version of the Kennedys. You know, those people who live up there in New England? This is due partly to the fact that there are so many of us. For the most part we call home the stretch of East Texas that runs across U.S. 31 from Longview to Chandler. If you've driven that road you know there are hundreds of backroads that jetison off the highway and into the woods. If you go down any of those roads you are bound to run across someone with Nash blood. As a family, unlike the Kennedy's, we don't really hold any sway over world affairs, or any other affairs for that matter. Mention one of us by name in East Texas and you'll probably hear something like, "Yeah, I know that Nash. I think. Was he the one who..." Usually they have the wrong Nash, but the fact that the name rung a bell means something, I guess.

Another reason for the connection between us and the Kennedy's is the tendency to gravitate toward a patriarchal figure to provide direction and comfort. They had Joseph, then JFK, then RFK, and now Teddy. When there was a death or a tragedy or a question or anything that required rallying around a central figure, they looked to that person. For us, that person is my Uncle Johnny. To everyone else he is John Nash (not to be confused with the Beautiful Mind John Nash.) To us, he is Uncle Johnny.

It is at Uncle Johnny's farm that we had Thanksgiving this year, as we have for the past 30 some odd years. (Damn, another reminder that I'm 30.)

I think I've mentioned this before, but we have a huge family. There were 9 children birthed from Cecil and Ruby Nash: Sonny, Bo, Johnny, Sister, Jackie, Jerry, Ruth Ann, Tommy, and Dottie. Those nine begat another twenty six. Twenty six first cousins-- all ranging in age now from 22-45. Now many of us (not me) are having kids of our own. That's a lot of Nash's.

I could go in many directions with this post, but I think I'll go here.

I noticed a Nash family trait this week that I think is present within me. The Cardindal Nash Rule? Don't offend. Do whatever is necessary not to offend. This is how you can tell that my mom, while she has done the theological correct move and taken the Nash name, is not, by blood, a Nash. Mom starts immediately talking about politics and how it would have been nice if Kerry had won. Everyone tensed up, but mom kept jabbering. Dad looked at her and said "Now Pansy, why did you have to bring that up?" Pansy is a Coleman. Coleman's don't mind offending. Actually, they don't set out ot offend, but they just talk talk talk talk, and are oblivious to whether or not they offend.

Get a bunch of Nash's together and for the first hour or so it is fairly quiet. No one talks because no one wants to be seen as a loud mouth and no one wants to accidently say something that might offend.

Aunt Dottie enters and gently starts telling stories. Innocuous stories, but fun and wholesome stories. Stories that tell of people who have wonderful hearts but who do stupid things. Uncle Johnny will then start telling stories about people he meets or with whom he worked with. Before long, everyone is having a fun time, yelling across the room.. "Hey Diane, remember the time?" or "Tommy, whatever happened to...?"

Before long everyone is comfortable because everyone realizes, "Oh yeah, this is my family. We can be ourselves here.

And, in some ways, this is how I deal with people. The Nash gentleness has been passed down to me. But so has the Nash reticence towards offending. I'm a peacekeeper, but not someone you want to look to to solve a conflict.

Another interesting thing about this Thanksgiving, and I'll close with this. (Like the preacher talk?) When I was a kid we lived for holidays because it meant we would get to go to Uncle Johnny's and ride on his tractor and go out to see the cows. We're all a little old for that, but there are new litters of young'uns running around. I got a kick out of my little second cousin Jonah (Sherry's, oldest daughter of Ruth Ann, son.) As Uncle Johnny was eating Noah walked up in his shy (unnofensive, now that I think about it) way and asked Uncle Johnny, "Are you almost finished eating?" Johnny had promised him they'd go out to see the cows. "In a minute, Noah." "Ok." Noah goes out to play near the barn as Uncle Johnny finishes he plate. When Johnny gets up from his chair, Noah walks up, "Are you finished Uncle Johnny?" "Yeah, but I'm going to get a piece of pie." "Oh, ok. Just one piece of pie?" "I don't know, I might get more." "Ok, two pieces of pie then we'll go out and see the cows?"

It was more hilarious than I'm able to convey here. I'll end by saying this (and copying a line from Myle's blog.) I love my family. They are weird and quirky, but I wouldn't want any other family. In so many ways they are a mirror through which I see myself and my hopes and dreams and all those things imbedded within me that will never be loosed, and frankly, that I would like to keep with me.

I'm as upset at myself as the next guy about my recent lack of posts.

But fear not readers!! When I finish typing this I'm on my way to Chandler for the annual Nash Family Thanksgiving on Uncle Johnny's farm.

And I'm coming back with stories.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Last night was the annual UBC Thanksgiving Lovefeast and, for the fourth year, I made the turkey. And I think I kicked ass with it this year. Spending time with that bird every year is always a wonderful experience for me. Seriously. I normally begin getting all the things together about mid-week, spend Saturday evening preparing the bird, then all day Sunday cooking it. I really do put quite a bit of love into it. Until, that is, it's time to carve it. From midweek preparations all the way up to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday the thoughts that are seriously going through my head go something like-- "This church is the most important thing in my life right now. My heart is full of so much love for the people here that I feel sometimes that it might, in fact, break. I love being able to cook for them." Then around 6:00 p.m. that bird comes out of the oven looking beautiful. I then get frustrated because everyone else is having a grand old time conversing with each other while I'm stuck cutting the turkey and I'm thinking "Damn ingrates. I've been slaving over this thing for a weekend and no one even OFFERS to cut the turkey for me." I realize at that point the flip-flop of feelings that must go on within the hearts of parents on a daily basis.

But, eventually, someone always walks beside me and senses my frustration and takes over the knife duties and my heart, once again, is warmed. (This year it was Matt Singleton. Thanks, Matt!)

Then I walk around and see people laughing and hugging and watch the kids go from table to table where they are doted on and fed and I realize that I am where many people long to be. In a community where there's no such thing as "doing church." We are not seeking after the latest methods or trying to be the next big thing or trying to prove anything to anyone. We are sharing our lives with each other.

I'll cook a hundred turkeys for that. Carve them as well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Lacking significant inspiration, I give you bullets...

-- Anyone ever notice how Democrats talk about affirmative action as a legislative possibility, while our President practices it as a reality? Out of the windfall of new high level appointments this week only one, National Security Advisor-elect Steve Hadley, is neither a woman, minority, or both.

-- In related news, the new White House Counsel, replacing Al Gonzalez, is Harriet Miers, a close family friend of Jordan Browning, one of my friends. My seven degrees has shrunk considerably.

-- Every spiritual anecdote doesn't boil down to a discussion of election vs. choice. Those conversations on my friends blogs, while necessary, are too tiring for this aging man.

-- This past weekend I read Patton Dodd's "My Faith So Far: A Story of Conversion and Confusion." Never has someone else's memoir mirrored my life like this one. From the time of graduation from high school to the timing of entering a Christian university, to the timing and specifics of dealing and struggling with Charismaticism, I feel like this guy is my "other." ("I Heart Huckabees" reference.)

-- Holidays are a double edged sword. On the one hand there is UBC Thanksgiving Love Feast, Nash family Thanksgiving at Uncle Johnny's farm, holiday music and Christmas eve with the Herrings/Slatons/Chantals. On the other hand too many people leave town, leaving me lonely.

-- In honor of Mark Penick, who has yet to deliver other promised blogs, I give you my "Blogs to come" list.
  • The possibility of running for public office.
  • Country music.
  • 1993-1998.
  • Being fat. Being not quite as fat.
  • My sister and how "A Few Good Men" altered the course of my family.
  • Seasons of life and being content.
  • Red Bud road and the Dogwood Trees.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Just Stuff...

Wednesday night I lay down at 7:30 to take a nap. Woke up at midnight and wondered if I should get up and do something. Decided against that and went back to sleep until 5:50 a.m.

Last night I went to bed at 11:30. Woke up at 3:30 and was wide awake. Considered staying up and pretending to be a monk or a soldier who had done more before 7:00 a.m. than most people do all day. Decided against that and went back to sleep until 7:30 a.m.

Yesterday after work and a run and a haircut I came home and spent three hours working on two separate writing projects that drained me emotionally and had me in a teary eyed slumber wanting to call everyone in my cell phone and tell them how much "I love you man!" I didn't. I probably should have, but I didn't.

Not much else to tell. Looking forward to the holidays. The weather is perfect.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


I've just been informed that one of my good friends and coworkers from ETBU, Benji Varner, is involved in the Marine siege of Falluja. As of yesterday he is doing ok.

Please say a prayer for his safety.

With Love,

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

New Additions...

I've backed up my whole blog on a disc in order to make it safe for me to tinker with it a little.

A few additions to my links...

Robert, a friend from ETBU, is one of my absolute favorite people in the world. He has an unmatched sense of humor and a heart of gold. I wish he'd move to Hollywood. He'd be HUGE. I also wish he'd move to Waco, but that's neither here nor there.

Nathan, another ETBU'er, is a good ol' boy (in the best sense of the word) who is just getting his blog started. Looking forward to reading his stuff and interacting with him.

Among the Ruins, is the thoughts of an acquaintance from my first couple of years in Waco. This guy is brilliant and full of insight.

The Iguana is a coworker and an amazing writer. There are many things he shares that I disagree with, but nothing he writes ever fails to engage me and make me think hard about what I believe.
Potentially final election thoughts in the popular bullet form...

-- Bush got 51% of the vote. 23% of all those who voted called themselves evangelical Christians. Of that 23%, about three quarters went for Bush, a quarter for Kerry. If my math skills are correct, this means that 17.25% of Bush's votes came from evangelicals. In other words, evangelicals won the election for Bush.

-- But, this also means that 82.75% of all Bush voters were NOT evangelicals. This dispels the myth that some would have us believe that if you voted for Bush then you automatically attend Antioch or Prestonwood.

-- I stand by my earlier statement. The Dems would have won if they had put forth an anti-establishment, anti-war, candidate like Howard Dean. I know the polls of likely voters probably showed otherwise. But if Dean were the candidate there would be a greater flux of likely voters. I'm not endorsing Dean, I'm just saying I think he would have been the better candidate because people wouldn't have a hard time deciphering what he believes.

-- Bush won simply on the fact that he connected with people. Kerry didn't.

-- Out of all the voters for each candidate there were three types: a.) The stupid, b.)the ignorant, c.) the well informed. I think a healthy Christian response to those who voted different from me is to assume "c." is the case and that I just disagree with their conclusions.

-- 2008? Who really knows. Hillary-- probably will run. Remains to be seen if she can moderate her views on government enough to win in the south, (which, by the way, has proved a necessary component of any Democratic win for the past 25 years.) Barach Obama-- obviously is the rock star of the Democratic party right now. Remains to be seen if he can compete financially with old Democratic stalwarts.

-- I personally don't think the Democratic leadership is open enough to having a candidate make it into thier upper ranks that can win an election. As closed minded as the Republicans are made out to be, there is not a single nationally visible Democrat who is pro-life. Oh, there are pro-life democrats, but none of them are given a voice.

-- For the Republicans? I think an almost unbeatable candidate would be Bill Frist of Tennessee. He's pro-life, but is also very active in sojourners-type moral issues such as the AIDS epidemic. He isn't a polarizing figure, either.

--Well, I'm done with that stuff. It was a fun election year, but I'm glad it's over.
Indulge me in a couple more election related posts, then it's all over. I promise. (I'm sure you don't really believe that. I'm not sure I believe it.)...

So here's my problem with Sojourners.

Their campaign and petition titled "God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat," was meant, I think, to express the opinion that God would not endorse either political party. But does anyone actually believe that Sojourners wished to be a nonpartisan voice in an election year? I believe they weren't endorsing any particular candidate about as much as I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention wasn't endorsing any particular candidate.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I had never heard the phrase "Social Justice" used by so many people until I moved to Waco. "Social Justice" is the progressive Christian's fancy and authoritative words for what many Christians do on a daily basis-- love God and love their neighbor.

I know people who devote their lives to feeding the poor and hungry. I know professors from college who see and act upon the call of God to be good stewards of the environment. If you were to show them the Sojourners Petition their response would be a kinder version of "Alright, thanks. Are you done wasting my time now? I've got people to feed and things to do."

People genuinely doing the work of Christ do not need some gimmick to prove to the rest of the world that they are different than the Religious Right. I hope that my life and actions, and the life and actions of my faith community, would be such that I wouldn't have the need to try and distance myself from people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Sunday, November 07, 2004



a.) I have tons of motivation to write, but nothing much to say.

And sometimes

b.) I have tons of stuff to say, but no motivation.

The past few days have been "b."

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Sequence of Events from Thirty Minutes Ago Until Now...

12:45 a.m.-- Driving home from Austin with Jason asleep in the passengers seat, I make it into Waco.

12:47 a.m.-- Coming around the corner past the Hwy. 6 Exit my eyes catch a glimpse that makes me curious. The tower on the Baylor campus is lit green. "Huh," I think to myself, remembering the tour I was given a few years back when I became employed at the university where they told me that a tower lit green marks a victory for a Baylor athletic team.

12:48 a.m.-- I brush the previous thoughts away, knowing that Baylor played Texas A&M and there was no way in hell they won. I attributed the green light to one of the many other fall sports that I'm probably not aware of.

12:51 a.m.-- After dropping Jason off I notice that there are many students out and about at the restaurants around campus. Many are walking around the streets in what seems to me like a celebratory mood.

12:53 a.m.-- Still not believing that Baylor's football team could beat A&M, there, nevertheless, are chinks beginning to be chipped away from the armor of my cynicism.

1:00 a.m.-- I arrive home and check the internet to discover that, alas, Baylor DID in fact beat Texas A&M on the gridiron tonight.

1:01 a.m.-- Knowing I have to blog something, the inner war begins to go on in my head. The conversation went like this:

Craig's better judgement-- "Let them have their fun."
Craig's sinister judgement-- "You have to say something."
Craig's better judgement-- "C'mon Craig, let it go. The people who read your blog already know how you feel about Baylor. You don't need to state the obvious by creating some clever post."
Craig's sinister judgement-- "But it would be so fun. And it's TRUE!"
Craig's better judgement-- "Craig, some of the people you love the most hold Baylor University dear to their heart."
Craig's sinister judgement-- "Yeah, but your voice needs to be heard. You have been wronged by this place-- TWICE! You are the oppressed!!"
Craig's better judgement-- "Let it go, seriously. Could it be that you are jealous of being on the outside of all of that celebration and you just have to spoil their party? You don't want to be that person, do you?"
Craig's sinister judgement-- "Why not?"
Craig's better judgement-- "Because you are better than that."
Craig's sinister judgement-- "No I'm not."
Craig's better judgement-- "Yes you are."
Craig's sinister judgement-- "No I'm not, and shut the hell up," beating Craig's better judgement into submission and typing the following words at 1:27 a.m.
Congratulations Baylor! You beat Texas A&M! I'm so proud of you!! It must feel great to finally be 6-63 in Big 12 play. At this rate the already financially strapped university will probably go under because of all the goal posts you are tearing down. Must feel great to have to tear down a goal post after winning your 6th Big 12 game out of 69. Maybe that will be the salve that cools wounds of your ailing soul. My guess is that, looking back on it, it will be seen more as the shot of tequila needed to dull the pain.
I really should have listened to my better self. But, what's a person to do?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hitting the Hay...

I'm going to be early tonight so I'm going to bypass a long post. I'll just write one more sentence after this one.

I just watched Larry King Live where the first half had about five ministers from differing theological persuasions (Max Lucado, Jessie Jackson, John MacArthur, some liberal Catholic and some just plain ol' liberal) discussing issues regarding church and state and the second half had Tommy Lee talking about his life, his new book, and his reality show and I honestly can't think of a single hypothetical circumstance in which, given the choice, I'd rather hang out with any of those Christians over Tommy Lee because he was fun, kind, gentle, and just seemed seemed like a good person.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Meeting up Again...

From the beginning I have tried to make my blog as transparent and about who I am and where I am at a particular time in my life as possible. I have dabbled a little in creative writing, poetry, and quite a bit of political commentary. But the things that generate the most response and are the most therapeutic for me are the random postings of what I did on a particular day and what I thought and felt throughout the course of those happenings.

The advantage of this type of blogging is that those who are around me, those who are an immediate part of my life, can read my posts and say “Yep, that’s Craig,” but also know that I am so much more than what I can write within a thirty minute period of time. The disadvantage is that I am taking a huge risk that someone who is not a part of my immediate world will read my words and say “That’s Craig,” but will have no other frame of reference from which to draw a mental picture of what type of person I am right now.

For example, someone could read my posts from Saturday night and reasonably come to the conclusion that I have an alcohol issue. Truth is, I have moderated my views on alcohol quite a bit over the past few years. And, after a few years of tweaking, my actions regarding alcohol have moderated as well. In the past two months I’ve probably consumed 5 alcoholic beverages, max.

You could also scroll down and find a handful of f-bombs peppered throughout my posts and conclude that I have a potty mouth. Truth is, I have moderated my views on language that can be considered offensive. And, after a few years of tweaking, my language…. Oh, who am I kidding. I have a potty mouth.

Why am I writing this? In trying to promote Kyle’s book to everyone in my contact list I have reconnected with some friends that I haven’t seen or spoken with in years. Knowing (and happy) that I’ll renew a relationship with some of them, they are bound to find my blog (since I like to put my address on my emails.)

So to my old friends that I hope and pray will, in some way, become a part of my life again, I say this: I am a different person than who I was 2, 5, 10 years ago. I hope you are as well. I have different passions, different friends, different ideas, different direction. You can look at my words and decide (as some have in the past) that the October 25, 2004 Craig just isn’t as good or spiritual or the same as the Craig you once knew. You can put me on your prayer list (which I hope you would do anyway) and ask God to restore me (i.e., make me a theological conservative again.) You can "remove your endorsement" of me (as has been done.) Or you can rejoin me on this path I’m on.

I am still just a person stumbling after God. There are people with me who I love deeply who are stumbling as well. At one point in my life, possibly when I was walking in closer proximity to your world, I thought I had my feet firmly to the ground, eyes set like stone toward the goal. It made me feel closer to God to speak in stronger terms. But I was just stumbling then as well.

If you want, you can stumble with me. The invitation is open.
The Great Divide...

The cover of this week's Time magazine, last week's U.S. News and World Report, and the discussion topic at Pizza-Politics- and Prayer last week was of the idea of a polarized America. The theories are legion. Some say we are on the verge of civil war. Some say there is no real significant ideological divide in this country. And of course there's a million mediating views.

My belief is that deep down we are all closer than we think we are but have long ago picked teams and have planted our feet firmly in concrete in order to defend our team, logic and reason be damned. I could go on about how others do this, but this post is primarily an indictment of myself, not others. (Although I'll begin with an andectdote that is pointed at others.)

I was in the breakroom today and was horrified at the things I was reading, so I shared. Time magazine was telling some of the more vitriolic methods being used on the ground campaign for President. Republicans sent a flyer to Arkansas and West Virginia that read "If Kerry wins, the Bible will be banned and men will marry men." Democrats sent a flyer to Tennessee that had Bush looking like he was running in the Special Olympics that read "Voting for Bush is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win you are still retarded."

Lord, have mercy.

When I read the former to a left-leaning coworker this person's comment was "Yeah, like a devout Roman Catholic would ban the Bible." When I read the latter the comment (with a chuckle) was "That's kind of funny."

You see, this person has chosen sides and things that, under any other circumstances, would be funny to this person is not funny when directed toward this person's team. And things that, under any other circumstances, would be considered horribly offensive are kind of funny when directed to the other team.

Alright, now for the three fingers pointed back in my direction.

Under any normal circumstance I would be paralyzed at the thought of the amount of American (and Iraqi) casualties going on in Iraq right now. Under normal circumstances I would have serious concerns about choices this administration has made in environmental policy (nods and a thank you to Coleman and his girlfriend.) Under any other circumstances I would be critical of an administration that doesn't seem concern with a balanced budget.

But I have chosen sides and fear spoken dissension of any kind might sway others away from my team or, even worse, I might decide to change my mind.

Remember that thing our youth ministers read us about the Fellowship of the Unashamed and how we have made our decision, planted our feet, and won't turn back? That might be good when it comes to our commitment to being a follower of Christ but is a load of crap in any other circumstance because it closes the possibility of anything, no matter how true or logical or right, changing your direction.

Fear not my Republican friends, I'm still voting for Bush. I believe that I work hard for my money and should be able to keep as much of it as possible, as long as the government has enough for the military and provisions for those who absolutely cannot provide for themselves. I believe the abortion debate should be framed in terms of protecting life rather than protecting someone's right to make a horrible choice. I believe that a democratic Iraq could revolutionize the world and that U.S. military might can be used for good. I really do believe that John Kerry calculates his positions with the political winds in mind. I really do believe that he is a "Massachusetts Liberal." I don't disparage him for being what he is, but I do believe his core beliefs are out of touch with the common American citizen.

But if Bush is re-elected I want a reckoning to occur over the disaster in Iraq. I want a direction change. I know the administration can't speak in those terms now because the other team would use even an admission of mistakes (that they say should have occurred) as a reason for attack. I also know that regardless of what good Bush does for the environment and for civil rights, it will never be acknowledged by the environmental and minority groups (religious or otherwise.) But I want environmental and civil rights issues to be addressed.

Ronald Reagan was a great president because of what he did in his second term. Knowing he would never again have to win the support of the American people, he made tough decisions that may have been unpopular, but which were good for America. I trust Bush will do the same.

If Bush loses? I'm a Cowboy fan. I can handle being on a losing team with my eyes closed.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


So instead of drinking a lot and going to bed, as suggested in the previous post, I ended up drinking a little and watching "Saved!" again and this time the thing I thought about it was that the movie is all about God's extravagant Love as expressed through very messed up people on every end of the theological spectrum. The final quote...."So you ask yourself What Jesus would do… I don't think anyone knows that for sure, but I know one thing. We're going to try and find the answer to that question together…" nails me and makes me happy to be in this with you.
October 23, 2004 (A bullet post...)

-- It may be hard for those of you who only see me at weddings and bachelor parties to believe this, but I don't really drink alcohol a whole lot. A Margarita here and there, maybe three a month.

-- Tonight I'm probably going to drink like the wedding and bachelor party Craig.
-- It's because I'm lonely, a good lonely, I guess you'd say I'm alone and it's good to be alone sometimes.
-- It's good to be at a place in my life where I can say it's good to be alone sometimes.
-- I'm still going to drink myself to sleep. But don't weep for me. I've got Emmylou Harris and Damien Rice in my years tonight.
-- I consumed 5 Krispy Kreme doughnuts today but ran 4 miles. I hope they offset each other.
-- Tomorrow I'm going for 6.
-- Miles that is.
-- I started writing another book last night. Oh, I've never finished writing a book, but I've gotten two pages into writing many books. I'm quite prolific on writing the first two pages of books.
-- I should win a Pulitzer for best first two pages of unfinished books.
-- Hey, don't be offended at my post about you not blogging enough. It's ok. You don't have to be as big of a nerd as me.
-- Right now I'm listening to Hootie and his Blowfish.
-- Tell me Hootie doesn't take you back to a particular place and time.
-- Tell me Hootie doesn't make you want to put on flannel and drive around Marshall, TX in the pouring rain in 1997.
-- I dare you.
-- Yep, I've set you up for a sarcastic comment.
-- I'm ready for it.
-- As I'm ready for that sweet elixir.
-- Blessings.

Friday, October 22, 2004


There are 168 hours in the week.

I spend 40 hours a week working. About 10 doing church stuff. Probably around 20 just keeping up with friends. Generally 56 sleeping. Usually 6 or 7 pushing play on the Wiggles and wrestling and tickling and pushing on the swing and changing diapers for the three greatest kids in the world (have I ever told you about them?) Put me in front of the television for 12 and that leaves me with 33 hours to spend reading and looking on the internet. Working in a bookstore provides me ample reading material, out of which probably consumes about 15 hours of my week That leaves me with 18 hours that I spend blogging and relying on a canon of about 10-12 blogs of good friends to keep my eyes moving and my mind occupied.

Blake Edwards-- 14 days without blogging.
The Table Man-- 2 days without blogging. (He's in Hollyweird right now, so I guess I can undertstand.)
The Table Man's Spouse-- 4 months without blogging. (For crying out loud.)

The Theologian-- 2 days without blogging. (Sure to make liberals and unregenerates happy, but not me.)
Robert-- A week without blogging.
Mark-- 7 days.
Starla-- 7 days.
Tom-- 11 days.
Ben-- 6 days. (Understandable because of the loss of his grandmother. But his track record before that isn't a good one.)

Myles and Cory are about the only people I can depend on these days.

C'mon people. I'm laying myself out there day in and day out writing senseless sentimental bullshit and political commentary that surprises no one. Am I the only one who cares about this semi-anonymous relationship between blogs?

I don't even know why I try anymore.