Friday, February 27, 2004

Where I've Been

It was a long time since I posted. Not sure why. The "The Way I Am" was something I worked on for a while. Today I just finished it realizing it was never going to be as good as I wanted to be. Plus, this thing doesn't allow you to post something new without also posting all your unfinished stuff. So I've got blogs left and right built up in my head, just waiting to get out.

AND SO DO YOU!! The blogs have been coming less and less frequent. Brothers and Sisters, let's have a REVIVAL of blogging. This is your invitation dear child. If you were to die tonight, and were to meet Jesus face to face, and he asked you"Why didn't you blog today.." What would you say? Would you have an answer?

We'll sing one more verse people, then I'll ask the organist to stop, and you may never have another chance again. .... Would you blog today?

Last night I was in a meeting at church and I had an interesting parallel moment with an earlier time in my life.

I grew up going to the same church all my life until I was 18. Sometime between my ninth and eleventh year I came to this exciting realization. We were having a covered dish Sunday night dinner in the fellowhip hall (some call that a pot-luck, for us it was "covered dish.") It went as normal. Everyone pretty much brought the same thing they always brought. Everyone talked in that little room like they always talked. I remember looking over at the table with Debbie Reeves in it and laughing at her making some funny comment, like she always did. I saw Elbert and Mildred Thorne, a couple who was then in their seventies, laughing at whatever it was Debbie was saying. Laura and Jerry Schmidt were holding court at their table talking about math or engineering, or something like that... their expertise. One by one I looked around and had this amazing thought, or at least amazing to a kid.... "Wait a second, this is awesome. I KNOW all of these people. I know what they're going to do, for the most part. I know their quirks. I know their struggles and their joys and their ambitions and dreams. I know their kids and their parents and who in town doesn't like them and who in town is intimidated by them and who in town is indifferent toward them. I know where they live. If I showed up at their doorstep I'd be let in with open arms. I KNOW these people." In whatever words I had to express that in my mind, I felt it.

Last night I remembered that thought when I was meeting with this ragtag group from UBC gathered together as a lay-commitee for a guy who is doing his internship at our church. As we were sharing our story I had the same amazing thought... "I KNOW these people." And the same thoughts came flooding in.

And more important than the knowledge of these people, in both First Baptist Chandler and University Baptist Waco, was that I LOVE these people. Sure our quirky little church has it's problems. Sure the homogeneous nature of our congregation is lacking in providing opportunities for cross-generational interaction. I'm sure we have perception problems. But one thing I know is, that I have slowly developed a sincere love for the people that I sit in the pews (chairs) with every Sunday.

Friday, February 20, 2004

The Way I Am

In many ways I am who I am because of Columbine.

Starting around the time I was 15 or 16 I began the slow process of disassociating myself with everything that made me who I was. From going to youth camps where well-intentioned pastors suggested, in so many ways, that the way life and church and reality occurred at home just wasn't up to snuff, to watching MTV where the pictures entering my brain were much more polished and bright than the landscape of Chandler, I began sensing that there was trouble in Dodge and I wanted out.

So I tried to get out. I went away for a semester to college. When circumstance and desire dictated that I return home, I returned home. But existentially I continued getting out. I became involved in a church in a neighboring town that offered an alternative to my perceived ritualistic religion going on back home. Anything "traditional" was anathema in my mind. Worship necessitated guitars and drums and an absence of a choir replaced by three or four people with good voices and a keen ability to contort their faces and raise their hands when the spirit moved.

When I went to ETBU a "calling to missions" led me twice to Estonia, a country so remote and different from East Texas that rarely when it is mentioned does anyone know where or what the hell it is. "Asstonia? Is that Russia? Isn't that from Encino Man?" I'd drop my world travels in casual conversation just so people will know who it is they are dealing with. This aint no Chandler boy anymore. This is a cultured person who knows. Whatever it is, he knows.

Another summer in college my contacts from Estonia hooked me up with an internship in Washington D.C. for United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas. Yep, Neches Street was no longer relevant. I'm riding the Metro to Union Station and walking, in my suit, down Constitution Avenue, through Stanton Park to the Russel Senate Office Building. My job would take me daily through the underground tram that connected the Senate and House buildings to the Capitol.

It seemed as if I had finally succeeded in doing what every small town person wants to do-- Escape.

My conversation was no longer littered with the seemingly trivial minutiae of who ate dinner with whom and what church is doing what these days. But rather I was talking about big ideas. Cultural ideas. International concerns. Abstract thoughts that were reserved for the elite.

This modus operandi continued through the next move in my life, becoming a part of Senator Hutchison's full time staff in her Dallas office. More escape. I'd been further away geographically from my heritage, but personally I was moving at light speed away from it. More "intelligent" conversation. More freedom from the simpleton ethos that had dominated my life for many years.

Less you misunderstand where this is going, I wasn't heading down a sinful path. Arrogance is not where this was leading. But it wasn't leading to humility either. It was a far greater sin than arrogance. It was the sin of denying who I was.

Then on May 14, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, possessed by all that is evil (I'm still a Republican, I can use that word liberally,) walked into Columbine High School and began picking people off left and right in a sight of sheer horror that is shadowed in my memory only by another significant national event that occurred a couple of years later. We saw the news around noon that day and were deeply moved and frightened for the parents who would soon be getting calls from police. We knew it would turn into a national news story immediately. But I don't think we expected it to turn into what it did.

I finished the workday, went home, and did nothing that evening but watch the news. I woke up the next morning to my same routine. Showered and got ready for work, then watched what I'd planned on only being the first 20 minutes of the Today show before I went to get a paper. Instead I watched until 10 till eight, the time I had to walk out my door in order to make it into the office, just around the corner from my apartment.

The reason for the extended viewing was Katie Couric's interview with the father of Isaiah Shoels and the brother of Cassie Bernall. It was one of the most moving experiences I'd ever seen before or since on television. The show normally does twenty minutes of hard news then cuts to commercial then local news. On this particular occasion, however, Katie had the network stay on the interview. I'd never seen more compassion and humanity occur in an interview in my life. Sheol's father was obviously very grief stricken and Katie was there for him, had him take is time in sharing about his son. There was a moment when she and Cassie Bernall's brother reached over and put their hands on the guys shoulder, and I just lost it. I was crying for the rest of the day. I knew from that moment that the day would be hectic.

For here was my job: Talking to constituents. I monitored media coverage of Senator Hutchison, assisted caseworkers in strong arming federal agencies into responding to people's needs, and handled all mail. But my main job was answering the phones. When you here someone with a political cause implore you to call your Senator or Representative, I was the guy you spoke with. On a normal day I spoke with around 50 people. That day I spoke with over 300.

What were the calls about? You guessed it. Gun Control. The NRA aficionados were calling in anticipation of the gun-control push that would inevitably happen. The gun control advocates called and accused the Senator of murder for not pursuing tighter gun control laws (even though every singe weapon used in Columbine was illegal.) All those people. Over 300 in an eight hour period. All of them indirectly accusing my boss, and by extension, me, of either murder or taking away inalienable rights. That's a pretty stressful day.

And here is where, in a sense, my life changed. This is one of those moments that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that words are powerful and mean something. It's one of those experiences where something said in passing, without any intention at all other than an immediate statement, becomes a life changing statement.

On the elevator ride to the bottom floor I was talking to one of my coworkers, Brenda Davis, who is a caseworker whose desk was closest to mine. She said something to the effect of this... "It was a rough day today, huh? Craig, I heard you talking on the phone, and I'm quite impressed. You have such a down home charm that probably comes straight out of Chandler."

It was then that I realized the thing I was trying to get away from was one of those things that are inescapable. And these words from Magnolia, which I've only recently seen, took on immense relevance... "You may be done with the past, but the past aint done with you." And also these words from Maya Angelou, while describing the songwriting of Loretta Lynn... "She took her upbringing in Butcher Holler and she didn't run from it. She took all the pain and joy from that place, and let it walk beside her wherever she went."

From that moment on I've made a conscious choice of not running from Chandler, but embracing it, and showing off that aspect of who I am whenever I get the chance. My identity is very rooted in "small town" and "quaint" and "simple."

And believe me, I know the risks I take for doing that, indeed, even for sharing this with you. I risk, most of all, the thing that is my identity becoming the thing that is my schtick, my act to the rest of the world. And that's a definite temptation, but one I have to walk with and trust that those who know me will also know where I am coming from, quite literally.

I also risk using Chandler (I use the word "Chandler" not necessarily to denote the town that is between Tyler and Athens, but rather my small town upbringing) as a shield from the things I could become. I've often become tired of thinking intellectually and hearkened back to the arguments of "common man-- common wisdom) excuses for not thinking and not engaging. I always have to realize that East Texas isn't heaven, it's just East Texas. And I have to engage the world I'm in, not the one I romanticize.

So, that's who I am. Or maybe that's who I want to be. Either way, I'm going to embrace it. When given the choice of speaking with irony or speaking with simple-mindedness, I'm going to try my hardest to choose the latter. When given the choice of change or preservation, I'm naturally going to lean toward preservation. I'm always going to think it's better to not build a building when one is not needed than to tear down a tree to put up some butt ugly place. I want to get back to waving at people in my car, regardless of whether or not I know them. I still think it's a better thing to avoid conflict whenever it is possible. I think it's better to live in a world where you stop in and check up on your neighbors than one in which you protect yourself from them.

In short, I'm going to continue taking 513 Neches Drive, Chandler, Texas, USA, World, Universe and letting it walk beside me wherever I go.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

My Day

Today was my day off. Here's what I have done so far, in the best order in which I can remember it:

1. Woke up, got ready, went and had breakfast with Jason at Benny's Bagel's.
2. Came home, went to the computer, surfed the internet for an indeterminite period of time. Within that time I visited the following sites: Jason's Blog, Blake's Blog, Mark's Blog, Chad's Blog, Tom's Blog, Aaron O'Kelley's (new) blog, Ben's blog, blog sounds funny when you say it a lot, Real Live Preacher's blog (very good shit in there-- a link coming soon,) Seth's blog, Bejewled,,,,, etbu alumni message board, and I think that's about it.
3. Walked to the chair that is near the desk and read the Bible. (go ahead, laugh and catch your breaths.) Pondered my sermon on March 7, playing with the title "The Passion of Christ: Shattered Expectations." My readings were the Passion stories in Matthew and Mark.
4. Called Kyle and requested a midday dining audience with him. Cursed him once he told me he already had plans.
5. Watched a TIVO'd episode of Friends.
6. Emailed an old acquaintance, Rick Cassels. One of those, "hey, what's going on with you?" type things, after 3 years of not talking. Not that we talked much anyway before that. But as you have seen, my day hasn't exactly been eventful.... I needed something.
7. Read a chapter out of Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek." Was shocked once again at her writing which demands that I experience her descriptions of nature. Like the movie the other night, I found myself shattered and breathless by simple descriptions.
8. Took a nap.
9. Repeated #2 several times.
10. Talked to Daniel.
11. Intermittently throughout the day I cleaned the kitchen, slightly.
12. Repeated #8.
13. Blogged a fairly uncreative thought on the Compass' sign.
14. Repeated #2, and #9.
15. I almost forgot, somewhere in between 5 and 12 I walked around the corner to the convenience story and bought a 2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper to have with the taco soup I defrosted for lunch.
16. Throughout all this I listened, at least once, to the Norah Jones CD, newest John Mayer, Elvis, and Jason Mraz.
17. Which brings me to now..... Tom just walked in and now I'm forced to think of what I will do until Coffee and Culture at 9:00.

Possibilities: Repeat #'s 2,9, and 14....... Repeat #6, but with a different chapter....... Read some out of the Russian Revolution book I brought to the table earlier in the day, just in case the need arose...... Find someone to go eat with...... Go to Work and hang out with the people at Barnes and Noble, like with the the cast of Cheers and Wings did quite often, creating numerous stories and hijinks that will fill 30 minutes of laugh-track induced humor.

Suggestion, If you ever have a day in which you were unmotivated and lazy, just list all the things you did, like I just did. It's far more impressive than saying "I didn't do much today." Which is true, but not interesting.
More Brief Thoughts on "The Passion" and Evangelicals

Here is a manifestation of one of the concerns I have with how evangelicals are handling this movie that I alluded to in the previous post.

On the sign in front of the Compass, the Christian marketing machine of Waco (a.k.a. christian bookstore,) are these words: "We have kits to help you make "The Passion of the Christ" more meaningful."

I almost vomited on myself.

The gospel, just like good art, stands on it's own. It doesn't need anyone's help in making it more meaningful. If these Christian ignoramuses (sp? is there a correct sp?) would understand how demeaning that statement was they would be shocked.

Monday, February 16, 2004

In America

This evening I went and saw "In America" with four people I hardly know. It was a great experience because we all got to share those rare moments that come from a truly breathtaking movie that just leaves you speechless at the end. In fact, I feel as if I'm commiting the worse kind of profanity just mentioning how wonderful the movie was.

But let me just say this. Numerous were the times throughout the film when I was on the edge of my seat, literally, and waiting for when my next breath might be able to occur. The anticipation pregnant within every scene was almost unbearable. To what end, this anticipation? What was my breath waiting for?


That's it, life. In all of it's tenderness and resilience and capacity for wonderful moments and tendencies toward moments in which we shut ourselves off from feeling-- life was the thing most spectacularly and extravagantly depicted in this film.

That's all I feel at liberty to say about the movie. Please go see it.

Mel Gibson's Passion

When I got home from the movie I watched the last part of Diane Sawyers interview with Gibson. I won't go into it much now, since the next few weeks will be saturated with it. But I was thinking this.

At the end of the interview, Sawyer made a little commentary that said we are all about to be discussing Jesus now, and it's helpful that we enter into a respectful dialogue. And I couldn't agree more.

Here's a frustrating thing-- The evangelical Christian community has unofficially crowned Mel Gibson as the great prophetic hope of pop culture. They will say it is because Mel Gibson made "The Passion" that people will be talking about Christ.

I couldn't disagree more. I say, if it weren't for Bravehart people wouldn't be talking about Christ. If it weren't for the Lethal Weapons people wouldn't be talking about Christ. If it weren't for Conspiracy Theory and The Patriot and Mad Max and What Women Want people wouldn't be talking about Christ.

If it were just any Christian with millions to spend producing a movie on the Passion, this film would go down in the annals of history as just another Christian circus freak show on par with Left Behind, WWJD bracelets, Christian T-Shirts, The Prayer of Jabez, and megachurches. But because it is made by someone who is fully ingrained within our cultural consciousness, it has value and legitimacy and people are taking notice... and the greatest story ever told is on the screens of our minds and the radios of our conversation. People are thinking about Christ because of Mel Gibson, and I think that's a good thing.

And here is where the problem lies, in my opinion. Too many evangelicals now are going to tell themselves "We need to capitalize on this. We need to make more movies about Jesus and the Bible." To which I say, they have lost their minds. We don't need Christians capitalizing on the "Jesus Movie" market, we need Christians making more "Braveharts" and "The Patriots" and "Lethal Weapons." We need more Christian youth to go into filmmaking with thier eyes set on the top. Otherwise we are in a danger of losing what we have mostly already lost-- legitimacy.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Valentine's Day

Well, this promises to be a lonely day. I go to work at 10 a.m. and get off at 7 p.m. All my nonsingle friends will be hanging out with the people that make them nonsingle, all of my single friends will be leaving for Dallas for Valerie's birthday.

I think there's still a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator from New Years. Maybe I'll down that sucker and watch all 10 episode's of Ed we haveTIVO'd.

Friday, February 13, 2004

A Texas Blizzard that isn't from THE Dairy Queen

If you could have seen me, you would have laughed your ass off. I was heading up to the cashier at work to help out. I had just reviewed some sales figures in the back, instructed a bookseller that we had to change the schedule up a little, and answered a phone call from one of our distributor's. I was becoming a pretty bad ass professional. On my way up to the front I looked out the window and as loud and shrill and childlike as I could be I yelled "Look, It's snowing!" I got laughed at, but who cares? When I went out in it to go to lunch I had the biggest smile on my face. There were guys from Circuit City who ran out in the parking lot just to stand in the midst of it, with their arms up as if they were at a charismatic church. It was pure, unadulterated joy.

Thursday, February 12, 2004


I told myself I wasn't going to blog about Ed for a while, but I couldn't pass this one up. The above quote is from one of the second episodes of the first season, and comes from Ed as he is defending a local magician against someone who is threatening to expose his secrets. The quote takes on significance throughout the entire four years of the show. In a sense, it is the show's metanarrative.

On recently, someone posting as "therealmolls" gave a thank you to the fans. Obviously the temptation was there to be cynical about whether or not "therealmolls" was Lesley Boone (the actress who plays Molly) or not. And someone wrote this fascinating little thing about it, which I think is very relevant to our faith as followers of the One with whom certainty often eludes us.:
In lieu of the skepticism about the *realmolls* stopping by our site to say thanks, I have some thoughts...

One of my favorite lines to say to folks is this: just because I'm sincere doesn't mean I'm stupid. I think it's an important line. It's not as if I don't know how things work or that folks aren't always as they seem...more often than not, I choose not to care, and do the complete opposite - I reach out towards the world of possibility instead of burrowing deep in the world of cynicism.

Let's be truthful, our world isn't exactly pretty right now. Watching the news, reading the paper, even talking to one's neighbor can be an impetus for cynicism. It doesn't take much to be cynical. It takes much more to be open - to the possibility.

In the most recent instance, I, like others, had my doubts that the realmolls was really as advertised. For what was at stake, however, taking the leap that the realmolls was really the beloved Lesley Boone did not seem like a large risk. So often we voice our appreciation for the show amongst our friendly coterie here, what harm is it to actually share the same with someone who might be connected with the show in a big way (in the cast)? From my perspective, no such harm. We're not giving out our bank accounts. We're showing our appreciation for something that means a lot to us. Such action would seem a bit good-natured, but certainly not dangerous.

In a world of danger and uncertainty, the world of possibility is a beautiful place. The world of possibility does not mean we naively put our trust in the unfathomable and act foolishly. The world of possibility means we are open to the possibility that extraordinary things can and DO happen. I've certainly been made a believer of such through the recent happenings here.

No matter how transient, I think that's something to embrace, not snicker at. We're all aware that nothing gold can stay. Come May the final knell may ring for our favorite show, and with it, sadness may ensue. That too, disappointment, is part of the world of possibility. What is and what should be rarely merge as one. In the rare event that they do, let's take notice, not cynically disbelieve...

What is beautiful about the world of possibility is that it renews hope. Without the world of possibility - what do we have left?


How wonderful is that?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

My Revised Schedule

Just in case you put my work schedule on your calendar earlier this week, as I assumed all of you did, I have a change to make. Someone wanted to have Friday off, so I decided to work Friday and I'll be off tomorrow. I'm glad, because I'm tired and ready for a day off.

Where is Everyone?

It seems like everyone is busy. I had come to expect several blog comments a day, as well as several people blogging at least once a day, but that has fallen down. My phone hasn't rang lately either. I was watching 60 Minutes on TIVO at lunch today. The story was about the Left Behind shit. I looked at my phone history and noticed that none of my close friends, except for Ben, has called me since Sunday. Which led me to wondering-- is the rapture true and I've been left behind? Just me and Ben left? I guess so. Well Ben, we're in for some tought times. But at least we'll go through them together.

I've been doing some math. Prompted by a question on the ETBU Alumni message board I realized this startling fact: Since I became legally eligible to work at the age of 16, I have been employed at over 24 different places. That's a lot of places.

With these numbers in hand I did some more math and figured this startling fact out: 20% of my life, and 46.1538% of my working life, was spent in the employ of Timberline Baptist Camp in Lindale, Texas. That's a lot of employ.

And more startling than that? Having spent that much time at Timberline, and that time having meant so much to me, aiding in the development of me as a person perhaps moreso than any other experience, I spent so little time talking about it to you people-- the people with whom I converse with often.

So, here is where I'll talk about it. A little.

First, a few brief facts. I visited Timberline a couple of times as a child at RA camp. As a Royal Ambassador, I will do my best, and so on. As a child I told myself, I could work here. It'd be cool. So as a sixteen year old I applied, was interviewed, and accepted. I began work in the summer of 1991 and continued until the winter of '97. I was on summer staff, I worked retreats, was the chief cabin and dining hall and bathroom cleaner during off seasons. Met one of my closest friends and college roommate there. First appreciated the incomparable beauty of the great East Texas Piney Woods, of which I grew up in. It was just a special place and a special time.

I could fill volumes with stories about Timberline, but let me suffice the time with letting you know about Jeanette Gentry.

Jeanette was the head cook at the camp. During my first couple of months of employment I was assigned, for weeks on end, to be the kitchen assistant. Basically my job was to hang around the kitchen all day washing dishes, mopping floors, cleaning the dining hall restrooms, and answering to Jeanettes ever beck and call.

Jeanette was an old fashioned country woman who was as tough as nails. She could make you cringe with just a second-long glance in your direction. She ran the kitchen with an iron fist. At first I thought that she was a cold hearted workhorse.

But as the years went by I learned something deeper about Jeanette: She actually cared for me as a person. She inwardly despised the hyper religiosity I was involved in vis a vis a local church. I'm quite sure she felt I was the most self righteous son of a bitch alive, because I was and she was no-nonsense enough to recognize it. But despite all that, she did what any person who loves another person does-- she took care of me. When I fell victim to skin poisoning (see January 14,) she provided the care. When I returned back from my first trip to Estonia, she provided the unexpected hug and told me she was so glad I was home-- even though Lindale nor Timberline was my official residence. When she saw the pleasure on my face at the taste of her tator tot casserole, the next day she made an entire one just for me.

All of this was done with as little fanfare as possible.

One of my most traumatic experiences was falling out of the bed of a truck that was going around 40 mph, while hauling brush Brent and I had cut to the place up the hill where we threw all the cut brush. Standing on the open tailgate of the truck while leaning into the brush, trying to hold it in, William (the driver of the small Toyota truck) hit a pothole, I fell backward, my leg got tied up into a vine, and I was dragged about 10 yards before he stopped. The blow to the head by the pavement knocked me out. When woke up a few seconds later the first words out of my mouth (according to Brent, which I don't remember) was "Am I dead?" The entire right side of my face was bleeding with gravel being imbedded in my skin. A chunk of the skin on my knee was torn off, as well as major abrasions to my right hand. The blood dripping down my face was dripping down and staining my brand new See You At the Pole shirt. It was quite a gruesome sight. But like any hard working camp hands, Brent and William told me to go on down to the dining hall, they'd take the brush from there. I asked them if they were sure, if they think it might be better if they called 911? But they just laughed at my sickly appearance and told me to go see Jeanette.

After what seemed like a ten mile trek, I made my way to the dining hall, which was only about 200 yards away, limping the entire journey. As I made my way into Jeanette's office I stood in the doorway waiting to be noticed and babied. She was huddled around some craft that she was showing some of the other ladies, their backs to the door- not immediately noticing me. As a few of their heads turned around and saw me, they all screamed in horror, some of them turned their heads, others ran up to me in wonder of how I could look so bad. But not Jeanette. As soon as her eyes caught my eyes she said "Get out of my office and go take a shower." I'm thinking, "What?! A shower? I'm about to die here and you're telling me to take a shower?!" But I did, because she told me to.

When I returned to her office the rest of the ladies had gone back to work and she was at her desk doing paperwork. When she saw me in the doorway she walked over to the recliner in the corner and moved some stuff out of the way and motioned for me to sit down. Not saying a word she methodically reached into her filing cabinet, removed several different types of ointments and bandages, and began her healing work on me. Her first job was to clean my face, pulling out several pieces of gravel that the painful shower I took missed. She then poured something on my hands. Then she cared for my knee. As she was putting stuff on it she stopped, and in one of those very tender moments that we are occasionally blessed with between another person, she told me that I needed to be careful. She said "you mean too much to me and everyone else around here to be sidelined. Now suck it up and go back out there and be Craig, scarface and all." Then she gave me a wink and went back to her paperwork as I walked out the door with a tear in my eye.

A couple of years ago I read a book called "In the Land of White Death," which told the story of a Russian whaling ship that became stranded in the ice of Antarticta. The story was about how a couple of the survivors survived and found their way back to civilization. Part of the reason they found their way home was because of lessons learned and documented from another ship that had years earlier gotten stranded in the ice. A few years after the original shipwreck, the pieces of the boat washed up on the shores of a Canadian island. The lesson learned was the new discovery of specific wind patterns caused the ship to end up where it did. And those lessons learned saved the life of the survivors of the whaling ship, the Santa Anna.

The name of the original ship that washed up on the Canadian shore? The Jeanette.

Now, more than three years after the cancer ravaged Jeanette's body and took her from us, in the course of every single day, remnants of her memory wash up on the shore of my mind. I can't cook a single meal without thinking about her, for she instilled within me the love of cooking for those you love. I can't mop a floor or clean up a mess at work without thinking about her, for she taught me by example the dignity and care it takes to do what others consider "dirty work." And most significantly, I can't look at the scar on my knee without thinking that at one time, to at least one person, I was the center of the universe. And I was cared for.

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love...."

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

My Newfound Mental Illness

I've never been particularly susceptible to neurosis. Until now. Since psychological problems run in the family, I guess it's about time. In addition to the situation I alluded to in my last post, the one in which most of you will never EVER know about, I just fell hostage to another great fear.

Tonight I closed the store at around 11:00. Came home, checked email, checked everyone's blog, watched The Daily Show, went to bed. As I was slowly drifting off I had this thought-- "I didn't lock the front door to Barnes and Noble. No, that can't be right, I always lock the door when I close. I check it twice all the time. But I didn't check it twice tonight. Yes I did, I just forgot checking it. No I didn't, I went and checked the cafe' door then walked to my car sans a second check of the front door. Yeah, I checked it twice." At which point my better, more sane, self stepped in to put an end to the potential hours long speculation. I got dressed, got into my car and drove down Waco drive to confirm that I had, like always, locked the front door. I did.

I seized the opportunity of being up and around at 12:30 a.m. on a Tuesday (another thing I'm not particularly susceptible to) to:

1. Visit the happy place for the perfect combination of krisp and kream to bring great joy to my palate.

(visual stolen from Tom's blog.)

2. Recognize that the guy working the drive through at the happy place was the same guy who worked at the convenience store at Brazos Middle School when I suffered, I mean worked, there.
3. Ponder whether or not it would be beneficial for me to to get a second job, preferably working the overnight drive through at the said happy place.
4. Notice that at this time of the night the roads are deficient of civilian vehicles but overflowing with Waco Police Cars just waiting to stop me for the long period of time (15 months) it's been since my car has been inspected. I fooled them again.

5. Sit back at the computer to listen to some Rich Mullins (Home, the Other Side of the World) Joe Nichols (Brokenheartsville, Cool to be a fool), Johnny Cash (Sunday Morning Coming Down,) and Johnny Lang (Red Light.)
6. Wonder whether or not my next cd purchase should be Keith Urban or the Dolly Parton tribute album.

7. Blog.


It seems as if there were some very good entries from my friends yesterday. (Except for Ben, who is still morning the day the music died.) And it seems as if there is a common theme echoing out of at least a couple of them that was most eloquently and poignantly stated by the Reverend Jason Glenn Edwards:

"Sometimes we find ourselves so passionately against something that we cannot be silent. We interrupt the person speaking to us and we debate our point with fury. But, strangely enough, when we are overcome with compassion for someone that we love, we struggle to keep it from them. We hold back our love.

Why are we so easy with our contention and so hesitant with our love?"

Allow me to ponder this question with another list. (Lists are another thing I've never been particularly susceptible to, until recently.)

1. Contention is a category within our minds that takes little wrestling with. With those we love, it costs us nothing to contend against a proposition, but everything to interact with an emotion. (I know love's more than an emotion, but it is an emotion.)
2. Some of us, well, maybe just me, used to live lives in which we were very open with our emotions. In vulnerable times we would tell those closest to us, those with whom our hearts felt genuine affection for, how much we loved them. And in those vulnerable times, those people would be passively happy that we shared those things. But then the vulnerable times passed, but our desire to show affection didn't. So we decided that no matter what the situation, we'd say I love you regardless of the vulnerability of the moment or the amount of time that had passed since we'd said it last. It was then we got the stares. We got the rolled eyes. We got the sense that now was not the time nor the place. We got ignored by those we cared about, who would rather not be around us than have to deal with those words. And so we said "fuck it, I'm done with that." And allowed our friend's inability to feel to deaden our own senses as well.
3. As a result of #2, some of us retreated from the life of feelings into the life of the mind. We began to read. We began to experience ideas that were unknown to us. We began to become fluent in critical thinking and debate. We began to correct people and teach them things in such a gentle way that we became known for our wit and wisdom. And people began to like us for that. Where we weren't accepted for our tenderness, we became lauded for our intelligence. And so we fed that. We fed it and fed it until it took over our lives. And we received our self worth not by what we embraced and who we cared for, but rather for what we knew. Our contention replaced our "I love you's."
4. A corollary to #2-- We are pretty confident we will not receive the I love you return.
It should be quite obvious by now that the aforementioned "we" should be interpreted to mean "I."

When the cast of Will and Grace was on Inside the Actor's Studio, the writers of the show shared where the title character's names came from. It was from an old Jewish theologian who stated that in order for us to experience love, either from God or each other, we must have the will to pursue it and the grace to receive it.

Maybe the answer to Jason's question is this: The grace part we have down pat. We're ready for love, and we'll receive it when offered. But maybe we are too satisfied with our self made idols to actively have the will to pursue love.

My mind races to stories of a woman looking for a lost coin, a shepherd looking for a lost sheep, and a Father actively pursuing our return (Will) and extravagantly accepting our repentance (Grace.)

(Late night writing might make no sense when I wake up. Please forgive me if this is the case.)

Monday, February 09, 2004

What's Going On

Well, the weekend of mourning for Ed is officially over. Time to get back to my real life. That's what the cast of Ed would want.

There are funny things that have happened in my life, of which some of them, like the one that happened this weekend, few of you will ever know about. So please, don't ask. If you do, I'll not even answer with a "no, I'm not talking."

My week this week consists solely of work.

Today: Work from 2-close
Tuesday: Work from 2-close
Wednesday: Work from 10-7
Thursday: Work from 7-4
Friday: Off
Saturday: Work from 10-7.

That's it.

And here's my opinion on the Grammy's, stressing thoughts I've had in the past. Music, for the most part, is all about preferences, not quality. If someone is a professional musician, it's stupid and arrogant for you to say that "so and so is just so much better than so and so. How can Justin Timberlake have beaten out Sting and George Harrison and some other dead guy for male vocalist of the year?" Well I don't know, but the academy, people who's livelihood and art is making and producing music, thought that during the past particular year, the album that Timberlake put out was better vocally than any other. So please, speak in terms of preferences, not in terms that expose your high brow view of music.

That was written with no particular person in mind.

By the way.........

I've been pretty intimidated lately. The advent of Jason blogging brought about a great wave of his friends blogging as well. And going through the great information highway, via the tunnels provided by links posted on friends of blogs, I've noticed one thing: There are some smart sons of bitches within my inner and outer circle of friends blogging these days. So, please take that in mind if my blogs begin to sound very juvenile and threatened. It's just a defense mechanism on my part to try to prove to myself that I'm just as smart as everone else.. (cough, cough, Myles, Blake.)

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The Finale

Well, for those of you who were here and a little disappointed that I didn't break down and sob more than I did, don't worry. After bowling was over and everyone went home I watched the wedding and reception once again and lost it.

What a wonderful ending to a wonderful show.

Ed's toast went something like this:

"I believe that life consists of two parts: what is and what should be. And sometimes with a lot of hard work, a lot of perseverance, and maybe a little good luck, what is and what should be meet at the same place. And right now in this dingy old bowling alley that I love, looking into the faces of all of you here, I can't help but believe that this is one of those times."

If you've watched Ed for any length of time you know this, that Ed never wanted to do anything half ass. His reality consisted of creating spectacular, memorable, but very out of the ordinary experiences for both Carol and all his friends. He didn't like the mundane, or the normal. And that's a big reason Carol rejected him for so long, because she knew that the wonderful, spectacular, vision Ed had of Carol didn't match up to the reality.

Well, last night Ed shunned his normal, which to us is abnormal, and chose the familiar. Which, for him and Carol, was abnormal, in it's own spectacular way. (Does that make any sense?)

And the final song, while everyone was dancing and having a good time:

"And if you care to stay in our little corner of the world
We could hide away in our little corner of the world
We always knew that we'd find someone like you
So welcome to our little corner of the world"

So my goal for my life? To work hard, to persevere, to pray for, and to take advantage of the luck I've been given, in order to make "what is" and "what should be" meet on the same ground. And I'll do it here in Waco (odd isn't it?)-- my little corner of the world.

Friday, February 06, 2004

The Latest News On Ed

There are many conflicting stories going around about whether or not tonight is the season or series finale. The best I can determine is this: NBC doesn't plan on renewing the show for a fifth season and has already let the cast know that they are free to pursue other endeavors. Tom Cavanagh, however, on ESPN radio this morning said the following ""Like every year we're on the bubble, we (the actors) have not yet been released of our contracts." I think NBC is holding it's option open for renewal in case it needs something to fill in a slot for it's fall lineup.

While all that is going on, my fellow Edheads at are raising money to place this ad in Variety-- a magazine that I think is read by most network execs.

In the meantime, I'm treating this like the end. If it's not, I'll be overjoyed.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the show:

From Ed--
"If you're not born with broad shoulders and a strong jaw, there's only one way to get the girl... you make an complete ass of yourself."
"Without the world of possibility, what do we have left?"
"If it's meant to be, you gotta do everything in your power not to let it slip away."
"That, my friend, was proof that you don't know everything about human nature."

From Carol--
"We are going to take turns bouncing the ball... and whoever bounces the ball the highest wins a Fruit Roll-up." - to girls` JV basketball team
"I'm not afraid of you being my boyfriend. I'm afraid of you being my ex-boyfriend." - explaining her actions to Ed
"Once you do one of Ed's stupid things, you're officially one of the gang."
The easy thing isn't always the right thing."

From Mike:
"These crazy Belgian bastards know how to live!"
"A disaster like the school burned down or a disaster like you inhaled chalk dust?" - after Nancy dubs this school day`s happenings a disaster
"Look at the 90 percent of the milk I got right." - when Nancy gets upset that he brings home low fat instead of skim
"At the end of an era, all the great ones form Laverne and Shirley to Mary Tyler Moore they all do the slow turn, nod and hit the lights. - Mike drops by Stuckeybowl to check on Ed as he closes for the `last` time

From Shirley:

"I was ordering Combos yesterday. The pretzels with the cheese in them. And I decided instead to order the pretzels with the peanut butter in them. For a change. But I realized, that change was not enough. I need more." - when approaching Ed for a job as a legal assistant

"Bendy straws make drinking more pleasurable. I'm phasing out the straights."
- response to Ed`s not knowing Stuckeybowl had bendy straws

"I could eat stew seven nights a week. I don't, but I could."

"I don't want you to resent me as a log jam to your career."
- letting Frankie know exactly where she stands in the practice

"Just keep that in mind when Miss Hector makes an inevitable play for my job."
- reminding Ed of her strong points

"I don't care about credit, I just want Eli to be happy."
- upon helping Eli find a love match [7

Thursday, February 05, 2004

My Life

It's been a while since I've just blogged what I've been doing. So here, I will do just that.

I'm off of work today and tomorrow. I go back on Saturday @ 3:00.

Last night we had coffee and culture and I think I was a bit too harsh on a couple of people. As long as people remain in that vast muddy and murky waters known as "the middle," I'm fine and very cordial. But once anyone begins to take an extreme view of something I automatically shut them off. I shouldn't do that. But I do.

This morning I woke up and watched a little of the today show, falling asleep on the couch, then playing on the computer for a bit.

The emails today I have gotten are the following:

1. A couple of things that I automatically deleted because I didn't recognize the sender.
2. One thing that I automatically deleted because I didn't think my member would be elongated with the advertised product.
3. Two emails from an old ETBU acquaintance, Addie Nauman. She does this really cool "question of the week" thing and posts all the responses. Here is the question of the week this week:

"To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to learn the appreciation of honest critics and endure that betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beatuy, to find the best in others, to leave this world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Now I know that I have already asked a question about what you think it means to be successful, but I want to know your opinion on this quote. Do you agree/disagree? Why or why not? What would you add/take away?

4. Two political emails from Ann.
5. Two replies regarding input for an alternative service.

I then went to eat lunch with Jason. Afterwards we went to the happy place, Kyle and my buzzword for Krispy Kreme. Saw this old lady who was having her first Krispy Kreme just throw an absolute fit over how good it was. For more that a minute "Wow! That was so good! I can't believe it! Wow!" I wish she would have gotten a room.

I came home then went to Temple to get a new pair of glasses. While waiting for them to be cut and all that I went to Starbucks, had a bottled water (good for the urine,) and read a little of "A National Party No More" by former democratic senator from Georgia Zell Miller.

Came back to Waco and went to the Y to work out. I realized a week ago that they were still taking money out of my account, so I decided to start going back. We'll see.

While I was doing all this (from the beginning until now) there was a pot roast in the crock pot that I had placed there this morning.

Came home, watched Friends, watched the E! True Hollywood Story on Janet Jackson. In between those two shows I tried the pot roast. It wasn't as good as I was hoping, but still ok.

And now, here I am, to the point where I'm writing this.

So, what's going on with you?

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

"Don't believe in excess
Success is to give
Don't believe in riches
But you should see where I live"

-- U2. God part II from Rattle and Hum

I can talk politics with you and I can talk theology with you. But I'd rather talk politics with you. It's messier.

Theological conversations almost always, unless the participants are stubborn, resolve themselves in due time. Either one side ends up convincing the other side that a particular way of seeing things is more on the money, or both sides end up realizing that their presupositions and worldviews are so different that they just agree to disagree. There's a wealth of starting points in theology that is very easy to recognize and accomodate to.

Not so with politics, and particularly not with politics as it exists in free democratic countries. In the past couple of years being involved in coffee and culture, a community group consisting of several people from vastly differing viewpoints that discuss primarily political and social issues, I've come to this conclusion-- We all want, and pretty much believe, the same things in this world. Having experienced the depth of joy and sense of being taken care of by a God who went to great lengths for us, we feel others should experience the same. We all believe, and often stress, that something should be done about the injustices that take place in the world. We all believe in the kingdom of God and hope to, in our own way, spread the values and King of that kingdom to the rest of the world.

And that, when it comes to politics, is pretty much where the unity ends. From those presuppositions we run off into a million different directions. Those are our values. But when we disagree with someone's opinion on how those values are to be implemented we tend to question whether or not their means are consistent with their desired end.

People who are pro life can't understand how someone can support a woman's right to choose abortion, and yet not support the death penalty for those convicted of murder.

Those against the death penalty can't understand how someone who supports it can be against abortion.

Those who are "pro labor" can't see how others can care about the American worker and support big business.

Those who are "pro business" can't see how others can care about the American worker and not support big business.

All of the above are valid, and vital, arguments. We are so inconsistent and so unable to see it. What is able to lead us to a point where our beliefs form a straight line. Or, is that even necessary?

I'm not sure. But one thing I'm sure of is that politics is much more important than we think, because it deals with real people and real situations and real ideas.

Does God care about politics?

(These thoughts are kind of disjointed. They're inteded to get me to thinking what I should write about. I need your opinions.)

Monday, February 02, 2004


A little MTV hijinks doesn't really bother me that much. I can handle things that would make my weaker brother stumble, even though that handling might make me lose valuable ministry endorsements. But the halftime boob exposing of Janet in the MTV produced show was a bit too much. Sure, it was a "wardrobe malfunction" Whatever. It was planned and MTV knew about it. Even the publicity for the showed promised some "shocking moments." I don't buy one second of it.

So I woke up this morning and swore off MTV. (Not really, but it helps the drama of the story.) Just when I think they couldn't screw things up anymore, they go and do something like this.....



Yes, it's true. The latest installment of the Real World/Road Rules battles, the Inferno, premiered tonight. And the three hottest females ever to appear on any of the shows are a part of it. Holly from Road Rules Latin America.... the running chick who won my heart with her sweet but confident demeanor, and sports bras. Christena from Road Rules, well, the last one.... the most intelligent, understanding, strong and confident (genuinely confident-- not "prove myself" confident,) person ever on the shows. And Malorie.... Malorie. What do I say about Malorie, except that, she makes me happy.

Jason, what do you think?

I'm going to borrow a little thing from Mark Stevenson (Stephenson?) and say a little prayer at the end of this edition:

Father, thank you for your generous kindness. Please, please, please, don't let Mallory get voted to go to the inferno.