Wednesday, March 31, 2004

A Letter I Wrote to Jude.....


Last night, some 20 months after the day you were born, I found myself once again at your house looking after you and Sutton and Avery while your dad took your mom out for her birthday. We had a fun time playing and reading books and watching Mr. Rogers. Sometime during the evening the neighbor kids came to visit with their grandmother, who was also babysitting them. Caught up in the neighborly moment we all found ourselves walking next door to visit. Avery ran ahead of all of us with her friend, Sutton walked with me holding my hand, and you were somewhere in between. As we made our way into the garage, Avery and her friend disappeared in the house while you were left exploring on your own. You walked into the door and into the living room. Eventually Sutton and I, in our fat-boy gingerly manner, made it into the house. One second I saw you in motion roaming the house, and the next you stopped to look around. Very quickly panic set in and you realized you didn¡¦t know where the hell you were. When this happened you panicked, began to cry, and ran as fast as you could to my arms. (One day you¡¦ll be able to deconstruct this entire letter and figure out that a lot of my reasons for writing this are to express how good I feel about myself that you knew me well and felt that I was a safe place to run. When you figure that out, please don¡¦t judge me too harshly. ƒº) You didn¡¦t run like you normally run, like when we are playing, with short and choppy steps. You had the stride of an Olympic sprinter. (Perhaps one day you will become an Olympic sprinter and this letter will make it into NBC¡¦s coverage of your gold medal performance. But please don¡¦t think I¡¦m putting undo pressure on you to be an Olympic sprinter. A discus thrower will do.)

Outside I was laughing because you were so damn cute. But inside I felt your fear; because it¡¦s a fear you will likely face many more times in your life. It might be in a specific place at a specific time, like at a party or in a class or in a hospital room or even in a religious service. Or it may be in a general period of your life like when you finish high school or when you¡¦ve been in a career for a while, or when you are facing old-age, like your dad is now. (That was a joke more intended for him than you. He¡¦s only in his early thirties as I write this. You¡¦ll see the humor when you¡¦re in your early thirties.) However and whenever it happens, you will realize that the place you are in is not familiar and not where you belong. It¡¦s even a little, or perhaps a lot, scary.

This is the first time I¡¦ve ever told this story to anyone. One night, some 20 years after the day I was born, I found myself in the middle of a religious service that was very scary for me. Much like your inquisitive entrance into a strange house, I found myself drawn into a particular church that seemed interesting. It was different from the tradition I had grown up in, so I naturally thought it was better. (Deconstruction will also bring more understanding into this. I¡¦m sure there¡¦ll be a different word to describe it by then.) I barreled into that place like nobodies business. And then this particular service occurred where things began to happen that didn¡¦t seem right. I didn¡¦t think they were wrong, just not right. And I got scared. Extremely scared. But I had no one to run to, because everyone in the room seemed to be very comfortable with what was going on. But still, I ran. I left the building (it was a school) and ran out to the woods. Some 20 years after I was born I could actually run pretty fast. If I said I ran somewhere yesterday, run would be a metaphor for moving. But again, that humor will make more sense when you¡¦re older. I sat amongst the trees and you know what I did? I cried. I cried much harder than you cried last night. And much longer. My estimate is that I cried solid for at least an entire hour. Your brother Sutton can cry for an hour like a professional, but he¡¦s still just a baby. I was twenty.

And I prayed. I cried and I prayed. Actually, and this was the first of many times this has happened in my life, my cries became my prayers. I wanted God to tell me why I felt so scared. I wanted God to explain why everyone else felt so good about what I was so scared of. I wanted to feel God.

And you know what? I did feel God. I felt the breeze going through the trees, and I knew it was God talking to me. I don¡¦t think God made the breeze just for my benefit. It was a cool windy day long before I got scared. In retrospect I think that at that point God was trying to communicate to me that what was going on inside the building was how some people understood him, and it wasn¡¦t up to me to place or take away value from that. But out there in the breeze, in the quiet, in the open places that are more suitable to be experienced alone or with a small group of friends, that¡¦s where God will show up in my life.

I loved the people in that church service. I still do. But they're not the people I run to with long strides and tears on my cheek when I get scared. (This running is also metaphorical. As well, sometimes, are the tears.) I run to my friend Jason who listens better than anyone else I know in the world. I run to my friend Blake who allows me to be quiet in his presence. I run to my friends Wesley and Tracey who know how to care. I run to my friend Robert who makes me laugh so hard it hurts, and who isn¡¦t afraid to say "I love you" in a genuine manner at the most random times. I run to Ben who understands the mystical, spiritual, existential value of snow cones and Bush's chicken with friends better than anyone, even if he has a hard time spelling existential. I run to your mom and dad who perform the all important task of understanding me and making me feel I belong. And I run to you and your brother and your sister who constantly gives me the most joyous joy I could ever experience, and who let me spoil you with extra snacks when your parents aren't looking.

My sincere desire is that you will find people who mean as much to you as all these people mean to me. That every time you enter a place that doesn't seem right, you will always have someone to run to, just as you ran to me last night. And when you find that, know that it's not an accident. Those people, in a very real way, are Jesus to you.

My guess is that you will have no problem finding people to run to. But always remember there are people who are in scary places who have no one to run to. Be that someone to them.

And when you¡¦re on the podium accepting your gold medal, remember me.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


Some of the things I have struggled to say about music snobs was stated very eloquently by Mark Stephenson in his blog from yesterday. Check it out. Just click the link that says "Mark" to the right.

I'm off to play with the kiddos.

Thursday, March 25, 2004


1. Early Childhood: "I Believe in Love" by Don Williams. "Coal Miners Daughter" by Loretta Lynn. "City of New Orleans" by Willie Nelson.

2. Middle Elementary School: "Thriller," "Billie Jean," "Beat It," and "Wanna Be Startin Something?," by Michael Jackson. "Meet me in Montana" by Dan Seals and Marie Osmond. "Seven Year Ache" by Roseanne Cash.

3. Late Elementary School: "Grandpa" by The Judds. "Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon. "We Are the World," by Michael Jackson and a plethora of other artists including Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, etc... "Walk This Way" by Run DMC and Aerosmith.

4. Junior High: "Faith" by George Michael. "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2. "Lay Your Hands on Me" by Bon Jovi. Everything else from the "Slippery When Wet" and "New Jersey" albums of Bon Jovi.

5. Early High School: "Rhythm Nation," by Janet Jackson. "Gonna Make You Sweat" by C&C Music Factory. "Unbelievable" by EMF.

6. Late High School: "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men. "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice. "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks. Anything from the "No Fences" Garth Brooks album.

7. 1993-1996: These are my asterick years-- the years when secular music (and, by extension, all music) was evil because it wasn't edifying in my spiritual walk. We'll call these the "Lost Years."

8. Late College Years: Everything from Matchbox 20's "Yourself or Someone Like You" album. "Unbreak my Heart" by Toni Braxton. "I Only Want to Be With You" by Hootie and the Blowfish.

9. The Wandering Years a.k.a. Dallas then Return to ETBU a.k.a. The Seattle and Hawaii Real World Years: "How's it Going to Be" by Third Eye Blind. "Truly, Madly, Deeply" by Savage Garden. "Father of Mine," by someone I can't remember. " You Were Meant for Me" and "Foolish Games" by Jewel.

10. Early Waco Years: "Smooth" by Santana and Rob Thomas. "Hanging by a Moment" by Lifehouse. "Great Indoors" by John Mayer. Everything from U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind."

11. Lately: "You'll Think of Me" by Keith Urban. "Sweet Southern Comfort" by Buddy Jewel. "Songs about Rain" by Gary Allan.

Monday, March 22, 2004


"Mom has got her eyes on you, mine are on the road, and Gabe's are staring off at Kansas City.
We all swear that it's a precious view, seen by such a precious few, and it'll change you just as sure as it is pretty."
----- From Andrew Peterson's "Clear to Venus."

One conclusion I've come to is that matter matters. And more than that, place matters. Many of us at points in our lives imposed a very Platonic view of reality upon our Christianity. We believed it was the ideas and ideals and the intangibles that were good. The things we could touch and see were irrelevant at best, evil at worst. Place was valued only insofar as it provided a setting for experiencing the holy. Little did we know that, perhaps, it was the place that was holy.

At one point in my life I sang "Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere," and would do everything I could to contort my mental image of "God's courts" into a place that was very much unlike whatever place I was in. God's courts was somewhere other than where I was. But yesterday during worship at church, while singing "better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere" my mind raced like an eagle over the geography of this world and identified several distinct places that are, in my experience of knowing God, holy. The lobby of Feagin Hall where I learned to listen. The old sanctuary at First Baptist Church, Chandler where I first sensed love from people other than biological family. Tony and Melissa's old house on Jim Hogg road where we would sit early on Saturday mornings after a night camping out in the freezing cold, listening to Tony play his classical guitar so softly that it put us all to sleep. The Songe's flat in Tartu Estonia where I learned to sit and to visit and to cherish company. Here, the place I sit and think and hope to have something worthwile to say. The forests of East Texas as expressed through Timberline, Caddo Lake, Chandler, with surroundings that alternately provide feelings of fear and comfort. And many more places. All holy places. All the courts of God. All places that God has chosen in my life to use in changing me. All places that are better to be than thousands of "elsewhere" places.

When I hear a pastor-like figure say things like "This place, these surrounding don't matter. Pay attention to what God is doing in your heart," I'll just smile to myself and hope that someone, somewhere will be able to impart to the hearers what many faithful have imparted to me-- That place matters. What God is doing in your heart can never be divorced from the things that surround you that can be felt and seen and experienced.

Friday, March 19, 2004

My Week Without People

This week has gone by much quicker than I thought it would have. I've done absolutely nothing, but have gotten a lot done, if that makes any sense.

I finally finished reading Blue Like Jazz. What a wonderful book. Several things came to mind as I was reading it. And I will tell you a couple of them at this moment.

1. I am extremely judgmental to conservatives and fundamentalists and evangelical Christians. How can someone like myself who thinks so much about grace and mercy and diversity and how there is an abundance of valid and vital Christian perspectives on the world, be so condemning in my mind towards certain people. I think when we go through a period of our lives when we don't' like ourselves, and then move out of that period, we take everything about ourselves at that time and demonize it. Therefore, if someone holds the same beliefs I did at a time when I couldn't stand myself, I'm going to judge them, not based on who they are but the beliefs they hold. I'm a shallow, shallow man.

2. For a couple of years now I have lost total perspective on mission. Not "missions" but mission. I don't believe in many (most) evangelical "witnessing techniques." I've learned that there is tons to be learned about Christlike behavior by watching the "lost" people live. I try not to see Christians and non Christians as "us" and "them." But I've also come to realize that there needs to be at least some intentionality in how we engage those outside of the church with the gospel. I'm not sure what that looks like, but I know I want to find out.

In the book Donald Miller and some of his Christian friends at his university decided to build a confession booth in the middle of a campus wide party dedicated to debauchery of all kinds. But the catch was that when the students entered it, as they inevitably would out of curiosity, the people doing the confessing weren't the partiers, the people doing the confessing were the Christians. He and his friends decided it was time to apologize for the Crusades, even though it happened so long ago. It was time to apologize that the Christian community hadn't done enough about social justice. But most of all, they were apologizing for all the mistreatment the non-Christians have ever received at the hands of Christians.

I grieve for the times I treated those outside of the church as commodities in a cosmic game of "winning" and "losing." I grieve for anytime I ever passed a track out to someone, cheapening the gospel I hold so dear. But I also grieve for the times when I've chosen to disengage all Christian-speak from people for whom Jesus came, just because I didn't want to be thought of as one of "those" Christians.

In Other News Somewhat unrelated to "Blue Like Jazz....."

1. Last night I started reading Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.

If you ever need another reason to believe that we lived in a fallen, messed up (oh how another word here would be so appropriate,) world, read this book. This is the childhood memoir of Augusten Burroughs. On every single page of the book so far there has been at least one point when my mouth was wide open in utter disbelief at what this kid went through. Much of it is inappropriate to mention, even on my seedy, immoral place on the web. At one point last night I even found myself on the verge of tears because of this particular experience he had. I hope this guy has had some good therapy since his childhood.

2. I found out today that I had a warrant out for my arrest. Yes it is true. As I was going through some of my paperwork I ran across an unpaid ticket from a year and ago in Hewitt. I suddenly remembered the ticket but couldn't remember if I had paid for it. So I promptly called the City of Hewitt and found out that no, I have not paid it and if I get stopped by a cop I would be sent directly to jail. So a 25 mph drive to Hewitt and $400 later, I'm no longer a fugitive. I'm as broke as I've ever been.

3. I've been taking advantage of the extra time by working out a little more. Two and a half weeks now and I haven't quit. I'm not losing weight like I had hoped, but I'm feeling much better. Today I "treated" myself to an entire hour on the elliptical machine. It was great. I felt like the Rocky IV Rocky. Bring on the Commies!!

4. In the past two weeks I've sat across the table from two friends, one close and one semi-close, on separate occasions, who let me know that they now consider God either non-existent or irrelevant. What do you say in that situation? I know we are to be ready at all times to give a reason for the hope we have within us, but what do you do when those people know all the answers and, indeed, have even preached those answers before? All I could do was sit there and listen, and not say anything. I don't live their lives. I could never understand what they're going through. But, I'll continue to be their friend. I'll continue to sit across the table from them. The best I can hope for is that how I experience God will be attractive in some way to them.

6. I miss pine trees. I miss the wonderful East Texas forest that surrounds you and, if you let it, protects you and nurtures you.

5. Alright Kyle and Jen and Avery and Jude and Sutton and Ben and Jamie and Wesley and Tracey and Valerie and Matt and Tim and everyone else at UBC, it's time for you to come back home. Ye who are weary, come home. Blake, it's time for you to be done with school and come home (or a little closer to home,) with your wonderful bride with whom I can't wait to be initiated into "the family." Jason, Christy, it's time you come back home. Robert, it's time for you to make Waco your home. You are all the music of my life. Without you all, who have become my family so much that I tear up just typing this, the presence of God diminishes drastically in my life. I love you all and wish you a safe return home.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Diaspora Begins

Well, the time celebrated by those bound to scholastic calendars is upon us. They call it spring break. I call it the week to work while everyone else is having fun. Let the week of the Ghost Town begin.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Well, Here We Are

As you can probably see, I've chosen this morning of my day off to make some changes to my blog. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of the stuff I had. So now I'm waiting for Ben to get online so he can help me.

So Ben, hurry up.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Both Tim and Chad have recommended this book to me over the past few weeks. I decided to order a few copies for the store and read it during my breaks. I am thouroughly enjoying it. He's not the greatest writer. The back says something about him being an Ann Lamott. I don't think he is.... not near as funny as Lamott.

But I'll tell you, when I finish reading each chapter, I feel like I've just had a conversation with a good friend about faith. But not one of those "let's figure out what is right" conversations. But a real conversation that occurs among real people whose only agenda is sharing life and telling stories.

I am believing more and more that it does not diminish the value and power of our sacred text to say, as Brian McLaren would say, that the Bible is not our answer book, but our story. And that story is fluid and open and a little messy at times. And it doesn't always have a clean ending and resolution......

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Abusive Jesus

When I was a kid we got a new pastor who yelled a lot from the pulpit. Talked a lot about hell and sin and judgement and getting your life right. He stayed in the same pulpit until just a couple of years ago. I remember hearing people in my church, mostly males, speak about how much they admired Brother Terry as a preacher. They liked having a pastor who "wasn't afraid to step on our toes a little."

When I was a teenager I went to camps and Super Summer a lot. I heard a lot of youth speakers speak, in different ways, about hell and sin and judgement and getting your life right. They would say a lot of stuff about how Jesus wants your natural self to die. A friend of mine recently talked to someone who was a big Neil McClendon fan. In describing one particular message of Neil's he noted that "God just shredded our hearts," obviously (probably) stealing that phrase from Neil himself.

A couple of months ago I ran into an old friend. She was telling me about her four year old daughter and how God is working on her life, even now. In fact, just a few days before, her daughter came to her and said (also probably stealing this language from her mom,) "You know, mom, God's really been working on my heart lately." At which point my friend asks, "Really? How's he been doing that?" To which her daughter replied, "With a jackhammer." This friend of mine told the story with great pride.

When I was in high school I used to pick this girl up for school in the morning. It was pretty far out of my way, being on a dirt road that is about two miles off of any county road. I didn't mind, though, because she was funny and a good person to talk to. She was also pentecostal. I didn't really know what that meant, other than that they talked funny during their services. One Monday morning I drove down the dirt road to pick her up. When she got in I did the niceties, "How's it going? How was your weekend?" At which point she replied, "It was ok. I went to church on Sunday. I got slain in the Spirit." Not having any mental categories in which to fit this statement, but perceiving a slaying of any kind to be negative, I responded "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." She looked at me funny. I didn't know why until a couple of years later when I watched TBN for the first time.

Hearts being shredded and worked on with a jackhammer. Toes being stepped on. Spirits being slain. Why as Christians do we adopt this abusive language so often to describe how God changes us? Why can't we just say, "You know, God has been changing me. I'm not sure how, but it feels good."

Instead we'd rather have a God whose desire is to beat the living crap out of us in order to get us to be the people he wants us to be. I know there are deep theological discussions that pretty much, wherever you stand, determines how abusive your language is when describing how God works on your life. Obviously someone with a strong "original sin" bent is going to lean more towards this teminology, while someone who would rather focus on the imago dei would shy away from such language.

But I believe in original sin, I think. But I'm just very uncomfortable with seeing God as and abusive Father.

But who am I to judge?
What I'm listening to...

About four months ago I bought the new John Mayer album, listened to it once, then put it away. I wasn't that impressed. But it's become one of those albums that I gave a second chance and has become my standard listening these days. I'm about to be late for work. But here's the song "New Deep," which I'm digging right now.

New Deep Lyrics

I'm so alive
I'm so enlightened
I can barely survive
A night in my mind
I've got a plan
I'm gonna find out just how boring I am
And have a good time

Cause ever since I tried
Trying not to find
Every little meaning in my life
It's been fine
I've been cool
With my new golden rule

Numb is the new deep
Done with the old me
And talk is the same cheap it's been

Is there a God?
Why is he waiting?
Don't you think of it odd
When he knows my address?
And look at the stars
Don't it remind you just how feeble we are?
Well it used to, I guess

Cause ever since I tried
Trying not to find
Every little meaning in my life
I've been fine
I've been cool
With my new golden rule

Numb is the new deep
Done with the old me
And talk is the same cheap it's been

I'm a new man
I wear a new cologne and
You wouldn't know me if your eyes were closed
I know what you'll say
'This won't last longer than the rest of the day'
But you're wrong this time

Numb is the new deep
Done with the old me
I'm over the analyzing

Stop trying to figure it out
Deep will only bring you down
You know, I used to be the back porch poet with a book of rhymes
Always open knowing all the time I'm probably
Never gonna find the perfect rhyme
For 'heavier things'

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


You probably don't know this, but for four years in a row I was voted Most School Spirited at Brownsboro High School. Yep, the annual superlative awards handed out in order to have some more pages in the yearbook filled shined brightly on me for four straight years. The categories were things like "Most mischievous," "Smartest," "Most School Spirit," etc., and a male and a female were chosen for each highly prestigious award. I'm actually surprised we never had an awards ceremony for it, it was such a high honor. Television coverage would have been nice as well. But instead, picture in the yearbook. Out of my class, for the females, I'm pretty sure Sarah Oliver one it a couple of years, and Trista Pollard maybe a year or two... I can't really remember. But not me. Every year the male Most School Spirited went to me.

And here's why I was singled out so highly: I went to more school sporting events than any other person in the school. Actually, more than any other person in town, other than my dad and the coaches. I wore the Brownsboro Bear T-Shirts. I pretty much only wore Blue and Gold (our school colors.) Even today, if you've noticed, most of my clothes are Blue. Some gold. But not real gold. Yellow Gold. Which always confused me, since it's yellow. Not gold. I guess calling it gold increased the value of the ever important color of our school. But I digress.

Senior year came and an ethical dilemma arose. In order to honor the senior class for having made it through the extremely vigorous academic program of Brownsboro High School (which, by the way stands in Brownsboro, TX-- population 545,) the amount of awards given increased significantly. Now "Most School Spirited" and "Class Clown" had company with more awards such as "Most Likely to Succeed" and "Best Dressed" and "Friendliest."

Deep down I was eyeing that "Friendliest" award from the time I was reading the yearbooks as a little kid... (I was very school spirited then as well.) Maybe subconsciously that shaped my character. When you find out there's an award for the friendliest person early on, you can start practicing.

Well the voting week snuck up on us, and we all voted. The ballots were counted and something interesting happened... I won "Most School Spirit" and "Friendliest." Catch: You couldn't accept both awards. In order for it to be fair, I had to choose. On top of that, the person who was runner up for "Friendliest" (I know this because of political maneuvering on my part-- the results were supposed to be secret) was David Ulm, my Elementary and Junior High best friend. And yes, he was a very friendly guy. But we had grown apart over high school. Mainly because I had become a fundamentalist Christian dickhead-- which I actually think is the technical term for what I'd become. And he just didn't live up to the moral standards that I thought everyone should live up to. In other words, he didn't listen to D.C. Talk.

Anyway, back to the awards. I was given a choice..... "Most School Spirit" and allow a former best friend to win "Friendliest," or "Friendliest" and let someone else take away my "Most School Spirit" crown. I just did not know what to do.

In retrospect I realize what my choice really was: Loyalty vs. Niceness. To values that I hold dear. But which did I hold dearer?

I chose loyalty. How could I have parted from the title of "Most School Spirited" after three years of an amazing reign?

I think deep down I noticed something as well.... David Ulm was a much friendlier guy than I was, even though most people would have disagreed. Sure I think I was naturally friendly, but there was also a little bit of a calculating mindset within me. David was just a good guy, still is.

I think we spiritualize common virtues a bit too often. When Paul speaks of the fruit of the spirit, and when Jesus speaks of the beatitudes, aren't they really just saying "Be good. Be nice. Always calculate in favor of others. And above all, to be repetitive, just be good?"

Yeah, yeah, I know the next Christian response.... "Yeah, but we CAN'T be good on our own, we need God's spirit within us. Which I firmly believe, (although, paradoxically, there are those that don't even believe in God who are better than me in many ways.)

Things seem so much harder now.

Or easier.

Or maybe I've just run out of steam from the day to think about my great achievements much more.

By the way, if you want, I can still sing the fight song and school song from Brownsboro High School.

You want me to?

Nah, I'll spare you.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Weekly Update

Well, the proverbial "it's been a while since I've blogged" is here. So I guess I'll just let you know what I've been up to. It's interesting when you say, "here's what I've been up to," that there's a heightened sense of expectation on what is coming next. Well expect not. Things haven't been that exciting.


I preached this morning on the Judas stuff I mentioned earlier. About three fourths of the way through I was thinking "This is the absolute worst sermon I've ever given, no one seems to be responding." But I had good feedback at the end from people. I think because I didn't really insert a lot of my humor in the sermon, that I thought it didn't go as well. That's sad when I need laughter in order to feel good about myself. But that's how the ball rolls I guess.

Aunt Ruth Ann

I got a call Wednesday morning from my mom. She started the conversation in the hurried, nervous, neurotic way that people start phone conversations when they have really bad news to tell you. But I didn't think anything of it, because my mom starts every phone conversation like that. She could have been letting me know that she cleaned the refrigerator out a few weeks ago, and it would have carried the same tone as if she were telling me the apacolypse was nigh. That's just how she is.

But, unfortunately, she did have bad news, and as only my mom can, she drew it out as long as she possibly could before she told me what happened.... "Craig, I have something to tell you, and it just happened, so few people know, so if you happen to talk to any family," (which was dumb, since my parents are the only family i talk to,) "don't let them know until it's been made official. Your Uncle Johnny is on his way to the scene to get things under control. He told me to call you, but to not let your daddy know, since he's in the hospital," (which was news to me.... dad spent three days in the hospital for pneumonia,) " We're not going to tell your uncle Jerry know, since he's been going crazy lately, he's really bonkers. Your uncle Bo has been called. We're not going to tell your uncle Jackie, since he'll want to leave work, and he'll need a few days off later. We're going to wait to tell uncle Sonny because of his heart condition. Your aunt Dottie is on her way as well. Now, are you ready for the news?" at which point I told her, "Well, I assume your going to tell me that aunt Ruth Ann just died." "You've heard?!!" "No mom, I haven't heard, but you just went through all of dad's living siblings, and she was the only one you left out." She thought I was a genius.

Individually I was not close to my aunt Ruth Ann. She was the third youngest of my grandparents 9 children-- Uncle's Sonny, Bo, Johnny, Jackie, Jerry, and Tommy (my dad,) and aunts Ruth Ann, Sister (I still don't know her real name.... she died when I was real young, and they still just call her "sister,).... and Dottie. It's hard to get real close to all of those family members. But when we are all together for Thanksgiving, I feel real close to them. Not quite sure why that is. I guess it's because we're family. We all have the big round faces and big round bellies. If you were to put all my aunts and uncles together, I'm serious you would freak out at how much they look like me. That's one reason I love being with them, because when I look in their old hillbilly, white trash eyes (I say that in the best possible sense,) I see a little of myself.

Ruth Ann fit that description as well as any of them. Her and her husband George have lived (had lived) for years in a trailor adjacent to the land on which the house that my dad and his family lived in for many years. Three bedrooms-- 9 kids. A parent's room, a boys room, and a girls room. Not that it was always that crowded. By the time my dad was born, his oldest brothers were already in the military. I remember visiting George and Ruth Ann every couple of months. I'm quite sure it wasn't always in the summer, but it always felt like summer. They have three girls, Sherry, Angie, and Missy. Angie and Missy are the closest first cousins to me in age, Angie being a couple of years older than me, and Missy being my age.

Ruth Ann and George hold (held) a special place in my heart, if for no other reason, the location of their house being so close in proximity to where my dad grew up. I remember being a child visiting my paw paw Nash, when the house was still standing, and later when my uncle Jackie lived in the house. This place is miles from a major highway, even miles from another house. When visiting this place, I felt like I had stepped back in time. In a way, I had. Things move so much slower in many parts of East Texas than they do even in places as small as Chandler. In this place you could still see the last remaining remnants of the depression, just hanging on to the countryside. Everything was dirty. Everything was old.

One reason I enjoy the movie "O' Brother, Where art Though" so much is because all of the scenes shot in the country remind me of this place. Seriously.

So I'll miss my aunt Ruth Ann. But not necessarily in the way you normally miss someone. I'll miss her because it's just another reminder that the objects of my memory that were connected to her, and the way in which she was connected to me, will never be there again.

My Teeth

For the past two nights, I must have been grinding my teeth in my sleep, because I wake up with an extremely sore jaw. Not sure what to do about that.

I'm Screwed

Because we couldn't get an Ed episode recorded off of TIVO, I had to remove the TIVO and take it to the church this morning, since I was using an Ed episode as a clip for the sermon. Now I think I've broke all of Tom's stuff. I'm not sure what happened, but he and Chris are in the other room as I type trying to fix it. I'm afraid I might have to move out if it doesn't get fixed. So I may be looking for a place to stay soon.

I really do feel horrible. So Tom, please don't kill me.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


What direction does your blog web go through? My ritual consists of two possibilities. Either I start with Ben's blog, which is generally devoid of new stuff, then onto Tom's, then possibly Seth's, and occasionally others on his list. Or I start with Jason's, then to Blake's, then Mark's and Chad's, and then to Myles, who is an extremely good writer with whom I'm extremely intimidated by.

All that to say this, here's an awesome quote that's on the top of Myles' blog:

""How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."--Annie Dillard"
Response to the Theologian

I read somewhere recently that it is inappropriate to make a lengthy response to a blog on the comment section. It is more appropriate to blog a response and post it on the comment section. So that's what I'm doing in response to my friend Aaron O'Kelly's blog concerning the current political state of our nation. You can see his blog at I really need ot update my links to include all the new bloggers.

I guess I'll do this somewhat systematically:

1. The government spends way too much money. I am quite happy to pay for military protection, highways, police and fire services, and other necessary things. But I'm sick of all the pork. I don't want to pick up the tab every time some Representative wants federal funding for the Watermelon Festival in Podunk, Alabama. Quite frankly, I wish the government would phase out Social Security, and I have almost reached the same decision on public education.

In some ways I agree with you on principle concerning this, but practically I acknowledge that this is just how things are. And sometimes, we have to fund the Watermelon Festival in Podunk, Alabama in order to get things done that we really think the federal government should be doing, like military protection, highways, police and fire services-- (although the latter two are primarily funded locally.) As the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil used to say, "All Politics is Local." And congress works on a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours principle." Congressman A recognizes that we need more funding for national security and puts forth a bill to do so. Congressman B is leaning in the same direction as congressman A, but needs a little more incentive. A tells B, "If you vote for more military funding, we'll tack on a rider that includes funding for the watermelon festival." So in a sense, we need the Watermelon Festival to have a stronger military. It's screwed up, but that's how it works. One consgressional district's "pork" is anothers treasure.

2. The government thinks it can do a lot of things better than the private sector, which is a boatload of baloney.

I tend to agree with this.

3. The Democratic Party is so far out in left field that it is long past time for any reasonable person to jump that ship

Again, general agreement on my part.

- Democrats are too soft on marital infidelity. It's almost a badge of honor these days!

I think this is a gross overgeneralization based on the failure of our previous president. There are millions fo God fearing, family values Democrats in this country.

Speaking of entitlements, the Democrats love to create them.

I think Democrats do tend to believe that it is the government's responsibility to help those in need, and in the past that has turned into entitlements to those who don't won't to work. But the truth is, and as a Republican it's tough for me to admit this, the welfare rolls in this country dropped more under the previous Democratic president than in any other time before the New Deal began.

4. The Republican Party sucks when it acts like the Democratic Party, which it did last year under the leadership of our President in passing a new entitlement for prescription drugs.

Regardless of what we want to believe, there ARE people in this country who need help, and the governement is the only ones capable, or even willing in some cases, to provide that. I don't mind paying a little more in taxes to help and elderly person who needs medicine get it at a cheaper price.

This is one of those issues where the president is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. He's gotten flack on both sides of this. Many Republicans said it shouldn't be done. Most Democrats said it didn't go far enough. What are you going to do?

5. President Bush has been awesome in the war on terror. I highly respect his courage and his willingness to put politics aside (unlike many members of a different political party) in defending this nation, no matter what the anti-American UN may say.

Chalk this one up to agreement on my behalf.

7. This country needs a good conservative third party that will compete with the Republicans and make them stick to conservative political principles.

A "good conservative third party" would do to the Republicans what Ralph Nader did for the Democrats-- ensure defeat.

8. In general, politicians are wretched theologians. This is especially true of Bush, who takes every opportunity he gets to bring Muslims into Heaven with us.

Aaron, I like and respect you tons. So please don't misunderstand me when I say.. "What the HELL are you talking about?" If you are referring to Bush reaching out to certain groups, I'm not sure where your disagreement is here. He is the President of the United States of America. I've got a secret for you, and I'm sorry if this breaks your concept of the U.S., but there are Muslims living in the country. He is their president as well. It's his responsibility to reach out to them.

(I'm hoping this last comment wasn't sarcasm. If it was, then consider me the ass.)

What is ironic about this is that Bush's theology is probably EXTEMELY close to your's and the rest of the American evangelical community. But unless Bush stands up and says.."I'm a Christian. I believe all non Christians are going to hell, and there's nothing you can do about it. Sundays should be reserved for church, fried chicken and iced tea, nap, then church again. See this piece of paper? It's a bill banning ALL abortions, and it's going to the Congress right now. All gun related weapons are now allowed to be owned by whoever the hell wants to own them. There will be no more welfare starting...... NOW! No more money for arts, education, or watermelon festivals, starting now. Every classroom, effective now, has to say a prayer at the beginning of class, and repeat the four spiritual laws, and sing Amazing Grace, while simultaneously signing the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message." those people won't be happy.

It's probably true that politicians make wretched theologians. But it's also true that theologians make wretched politicians. In theology, or at least in some theological circles, the goal is belief or dogma. In politics, the goal is compromise. I know that's an evil word to some groups, but it's the only way things get done.

Now I'm tired and ready for the backlash.

(Here's what's funny-- in this email I come across as very moderate. When I go to my community group at church tonight, I'm going to be the conservative. Perspective is an interesting thing.)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Done Deal

It's official. I dropped that South Beach Diet today like a sack of potatoes, which aren't allowed on the South Beach Diet. I've determined I'm going to get healthy the old fashioned way... work out a little and eat less. But I've got to have my Dr. Pepper and occasional Krispy Kreme.

My Sermon

So here's the deal, I'm preaching on Sunday. I have a core of ideas I want to preach on, but I'm not sure where it might go. So I've considered making this a truly innovative sermon, and have internet collaboration on the content. In other words, have you who read my blog write the sermon for me. Or at least help me out a little.

I want to talk about the whole Passion story in the context of the idea of expectations. As I sat with the story a couple of weeks ago I noticed at least two parts of it in which human's expectations were shattered. The first is an idea about Judas that crept back in my mind from my ETBU days. And the idea is this: Perhaps Judas isn't as bad of a guy as we think. All of the disciples had at least a small glimmer of hope that the kingdom Jesus sought to bring to the the earth was a political kingdom, and to most it was more of a certainty than a glimmer of hope. Could it be that Judas, rather than being this evil betrayer that we see him as, was really just trying to get Jesus to act a little quicker in destroying the Roman occupation? After the triumphal entry, he was probably thinking this is it, this is when the revolution starts. He got frustrated that Jesus seemed to be speaking on a more spiritual level than he thought was necessary, so he decided to turn him in to the authorities in order to get the ball rolling. This would help explain why Judas commited suicide. Perhaps at the point Jesus began to be arrested, and it became clear that he wasn't playing the same game Judas was playing, then Judas we so overwhelemed with grief that he had gotten Jesus wrong, that it drove him to suicide.

Another shattered expectation: It also seems (and Mel Gibson's "Passion" would attest to this) that Pilate might have been a more sympathetic figure than we had thought. It seems that Pilate also had shattered expectations, but not from Jesus, but by the Jews. When Pilate gave the choice of Jesus or Barrabas, a murderer, maybe he expected the people to come to their senses and realize that Jesus was not a threat to them, but Barrabas was.

And that's all I got. Not sure where to go from there. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Monday, March 01, 2004

South Beach Sucks

So I started this

yesterday, and I'm seriously considering quitting it tomorrow by replacing it with

This no sugar shit is getting on my nerves. I'm sorry people, I know I've cleaned up my language lately, but this shit has got to go. I felt like totally beating the shit out of several people today because my nerves are so shot due to sugar deprivation. Now I know what a crack addict goes through during detox.

Don't cross me for the next couple of weeks, unless you see glazed goodness in my hands.