Thursday, April 29, 2004

Putting it off a little longer......

I'm getting to a point where I realy want to write something but I can't get motivated to "push through."

It's frustrating.

Maybe someone should kick me. Or give me a deadline.

Very frustrating.

I want to respond to the article about UBC in the Iconoclast. I have the words, but not the motivation.

Maybe right now I should talk about what's been going on.

Nothing, really. I work and read and watch reruns of Friends.

My mom's retiring at the end of next month. So I'm sure she'll be here more often now. Maybe you can meet her. Her name is Pansy. Go ahead, laugh. She doesn't know it's funny, so it won't hurt her feelings.

Her name really is Pansy.

Maybe I should write everything in this style.

Tomorrow I work from 7-4.

Did I mention I kind of have a date, sort of, tomorrow night?

I kind of have a date, sort of, tomorrow night.

I got about 1/2 of the way in "Eventide." Really enjoyed it, but quit suddenly.

One of my favorite new people is Matt Singleton. He's very cool.

He's not really new. I've just talked to him more over the past few months. I think he's 20 or something.

I'm almost 30.

I've lost 10 pounds in the past couple of months.

Erin Davis, Daniel from work, and Tim are the only people who've noticed. But it's ok. I'm not a girl.

Saturday I may go to Dallas with Tim to take his sister and brother and law to the airport and then hang out in Dallas.

We might go to a bar in Deep Ellum.

That would be cool.

Did y'all know that Jordan's godfather spent last weekend in Camp David with the President and Condi?

I'm two people removed from the W. and Condi.

I want to start writing the Nash family history, but it seems too daunting.

In the next room are people watching the next to the last friends.

I watched it already tonight.

Ate lunch today with Kyle. Had a wonderful conversation, as usual.

Myles, have I ever mentioned to you that your writing is so good, and I'm so intimidated that I feel oppressed reading your stuff?

Sometimes I daydream about a party in which all of my friends from all the places and periods of my life were there. Chandler, Lindale, Marshall, Abilene, Waco, Washington, Dallas, and other places.

At some point someone will ask another, "So, how do you know Craig?" At which point the other will tell how they know me. Then a converation will ensue... "Yeah, he told me about you."

And then everyone would become friends.

And it would all center around me.

I also daydream sometimes that someone is making a documentary of my life.

The scene from today would have been me singing Toby Keith's "Whiskey Woman" at the top of my lungs in the car going to pay the fee on my returned check at the H-E-B check place.

That last sentence expressed my vulneralbilities on many levels.

I hope you noticed.

Hint-- I'm broke and extremely horrible with money.

But I've got money to pay rent tomorrow, Tom. So don't worry.

I'll probably cry at the last friends.

There were many people in the house for the last "Ed." If it weren't so, I'm serious I would have doubled over on the floor and cried my eyes out.

I loved you all dearly on that night.

When Ed was talking about the people he loved I was thinking about the people I love.

Many of them were in the room with me.

Jason, Christy.... I thought about y'all.

Jason, you're also one of the coolest people I know.

This stream of consciousness shit is cool. I feel like I'm on a drug.

Jesus is my drug.

One day I'll have kids. I can't wait.

I think the people who wrote that stuff about UBC in the Iconoclast probably don't have people that care about them enough.

They need a hug.

No, they need to watch all four seasons of "Ed." That would give them a heart.

Should I end this now?

I work tomorrow at seven. Then I have three days off.

Then I'll write a more conventional blog.

Until then, know that I really care for all of you who read my blog.

I care for other people, but they won't know this by this medium.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Maya, Martina, Denzel and Dakota-- Setting Me Free.......

Tonight Tim, Maik, and I went to see Man on Fire, the new Denzel Washington movie. The story lacked the hook to reel me in. About a fourth of the way into it my mind began to wander off into other fields, such as worrying about paying bills, organizing a trip, making french toast and contmeplating coming to a point where I can finally tell myself, "Well, here you are. Waco. I guess this is it for the next 50 or 60 years. It's a bitch, but it'll do."

But then Denzel and Dakota Fanning just pulled me in. Ann Lamott, when speaking about character in her book on writing, made the comment that some characters demand your attention. She quips that she could spend an entire day watching Anthony Hopkins do something as mundane as washing the dishes and be totally mesmerized. Denzel and Dakota, the cute little girl that first caught my attention in "I Am Sam," are quickly becoming those characters for me.

In the midst of all my worry about my life these two actors did something extraordinary, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Cognitively I understood that they were in front of a camera, reciting dialogue that was written down on a script, becoming fictional characters in order to tell a story and to entertain. The connection I was feeling was something much deeper than just a movie watcher interacting with actors. It was close to being a spiritual experience that would just have to remain a mystery.

And then I remembered the CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards from the other night. Just before Martina McBride gave a truly inspired performance of her new song she was introduced by Maya Angelou who came out of the closet as a true country music fan. (Yeah Maya!!!!) In her deep, pastorlike voice, she made the comment that if she were to be any singer in the world, she would want to be Martina McBride. Her admiration for the singer stemmed from the fact that, and I'm paraphrasing, "When Martina McBride sings, she sings from the depths. And in voicing her songs she never gets bogged down with just the facts. She sings truth. It is song and melody and tone that comes out of her mouth, but it's so much more. It's truth." And I couldn't agree more. When I experience a Martina McBride song, I experience what can only be called truth. Much in the same way that people have an emotional connection to Ani Defranco, U2, and Coldplay, I feel like I at least get a sliver of a view of the Holy when I hear Martina McBride.

And in the theater, I came to the realization that Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning were doing the same thing to me. They both grabbed me by my shirt collar and forced me to listen to them. What were they saying? I have no clue. But I do know that somewhere buried deep within their craft was Truth, and it took root in me and forced me to deal with it.

Thinking about Truth in such an abstract way is dangerous, I know. It's dangerous because, eventually, I'll be forced by someone to give an account for what I really believe Truth to be. "You talk about Truth. You say that Martina sings it and Denzel and Dakota portray it, but what is it?" Hidden in the question is another question, "Truth is Jesus. Truth is the Bible. Truth is God. Don't you believe that, or are you a liberal or a mystic?" All I can say to that is "Yes, maybe, and maybe."

Jesus said "I am the Truth." I don't see in that statement, or in the life he lived, where Jesus gave a rats ass about what the facts were when it came to ideas of Truth. He was Truth. To diminish Truth in such a way to where it could be stated propositionally would be to diminish him. Facts you can get a hold of and analyze and understand. Truth is much more elusive, and yet much more embrace-able, than mere facts.

I don't claim to have an adequate knowlege of art and cinema, as may be perceived from this post. But I do know what I felt. So go ahead, try to argue with my experience.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Looking for Lurkers

I've had this thought for some time now. Actually, only a few minutes. I'm wondering if there are people who visit my blog who I don't know very well but who found my place on the web through the legion of link degrees of seperation.

If you read, and you don't comment, please comment. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Literary Joy

Back in the fall of 2000, fairly new to Waco without many friends who had much time for me, creating gobs of free time, I ran into what became one of the best works of fiction I've ever read, Kent Haruf's "Plainsong."

The book was one of the first works of contemporary fiction that kept me moving along with it. Haruf uses words sparingly, choosing instead to let the unpretentious characters and dialogue suck you into the world of Holt, Colorado.

I fell in love with this book.

So you can imagine my joy yesterday when I walked into the breakroom at work and saw laying on the table an Advanced Reader copy of "Eventide," a continuation of the characters in "Plainsong."

Publishers send bookstores Advanced Reader copies of books all the time, and I almost always grab one that looks interesting, but never read them. This one will be finished within the next couple of days.

A few weeks ago I carried the "music snob" conversation into Coffee and Culture, my community group at church, and was presented with a very interesting question, which was "Are you a book snob?" The question was fascinating to me because it opened up the possibility that I may know enough about something to open up the doors to me becoming a snob of that subject. But fortunately, after thinking about it for a while, I think the answer is "no." I'm not a book snob. I think to be a snob about anything you have to have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of all the material of a subject, and there are just too many books.

But I will look down on you if you don't like Plainsong, except for Ben's Jamie, because I know she didn't like it.

I'll keep you informed on how "Eventide" is.

In the meantime, share with me what you're reading.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Heaven Came Down.... Today

I think there are days in your life that, if you are not careful, can be dismissed as just another day where you thought thoughts, had conversations, read words, watched a screen in your living room, and did physical activity, but where nothing life altering changed.

I think that the value of some of those days is in nothing more than in thoughts, conversations, words, television, and exercise. But God gives us the grace on some rare occasions to lay down in bed at night and see that day as so much more than you might have thought, as days that are pivotal and life altering.

Being way to tired to elaborate, I'll just say that this has been one of those days. So many thoughts, but not just thoughts. Thoughts that I suspect will alter the course of my life in dramatic ways. So many conversations, but not every day conversations. Conversations in which I truly come to grip with who I am-- all the deep "who I am" stuff like motivation, fears, desires, quirks. Conversations in which I realize how truly valuable I am to another person, and vice versa.

I feel such a comfort in all this. I feel this day has been a door very similar to the door described by Dennis Covington in this book I just finished reading about Appalachian snake handlers, and so much more:

"There are moments when you stand on the brink of a new experience and understand that you have no choice about it. Either you walk into the experience or you turn away from it, but you know that no matter what you choose, you will have altered your life in a permanent way. Either way, there will be consequences.

I walked on in."

I sincerely pray for the grace and wisdom to walk on in.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Getting Out of Dodge....

I know what it's like leaving town defeated.

It's well known that in small towns, high school sports is king. In Texas it's football, but in Brownsboro Texas it's girls basketball. Over the past 22 years our team has been to the playoffs 22 times. State tournament 5 times. '94 was supposed to be our year. That team had the most all-around talent of any team in the state. Carrie Foy-- six foot three and averaged around 30 points a game. Marcy Bruner who was short but dominated the boards-- regularly taking down 15-20 rebounds a game. Michelle olson, point guard who controlled the court like a female Jason Kidd. Two of my best friends in high school (who incidentally hated each other) Gina Clayton and Hallee Ashlee, the younger sister of my best friend growing up who hit nine three pointers in a game against the #3 team in the state. The state tournament was ours to take. But we didn't take it. Waco La Vega, led by the 43 point game of Katrina Price, a girl who would later be drafted into the WNBA and then commit suicide, was too much for us in the first round.

The citizens of Brownsboro, Murchison, and Chandler left Austin that day totally defeated. You could tell it in our faces when we all stopped on the way home to eat dinner. Few people talked. Those who did kept trying to convince themselves that it wasn't a big deal. (One of my dad's ritual sayings after a huge Brownsboro defeat is "Well, I aint going to lose any sleep over it. That is followed by a night of pacing around the house.)

Three years ago a girl with whom I had romantic feelings for when I was in Estonia visited Texas. I left Waco to meet her at the airport in Houston with the intention of telling her how I felt about her and how the distance was something that didn't matter to me. I had flowers for her. Nice flowers.

After a few days of periodically visiting with her in College Station I proved that, at that point, I had no balls and never mentioned my feelings for her. Knowing it wouldn't possibly be years before I'd ever see her again, I drove back to Waco in a state of grief. Crying my eyes out. I was defeated, by my own insecurities.

I've always read the account of the men walking towards Emmaus in a different way. For some reason I've always figured they were just trying to put what happened with Jesus behind them and go off to find another work, maybe even another Messiah. Down, but not out.

But as I was reading it yesterday I had this thought..."These guys have just metaphorically had their tails whupped." Just seven days before they had entered Jerusalem as victors. Crowds were following them because of their association with Jesus. The city-dwellers no doubt asked them what it was like being around the Messiah. I'm sure their heads got pretty big.

And then death. Defeat.

I only know what it's like leaving town when my team has lost or I have lost at love. Every last thing these guys had hoped for was lost. Their lives were shattered.

And then a man began to walk beside them, unnoticed, and inquired as to what they were talking about. They acted like he was stupid. Having been so close to Jerusalem and yet not hearing about Jesus. It would have been as iff someone was eating lunch on the grassy knoll on November 22, 1963 and didn't hear about JFK's assasination. It is clear from the tone of their conversation that they didn't believe the ladies when they said Jesus was risen. And, culturally, why should they? Women knew nothing. They assumed the body was stolen. Indicating not only defeat, but humiliation.

How interesting it is that these guys thought they were walking down the road defeated, but right next to them Victory Personified was strolling casually along.

Friday, April 09, 2004


It's a georgeous day today. Good Friday. It's supposed to rain a little on Sunday. Easter. Kind of backwards, don't you think?

Oh, well, I think the resurrection of Christ is powerful enough to stand a little meteorological irony.

About once every couple of years I'll hear a Christian song by accident and totally dig it. I'm still in that phase where I say I can't stand most Christian music. Actually, I think I'm out of that phase. I don't refrain from it because it's not cool anymore. I genuinely think it's bad. But I listen to a lot of other bad music on the radio that isn't Christian music that I totally enjoy, so the occasional CCM song that is meant to manipulate my emotions (although, isn't that what all good music does anyway) makes it's way into my ears and soothes me. There's this song by a group called Casting Crowns, that sounds a lot like my previous guilty CCM pleasure 40 days, that I'm totally digging.

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You're

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who Am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who Am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours
I am Yours

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Back to the Quilt....

It's been a long time since I've just blogged a hodgepodge of what has been going on. Lately I've felt the need to be a little more bold with my writing which, in turn, has caused me to write less. So now I sit down at the table (not Jason's) with no pre-planned agenda. Just whatever comes to my mind.


I know people, around 2, who are true pacifists. They believe violence should never, under any circumstances, be considered an option.

Today I mentally planned out violent acts against a lady I know not.

I'm standing at the information desk at work. This lady comes up with her daughter, or granddaughter (the lady was of the age and the type that suggested the girl could be considered either,) who was probably about four or five and totally adorable. It looked like she had just got up from a nap. The side of her faced had pillow marks and her hair was a little messed up. She was a little cranky. All that suggested to me that, yes, she just woke up. As the lady was standing there, the little girl started to whine about something. The lady says "Stop whining and fix your hair. You look ugly. You always look ugly."

At that point I was thinking that holding the lady by her hair and dangling her off the top of a building while demons slowly and meticulously cut her body up into thin slices with razor blades, all while others are spraying alcohol on her body, would have been a completely appropriate response to the bitches behavior.

People like that should be shot. I know some of you will say that it is probably because of some pain this lady is feeling that makes her do that to the girl. To that I say, you might be right, but I don't give a shit. Kill the bitch.

I know that my opinion on this isn't the most Christian, and I might spend a few days in hell for thinking it, but it's hard for me to get past the human tendency for retribution.

Somewhat Unrelated....

I think that one of the greatest needs we all have is the need to belong. We'll do anything necessary to fulfill that need. We'll posture and pray and manipulate situations and act cool or act suave or act uninterested or act smart or act aloof, all for the purpose of belonging.

As I was walking from my car to my door tonight in the dark, cool, breezy night, that's what was on my mind. It was quite but my thoughts were musical. You know those special times don't you? I hope you do. I hope you've experienced those times of self reflection when people and ideas and the past run past your mind and you feel as if you are creating a music video of your life and worldview within the recesses of your mind. And you wish others could understand how special that moment is to you. You wish they could belong in your world the way you want to belong in theirs. And so you sing in your own special way. You sing with simple breaths. You sing with a smile. I sing with my memory. And those moments are special. They don't happen often, but enough to keep you going. Enough to give you 14th and 15th winds. Enough to carry you along until the next time you are in the presence of your friends.

And so my song will have to do me until we see each other again.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

A Thing I Wrote for the Palm Sunday Service.....

Once again the city of Jerusalem was abuzz with anticipation of the yearly Passover celebration. The sweet aroma of bread being baked in stone ovens could be smelled throughout the alleyways. Sounds of Jewish children playing games and singing the songs of their people floated throughout the streets like a disjointed but highly melodic chorus. Those same children would be stopped in their tracks and forced to listen respectfully, once again, to the old people telling the stories of times past. Abraham…. God’s promise…. Idols….. Wandering…. Captivity….. Moses….. Frogs, Blood, Darkness, Locusts….. and, eventually, freedom. A special gleam would appear in the storyteller’s eye whenever the tales were extended to include the time when Israel had a king. Those were the glory days, they would say, and sometime in the future, maybe even the near future, the throne of David would be restored.

Isaiah 9:7

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

The children rolled their eyes at the old people. “Can’t you see that Roman soldier over there with the sword, just waiting for you to make a wrong move?” the children thought. “Don’t you see the crucifixions that take place almost every week at the hand of those who occupy our land? What makes you think we’re ever going to have a king again?”

This cynicism of a future king was a youthful necessity, to prevent their hopes from being shattered. But they had heard the prophecies and, deep down, they believed.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely.

The predictions of these wild-eyed crazy men from years ago began to take root within the minds and hearts of the Jewish people. Perhaps a king for Israel would be provided once again. And now was as good a time as any.

king. Noun. One that is supreme or preeminent in a particular group, category, or sphere.

There were rumblings going on. There were always rumblings going on. But this had a different feel. The electricity in the air felt just a little more real when people started talking about this man named Jesus. He had conspicuously avoided Jerusalem for the greater part of the past three years, but that didn’t stop the stories from being spread to the city. Supposedly he had turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana just three years before. Many who had left the city in bad physical shape to wander out to the countryside to find this man returned with whole bodies. Healed bodies. There were even rumors floating around about a ship and a storm and something about walking on water. One of those stories could have been dismissed, but they kept coming in one after another. Perhaps this guy needed to be taken seriously.

As exciting as those stories were, though, they didn’t match what those in the city heard he had been teaching. It was told that he talked a lot about love and compassion and sacrifice. That was good and all, but the thing that interested the people more than any was this guy’s repetitive use of one word: Kingdom.

The pieces started to come together within the minds of the people this Sunday morning. This guy coming into the city today has been performing miracles and talking about the Kingdom of God. Husbands and wives and friends and children, after a morning of pondering these stories, slowly began to look at each other and realize that they were thinking the exact same thing. Our king is coming! Today!

At first there was just a small amount of people walking out of their houses and toward the city gates. But as the morning progressed the crowd grew exponentially bigger and began to run a lot faster. The noise became almost unbearable as the stories of Jesus began to be told over and over again in groups of people.

A quiet woman is standing among the crowds, listening to all that is being said. The prospects of this guy coming in town and establishing a Jewish kingdom doesn’t do much for her. Sure, she thinks it’ll be great and all. But lately she’s been feeling this weird feeling, like something isn’t quite right with all these “kingdom” expectations that are being imposed on her by these people surrounding her. Her pain extends much deeper than that caused by Roman occupation. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but it seemed like she needed delivered from something more than just Rome.

Nevertheless her heart started beating fast when, over the horizon, she spotted a group of people walking slowly towards the city. She had to tip-toe to see over the crowds. Her ears began to ring when a leader of the crowd remembered a song of King David and began the chant “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.” As they got closer and people began to throw onto the ground their cloaks and palm branches from the nearby trees, she started to notice through the heads of the people more and more features of Jesus. He had the most kind face. It’s almost as if he was glowing. As she strained a little more to see through the crowds she noticed the children running around his entourage yelling his name over and over.

It seemed she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. The peace on his face, the strength of his gaze, the way he rides that………

Donkey? The person who is supposed to be the King of my people is coming into town on a donkey? Not a Stallion or a Mustang, or even a camel or a mule, but a donkey? The animal that is notoriously lazy and stubborn and dirty and lowly is the animal that a king is coming to town on? Over history the only things donkeys will be remembered for are taking those Brady kids into the Grand Canyon to be scared by the Native Americans, and as the mascot of what some consider the greatest cultural achievement of the south—Hee Haw—this is what he chooses as his mode of transportation? What kind of king does he think his is, coming into town on a donkey? And these people, they don’t even notice. They’re so hungry for power to be placed back into their hands that they can’t even notice their “king” is coming in on a donkey.

She had had enough. Making her way out of the crowd, being pushed and shoved around from the excited admirers of Jesus, she thought about what a fool she had been to even waste her morning to get a glimpse of this guy. A king, on a donkey.

As she traveled some distance away from the crowd those feelings began to come back. You remember the feelings. That unsettling deep down within her soul that things in this world, things in her life, are not as they should be. In the past her people could rely on miraculous deliverances from God… a sign…. a cloud by day and fire by night….. rivers being parted…. to know that God was near. That he could be touched and heard from. At least they could go to the temple with sacrifices to ease that nasty feeling of messed up humanness.

And then she stopped in her path. The noise of the crowd was now a considerable distance away. Her mind raced. Bits and pieces of remembrance passed across her mind. Other words. Other prophecies. Other declarations.

Isaiah 53:3-5

He is despised and rejected by men. A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem him.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.

And then……

Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey.

Having walked too far from Jesus to run back, yet coming much closer to truly seeing him than those crowds who were off in the distance shouting his name, she fell to her knees and whispered to herself…… “Could it be?”