Sunday, May 30, 2004

Hear and Now...

It is Sunday afternoon, 12:41 p.m. It seems as if the world has come to a standstill. My world anyway. Everyone's either out of town or sick and I'm not sure if the vibe of this day would faciliate good conversation anyway. Clouds. Humidity. Waco allergies have made my voice deep and my sinuses clogged.


It's quiet and yet I hear many things. I hear the sound of contentment. I hear Alison Krauss bring me back to the forested cemetary in Yannis, TX. My aunt is buried there. I was young so I don't remember her, but I do remember the cemetary reunion meetings. They almost always occured on days like this. The clouds never revealed their cards, so you could be surprised at any moment with either sun or rain. The leaves were always present. Surrounding you. In the sky, on the ground, and often blowing up in the breeze. People were together but in altogether different places. Bound by death and life, if not by consciousness or deliberate action.

Almost like zombies, but without the creepiness.

I think the only thing that will do at this moment is to lay down in bed and listen to some twangy country music about things in which the only redemption is the sadness.

Friday, May 28, 2004


I don't talk about Estonia as much as I should.

In many ways it was the most formative event of my life, and yet it get's about as much airtime from my conversation as the story about me shooting dirt out of my bb gun into my neighbors face. If you've known me long, you know the story, but you don't have it memorized.

Such was not the case the first time I returned. "Estonians do it differently. Estonians say it this way. Estonians don't care if you wear the same clothes several days in a row." (The latter being something I cherished and have often carried with me.) "America is so horrible. The Estonians do it this way. The Estonians say 'Kus on sinu maia?' instead of 'where is your house?'"

After years of slowly realizing that most people don't give a rat's ass about how they do it in Estonia, the subject has slowly faded from my lips.

But I still love the place and still, after six years, sometimes lay in bed crying because I am not there.

Flowers are cheap in Estonia. There is a flower stand everywhere you go and it is not uncommon to buy some to take to friends when you visit them.

Estonians celbrate Jaanipaev, St. John's day, which is the day when the sun never goes down.

The sun rarely goes down in Estonia. It's fun to walk in downtown Tartu in broad daylight, at 2:00 a.m.

If I ever go back to Estonia, I'll be expected to be pretty much the same kind of Christian as I was before. I can handle that. I love those people enough to be a little fake. They'll love me anyway.

One of my favorite places in the world is a village in southern Estonia, Torva. There's a cafe' there that's carved out of a cave. It's the most isolated place in the world I've ever been, and I feel that much more special for having life-giving conversations in that place.

The national pastime in Estonia is sauna. Buck naked sauna. I've been in a sauna no larger than the size of my car, temperature pushing 160 degrees f. buck naked, with ten other guys. Yes, it was weird. But cool in a very primal way.

"Jumal on hea" means "God is so good" in Estonian.

Estonians don't believe in smalltalk. They are guarded, which makes them seem stuck-up at times. They're not. They're sizing you up, seeing if you will be a faithful friend.

Kehra was the town I lived in that I hated the most in Estonia. It was uncomfortable. The people were weird.

The church in Kehra still prays for me on a monthly basis. I love them.

And I'm done, for now.

This is my friend Hannes from Kehra

This is the old Salem Baptist Church building in Tartu. This is where I slowly began to realize, in a very real way, that there is more than East Texas.

On July 4, 1996, I walked over the supports of this bridge. I was scared.

Downtown Tartu, one of my favorite places anywhere

This is Kehra Kogudus-- Kehra Church. It used to be the Communist Farm Building.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

A Hodgepodge Post....

The Money Thing

I started to roll up all the money I found cleaning my room last week and so far have come up with $45. What a find! That'll fill my tank up and a little more.

Not too long ago I mentioned how broke I am and how debt really does feel like those monsters chasing after the people in that credit card commercial. Well today I've decided to start being responsible. About three months shy of being around for three decades and I finally, for the first time in my life, sat down in my recently cleaned room and wrote out a budget. I feel like such an adult. I'm serious, this is such a big deal for me I have almost convinced myself that I should become a financial counselor and have my own radio show.

But I'll stick with baby steps for now.

My Friend the Actress, er, um, Female Actor

Last week on my way home from Tyler I stopped at the drugstore in Chandler to pick up a Chandler & Brownsboro Statesman. On my way out I heard someone yelling my name from way up high in the pharmacists podium. It was Bob Ball, the father of one of my good high school friends Cindy Ball. He wanted to catch me up with what Cindy was up to. She's a struggling actor in New York. How cool is that? I've talked with her a few times via email this week. It's so cool to know someone who is doing things now that will perhaps one day make it into an E! True Hollywood Story. I'm already making myself available to be the childhood friend on the show. "In Lamplighter, our preschool, I remember Cindy eathing dirt!" (It's true, but I remember in high school her claiming not to remember that.)


I was at the church helping with garage sale stuff this evening. It doesn't seem like we have near as much stuff as we usually do. A lot of beds and bikes, though. It also seems like a lot of the drama that normally comes with garage sale preperation is absent as well. That's cool.

My Thoughts on the ACM Awards

The ACM's are to country music's CMA awards as the American Music Awards are to the Grammy's. Good stuff, but not the real deal. The show started out crappy. Reba, the host, should stick with singing. The best performances came from Leann Rimes, Keith Urban, and of course, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss.

Waiting for ?

It seems like I've been typing a lot more and writing a lot less. For a couple of months there I was having thoughts and analogies and lessons and memories with a point. Now I'm writing circumstantial stuff. I know it's important just to keep writing, but I'm ready for something earth shattering. Somthing that will turn "Left Behind" readers on their ears and will cause someone to go into seizures it's so good.

That's what I want. Someone to have seizures.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Whiskey Women and Andy Griffith...

There are two different themes that are running throughout the threads of contemporary country music right now.

The first is the recording of songs that have the theme of very non-traditional, strong, even tomboyish females who shun the values of glamor that are prevalent in culture. Toby Keith's "Whiskey Girl," in which he describes his woman who can't stand beer, champagne, or margaritas, because of the lack of burning tequila, and Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman," in which she celebrates the fact that she is comfortable drinking beer with a baby on her hip and her Christmas lights up year round, are just to such examples.

The other themes is that of a great desire to return to traditional American, Norman Rockwell-type, values. Examples of this are Rascal Flatt's "Mayberry," where they lament the fact that people don't sit on their front porches anymore and say hi, by name, to the neighbors passing by and Buddy Jewel's "Sweet Southern Comfort," which extols the great Southern ideals of hospitality, kindness, and catching fireflies by the creek.

And these two seemingly contradictory themes represent one of the great struggles of human kind. How much should we cling to the past and how much should we strive for the future.

It's also one of the great struggles of my life, and I don't know the answer. Finding a place in Chandler, or possibly even Carthage, with a front porch and the opportunity to catch up on the gossip at the drugstore, while working as a teacher and being a part of the life of a town, is a big temptation. Accusations of romanticizing the past aside, life was truly much better when that was an option.

But I also understand that I'm not the same person I was and that life would present it's own set of challenges. People who are spotted crossing the county line to the liquor store in Coffee City are stigmatized in places like Chandler. I'd never be able to teach Sunday School. I couldn't say "damn" in Chandler without many of the people praying for my soul.

So I'll keep one foot back there and one foot up here and hope that someday I will find balance.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Right Now...

At the moment it's pretty quite and I like that.

Now, what will I tell you today. I've got nothing.

A memory. Yeah, how about a memory.

There were times on Sunday morning when I felt like walking home after Sunday School. I always wanted to go to Sunday School because of the perfect attendance pins you got. There were some people in the church who had like 20 years perfect attendance pins and I knew I'd better get started if I wanted one of those. But after the obligatory roll check at Sunday School the television at my house on Neches street beckoned.


I guess I haven't shared that with you. I grew up a wrestling fan. NWA. National Wrestling Alliance. Which became WCW which was eventually, just a couple of years ago, bought out by Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation, also known as the WWF. I didn't watch the WWF much, it seemed too fake. Not legit enough. NWA however had branches in Texas and Louisiana and the closeness gave it a bit more credibility in my innocent eyes. Each branch had their own title and the NWA world title covered it all. Ric Flair was the NWA champion and I liked him for it, even though I knew I should hate him because of his rivalry with the Von Erichs, my idols. Fritz, David, Kevin, Kerry, Mike, and eventually Chris were gods in Texas.

I've sunk to an all time low, letting you in on the depth of my knowlege of wrestling. One time, on a bus in the country in between villages of Estonia in 1996, I talked for an entire hour about this stuff non stop. Luke kept asking the questions to keep my mouth going. I didn't know he was baiting me the entire time. When I finished talking I looked around and saw all 12 of my teammate's mouths wide open in disbelief of my acumen of wrestling information.

I knew a lot.

But back to the Von Erichs and them being Texas gods. At the family reunion I attended last weekend I picked up one of the many photo albums, perused the pages of my family, and got to a section that contained nothing but pictures and newspaper clippings of the Von Erichs. I secretly made fun of whoever put those in there. But somewhere in some box in between the many moves I've made since I left home, maybe it's still in Chandler, there are photo albums belonging to me that are stuffed full with wrestling pictures.

Tell me it's fake and I'll put you in a figure four leglock. It'll break your leg if I try hard enough. Trust me.

I'd stay up late on Saturdays to watch wrestling. 10:30 p.m. to midnight on Dallas' Channel 11, KTVT. During the week I'd go over to my friends house who had a revolutionary new machine that they called a VCR and watch tapes of wrestling.

And on Sundays I would sin and risk going to hell by skipping church, heading north on 5th street, veering off on Concord and taking a left on Neches to my house, and watching wrestling on cable channel 39. It was from the Sportatorium in Dallas. Saturday nights was from the Will Rogers Convention Center in Ft. Worth.

I remember this kind of stuff.

I bet you never had a clue.

Monday, May 24, 2004

All by Myself...

Tim's out of town, Kyle's out of town, and Jason is out of town. Looks like this is the week I save money on eating out.

Today was the first day back from work after a week of vacation. It's good to be back. I have such a wonderful job that is very easy on me. I actually feel some days as if I'm stealing money from the company because of the good times I have.

I think the sermon went well yesterday. My parents and sister and Brent were in town for it, which made me quite nervous. Being around family is quite rough at times because I know that, as much as they try, they can never truly understand me. I don't think it is unfair to say that, it's just the way it is. I think the hard part for them yesterday was trying to find categories to put me and my preaching and the worship and UBC in general into, and being quite unsuccesful. They are supportive, and I appreciate that. But I still long for their understanding.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Next to Godliness....

I finally did it. After a year and a half of taking up residence here at 2825-1 Austin Avenue, I finally cleaned my room. Oh, how I should have taken before and after pictures. It's a different room. It has a floor and space to walk around and my bed feels so much higher because there is no longer piles and piles of trash and clothes and boxes surrounding it. After my nap today I spent about thirty minutes sitting on my bed, admiring my work of art. I feel like a new man.

I knew I would. Blake used to tell me how good it makes you feel to come home to a clean room. That's why he used to sneak into my apartment in Feagin Hall and do a stealth cleaning mission. I appreciated it greatly. I sincerely did. But at the same time, I felt so dirty when it happened. I know that my friends know that I'm a slob, but when something happens to draw attention to my messiness, like a good cleaning, I feel about three feet tall. But at the same time, I felt like a king because he took the time to get knee deep into my mess, look around, and be able to say "I think I can do something with this." And he did. He made it disappear, knowing all along that it would reappear very soon.

That's the wonderful things about friends. After a time you pretty much get settled to the fact that people are going to do as people have done. Or to borrow an aphorism from good ol' Dr. Phil, "The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior." A good friend will walk beside you and choose to attempt to make something out of your mess, knowing full well that you will become messy again.

So here's to you Blake. Remind me to give you a key to my house when you move back to Texas in August. The mess will be waiting, and eager.

Friday, May 21, 2004


It's been a long day. I was in my car most of it driving around the state and back again. I think my car is about to punish me for it. It's making some not-so-comforting sounds. I fear it is nearing the end and I have neither the heart nor the wallet to replace it.

Mom's retirement party in Tyler was fun. I've often wondered how people at my mom's work handled being around her. You know, because she's looney. But meeting them I realized that she fit in perfectly. I think looney was a prerequisite for applying for the job.

But it really was special because you could tell that even though they were all crazy and weird in their own special ways, they all cared for each other. Which makes me appreciate my job because everyone there has a mutual respect for each other and everything is more or less ok.

You could do a lot worse than more or less ok.

From there I made my way back down to Temple for Erin Davis' art show at the Temple Cultural Activities Center. The biggest shock was that Temple had cultural activities, and a center to boot.

I really enjoyed Erin's stuff and wish I were artistically minded to enjoy it more. My vocabulary for describing how I felt about her paintings was quite limited. "Cool." "Awesome." "Pretty Colors." I felt special. You know..... SPECIAL

Thursday, May 20, 2004


I've spent all day working on this sermon and I'm now at the point I always get to where I look at what I have and tell myself "Oh, crap. This is horrible! The game is over, my masquerade is done."

And this time it could be true.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

My Biggest Demon.....

When we turned 16 we all got jobs and some of the parents taught how to save first, buy what you need, and spend a small amount on things you don't really need. My parents taught me how to apply for a loan and buy things without thinking about whether or not I can afford them and what the word "refinance" means. It's not their faught I turned out the way I did. There are many undesirable things they set the example for that I realized at a young age and moved beyond, so I only have myself to blame.

Brent sent the Financial Aid lady chocolates and flowers and got most of his college tuition paid for. I sent the Financial Aid lady chocolates and flowers and got $23,000 worth of student loan debt.

Truett wooed most of my friends with promises of money-for-school-out-the-ass. I walked into Grear Howard's office at least a half dozen times without him being there. Left my name and my concerns. Nothing. I emailed him and received a reply "I can get you $500. Hope that helps." Baylor tuition is something like ten thousand dollars an hour plus a good bending over while the Bears have their way with you. So no, Mr. Howard, that doesn't help.

I've long heard about, and from, people who needed money desperately for bills or school or a mission trip and prayed and went to their mailbox and "Voila!" to the dollar exactly what they needed from their aunt who God told to send a certain amount of money.

I think those people are full of crap. Of course God typically only does this with people who have aunts with money. It's a requirement for God's provision.

My aunts are just as poor as I am.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not asking for money. I'm asking for pity.

Just kidding, money will do just fine.

I'm off to see if I can find Kenneth and Gloria Copeland on TV. Maybe they are praying to adopt a nephew.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


It seems as if summer has officially begun. We cleared out the backside this afternoon in preparation for garage sale, to get ready for endless days of sorting and pricing items, managing interpersonal conflicts, and trips to Bush's Chicken and Sno Cones.

Long past are the days when a new summer brings with it new questions of how much longer I'll be staying in Waco. Looks like I'm here. Unknown, however, are the new questions that will spring forth. Maybe the questioning is over. Maybe reality has an entirely different category of questions for me. Guess I'll wait and see.

I've also managed today to put off preparing for my sermon for yet another day. I have the framework in my head, I just need to commit to working on it.

Monday, May 17, 2004


I've been on the couch for about an hour and a half watching a movie that I love (City of Angels,) but have seen so many times I'm reciting dialogue as it is happening. I've really been working hard at not coming over here to the computer to write something like I know I should. But I forced myself and here I am.

I heard something on some radio news show today about a pastor in Tennessee or something throwing a fit because the Anuity Board of the SBC has money in Carnival Cruise lines who sponsor some gay cruises and I'm thinking to myself, "Don't you have a faucet leaking or paint pealing off the walls or something around your house that needs your attention more than a company who is doing what companies do which is make money?" Fundamentalists talk a lot about slippery slopes and this is one if I've ever seen one. This guy is going to start with this and then start anathemitizing any company for anything that can be perceived "anti Christian."

I love the old Meg Ryan. The pre-plastic surgery Meg Ryan.

City of Angels is such a wonderful movie that explores basic epistemological quesions such as "How do you know?" and "How do you know that you know?"

I think it's a wonderful apologetic for the possibilty of God. And without the world of possibility, what do we have left? (An Ed quote.)

Sunday, May 16, 2004

American Joe....

I arrived at the First Church of the Nazarene in Kilgore, TX around 11:00 a.m. The only person I recognized, although everyone looked about the same, was my uncle Jackie who was playing with some kids out in the church parking lot. He's always been the uncle that all the nieces and nephew liked, so it seemed about right. I said hi to him, he asked when my parents would be there, I told them they had to stop in Tyler to get some hot tamales then he went back to playing with the kids. I decided to go in.

The reunion was for the families of my paternal grandfather's progeny and that of his sister, aint (aunt) Minny.

When I walked in Aunt Dottie, my dad's only living sister, was in the kitchen. I began to walk towards her when a lady who looked vaguely familiar stopped me in my tracks with her hand extended.

"I'm Polly Reed, how are you today?"

"Good thanks, I'm Craig Nash, it's good to meet you."

"Well I knowed you was a Nash from lookin' atcha. I just didn't know your first name."

Nash's look alike.

As human nature dictates I looked for the person who seemed to have the most stories and planted myself at their feet. That person was my second cousin, Wavy. Not sure his real name. It could really be Wavy. I didn't think to ask. Wavy is the son of my great Aint Minny, who passed away several decades before my birth. Wavy wore a western shirt. The kind people who listen to alternative music and have shaggy hair like to wear to try to be cool. I don't think cousin Wavy was trying to be cool. He has one tooth remaining. It's right up front and he displays it proudly, so I don't think he cares about being cool.


Josiah Nash shot a man named John Mae Gill in Louisiana early in the last decade of the 19th century. In running from "the law" he packed up his family and lived in southern Arkansas, Oklahoma, and eventually settled in Kilgore, TX, making it possible for me to cling to the homeland myth of "East Texas." This seems to be where he stopped running. Which makes sense because Nash's are not known for running, unless there's a buffet involved.

Josiah and his wife had several children. Only two lived to be adults: my great aint Minnie, and Cecil, my dad's dad. Several of Josiah's children died at childbirth. One young son was accidently dropped into a cookpot over a fire with boiling water inside. What a horrible tragedy. So tragic I feel bad for laughing at the story every time I hear it.

I've been interested for a couple of months in my family history and set out to begin work on studying it at this family reunion. But to my surprise, and joy, one of my uncles has already done a lot of the leg work. He's got pictures and certificates and newspaper clippings and notarized statements from government officials stating that Thomas Ash in the 1700's was a full blood Choctaw Indian. I think we're supposed to be proud about this. I kind of am.

And then there was the spiritual experience. I kid you not. I'm ravaging through these pictures like a person consumed with necessity and I run across a scrap of a black and whit photograph with a young boy, probably five or six, holding a gun out in the woods. "In the woods" is kind of redundant, I guess, since East Texas is all in the woods, and even moreso a hundred years ago.

It was me.

I could have sworn it was me. It was as if I was looking right into my eyes as a young child. Babyface. Innocence. An insatiable desire to please.

It wasn't really me. I found out it was my grandfather, Cecil Nash. He died when I was five or six. Wow. I just saw the irony or coincidence or whatever in that.

I have two memories of him. I remember holding his hand and walking him around the hallways at the nursing home he moved to after Maw Pood, my grandmother, passed away. I also remember him always asking me to show him my muscles, at which point I would flex for him. I could show you my muscles, but you wouldn't be as impressed as he was back then.

The eyes in the picture seemed to be looking straight through me. I think I'm going to start talking like a Native American or a New Ager who believes the dead can speak. Is there a crystal store here in Waco?

I really want to know about myself and I believe it's going to take a lot more than one family reunion and a very special photograph to teach me. But on the way back I think I realized something.

One of the unnamed family rules we have (every family has them) is Don't Offend. If conflict arises, you immediately walk away. Please people when possible. When not possible, just leave.

From Louisiana to Arkansas to Oklahoma to Texas. All the while running from the law. I'm sure throughout the years that the unwritten rule in the Josiah Nash clan was work as hard as you can at not drawing attention to yourself. Any attention could mean the death of the father.

Perhaps this is a stretch and maybe I'm trying to find meaning where meaning doesn't exist, but I think in some weird way my, and all my family's tendency, to please people is a way of us seeking redemption for the murder of John Mae Gill.

Or maybe that's just a good book I should write.

I've already thought of the title.

"American Joe."

Friday, May 14, 2004


I read something from someone not too long ago (working at a bookstore makes it hard to remember "who's" or "whens" so "someone" and "not too long ago" will have to suffice) that said the idea that belief is a one time thing that you step into, never to return, is a load of crap. I'm sure they didn't use "load of crap," but I'll bet they wanted to.

Maybe it was Thomas Merton.

Anyway, what this particular author said was that he had to wake up every morning and choose to believe. More importantly, for his belief to mean anything, he had to wake up every morning, read the New York Times to catch up on all the tragedy and disaster in the world, and then make a conscience choice to believe in God.

Sometimes, after reading the papers, he didn't believe in God.

But on the few days that he woke up, read the paper, and made a choice to believe, that belief was strong and eternal and enough to drown out all the unbelief days.

Or something along those lines.

I rarely wake up and make a deliberate decision to believe. In fact, over the past year or so, there has hardly been a time when I was deliberate about anything concerning being a Christian.

I don't feel this is a good thing.

But on some occasions I make it a point to go through the rituals that centuries of people who believe have found to be helpful in being a Christian, in seeking to know and interact with and wrestle with God, such as praying and reading my bible and other such things.

But I rarely feel those things are enough to drown out my "unbelief days."

If this seems random, this is one of my "pushing through" posts in which I'm just trying to write. To be faithful to this thing I seek to create.

Wow, what a concept. Pushing through. Being faithful. Getting the words down in hopes that something good will spring up out of all the muck.

Halle Berry just came into my mind. Actually Blake just crossed my mind because he called and we talked for a few minutes. Wait, let me check....21 minutes to be exact. But before that, Halle Berry crossed my mind.

And not in the way she normally crosses my mind.

I remember an interview with her after she won her Oscar a couple of years back. The interview was trying to be Oprah and get to the heart of Halle Berry and make her cry when thinking about her past. The question was something along the lines of (with a very sentimental, tear inducing tone..) "Halle, after all you've been through, how did you do it?" To which point she says "Well, I decided I was going to."

And all the fluff just faded away and it came down to a person making a decision and doing it.

And after God has done all he can do in extraordinary, flashy, deeply moving ways, it really all comes down to me saying, "This morning I decide to believe."

I want that.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Just a Quickie.... (Please remove your mind from the gutter.)

It's Thursday, the last day of the ten day work stretch, and I'm about to be late. It's been an extremely productive morning. Worked out, bought some groceries, booked my ticket to Seattle, and had a good talk with my mom.

I spent about an hour at the computer haggling Priceline and eventually came up with a pretty good deal. CMT was on the television in the living room and they played a video from the upcoming Crossroads with Brad Paisley and John Mayer. Both of them duetted (is that a word) on Mayer's "Why Georgia Why?" and it totally kicked ass. I can't wait to see the show. It's without a doubt one of the best things on television.

Well, off I go. Sorry the past couple of posts have been more circumstantial than substantive.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

One to go.....

I've worked nine days straight and have one more to finish before I begin my vacation. I'm feeling it. The tiredness is wearing on me.

My plans for vacation, you ask? Not much. I'm heading to Kilgore, TX on Saturday for the Nash family reunion. I'm really looking forward to that. I haven't decided if I'm coming back Saturday night or not, but I probably will. I don't want to miss the commissioning service for graduating seniors at church on Sunday morning.

No big plans for next week. On Friday I'll go back to Tyler for my mom's retirement party.

Any ideas for what I should do the rest of the days?

Sorry this post didn't move you. If it did... poor soul.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

More of the Same.....

I'm tired because I've worked seven days straight and have two more to go. And then I have ten days off.

I have nothing to write today but I decided to just type anyway because that's what everything I've ever read about writing says to do when you don't feel like writing.

I don't feel like writing so I'm writing.

It was a long day at work today and I only did one thing which was create a table for summer reading books. Most of them are classics that I should have read a long time ago but I haven't. I'd like to take some time this summer, since I have no television shows left, to read four or five of those books.

By the way, on my way back from Kyle's ranch on Saturday I heard this song that I have since learned is on Brad Paisley's newest CD and is a duet with him and Alison Krauss. I'm telling you, this song made me weep. I guarantee you within a few years this song with be considered a classic. It's called whiskey lullaby and I'll print the lyrics below because it'll fill up space and I really want you to see the lyrics even though it won't be as powerful without the music because Alison Krauss could sing the phone book and bring me to tears:

Whiskey Lullaby (Featuring Alison Krauss)
Bill Anderson/Jon Randall (BMI)

She put him out like the burnin' end of a midnight cigarette
She broke his heart he spent his whole life tryin' to forget
We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time
But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind
Until the night

1st Chorus
He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away her memory
Life is short but this time it was bigger
Than the strength he had to get up off his knees
We found him with his face down in the pillow
With a note that said I'll love her till I die
And when we buried him beneath the willow
The angels sang a whiskey lullaby

(Sing lullaby-- la, la, la, la, la, etc.)

The rumors flew but nobody knew how much she blamed herself
For years and years she tried to hide the whiskey on her breath
She finally drank her pain away a little at a time
But she never could get drunk enough to get him off her mind
Until the night

2nd Chorus
She put that bottle to her head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away his memory
Life is short but this time it was bigger
Than the strength she had to get up off her knees
We found her with her face down in the pillow
Clinging to his picture for dear life
We laid her next to him beneath the willow
While the angels sang a whiskey lullaby

(Sing lullaby- la, la, la, la, etc.)

And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

In My Mind.....

Occasionally my mind takes me back to Carthage. I'm on the front porch of a tiny three bedroom house on Price street. My bare feet are playing around on the old, worn out, green astroturf type material used to cover the concrete. Picture a freshly cut Brady yard, but on the porch.

The chair I'm sitting in is an old wood lawn chair with plastic padding that used to be green with flower prints covering one side. Next to me is my grandmother on a matching chair.

It's quiet. Only the sound of birds. My grandmother loved birds which is why she had several humming bird feeders and an antique bird bath with a ceramic frog that sat in the center.

When the breeze flows through the trees you can hear the sound of leaves, like thousands of soft-pieces of paper being crumpled up at random intervals. It begins and ends as it pleases.

On the porch, to my left, is an old aluminum pan used to feed the stray cats that need survival food.

Hanging from the awning are nondescript windchimes. Hanging down the center is a simple piece of hard plastic cut in the shape of a circle. You sit there long enough and the trance created will make you not even notice the chimes clanging away.

To the right of my grandmother, just off the porch, is her rose bushes. They still put out a few roses a year, but not near as much as an earlier time before her legs began to get tired from years of taking care of people. But the remnant are just as pretty as during their glory years. Mostly yellow roses, but a few pink and red still linger.

A couple of times a week an elderly person will drive by in a tank of a car and decide to stop and get out and pay a visit.

"Well hi-dee," my grandmother would say to the visitors who would then say they were just passing through and decided to stop and say hello. I think when you get old you do that even for acquaintances. That's the beauty of living a long time. You get to be in a club where the ordinary rules of who you hang out with no longer apply. People who just knew each other in passing decades earlier become visit-worthy in their seventies and eighties.

Perhaps we should start that earlier. Why don't we visit each other more often, without calling? What are we afraid of?

But back to the scene I'm trying to remember.

"This is my grandson. He's my youngest." Which always made me proud. My cousins have kids that were her grandchildren of the great variety, but I got to be her "youngest." In the course of her life as a grandmother almost all of her grandchildren lived with her, stole money from her, took advantage of her on at least several occasionas. But not me. And because of that I think I gained the status as her favorite. She would never say that, but the look in her eyes gave it away.

When the visitors leave she'll head back in the house to pour both of us a glass of her homemade iced tea, enough sugar to give you diabetes within a couple of days.

As she sits down she'll begin to shake her tea glass. When I was real little I wondered why she and my Paw Paw did that. She said she figured it was just old age. But then I realized the secret. Homemade iced tea was always served hot, poured over ice. Most of the ice would melt leaving warm tea on the bottom with a few ice chunks on top. The shaking of the tea glass helped distribute the cold throughout the glass. It really is sheer genius if you ask me.

We sit on the porch after lunch. Then lunch. Then a nap. Then we head back out to the porch to sit some more until dinner. Inside for dinner and back out to sit until the sun goes down and the first mosquito bite.

This is my memory that I wanted to share with you.

Friday, May 07, 2004


So I was in Dallas today for a meeting that lasted way too long and was boring but necessary because I learned a lot of things I needed to know for my job.

I arrived home around 7:00. Came here, sat down to the computer, went through the ritual. Email, check blog, check message boards,, repeat.

Have meandered around the house for the past couple of hours. Watched more "Friends" type stuff. Oprah interview. Tonight Show. Watched several of the high points of the show.

As I walked back to the computer I decided to take a slower stride. I noticed how quiet it was in the house.

Quiet. On a Friday night.

Last night there was laughter and tears. Hugs. Friends, real and made up. All the great stuff of life.

Sometime in the future, perhaps tonight, perhaps at a later date, there will be more laughter. More tears. More friends.

But right now. Silence. The sound of keys. Computer keys.

A car driving by that needs more sound control.

But in the midst of that, silence.

Friday nights and Saturday nights and when you're in college, Thursday nights, are nights generally set aside to be with people. The world leaves it's dwelling to be "other places."

But sometimes, every once and a while, it's a great feeling to be alone on those nights.

Knowing that your friends are with their friends and laughing and crying and doing whatever is necessary to hold on to each other tight, in their own way. And knowing that eventually they will be where you are trying to hold on tight to you..... but that at this moment you're alone with your thoughts and your God and the..... silence.

That's a good thing.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

It's over and it was good because it didn't feel forced but it didn't shy away from emotion. It never did. It always gave it's audience just enough time to cry before the laugh came. And it understood the rhythms of life happened in this manner. Crying and fear and laughter and remembrance and love and being on a search for people who make you feel truly "you" in a way that no one else can was the fare.

And it's easy to see that deep down the creators of the show weren't just writing fictional characters. The were writing the stories of a generation of people whose job was a joke and who were broke and whose love lives were rearranged. But who found people to be the most important place in the world-- "there."

Where is there?

For you. And me.
More Pushing Through.....

So I've decided to at least try to become a better writer. And I'm not in it to get published. I think. I really need a craft. In high school I had music but after that there has been absolutely nothing I knew how to do.

The reason I'm telling you this is because I looked at "Bird by Bird," one of my all time favorite books, and read the chapter on writers block where Ann tells us that maybe the problem isn't writers block but rather the fact that we're empty, like when your spouse locks you out of the house the problem isn't with the door. The remedy to writers block, according to Ann, is to get down your 300 words a day and go about living.

So I'm going to try to write every day, no matter what kind of crap I put down.


Why I Go to UBC....

As I mentioned a few posts ago there was a critique of my church on one of those satirical publications certain college students put out that give them the self-impression of legitimacy. You know, like blogs. (You see how masterfully I did that? I expressed my disdain for those people, and yet anticipated the backlash that would come from intelligent people who see my double standards. So I affirmed my double standards and, in effect, one-upped those that would critique my critique. Applause accepted.) Anyway, I must say that the article was very well thought out and the writer seems very bright. Although I feel that his/her conclusions defeats his/her argument, I still respect whoever wrote it. They obviously have a background in philosophy and reformed theology that make them especially equipped in engaging in a conversation concernign anything in all of reality and the ability to set themselves up for victory by using the fine art of framing the conversation. I respect people who can do that. Seriously.

Before getting to the stuff I intended to write, let me just say this interesting thing I noticed from the publication. ( When trying to explain why they remain anonymous they come up with some lame ass answer that by removing their names and using fake ones they are then able to create a discussion that is about the ideas put forth and not about the personalities behind those ideas. Well that's all fine and good if we're living in a perfect Platonic universe that allows thoughts and selves to be independant, but that's not the way things work down here in my world. You can never divorce an idea from the person supporting it. And the nature of language requires that the person using the language be held accountable to the words said. Which can't be done if you're anonymous. So, in the meantime, someone can voice a whole world of ideas and protect themselves from the deconstruction of those ideas by another person.

Not sure if that made sense to you. It did to me. But I came up with it, so of course it would.

Anyway, to speed this up because I've got to go to bed so I can be at work tomorrow at 7:00 and be done with errands in time to watch friends, I need to get to the point.

This guy that I know of named Coleman who I don't think I've ever spoken to but who is friends with some of my friends and who looks really smart and I think might be a little shy because he doesn't say much to me when I see him, quite often, at my place of work and who blogs and who, aside from looking really smart, also has the reputation of being smart and it just two clicks away from my blog by cliking "Jason" or "Myles" and then "Bending Faith" on either one of thoses blogs..... he references the UBC article and also makes some keen insight.

Which, you know, there seems to be an entire culture in which the sole purpose is to critique other people's churches. Not to say that I'm immune. I make fun of Antioch and other churches with the best of them. But that doesn't make it more right. Or wrong.

There's a million things that could be said about UBC that would be 100% honest and 100% accurate and 100% scathing at the same time. I'm aware of that. I think most of us there are aware of it. The average age is probably around 24. (My age brings that up quite a bit.) It's hard to escape the accusations of consumerism when you look at that statistic. It's also hard to find a brother or sister with much life experience there. The music is rock music, also adding to the accusations of consumerism and the impression that, because the music is loud, and good, then there is no theological or historical content in it. That would be a wrong assesment, but I can see where you might could come to that conclusion if you just walked in and heard "rock music" playing. Diesel Jeans, Common Grounds, people who hold progressive ideas to be cool, people who hold progressive ideas because they've thought a little about it, Fair Trade, Coldplay, Radiohead, Democrats, Green Party people, Greeks, Damien Rice and any other yet-to be known cool artist, Dallas and Houston suburbanites who drive SUV's and who only hold a part time job because it builds character and not because of financial need, Baylor, Baylor, Baylor, and more Baylor. All stereotypes that, in at least a small way, can be proven to be at least >50% true.

It all makes for an easy target.

(Trust me, I'm not setting us up to be a martyr here. I'm aware, and agree that, any instution is open to public scrutiny.)

But none of that crap, nor any of the theological, philosophical, or epistemological leanings of the church is why I get up on Sunday mornings and make the trek to 18th and Dutton to go to church. It might have been what drew me there, but it's not what keeps me there.

Why do I go to UBC?

-- There's a seat for me there. Ususally the same one. Over the years my space has become sacred. The world could crumble around me but I'll still have a seat there.

-- Erin, who grew up in a non-church background and was accosted by her Baylor roommates that she refers to as "The Poster Children for the Southern Baptist Convention," found a place at UBC to question God and to feel comfortable. We appreciate the art she puts on canvas and the smile she puts on our faces. And she'll always be the first to inform us when phrases we say are only understood by people who grew up in church.

-- I can place the word "Stuckey" in front of any noun I please and there will be people who understand me. And feel my pain.

-- At Coffee and Culture people who support abortion, oppose it, think the President is wonderful, think the president is scum, believes in predestination, believes cocaine should be legalized, thinks guns should be in the hands of every American, thinks all guns should be taken away, and who occupy any other conceivable spot on the cultural spectrum, all come together and talk and scream and yell and get offended and get challenged and change and get inspired to figure out what it really means to follow Jesus in this world-- and at the end of the evening walk out as friends. Family.

-- Even though Ben generally beats me at Warrio Stadium, I kick his ass on the Beach and Rainbow Road.

-- Wesley has this cool thing where she doesn't want to be noticed. And it's real genuine. So genuine she'd kill me for writing about it. But it makes me think about the many times Jesus spoke of humility and doing things in private and, most of all, about loving.

-- Matt Singleton can make you feel good just being around him.

-- You should hear Avery sing.

-- You should hear Avery scream. You'd think she was Job.

-- Most people LOVE me reading from my hometown paper. They think it's funny. But more than that, they see what it means to me and they oblige me the few moments it takes.

-- Lance and I aren't best friends, but I feel like he's a brother in the sense that our lives have ran pretty much parallel to each other.

-- The music really does rock.

-- You should hear some of the things Jamie says that puts me in stitches.

-- There are so many of us that have really messed up lives and create really messed up realities and crave attention and make big asses of ourselves. It makes me feel a special kinship with 12 other guys from a couple of thousand years ago.

-- Jude can say my name and Sutton loves to be cuddly.

-- John was afraid of kindergarten because of the big black people. He was honest. I prayed for him. He's almost made it through the year, about a foot taller and a year wiser. It's fun to see God work in the lives of his children over a years period.

-- Ben and Jamie have a secret nickname for me that hopefully will remain secret, as long as I don't make fun of them about anything.

-- There are some extemely smart and passionate people there who have a passion for being God's representative in this world and who take words of Jesus to be salt and light seriously.

-- Kyle and I have the best talks and laughs and nuances of conversation tones that are only understood by the two of us. He cares for me more than any pastor ever could. Perhaps my longing for belonging that was expressed in the previous post was most fulfilled by him being Jesus to me.

-- Jen takes care of me sometimes like a mom.

-- It seems I've fallen into a place where true, genuine, thoughtful and demonstrative love is expressed in microscopic ways.

-- I could go on.

-- And on.

-- And on.

-- But I won't.

But suffice it to say, critique is necessary. Critique is good. It makes you assess your motives and who you are and Who you are serving. But in the end you just have to shrug your shoulders and say..."Ok. Thanks for the imput. We will consider it. Now go about your merry little way and be fully in the place you are called bo be. We'll get back to our stuff, you get back to yours."

Sunday, May 02, 2004

What Now?

Let me tell you a secret.

It was a revelation that came to me this afternoon while standing in the field outside a small, white framed church on the borderlands of McLennan and Coryell counties in the rural community of Osage, TX. ( For a few days now I've been frustrated at the lack of inspiration coming to me in my writing life. So, having a day off, I decided to do something that I did often my first year in Waco, but haven't done since. I put gas in my car and I drove. I drove until I found a county road that took me away from even the smallest of towns and I followed it until I found a place to get out and walk around. About ten miles off of a major highway I happened upon New Canaan Baptist Church. New Canaan. Intersting name. The New Promised Land. I got out, walked around, and spent the better part of an hour just standing and looking out at the country.

During one moment, seemingly frozen in time, standing in a field with my hands down, palms out, fingers stretched to the ground in a pose that would make it into some of the best music videos, or worst Christian movies, with the strong breeze working the acoustics of my ears, my eyes mesmerized by the tall grass being moved by the wind in such a way that made me think I could just as easy be standing in the ocean, waves crashing all around me, I had this thought. It's the secret I want to let you in on.

I spent over a quarter century (sounds cool and authorative, doesn't it?) with a tremendous desire to, and feeling that I didn't, belong. It was a struggle. A serious war that waged within me causing me great distress and many sleepless nights. And a lot of crying. Serious crying. The type of crying that makes your throat sore.

You didn't know about this? You wouldn't. I knew that exposing my self-esteem issues might create conditions for sympathy-induced belonging. But I also knew what a burden I would be to others if they knew how needy I was and risking being thrown out of a group because of my attachment problems. That was a risk I coudn't take.

So in my younger years I became loud and funny, hoping to belong. In high school I joined groups and sought leadership positions, hoping to belong. In my early college years I found "true, authentic, Holy Spirit filled, fellowship of the unashamed" Christianity, hoping to belong. Later on in college I tried to become intellectual, hoping to belong. For the longest period I would never turn down a single offer to hang out or help out, no matter how inconvenient it was. Because if I said no to a social gathering or a dinner or a ball game or a visit or a chance to help someon out, I might not get asked again and I wouldn't belong. In any position I held in which the hierarchical system placed me above another, I was always the lenient one. Cool people belong and I wanted to be cool.

I worked and I maneuvered and I postured. Just so I would belong. And when I didn't feel I belonged, I cried and grieved and developed a new personality or craft or schtick and I worked harder and harder just so you'd like me. And it worked. And I got good at it. I'm still good at it.

And today, standing in the field in front of New Canaan Baptist Church in the middle of Nowhere, Tx, letting the breeze blow through me like healing waters I had the realization that it's been over three years since I've stayed up at night crying over someone or a group of someones I perceived as not wanting me. I've actually, several times over the past few years, said "no" to opportunities of hanging out with people for the sole purpose of spending time with myself. I know there are people who care for me deeply and I've learned how to have the grace to receive their love.

And this has all happened slowly. But, now that I think about it, the catalyst was leaving my position at Baylor. I spent a year there trying to belong and feeling that I didn't. My ideas weren't appreciated. They were listened to in the same way a yuppie preacher listens to your ideas in order to get you on their side, then throws them away. I was denied a position in favor of people who were less qualified than I. And, you know, I guess I was just at that point in my life where I had had enough and came to my senses and said "Fuck* you and your goddamned* bureaucratic shit and your organizational system that values efficiency over people and your implicit support of a student culture in which the caricatures of the "rich, snobby, inconsiderate baylor student" is a stereotype rooted in reality. If you don't want me, screw you. I don't want you either." In so many words that looked more like, "As of August 1, 2001 I am resigning my position......"***

Wow. Seriously, I didn't go into that last paragraph with the intention of coming out of it in the way I did. I guess I still have issues I need to deal with.

Anyway, back to the field and wind and grass and revelation. Minus a few Baylor issues that need to be dealt with, but probably won't, I realized that God has slowly changed me. I don't say that lightly. I've always thought that when God "works in your heart" that he does it over a fairly short period of time. Maybe a few days and bam!, your changed.

That was the first part of the realization. The second part is more interesting.

A few years ago in a group conversation at church someone made this very keen insight. When talking about "issues" that each of us carry around with us he made the point that, even though we want God to "fix us" of those problems, deep down there's something within us that wants to hold on to them. Why? Because those are some of the only things that we can truly call "mine."

And so this lifelong struggle of belonging that caused so much grief is mostly gone. But, it's weird, I feel kind of empty because of it. Which makes me think, maybe it's not gone at all, just hiding and waiting for an opportune moment. Or maybe it is gone and I don't know what to replace it with.

But I do. I really do. It's obvious what it should be replaced with.

But seriously, what does that look like?

That's the secret I'd like to know.


*It's been a while since I've used such offensive language. Please know that I pray every day, try to read my Bible as much as possible, have commited myself to a Christian community that cares about me, and am a Christian. If you feel my use of such words defies intellectualism, then fine. If you feel it makes me a worse Christian than you, then that's fine as well. I respect, but disagree, with your assesment. I tried to use other words but none of them created the desired effect.

*** If you are a Baylor student or alumni of Baylor, and are reading this blog, you probably already know that my thoughts don't reflect you or your kin. But I have to speak the truth as I've experienced it.