Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Quote of the Week...

So I'm at Kyle and Jen's house of kids today hanging out. I gave Jen a little repose from the noise for a couple of hours. When she came back and Kyle came home we started getting ready for a monumental day in Avery's life, her first sleepover. She was having her friend Maddie, who turns four tomorrow, over for the night. Maddie seemed a little nervous at first but eventually warmed up to the new surroundings.

As the boys were running around, all up into the girls' business, Kyle and I looked into the kitchen and saw a confused look on Maddie's face. She was staring at Jude and Sutton (the twins,) quite perplexed. Finally she got enough nerve to point to both of them and ask the funniest question.... "Why are they the same?"

God, I love kids.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hitchen's Article...

Blair pointed this out to me so I thought I'd pass it along. It's an article by Christopher Hitchens, a writer for Vanity Fair, and one of the most liberal columnists in America, and also one of the most intelligent, about Fahrenheit 9/11.

If you have time, check it out. It can be a little tedious to read, but is well worth it.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Every review I've read about Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a good review. Most rave about the excellent filmmaking. But every single movie critic has not failed to mention that there is a lot of manipulation, propaganda, and "cut and paste" storytelling going on. I can understand having integrity, recognizing certain rhetorical fallacies and manipulative techniques in, say, a movie about dragons or dinosaurs or even love, but shouldn't a documentary be held to a higher standard? Shouldn't propoganda and manipulation be the sign of a bad documentary?

Am I crazy here, or is what the reviewers really saying is that the movie isn't a fair and balanced look at truth, but rather it's something that we agree with so we're going to give it a good review?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Not My Best Creative Days...

If you've recently discovered this blog through the endless web of blogs I'm connecting to, please know I used to be a good blogger. I really did. I had stuff that would make you cry. It made me cry. Laugh too.

Right now I suck though. I'm the L.A. Lakers of the early 90's and the Dallas Cowboys of the mid 80's. I'm Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines and Michael Jackson's "Blood on the Dance Floor" album.

My best days are not upon me. They are behind me and ahead of me. Like Arnold, I'll be back. Hopefully.

In the meantime scroll down to blogs from November-February and reminisce. That last word is probably mispelled.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Just Like Little House...

After my first trip to Estonia in the summer of '96 I returned home to a different world. Actually I think the world had remained the same, I had changed. The people I loved at the camp I had worked at for the previous six years were involved in conflicts, causing one family to leave and the other to remain bitter. I was close to all sides and was sickened by the whole thing and didn't understand any of it. No one would tell me what happened. When it comes to relationships it was well known that I'm a sensitive person, so I think everyone wanted me to remain in the dark about things, not wanting my to have to choose side. That was very nice of them, but I still don't know what went down. Andre and Rox left town, Doug and Debbie stayed around for a while longer then jetted, and Jeanette passed away (see post from Wednesday, February 11, 2004.)

The church I had worked with the youth at for the previous three years was moving faster and faster into the direction of a church I didn't want to be a part of. Health and Wealth. Slayings (of the Spirit kind.) Tongues. Spiritual hierarchies based on ecstatic experiences. Shit of that variety. They guy I had worked for was fired under the guise of "We're going to give you a sabbatical to evaluate your spiritual life (i.e. give you a chance to speak in tongues) while we pretend to be praying for you, all the while looking for your replacement who will teach 'Things of the Spirit.'"

I couldn't handle that so I split and decided to find a place in the town I went to college in rather than commuting and hour, as I had been doing.

Not wanting to church shop (I've never been big on the itinerant method of finding a church popularized by most college students,) I found a place fairly quickly at Port Caddo Baptist Church in Marshall. I had a few friends who went there and decided to give it a try.

Looking back, and seeing how struggles with other believers can sometimes completely derail the faith of people, I realize now what a pivotal choice going to Port Caddo was in my spiritual development. The church is located a few miles outside of town on a country road that takes you to parts unknown. It's small and surrounded by nothing much more than trees and fields. There were few people on the inside. A hundred-fifty would be an extremely liberal guess. There were more as the years went on, but I'll always remember it as the small group of believers in what seemed like the frontier of the world.

I remember having to stay in town over the holidays one year and having the most profound experience worshipping with the remnant of old people left after the mass exodus of ETBU students. On one of those days it was cold and icy and lonely, there were no more than five cars in the parking lot as I drove up. I was there late. As I walked in I made it a point to take slow steps. I had one of the most extremely peaceful moments with God I've ever been given. I suppose the quiet, desolate feel made it easier for me to be open to that. In my mind I thought about the previous year and being hurt and the noise and clamor that goes on in cities-- even cities as small as Marshall. And I thought about the building I was about to walk into and how it would be quiet. I knew the little old lady with purple hair would have made banana bread for the college students still left in town, even though I was the only one. I knew the poor family with a lot of missing teeth would be there and would be so happy to see me. I knew we would sing the most life giving songs ever written-- "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, oh what a foretaste of glory divine," and "On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross... so I'll cling to that old rugged cross." Songs like that somehow reach deeper down into your bones when it's just you and a rag tag group of 10-12 other people huddled together outside of the cold, paralyzing wind.

During that year I learned that hope and healing is found in the quietest of places on the edge of the world with the most unassuming people and structures.

I haven't been motivated to write lately. I think it's because my world lately has been consumed with the back-and-forth drive in the concrete jungle. I need frontier to feel at home at times.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

About Reagan...

When it comes to economic discussions I feel about as inadequate participating as I have slowly come to feel about participating in many of the theological discussions that pepper the blogs of my friends. There are far too many people who possess intellects that soar much higher than mine who dedicate their lives to the honest study of both disciplines, unbound by agendas, who come to vastly different conclusions on things. I would not dare assign blame or credit for any economic boom or bust to any one school of thought. Consider me an economic agnostic. Some say the boom of the eighties was because of a largely Democratic congress. Some say the boom of the nineties was because of the Republican presidencies of the eighties and the economic downturn under Bush was because of things Clinton did, while some blame the latter on the current Republican President and Congress. Who knows? I can't argue for or against Reaganomics.

I know a little bit more about foreign affairs, but not enough to claim any knowlege higher than anyone who watches the news and reads the paper. I agree that the fall of the Soviet system was the greatest accomplishment of the Reagan presidency, but I also think people make a very strong point in recognizing that the U.S.S.R. collapsed on it's own and the only credit Reagan should receive is due to him being the first American President who had the balls to confront and push down a tree that had long shown signs of decay.

I believe Reagan was one of our greatest presidents but I can't ignore the fact that, justified or not, he was seen as a very polarizing figure who marginalized minorities and the poor.

My head spins constantly with the complexity of politics, and yet it fascinates me more than anything else.

But one thing is simple and clear in my mind. As a fifth grader in 1986 who sat in a classroom and watched the replay of the Challenger disaster, I went home that January day feeling weird. Sad. A little scared. But that night, watching a President that I was told not to like by my parents (a reason many people still don't like political figures,) I felt a strange sense of comfort. I didn't understand all the things he said but I sensed his words expressed a much higher ideal and reality than what I had learned to believe in. And I felt more or less o.k. after hearing him speak. I then returned to my inherited political heritage and wouldn't rejoin kinship with Reagan until early in my college years.

Reagan's acumen with words should not be trivialized. One of my favorite scenes from any movie is in Contact, when Jodie Foster sees the horrible beauty of other worlds and comments that they sent the wrong person. They should have sent a poet.

Ronald Reagan was the poet we needed during very difficult times in our country's history. His speeches, most of which were his own words, even if a little out of sync with reality, held up a virtuous ideal for America. He made us at least consider the possibility that we are a great nation. He showed us, by action, that poisonous political divisions among government officials were ok before 5:00, but after the workday there was no such thing as Republicans and Democrats, just Americans. The thing I've heard most about him the past few days, from political friends and foes alike, was that he never, even when the opportunity was handed to him on a platter, spoke in a malicious fashion against another person. He really did appeal to our best selves and not our worst fears.

I fear Reagans optimism and vision for America is soon to be lost. Cynicism, the tool of the lazy mind, leaves no room for such idealized notions of America as a great nation.

But we are a great nation. We have plenty of scars and blemishes and even, at times, a tendency to blindly do evil things. But the great thing is that we, as a people, want to be good. We want to be great. Reagan told us we were great, and we believed him.

I'll close, as is the tendency for me when I don't have a good closing, with a quote from Reagan's farewell address:

I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Just Words...

Since I had Sunday-Tuesday off due to the holiday the end of this week has been a bitch. A weird work schedule, coupled with trying my hardest to get at least an hour workout in after I get off, and a cold that is lingering around, has made for one tired Craig. I don't have much to say, but I'll say stuff anyway.

I've really been digging the "Mud on the Tires" cd by Brad Paisley. When I first heard his stuff on the radio I didn't care to much for it, but it's growing on me. There's such an innocent and dry humor throughout a lot of his stuff that is reminiscent of a lot of 80's country music. It's refreshing to hear.

David Sedaris' new book came out this week and I'm slowly going through it. It's not as funny as some of his other stuff, but it's very well written, and there are a few laugh-out-loud moments in it.

Nothing's been on the television lately, so I've largely avoided it. I missed the Real World/Road Rules Inferno reunion show, but I'm sure it'll be on a million times in the next few weeks. I think there's a new Road Rules starting next week. I haven't followed the last few seasons of that. I think I'm going to give it a try this time around.

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Issues of Ultimate Concern...

Last night the ailment that plagued my childhood returned with a vengeance. Earache. It started while we were at Mr. Snow and progressively got worse until late in the evening. Aside from backaches, toothaches, and a swift kick to the scrotum, there is no pain in the world as intense, from my experience, as an earache. As a child I can remember being balled up on the couch for days on end just wishing I would die so the pain would stop. Three surgeries for the installation of tubes and many doctor visits later and I was ok. My ears were scarred up like battle wounds and my sense of hearing has much to be desired, but the pain slowly started to go away. Until last night. Thanks to Tylenol, eardrops, genuine compassionate words from Christy, and a trek across the street by Tom to borrow a heating pad from Tracey, I feel much better.

While I was in the fetal position waiting for the elements to work their magic I thought of two people. The first was my mom. I actually reached for my phone several times and started to dial Chandler so I could just tell my mom, in a baby voice, "My ear hearts!" That's what I did when I was a kid. It's amazing as a child how just your parents knowing you hurt can make you feel better. All they have to do is let you snuggle next to them and the pain may not go away, but it at least becomes a bit more bearable. I refrained from actually calling her because yesterday was her first official day of retirement and I'm quite sure I would have heard a knock on the door about an hour and a half after I hung up with her.

The other person I thought about was Sutton, my friend of almost two years. We've known each other all of his life and what sometimes seems like most of mine. If you don't know the Lake kids, let me give you a brief synopsis. Avery, 3,is the diva, the drama queen, who can go from fits of joy to fits of rage within moments. Jude, 23 mos., is constantly playful and silly, like his dad. He's quickly learning how making funny faces can make other people laugh. Sutton, Jude's twin brother, we call "loverboy" because he is cuddly and affectionate. When I see Avery and pick her up, she almost always has something to tell me. When I see Jude and pick him up, he almost always slaps his head with his hand, because that's what we do when we sing "It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring...," and he laughes hysterically when I slap my head. When I see Sutton and pick him up, he always wraps his arms around me, as far as they'll go, put his cheek on my shoulder, and squeeze like he's trying to pop the life right out of me. When we get to the "...great big hug and a kiss from me to you..." part of the Barney song, it's not complete for Sutton unless he actually performs the words to the song.

Sutton loves to hug and he loves to cuddle.

I woke up this morning feeling much better. I went to work out then came home and lounged around the house most of the day. Took a couple of naps, picked up "Life of Pi" again to give it another go, checked email, read a few blogs, watched a little television, then went to be with my little friends for the evening.

Because of my past, growing up Christian, of the Baptist variety, and being somewhat theologically educated, I guess I'll never be able to get away from all the debates that go on in certain circles. At times I run headlong into them, confident that I've got truth on my side and will win. Other times I put my feet in tepidly, quite sure that I will be defeated, and at least pretend to be willing to learn a few things. Other times I pretend to not care, to be above those trivial arguments. And some times I really don't care, like now.

Fundamentalist? Postmodern? Modern? Reformed? 1963 or 2000 Baptist Faith and Message? Innerancy? Infallibility? Tongues ceased or continuing? SBC, BGCT, SBT, CBF, BWA? Moderate, conservative, or liberal? Women pastors?

Yeah, ok, whatever. Go ahead and put my name in whatever column you want me to be in. I could defend either one, but I'll cling to none.

Jesus said that whoever drinks the water he gives will never thirst, and that he'll be with us wherever we go, even to the ends of the earth, and that we should love one another. I'll cling to that.

Blake commented on Mark's blog that "our many re-unions with others are a sacred foretaste of the future kingdom... and, as iron on iron, the living fabric of our sanctification," and I realized it is less than a month until I will see him again, and I smiled. I'll cling to that.

I'll cling to the knowlege that people love me and pray for me.

Tonight, worn out from a long play session, I put the cartoons in the DVD player and plopped down on the couch. Sutton was the first in my arms. I was laying down and he came and laid right on top of me, head on my chest, curled up in the way kids do that suggests they just can't get close enough to you, positioned so he could see the television. Avery sat at my feet. Jude wedged himself in my arm that was closest to the couch and unknowingly grabbed my hand as he watched tv. As the night went on something happened that startled Jude. I think he was close to falling asleep and he realized he wasn't in his bed. He came to his senses, looked up at me, smiled, and said "I bub boo Craig." (Translation: I love you Craig.)

After that I could retire from theological conversation for good.

Those are my issues of ultimate concern.