Friday, December 31, 2004

YES!! YES!! YES!! IT'S TRUE!! January 17, Noon.


Sacred Text...

I just realized today that I have not purchased a Bible since February of 2000 when I was working at ETBU and took a group of students to the National Black Student Converence in Atlanta (Georgia, not Texas) and upon realizing I left my Bible at home stopped at a bookstore in a mall and bought a $7 (coincidence? I think not) paperback NIV. I held on to that Bible for quite some time.

Truth is, since college I have rarely had to purchase a Bible. With a 12 month exception, I have always worked at places (Christian Universities and Churches) where there were Bibles just laying around. Well, add to those 12 months another however many months it's been since I haven't worked at either, but have had regular access to the lost Bible filing cabinet in my church office. Generally in my world Bibles are like pens. Who buys pens? Seriously, I bet about 7% of the world buys pens for those 93% of us who don't buy pens. Take the pen you have closest to you right now. Did you buy it? I didn't think so.

Today I decided it was high time I stop letting other people buy Bibles for me and buy one of my own. So I went to my place of work, which happens to be a bookstore and happens to sell Bibles, to purchase my first Bible since Atlanta.

I was not expecting the Bible search to be as daunting as it was. A couple of things aided the daunt.

I have and will always speak well of my Christian liberal arts education. Most people leave ETBU and enter "the world" with an inferiority complex. Not me. I feel I was well trained to think on feet and to be fairly confident in the midst of society. But one negative my theological education placed on my psyche was a fear of getting the Bible right. It seemed like all manner of sins would be forgiven. Sexual sins, alcoholism, theft, sloth, even missing a couple of Sunday morning services. All would be covered by the grace of an ever loving God. But getting the Bible wrong. You're on shaky ground there.

I've actually forgotten what type of Bible I am supposed to own in order to be a Good Christian. Because, when you think about it, well, when I thought about it on my Bible shopping excursion today, what type of Bible you own says a lot about what kind of Christian you are. I know Dr. Bob advocated looking at several texts side by side to see where they lined up and where they differed. But surely he had a preference, didn't he? Not too long ago I acquired from the Lost Bible Filing Cabinet at UBC a New American Standard Bible. I read it a little and decided it would do. But recently I seem to remember someone... was it a professor or a classmate?... from ETBU who said something negative about the NASB and I have since been real hesitant about letting people see the spine of my New American Standard out of fear that I would be given a questioning glare. I remember in high shool and college using the New International Version but I know some people who think the NIV is like a training Bible.. something to be used to get you accustomed to God's Holy Word before you move on to the real stuff. I know it's ok not to use the King James because it's a bad translation but I really like the New King James but I have voices in my head from the past saying the New King James isn't good either. Those same voices tell me to avoid paraphrases like the Living Bible and the Message. But my pastor generally uses the Message and I like reading the Message and I've yet to hear anyone question Eugene Peterson's scholarship, although I'm sure there's someone somewhere concocting a challenge to it. And do I really want people thinking I need a paraphrase to understand Scripture? Aint I supposed to be smart? Damn, the voices.

I knew there were questions about translations and paraphrases and versions but I faced something in the store today that I never faced before. Something that cuts much deeper than what type of Bible I purchased. Something that transcends questions of Greek and word-for-word vs. phras-for-phrase translation. The Cover. Back in the day Bibles came in leather of various single tone colors, paper of various single tone colors, and a hard cardboard of varios single tone colors. Not today. You should have seen the choices I had. If I go with The Message do I go with the leather bound, which costs more than I was willing to pay (perhaps a sin? I don't know,) or the paperback or large hardback with dust cover or smaller hardback titled THEMESSAGE//REMIX, with a cool picture of a wooden slat wall covering the book and which my pastor and good friend owns and preaches out of and might suggest that I do everything my pastor does because he's my friend and people think he's cool. Another think I didn't have to contend with in that little bookstore in Atlanta were the metal bibles. Yes, metal. The bible itself isn't metal but it has a metal casing to protect the bible, I guess, and to make a statement that your faith is hardcore or airtight or cool or radical or something like that. We just have a silver metal at Barnes and Noble but when I got fed up with our lack of selection and I walked down to The Compass I then had to contend with not only a silver metal but also a cool green colored metal. The Compass also offered me the Policeman's Bible, the Firefigher's Bible, the Soldier's Bible and I think something like The Nurse's Bible. I scoffed at all of those but you can bet your ass that if I had seen The Bookseller's Bible I would have scooped that baby up without a second thought.

The think I forgot to mention about the types of Bibles was what to do with the choices of having a Study Bible where the notes were created by a group of scholars vs. having a Study Bible written by a famous Christian (John MacArthur, Max Lucado,) vs. not having a Study Bible at all because I can read and study for myself and what do these guys know that I don't? Other than Greek and Hebrew, that is. I knew not to go with Lucado because I didn't want people to accuse me of being overly sentimental and John Macarthur was out because I didn't want to be accused of being a fundamentalist and that guy was a total dick when I saw him on Larry King Live a few months ago. In the end I decided against a Study Bible.

When I finished at the Compass I headed back up the steps to Barnes and Noble with my mind set on picking a Bible no matter how hard of a decision it was. I narrowed it down to two. The leather NASV with gold siding, which I decided against because it was skinny and tall and made me look pastor-pretensious when I walked around with it in my hand like you would a pair of shoes in the shoe store to see how they fit.

I picked up THEMESSAGE//REMIX with the wooden slats which Kyle uses and which I decided against earlier because even though he's my friend I don't want people to think I'm his disciple. As I was putting it back on the shelf I noticed a blurb on the back of THEMESSAGE//REMIX. You know, like an acknowledgment on the back of any book by a famous or smart person. The things I look at to determine who I want to align myself with.

The first blurb was by Bono. I didn't bother reading it. Took that Bible to the front and purchased it right on the spot and right now I'm a proud owner of THEMESSAGE://REMIX. Screw what people think of me.

I'm with Bono.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

I Met God's Will on a Halloween Night, He was dressed as a bag of leaves...

This song was an honorable mention on my "best of" musical list, but only because I just heard it for the first time a couple fo days ago.

But I now elevate "God's Will" by Martina McBride from honorable mention to "Song that most conveys my feelings about relational theology."

Watch the video.

Go to "videos" and click on "God's Will." You knew that, you're smart. Both cognitively and experientially.


The toughest part of the past couple of days is that I have been healthy, got to see the kids last night, have enjoyed good naps and good reading and good television. I've thought with anticipation about the new year and what it will bring and I've thought about who I want to become. And I've done this with the knowledge in the back of my mind that one of the greatest natural disasters in all of history that has claimed over a hundred thousand lives has just occured. I'm so extremely shallow.

I don't want to get into the "where was God in all this discussion," because I don't know the answers.
I don't know.
I wish I grieved more.
What do you do with that?
How should we think and how should we feel?
There are no compartments yet created for this one.
So I guess we just pray and give but our prayers should consist of one word.
Perhaps two.
God, help.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

2004 In Review (This is Long)...

I thought it would be a good day to treat my readers, both of you, to a year end post looking back over the past 12 months of my, and our, lives.

I welcomed the New Year with a party at my place hosted by Stephanie Spitzer and me and including around sixty of my most peripheral friends. There was an initial invite of around 15 people. But each person had a group of friends who had no plans so we welcomed them with open arms. Let's just say it was, hands down, the party of the millennium. Well, the parts I remember anyway. I "fell asleep" around 11:00 p.m., woke up on my couch to find the place had been turned into a dance party, Usher blaring through the speakers, and everyone dancing, um, how do I describe, close together. I later found myself taking a nap in the yard. It's one of those things that was wrong and irresponsible to do and didn't help me at all, but I don't regret it one bit. Does that make sense? I should have done it in high school. But I didn't, needed to get it out of my system, and did. I've had people all year come up to me in town and say "Man, your party was THE BEST!" At which point I think to myself, "Who are you?" I've already made the decision to go out of the New Years Party business on a high note and not have one this year.

In terms of excitement, everything this year was pretty much downhill from there, with a few exceptions. In mid-January I drove myself to the emergency room in the middle of the night because I couldn't piss. It was one of the most painful things ever, but has caused me to drink much more water and actually helped spur me on to get a bit healthier. More on that later.

In January the rumblings and rumors started floating around the net that "Ed," my favorite show of the previous four years and one of the things God used (I seriously believe that) to get me through a couple of difficult years after moving to Waco, would be cancelled. It's cancellation was finally confirmed and in February me and my closest friends watched the final episode. If you were there you probably knew how moved I was and sad to see it go. But it was also an extremely joyful time because I saw that the quirky little community of Stuckeyville that I had loved and romanticized for four years had been created, in it's own distinct way, around me.

The spring saw what I believe to be the final heyday, at least for the time being, of Coffee and Culture, the community group I've led in various forms for a couple of years at church. It would be renamed in the Fall and moved to a different place, a move that I consider our jump the shark moment. Don't get me wrong, there were some great discussions this fall, but most of the energy had left. If it weren't for the election I feel it would have been a dead fish. In the spring, however, there was still that perfect mix of extremely heated discussion coupled with a genuine friendship that had developed among those in the group. I personally think the departure of Gabe, who was the explosive powder, and Wesley, who reminded us who we were, helped put the nail in the coffin. It was a wonderful two years, but time to move on.

Sometime around late February and early March I decided it was time to lose a little weight and get in shape, so I got my rear and gear and started making use of the $35 a month that had been being taken out of my bank account monthy for a year to pay for my gym membership. I was motivated by several things-- seeing pictures of myself from Jason and Christy's wedding and knowing Blake's wedding was coming up (how girl of me,) and having been sick more in the previous couple of months than in the previous ten years. But mostly, my 30th birthday loomed large in September and I though six months would be a good amount of time. All said I lost sixty pounds in 2004, although about 8 of those have found their way back over the holidays. I feel great and am looking at running a 1/2 marathon in February and possibly a full one in October of next year.

I spent a large part of the first few months of the year proofreading and offering suggestions for Kyle's book. It was great fun to be able to see the process of writing a book. Hopefully it'll be helpful to me in the coming year. :)

Speaking of Kyle, I also had many wonderful times this year hanging out with the Lake family and babysitting the kids. The boys turned two in July and Avery turned four in August. There was an extremely fun time had by all at their Kidsville Birthday Party. I fell deeper and deeper in love with those kids every single week.

The summer, as usual around here, was quite uneventful. Having been in my job as Department Manager at Barnes and Noble for a year, I finally began to settle into a routine. We had normal summer activities at church, Sno-Cones on Mondays, midweek Bible study and bowling on Wednesdays. Other than that I worked 8 hour days, worked out a little, and read. After "Ed" finished in February I kind of went on a television sabbatial. Call it grief or call it not having anything good to watch.

I preached at UBC more in 2004 than ever. Some were good some were bombs. Around Easter I preached about Judas, in June I did a God in the Music sermon on Mindy Smith's "Come to Jesus," and in October I preached on Acts 17. There were a few more, but I can't rightly remember what they were about. That was great but what was even better was the opportunity I had to write a couple of things for our alternative services. I was extremely pleased with how those two items turned out.

If I had to single out a highlight of my 2003 it would be Jason and Chisty's wedding. 2004's highlight would be Blake and Karla's wedding in Seattle. It was my first trip to the Northwest. I was awed by the city and landscape. But none of that held a candle to being together with some of the greatest people in the world.

The election dominated the news and my mind and the minds of my friends during the fall. This election, more than any I can remember, brought out the fighter in me. It was difficult having friends who saw things so differently from me. Disagreeing on things such as music and entertainment and food and trivial things is one thing. But it's a totally different thing to disagree with your friends on the decisions each other makes in deciding who will be the leader of the free world. In the end, my candidate won. But in the end there were friendships that needed mending. I hope the doomsday prophets on both side of the political aisle will calm down for at leas a couple of years and stop seeing the other side as the enemy. I have little assurance this will happen, but I can hope.

Blogs made quite a splash this year. In the spring of '02 a friend in a community group mentioned her "blog." Everyone in the group scratched our heads and said "what the huh?" By May 2 of that year I had posted my first post on I played with it for a couple of years, but in mid '03 kind of got serious about it. This year, however, the blog revolutionized my relationship with a small community of my friends. It really is something special that has happened here. I know it's impersonal and in writing a blog you can make your life prettier or uglier than what it really is. But there are friends whose blogs are to the right of what you are reading who I would have never kept up with and years would have went by without contact had it not been for their blog. I kind of see it as a group email forum. I'm happy we are here. Together.


I've spent quite a bit of time talking about events and occurrences. However, everything that happened this year served to change me in little and big ways. A couple of things come to mind...

1. In 2004 I became more confident with who I am. Actually, I think this year I came to understand myself better than I ever have before. It's a wonderful thing to find out that you aren't crazy or weird or anything else, but that you are just you.

2. This was the year that I came to terms with Estonia. If you know me well, you know my trips to eastern Europe in '96 and '98 shaped me in monumental ways. I spent several years coming to grips with how those experiences changed me. I dreamed of returning. I yearned to return, perhaps permanently. But this year I came to realize that it was what it was. One of those many things God uses to shape you. I'll forever cherish the friends I made there and how it shaped me as a person. But I've finally moved on.

3. As a corrolary to #2... 2004 was the year I became a Wacoan. My first two years here were spent hating the place. My third year was spent bearing it. This year I finally admitted it... Waco is my home, and will probably be my home for a long time. The lack of trees and the presence of a certain institution of higher learning that I care little for and the general dreariness of the place is still here. But in light of the world I have carved out for myself here, none of that means jack crap.

No year in review would be complete without a couple of lists. Here are some of mine. When I mention my favorite books and music and movies of the year, I am not limiting them to those things which were released this year. They are the things I took note of this year.

Top 5 Books...

5. "The Lost Message of Jesus," by Steve Chalke. -- I haven't talked much about this tiny little book (probably less than 200 pages,) that I read in January, but I should have. This book made me struggle with ideas about Jesus in 2004 in much the same way Phillip Yancey's "The Jesus I Never Knew" made me struggle in 1998. Of significant note, this is the only purely theological book I read this year.

4. "Newsweek: Election Issue." Alright, this is a magazine, not a book. But at over 150 pages, it should be. Writers from the magazine followed both the Bush and Kerry campaigns for over a year and had unfettered access, with the understanding that they would wait until after the election to tell their secrets. This was extremely engaging reading.

3. "My Faith so Far: A Story of Conversion and Confusion," by Patton Dodd. This guy had a wonderful idea: Write a memoir about his faith development between the ages of 18-20. Reading this was extremely healing for me, because he is the same age as me and went through some of the same struggles with faith I was going through at the exact same times. Extremely well written, Dodd exposes certain secrets of evangelical Christianity with grace, understanding, and, the thing I've needed for some time, forgiveness.

1.(Tie) "Understanding God's Will: How to Hack the Equation Without Formulas," by Kyle Lake. I know, I know, I'm probably obligated to put this in here and am very biased because of my friendship with the author. I acknowledge those things. But those things aside, this is a really good book. I would have given anything to have had this book 12 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of headaches. Kyle wrote this book the way he writes his sermons, in a very personal way to expose those things about God that we always suspected and hoped were true, but could never bring ourselves to admitting it or saying it in front of our peers and leaders.

1.(Tie) "The Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini. This book was to me in 2004 what "The Poisonwood Bible" was to me in 2001. The characters I fell in love with and yearned for their lives to turn out better. The plot twist in the center of the book had me speechless and in tears. The last half of the book I couldn't put down. I read it until 3:30 in the morning, even though I had to be up at 6:00. For someone who needs his sleep, this was big. I wept at the redemption that occurred in the last five or six pages.

Honorable Mentions: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo , Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington.

Top 5 Movies...

5. "About a Boy"-- I actually first saw this at the end of '03, but I led a Sunday School class at 1st Presbyterian on it in January, so it still counts. This movie made me smile, a lot.

4. "Love, Actually." Another Hugh Grant movie that I can't remember if I watched a the first of this year or the end of last. Aside from the fact that this movie was marketed as a family movie, and it definitely wasn't a family movie, I loved it.

3. "Mystic River." This is the first move where I read the book first. The book was better, but the movie was amazing. One of the first movies that made me appreciate good acting, thanks to the performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins.

2. "Saved!" I wrote about this here. I watched this and laughed a lot, but mostly cringed a lot, because I was Hillary Faye at one point. This movie needed to be made. Unfortunately, most evangelicals won't get past the liberal bias of the movie to see what it really says about us.

1. "In America." This was one of those movies where I couldn't talk afterwards. The depiction of everyday life was breathtaking.

Honorable mention: "Ray."

Top 6 Musical Moments... (Albums, songs, artists...)

6. "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," by U2. I have to admit, the reason you don't hear as much about u2 from me is because everyone always talks about u2 and I don't like bandwagons. But since "The Joshua Tree" I have loved these guys, and since "Achtung Baby" I have seen how extremely historical they are. This album didn't disappoint.

5. Big and Rich. Out of all my choices I'll probably get the most grief over this one. And, I admit, I may look back years from now and wonder what I was thinking. When I first heard "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy," I thought these guys were nothing more than cartoons. But the song grew on me, then I heard them sing the cover of "Seven Spanish Angels" and their new song "Holy Water," and I have slowly gotten hooked on the Big and Rich phenomenon. Big is eccentric and Rich has an angelic voice. Ten years from now they may be in the trash bin of history. Or they may be grouped alongside the likes of other outlaws like Waylon Jennings.

4. "One Moment More," by Mindy Smith. I first saw her video for "Come to Jesus" on CMT and was hooked. I'm still hooked. Wonderful album.

3. "Genius Loves Company," by Ray Charles. I grew up in the 80's, which led me to believe that Charles was only a country singer who sang a lot of duets with people. This album brought that Ray Charles back to me. Phenomenal.

1. (Tie.) "Be Here," by Keith Urban. This album is just fun to listen to. Urban has an amazing voice and his songs are laden with hooks of gold. He uses the bridge and crescendo for country songs like Bebo Norman does for Christian songs.

1. (Tie.) "Mud on the Tires," by Brad Paisley. I can think of about a half-dozen people from my hometown who could have written these songs. I think about Chandler when I listen to Brad Paisley. In the summer I was driving back from the Lake's ranch in Bosque when I first heard his duet "Whiskey Lullaby" with Allison Krauss. It was the first time I can remember that a song made me cry. A hundred years from now that song will be sung by country artists.

Honorable Mentions: "God's Will" by Martina McBride, "God Bless the Broken Road," by Rascal Flatts, "Long Time Coming, by Jonny Lang, and "Heavier Things," by John Mayer.


Well, that was long. Thanks for reading, if you made it to the end. Here's a sneak peek on what's on the horizon for Craig in 2005. And what better way to do it than with bullets...
  • 2004 helped me get on my feet a bit financially. I'm hoping the next year I can see the end of the tunnel.
  • Starting in January I'll be one of the contributors to a blog about Kyle's book. I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully it will be good writing practice.
  • The rumors are starting to come at a faster pace over at, and it's looking more and more true. On January 17 TBS will start airing the first season of "Ed" on weekdays at noon. Tivo will be busy this year.
  • I'd love to lose 25 more pounds before the end of the year.
  • I've done a good job of staying in touch with my ETBU friends this year. In 2005 I really want to reestablish contact with people from earlier in my life like family and those from Timberline and Lindale.
  • After a couple of years of running from many of the spiritual disciplines that were rammed down my throat by well meaning people growing up, I'd love to reapproach prayer and scripture reading.
  • My number 1 resolution for 2005 is to finish writing a book of memoirs. Being published would be nice, but I'd love to have a finished product by the fall to give to friends.

For all of you who read faithfully, through all the crap and struggling and the occasional nugget of good writing, I want to say thank you . For those friends of mine who continue to share your lives with me and who incarnate Christ's love on a daily basis, thank you. You mean more to me than you know.

Here's to another year.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

With the Dawn of Redeeming Grace...

Here on Austin Avenue in Waco, TX it is an extremely silent night. Not only are all my friends in various states of movement to and from this town, but it seems as if those parts of the town that occupy the peripheral borders of my attention are in flux as well. I woke up this morning early to be at work by 7:00. The day was spent putting stickers on books that we hope to clear out of the store, thus their moniker "clearance." People came and went but my fingers were busy pushing a big rubber button on a device called a PDT, short for Personal Data Transmittor, or so I think, determining which books need stickers and placing the said stickers on the said books. Seems boring but my mind needed a break.

I needed to be reminded of the mundane.

It's a tendency among those of us who have progressed slightly in years to lament the fact that the magic of Christmas isn't quite as, what's the word, magical anymore. We want Christmas to feel like it used to feel. We want it to be the shining oasis in the midst of an otherwise dreary cycle of seasons. But mostly, I think, we want something to look forward to. Isn't that really what we lose when we grow up, those out of the ordinary times that shuttle excitement into our thoughts through the vehicle of anticipation?

So we look to Christmas to be the greatest make and model of that anticipation vehicle. We look back and we tell the great stories of Christmas. Wonderful, even, yes, magical stories. Angels fill the story at every turn. Miracles explode into the world of a young woman and her future husband and an old couple for whom the possibility of miracles seemed to fade long ago. Shephards, poor men who occupied a the lowest rung of the social ladder, were treated to a sneak preview of the greatest story ever told before or since. Men from the east made extravagent investments of time and money to see what this star really meant.

But one thing I have to remind myself is how localized the Great Story was at first. It's an extremely large world and Bethlehem is an immensely small place. That night may have been bustling with cosmic activity around the manger, but in Rome a servant fell asleep before her head hit the pillow because of a long day of labor. Shephard's may have quaked that night, but in northern Russia a man was placing wood in the night fires to keep his family warm, something he had done, and would do, for years without fanfare. Zechariah and Elizabeth stayed up that night and wondered in amazement what the news of Mary's child meant and how it fit into the great miracle they had received. But somewhere around Waco that night Native women were washing ceramic pots after dinner.

Such is the nature of the miraculous. Magic and wonder fill the earth, but not all at once. If it were so it wouldn't be magic and wonder. If magic and wonder filled the earth all at once, do you think we would yearn for the mundane? I think we would.

Not too long ago, and some of you noticed this, I changed the name of my blog from the extremely generic "What I'm thinking these days," to "Every Day is a Revolution." I think at one point Jason noticed and made a comment about it. I can't remember where I came up with the phrase, but I think I heard it in a song somewhere.

I know, of course, you are smart enough to figure out that "revolution" means two different things. Inittially when you read the title the intended affect is to make you think that every day is revolutionary. But then, when you think about it, every day isn't revolutionary. In fact, most days aren't. I would dare say there's been no more than one hundred revolutionary days in all of history.

But every day is a revolution. Every day this big ball occupies one place in the universe and travels at great speed in a circle (roughly) headed right back to where it began. Another opportunity to do those every day things all over again. Another opportunity to find that great events are revolutionary but so or ordinary events.

And such, I believe, is the nature of the Christmas story. At one part of one day a couple of thousand years ago the earth occupied it's place and moved away from it. When it made it back to it's place, everything was the same and yet everything had changed. A lady and a baby and heavenly beings was the story in Bethlehem. Same ol'- Same ol' was the story in Central Texas. But you know the thing about stories. They get around.

So my day was just a day. Putting stickers on books, buying groceries, seeking to fill the hours in an empty town with books, movies, and an attempt at writing. And yet my day was much more than just a day because it was spent in a world that the God of the Heavens deemed worthy to visit, to touch, to redeem.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Before I Slumber...

I just finished watching "Love, Actually" which has quickly become one of my all time favorites. Don't you love this opening monologue from Hugh Grant at the beginning of the movie?...

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."

Christmas Evening...

I wanted to sit down and write a warm and fuzzy, sentimental post. You, know, with it being Christmas night and all. But I can't. Oh, I've got stories and insights and things that would make you cry. They're in my head and in my heart. But in my stomach is the residual effect of two days of binge eating on nothing but cookies, pie, turkey and ham. So instead, your Christmas gift from me is bullets. Real ones, not those dashes I normally lazily do. Real. Live. Bullets...

  • Thursday night wrapped up my seven day stretch of working. My body and my mind are still extremely drained from all of that.
  • Friday morning I woke up late, around 9:30 a.m. Tim came over for a little while and we exchanged Christmas gifts. I scored the third season of Will & Grace on DVD from him. It's a great gift since I didn't actually start watching the show until season 5, and I've seen bits and pieces of the first two seasons, which didn't impress me.
  • I left for East Texas around 11:30. After my yearly drive around Lindale to see how Timberline has changed, etc., I headed to Prairie Creek for the Herring-Antal-Slaton-Cheney, etc. family Chistmas, which was determined that I've participated in for the past 10 years. Long story how I got hooked up with those great people. Actually it's a pretty short story. I worked at a church, became friends with Tony, Mellissa and Marvin, the rest is history. I'm family.
  • Had a wonderful time, as usual, in Lindale. Went to Chandler this morning to be with my family. I came out good this year. Money and a blanket, which I love.
  • Having been a part of several different kinds of churches, I've been exposed to differing things that are stressed during Christmas. Some focus on baby Jesus, some get straight to Crucifixion and Easter type stuff. It's powerful to think of what the Orthodox stress. The incarnation. God.....With.....(can you believe what comes next?....).... Us. God. With. Us. Wow, wow, wow. Have you ever stopped to realize how extremely inefficient the Gospel is? I know some of you will say otherwise, that Jesus somehow was obligated by his word or his glory or something to come share this place with us and die a horrible death. But Jesus was obligated to do jack squat. Wouldn't it have been much easier for God to say "Alright, here's the plan. I'm just going to say right now that I forgive you. If you will, come to me?" Yes, yes it would have been much easier and more effecient. The incarnation suggests that there must have been something more than just forgiveness and grace and redemption involved in this Christmas story. It seems as if God is making a statement that this place we call home, matters. The dirt we walk on and the converstations we have late at night, matter. Our relationships and our joys, matter.
  • I guess I'm preaching.
  • With so many people out of town, I'm hoping to write quite a bit over the next week or so.
  • Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


The entertainment news just keeps getting better and better...

Since February, when "Ed" last aired, I have been in a television slump. (Perhaps this has aided in my weight loss.) But, in 2005, I'm back, baby!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


If this news turns out to be true, then it is literally the greatest Christmas present since Jesus!

6:20 A.M.

It's Thursday. Day six of a seven day stretch at work. Got to bed at 12:30, woke up at 6:00.

My stress dream had me walking from Chandler to Edom, small town between Chandler and Van, population less than a hundred. Growing up I never walked from Chandler to Edom but in the dream I was telling my walking companion, Casey O'Dell, that I used to do this all the time.

It was night, we came across a haunted house. Walked through it. I remember a lot of stairs and a piano and talking about arts and crafts. (Real life fact: Edom is the Arts and Crafts Mecca of East Texas.)

We walked through a secret door into what we later found out was a private residence with people living their lives. Casey ran on through while the ladies screamed in horror at the two people walking through their houses. I decided to stay because I thought there'd be less a chance of me getting shot at if I ran. I didn't want to get shot. I was near the kids room, though, and thought I may get shot anyway.

I held my hands up and apologized. The lady said "Oh, are you just looking through the house?" and I said "Yeah, I used to do it when I was a kid and wanted to do it again." She said, "Ok, as long as you mean no harm." I looked down at the kids and said "I bet you get this all the time." To which one of the boys sighed, said "Yeah," and ran off to show me the piano.

Monday, December 20, 2004

After a Long Day...

I got the call that Kyle and Jen needed a babysitter because they didn't want to take the kids to dinner with the staff for their Christmas night out, so I reluctantly agreed and sighed "I guess I can do it just this once."

When I knocked on the garage door I heard Jen yell into the boys room "Boys! Craig's here!" From the other end of the house I could faintly hear Jude yelling something. It got more and more clear as he got closer and closer to the door. He was screaming "Craig's home! Craig's home!"

And I was and it made my day.

Today I had to remind myself that those idiot customers are really just people who have others in their life that they love deeply, as I love Jude, and are looking for ways to say "I love you," and that's why they are stressing out because it's probably only once a year that they actually tell those people "I love you," and they want to get it right this time.

So, even though my nerves were shot today, I tried to extend a little more grace to the little old lady who made me pull down every single Children's Dictionary for her to look at, only to get the first one I showed her.

And I told my friends I loved them.

And I am telling my friends that I love you.

I love you.


Holding Pattern...

-- There's about a half dozen things I've wanted to write about over the past few days. Unfortunately, by the time I get home from work and my daily activities I am just too drained to write.

-- I don't work any more during the holidays than during the rest of the year (other than the fact that I work more consecutive days.) But the stress of one Christmas-Season-Day is equal to an entire weeks stress during the year.

-- Because people are stupid and holidays bring out more stupid people.

-- "I'm looking for a blue book that has 'ground' in the title."

-- (In a yelling voice,) "You had the book last week!" "Yes, m'am, I know. But sometimes we have people come in and actually buy our books."

-- (On the phone,) "Yes, ummm, there's a book that I was wondering if you could possibly...." (What I want to say,) "Dammit you son of a bitch, we are an effing BOOKSTORE! Yes I can find your damn book if we have it but cut that 'yes, ummm, i was wondering' shit out and tell me the name of the book you want for chrissake."

-- Sometimes conversations with old friends can be just as draining as a day at work.

-- Sometimes conversations with friends can breathe new life into your world.

-- I had weird dreams last night. I think they call them stress dreams.

-- I was hiking in the snow with people I work with (Myles, Kelly, John Warren, and others,) when I realized that we were close to the North Pole. We passed a house that I assumed belonged to Santa. I made the comment about how excited I was to see the North Pole. I then asked someone how much further it would be until we got there and they said about 126 miles, and I said 126 miles? Shi-ut, I aint walking no 126 miles just to see the doddamned North Pole. (If you are the language police, this paragraph doesn't count. It was a dream.

-- Well, Got to get dressed for another day.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I know 200 sets of parens who should be sued for endangering and neglecting their children.


It's a week until Christmas and it feels like it because most everyone is either leaving town or prepararing to do so. It seems this has been my lot since being at ETBU. I generally stay in the town I reside until Christmas Eve, which has been spent for the last 9 or so years (I really can't remember how long) with some very close friends from a church I used to work at. Christmas day is at home, then return to place of residence. My jobs usually have not been conducive to take long breaks during the holidays, and this year is no different.

Last night I had a wonderful Christmas evening with the Lake's. Went to Ninfa's, back to their place, exchanged gifts and watched the Charlie Brown Christmas movie. Had you forgotten, as I had, how freaking incredible that is? The simplicity of the Christmas story is breathtaking.

Tomorrow is a going away party for Tracey, who will be going away to D.C. after the holidays for an internship. She will be staying with my friend, and Aaron's sparring partner, Luke's family.

Sunday is church and taking Jason to the airport.

Sometime next week I plan on cooking lunch for Tim's family, who is in town for the holidays from Germany.

Every day until the 24th will be spent at work for at least 8 hours. Hopefully I'll be able to keep a decent workout schedule. Should be easier after Sunday, when everyone leaves town.

Remind me to tell you about Christmas in Marshall, 1996, Pizza Hut, and driving through the lights. Can't do it now, too tired and have to be at work early.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This was going to be a continuation of a comment on my "Sweet by Design" post, but I've decided that length dictates it be its own post...

As far as original intent goes, let me share the original intent of my post.

The second you think you understand people they go and do something or act in a manner that blows the door off your assumptions. In one of his previous posts Myles made an extremely perceptive comment that it's a sin to reduce people to verbs or adjectives.

For centuries this is what society had done, not just to individual persons but to entire genders. They defined masculinity with the adjectives strong, wild, passionate and with words such as leader, protector, provider. They defined femininity with words such as delicate, nurturing, needy.

The feminist movement, though flawed and even dangerous on so many levels, sought to recognize that you couldn't pin down femininity or masculinity with a canon of adjectives. If you have been exposed to even a small amount of the world and are honest with yourself, you have to admit that there are women who do not fit the mold you have for women and men who don't fit the mold you have for men. Once this is recognized, you have several choices.

1. You can try to convince yourself that what you've believed all along about people is right, and try to mold and stretch the characteristics of individuals to fit the categories you have for men and women. Robert did this. He took the description I gave for myself and said that, in fact, all the things I've stated DOES fit the "wild at heart" category for men. While I love Robert deeply and appreciate his kind words, I just can't agree with his assesment.

2. You can take your views and perceive a false attack on them, not address the real question at hand and seek to defend what you perceive an attack. I was not saying, nor do I believe, that complementarians treat women poorly. I think most of them probably love their wives greatly and treat them with respect. I just believe that the universal application of their views of women is unfair to individual women who do not fit their perception of femininity.


3. You can continue to defend your beliefs without dealing with the reality of real people. My post was personal for a reason. I described myself as someone who doesn't fit the mold of a traditional male and spoke of women who don't fit the mold of a traditional woman and asked the question "Where do we fit in your worldview." I wanted a personal answer to my personal question, and didn't get it, except from Robert. I want to be told what you do with people like me. If you believe I've been "tamed" or that I have shunned what God has designed me to be, then I want to be told that. I want you to tell women who pastor churches, personally, that they have misunderstood God's calling on their lives. None of this "What they do is between them and God." If you believe Julie Pennington-Russell, the woman who married our friends Jason and Christy and was ordained by my friend Luke's dad, is a sinner for pastoring a church, then I want to hear it.

Disclaimer: Please don't misunderstand my original post as me saying that I have feminine qualities or that I am in touch with my feminine side. Please don't think that women like Christy who are in egalitarian marriages or Julie who pastors a church have masculine qualities or are in touch with their masculine side. That's not what I'm saying.

What I am saying is that I'm a masculine man but that you can't narrowly define what masculinity is.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


It's 3:00 a.m. and in three hours I have to be awake to get ready for the seventh day of a seven day work-week.

It's been months since I've been awake at this hour. Years since I've been awake at this hour for a worthy reason.

After work and staying up to watch the last seconds of Monday Night Football to make sure I landed a spot in the playoffs with my Fantasy Team, I decided to read a little bit more of "The Kite Runner" before I went to bed. I had read slowly and was only around page 225 when the clock struck midnight. I read a little, decided I needed sleep, put it down, turned off the light... five minutes later I had to read on. I did that several times until I decided to screw it. I'm going straight to page 372. The End.

I used to stay up late thinking about God. Time has assisted that habit into obscurity, unfortunately. The passions of youth awaken thoughts and desires and, well, passions that will not be settled by mere sleep. Although I preach the value of sleep, I regret that my life over the past 6-8 years did not provide cause for missing a little sleep.

But at thirty years and a few months I stayed up like a kid trying to squeeze the last bit of the day out of existence.

Get the book and read it. If, as is generally the case, you are not as moved by it as I am, that's ok. Often I give an endorsement of something and days later regret it because it didn't evoke the same emotions in others as it did in me. In those cases I generally think less of the person who didn't like whatever it was that I endorsed and question whether or not they understood what they read or watched.

But, this time I really don't care. All I know is that it is 3:18 a.m. now and my eyes are still red from the weeping the ending evoked in me. That Switchfoot line, about redemption having stories to tell.... I thought it was pretty stupid until now. I thought it was using two popular and powerful words in our culture, "redemption" and "story" , and raping them for dramatic effect. But after 372 pages, I understand about redemption telling stories.

I'll share a line from near the end then go to bed...

"...I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unnanounced in the middle of the night."

Goodnight my friends. And good morning.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Sweet by Design...

As the flow of our blog discussions go, I'm probably a little late in posting this. But I want to weigh in with my personal (as opposed to theological, which, of course, informs my personal) opinions about this whole man/woman thing. My thoughts were spurred on by the discussions on Myles', Aaron's, and Starrla's blog, but they are by no means an attempt to discredit. I just think you should know my dilemma.

I hesitate to critique John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart," because of Blake and Robert's endorsement, and because of the fact that I've never actually sat down and read the entire thing from front to back. But I think I've got the general idea-- Men are, by nature, wild at heart. They are the bread winners. They are the one's who go out and slaughter the animals to bring home to feed the women. They have a passion burning in their belly. Men are chivalric warriors, leaders. Women are, by nature, nurturing. They support their husband who is the head of the family. They take care of the husband by cooking the slaughtered meat. They are sweet.

Women like Pretty Woman, fairy tales. Men like westerns, action movies, and Braveheart.

Here's my problem. I fell asleep in braveheart. I am not, by nature, wild at heart. My ideal wife is an independent woman. (Perhaps this is why I've been so slow in matters of love.) In looking for a spouse I want a partner, not a follower. I am, to put it bluntly, a "sweet boy."

So the question is, in your "man=warrior, woman=princess" Christian world, where do I fit in? My guess is that your assumption is I have either been tamed by my mother or society or that I am gay. Well, neither is the case. I am, by nature, not "wild at heart." I'm sensitive, by nature. As long as my wife will clean, I'll cook every meal for the rest of our lives. My ideal movie is never one that depicts a warrior whose obstacle to overcome is a physical enemy, like Braveheart, but rather one that depicts a flawed individual whose main obstacle to overcome is himself, ala Rocky 1-4. I am not gay and no one has "tamed" me. This is who I am. So what do you do with people like me?

In every description of this way of thinking I've been exposed to there is an interesting word that pops up even in the most diehard Eldredge fans. That word is most. MOST men are by nature "chivalric warriors," and most women by nature are delicate and nurturing. So again, I ask, what do you do with those who require the use of that word?

The tone of my post will probably be interpreted as an attack on Starrla's comments. But I can assure you they aren't. I am personally very happy that she, and millions of other women, have found just the right person to complement their needs and desires. I'm am sincerely glad there is a world of nurturing women who have found the warrior husband they are looking for.

My issue is with taking a general tendency that may be true for a whole lot of people and building it up as the standard for all male-female relationships and human development.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Before I slumber, let me say
To Jason Edwards


Congratulations, you're one step closer to the dark side.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I'm Just Saying...

  • I had a habit beginning in early November of buying a Peppermint Mocha at work. It got too expensive so I've switched to Hot Cinnamon Sunset Tea, in a mug, room for cream. That's about as European as I'll ever be.
  • Donald Rumsfeld got drilled today by that soldier. I think it's good. It's time we really started sacrificing financially, rescind tax cuts for a year, take care of Iraq with a vengeance until they can experience some kind of democratic freedom, then get out. That soldier really made me happy to be an American. To be able to question your top commander like that and not fear for your life.
  • It's 7:15 and I have told myself no more telivision tonight. For a while I was watching nothing, but lately I've spent a lot of time with Seinfeld and Friends and random crap. Time to take my life back.
  • I'll try to get back into "The Kite Runner."
  • In the past month I've noticed more hair loss, more gray hair, and more hair protruding from the nose and ears. I'm getting older. But I feel better than I have since I was a senior in high school. Ran my longest ever yesterday. 7.5 miles.
  • Last night I went to bed with Rascal Flatts playing in my ear. The old one. The first one. Right now I'm listening to Ray Charles et. al. "Genius Loves Company."
  • Speaking of music, the Grammy awards nominations were announced yesterday and it's time for us all to start jumping on bandwagons. Is it to late to start liking this Kanye West and still be legit? It seems the window of opportunity gets smaller and smaller every year.
  • I've said this before, but there should be a book or television script written about the characters at my work. Sometimes I can't believe that I get paid to do what I do and be around the most interesting group of characters in the world.
  • That's all for now, but maybe there'll be more later this evening.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

For Langston...

Not too long ago I posted a little teaser of some of my potential future blogs. In it I mentioned the possibility of me someday running for public office. In true Mark Penick fashion I never followed up on writing what I suggested I would write about. As I'm the one who subtly just mentioned to Mark that he should do what he suggested, Matt Langson was that person for me, gently nudging me in the form of an email.

I think I've mentioned before that I grew up in a fairly political family. Dad was a Union Man and Mom worked for the State of Texas, making it impossible for the decisions of lawmakers in Austin, Washington, and even Athens (county seat of Henderson County) and Chandler to go unmentioned in our household. Looking back I realize that the discussions were extremely overgeneralized, (So-and-So, aka "The Democrat" is for the Working Man while So-and-So, aka "The Republican", could care less if the Working Man dies starving in a gutter.) But they were discussions nonetheless which exposed me to political figures and ideals early on.

Because of this upbringing, the possibility of being a politician, while extremely difficult, was never out of the question or even out of reach. While the idea of running for public office has never been a driving passion of my life, it has been the Dream da'jour on several occasions. I think about it seriously probably 13-19 days out of any given year, give or take.

As some of you know, I was close to the power once. Through contacts I made in college I became an intern in the summer of 1997 on Capitol Hill for Kay Bailey Hutchison. That led me into my first real post-college job as the Staff Assistant for Sentator Hutchison's Dallas office. It was honorable work and extemely enjoyable. After a year the Pine Trees wooed me back to East Texas to be closer to friends and what could best be described at the time as "home."

The next few years had me meandering along through different jobs and further away from the political life. Only once, in late 2000, did I consider getting back into the political fray by spending time (secretly) researching the logistics behind a run for the Texas House of Representatives. Around that time was when I decided I needed to plant my feet somewhere and the community that was surrounding me at the time seemed to be as good a place as any other, and political ambitions crawled back under the surface.

The election cycle of this past year helped those ambitions surface slightly. If I ever decide to put my foot in the ring, I want it to be a well thought out move.

  • As someone (either Rich Mullins of C.S. Lewis) said, politics is such an important calling because it's not so much concerned with ideas that are "out there" but rather with real people and real situations. The opportunity to serve a constuency of people is very appealing.
  • Regardless of your Church-State issues, it must be conceded that Jesus called us to be Salt and Light and what better place to be Salt and Light than in our public institutions?
  • There is a certain amount of celebrity attached to being an elected official. Who, if we are really honest with ourselves, isn't at least a little intrigued with the idea of public recognition.


  • There is a certain amount of celebrity attached to being an elected official. The really big names (Senators, Presidents) have to spend hours a day shaking hands and smiling and remembering thousands of people's names whose feelings will be hurt if they didn't. Even small time politicians can't avoid being harassed in the store by old ladies who need the potholes fixed 0n the black-tops in front of their house.
  • Politics is mean. (Or is it Politics are mean? I don't know.) In this last election Kerry was accused of not being honorable enough in Vietnam, even though he was SHOT. Bush was accused of any potential flu outbreak that may occur. The local Rebublican, a young guy in his 20's running against Jim Dunnam, was dissed for not paying property taxes. In other words, he wasn't rich enough to own a home. I get my feelings hurt if people criticize my theology or my occasional use of profanity in my blogs. I'm not sure if I could take the personal attacks that would come with holding public office.
  • I make between 20K-30K a year. (I'll keep the exact number a secret so you don't pity me or ask me for money.) If I were to be in the Texas Legislature, the most feasible first job for a young politician, I would make around 7K a year. The job is set up to where laywers and business owners who can afford to be away from their jobs for six monts out of every other year, are the only people who can possibly handle the demands.
  • Avery, Jude, Sutton, Kyle, Jen, Ben, Jamie, Jason, Chisty, etc., live in Waco, not Austin or Washington.

So there you have it. Who knows? Of course an alternate route would be to get back into non-elected government work. Many big names have made a huge difference in politics without ever being elected. Colin Powell comes to mind. As does Elizabeth Dole, who only recently was elected to an office.

That's a lot of rambling to say that I don't know. I'm open to nudging and caution.

Well, Matt, there you have it.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Christian Spirituality and Major Movements....

I've got three minutes to type before I go to work.

I just got finished with a conversation in which I referenced my friend Luke Smith, who occasionally reads my blog. Luke is someone who, for as long as I have known him, has a vibrant Christian faith that is quite independent from any major movements.

That's what I want. It seems like my whole life as a follower of Christ, and those of most of my friends, has ridden the ebb and flow of popular Christian movements. Either we experience their coming and going or we use these movements as a trajectory to shoot us into eternity.

Louie Gigleo and his elevation of John Piper through the Passion movement
Experiencing God
Prayer of Jabez
Ron Sider and Social Justice

Is anyone following Christ for the sake of following Christ? I'm not, but I want to be.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Putting off Sleep...

It's midnight on a night before I have to be at work at 7:00 a.m. I should be in bed right now. But for some reason the humming of the computer and clicking of the keys comfort me more than the thought of being asleep. Which is odd since I normally choose sleep over just about anything.

On my way back from hanging out with Jason tonight I had this thought that there are tons of musical artists I enjoy listening to now, even that I put down fifteen bucks for one of their cd's, but that I know in twenty years from now will have no relevance to my life. And there are some who I enjoy hearing on the radio but don't spend money on who I will look back on in twenty years as someone who helped define my life and the life of our culture.

These thoughts came from hearing Alan Jackson's 9/11 song "Where were you (when the world stopped turning?)" And it's not just that particular song but everything I hear from him just screams instant classic.

Enough of that.

Bush is at it again. Oppressing the minorities and women. I mentioned this last week, but it's getting even worse. If you haven't heard, a new cabinet official has been named and, once again, it is not a white male. Carlos Gutierrez, a Cuban born immigrant who climbed the ranks at Kellog from truck driver (yes.... TRUCK DRIVER) to Chief Executive Officer, was named to replace Don Evans as Commerce Secretary.

And once again, don't look for the NAACP, or any other Civil Rights groups for that matter, to praise the president for his affirmative action choices because it's clear, as Aaron has pointed out, that the only minorities who count are minorities who agree with the Democrats.