Sunday, August 28, 2005

Day Three, Part Two.... Or.... Trusting Jason's Instincts

The idea for our road trip came a few months ago after I took a couple of days and headed to East Texas to start work on my book. (Don't ask.)

After talking to Jason about visiting Carthage and our shared heritage from that area, we threw around the idea of taking a road trip there and spending a few days. In college I'd spent some time camping at Caddo Lake. Tim and I visited there a few years ago and had a wonderful time camping. So I thought, why not? That was the plan. A few days at Caddo, perhaps some time up in Arkansas with Robert (who we eventually found out was in Tennessee.)

But somewhere along the way Jason began subly nudging our direction back west toward San Marcos and Blake and Karla, I relented, (it's not hard to convince me to do anything,) and I'm glad. Because Texas in August= The Fiery Inferno of Hell and when you are in The Fiery Inferno of Hell it's always better to have artificially cooled air blowing on you than not.

I think this change in direction, toward people we know, also ensured enough variety in who we were with, preventing us from getting annoyed with each other. Not that anyone could ever get annoyed with me, because I'm the coolest person in The Fiery Inferno of Hell, but Jason is another story.

I checked the map, determined a route, and despite Fortenberry telling me there was a shorter way, I decided to stick to my guns (which, remember, can be mail ordered in Merryville.)

(Speaking of which, and this is totally off subject.... There is a sign up at a Pawn Shop down the road from my house that reads "Show Your Love With a Firearm." How sweet.)

The path: Highway 87 South to I-10. I-10 West to some road I forget, several other turns, and into San Marcos.

This drive was the longest of the trip. And, in my opinion, the best. There was the perfect mix of good conversation and good silence. Here are some highlights, in bullet form...

-- Once we got out of Louisiana, the first item on my agenda, the one I'd been waiting for, was to call Waco and wish Sutton and Jude a happy 3rd birthday. Being in the sticks, this plan was constantly thwarted. Also, the battery on my phone was running dead and I quickly found out the charger I had in my car wasn't for my phone, but some other phone. (I have no idea how it got there.)

-- In Houston I stopped and paid too much for a cell phone charger. Thirty dollars. When there are kids you love as much as I love those boys, you'll do stupid things like pay thirty dollars for a cell phone charger.

-- Somewhere along the way I did get to talk to them. They knew it was their birthday, but I'm not sure at three if they actually knew what a birthday was. They just knew it was there's.

-- Jason got a lot of reading done. And a long nap.

-- I decided to spend his nap time without the radio. I had never seen the part of Texas between Houston and Austin, and was glad to experience it without noise. (Except for the noise of my window rattling.)

-- Blake and Karla took their youth group to Austin that day and not knowing how long it took to get from where we were to where we were going, we planned on meeting up with them. But it took longer than we thought, which was no problem since we still had plenty of time.

-- We met up with them at the Outback in San Marcos....


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Day Three...

(I should really move faster with this before I forget what happened.)

Before we went to sleep on Friday night I let the Jasons know I would be cooking breakfast for them the next morning.

There's something about breakfast with friends. Working at Timberline for six years, and many other jobs that required my presence between 7 and 8 a.m., has made me a morning person. By 10:00 p.m. I get worried that I won't get to sleep soon and my mornings won't be a nice as I would like. When I have breakfast with friends I'm sharing my favorite part of the day with them.

Somewhere and somewhen Jason and I had this conversation about those Love Languages that Gary Chapman, or some other Chapman, wrote. It's the way you show love to people. They are: Acts of Service, Quality Time, Gift Giving, something else, and something else. I secretly speculated that mine might be acts of service, because I love cooking for people, but I realized it is more what I thought it was, Quality Time. The cooking is just an excuse to get people close to me.

I set my internal clock to wake up early on Saturday to go to the store to get groceries, since the only thing Fortenberry had in his entire house was ketchup and coffee. I had been eyeing this grocery store since we first rolled into town, because I love the old locally owned grocery stores. Don't get me wrong, I love my giant HEB with enough food to literally feed a small country. But there is something about walking into a store with wood or unfinished concrete floors and old, antique "grocery store stuff." Prices are stamped on the products with a sticker gun. A conveyor belt to take the food from your cart to the cashier is a work of science fiction.

The best part about this grocery store was the butcher. You could not purchase prepackaged bacon, you had to buy it fresh. The meat market area was from another time. The only electric meat cutting apparatus anywhere in sight was the slicers used for lunch meat. In back was the butcher, a seventy some odd year old woman, cutting slices of pork chop with a hand knife, then switching to a bone saw when she got to the bones. It was amazing. Even less hi-tech than the Food Fare in Chandler. More like Y's Hometown Foods in Brownsboro. You know the one.

I purchased my items, drove back, and cooked breakfast. We ate and we were in no hurry. We talked about Fortenberry's rough Sunday coming and his upcoming move to Ft. Worth. There was a genuine sense on all sides (from what I could tell) that it had been a good couple of days. Worthwile. Even, perhaps, healing.

We hugged and drove away from Merryville.

I noticed that the knot in my shoulder I mentioned a few days ago wasn't as tight as it was when we started.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Day Two, Part Two...

One of the ironies of my life is this.

The experiences and relationships I have had since moving away from a small town some ten years ago have shaped me in such a way that I appreciate the small town life more than if I would have stayed there, but I have also become a person who, at this point in my life, probably wouldn't do to well outside an urban area. There are equal parts attraction and repulsion, making it easier to romanticize the rural life from a distance.

City or small town, you are going to have trade offs. In the city you get a variety of eating establishments, in small towns you get good food. In small towns you get the beauty of simplicity, in cities you get the sophistication of nuance. In cities you get good roads, but bad traffic. In small towns you get pot holes, but you dont' really need to be anywhere anytime soon.

In Merryville, La. we got relaxion, but we also got racism.

We heard the "N" word by a person in the little group we spent the evening with. I only knew something strange was going on (because I'm losing my hearing,) but Jason heard it loud and clear. And it wasn't used in an innocous manner either (as if that word could ever be innocuous.) It was used blatantly by someone (albeit a young person) in somewhat of a Christian leadership position.

That was one of the few stains on the trip.

We spent the evening of the second day at an eating establishment known as Double D's, when, when I think of it, should have been the name of the first restaurant we at at on the first day. Double D's is basically a local Texas Roadhouse. Peanut shells on the floor, amazing bread, Texas food in Louisiana. We celebrated young Kasey's 8th birthday.

Afterward we headed to the house of Fortenberry's girlfriend and played good ol' ETBU type games. The winking game, Mafia. It felt good to do fun stuff like that.

I'll wrap this day up with a couple of pictures taken that evening...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Deviating for a Second...

I came up with the best idea for a new reality series. A million bucks to anyone who can get guys like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to step into it. (Reality, that is.)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Day Two...

I slept on a large chair Thursday night. It wasn't bad, but a little uncomfortable. When Jason got up for the morning I took the opportunity to make my way to the couch. A few minutes later Fortenberry yelled "Craig, get of bed and let's go!" I informed him I wasn't going anywhere unless he told me where. He said breakfast and I was up quite quickly.

The mission for the morning was to go to the head deacon's house to take care of church business; namely, the drafting of a resignation letter by Fortenberry to his church to be delivered the next Sunday morning. The byproduct of the morning was meeting the first of many people on the trip that falls into the category "salt of the earth."

The couple's house is located on a farm. Horses. Hay. All that jazz. The wife is an award winning rodeo senior rodeo champion. She made us some of the best homemade biscuits with gravy I've ever put in my mouth.

After a couple of hours visiting with them we headed back to Fortenberry's. He and Jason then went swimming at the home of a family in the church where, apparently, Jason was chided for reading the Demonic Wizard book, Harry Potter. The dad of the family stopped his game of Dungeons and Dragons to preach the dangers of the Kid Wizard.

Not wanting vacation to be an excuse to let my running go, I decided to stay back and go for a run. Running in a strange town in the middle of the day was a new experience for me.

I think every place has a soul. Maybe not a literal soul (are souls literal?) But a soul nonetheless. Rhythms. Rituals. Personality.

They rhythms of Merryville, La.: Slow but deliberate.

I ran by a nursing home and wondered at the lives inside. Were they waiting for someone? Were they taken to this place to be put away from or brought nearer to family?

I ran by a museum. Yes, a museum in this little Mayberry of a town. I wondered if anyone other than Merryvillians had desires to visit the Merryville museum.

I ran over a bridge and wondered if this is where I would die. On a bridge in the forest, run over by the continuous train of logging trucks zooming by. I'm not a fast runner, but I ran fast over the bridge.

I ran halfway down a road until I heard the dogs barking, then I turned around. I thought about how my grandmother's favorite thing to tell my friends, no matter if the moment merited it, was how I was terrified of dogs when I was a kid. I realized that Merryville is Carthage, just further south.

I ran for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. I then said I was pretty tired, I think I'll go home now.

Oh, wait, that last thing was from Forest Gump.

I'm not sure how far I ran, but it was probably around four miles.


Friday, August 19, 2005

About Today... (and then)... Day One: Further Tidbits

My good friend Tim Buechsel is getting married tomorrow. I'm in the wedding (always a groomsman, never a groom,) so I've been pretty busy with that over the past 24 hours.

Last night: Bachelor Party. Beer. Cigars. Midnight bedtime which makes Craig a cranky morning person.

This morning: My day off, but went to work for a few hours anyway.

Afternoon and evening: Rehearsal. Rehearsal Dinner at Gratzianos. I may come across as a total girl here, but I love weddings. I love how two worlds are brought together. Or, in Tim and Isabel's case, many worlds. At the rehearsal dinner were native Germans, Koreans, Bulgarians, Bolivians, Californians, Chicagoans, and one Texan (me.)

After the rehearsal dinner I met up with some UBC friends for a beer at Crickets. Wonderful times.

This is me being commited to finish writing about my trip by writing a little something every day...

Somewhere along the way on the first day Fortenberry drove us to see his new church. We drove around the backroads (which, in Merryville are just "roads," and got to the clearing with the church. As we turned into the driveway my response, under my breath, was "Wow." A small country church in the clearing. Luckily Fortenberry didn't here me, because the church I "wowed" wasn't the new church, but the old one. I have a thing for old churches. Much more than for new ones. Not a big fan of the big aluminum structures thrown up out of scratch. Which was what the new church was, we just had to drive around the corner to see it.

But I'll give this aluminum structure credit where it is due-- the church is nice. The coolest thing about it is this: The nursery is attached to the sanctuary and a big window is cut into the wall dividing the two, so the nursery workers can see out into the sanctuary and the congregation (at least those who turn around) can see into the nursery. I thought that was one of the most amazing structural things I've ever seen a church do.

I know why they did it because Fortenberry told me: The nursery workers didn't want to miss church, so they hooked up sound and cut a window out.

But the reason I liked it was much less utilitarian than that. In fact, the reason I like it is because it is NOT functional. It is distracting. But I like that. I think it would be amazing to have the nursery on the SIDE of the sanctuary with a big viewing glass. Let the congregation see that children are the greatest part of a church-- not a distraction. Let the pastor see that the church is not about him. Let the children see this amazing, clunky, inefficient but altogether lovely thing adults do called "worship."

That's all I've got... Next post, day two.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Day One, Part Two...

Take Highway 6 to Bryan, where you get to Highway 190, which takes you directly to Merryville, La. This is what Mapquest led us to believe. The secret it was hiding was that in Madisonville you have to go south on I45 for a few dozen miles in order to pick 190 back up. You have to hit "Zoom In" for that secret to be revealed. Because the secret was unknown to me, and because of the good conversation with a good friend about other good friends, we got lost.

I talk about East Texas often. Get out a map, find U.S. 75 at the Oklahoma border and go down until you get to Dallas. In Dallas 75 becomes I45, which takes you directly into Houston. Everything east of that line is considered East Texas. Houston doesn't count. Houston is an oil whore that lost her East Texas soul many years back.

But there are really two East Texases: The one I'm familiar with and the one I'm not. The path we were supposed to take was through the one I'm not familiar with. So when I started seeing signs for towns that I'm vaguely familiar with (Lufkin, Palestine) I realized we were slightly off course. But nothing a stop in Crockett and the purchase of a map couldn't fix.

And this one of the great things about the trip: In any other situation that hour off course would have been wasted. I lose an hour at work, I lose a lot of work. An hour on vacation is of no significance when the point of vacation is to vacate. And not just to vacate your responsibilities or your place, but to vacate your normal sense of time. Vacated was my being bound to a clock, which often ties me down.

When we finally arrived in Merryville, Jason, who from now on will be referred to as "Fortenberry," to prevent any obvious mixups, was waiting for us on his front porch with a friend.

Merryville, Lousiana: Population 1100. Merryville is spread out, so the population seems much smaller.

Fortenberry's house is an old renovated train depot located where most train depots are located, next to the tracks. Turning the corner onto the street Jason noticed the sign in a shop that read "We Special Order Guns."

People love their signs. Especially churches in East Texas. Most of the church signs we read said basically the same thing: Hell is hot and you might go there. While Jason was reading his demon book, Harry Potter, I noticed a sign on the sign of a small Lutheran church that seemed to almost be in defiance of the blatant spiritual fear mongering going on in the areas: "God misses you, and so do we." Which sounds more like Good News?

The first part of the evening was spent catching up. Who is where and doing what with whom and why and when did they decide?

I was informed by Fortenberry the day before we arrived that I'd be leading a Bible study on our first night there. I was also informed that the upcoming Sunday would be the Sunday he was announcing his resignation and that I should be sensitive to that. (Church talk for "don't tell a soul."

So we got there, I led the Bible Study-- a condensed version of the Acts 17 sermon I gave last fall at UBC, and it was good. The guys in the house were all hilarious.

At the end of the night-- an interesting phenonemon occured. Three television sets in three rooms were hooked up to three different Playstations (or XBox, or Atari-- I'm not sure) and 9 guys between the ages of 18 and around 60 killed each other in a game called "Halo." Actually, make that 8 guys. I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out who I was. When I finally located my screen, I started doing worse than when I was just pushing buttons. I bowed out after the first couple of games and took a nap on the couch while waiting for the professionals to finish.

The previous few weeks at work at been kind of rough, and there was a knot in the place where my back met my left shoulder. I was accutely aware of it while napping.

To be continued...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Day One...

(I've been looking for something for quite some time to kick start my blogging habits. I've also been telling you that I'd tell you about Jason's and my trip for some time now. How about I take a few days to tell you about it? As you know, memory can be a tricky thing. Deceptive, incomplete, altered, romanticized, added to and subtracted from by the distance of days, it can sometimes paint an inaccurate picture. Actually, it always paints an inaccurate picture. I guess this is where the phrase "the truth is in the telling" comes from. Truth isn't "what happened." It's what we remember about what happened and how what happened affected us.

With that said, I'll trust you'll give me leeway. I'll also trust that Jason will fill in any gaps that need to be filled in, or take out substance that needs to be taken out.)


We knew our first and last destinations: Merryville, La. to see our friend Jason Fortenberry and Abilene, Tx. to meet up with Christy before I headed home. Everything in between was improv.

The vehicle: My 1998 Eagle Talon. The intended path: Highway 6 to Bryan/College Station. Highway 190 from B/CS to Merryville. The actual path: Highway 6 to...

Before we get to the "to," I should tell you the first significant story. When we arrived in Hearne, just before Bryan, we decided that then was as good a time as any to eat. We stopped at a hole-in-the-wall diner on the city square. (I think the name had "Lunchbox" in it.) I could tell you any number of things about the lunch experience, my fried porkchops, the free strawberry icebox cake we were given, the friendliness of the patrons (everyone said "hi" when you walked past them.) But only two things are significant: The breasts attached to our waitress.

She had them and knew how to work them. She might as well have been at some other famous eating establishment known for their wings and marketing allusions to boobs. She had taken the class on bending down to show you the menu items, giving you a view from above. She was an "A" student with the seemingly inadvertant "squeeze."

Truth be told, I think she flirted with Jason more than with me. Who can blame her? Because seriously, I think you will all agree (unless your name is Pansy,) Jason is a much better looking guy than I am. Too bad for her Jason has a ring on his finger which caused his eyes to look the other direction. I, however, have no such ring. I just had my morals and a sense of decency, both of which were wearing thin by the end of the meal.

Having been given a show and a good meal (which, as previously mentioned, contained free dessert,) we headed out of Hearne, still on Highway 6. Leaving town we saw something on the side of the road that was a good foreshadowing of the week to come: A guy had parked his motorcycle on the shoulder and was taking a nap, oblivious to the universes zooming past him.

More to come...

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Just to keep you informed, the Great Room Cleaning of '05 was completed around 2:00 a.m. this morning. Can't wait for you to see it.

I'll start writing abou tthe trip when I get a chance. This next week will be busy at work and Tim's wedding is next weekend, so time will be scarce.

In the meantime, check out Nickel Creek's new video for "When in Rome" HERE. The song is amazing and the video is visually stunning. (I've always wanted to say something was visually stunning, now I got my chance.)

And so you'll know what I'm reading, I picked up Donald Miller's "Through Painted Deserts" and am digging it. It is actually a rerelease of a book he wrote before "Blue Like Jazz" and "Searching for God Knows What." I'm guessing he also wrote it before he read "Traveling Mercies" by Ann Lamott, because it doesn't read like "Traveling Mercies," like the other two books do. It's good to actually read his voice and not Lamott's.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

More from Rich (Or... For Blake and Jen)...

"A spiritual thing is folding your clothes at the end of the day. A spiritual thing is making your bed..."
Rich Mullins

I'm still working on writing a post about my trip, but first things first. One of the realizations I came to while visiting friends is that one of my greatest needs right now is to treat the spaces alotted to me with more reverence. If Christ's incarnation was about more than just getting my ass into heaven, as McLaren would say, and spoke of God's love for creation, for matter, for the things we touch and the places we visit and lay our heads at night, then I'm the biggest sinner in the world because I'm a messy slob.

In this area, I'm trying to participate in my redemption.

I'm going to refrain from posting anything until my room gets clean. For the few of you who have been priveliged enough to see my room, you know it may take a while. But hopefully not more than a couple of days.

Until then-- Be blessed. Be near to the people you love, whether in proximity or in thought.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


I arrived back in Waco late last night from my seven day road trip. I feel like I've just returned from a spiritual, physical, and emotional retreat. I took pictures and will be posting them when they are developed and will hopefully be writing about the trip over the next few days. But right now, I must take a nap to prepare for my first day back to work.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

One From Rich (A Nod)...

What Susan Said

Two lonely-eyed boys in a pick-up truck
And they're drivin' through the rain and the heat
And their skin's so sweaty they both get stuck
To the old black vinyl seats
And it's Abbott and Costello meet Paul and Silas
It's the two of us together and we're puttin' on the mileage

And we both feel lost
But I remember what Susan said
How love is found in the things we've given up
More than in the things that we have kept
And ain't it funny what people say
And ain't it funny what people write
And ain't it funny how it hits you so hard
In the middle of the night
And if your home is just another place where you're a stranger
And far away is just somewhere you've never been
I hope that you'll remember, I was your friend

Two full grown men in a huddle of kids
And they're trying to help them to believe
What is too good to be real
But is more real than the air they breathe
And it's Wally and the Beaver, David and Jonathan
It's the Love of Jesus puttin' on flesh and bone

And we both feel lost
But I remember what Susan said
How love is found in the things we've given up
More than in the things that we have kept
And ain't it funny what people say
And ain't it funny what people write
And ain't it funny how it hits you so hard
In the middle of the night
And I remember what Susan said

And ain't it funny what people say
And ain't it funny what people write
And ain't it funny how it hits you so hard
In the middle of the night
And if your home is just another place where you're a stranger
And far away is just somewhere you've never been
I hope that you'll remember, I was your friend
I hope you'll have the strength to just remember
I'm still your friend