Friday, September 30, 2005


So this....

is coming out in October. Got my copy the other day. Order yours now at your neighborhood Barnes and Noble. (Preferably the one at 4909 West Waco Drive in beautiful Waco, TX.)


I think the coming of Fall in Texas is the equivalent of the coming of Spring in areas with colder climate. Growing up I was always baffled by the excitement at Spring, how people extolled it in books and song as a metaphor for "awakening" or "new life." In my part of the world the first day it feels like spring simply means that in a very short period of time it's going to get very, very hot.

But Fall. Man, let me tell you. Fall awakens my insides. Fall means relief. Fall means football. It means that it's about to be too cold to be outside all the time and all my friends, (the one's I have left here, anyway) are going to be looking for a living room to gather in and visit. Fall mean's the second annual UBC retreat where the closest thing I have a family in this town will all gather around a campfire and, well, be together. It means pulling my favorite red blanket out of my room and onto the couch to watch the four episodes of "Ed" I chose to keep on TIVO.

The temperature in Waco on Wednesday was 104. Yesterday? 81. I'm not sure when the official first day of Autumn is, but for all practical purposes, it was yesterday. Here's how I spent it: Woke up, layed around a bit, went for a walk and listened to the entire new Crowder album, spent a couple of hours with the Lake kids, went and worked out, came home, watched television, read, then went to sleep. It was wonderful.

And speaking of those Lake kids, I was thinking this last night about our time together yesterday. I've never known a Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes type of love, but if I were sitting on Oprah's couch and she asked me about those kids, there would be several feet between mine and the ground.

Happy Fall!!

Friday, September 23, 2005


Well, I'm officially an abandoned soul this weekend. Tim and Isabel left a couple of weeks ago. Jason and Christy are still out east chasing those bunny Rabbits. Kyle and the kids are out at Bosque while Jen parties it up at a shower or birthday party or something in Dallas. My car is in horrible condition, as is my wallet, making it impossible for me to escape. Maybe I should become friends with the older couple next door. Their house looks like the front cover of about a dozen Christian Novels, so I'm sure they're good people. Maybe the grandchild they lost contact with after a bitter divorce would be about my age right now and they are looking for someone to fill the void.

Oh, well, I'll probably not act upon it. If they knock on my door tonight asking for a cup of sugar or a couple of eggs, I'll take that as a sign. Otherwise, I'll just put in the Seinfeld DVD and watch it until I get sleepy.

I got off of work at 4:00 today. Came home, rested a bit, ran 5 miles down Austin Avenue and a little into Cameron park. There are tons of evacuees in downtown Waco right now. I took it upon myself to be Waco's ambassador of good will. I said "Welcome to Waco," to some and "Bienvenedos a Waco" to others and somewhere in the midst of that I realized, holy cow, I've become a Wacoan.

I came home and watched Amy Grant's new program "Three Wishes." It's no secret I'm a sissy boy when it comes to shows like that, so I'll not try to hide the fact that I wept.

Stay dry. Be close to people you love... for me.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Back in the saddle...

It's time I get back to more frequent daily updates, i.e., bullets. It seems as if people who are new to blogging, and people on xanga, blog more frequently. I wonder why that is? I guess it's not important. Here are your bullets...

-- I've had a few people from outside of Waco email me about tickets to the Crowder Band CD release concert. All I know is that as of Sunday morning there were only about a hundred tickets left. I'm sure those are all gone. I did hear last night that they would gauge how many more people can fit in the church after the ticket-holders get in and possibly let a few more in. If you want to chance it, come on. We have a spare couch. I'm actually not going. I'm a big Crowder fan but, the older I get, I become less and less of a crowd fan. Get it? Crowder's name contains the word "crowd" and I like one but don't like the other? I hope it brought joy to your last 15 seconds.

-- The things that I'm reading and listening to do not reflect what is on the sidebar. I haven't changed that in months. Right now I'm reading "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger. Took me a while to get in in, but I've hit my stride and am loving it. It's allowing me to think of miracles the way I thought of them before I was exposed to East Texas "miracle workers."

-- We've started a new group at UBC called "The Other Side," consisting of folks from grad school and beyond. It is blowing the roof off all our expectations. It's exciting to look forward to expanding my community with these cool people.

-- I'm 2-0 in my fantasy football league.

-- Oh, yeah, I was also going to tell you what I'm listening to. Really, not much of anything. Since I don't have a cd player in my piece of crap car, I just listen to the radio. When I run I usually bring along a walkman, but lately I have been enjoying running without music. So the only time I'm really listening to anything is when I go to sleep. Last night it was to Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow." I also got Rob Thomas' solo cd a few weeks ago and am enjoying it.

-- Speaking of Dolly... She and George Jones have a new duet out called "The Blues Man" and it is unbelievable.

-- When it comes to country stars, it seems like a lot of people start talking about how they are huge fans of one as soon as the celebrity is getting ready to die. I think George Jones probably has a few years left, but after everyone pretends to be liefelong Johnny Cash fans after the movie comes out this fall, I've got my money that the next person they will choose to have been a lifetime fan of will be George Jones. When it happens, it will drive my dad crazy.

-- I'm a lifetime fan of Don Williams, but that's neither here nor there.

-- Looks like Rita is making a turn and heading straight to the Chandler, Brownsboro, Edom, Murchison area. Please keep my family in your prayers.

I almost forgot. Went to the doctor for a pre operation meeting today. My surgury will be on October 7. I'll only be out of commission for a couple of days. I'll come out of it with a bandaged head like a war-hero and stitches on my head behind the ear.

I didn't think to ask, but one thing I'm worried about is how long it'll be before I can go into my loud music church.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Deaf, here...

Several months ago I mentioned my ear problems and told you I'd keep you updated.

Last week I found out that yes, there is indeed a good chance I have a cholesteatoma and that I'll have to have surgury to have it removed. (If you're interested in the ugly details, the best explanation I've been able to find is here. Warning: It's kind of gross.)

The bad news is I'll have to go under the knife. The good news is that there is a good chance I'll be able to hear exponentially more than what I'm hearing in my right ear. I did another hearing test and found out, well, it's hard to explain because I have a hard time understanding medical talk. Basically, in my right ear, if a hundred decibals are going into it, I'm only able to hear 40 of those decibals. When you get down to 35 is when they suggest a hearing aid.

Here's what really sucks. When those sons of bitches grow they have a habit of infecting and damaging the bones that make up the inner ear. While the doctor is in there, if he sees major damage, he'll remove the bones. Regardless of whether or not the bones are damaged, the surgury is a two parter. Six months to a year after the removal of the thing is when they go back in and try to restructure my ear to restore hearing. During those six months my right ear hearing is likely to be almost nonexistent.

Please keep me in your prayers. I'm trying to get it done before Thanksgiving. I'm a little nervous but a lot excited. The thing about my hearing is that I've lost it over a long period of time, so it's hard for me to even notice it sometimes. My left ear has adapted to the point that it hears almost perfectly. And this is what makes me excited: There's a good chance that after the second surgury is finished is when I'll realize how bad my hearing has been.

And I've got a sermon for that just brewing in the back of my head.....


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Rest...

After the late and emotional night, work today was kind of rough. And on top of being tired, get this, it's a hundred freaking degrees outside and I spent my entire day shelving Christmas books. Lord.

But despite all that, I promised an end to the trip and, by golly, I'm giving you an end to the trip. I'll try to make this as succinct as possible, while not skimping on a good attempt to share how meaningful it was.

(By the way, so much time has lapsed that I've forgotten days.)

We left San Marcos with the intention of making a beeline up I-35 and staying in Dallas for the night. But narrowing down and deciding on who to stay with made things difficult. It was at this point in the trip that our road would take us near people who one of us knew well, but the other didn't. So (and this was another of Jason's brilliant ideas) we decided it would be a good idea to stay in Waco for the night, since we'd been driving for a long time. I managed to get a hold of Kyle and Jen and convince them to meet us for dinner. After hanging out with them and the kids we went to my place and crashed. Watched television for a while but fell asleep fairly early.

We woke up the next day, I made breakfast, then we headed north. Met up with Mark Penick for lunch at this place the Lake's have raved about for years, Blue Mesa grill. Had a good visit.

Mark is a good friend. Interesting thing about our friendship is that, from the beginning, there has always been an intermediary friend between him and me. We met through a mutual friend and the three of us hung out together from time to time. When I moved back to Marshall there formed what I've searched for years to find a name for, but have failed every time. Ethan Waters would define it an "Urban Tribe," although there isn't much urban about Marshall. I'll call it the gang that hung out at my apartment and went and did things together and who was learning how to be adults and how to love each other and how to enjoy life with each other. So the gang became our intermediary. Over the past few years Jason and Blake have been the middle guy.

Mark is a wonderful person with a heart of gold. We have a shared past, a shared affection for each other, and a shared God. After that, there's not much we share. We are very different people in many ways. And that is not a bad thing. Mark's intense, go-getter, passionate temperament is perfectly suited for the path he has chosen. Remember the name Mark Penick, because you will hear it again someday, I guarantee it. And other thing, that boy is going to make a good preacher someday as well.:) (Inside joke.)

So anyway, had lunch with Mark. I enjoyed listening to he and Jason banter about different things. We stayed in Blue Mesa for a while, gobbling down those Sweet Potato Chips from the Lord above.

We then headed to Bridgeport, northwest of Ft. Worth, to visit with Jason's lifelong friend and a very good acquaintance of mine, James Piazza. He and his wife Misty have a baby that Jason has been trying to see for a while, so it was great to head up there. The baby, Bella (Isabella,) was adorable and loved the mess out of Jason. We also got to visit with James' family, who was in town, and heard about the Chupacubra that has been terrorizing some of the residents of Atlanta, TX recently.

After that we headed further west on the backroads and stopped in Albany, just north of Abilene, to visit with my old friends Andre' and Roxeanne Raymond and their kids Emily and Sam. Andre' was the camp administrator at Timberline, the camp where I worked for six years. In many ways the Raymonds were my family during a rough transitional period of my life. I fell in love with kids by spending time watching Roxeanne run the daycamp at Timberline, and got to practice the mad babysittin' skillz I possess today on Emily and sam. Check out how much these tykes have grown...

Summer 1997

Summer 2005

After an hour with them we headed south to Abilene, our final destination. Met up with Christy at her friend Anna's house. Christy was in town for Anna's wedding. We killed a momma spider, releasing her million baby spiders into the world. What a horrible birth for them. Found out Christy and I were both at the wedding of a mutual friend from different worlds back in '96. Headed to another of Christy's friend's house, Bethany, where we parked our bottoms for the next couple of days and did much of what we did at Blake and Karla's.... Rested. (Luke, it was here that I heard about Alaska.)

Then I left.

Whew, that took a long time to tell that story. I wish I had done a better job. I didn't do justice to many things, like the wonderful time I had with Jason. He is one of my closest friends and I feel the trip made us moreso. He is definitely one of my favorite people in the world. I'll miss him terribly when he leaves.

Well, on to the present....

But first, here's some more pictures......

Jason and Mark


Me, James, Jason. (I just now realized James and I were wearing the same shirt. Mine was given to me by Jason, which suggests the two of them in high school coordinated their clothes.)

J. and Christy. This is what we did for the entirety of two days.

Us before I left. This picture was supposed to be more masculine, us and Bethany's huge dog. But the dog left before the picture was taken, leaving the impression that Jason and I were having a good time swinging next to each other.

Dear Blog Community...

For Kyle's birthday in June I got us tickets to the Cowboys-Redskins game which took place tonight. Circumstances (which I will probably mention in future updates) required us to make a two day trip out of it. The past two days have been very special. Got to see my parents, hang out in Chandler and Tyler for more than a couple of hours, get a sneak peak of the new David Crowder CD in the car, spend much needed quality time with Kyle and, most important (not really, but pretty damn cool.....)

I got to see these three guys, three of the greatest players in history, get inducted into the prestigious Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. All I can say, and I shit you not, it was magical.

I just got in. It's late, or early-- depending on what side of sleep you are on. On the way back I was thinking about how much I have neglected you, my blog community.

So this week I will be different. When I get off work tomorrow I'll try to finish up my road trip. Then I want to explore this thought that I had while driving around East Texas.... I always make a big deal about how much East Texas is a part of me. But driving through East Texas I realized how now, at this point in my life, Waco is also a huge part of me, and shines light on how I view home.

Anyway, sorry for neglected you. Thanks for waiting around.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Days 3.9 through Day 4

Since my friends Tony and Melissa have been married they have said a prayer that their home be one where people feel relaxed. And their prayer has been answered. When you enter their house, wherever they have chosen to live, it feels as if you have entered a refuge.

Such is the case with Blake and Karla. I'm not sure if they've ever actually prayed that prayer, but the feeling is the same. They are deliberate about being deliberate with their space. And it is a blessing every time you enter their space.

Blake is everything I am not in this area. At the end of the day my first reaction is to empty my pockets and let the trash contained therein fall wherever the wind (or the artifical air created by electricity) takes it. I don't treat space with reverence. Blake does.

And this is where it is difficult being descriptive about our time in San Marcos with Blake and Karla. How do you describe serenity without being melodramatic? That's a task for writers much more gifted than me.

We arrived on Saturday night. Blake and Karla had just spent a day in Austin with their youth group. After a dinner at Outback we went to their apartment and sat down. We talked. We watched an episode or two of friends, then we went to sleep- me on the couch, Jason upstairs.

When we woke up it was Sunday morning, an important morning for a minister of the Christian faith. It was silently agreed upon (and possibly verbally hinted at) that Jason and I would not be worshipping in the conventional sense on our trip. But Blake couldn't bow out, since he is the youth minister. He did, however, give his wife permission (as if she needed it) to stay at home with us.

And here is what the day looked like: I sat on the couch and read, as did Jason. Sometime along the way, about midmorning, I went upstairs to take a nap. I then went down and found Jason and Karla in conversation. I laid down on the couch and read some more. It was around noon and we were all still in our sleeping clothes. Blake came home-- walked straight from the door to upstairs and came back down in his sleeping clothes. His change took a total of 32.8 seconds. It was literally a thing of determination.

Then we lounged and talked and napped and read and did everything over again.

Later in the evening while Blake and Karla were at church, Jason and I had dinner at a place on the river. There were families out on the water, as if there sense of belonging to the world depended on it. Beer was consumed, the sun made it's trip down, and for the first time I realized the knot that was in my shoulder at the beginning of the trip had disappeared.

We headed to a Starbucks, read some, then went back through the lounge, converse, read cycle at the apartment....

Day five coming up...

Blake and Karla Relaxing

Jason reading his demon book, Harry Potter

Bad lighting... Karla Dancing

More bad lighting... Karla and Blake in their natural habitat-- Her smiling, he cleaning and smiling.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

More Thoughts...

The next part of my vacation was spent with Blake and Karla. I have a three day weekend coming up, so I'll be finishing my travel journal then. But now, this...

Here is an example of someone saying something that is probably true, but probably shouldn't be said.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Wating for Hope to Appear...

In Florida, Katrina was Category 1. After losing Category status and briefly becoming a tropical storm she then raced up to Category 5. When she landed in the Delta she was a 4.

Katrina tore through the area, unearthing many things, including my opinions on Categories.

I've always thought the tendency of those in my and younger generations to be leary of being placed in Categories was really just an attempt to be placed in the cool "you can't categorize me" Category. But now, I'm not so sure.

I still believe in Categories. People behave in certain ways. It's human nature (and a divinely bestowed gift) to name things. Placing people in Categories is just naming behaviors.

But sometimes the Categories don't stick.

I had placed my president in the category of "a new kind of conservative." I defended him to those who would say he was ambivalent about the poor. I will still defend him, but my faith in him has been tested. Severely. I know he is angry at the response. But I hold him responsible for appointing those who knew not how to respond. I want heads to roll and if they don't, I will be disappointed.

I had placed evangelicals in the "kooky" Category. A category that many times is appropriate. But on Tuesday while liberals secretely had moments of private glee at another reason to point fingers at the president (don't think it didn't occur,) and looked to Hollywood to make them look compassionate, there were people in boats saving lives and in Dallas loading trucks full of water and formula and diapers. If you follow those people's lives for the next few weeks, I can guarantee that, more often than not, you will follow them into an evangelical church.

I placed myself in the racially sensitive Category. On Saturday I was running on Austin. On my way home I spotted a young black man a few blocks up. I crossed over to Washington until I knew I was well past him, then crossed back over to Austin. When it was over, I hung my head in shame at who I had become. Or, rather, who I was exposed to be.

I feel helpless.
Lamentations 3:19-33

I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed.
I remember it all--oh, how well I remember--
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there's one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

GOD's loyal love couldn't have run out,
his merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.

How great your faithfulness!

I'm sticking with GOD (I say it over and over).
He's all I've got left.

GOD proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.

It's a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from GOD.

It's a good thing when you're young
to stick it out through the hard times.

When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.

Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.

Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The "worst" is never the worst.

Why? Because the Master won't ever
walk out and fail to return.

If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.

He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
in throwing roadblocks in the way