Monday, October 31, 2005

I've found myself with a couple of free hours, and I'm not quite sure what to do with it. I wanted to take a second to tell all of you that your calls, emails, and blog responses have meant the world to me. Kyle was my closest friend and I already miss him dearly.

I love you all.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Just a Description...

In a week it will have been two years since my grandmother passed away. Here is what I wrote the day after she passed away and this is what I wrote after her funeral. (A Warning to new readers and a Reminder to old readers: I had an infatuation with gratuitous language during that time, particularly the F-Bomb.)

When someone you really love dies there's no way you'll forget the big stuff. I'll always remember the way she called me "son" and how she used to repetitively slap the inside of my thighs, how the phrase "lordy, lordy, lordy" could be translated to mean many things and her coconut pie with the mile high meringue.

The things you forget are the things you think aren't important enough to remember. But then you are jarred back into the realization that, when it comes to the people you love, there are no insignificant things. The matter that surrounded them, matters.

So I share this description to prevent me from forgetting...

Her home was located on Price Street in Carthage, TX from the time I was very small until the day we had to move her into the Nursing Home. It was the only house on the block after Ms. Pace's place burned down in the late 80's. This was after Ms. Pace died, and no one was in the house.

The house was small. Three bedrooms. Actually, two real bedrooms and the back storage room where my grandfather slept until he died in '92. My grandparents had separate rooms. I don't know this for sure, but I suspect they only stayed in the same room twice, producing my mom and my aunt, then deciding other arrangements would be better.

The front porch of the plastic sided frame house was concrete with cheap garden astroturf, but it was a front porch nonetheless. Enough space on it for three lawn chairs, a few potted plants, a couple of aluminum pans holding water and food for stray animals, and windchimes. To the left of the porch was my grandmother's favorite project, her rose bushes that she tended until it became too difficult for her to get down the steps.

All kind of theories are given on what will make the world a better place. I think we need more front porches.

The front door led you into the living room to your left and the dining room-kitchen to the right. In the living room were a couch, recliner, chair, pictures of grandkids all over the wall and a television left over (and still working) from the late 1970's. Wood panel walls and a collection of bells and angels. About one and a half steps from the living room was the dining room-kitchen. Actually, the house was so small you could consider all three rooms the same room.

The most important things about the kitchen were the breadbox-- in which the Saltines were stored, the microwave-- in which the bread was stored, the cookie jar that held cookies during my early years and pop tarts and marshmallows during my later years, and a cast iron skillet that made cornbread.

There was a guest room. This room put me to sleep. Upon laying your head on the guest room bed, I couldn't last five minutes without falling under it's spell. That bed is the bed I lay my head on every night now.

The guest bedroom is where I snooped through some old pictures, uncovering a wedding photo of my mom and some guy who wasn't my dad-- unlocking the secret that is rarely mentioned.

The bathroom was small. All I remember about it was when I sat on the toilet I was two feet from the sink where my grandfather kept his false teeth in a cup on the counter.

The backyard was my playground. It had leaves and that was about it.

If you made it to the end looking for a moral, I hate to disappoint you. I just needed to talk.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

So How's this for a Day...

This will probably mark the single most posts I've ever written in a day. I've been a busy bee.

I had the day off. I rose from my slumber (without the aid of an alarm) around 6:45. Until 11:30 I took turns watching television, working on my sermon for tonight, and writing and posting on blogs.

At noon I had lunch at the church with Kyle and Jamie, then I headed to a 1:30 showing of "Elizabethtown." I thought it was wonderful-- critics be damned. Sure it was a little hokey and predictable, but sometimes you just have to turn your emotions over and let the movie director do his thing. Yeah, it made me want to dance alone and call everyone I love to tell them I love them... so go ahead and sue me if you'd like.

I then bought some t-shirts for $2.49 from the clearance rack at Old Navy, went and had dinner at Panera Bread, then headed home to read through the sermon a few times.

Sermon didn't go as well as I thought it would (even though I had a lot of compliments,) but it never does. I'm thinking of bowing out of the sermon delivery business and just focusing my enormous artistic talent on writing. (Some self-deprecation intended.)

But seriously, I'm thinking of taking this writing thing a little more seriously. It just gets a little intimidating at times. Every compliment I get simultaneously tickles me and scares me to death. Something about people raising expectations is frightening.

Which brings me to this think UBC is going to start next week as a community. So this guy wrote a book and is encouraging churches to participate in a monthlong thing where every person wakes up in the morning and simply prays "Surprise me, God." Everyone is then encouraged to write about their experiences on a community blog.

When Kyle mentioned this to me at lunch today I thought it was kind of corny. A litle to akin to living 40 Days of a Purpose-Driven life. I then moved from skepticism to "Well, as long as we are doing it in my favorite way-- together, then maybe it'll be ok." On my way home I started thinking it was a good idea. So I decided to get a head start and I prayed "Surprise me, God."

I'll tell you what surprised me, the fear that came upon me once I thought of asking God, (this is God we're talking about,) to surprise me, every day for a month. I could never bring myself to telling a server at a restaurant to surprise me, and here I am asking God to surprise me? This is getting into some scary territory. I'll keep you posted.

I haven't written this yet, but I sure had a great time this past weekend at Homecoming. Jason, Blake, Jason, Brandon, and everyone else, thanks for sharing it with me. It was special.

Later Home G's and Sweet P's.

Stop It...

Dear Aaron,

I bet you think you are cool, posting your fictitious letter to Augustine just a couple of hours after I posted my fictitious letter to Myles and Cory pleading with them to consider me original. Thought you'd catch me snoozing, didn't you? Well let me tell you, you've got to get up pretty early in the morning my friend. My perpetuation of the fictitious letter is the only thing original going on here. So back off.

And is today your birthday? If so, I feel it was predetermined from the foundations of eternity past that I take this time to wish you a very Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday!




Dear sermon I have to finish for the Hub tonight,

I am almost finished with you. Maybe 30 more minutes and you'll be done. I woke up early this morning so I could complete you, but I've spent the entire morning watching the Today show and writing fictitious letters to people I know and sermons I haven't completed. I will get to you right now.


Think I'm Original, Please....

Dear Cory and Myles and anyone else who has recently posted a fictitious letter and may think my previous post was a stylistic ripoff ala. Donald Miller ripping off the style of Anne Lamott,

Recently (last night to be exact) I wrote a post in which I wrote a fictitious letter. I hope you don't think I ripped off your style ala. Donald Miller ripping off the style of Anne Lamott.

I wrote that letter late, after closing the store, and being very tired. When I went to bed, I lay wondering "Didn't someone else recently post in the fictitious letter style," and then I remember both of you very recently writing in the fictitious letter style. I almost woke up and changed the style of my post into a regular post about affection so you wouldn't think I'm not original.

But you know, everyone is doing that these days. Trying to be different. So, when you think about it, my copying your fictitious letter style is actually pretty innovative. Cutting Edge. (Cory, appreciate that one?) Dangerous.

Really, I've been doing this for a while. (Long before you two were born.) Several years ago I read a book by this guy who says that when he finishes reading a book he writes letters to the characters to tell them what he thinks about them. And he keeps writing letters to them throughout the years, like they are old friends. Occasionally I'll do this in my journal.

I can't write any more, because I realize how mentally ill I am by doing this. But please, think I'm original.

Your Original Friend,


Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Dear guy about 16 years old who I saw in On The Border tonight during my lunch break who sure seems like an affectionate person,

You sure seem like an affectionate person. Not much fear of human touch going on in your world, is there? When you walked up to the table of the couple who apparently are friends of your parents, you didn't mind walking over to both of them and putting your arms around them. When you finished with them you took your place beside your dad while your mom caught up on the latest gossip. You reached up and squeezed your dad's shoulder, like you were about to tell him something. But you didn't tell him anything. You then placed your arm over his shoulder and just stood there.

Then your two friends saw you and came over, the guy and the girl. I'm too old to say she was hot, so I'll just say that I bet you thought she was hot. You gave her a bear hug. Without skipping a beat you then gave your guy friend a bear hug. After a little conversation they left and by that time your mom was about finished with her conversation, then you all left-- one arm around your dad, one around your mom.

It didn't seem like any of those people you touched tonight were dying. Because that would be understandable. Are you dying? I'm being rude here, I know, but I'm fascinated by this. It didn't seem like you were dying either. You look athletic, healthy. They way you treat those you love suggests someone is about do die, but I'm just not seeing it.

What's funny about this whole thing is that you didn't strike me as particularly extroverted. Extroverted people like physical touch. You actually seemed kind of shy.

You also didn't seem "special," if you know what I mean. That also sounds rude and I beg your forgiveness for my being crass, but one of the most special things about "special" people is how affectionate they are.

Truth be told, I used to be kind of like you. Maybe that was why I had to hold back tears watching you tonight. Maybe I was watching the 16 year old me and realizing what I have lost.

I hope you don't lose it, but let me warn you... you lose it slowly. Or, at least, I did. Some of the people you love will send you signals that they are uncomfortable with how you are. You will start to recognize other people, strange people, kind of, well, creepy people, who are the same way as you are but without the heart of gold you have and, well, out of fear of being identified with those people, you will slowly withdraw your hugs.

What was once a spontaneous, genuine display of affection becomes calculated, paced, placed in socially acceptable time frames-- at the beginning of a greeting and at the end, and even then, only if there will be a known time lapse between this time you see your friends and the next time. It gets very confusing, but you realize this is how the world wants you. It's ok for them to hear Jesus' and Paul's wonderful words of life about love, but your kind of love makes many people uncomfortable.

But I hope you find a way to remain the same as you change into the person you will be tomorrow, next year, at your ten year reunion.

It was nice talking to you guy about 16 years old who I saw in On The Border tonight during my lunch break who sure seems like an affectionate person. I think you have a lot to teach me. I'd like to write to you in the future about other things. Like my parents and my sister and certain friends that I have. I think you can teach me a lot. If you don't mind, I'm going to let some friends of mine eavesdrop. They're good people. You'd love them, I know you would.

Oh, and thanks. You made my day.

Craig Nash.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Every day this week I have gotten up early, gone to work, come home tired, rested, ran, eaten, watched a little television, read a littl, then went to bed early. Today instead of television and reading I also gave blood and went to church. I've been meaning to write Jason's suggestion of "The One That Got Away," but I haven't had the time or energy to put into it. Sorry I haven't done any "real" writing lately. I think getting back running after a week off to recover from surgery has taken it all out of me. This weekend in East Texas will probably give me the inspiration needed.

Today at work I read this article in the Trib about how Americans have lost their manners. Fifteen minutes later I went back to work and was treated extremely rudely by two seperate customers. It was quite epiphanous. (Did I spelll that right?)

Any, just got a call from Fortenberry saying he is coming to Marshall for Homecoming. That'll add to the fun. I'm excited. GO TIGERS! Or something like that.

Alright, you want some good stuff, don't you? Luke, I'm about to spill the beans. You are no longer the only person in my blog community privy to this information. From now on, you have to share the knowlege of the real me--

When I was a kid I was a HUGE professional wrestling fan. One day I'll do a huge post about it. But for today I'll tell you this: I wanted to be a professional wrestler. My idol was Ric Flair. My middle name is Andrew. I wanted my stage name to be Ric Andrews.

My face turned red just typing that.

Go ahead, laugh away. You'll be sorry when I get you in a figure-four leglock.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Just a Daily Update...

Thanks for everyone's suggestions. I'm going to try to work on all of them within the next few weeks. Right now, though, I just feel like giving you the facts.

It's been a good weekend. I worked 7-4 yesterday then went and watched the kids so Kyle and Jen could go to the UBC tailgate party and the football game. Of course I had no problem doing this, what with my feelings toward Baylor. (Those are, however changing from negative to indifferent. In case you are wondering.) Avery and I had a dance party before the boys woke up from their nap. The television was on one of those music only (no videos) channels and Avery was wearing her princess dress. She taught me the thing where you grab your ankle behind your back and kick your knees back and forth. I taught her the moonwalk. After the boys woke up we played on the swings, colored, walked down the street to say "hi" to Jana then came home to watch some British kids show that isn't the Wiggles. Can't remember the name. All in all, a fairly normal night. In other words, joyful.

Had a great small group discussion in Sunday school this morning on Romans 12. I'm often ashamed at the times I go long stretches without really reading Scripture, but at times it is helpful to leave it for a while only to come back with fresh eyes. In places the passage offended my postmodern sensibilities. The whole "one body/many parts" thing just smacks of value being given a person based primarily on their functionality to a group of people. That's what I was thinking when I read it in the NIV this morning. Then the paper that was passed out had the verse translated from the Message, which settled much better on my ears because it hinted that the functionality of the body isn't for our benefit, it's for God's. This is freeing to know that my part isn't something I have to strive for, but it's God using me being me.

Now there's some rambling for you.

Because of money issues and trying to stay away from the whole "who eats Sunday lunch with whom" politics, I've not eaten out after church at all this year, until today. We went to On The Border because the game was on. It reminded me why I decided to be a loner for lunch. But anyway, the game was great. The Cowboys finally one a close scoring game, which gives me hope that they may have a good season this year.

After than, a nap. Then a call from Blake (yeah, you woke me up. I didn't want to say so because I didn't want you to think I was mad and considering dropping you as a friend. So I pretended to be wide awake. I do that a lot because I don't want people thinking I'm mad at them. It's screwed up, I know.) We're headed to East Texas next weekend for ETBU homecoming and what, for me, will in all likelihood be the last time I get to spend with Jason and Christy before they head to France. I'm looking forward to it, and of course, not, all at the same time. (But never fear Edwards', I'm coming next year. Don't doubt it.)

At work I'm reading "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell and at home I'm reading "Desert Solitaire" by Edward Abbey. Both are great.

Now, about the ears. I can't remember if I've posted this, but I got my stitches out on Thursday. There's tons of junk still in there, working it's healing powers but also making me near deaf in my right ear. The taste is slowly coming back. Today and interesting thing happened. I started hearing high frequencies that have remained out of my grasp for years now. It sounded like when the Martians are trying to make radio contact with Earthlings in those science fiction movies. (There's really no good way to describe it with words, but intuition tells me you know what I'm thinking about.) Quite interesting. I first heard it in the radio on the way to church, and then heard it powerfully coming out of Ben's harmonica playing.

I'm growing a beard. Not really, I'm just not shaving as often.

The songs that are cool to me right now are "I Never Promised you a Rose Garden," by Martina McBride, "A Beautiful Collision" by the David Crowder Band, and "You're Like Coming Home" by Lonestar (the first Lonestar song I've ever liked.)

As Luke would say... Blessings.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I didn't work today, or do anything particularly tough, but I am wore out for some reason. It's only about 8:00 and I think I'm about to go to bed.

So here's something Myles did that I should do, since I'm a little dry in the inspiration department. What would you like for me to write about?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Sorry to keep y'all hanging for so long without news of my surgery. The pain medication has been great, making me not care too much about blogs or, really anything for that matter.

Everything went fine, as far as I know. The doctor updated my mom when I got out on what they did, but she wasn't very articulate in explaining it to me, so all I can tell you is a.) They covered up the hole in my eardrum with a skin graft, b.) They did not find a cholesteatoma that they originally thought may be there, c.) They messed around with some of my inner-ear bones-- which is why my head is extremely sore, and, now for the truly tragic news, d.) I lost my taste. Yes, the complications previously mentioned have come to pass. That's what I get for joking about the worst thing that could happen-- the worst thing happens. Good thing is that they say it should only last 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, I'm going to try to take advantage of it and break the 200 lb. threshold that has alluded me for so long.

Several people called over the weekend and talked to me at church to see how I was doing. I really appreciate it. I have the coolest, most loving peeps in the world.

Here's my favorite story from the weekend:

I drove to the Lake's on Sunday afternoon to watch the Cowboys kick some Eagle tail..., er, feathers. When I got there the kids had just fallen asleep for their naps. Sometime during the third quarter Jude woke up and stumbled into the living room, blurry-eyed and disoriented. Kyle held out his arms for Jude to crawl up into his lap, but he walked right over to me and mumbled through half-sleep, "How you ea-ah? You ea-ah betta?" At which point he crawled up into my lap and just started staring at me while I was watching the game. His back was to the television. He turned around, saw football was on, turned back toward me and asked, "You watching the Dallas Cowboys with my Daddy?" I said yes, he smiled the biggest smile in the world, leaned over and kissed my cheek near my bad ear and gave me the biggest hug in the world.

It was only later, when the pain medication wore off, that I realized I was not, in fact, in heaven as I had previously thought.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


My comedic timing was ON today in the doctor's office. I went in for a pre-op (that's pre OPERATION, for the medical terminology challenged) visit. The purpose of the pre-op is to basically tell you everything that could go wrong-- this could happen, that could happen, you might die, blah blah blah. In all my previous appointments leading up to the procedure I've been told that the most severe complications only occur in about 1 in 300 cases. The doctor told me he's never had any of them occur and he's done this over 200 times. I made the comment that I'm getting awfully close to the dreaded 300, which tickled the nurse to death.

Then he told me (again) the two most severe possible complications. These are due to the fact that there are key nerves that wrap around the back of the ear. The first is facial paralysis. The second is loss of taste. I informed him that if he get's back there and has to cut one or the other, I'd rather have facial paralysis than loss of taste. More giggles.

So, who is with me? Isn't that a no brainer? Question of the day for you, my faithful blog watchers-- Facial Paralysis or Loss of Taste? Which would you choose?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Barn...

If you'll remember, earlier this year I had it in mind to write a book. I drove to East Texas to spend the weekend, get inspired, get ideas, and get moving. Well, I did get moving. For two weeks I wrote. But then I stopped. As I've mentioned, I'm ashamed of it. But I did get a few things down. While you're holding your breath waiting for me to finish it, I thought I'd share with you a chapter I wrote back in February. It's not the best, but it's what I got down.... so go easy on me.

(I'm cutting and pasting this froma word document, which can sometimes screw the text up a bit. Sorry if it causes too much trouble.

The Barn

After the invitational hymn was sung, the weekly announcements made and we were dismissed from church, Corey, Hallee, and I would run across the street to the barn. This was, of course, after we had received the sacramental elements from our pastor. Which just happened to be, to our Southern Baptist and decidedly non- (and at times anti-) Catholic sensibilities, a half-stick of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum picked out of a worn out white envelope the pastor kept in his suit pocket throughout the service. We never doubted at all that he would have it for us when we asked; even though he would always answer our requests for gum by saying “I don’t think I brought any gum today.” He would fumble around his coat in such a way that he knew he would be disappointed then act as if he had found a clump of gold when his hand discovered the wadded up envelope. To my five year old mind this weekly “surprise” find brought great delight. It brings great delight to my thirty year old mind to know that this old man who lived with his wife in the house around the corner from the church and spent his days preparing sermons and visiting the sick and elderly, carved out a small part of every week to buy a package of gum, tear each stick in half and place them in a used envelope to make a group of kids happy.

(I’d be lying if I told you I knew why he only gave us half-sticks of gum, but I like to think he knew the ritual wouldn’t be quite as memorable had he went with a full stick.)

Gum in mouths we bolted across the street to play in the barn. This was years before Chandler had reached the “suburb of Tyler” stature and could still be considered rural, possessing numerous non-commercial or residential plots of land that held nothing except grass and horses and the occasional barn. This particular barn was located a stones throw from the front doors of the church, but just beyond the barbed-wire fence that was meant more to keep the horses in than the children out.

Crossing the fence proved to be not as big of a deal for most of my friends as it did for me, because I was a fat child. When you are a fat child everyday children things pose their own special set of psychological difficulties. If one of my friends were to fall down or rip their clothes in the trip across the fence it would be because they were careless or clumsy. If either were to happen to me it would have been because I was fat. Come to think of it, my childhood girth isn’t really relevant to this story and I should probably save those particular details for a future therapy session, but at least you now know a little more about one of the kids crossing the barbed-wire fence to play in the barn.

Once the treacherous crossing of the fence was completed there was nothing left to do but play. The barn was old and small. Its main purpose was to be a shelter for a few horses and hay as well as a storage facility for junk. There was a small loft from which the other children would climb up and jump off into piles of hay. Because of a particular aforementioned reason I generally avoided this activity by pretending to be interested in other things, like the old rusted drugstore soda fountain collecting dust behind a pile of damaged auto parts.

Children don’t typically stop to tell each other stories like they do to adults. Instead they talk as they play and assume that their friends are listening and processing what they are saying. On one particular occasion Corey, my best friend as a kid, as we were playing was telling me that earlier in the week he was in the barn by himself and saw a snake. (I now know his being alone was a necessary part of the story because it provided a lack of one key element—a witness.) Being a normal human being who possessed certain requisite tools of survival, namely a fear of snakes, I stopped whatever I was doing and said “Really?” Corey, sensing a good time coming over the horizon, said “Yeah, a whole family of snakes.” My entire body tensed as my head swiveled in every direction to detect the nearest exit. As I slowly made my way out Corey said gravely “Rattlesnakes.”
I was having none of that so I ran out of the barn to find my parents and go home. Cory and Hallee, his sister who was two years younger than me, ran out yelling “Rattlesnakes!” and by then I realized the joke but it was still fun to run away from the imaginary serpents.

Sometimes after church we would pull a fast one over Susan, Corey and Hallee’s mom. Our plan was to bypass the necessary procedures in obtaining permission from my parents to spend the Sunday at Corey and Hallee’s house. To do this required careful planning by the most skilled and crafty minds. Hallee would ask her mom, who at this point was involved in some sort of conversation with another adult outside of the church (If you took a picture it would look like a Norman Rockwell,) for the keys to the car so she could wait. As the key exchange occurred Corey simultaneously walked back into the church looking very suspicious. He was a mischievous kid who had suspicious down perfectly. This was done slowly and deliberately in an effort to attract as much attention as possible to the trouble he may be up to. The second the keys passed into Hallee’s hand Susan immediately turned to follow Corey into the church. As she turned her back to her daughter and began walking, Hallee ran to the car…. (Note: If the Mission Impossible music isn’t playing in your head right now, it should be…..) to let me in the back seat where I would sit and wait in the floorboard. If we were lucky there would be a blanket of some kind to cover me up. A large blanket, that is. When Susan caught up to Corey and found out he was only walking inside to pick up something he left—bible, coat, anything—her conversation had been cut short making it a good time to head home. As she got in the car Hallee immediately started a conversation with her so her attention wouldn’t shift to the child hiding in the backseat floorboard. When the car pulled out of the parking lot we knew we were well on our way to an afternoon of jumping on the trampoline, playing Atari, and daring each other to call pop radio stations and requesting Willie Nelson or country stations and requesting Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon.”

I know what you are thinking and I’ll go ahead and validate your suspicions-- We were geniuses.

We chose not to reveal our elaborate hoax to Susan until we got to their house for fear that she might turn the car around and drop me off at my parents.

As we approached the driveway, faces alive with expectation at the shock and awe we were about to inflict on this poor unsuspecting lady, Susan announced to the carload of kids “Corey and Hallee, when you get in go and start cleaning your rooms. Craig, you can go outside and play with the dog while I’m getting lunch ready.”

I guess we weren’t the only geniuses at work. I think over the years my parents and Susan worked out an understanding that if any of their children weren’t in the cars they were supposed to be, then they were with the other.

My earliest memories of church consist of expectation. I never knew, or really cared, if a “fresh wind of the spirit” was going to pass through the building on any particular day, but I knew sometime around noon on Sundays a very good man would extend his arm and offer me a half-stick of gum. Life changed quickly for a child, even in a small town, but there were always things such as half-sticks of gum I could anchor my world to.

My earliest memories of church consist of a lot of playing. We had Sunday School teachers who showed us the Bible and gave us our first peak into an ancient world that was strange and chaotic and seemed like it was a bit further away than even Dallas. They taught us about Jesus and who he was and what he did and because they did this our lives were changed and set on different courses than if we didn’t know about Jesus. But my earliest memories have more to do with the patterns of the tile in the floor of the nursery and that play kitchen set that we used to always sit on and break and an old barn across from church where we jumped and laughed and told each other stories as we played.

My earliest memories of church consist of people who I lived my life with. The people of my church sat in the pew together and sang in the choir together and went to Vacation Bible School together. But more than that they were people who I went to school with. They were people I played Little League basketball with and watched play Little League Baseball while I sat on the bench. (Little League basketball required that each player have at least one quarter to play. Baseball didn’t. I know… therapy.) I first heard the word “Divorce” when Susan and her husband got one. I ate meals with the people of my church and the adults treated me as their son, just as my parents treated their kids as their own. There were scandals and there were joys but through it all we were one thing: Together.

You see, I’m a Church Boy.

There are things I’d like to be identified with and, if you give me a chance, I’ll tell you stories about those things. And once you hear each story you’ll be able to peg me as a certain type of person. Book boy. Television Boy. Political Boy. Friend Boy. All of those things describe me at various times of my life but there has never been a time when you couldn’t call me Church Boy. Some may find the title demeaning. I wear it as a badge of honor.

I was in church from the beginning and I’ll probably be there in the end. I went to Sunday School and received the perfect attendance pins. (My Southern Baptist Church held attendance in such high regard that if you were traveling out of town and visited another church, you could bring the church bulletin from the place you visited and it counted as being present.) I have lived my life learning the ins and outs of church. As time went on I learned things like this: Pastors don’t always stay at the same church. They sometimes receive calls to other (usually larger and wealthier) churches. At first I didn’t know who did the calling (although I suspected Who it might be) and why they would want another church’s pastor.

Throughout high school I carried church with me on my t-shirts and in the music I listened to and in the places I chose not to go. I went to a liberal arts church college where I majored in Church. (Christian Theology, to be exact.) I learned “the way church should be done,” although it seemed to be taught differently by every person doing the teaching. I spent a little time in a church that dabbled in charismatic Christianity and learned that people in those churches can be the most loving and alternately the most alienating people in the world. I learned about different types of church structure and church movements and what seating arrangement says about a church. I’ve seen that too many times church pastors become involved in sexual affairs with their secretaries or the wives of their youth ministers and, in one case, a university student at the Christian college I went to. I’ve learned ways to creatively look down on people because their church doesn’t sing the same songs in the same way that my church does. I worked at a church whose pastor sent his kid to the Wednesday night activities of another church and wondered why the children’s minister at our church had daggers in her eyes for him. I’ve been a member of a church full of farmers and factory workers, one with drug dealers and welfare moms, another with scholars and bankers, and still another with college students from wealthy homes and artists. I’ve been to church conferences that tell you how to do church and one meant to stop a church from splitting. I’ve seen what goes on behind the curtain.

If you want to know about church, I can tell you. I’m the Church Boy.

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in the Sunday morning service of the church I grew up in. Well, at least in the church that bears the same name as the one I grew up in. Just as it does in individuals, time has taken its toll on that little congregation—both for better and worse. While I was spending my twenties in other churches, this church had added people and subtracted people. Many people got mad at the pastor (a different one from the gum dispenser,) and left to go to another church. A few years later some more got mad and left to start their own church. Then a whole new bunch of people came in who liked the pastor that the people who left didn’t like, and started doing church the way they wanted to. These people built a brand new building on some land the church had owned for years, then the pastor they liked left and then they all left and all that is left is a huge half-aluminum, half brick building (that goes way too high into the skyline of a small town,) and a few people to pick up the pieces.

I sat in this church, a few months after turning thirty, saddened, but not sure why. I guess I was expecting to walk in the doors and see the same church I saw when I was five. I knew I had changed, but I had hoped that place hadn’t. But it has and I guess that’s ok because churches are nothing more than people and God and at least part of that formula is prone to change.

As I sat in the chair and sang the songs and listened to the interim preacher say in 40 minutes what could have been said in 2, I thought about my life, my world. I thought about Jesus and how he has changed in my mind but how he is still the same person I learned about as a five year old and how everything I do, every breath I breathe is different because of him. I thought about how much I love my parents more now than I did then, but how it was much easier to be around them at five than it sometimes is at thirty. I thought about and thanked God for the rag-tag group of people I do church with these days and for my friends and the children of my friends with whom I am madly in love with. I wondered about the world and about, as Tim McGraw sang, my next thirty years and I thought about what it might bring and how I should best approach it.

As I was lost in contemplation this realization came to me: I’m sitting where the barn stood. You see, the land the church purchased is the land that is just across the street from the church building I went to as a child. Years ago they tore down the barn and the barbed wire fence, sat on it for too many years, and built the big ugly brick and aluminum church that sits there now.

I was sitting where the barn stood and I realized that all I’ll really need for the next thirty years is what I had standing in that barn twenty five years before: Expectation, people to play with and to share my life with.
Incidentally, in case you were wondering, Susan was standing in the choir that day a few weeks ago and didn’t know I was in the building until I came up to her at the end of the service to give her a hug.

Genius never leaves a person, does it?