Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year...

In 2007 I resolve to...

-- Listen to more Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, and pick someone none of you have ever heard of and become that artist's biggest fan.

-- Run so hard and for so long that I can eat whatever I want, and drink as much beer as makes me responsibly happy, without worrying about gaining weight.

-- Visit Blake and Karla in Seattle.

-- Finish writing the book I started two years ago.

-- Get a tatoo.

-- Piss somebody off.

-- Wedge myself into a conversation in which I convince an evangelical that I am not a Christian and have them walk me through the sinners prayer. After saying "Amen" I will say, "Wow, this is amazing. Now I have two religions-- Islam AND Christianity!"

-- Get a camera and take some pictures.

-- Go on dates.

-- Spend more time at Caddo Lake.

-- Buy a new iron.

-- Be honest with people when I don't remember their name.

-- Pay off my MasterCard.

-- Be done with half-ass hugs.

-- Not sweat the small stuff.

-- Read Crime and Punishment.

-- Watch more television.

-- Take more naps.

-- Go to the Texas Country Reporter Festival.

-- Read the Bible more.

-- Wear cooler clothes.

-- Learn all the words to "The End of the World as we Know It."

-- Write more letters.

-- Sing much louder.

-- Get more stories.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Of all the years I've lived through, this has by far been the most hard to categorize. I've made new friends, yet those closest to me were no longer near. There have been many moments of uncontrollable laughter, yet many nights I lay in bed paralyzed with grief. I guess I could be bipolar. Or it could be that I've discovered the "abundant life" Jesus promised isn't one in which we are always on cloud nine, but rather one in which we experience myriad of emotions-- happiness, sadness, vitality, tiredness-- in abundance.

I came into the year still smarting from the death of Kyle. As the first few months tredged along, the adrenaline of the intitial shock began to wane and all that was left was emptiness. But all emptiness begs to be filled, and mine was filled with many nights hanging out with friends. It seemed we all made an unconscious decision during those months to do little except make great efforts to be together. These times formed new bonds for me that were healing and, to borrow an oft stated Kyle-Saying, "life giving."

My transformation from a morbidly obese couch potato to a relatively healthy guy came to a peak in March as some of the greatest people in the world cheered me on as I finished a half-marathon. What a great experience to pass up several athletic college students who hadn't put near enough effort into training for the run.

The summer was filled with difficult times at work, generally followed by lazy afternoons at the Dugan's pool. I got a lot of sun and fell in love with beer, but mostly had a wonderful time just resting and getting to know people better. It was also at this pool that my friend Karen Thomas was baptized. Karen was the one to be baptized the day tragedy struck. They waited a bit, but when the time seemed right, Jen and David Lake (Kyle's wife and dad,) performed the ordinance. This was one of the most emotional and meaningful experiences of my life-- words fail.

It was also in summer that Tom purchased a house and we moved from the place on Austin Avenue that had become so special to me to another house just a few blocks down.

In late summer I began a relationship with a beautiful female, Jane, who is a black lab-mutt I got from the humane society. I'm a proud papa and don't know what I'd do without that pretty little girl being my friend. She now has a buddy in Ella, who is Tom and Beth's dog, and they are a hoot-- and sometimes a lot of trouble.

As fall came my weeks centered around two days-- Mondays and Fridays. On Monday I began picking the Lake boys up from school and we spend a couple of hours together while Jen and Avery have girl-time. What absolute joy this brings to my life. When we pull away from the school I always say, "Hey, do y'all see those two lakes back there?" Every time they fall for it and sit up to look out the window, realize what I've just done, and Jude says "Craig, you're funny." And my week could end right there.

But it doesn't, since I have to work. And after a hard week of work I began another ritual with Britt, Jonathan, and Josh. We began meeting for happy hour on Fridays early in the fall and, other than Mondays, I feel most alive during these times. What great friends.

The holidays were normal except for the greatest blessing of my year, which was Jason unexpectantly coming to Texas from Thailand for his grandfather's funeral. It was an unfortunate circumstance, but one which gave me time with one of my closest friends who, moreso than perhaps any one else, acts as a mirror and a compass for who I am. It may be more than a year before he and Christy come home, but this little taste will have made it worth the wait.

I also got to spend more time this Christmas with my "surrogate family." This was another blessing, and I don't use the word "blessing" very much except in sarcasm.

And that was, more or less, my year. More on my hopes for next year later. But before I go, no end of the year summary is complete without my annual list of favorites. As I've said in years past, these are not necessarily things that came out or happened in 2006, but which I've experienced this year. I've added some new random categories as well. So here goes...

Five Top Songs

5. Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol--
Yes, it was the sex between Mer and Der with the lost panties and emotions flying high at Denny's death and Izzie saying she's done with being a surgeon that made me fall in love with this song, just like you. I make no excuses and am not ashamed.

4. Summertime by Kenny Chesney--
"Cheap Shades, a tattoo, and a Yoo-Hoo bottle on the floorboard." Corny, of course, but I really dug this tune this summer.

3. All I Need by Matt Kearney-- Another song I downloaded as a result of Grey's Anatomy.

2. Good Ol' Boys Like Me by Don Williams-- "I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees/ And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me,/ Hank and Tennesse/ I guess we're all going to be what we're going to be/ So what do you do with Good Ol' Boys like me?" This was the most played song on my Itunes playlist, so I guess I liked it a lot.

1. Everything Glorious by David Crowder-- Early in January I was asked to pray or read something, I can't even remember what it was, at Sunday morning worship service, which was still held at Truett. David introduces this little ditty he had written the week before, and I was useless for the rest of the day and can't believe I got through whatever it was I was doing. Download it. It's a great song, and yes, I'm very biased.

(Honorable Mention: Anything from Brad Paisley's Time Well Wasted album.)

Five Top Books

5. Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement by Lauren Sandler. Wonderful insights of the world I grew up in, but from an outsider. There are tons of books like this one coming out now, but this has been my favorite.

4. The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds. Yeah, I think it was at one time an Oprah book, but so was The Poisonwood Bible, so leave me alone. It's the story of a girl in an extreme fundamentalist Christian community who begins to see glimpses of the outside. It exposes the dark side of fundamentalism, but everyone does that. Reynolds also gives a glimpse into the good that close-knit communities can bring into people's lives.

3. The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. This is a tiny little book on silence, solitude, and simplicity. Very impactful.

2. The Azusa Street Revival by (?) Robeck. I've long been fascinated with the history of Pentacostalism in America. This book was a great look into the birth of the movement. It's written by an insider, but is still extremely objective-- something you don't see much of in the pentecostal, or really any, community these days.

1. Wiseblood by Flannery O'Connor. I read several of O'Connor's short stories early in the year because I've inferred from other things I've read that you have to read her stuff in order to be educated, or something like that. Wiseblood, her first novel, is the story of Hazel Motes who discovers (whether he admits it or not) that age old axiom-- You can try, but you can't run from God.

Five Top Bartenders

5. The guy from La Fiesta that isn't Mikey.
4. The brunette.
3. The blonde with all the tattoos.
2. Mikey.
1. (tie) Stephen and Kelly. (Because they are UBC folk, give better hugs than any other bartenders in town, and occasionally when you ask for the check will print off a blank sheet of paper.)

Five Top Happy Hour Conversations

5. When I talked incessantly about you-know-who and the other you-know-who.
4. When I decided I was done worrying about you-know-who and the other you-know-who.
3. When you-know-who talked about you-know-what with you-know who.
2. When we decided that #4 made happy hour way too boring.
1. When Carney got a free beer after announcing he and Lindsey were having a boy.

Five Top Lake Kid Quotes

5. "There are Penises EVERYWHERE!" : Avery, upon being frustrated with her brothers after running out of the bathroom totally naked.

4. Jude: Craig, tell me again, what is your mom's name?
Me: Pansy
(Pause that lasts at least a minute.)
Jude: Pansy! Haha, that's funny!

3. "Why do they get to swim with their clothes on?" : Sutton, while I was holding him and watching his mom and Grandfather baptize Karen in the Dugan's pool.

2. "It didn't rain on anyone else, just me." : Sutton, after peeing in his pants and telling me it rained today at school before I picked him up.

1. Me: Avery, if I get a puppy, what should I name it?
Avery: Jane.
Me: Yeah, but what if it's a boy?
Avery: Dick.
Me: Alright. Well how about if I get a girl I let you name it, if I get a boy
I let your brothers name it?
Avery: Well, ok. As long as you get a girl.

Top Five Movies

5. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
4. The Departed
3. Rocky Balboa
2. Little Miss Sunshine
1. Stranger than Fiction.

Top Five Grey's Anatomy Moments

5. Burke getting shot while coming back to Seattle Grace to check on
Denny's condition condition.
4. Izzy going down the escalator.
3. Burke telling George that Izzy was waiting standing outside the hospital.
2. Meredith on the floor, consoling Izzy.
1. When Addison walks in the room. Any room.


Well, that's it for me. Thanks for sharing this year with me. For everyone who clicks the buttons to get to my blog, I am overwhelmed and appreciative that you would spend your time reading what I have to say, even during the times it's pure drivel. Thanks, again.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Still Here...

I spent a couple of days in East Texas for Christmas. Had a wonderful time and ate way too much. I'm back, but when I'm not working I'm spending some time relaxing while no one is in town. I didn't realize how physically and emotionally tired I was until things slowed down a bit. I'll have something later in the week for you, maybe even tomorrow.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A break...

I've loved having a little time over the past couple of weeks to do at least a post every two or so days, but it's about to slow down a bit. After today I work six days straight, then head home for a couple of days for Christmas. But this week will be full of it's own Christmas joy for several reasons...

1. Unfortunate circumstances have brought Jason home to Texas. I thought it would be at least six months, possibly a year before I'd have a chance to see him and Christy, but things have changed and they'll be in Waco all week. And I am very, very happy about that.

2. Rocky Balboa. Enough said. And in the words of U.S. Representative (D) Alcee Hastings, "Haters go home."

3. Other assorted visits with people I love.

I'm working on a final "Why I Love this Town." If I post anything this week, that will be it. After that I'll be working on my annual best of post.

I'm looking to do a lot more writing next year, hopefully away from the blog. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. I'm always afraid of running out of stuff.

In the meantime, if I don't see you, have a wonderful Christmas. Be near the people you love, eat a whole lot, and be thankful that the dawn has come and we are no longer alone.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Why I Love this Town #6...

Of all the harmless lies we* tell ourselves at UBC, none is told (or insinuated) more than this one: We are somewhat baffled and unimpressed with the minor celebrity status of our very own David Crowder Band. We share stories of being outside Waco and running into a DCB fan whose pulse rises at finding out we know THE David Crowder. We then express shock at these people making such a big deal about someone we rarely give a passing thought to.

I suppose in theory our surprise is genuine. But this is only because we have spent time questioning (or, for those of us reared in "the subculture," reassessing) the idea of a "Christian Celebrity." There seems to be something antithetical to the message of Christ in this term, and when we see it applied to someone we see on a semi-regular basis, it can seem out of place, since the idea of "celebrity" implies inaccessibility.

But with that out of the way, let me go ahead and announce to all of you fans that, to varying degrees, we are just as awe-struck as you. Sometimes, more so, because we have experiences, yearnings, thoughts, etc. unique to our community, but which we are unable to articulate with words. Crowder comes along and translates what we are feeling into the universal language of music, and we silently ask ourselves "How did he do that?"

This was one of the many areas in which Kyle was always a step ahead. Unlike many of the rest of us (me included,) he never pretended to be so sophisticated and emotionally mature to have a lukewarm attitude toward the Crowder Band. Kyle, who was probably closer to David anyone, could never hide his amazement and appreciation for the sheer brilliance that Crowder and the rest of the band continuously exhibit. He always received copies of the albums several weeks before they were released, and when Illuminate and A Collision, came out he called me and we would go for a ride in his car and listen to them in their entirety. This is said so much about Kyle that it can seem to be disingenuous, but it's true-- Kyle received Crowder's music as a kid receives gifts on Christmas morning, unable to hide the ecstasy he was feeling at the moment or to retreat behind a facade of intellectual detachment. I don't know this for sure, but I can say with some deal of certainty that if Kyle was out of town and someone screamed with delight at finding out he knew THE David Crowder, Kyle would join in their joy and say "Yeah, I know him!," in the same way Will Farrel said he knew Santa Claus in the movie Elf.

Reason # 6 Why I love this town: Yeah, we know him. And we are just as impressed, in awe, and appreciative as you are.

*Note on my gratuitous use of the word "we" in this post: There are obvious dangers inherent in the use of this word, as it gives the impression that I am speaking on behalf of a group of people who may or may not share my feelings in this matter. I am simply writing as an observer of a group of people to which I happen to belong, not as an official spokesperson.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Potentially Humorous Tidbits (And Another)...

-- Remember when we were kids and couldn't see anything above counter tops and were left to imagine what things may look like on the other side? The other day while the boys and I were getting Sno Cones at Mr. Snow, I picked Jude up so he could see the nice lady who takes care of us every Monday. He looked through the building with wonder in his eye, then asked her, "Where do you sleep in there?" He thought it was her house.

-- I was in the store yesterday and noticed one of the aisles at the end had a "Family Planning" tag. This is where they sell condoms, but I thought about how funny it would be to round the corner with your shopping buggy and see a bunch of families sitting around planning their next few weeks like at a business meeting, with charts and power point presentations going on.

-- I also found it humorous, and quite appropriate, that the section of condoms is sold adjacent to the section selling deoderant.

-- I've had this conversation with others before, but someone pointed out to me that people who grew up in the south say "Buggy" while those in other parts of the country use "Shopping Cart." Which do you use?

(I just posted this and forgot to share the one that spurred my thoughts. Here's that one.)

-- I had a terrifying experience yesterday. Bright red urine. I was peeing blood. When it came out my mind raced-- Kidney Infection, Stones, perhaps something worse? I've heard stories and I didn't want to be one that will one day tell them. I've already had a couple of kidney infections in my lifetime, and I'd prefer to keep it at that. I just knew I was going to have to spend the night in the emergency room, which sucked because I had friends coming in town. But rather than going straight to the doctor I drowned my system with 12 bottles of water in a two hour span. The next pee was slightly pink, and it's been clear since.

After some internet research I discovered the source of my condition. When you put a handful of red M&M's in your mouth, and rather than chew them you let them dissolve, and this is done while drinking water on an empty stomach, the red dye leaks into your system and you pee red. (At least this is what I'm hoping.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Where we are going to be...

I'm sitting in one of the comfortable chairs at Panera, looking across a busy Highway 6 at workers making way for the new Providence Hospital and other assorted commercial edifices. My mind is brought back to this post from July of '05. And so it is happening that there is no longer tall grass in the field, but rather dirt, an incomplete paved road, and trucks moving from one end of the site to the other.

Yesterday the plans for the new Cowboys Stadium to be built in Arlington and ready for play by the '09 season were unveiled at the Arlington Convention Center. The yet-to-be-named stadium will be a stunning architectural innovation while still keeping as a centerpiece the iconic symbol of America's Team-- the hole in the roof. Oh, and as befitting any Jerry Jones production, it will also be very expensive. A billion dollars, to be exact.

There's a fascinating story , of somewhat biblical proportions, in this morning's Washington Post about tension in the Billy Graham family concerning the resting place of America's Preacher and Ruth, his wife. The heir to Graham's organization, Franklin, is planning a theme-park style memorial leading to Billy and Ruth's final resting place. Kind of a Romans Road Dollywood, if you will. Ruth, however, seems insistent that this not happen and that they are, instead, both buried in a more humble setting in the North Carolina hills. The battle seems to be between Ned, the youngest son who sides with his mother, and Franklin, who seems to be garnering silent support from the other siblings, whose ministries receive financial support from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is run by Franklin. To add intrigue to the story, one of the players is none other than crime writing phenomenon Patricia Cornwell. You can't make this stuff up.

If I learned anything during my seminary career (which lasted a semester,) it was that place not only matters, but volumes are spoken about the character and identity of people, simply by where they choose to be. My opinion is that the Dallas Cowboys belong in a place that only Jerry Jones, in his financial brilliance (evil greed, perhaps?) can provide. It should be shiny and glossy and Texas-big, and it absolutely must have a hole-in-the roof, even if it is a retractable one.

At the risk of inappropriately placing myself in the middle of a family squabble, I think Billy and Ruth Graham's final resting place should reflect the simple faith in which they have modeled to the world over the years.

And, above all, as we are in the middle of Advent, we should take note of the place in which God chose to enter our neighborhood. I wonder how the health and wealth preachers get around a King sleeping in a feeding trough. I also wonder if when we get to heaven our mansions of glory will be a barn and the gold will really be hay. If it was good enough for Jesus, shouldn't it be good enough for us?

So we build and tear down and say this is where we should be. And where we are says this is who we are.

So who are you?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Do you feel what I feel?...

...Bring your past, the joy, the sorrow, all your hope to find tomorrow
And hear the words again, fear not and know that God is near.
-- Steven Curtis Chapman The Miracle of Christmas

(Yeah, I just used an SCC lyric to begin this post. Geez, it's Christmas, cut me some slack.)

A couple of weeks ago while Jude, Sutton, and I were eating Sno Cones, one of them asked if we could call Harris, who was in California. So we called Harris and they both talked to him on the phone.

Harris is in Waco now and came with me yesterday to pick the boys up from school. They were very surprised, and happy. Immediately Sutton's questioning began, and here is my jumbled recollection of what all came out of his mouth. All of this was said within two minutes of us leaving the school parking lot. (Note, the word uh-member is translated from Sutton into English as remember.)...

Um, uh-member Harris, um, um, when we were eating Sno Cones and we called you? Uh-member that? And, um, um, um, uh-member when you came to our school, um, um, um, with Craig and, um, you came to our school and picked us up? Uh-member that Harris? Uh-member that?

Well now we don't have to call you!


Yesterday a good friend preached at the funeral of a five year old boy.

One of my co-workers just had a baby girl, who has spent the past week in ICU on a breathing machine.

The death of a grandfather has brought two people I love home to Texas, one from Seattle the other from Thailand, leaving another one I love on the other side of the world without family for Christmas.

Last night we gathered around Lindsey's rapidly-expanding stomach and talked to Roy Carney, all excited and expectant for they day we will see him.

There are candles lit very near the place where my friend lost his life, each signifying a different aspect of the entry of God into our world.

All around we are calling each other and telling each other, "Hey, let's get together."

The chorus of O, Come, O Come Emmanuel is floating all around the air,
and I am singing it with an ache in my soul
because across the street and across the sea the bullets are flying and
as my friend said the other day, we are all going to keep dying

We all leave each other, sometimes to go home for the day, or just out for lunch, other times to go across the country to attend school. There are times when our leaving takes us across the world, either to serve our country or the poor or God, sometimes all three.

And then there is birth, when the person we want near us is near us, but not quite.
And then there is death, when the person we want near us is near us, but not quite.
And then there is God, who we all feel at times has left us alone, defenseless orphans fending for ourselves.

And this is the message of Christmas: Emanuel. God-is-WITH-us. God has not left us alone. A baby in a manger with a star pointing the way tells us He is near. His being here makes it possible to hope for the day when we will all be here or there, together. Leaving will end.

We will no longer have to call.

So regardless of what anyone tells you to the contrary, Christmas really is all about presence.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Letter...

Dear Mr. President,

I believed there were WMD's because our intelligence, as well as the intelligence of many other developed countries, said there were. (I really just believed because Colin Powell said so.) There were none, but that was ok because I also believed, and still do, that Saddam's refusal to abide by the UN resolutions was justification enough to remove him from office. I guess what I'm telling you is that I supported your decision to go to war. I still do. I believe in all the Churchill--Reagan--Thatcher of good vs. evil, freedom vs. tyranny rhetoric. But we need to have a heart to heart, and this is where it gets difficult.

We lost.

The 9/11 commission said that the terrorist attacks on America occurred because of a failure of imagination, and I believe our defeat in Iraq occurred for the same reason. There was an extreme lack of foresight when we invaded the country.

But mostly, we lost because we were wrong. I was wrong. My naivete led me to believe that everyone, when given the opportunity to live in freedom, where even the rights of the minority were protected, would see it as a no brainer. But apparently this is not so. I was wrong.

I admire you more than I admire most presidents, because you gambled big. But you gambled big and you lost. It's hard to put too fine of a point on it. You lost. We lost. Lost, lost, lost. It hurts to say words like "wrong," and "lost," but sometimes the best thing to do is to swallow the pill whole and admit failure. Not enough troops and poor strategic planning led to a fiasco of epic proportions.

But all is not lost. Your presidency is not lost. I know you believe that leaving Iraq is not an option, but you should rethink this. You will be known as the first president to wage a losing war. But what about also spending your last two years being known as the president who set us on a course to cure our country of it's addiction to oil. ("Addicted to oil," after all, is straight from your mouth.) In doing this you will make middle east violence irrelevant to our peace and security.

When we leave, Iraq will fall apart more than it already has. But this will happen if we leave or if we stay. The factions in Iraq will war with each other until they are fed up with war. It's madness, but sometimes you have to let people play out their madness until they are sick of it. This is not new, it's as old as time. Let it be a civil war. We had one and came out stronger because of it. But let them have their civil war without us being in the crossfire.

I say this as a supporter, not an adversary. The window of opportunity has closed. We lost. But there are probably worse things than losing. Let's not stick around to see what they are.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Breaking the Normal...

I've always believed in angels in theory but have never really had enough faith to think they may actually exist. Yet when I read the scriptural accounts of the birth of the One in whom I've staked my whole life on, I can't turn a single corner without running into an angel. They are everywhere. Announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, telling Elizabeth and Mary the impossible is going on in their bodies, and warning people about the very specific dangers of having a baby known as "king" in your midst. These beings were who God used to intrude on our monotony and make known that things will be different from now on.

Maybe my faith will increase and I will eventually see an angel. For now, though, I'll settle for the hope that comes from believing this is not all there is.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Not a "Why I Love This Town" Post...

Over at Baylor's Campus Living and Learning Department (fancy word for "dorms,") they've been promoting the great postmodern buzzword community for at least six years now. Yet if you want to know what Baylor really feels about the community it is nestled in, look no further than this year's Waco Christmas parade.

Britt, Holly, and I met early for dinner at Ninfa's. I decided the parade might be more enjoyable with a substance other than blood in my blood, so I had a margarita. Since Ninfa's is famous for getting you in and out as quickly as possible, we had some time left over so we made a stop over at Cricket's for a beer. I should have drank more.

The experience wasn't a total disaster. I mean, a night out with friends beats most things in the world. And the fact that the parade was extremely bad didn't totally ruin the evening either. The next best thing to a very good parade is a very bad parade, and this parade was very bad. There were no bands. Most of the entries looked as if they had made a wrong turn onto Austin Avenue and decided to just follow the traffic to city hall, where there seemed to be a crowd gathering for some reason. On top of that there were multiple Santas, which is extremely insensitive to a.) children who still believe in Santa Clause, b.)parents who now have to answer difficult questions about why there were several Santa Clauses and, c.) Santa Clause. The parade was such a joke that we decided to be in on it and joined the procession after the last float went by. We walked the last few blocks waving to the crowd and shaking hands. It was a genius act of humor on my behalf, if I do say so myself.

But the most disappointing thing about the whole fiasco wasn't what was in the parade, but what wasn't. Other than a a modest number of folks in the crowd who appeared to be students, there was no visible Baylor participation in the evening whatsoever. No band. No Greek organization, ROTC, or athletic team. Not even a single member of the administration sat on top of their rich-person car waving at their peasant subjects from the other side of the interstate.

So what? Does a lack of participation in a fourth rate parade validate the perception that the Baylor community is aloof when it comes to Waco civic life?

I think yes.

To be fair, I don't hold the view that Baylor does nothing good for the city of Waco. Institutions aiming to address race, poverty, and other social issues in this town would not survive without participation from the many wonderful Baylor students who have answered what they feel a call from God to cross the interstate and be the presence of Christ by getting their hands dirty in the midst of "the least of these." Yet all to often this assistance is seen as either training for a life in ministry in a more sexy city or as an opportunity to fulfill some organizational requirement for community service.

There is a sense that Baylor is an associate of Waco, and vice versa, but that neither truly belong to the other. Nothing exposes this more clearly than an event that's purpose is to showcase people and groups who value the community, and who the community values. It's time for both the city and the university to stop pretending it cares about the other, and to start caring for the other.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pride in the Desert...

When I disagree with someone theologically, philosophically, or epistemologically, I often have within me the urge to prove that my life is going much better than the life of the person I am at odds with-- That I am truly living life to the fullest and the other is merely existing through their incorrect assessments of reality. It's a sickness, I tell you.

In college, five friends and I went on a Spring Break trip to the Grand Canyon. It was beautifully planned and executed in such a way that only cost each of us $100. (Of course gasoline in '97 hovered around a buck a gallon.) We left early one morning, stopped to spend a night in Santa Fe, stayed a day and two nights in Sedona, three days two nights on the rim of the Canyon, then back , with another night in Santa Fe on the way home. Perfect weather. Perfect places. The only thing about the whole trip that was less than stellar was my attitude.

A member of our group took charge early on. I've never been really sure what a "Type A" personality is, but I know without a doubt this person has it. She planned the trip, made sure we were always on schedule, and on our hikes would want to go a little bit further, regardless of how far away we were from camp in relation to how long the sun would be hanging in the sky. She even set aside daily time for us to sit around and talk about how awesome God is, what he is teaching us, and ponder how anyone could not believe in God after seeing the wonders of nature.


As for me, I was content walking a little, stopping a lot, and just hanging out and resting, without the need for endless chatter. Me and our group leader began the trip on a collision course toward conflict. The other four were stuck between us, taking on the responsibility of keeping us away from each other as much as possible.

During this trip I was just a few months removed from my first overseas experience. Armed with an arrogant belief that my recent travels and exposure to different ideas and cultures made me better equipped to appreciate my surroundings, I made sure everyone knew that my outlook on life was the only true way to experience the fullness Jesus promised. None of you would have liked me on this trip. It's a miracle any of my companions are still my friends.

On our return visit to Santa Fe, we were walking downtown and happened upon a Glee Club from Massachusetts giving an impromptu concert in the town center. It was a wonderful time, one of the few that I believe we all truly enjoyed. At the end of it, as we were walking out to our car, I blurted out that it was=, without a doubt, the best part of the whole trip. But I really didn't believe that. I simply felt that I enjoyed it more than anyone else, so I seized on the opportunity to try and prove that I knew how to live better than the others.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Why is it that someone who is not competitive in the conventional sense of the word has this great need to prove that his beliefs lead to a much better life than someone who believes differently? Why can't I just be content that the way I operate the business of my life is suitable for me, but maybe not someone else. I think perhaps it all comes down to fear-- a fear that if someone else is happier than us, then the way we have chosen is possibly lacking in substance.

God, save me, save us all, from the rat race of spiritual competition. Allow us to be content in you. As the candles of Advent begin to shine brighter, pointing us to your coming, please shine your light on the darkest parts of our souls, eliminating our desire to win and producing within us a desire to live fully in the grace you have given, through your son born that silent night.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Met in Thee Tonight...

It's been a good kind of cold in Central Texas for the past few days. Christmas cold. Enough to make you feel the small-yet-necessary melancholy associated with the holidays, yet not enough to be debilitating cold. After dropping the twins off at their house from our weekly Monday guy-time, I decided to take advantage of this feel in the air by stopping by my local mom-and-pop Christian Superstore.

I've visited The Compass, usually on a whim, about once every couple of months since I've moved to Waco. It's aisles are filled with trinkets, Thomas Kincaide paintings, and a large selection of Christian literature and fashion extolling the virtues of being "souled out" and encouraging believers to F.R.O.G. (fully rely on God.) Holy crap, if you will.

All cynicism aside, though, when at the Compass Christian Superstore I'm often nostalgically taken back to a time in the mid 1980's when my mom would drop me off at Better Books Christian Store in Tyler while she went down the road to find the latest bargains at Marshalls. (I know, it's hard to set cynicism aside with a store named "Better Books.") I was that kid. I didn't shop for the bad books, I was looking for better books. And not just books, "better" music as well. It was at Better Books that I first discovered Amy Grant and, later, DC Talk. While my mom was away I made good use of the tape recorders provided by Better Books to listen to sample christian cassettes. (Can I get a shout-out from my Tyler friends?)

These stores are full of noise. Visual busy-ness. Spiritual arrogance is usually associated with these places. But as I perused the products, all discounted because the store is going out of business in January, I was not overtaken with my usual sense of anger or superiority, but rather of solidarity with the authors and artists represented in the books, music, art and fashion on the shelves. Thomas Kincaide, Joyce Meyer, John Piper, John Bevere, Rick Warren, and even Brian McLaren and David Crowder are getting it wrong a lot of the time. But all of them are saying in unison, with the saints of all ages, "We need God." Some are saying it louder than others, and with far less intellect, thoughtfulness, or reason, yet all are saying it.

I think Christmas comes in the midst of all our striving, working, and being tired. These feelings must have permeated the very first Christmas. Standing in the Compass, I felt the weight of it all bear down on me. Then a soothing voice from my past, Stephen Curtis Chapman, sang quietly over the intercom the words echoed deliberately in the items surrounding me, and subconsciously by all throughout human history who have ever hoped:

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

Contemplating these words I felt a connected to all of humanity, drawn to the coming of the one who will rescue.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I'm Watching...

I receive a fairly significant discount on books. There are even some books I can check out of the store for a small amount of time. I've got worlds of information at my fingertips, yet the only things I've been able to bring myself to read with any consistency lately are faces.

I love looks. I'd be a photographer, except I don't own a camera.

A couple of weeks ago at a dinner meeting among close friends who call each other "church," I saw a four year old boy turn around in his seat, drape his arms over the back of the chair, and give a distant look-- scanning the crowd as if he were lazily trying interpret the figure in a Monet. He then looked in my direction and gave one of those quiet half-exhale/half-smiles. This look has fueled my soul ever since.

Someone I know gives a confident knowing look when confronted with a complicated scenario that someone brings forth, even though said person has never given an ounce of thought space to said scenario. Yet when something of simple and mundane content is brought up to this person, a look of absolute and chaotic confusion sweeps the canvas of this person's face. It is the anticipation of both of these looks that make it difficult for me to drive a certain stretch of road every day.

I love the looks married people give each other in groups. I've been around enough married couples to know what certain looks mean. One of my favorite party tricks is announcing when one-half of the pair gives the other half the "It's time to go home" look. Anticipating my penchant for look interpretation, many of my couple-friends have taken to certain physical gestures to communicate. I'm learning to read these as well. They are just looks with touch.

Mostly, though, I'm consumed with the looks on the faces of those I no longer see. The wink. The smile. The looks given when no one else is around, when others are around. I will see these looks again, some on this side of the divide, others will have to wait a little while longer. Either way, I'll be looking.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Having received and unprecedented four straight Most School Spirit Awards (aka-- "Biggest Nerd") at Brownsboro High School from 1990-1993, I feel it is my duty to share with my reading public that the my Bears have, for the first time ever, advanced to the State Quarterfinals in football. Next Friday they'll be playing Celina in this glorious holy place...

Go Bears!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Some of my favorite things...

In the spirit of Oprah, I give you a glimpse into the things I'm liking these days...

-- Toasted Coconut Marshmallows. Cory, Marlene, and I discovered these things while looking for S'Mores items at the Wal Mart in Athens, before that Junior High Retreat I did a few weeks ago. I'm not a huge coconut fan, nor do I go head over heels for marshmallows. But something about this combination has me hooked. I must have mentioned my love for this concoction to Jen Lake recently, because the other day when I took the boys home she had a bag ready for me to take home. I've been munching on them all week, refraining from looking at the nutritional information on the package.

-- Newsweek. Of all my Monday rituals, one is taking my fifteen minute break while reading Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom, which tells me what I should think about so-and-so this week. This publication has great writers-- a little deeper content than Time, yet more accessible to lay-people like me than The New Yorker or the New York Times.

-- The Intersection of Waco Drive and 29th Street. When I take Jane for a walk, we almost always have to stop here and wait for the light to turn green. Jane sits while I pet her. On many occasions there are hot girls who drive by us with an "Awww, how cute!" look on their faces. When this happens I pretend they are enamored with me and not so much my adorable puppy.

-- My Home's in Alabama by Alabama. I'm not from Alabama. I don't even think I've ever stepped foot in the state, although I did drive through it on the way to Atlanta (Ga) once. Regardless, this song is a musical biography of the band Alabama but includes such universal themes of home, belonging, and identity that anyone can listen to it and feel nostalgic for the place they call "home."

-- I don't even know where my bible is anymore.

-- Beer. I remember a time, not all that long ago, when I felt that anything you had to "develop a taste for," wasn't worth trying. It was a way to support my belief in total abstention from alcohol. But I've developed a taste for beer, and it's worth it. I enjoy the taste of a cold Dos Equis or Shiner, but like a good cigar I mostly enjoy the camaraderie that the occasional brewed beverage instigates.

And finally--

-- Grey's Anatomy. I'll be honest, most of this season has disappointed me. But last week's episode redeemed the show in my mind. Where this show has lacked in plot direction, moving in circles and overdoing the whole thing where the situation of a patient shines light on a main character's dilemma, it has made up in it's brilliant use of character history and development. I love me some Grey's.

U.S. Government or Student Council?...

Alcee Hastings, U.S. Representative from Florida, has been pushed out of a bid to become the next chairman of the House Intelligence committee. In his statement regarding the snub he stated, (and I repeat-- this is from a UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE!,) "Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet."


Tuesday, November 28, 2006


George Barna is a guy who spends a lot of time calling people and collecting data, mainly as it relates to the evangelical church (as if it's monolithic.) I enjoy reading his stuff, mainly because it gives just the hard facts, but leaves interpretation up to the reader. There's an interesting one found here that Mark has suggested I read and comment on. Barna's the expert, but I'm a pretty good b.s.'er, so I'll give it a shot.

I'll start off by telling a story. Several years ago, shortly after graduating from college, I attended some sort of gathering of representatives from differing factions of Texas Baptists. (I know, you are all wetting your pants with excitement and jealousy.) The gathering was called a "Reconciliation Convocation," and it's stated purpose was to try and restore dialogue and trust among churches whose relationships were strained during the political and theological divisions in the Southern Baptist Convention during the 80's and 90's. Exciting stuff, I know.

The organizers of the event wanted to include recent graduates from each of the Texas Baptist Universities, so I represented ETBU. There was one meeting that included about a dozen pastors (all men,) me, and a girl from another University. The time got rather heated. Each pastor shared the ways they have been hurt by others in the denomination. Some of their ire was directed toward specific people in the same room, old college friends who were now living in separate worlds. Big names were dropped in such a way that suggested I should know who was being mentioned. Historic events were dropped nonchalantly to make you think it was 9/11, or the signing of the Magna Carta, or the St. Louis World's Fair-- as in "Well, I've been upset ever since the Convention of '87."

Me and the other recent graduate sat silently through the whole meeting, not really knowing what the hell was being talked about. Toward the end of the meeting someone felt the need to patronize us and ask our opinion on things. My counterpart made such a great statement. She basically told these pastors that they need to get over themselves, that the majority of the people in their congregations don't know and don't care about any of the names, events, and conflicts that were mentioned that day. The air was sucked out of the room and we were both ignored for the rest of the day.

The point? I think those labeled as "leaders" typically think their "followers" should be concerned about the same things they are concerned about and deem important the people they deem as important. But most people resist this. We are typically surprised (and a little offended) when we find others are ignorant of the things we consume ourselves with.

So, back to Barna's survey. It really doesn't surprise me that Rick Warren, author of the biggest selling non-fiction book in history, is only known by a quarter of all Americans and a third of all "born again" Christians." I sell The Purpose Driven Life and I can safely say that a large portion the millions of copies that have been sold are purchased by a.) Pastors buying it for their congregations and b.) Christian parents or friends buying it (as a hint) for gifts to be given to their "lost" loved ones. My guess is that a much larger percentage of people would recognize the book than the person. I think this is probably also true of the other evangelical leaders mentioned in the survey.

What does surprise me is the amount of people who are familiar with Denzel Washington. I wonder if some of the elderly people surveyed thought they were being asked about George Washington? Also shocking is his favorability rating. Who among us knows him enough to have a favorable opinion of him? I guess there's always the possibility that it's not Denzel Washington they love so much (although, who doesn't love Denzel?) but rather the composite of all the characters he's ever played. He's a brilliant actor and has played some pretty great characters, (sans Training Day.)

Hilarious Stat-- 3% of people have never heard of Britney Spears. 57% have never heard of James Dobson. And he things he's so important.

Mark specifically asked my opinion on the second to the last paragraph. I can assume your interest in what I think about this paragraph stems from a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, questioning whether or not I am an evangelical. Since this post is getting rather long, I'll just go right down the list of what Barna includes as requirements for being an evangelical and where I stand on each one...

1. Faith Very Important in their Life.-- Check

2. Believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians.-- Check, with reservations about what is meant by "share" and the peril and alienation that comes when we continuously label people "non" anything.

3. Believing that Satan exists.-- Umm, wow. I guess this depends on what kind of day I'm having. So, half-check.

4. Believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works.-- I'm both Baptist AND Emergent. This is a slam dunk. Check.

5. Believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.-- Absolutely. Check.

6. Asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches.-- I think I can live with the wording of this. Check.

7. Describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.-- I think Barna stuck 5 conditions into one here. There are seminary students all over the world tonight debating this stuff, but I think I am comfortable with this, while acknowledging on any given day I would need clarification with the words "all" and "rule." I'm going to have to go with half-Check here.

So, am I an evangelical by Barna's standard? I guess I'm standing at the line. But when I finish this post, the line will no longer matter.

So, how about you, my reader, look at the report and tell us all what you think.

Mark, thanks for sharing it with us.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I Sing Out Loud...

I told you I ran into Britt Duke on the road heading home on Thanksgiving. What I didn't tell you was that I think he caught me singing out loud to some country song on the radio. I know I was bobbing my head to the rhythm when he pulled alongside me, but hopefully I was between vocal phrases at the moment he came up.

I do this. I sing out loud.

There is a question on a friend of mine's Myspace that asks "What makes you laugh out loud?" Her answer was listening to me sing the theme song to Diff'rent Strokes. Back when I lived in Hewitt with Tracey and Kris, Wesley stayed for a few days in Tracey's room. I'm not quite sure I knew this, though, so I went about my morning on a day off as I did most days when I knew my roommates weren't around-- I sat in front of the television and found old shows I watched as a kid and, if I knew the words, sang along to the theme song.

And so there I was, believing I was alone, belting out "NOW THE WORLD DON'T MOVE, TO THE BEAT OF JUST ONE DRUM..." Imagine my embarrassment when I found out she heard.

But most of the time I don't care. Most conversations remind me of some song and I am free with my musical ability (and lack, thereof.)

So there's something about me.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What I Ate...

We carry a book at Barnes and Noble titled No One Cares What You Had For Lunch. (For the record: Kung Pao and Orange Chicken, Fried Rice, and a small Dr. Pepper from the Panda Express on Bosque, right next to Target.) It's one of those books that can be digested simply by reading the title and the back cover.

A quick summation: No one cares what you had for lunch, so stop sharing insignificant circumstantial facts about your life. Here's some writing prompts.

I agree. You don't care what I had for lunch. But what about days like today when lunch was perhaps the most eventful and significant act I participated in?

These days are rare, but they do come from time to time. Some would say, ("some" as in entertain-me-please adolescents and those like them who never moved beyond their teens emotionally) that I did absolutely nothing today. I've talked to no one. Aside from two old acquaintances I ran into at the store, I've seen no one.

I should have used this day off, when all my friends are still out of town for Thanksgiving, as a time to "get things done." My car is due it's bi-monthly cleaning. I've been sleeping in a room with nothing but white primer on the walls for a couple of months. Oh, and there's that book I started writing 21 months ago that I haven't worked on in 19 months. I could have been doing that.

But, instead, "nothing."

But this is something. I'm writing you a list of all the things I've done today...

-- For breakfast I had coffee and oatmeal while watching Rocky II.
-- Jane and I ran 2 1/2 miles. I'm back on the running wagon, having ran on consecutive days for the first time in months.
-- Went "into town." (For those of you who didn't grow up in a small town, living outside of town isn't a prerequisite for using the phrase "going into town." "Into town" simply refers to the driving from your house to some area in which commerce occurs.)
-- Ate aforementioned lunch.
-- Got my hair cut.
-- Went grocery shopping where I purchased, among other things, a rotiesserie chicken. For all you old-school UBC'ers, am I the only one who thinks of that sermon Kyle gave with a rotiessierie chicken as a prop when I purchase a rotisserie chicken? (I've just spelled the type of chicken I purchased two different ways. Hopefully one of them was correct.)
-- Watched An Unfinished Life. Was impressed and moved, but not overly so.

That's about it. The rest was filled with more filler.

I have no good end for this, so I'll just tell you I have not eaten dinner yet, but it's probably too late to do so. Tomorrow I plan on tearing into that chicken, though.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving...

I've had an extremely pleasant Thanksgiving, and there is still an episode of Grey's Anatomy coming up. Among the highlights...

-- The drive from Waco to Chandler was about as beautiful as any I've ever seen. It started off by me being passed in Bellmead by one of my newest favorite people, Britt Duke, who is another fellow native of the Piney Woods of East Texas. He's from Gilmer and a lot faster driver, so we didn't stay together long. But back to the drive...I love heading east. It's only around two hours away, but it feels like a whole new world. The trees were beautiful, the drivers friendly, and most of the cop in the tiny Highway 31 towns were home with their families.

-- Here is a funny story. As I get out of my car at Uncle Johnny's farm and walk toward the few people already assembled, I hear Uncle Sonny (my dad's oldest brother) speak out, "Hey Craig! I read that thing you wrote on the internet." My feet kept walking toward him but my heart sank and my inner being stopped in it's tracks and I thought "Oh...My...God! My life is over, my family has found my blog." I immediately began an attempt to mentally review every post I've written since I began this blog in May of '02. Fear overcame me as I remembered every expletive, every theologically and socially unorthodox position I'd ever taken, and every time I've said something that may reflect poorly on my family.

It's an overstated fact, but familial relationships are, well, complicated. I think our friendships are so much easier to handle because we can begin them. Of course we bring all of our pasts to the relationship, but the friendships actually have a beginning and start fresh. Our families begin at our beginning and their past is our past and present. All that to say, it's strange and a little scary when I think about my family reading the things I write.

But, you know, I got over it. I remembered what I wrote a few days ago about families and how the great thing about them is that you are stuck with them and they are stuck with you. I decided that I didn't care if my family knew what I wrote. It might get awkward, but that's ok. (Although, throughout the entire day I was looking at everyone wondering if they were a reader and expecting to be shunned or treated differently, but that never happened.)

Incidentally, I believe the thing Uncle Sonny (who got the post from Uncle Johnny,) read was this post from a couple of Thanksgiving's ago. I think it was actually pretty flattering (except, perhaps, to my mom,) so no harm done.

-- After that initial terrifying experience, the day was wonderful. The weather was beautiful, the food bountiful, and the children especially playful and excited at seeing the new goat on the farm. A couple of hours into it I told myself, "Wow, I'm really enjoying this."

-- One of my Thanksgiving traditions over the past few years has been listening to the first half of the Cowboys game on my way home to Waco, and watching the last half on television. There is a new savior in Big D...

...and it's a great time to be a Cowboys fan. Tony Romo plays so well and looks like he's having so much fun, like a kid playing a pick up game, that I feel like we could go somewhere this year. I just wish they would have started him at the beginning.

-- I must now find something to eat for dinner before Grey's comes on.

-- I hope your Thanksgiving has been as good as mine, and for those of you I know, I can't wait until we meet again.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Confronting Who You Are -or- Confronting Who I Am...

I just watched the clip of Michael Richards' apology for his racist tirade at an L.A. comedy club a few days ago. Watching him struggle through talking about what he said was extremely uncomfortable for me. He looked shell-shocked. I can relate to the feeling of not only having to own up to my less-than-stellar actions, but also the inner struggles which are moved to the light when these things occur.

I think we rarely acknowledge our most evident flaws, much less those tendencies which linger much deeper within us. Over the past few days I have been exposed on several occasions to the sin (I don't use that word near enough anymore) of pride that lingers in my being. To be honest, Beth's seemingly innocuous comment about me being "into myself" kind of shook me up. Yesterday's post was in response to that, and I stand behind the words I wrote and the spirit in which they were written. But consider this the flipside of that post: I care way too much about myself and my needs and my reputation, and not enough about others.

In losing Kyle I feel I've lost the person who had an eye on my blind-spots and the permission I'd given him to point out where I am lacking, and this is one of those areas. We used to talk a lot about our human condition. It's sinful. It's dirty. It's messy. In fact, I'll go ahead and tell you what Kyle would say about it and hope I don't ruin your illusion of who he was-- "The way we are is totally fucked up." I think there's no better way to describe this mess we are in. There is beauty in the world and in our own lives and the fingerprints of God's image are everywhere around and within us, but we are also still on the other side of glory where that damn original sin thing just keeps kicking us in the ass on a daily basis, and we rarely know what to do about it.

So we come face to face with our demons, stumble through our apologies, wallow in embarrasment at our actions and feelings, and give thanks to a God who has, through the way of Christ, provided an alternative and far greater life than the one we feel we deserve.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I love you man, but when did you get so cantankerous and into yourself? Think about the others who call UBC home...

I believe we are all, to varying degrees, cantankerous and into ourselves most of the time. Occasionally, though, we have weak moments when we let down our guard and let our narcissism show. Or is it during our strong moments?

I heard a story several weeks ago from a good friend who works at a church. There was some sort of gathering at the church where food was involved. Sometime during the evening a shouting match ensued. It wasn't over theology or someone being treated rudely or even political differences. One old person got pissed that someone would have the gall to bring a store bought pie to the church dinner, and they decided to let their disapproval show, right there in front of everyone.

This is one of the funniest and most beautiful stories I have heard in some time and it reinforces the subtext of my previous post, which is that a healthy church is one that looks an awful lot like a typical family, full of emotions and anger and an authenticity that can get messy at times. But, as the old hymn proclaims, love is the theme. And love is the wonderful glue that keeps people together despite the things that cause other relationships to dissipate over things large and small.

I will not defend myself against allegations of cantankerousness and into-myselfness, because it is true. I will say, however, that the thing that fills more of my thought space is the great love I have for the others who call UBC home, a love so great that it will withstand any frustrations over line-protocol breaking and store bought pies.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dedicated to my Thanksgiving Love Feast Table...

Church Home. Church. Home.

What a strange combination of words. Is there another institution or group of people, other than an actual family, where once we have found our place in it we call "home?"

Work home?
Lion's Club Home?
Favorite Artist Fan Club Home?

None of those have quite the same ring. We may, indeed, find comfort and solidarity in any of those places, but there is something missing about these groups that make it just a tiny bit strange to refer to as your home.

But Church Home, I can handle. I realize this is perhaps because I actually grew up in a church, spending almost as much time in it's confines and participating in it's events as in my own house.

I think it's really about belonging and the need to be with people that may not understand you, may not even like you, but have chosen to walk the same path. And then there are those who totally "get" you and and like being around you and make you feel like there's more to you than you think about yourself.

I have a large extended family, so this instincively makes sense to me. This Thursday I will travel to Chandler to be with a large group of people who share my last name and look so much like me that it would make you crack up. There were nine children in my dad's family. I am the next to the youngest of 26 first cousins, giving dozens of second cousins that are not a whole lot younger than me. I don't know a lot about what makes a Nash a Nash, though I could take a few guesses. But I'll be there and I'll belong like I belong in no other place in the world. I'll gravitate toward those who have the most in common with me, and those who make me laugh. I'll eventually find myself sitting next to someone whose name I forgot years ago, but it'll be ok because they will have forgotten my name as well, and that doesn't matter because regardless of what we remember, we remember the thing that matters the most: We belong. We'll sit silently through other people's conversation and somehow we will carve out a little home in the moment, where our words are not necessary.

We could leave or choose not to associate, but it would be futile because everyone knows when a Nash is a Nash.

I felt at home tonight at our Thanksgiving Love Feast. And, I'll be honest with you, a little uncomfortable. I'm uncomfortable with change and nothing exposes and exploits change more than an holiday gathering. The line was all jacked up. There were three lanes of traffic flowing into one, and this just isn't how it should be. There's supposed to be a long line form through the hallways and it should be neat and orderly with people waiting their turn. There were people I didn't know and many more I did but whose name I've forgotten long ago.

I'm getting cranky in my extended years.

But home is home, so what are you going to do? I think Anne Lamott probably said something about the great thing about churches and families are that when you show up, they are required to let you in. It's an unwritten law.

And this is what I feel about UBC. It's rarely the best, jacked up in many ways, but it's my people. And my people are good people, even if they don't know how the line is supposed to work.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why I Love this Town #5...

Time will let the story told grow and grow ‘til it unfolds
In a way that even you cannot ignore
You can say the seasons change but never if you just remain
In a place where the freeze is at your door

What you don’t know is the signs are right for the turning tide
--Bebo Norman, Into the Day

They tell me that all the great stories have in common paradise, a fall, death, and resurrection. I believe it to be true because all the inner yearnings of my heart, and the hearts of those I know, look at the situation we are in, remember a time (imagined or not,) when what is so wasn't so, and dream of a time in the future where a resurrection of all we hold dear rises out of the ashes.

A Pictorial History of Waco: Volume 2 causes people to stop and take notice. The old folks become lost in remembrance, the young people in wonder. The cover art, a photograph of downtown, shows Austin Avenue bustling with activity and vitality. Cars are on the street and the whole area is lit with the glow of dozens of neon signs. The picture was taken in 1961, eight years after the tenth deadliest tornado in U.S. History ripped through the heart of Waco, killing 114 people. One looks at the front of the book and wonders "What happened, and can it be again?"

I've heard people say downtown was never the same after the tornado, and this makes me wonder about how the vibrant activity in the picture. Apparently there have been dozens of stops and starts in the efforts to bring the area back to the glory days. Today Austin Avenue is littered with the remnants of failed attempts at revitalization. A mural on the side of the old Christus Shumpert Hospital remembers a time when city leaders sought to create a downtown pedestrian mall to attract activity. In the mere six years I've lived in Waco, I've seen old storefronts worked on, boarded up, then worked on again.

For us mere mortals, resurrection often comes through fits and starts. But as long as memory exists, the hope of resurrection can always be looming just around the corner.

I'm wearing a shirt with the words "City on a Hill" printed on the front. City on a Hill was just the name of one of my old friend's band, but the phrase, straight from the mouth of Jesus, reaches deep within us and pulls out the ancient longings for community, belonging, and just good old life. Wherever we gather, we are searching for the City on a Hill. When scandal occurs, we get angry because someone put their own personal desires ahead of the good of the City. When death takes one of our citizens, our friend, we are reminded that all our attempts at creating utopia in this world are only a reaching out for a brief touch of the real life that exists in the next.

Reason #5 Why I Love this town: In being a living, breathing embodiment of imperfection, I am, on a daily basis, reminded of the big themes: Paradise Lost. The desire for resurrection. And the great need for love and community while walking through the concrete and the dirt of a place inhabited by citizens rubbing shoulders, shaking hands, and hugging necks, simply begging to be infected with the glorious disease of hope.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


-- I woke up early this morning, did my morning stuff, which today included looking at my bank account. Realizing I had just enough to get me to the next paycheck, I made a vow to go a couple of days without spending any money. I was going to take a break from capitalism for a short amount of time. There's food in the refrigerator, gas in the tank, and (most of) the bills are paid for the time being. I was happy with my decision. I then went out to my car to head to work on this, the most windy day Waco has seen in years. As I pulled out I realized it is extra cold in my car. I looked to my right to see that the passenger side window has been busted in. 15 hours and $155 later, so much for the experiment in not spending any money.

-- The Marshall News Messenger, (affectionately known to Marshallites as the "Marshall Mess.,) did a story about our time at chapel the other day. I thought it was very well done.

-- Sometimes I watch Oprah. Don't judge me. Today one of her guests was John Mayer. He sang and chatted with O. (That's Oprah.) From his conversation came one of my favorite quotes in a long time. He was talking about a moment he had when watching Murderball, a documentary about para and quadriplegic involved in sports. He said when he finished watching it and reflecting on the journeys of the individuals depicted therein, he resolved to live his life "as if it is 'before the accident.'" Wow. I heard that and wrote more this afternoon and made the choice to savor every moment I had with people at church tonight. What a great "Life Verse."

-- Over the past several months I've had people tell me "You really need an RSS feed on your blog." I still have no idea what the hell this is. Somebody please offer me a tutorial.

Thanks for reading. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Yesterday was one of the most fun days of my recent memory. Hanging out with Ben, Jen, and Jordan was so wonderful. I was thinking during one of the (rare) quiet moments on the way back about a saying I once heard that a person is lucky if they make it through life with one or two really close friends. If that is the case then I think I have exceeded my limit by a massive amount.

You can see a recording of our time speaking at ETBU chapel HERE. When you get there find "Chapel Services" at the top and click on either Broadband or Dial-Up. Until tomorrow the Monday service should pop up. After tomorrow, just scroll down.

Another thing you need to check out, if you know at all who John Piper is, is this link that Jason sent me. I laughed a lot.

That's all for now.

The "E" Word...

I don't ever remember hearing the word Evangelical growing up. If I did, it was always an adjective, as in "That guy sure loves sharing his faith. He is very evangelical." In college I think I may have read the word in passing and began to suspect that people were starting to use it to describe a distinct group of people. Then in late 2000, after the election that put George W. Bush into the White House, all the media outlets were talking about this powerful group of millions of Americans who refer to themselves as Evangelical.

During this time I began to wonder, "Am I an Evangelical?" Politically I voted the same way these people did, because I share with them many of the same socially conservative values such as preferential treatment for rights of the unborn over and above any perceived rights of their mothers (with exceptions,) and the belief that institutions of faith are better equipped (and have a better track record) to tackle the ills of society.

But when I think about my day to day life, my conversations, beliefs about God, number of adult beverages I consume and the excessive use of language that many consider offensive, it's hard to believe I am an Evangelical. I still hold to the belief that Mary was a virgin when she was conceived and that after Jesus died he literally came back alive and, in between those two events, many miraculous things happened on the watch of Jesus. I do believe the way of Christ is the absolute best way to live. But the only true way? I've yet to come to a conclusion, and may never. This last fact puts me at sharp odds with most known as Evangelical.

Am I an Evangelical? I'm not sure. It's kind of cool that they are getting all the attention and it would be neat to be a part of that. I was telling a friend last week how interesting it is that much of the print and visual media are obsessed with a group of people and way of living that was the cornerstone of how I grew up. So if it gets me a book deal, yeah, maybe I'll be an evangelical. I'm not quite sure they want me, though.

And I refuse to go back to the t-shirts.

Do you consider yourself an Evangelical?

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Many of you have started reading my blog over the past year, while others remember when the majority of my posts were bullet points-- random thoughts and circumstantial information. As I started to get encouraging comments about my essay-personal bio-ruminating posts, the bullet points started to fall by the wayside. Well, I need to start back, so here's a bulleted post...

-- Yesterday Waco felt like the 4rth of July while this morning feels like Thanksgiving. I like Thanksgiving better.

-- Today is the 6th day I've worked this week. The store is completely setup for Christmas and now I can begin doing what I really enjoy, which is selling books.

-- Jane has a new buddy. My roommate, Tom, surprised his fiance', Beth, with a black lab, Ella. Those two are so cute together. Jane and Ella, that is. But so are Tom and Beth. Ella, being about half the size of Jane, has taken over the place. She began by eating from Jane's bowl and sleeping in her bed and barking away all of Jane's protests. I think the trade-off for Jane, though, is worth it. It's good for her to have someone to play with during the day.

-- I've become a huge Gary Allan fan of late. He is one of the most underappreciated singers in all of country music. He's got a new song, A Feelin' Like That, that has been on ITunes repeat. You should check it out. He's coming to Billy Bob's in December and I'm going to try to score some tickets.

-- A lot of people have been asking my thoughts about the elections. Believe it or not, I'm actually slightly pleased with the developments. The Democratic party that won last Tuesday is not the Democratic party that has run in the last few elections. They managed to allow a more wide-range group of independent thinking moderates make it through the primaries and win in the general election. Now let's see if they will let them vote their convictions or will require them to fall in line with the Pelosi-Reid agenda. I am, a little disappointed with Joe Lieberman. (I've made this comment elsewhere.) The Democratic party totally screws him over and he chooses to stick with them. I know it's to keep his seniority, but still, he could be much more powerful if he and Jeffords form their own caucus and force both parties to go through them to get anything done.

-- I can't seem to find time to sit down and read any one thing lately, other than the Waco Tribune Herald, which I can do in 20 minutes. There's a new Dave Eggers book that I'm thinking about commiting to.

-- Last week was going to be the week I began running again. Then on Sunday morning, I pull a muscle in my back. It happened while I was just standing still. The previous week I had thought a lot about getting older, and then that happened, and didn't help things one bit.

-- A week from tomorrow is my favorite UBC event of the year- Thanksgiving Love Feast. I'm already planning for a full Turkey-cooking weekend.

-- Monday is the trip to ETBU to speak at chapel. We are getting up and leaving early. I hope it feels like fall because nothing beats East Texas in the fall.

-- It's time for me to get ready for work. We have an Booksigning going on today. I never know how to prepare for these. Many of these authors can be quite the Diva. But I'm in a good mood so everything should go well.

-- Have a good Saturday. Thank a veteran, hug a neck, take a nap, put on your sweater, and listen to a song that makes you want to make it through a little bit longer.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I read a wonderful interview with Sylvester Stallone in this week's Premiere Magazine today. At 60, Sly has come to accept that he will always be identified with Rocky Balboa. I got the impression that his life has been a continuous cycle of running away from Rocky and seeking comfort by returning to the safety of the character.

I see this occuring many times in my life. Let's face it, we all have the character we've created for ourselves and we have our real selves. Most of the time, if we are at least somewhat emotionally healthy, the character closely resembles the real person. But it is nonetheless a fictional creation.

I really want to start wearing Wranglers and cowboy boots, because I want you to remember that I come from relatively humble beginnings in a small East Texas town. This is the real me, but at the same time, it's not. If I were honest, a more accurate representation of where I came from would be if I returned to wearing $10 rustler jeans with the velcro shoes from Payless. But Rustlers and Velcro aren't as cool as Wranglers and cowboy boots.

Truth is, as Stallone seems to have learned, people will think of you what they will think of you, and there's not much anyone can do to change that. Comfort comes when we stop trying to create the real us and begin being the real us.

This is what I'm learning. I am who I was and I am what my circumstances have caused me to be. In some ways I am what I create. I've always wanted to be identified with who is around me, and in some ways this is healthy. But I'm trying to pull back, assess things, and ask myself that great question that has baffled philosophers and college freshmen for generations, "Who am I?" I'm finding there's not as much there as I once thought, and this a good thing. I took to heart when Rich Mullins sang "Everything that was shaken was shaken, and all that remains is all I ever really had."

I've been shaken over the past year. Now let's see what really remains.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Why I Love this Town #4...

"Look Craig! We're in your neighborhood!"
-- Jude Lake, age 4.

Coming from the south on I-35 you take the Hwy. 6 exit. Go left (which is, I guess, west) and stay on 6 until you get to the Waco Drive exit, which may also say Hwy. 84. It's easy, but it does get a little tricky here. When you exit onto Waco Drive get to the right as quck as possible, or you will be stuck in a lane that won't let you turn. As soon as you take a right onto the access road, you'll then have to get over to the left pretty quick to get on the on-ramp. At the end of the on-ramp, get to the left immediately, or you'll be forced to get on Franklin when the road forks. Follow Waco Drive for a couple of lights, we will be on the left, caddy corner from Toys-R-Us.

I give these directions several times each week. In fact, I've become the direction guy at work. Someone calls asking for directions, I'm the first person paged to take the call. I'd be lying if I told you this bothered me. It doesn't. It's actually flattering enough to make me come close to blushing.

I could go on and on about how crazy the roads are in Waco, but until you've crossed the same road twice without ever having turned around, you'll never believe me. But trust me: the roads in Waco are seriously jacked up.

But I've been here for six years and I think I've finally cracked the code. I came close before, but moving over to Sanger has filled in the empty pieces. Before, I had known many adjacent neighborhoods without actually knowing one was next to the other. Now I know.

The code is much the same as that in the movie Contact. Remember the plans? Four planes, two on top of the other, the top left being empty-- the key was in collapsing the empty plane and moving the top right and bottom left together. If this is confusing, then you've never driven in Waco.

I've learned a thing or two in navigating this series of One Ways and entrances into alternative universes. Did you know that people who grew up in a place rarely learns the street names? I can take you through the maze of the back roads in the PineyWoods of East Texas but never once know what road I am on. I've noticed that a lot of people who grew up in Waco can't name street names. We know the landmarks from our home so well that the signposts along the way become irrelevant.

But in moving to a new place, we are forced to learn the grid and what everything is called. This is much like real life, and why many of us are afraid being thrown into new situations with new people. We know where we need to get, but differ on how to give directions.

One person wants you to take a right on New Road while another wants you to go in the direction of Wal Mart on that road that is next to On The Border.

One person wants you to be able to memorize all the verses in the Bible while another wants you to love and to trust God.

It's amazing how a messed up road system can cause us to think about life, and to complete a lackluster blog post for the sole reason of getting the creative juices flowing.

Reason #4 why I love this town: In social situations, there may never be a magical key to becoming an "insider." In Waco town life, the way is in learning directions.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A little word for my readers who reside in the Holy Land of East Texas-- Jen, Ben, Jordan and I will be speaking next Monday, November 13 at the ETBU chapel service. It starts at 10:00 a.m. We've been asked to share about our lives over the past year in dealing with the death of Kyle. I know a couple of you are already planning on being there. I'm looking forward to sharing in a place that is like a long-lost home for me.

It's been very busy for me for the past few days, so the writing has been kind of sparse. I've been planning on another installment of the "I Love this Town," series, just no time.

I'm out... later.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Dear Morning,

Of all the divisions of the day, you are the best. You have coffee, breakfast, and the morning news shows NBC Texas Today, The Today Show, and Imus in the Morning-- which is becoming my favorite.

In you, morning, I can think the best about the people I have the worst trouble with, for you have protected me from the hard reality of face to face interaction.

Here's an ironic thing. One of the reasons I love you so is because I'm one of the few people who love you so. Yet the only way you could be better is if more of the people I cared about loved you more. Does that make sense? It may in the afternoon.

Well, since you are here I must now leave and move on to the time and place where I'm forced to shed the innocence of you.

See you tomorrow,


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Time and Tolls...

I mentioned yesterday I downloaded a Bebo Norman song on ITunes. The song is called Time Takes it's Toll on Us, and at this moment I can't thinking of a more appropriate saying.

I'm feeling the toll is being taken.

I'm in a job that doesn't pay well but is just enjoyable enough to stick around. It's not as good as it has been, not bad as it could be, just a place to go to and work until it's time to go home. I've lost the will to fight the things I'm frustrated with and feel like a wild horse that has been broken into submission.

My body, though much healthier than it was two years ago, is starting to feel old. I know I've got several years before the real effects of aging kicks in, and I know there are things I can do to prolong it. But when I squat down to pick something up I grunt on my way back up, and this can't be good.

Yesterday someone asked me who my closest friends are and it was hard to answer. There are people around here who I love dearly and who mean the world to me. But my closest friends? Dead and on the other side of the world. Remember when you were younger and you got a phone call from a friend just to say "Hey, what's going on?" Yeah, that seems to end with time.*

Time takes it's toll on us
And it tries it's best just to steal our love
And we bend and we break, but we don't give up
Time takes it's toll on us

Yeah, I'm not "giving up," so don't despair. But not giving up doesn't mean I'm not bending and breaking.
*Please don't do this unless you'd already planned on it. The last thing I need now is a pity call.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I was in the middle of writing a post about how much I really don't care for Halloween, about how I was the fat kid who always got the cheap plastic costume that always ripped down the pants before the night was over, and how I just didn't want to buy candy so I began planning on being one of those people who thinks the Holiday is demonic and a celebration of the Devil's birthday. Then I got a text from Jen to go to the church, so I went. I saw the kids in their costumes a few days ago when they got them, but I guess she wanted a picture with us, since I think I've had a Halloween picture since they were born. So I went for a bit, then ate dinner at Cracker Barrel and have found myself at the Starbucks on the Interstate. I'm stalling until I can be assured all the neighborhood children have gone home. I don't want to be answering the door every thirty seconds just to tell the disappointed little critters I don't have any candy.

So while I'm stalling, I thought I'd give you what I haven't done in a long time-- A bulleted post with random stuff about what's going on with me.

-- On two occasions today I left an interaction with people with the feeling I had been rude. I hate when this happens with people I don't know well because it's not like I can call them up and say "Hey, remember when I saw you today? Yeah, I think I may have given you the impression that I snubbed you, but that wasn't my intention." So if you've seen me today, and I was rude to you, I apogize.

-- The previous bullet point makes me feel like a high school kid on MySpace.

-- There are two girls sitting at a table close to me. When they sat down they were holding hands across the table. When I saw this I thought they were either a.) going through some difficult situation and have been praying for each other or b.) Lesbian Lovers. As the night has progressed I've come to believe the answer is 'b.'

-- I'm about to read Redneck Liberation: Country Music as Theology, a birthday present from Adam. Should be good.

-- I must begin going to the gym again. I stopped running and working out a couple of months ago when I got sick for several days and have never picked it back up, other than the exercise I get from walking Jane. I'm starting to feel doughy again.

-- There were several kids at Trunk or Treat, UBC's Halloween thing for children, who looked like they were experiencing their first Halloween as a conscious being. I was thinking how crazy this must be for these kids. Living their entire lives where everything is pretty much the same then BAM!, thrown in the middle of a world where everyone looks like something else.

-- Did anyone read about John Kerry's verbal slip up today? And did you see his apology? How can anyone believe this dude meant to say anything else other than that it's the stupid people who are in the military?

-- Now that this holiday is almost over, I'm excited about Turkey cooking season.

-- I am drinking my first ever cup of decaf coffee. It's not that bad.

-- I still listen to some Christian music. Just downloaded a Bebo Norman song and am really digging it.

-- To regain some of my street cred I should also annouce I downloaded some stuff from Matt Kearney. But since I never knew who he was until he had a song on Grey's Anatomy, that probably negates any street cred I had.

That's pretty much it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

For Sutton and Jude...

Sutton informed me this afternoon that he and Jude do, in fact, have superpowers. I didn't doubt him for a second because I know I would not have made it through a year that could have destroyed me if it weren't for the superhuman abilities those two little boys have to crawl into my heart and repair all the cut and bleeding corners. The tools of their trade are a giddiness and penchant for living in the here and now--both traits flowing through their Lake blood.

Truth is, I feel like we have all been given superpowers. They have been on loan and it seems as if the contract is about to expire and we must now give them back. What is it about today being the first anniversary of Kyle's death that seems like the end of something? The numbness associated with the initial blow has pretty much subsided and we must now walk forward into a world that has slowly become, more or less, normal.

This normalcy is the thing I have both feared and longed for some time now. It can be quite depressing when I think that a life in which my closest friend is dead is now normal. But there is also healing in the routines of life that have now settled into my weeks.

Today, after picking the superheroes up from school, we came to my house and played with Jane for a bit. Actually, Jane and I played while the boys ate their snacks perched atop the table on the back porch, safely away from Jane's hyper-unpredictability. We then went and had a second snack (don't tell their mother) of sno-cones. After that I took them to Barnes and Noble, where they typically want to run and hide or play. Today, however, they were content with just sitting next to me as I read from the super-elaborate Robert Sabuda's pop-up books.

I parked at the Compass so we'd have to walk a little further, and therefore get them a little more tired, than if we'd parked closer. On the way back to the car I had one superhero to my left and one to my right, both holding my hands to cross the street. The impending sundown was beautiful, assisted by the hint of a cool wind. I told them both how they may just be the coolest kids in all of North OR South America. (Sutton learned his first two continents today, and was talking about them all afternoon.) I thought to myself how beautiful this moment was, but how this shouldn't be how it is. But it is how it is, and we make do with what we've been given.

Driving up to their house, we noticed a street full of cars and a crowd mingling in the front yard. Kyle and Jen's Supper Club friends had brought over a tree to be planted in honor of Kyle. As I was unloading my car of the boys school stuff I laughed at a funny story I heard recently about a congregation whose fundamentalist pastor assured them the apocalypse was close at hand. They were all frightened until they saw him in his yard the next morning planting a tree.

Sutton and Jude still have their superpowers, and I pray they keep them as long as they need them. But for us mere mortals, how do we move forward from this day? We revel in the beauty in a pop-up book. We find ourselves laughing hysterically at the myriad of colors painted on our tongues by a sno-cone shared in the company of friends. And above all else, we plant trees and stand together throughout the years, watching their slow movement toward Heaven, and celebrating moments like this when Heaven has found a way to move toward us.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

After Kyle died there were at least two people who wrote horrible things, blaming his death on numerous infractions such as testing God (Kyle's last prayer was "Surprise me God,") and preaching a watered down new-agey gospel. I was stunned by this, but more astounded at the amount of restraint I was able to show for these people. I actually got more angry at a fellow who extended his prayers and concerns for us, but did it in such a way that seemed to me, at the time, to bolster his reputation in the evangelical world. (I was wrong, but grief does crazy things.)

The reason for my ability to not show anger was not out of any special virtue on my behalf, because I knew we'd all arrive here, a year later, still struggling and crying and trying our best to figure this all out. We are here frustrated with the fact, as Woltorstorf has so eloquently stated, that grief isolates even those who share in the same loss, because we all experience it differently. We are still here, living in the midst of it all. Mr. Proctor has probably not even considered the name "Kyle Lake," for a year, and Mr. Hafichuck, if not in a mental institution, has no doubt moved on to a million different people to set straight.

The devil isn't the only one who roams the earth like a roaring lion, seeking who to devour. Some who claim to speak for God do their fair share of roaming. The great thing is that once they think they've got you, they move on-- as these two no doubtedly has.

The refreshing thing (and this may be just a tiny bit sinister,) is that they don't share in our common experience of still being in what can sometimes seem like hell, but they also don't get to share in the common joy of having had a friend as life-giving as Kyle. There's a price to be paid for being the self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy. Sure, they may have close relationships that fill some need in their lives, but they can't know the joy walking with someone without even the hint of a desire to point out their missteps and differences.

So I'll wake up in the morning with a sadness in my heart. I know it's coming, so it's ok. But I'll also have a tinge of satisfaction at my having loved, and been loved, so dearly by someone whose death brings about such sadness.