Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It takes a LOT to piss me off, and I've been in a constant state of being pissed off for the past two weeks. I can't elaborate too much because I've read news stories of people getting fired for what they wrote on their blogs. I'll just say that there are some people who I interact with and and totally understand why God created the natural order in such a way that would give rise to the development of alcohol. Spend a week and a half with those same people and kick-ass, anti-establishment country music makes total sense as well.

I've got a Budweiser Select in my hand and Miranda Lambert playing loudly through the speakers. I'll get better soon and start writing the stuff you want me to write. Right now, however, I have a great need to be a badass.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I officially became a New-Agey kook today. Or perhaps a Buddhist. Someone who believes there's something in the stars or the universe that can either smile or frown on you depending on it's mood. That's what I became, someone like that. It happened around the time work started. That's when I became a kooky New Agey Buddhist who believes the universe frowns on me. I'd love to give an itemized list, but I'll just say this was the shittiest day I've had in a long time.

I need a hug.
And some hard liquor.
I'm about to go to bed and tonight it will be some George Jones that will sing me to sleep.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Just to let you know, I'm still here. I've been extremely exhausted the past few days. Busyness has overtaken me and when I'm home I'm too sluggish to do anything. I want to get back to writing more narrative type stuff, I just don't have it in me right now.

In the meantime I'll note that this is my 504th post. When I saw the big 500 coming upon me I told myself I should write a special post about my history as a blogger. Like a 500th episode special. But 500 came and went and I didn't even notice it. It seems life happens that way.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Work has been crazy lately, and I've been doing a lot of it. There are tons of personnel changes going on at the store-- some very good and some very bad. Right now there's a lot of unanswered questions about my future. Basically it boils down to this: Things could get better for me, things could get worse for me, or things may stay the same for me. So basically, this time in my life is like every day any of us has ever entered.

Friday, May 19, 2006


If you are in Waco tomorrow (Saturday) you should stop on over to Barnes and Noble around 4:00. Rumor has it Clifford the Big Red Dog will be there live and in person. Or is it "live and in dog?" Unfortunately I won't be able to make it there to see him. Something tells me I'll have to leave the building shortly before he arrives-- Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge. Clifford was one of my favorite book characters as a kid. I hate that I'll have to miss him. Maybe next time.

Another Television Post...

I didn't start watching Will & Grace until three years ago when it was at it's peak and about to begin it's slow spiral into creative stagnation. During the early years I got Will and Grace and Dharma and Greg and Two Guys and a Girl and a Pizza Place all mixed up, so I didn't bother. I knew one show had homosexuals, another a married couple, and another a Pizza Place, but I didn't know which was which. When I got it figured out (and the other two went off the air) I became endeared with Will, Grace, Karen, and Jack for their hilarity and totally unhealthy codependence on one another. Seinfeld gave us a cast of narcissists who lived in their individual worlds, but did it together. Will and Grace-- narcissists totally dependent on each other. Last night I bid them farewell in what was one of the riskiest and most beautiful series finale's I've ever watched.

Before I go further, let me just say there was something I was disappointed with. During any interview I ever saw or read with the creators and cast, they would almost always mention how surprised they have been over the years that there wasn't a lot of attention given to their show by the Christian conservatives. You could almost detect a sense of disappointment in these comments, like they wanted people to protest the show in order to attract more viewers. There was a character on the show last night that represented these people they wanted to shock, who spouted out anti-gay scriptures from his hospital bed. I guess this was one last grasp at persecution. I wanted to tell the writers look, the Religious Right ignored you, get over it and move on. (I also wanted to show the Religious Right the value of not protesting everything you disagree with.) Alright, rant over.

Other than that the writers gave us what we wanted to see. They showed us what happened to the Funny Four after twenty years. I'm not sure this has ever been done. Most series endings either wrap up loose ends (a la Friends), or tries to use the entire time to give a head nod to all the jokes ever said on the show (Seinfeld,) totally suck by trying to be too quirky (7th Heaven,) or make you cry because they came too soon (Ed.)

But when I really love the characters in a story, be it from television, books, or movies, I want to follow them throughout their lives. I want to know if Holden Cuafield moves beyond his cynicism and into hope. I want to know how the church in The Apostle progressed after Robert Duvall's character went to jail. And most of all, whenever there is a group of close friends in a story, I want to be assured that they stuck by each other until the end.

The Will and Grace writers did something daring. They gave us a glimpse into the next twenty years and showed us that whenever people are close and love each other, they always seem to have a way of making it back to each other, regardless of differences and past wrongs and geographic circumstance. The show was funny, unpretentious, and absolutely beautiful. Bravo, writers.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

UBC Africa...

I don't want to take up too much space from the REALLY important stuff, like my just-posted Grey's Anatomy thoughts, but I wanted to let you know that there is a group of people from my church who are in Kenya for a couple of weeks. If you are someone who prays, please keep them in your prayers. If not, please be thinking about them. You can keep up with their trip Here.


So here's my much anticipated post about last night's season finale of Grey's Anatomy, brought to you in bullet form...

-- First of all, let me echo the sentiments of many of my Grey's watching partners and say that Sunday night's episode should have been the season finale and last night's should have been the first episode of next season. Last night was good but kind of anticlimactic after seeing Burke shot the night before.

-- Yes Robert, I was very upset about Meredith and Shep. I mean, I kind of understand because, frankly, who among us has NOT had sex in an empty room at work while our significant others were left mingling with each other upstairs in the prom that our boss made us put on for his cancer stricken niece. But still, I just don't understand. I guess it just all comes down to me still thinking Addison is much hotter than Meredith, and has a much better personality and deserves to be happy. But hey, that's just me. Meredith and her McDreamy will be together, I just hope the writers do it quick. All of us Ed fans know what happens when the "will they/ won't they?" lasts too long-- people stop watching and the show gets boring.

-- Anyone else draw the connection that the season finale of the first full season of Ed also occurred at a prom?

-- I'm not sure what to think about Izzie leaving. I guess I need to find out if she is leaving the show or just the program before I ponder that thought. It would be a huge loss for the show if for no other reason than she is the best eye-candy on the cast.

-- Dr. Webber sure had a rough night, didn't he? In addition to all the hospital disasters going on, he finds out his beloved niece has cancer and that both his wife AND Meredith knows about his affair with Meredith's mom. I'll bet he got an ulcer.

-- Final thought: The best part of this show is the writing and nowhere is it better than in Christina's character development since the beginning of the show. The way they show how human interaction and, get ready for the UBC buzz-word, commmunity, has chipped away at her rough exterior, while still keeping her the competitive Asian-American with deep-seeded mother issues, is just amazing. Both Sandra Oh and the writers should have an armful of Emmys next year.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Thank God for "Who Shot J.R.?"

When the famous evil Texas oil tycoon was shot in the mid-80's on the last show of the season for Dallas, shockwaves were sent not only through the world, (Thomas Friedman tells of being pulled over by Arab militia in Palestinian territories during escalating violence, just to be asked by them "So, do you know who shot J.R.?",) but through the minds of television writers for years to come. Below are my three favorite cliffhanger moments of all time, in no particular order.

-- "I Ross take you Rachel..." Fade to black. I was a senior in college and a Resident Assistant in a Freshman dormitory when this occurred. There was a building full of tough guys who claimed to be too cool (or spiritual) for Friends , but when this happened all you could hear throughout the building was a chorus of "Noooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

-- Ed, fearing Carol and Dennis will get engaged during their summer travels, arrives at Carol's to "give her a gift." He kisses her, Dennis walks in after the kiss, fade to black. And a big "Noooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" because no one knows what Carol will do. This is one of the all time greatest Ed episodes in that it also was when Mark and Diane take the Ferris Wheel ride and Warren commands the Ferris Wheel operator to make it stop, or else they will kiss and he will leave Diane. Beautiful television.

-- Although last night wasn't technically the Grey's Anatomy season finale, it was the first part of it, so we can fudge a little. Shots ring from the outside, everyone runs outside to see what happened and we see Dr. Burke, who was coming back to the hospital to get confirmation of Denny's condition in order to obtain the donor heart, laying in a pool of blood. And again..."Nooooooooooo!"

Yeah, I know. I need a life.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

One Day...

I have been profoundly affected by One Day.

One Day I will own a house. This house will be big enough for my wife and children, but with little extra space to spare. In the back of the house will be a garden, for One Day I will be one who grows at least some of my own food. I will not, One Day, be one who plants a couple of turnips, quotes a little Wendell Berry, and feel good about myself for becoming one with the land, because I'll still rely on H-E-B to make me that good roasted salsa.

One day I will wake up in the middle of the night for no other reason than to watch her sleep. I'll gently move her hair out of her face so I can see it all. If One Day this should cause her to wake up, then so be it. We all know what happens when two people are awake. If she doesn't wake up, that's ok as well. It'll be a treat just to watch her sleep.

One Day I'll learn how to get this whole God thing down, without all the self-consciousness and self-referential arrogance that has accompanied me all these years. I'll pray because the inertia of my being will allow me to do nothing else and, One Day, I'll sing and it will sound as good to everyone else as it does to me. One Day I will see God as more than just the stamp of validation for all I hold dear, for One Day I will realize God as the all I hold dear.

As Michael Tolcher sings, One Day we'll laugh about it like we knew what all was happening. We will, One Day, finally be in on the joke. We will then, One Day, laugh and laugh as friends laugh at ordinary things because they are just plain ordinary.

I have been profoundly affected by One Day. (What did you think I was talking about?)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Simply Hilarious...

So remember this post from a few days ago? Make note that in one paragraph the word "cutest" is used, and in a subsequent paragraph the word "penises" is used.

If you have a Site Meter on your blog you know that you can see the page that referred someone to your blog. A lot of times people make it here by things they search on Google. Well today someone from Mexico made it to my blog by Googling "Cutest Penises." How freaking hilarious is that?

Imagine how disappointed they must have been. I mean, not to say they would have been disappointed if..., well, nevermind. In any case, now whenever anyone searches "Cutest Penises" my name pops right up.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Gateway...

"Without love and knowledge of the living God, we forget what it is to be human. Passion dies. Souls lie fallow. Leaves begin to fall, and we sense that it is getting late." -- Kelly Monroe

My favorite part of stories is when the storyteller decides to give us a peak into the lives of the characters after the plot has already climaxed and come to some sort of resolution. It's when we find out a little about what happens after the fact, when the old world has passed and the new one is at it's genesis.

It's learning in The Poisonwood Bible that Adah, now a doctor, no longer walks with a limp and that the most important character in Rachel's world is still Rachel. It is being reassured that Davy is still safe and once every few years runs into his brother Rueben on yearly hunting expeditions in Peace Like a River. Tom Hanks delivering the package to the lady named "Angel" at the end of Castaway and Gilbert and Arnie standing beside the dirt road waiting for the yearly parade of airstreams in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?-- These afterthoughts give us hope. These show the veracity of what Henri Nouwen said when he wrote "What seemed to be the end proved to be the beginning...Suddenly a wall becomes a gate."

I suspect if a movie were made about the last six and half months of my life, the scene at the end would have occurred sometime in a fleeting moment during the last few days. It could have been the plane flying over the trampoline on Sunday evening and Sutton pointing up to say "Look, it's my daddy! Bye, bye daddy! I love you!" Or would it have been me walking through the cloud of dust at the church today, looking for the first time at the changes that are going on and stopping on my way out to give out hugs and speak briefly to Matt, Harris, and Anthony, knowing that the chances of me seeing them again soon are not a slam dunk, but pretty good nonetheless. Maybe it was in me cracking open the Bible to begin working on a sermon I'll be giving in a couple of weeks or maybe it was in me picking up the photograph I have laying on the desk of Kyle in the church with that big silly grin.

Perhaps it's now, in my trying my best to be a writer, looking out the window at the winds picking up and the clouds coming in and rains waiting to fall for what in Central Texas could be the last time in months.

Being too expectant of our moments will paralyze us into not experiencing them. So let's just walk into them, expectant yet carefree. It's later than we think.

Monday, May 08, 2006


You are all thinking it, so I am going on record proclaiming it. I'm just as disappointed as you all are, so it's a frustrating thing to have to talk about, but here goes:

Tonight's series finale of 7th Heaven SUH-UCKED like a muh-fuh! How could those writers do that to us? No lessons learned? No "You were right dad, I should have listened to you?" And the worst of all, the thing that makes me want to vomit into the writer's Cheerios the most, no Ruthie until 52 minutes into the show?!

Good God.

I need a beer.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Another Letter...

Dear Eavesdropped on Couple,

I posted my letter to you on my blog and received more comments on it than I could have imagined. Everyone's thoughts brought me to the realization that perhaps I should write you a follow-up.

From those who are or have been a part of UBC, the response was generally positive. What to you was an innocuous and benign statement-- that you get entertained but not fed at UBC-- was to them something that was, at best, ignorant and, at worst, an attack on the group of people they hold most dear in the world. It should be no surprise that they would come to my defense after my rant.

But there are a couple who were outright bothered by my letter, and a couple more who expressed at least a little uneasiness. Their comments have prompted me to expound on my letter a bit further.

There's an age-old debate about whether the "Word" as used in Scripture refers to Scripture itself or to Jesus. I believe it's an important, even vital, discussion to have, but I've long since lost interest in it. The proponents of both sides have come to their conclusion after much thought, study, and prayer. As a result, they take serious what they have concluded. My comment that those who speak of being "fed the Word do nothing but shit sentences that make no sense to the rest of the world" stung them the deepest.

The comment was effective in that it was humorous and an accurate representation of my experience with many who speak in such a way. But effective is not always virtuous. I could have waited for my irritability to pass and constructed a more thoughtful way to express what I was thinking that wouldn't have been quite as vitriolic. For that, I apologize.

This letter is intended for you, couple I eavesdropped on, but I'd like to respond to a few of the comments from others in the hopes that it helps you understand me and my church better.

First of all, I'd like to point out that Myles made a wonderful point. Those I disagree with do not have a monopoly on shitting sentences that make no sense to the rest of the world. Every group develops a language that is meaningful to them, but can become stale with overuse. If you choose to revisit UBC, you will learn quickly that we have phrases that have become trite, such as "authenticity" and "community." This language means something to us because it helps to define who we try to be, but, ironically, it can also probably seem a little exclusionary at times. We try to keep this in check, but it's not always easy.

Singleton made the comment that you don't "get it" and you can't "get it." Amy suggested I should have invited you to church so perhaps you would have a chance to "get it." I think both of these comments are right on in one aspect, and slightly miss the mark in another. It's no secret why the dozen or so positive responses to my post came from present or former UBC'ers. One thing we talk about is that belonging typically always precedes believing. In other words, you do not understand us fully because you are not a part of us fully. This sounds arrogant, but I don't believe it is because it is true of any church, not just ours. When you find yourself in the daily flow of a group of people you start to pick up on why they do and say the things they do. After a certain amount of time you may decide that particular church is not for you, but you will become a little more hesitant to make silly little comments about being "entertained, but not fed."

With that said, there are too many believers going around these days telling other believers that they "just don't get it." I think there are people who, when it comes to who we are and where we stand, "get it" but don't agree with all of it. These are people I can respect, even though our church membership will probably never reside in the same congregation. My friend Aaron is one such person.

I'd like to respond to Amy's comment that I should have invited you back to UBC with a little of Mike's initial comment about consumerism. UBC is a church. It is not a restaurant, it is not a store. I am not a used car salesman hocking a product, and I won't act like one. I am a part of a community of faith. We are people who are seeking to follow the way of Christ and to be more like him. Most of the time we screw up REALLY bad, but occasionally we get it right. We are always open to others coming and walking alongside us. Most of us, especially me, could do a better job of extending my hand to you when I see you. But initiative cuts both ways. Numerous are the entry points into the life of our community, but your brain controls your two legs and it's up to you to walk through them.

I do not regret my previous letter to you because it was what I was thinking and how I chose to express it. As Singleton has pointed out, I am not Jesus. I don't always respond like Jesus would. I do lament the fact that most of us who are human and passionate about certain things and are somewhat literate, find creative ways to demean and belittle the viewpoints of others with our words. Amy helped me understand that in her response, just before she creatively demeaned and belittled me by asking "and who are you reliant on, yourself or Christ?"

We are all wretched folk. God save us.


Further Comments...

This is no longer part of the letter.

-- The couple did peruse Kyle's books, but chose instead to purchase Blue Like Jazz. This was probably for the best, as the God's Will book may have scared them off, while BLJ is a good Introduction-Lite to "the conversation."

-- I LOVED Jen's comment raising her quills and pointing them to the offender. How beautiful is that? Almost immediately after the couple's comment my first thought was "I'm blogging about this." Confrontation in that moment would not have been a good idea. The tone of my post may not have been a good idea either, but much better than confrontation.

-- The title "UBC's Godfather" was bestowed on my by Carney, who knew not of Big Phil. "Uncle Craig" is just fine with me. Less responsibility, more opportunity for fun.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Letter...

Dear Nice Looking College Aged Couple I Was Eavesdropping on in the Religion Section Last Night as I was Shelving Books,

As far as population goes, Waco is by no means a small town. However it feels like a small town in that it operates by many of the same rules. I know a thing or two about the rules of small towns and I have the urge right now to take you to school on one of them.

Rule: Never speak negative words about a local church unless you know for certain there is no one within earshot who is a part of that church.

Your conversation went something like this:

Boy: Oh, look, they have Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.
Girl: Who is Rob Bell?
Boy: He's this guy who preached at UBC a few weeks ago. I went and thought it was good.
Girl: I'm not quite sure what to think about UBC.
Boy: I guess it's okay. It's a good place to go if you want to be entertained, but you don't really get fed there.
Girl: Yeah, that's what I was thinking.

I'm not quite sure which church you visited, but you must not have stuck around very long, because I get fed there all the time. Before church there is ALWAYS doughnuts from Shipley's in the foyer. Regular AND Chocolate Glazed, along with free coffee from Common Grounds. Our Lovefeasts are LEGENDARY! Sometimes at our less formal gatherings Amanda has made this stuff that is a mixture of Cocoa Krispies, Marshmallows, M&M's, and peanuts. I like to call it Manna From Heaven. Katie makes some of the best cookies I've ever put in my mouth and Robert cooks up a taco that is second to none. If none of this is enough to convince you, I suggest you take a visit to the blog of one of UBC's most prominent faces, Matt Singleton, and count the staggering amount of times the word "food" is mentioned.

Don't get fed my ass.

I suspect, however, the possibility that you are not using the word "fed" in the same way I've been supposing. I am aware of this metaphor, as I was once one who used it often. Many put it this way: "I just want to be fed the Word."

I know churches who speak a lot of being "fed the Word," and trust me, most of them you don't want to get mixed up in. Many of the people who speak of being "fed the Word" do nothing with their lives but shit sentences that make no sense to the rest of the world and goes absolutely nowhere in changing lives or humanity. If you want that, have at it. I can even make a couple of recommendations.

But if you want a place to gather and pray, study the Bible, be profoundly affected by God, to make friends and do a LOT of eating, give us another try.

If you want, I'll even hold the spoon for you and play choo-choo train with the food.