Thursday, September 28, 2006

Who Knows me Best?

Alright, that last poem was a little dark and twisty. Now for a little mindless game:

Create your own friendquiz here


The death of a friend
Brings the best and the worst
Out of those who were close
Or claim to have been
Sometimes it’s hard to discern
What is best
And what is worst
So we remember
And we rewrite
We create a circle
And say “This is how it was”
And silently dare anyone to be callous enough
To question our version of the pre-Event events

Then time goes by
And our rewritten story
Becomes The Story
Delusion or not
It is now reality
We breathe a sigh of relief
We’ve fooled them
We’ve fooled ourselves
We now have interpretive powers
Perched upon the pedestal of compassion
We busy ourselves with the “affairs of the living”
Happy the true story is lost
And in it’s place, ours

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Art of Being at Common Grounds...

I used to hate this place. My past Baylor issues made it hard for me to come here without being extremely uncomfortable. Rarely was there a place I felt more out of place. Kyle loved this and exploited it at every opportunity he could find by suggesting we meet here to hang out. When I would walk through the front door, apprehensive look on my face, he would be sitting in this very chair I'm in right now, ready to pounce on my insecurities by giggling at me being where I never thought I belonged. As we talked, he had a great time with how tense I felt.

I've been coming here on my days off for the past few weeks. I'm learning how to be here. It will never by my place as it was Kyle's place, but I feel I can at leat be myself among the burlap and sorority girls talking about how awesome God is.

There truly is an art to being here and Kyle was a true artist. He shared some of his knowledge with me, and I am trying to make good use of it. He said this chair was the best because it was in the middle, so if you work hard enough you can hear every conversation going on in the building. You also have a good view of the door. If someone walked in you wanted to talk to you can just wave your hand and they have to see you. But when people walk in, it takes them a bit of time to scan the room before their eyes make it to you, so if you would rather not talk to them, you have enough time to look down and look engrossed in your work. It's a quite deceptive scandal, and I feel a little guilty for betraying the secret of his skills. But that's how it is.

You've also got to know how to tell stories here, so I guess I'll practice by telling you one:

I've been picking Jude and Sutton up from school on Mondays and hanging out with them for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Yesterday we went to Poage park to play. I brought Jane along and we had a rip roaring good time. When the boys got in the car I leaned back to help them fasten their buckles and noticed Sutton's pants were soaking wet. As happens from time to time, he didn't want to go to the restroom because that's just too much time to take out of playing, so he pissed his pants rather than missing another trip down the slide.

"Sutton, what happened here? Why didn't you tell me you had to go tee-tee?," I said.

He replied, "Oh, it's not tee-tee."

"Well then what is it?"

"It rained today at school, when you weren't there."

(Me fighting back laughter,) "Oh, it rained? Well then why wasn't Jude wet when I picked y'all up?"

He said oh-so-matter-of-factly, "It didn't rain on him. I was the only one it rained on."

Isn't this how life happens sometimes? It's raining and we're the only one's getting wet.

Here's hoping you can play hard today doing whatever it is you love. But take a break and do the things that need to get done. You never know when a thunderstorm may come with you as it's only target.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Funny Story of the Day...

(Some of my more progressive readers will really appreciate this.)

I was called to the front of the store this evening to authorize a return. A gentleman in his early 20's was bringing back a copy of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." I asked if there was a problem with the book (protocol) and he said no, it's just that he wanted a HISTORY book, not a book that told some liberal guy's opinion of history. I told him ok, we could give him store credit for it (since he didn't have a receipt.) He said that was fine and asked if I had any suggestions for something on U.S. history that was readable and wasn't someone's opinion. (Feeling quite bold) I told him, "Well, every historian writes from the perspective of his/her opinion. You mean you want something that is more aligned with your viewpoints?" Not understanding my sarcasm he said "Yeah."

I was looking at paperwork during this exchange, so I didn't notice much about the kid, until the bookseller at the register, way to young and naive to understand the irony she was about to point out, says "I like your shirt. Who is that?"

"I'm not sure, I just saw it at a thrift store a few weeks ago and decided I'd get it."

I look up from my duties to examine the shirt and can hardly contain my laughter. The picture on his shirt, you ask?

It was a drawing of one Che Guevara.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Our slick answers and clever antics give us away
We are nothing we thought we were
Not as tall
Not as fast
Not as smart
So we find all the right props
To recreate the story we wish we were a part of
And all that we hoped and all that we dreamed
Is erected into a mirage
An illusion of greatness, the great novel of human history
That never was, and never will be

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


There are about a half-dozen new books written by journalists, of varying degrees and types of faith, who are exploring the differing movements and institutions within American Evangelicalism. I am currently reading one titled Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement by Lauren Sadler, a self-avowed atheist, and the Life editor of Salon, who is baffled by what she finds and credits the failure of secularists to provide any sense of meaning and hope to younger generations for the degradation of Evangelical Christianity. As one who is comfortable sitting in the critic's chair when it comes to the state of the American Church, I am enjoying her observations but also wondering when in the history of the world have nonbelievers, as a collective whole, been dispensers of hope and meaning?

Of special interest to me are the chapters where she chronicles her time spent with Mars Hill church in Seattle and the Revolution church in Atlanta, pastored by Jay Bakker, son of none other than Jim and Tammy Faye. In both cases she is intrigued, and seemingly a little attracted, to the sense of community and acceptance she first finds in these places but is turned off by the interpretation of Christianity, especially in the case of Mars Hill.

I've never known much about Mars Hill in Seattle, other than that it's often been mentioned as a part of the "emergent conversation" going on for the past several years. I also was aware it had fundamentalist leanings, but I had no clue how far those went. Although the culture lived out amidst this community of faith is very alternative, reflecting the tastes and mores of the home of Cobain and Vedder, it's theology and church polity would make Falwell, Dobson, and Roberstson proud to the core.

Mars Hill takes seriously it's belief in the nonegalitarian roles of men and women as it pertains to both family and church life. But they take it even a step further by denying leadership roles not just to women, but also to men who are not yet married. In fact, single men in the community often rent basements or extra rooms from families in the church so they can be in a relationship mentoring program in which they have modeled for them how men should lead women and how women should submit.

I don't want this to be a Mars Hill bashing post. I know one person who is a part of the church who at least occasionally visits my blog. In many ways, everything I've heard about the community is a perfect picture of the church being Christ to the world surrounding it. But by reading about these restrictions in church leadership I have found myself being able to understand at least a little the plight of women who have been denied leadership positions in churches, because even I would not be an acceptable leader in this place (not that I would want to be.)

Of course I am making a moot point because I am not a part of this community. But I was just moved by Sandler's interviews with women who previously were very strong and independent but who have been conquered by their men and an ancient worldview that saw them as less than adequate. You can feel a sense of defeat in their voices, many of them saying how they don't like how things are but how they submit anyway because "It's what God wants."

You should check out the book. It's really similar to another book making it around the circles, Body Piercing Saved my Life, but isn't confined to the parameters of Contemporary Christian Music. Sandler does not try to hide her bias, but her skewed perspective is something all believers should pay attention to.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why I Love this Town #1...

I woke up this morning with three thoughts on my mind. The first being that the song in my head, Rosanne Cash's Seven Year Ache, may be one of the greatest songs ever written. Second, I decided Jane needed a lot of exercise today since I'll be working late tonight and will have to leave her alone for a while. Third, I needed to eat breakfast since, probably for the first time ever, I forgot to eat supper last night.

After downloading Seven Year Ache and taking Jane for a walk I got in my car with several options to choose from. I've recently become a regular at both Cafe Cappucino and Panera, so I decided to shake things up a bit. Planning to end up at Common Grounds to use their WiFi, I decided to head toward campus and try Denny's, which is just next door. But during the entire drive down 18th I kept telling myself that I really didn't want Denny's, that I should really eat local. As I approached the interstate I realized Taco Arandas was open and that they served breakfast, so I pulled into their parking lot. But something happened. I felt the spirit was leading me in a different, more fulfilling, direction. "Where are you leading me?" I inquired of the spirit. Then all of a sudden it was as if the car began to steer itself back across 18th toward 19th to THE Waco restaurant, George's bar and Grill. As the spirit drove I thought "Of course, Singleton (one whom the staff of George's knows very well) told me they served breakfast."

Now I'll be honest, I rarely eat at George's because I hate to wait. I'm the guy who chooses where I'm getting my haircut based on who has the shortest line. But I've never had a bad experience there, and today's breakfast was no exception.

I brought no reading material and the television playing classic movies wasn't loud enough for me to hear, so I just sat down and waited for my Southwest Burrito with nothing but my Dr. Pepper and thoughts, one of which was how cool it would be to come to George's one day for breakfast with a group of friends and have a Big O, George's famous large round glass of your favorite brew. To borrow a phrase from Carney, that would definitely be rugged.

No joke, as I was entertaining that thought my attention was drawn to a table of old men across the room, one of them telling the group, "Well, I don't know about y'all, but I'm going to have a'nuther." Next to each plate of bacon, eggs, and biscuits and gravy was a Big O Margarita, of varying degrees of emptiness!

Part of my funk recently has been my inability to find things to write about, so I'm going to try to start letting you in on stories that give reasons why I love living in Waco. So here it is...

Reason #1 Waco Kicks Ass: No one will look down on you if you have a Big O for breakfast at George's, but they may look down on you if you don't have a second.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The New Man...

I've shared this with several people over the past few days and it seems to grab root in my psyche with each different telling. I feel as if my recent foray into sickness has made me a different person. And I mean that literally. On this side of the heaves is someone altogether other from the on entering into it. It's hard to explain but all I can say is I feel as if my time on the couch and in bed ripped my personal past away from the present. And I miss what it feels like I've lost.

Maybe this is what I've needed to see the reality, or to borrow a phrase from Singleton, the weight of my existence. On that side was a life shared with others, of hanging out in that east Texas barn and knowing how good I had it, of sneaking away to afternoon movies with my closest friend and of laughter. On this side is nothing to write home about.

I'm walking straight and taking care of my newfound canine responsibility, but something is just plain missing.

Oh well, what are you going to do?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On My Itunes Playlist...

Bruce Springsteen's The Rising fills me with the hope that, although there seems to be a mile inch thick wall between the heat and dreariness of late summer where we now reside and the cool nights of fall, if you just listen and look up, you can see change coming in the air. That change will bring it's own issues, but at least we'll have football and the approaching footsteps of Christmas.

The David Crowd Band's Make a Joyful Noise/ I will not be Silent never gets old and reminds me that the things we take a natural liking to can be the things God also most likes. I also think that if I had this song 15 years ago it would have ruined me because "I will not be silent" would have encouraged me to be louder about my already obnoxious beliefs about God and faith. Now, though, not being silent has more to do with being who I am than in being what I think a good boy should be.

The Riddle by Five for Fighting makes me remember how much Kyle adored his children.

K.T. Tunstall's Black Horse and The Cherry Tree makes me want to dance and somehow reminds me of my childhood. Maybe because I think she sounds like Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics.

What If by Nichole Nordeman exposes what I've always suspected: That the greatest apologetic for the Christian faith is that there's the possibility it's wrong. But, if it's right, it's the greatest cause for celebration in the history of the world.

Seven Spanish Angels by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson takes me back to slow drives on East Texas backroads in my dad's old pick-up truck, with the smell of pine straw floating in and chewing tobacco floating out.

I think of the Rolling Stone interview I read with Anthony Kiedis when I hear the Chili Pepper's Dani California. I couldn't help but dance when the band was jamming one day and someone asked if his excitement is fake. He said it would be fake if he DIDN'T dance.

I think of Elizabethtown when I hear Ryan Adam's Come Pick me Up.

I believe Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars will go down as the soundtrack for the past few months. I'm not exactly sure what the lyrics are getting at, but there is a feeling of loneliness in the midst of community that I get when I hear it. And, of course, I think of Grey's Anatomy.

And then there's My Little Corner of the World by Yo La Tengo, which makes me think, once again, that I'm here and hopefully being here is good enough to make it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Love Will Rise...

The past week has seriously gone by in a haze. I guess technically I was only sick for three days, but it has definitely taken it's toll for longer than that. I used to think it would be cool to have chronic fatigue syndrome, but not anymore. It's fun laying on the couch for hours on end when you want to. But when you do it out of necessity...not so much fun. I feel I may be coming out of it, but I've felt that before.

Being sick reinforces the interconnectivity of all reality. Those who hold to a strict separation between the spiritual, physical, emotional, and social sides of human behavior have never experienced illness. Avoid like the plague those who would sit down over coffee and tell the each other, "Let's forget about all the other stuff and focus on the 'spiritual' things today." These people are not wanting to talk spiritual. They are wanting to explore ways to become part of the elite, the chosen.

My spiritual reality is that when we sang "How Great" today in church, I was singing but thinking to myself "You know, I'm not really sure who or what is that great right now." And when Crowder began "Come Awake," I had no pretension about what would be gong through my mind when I sang it. No ideas of general resurrection. No thoughts of Easter or how God metaphorically brings all things to life again. My weakened body would have none of that and all I could think about was that my closest friend was here for my birthday last year and not this year and I was literally singing for him to come awake.

I think this is Christian spirituality in it's most raw form... Refusing to let a clear mind get in the way of what is in the deepest part of your soul. Sickness will deprive you of a clear mind. It makes it difficult to operate heavy machinery, but easier to stand face to face with the creator of the universe.*

(*Disclaimer: I believe a clear mind plays a role in Christian spirituality as well. So don't stone me you foundationalists, or revelatory foundationalists.)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Parental Guidance Required...

I've been telling people for a long time that I want to start a blog filled with the hilarious quotes of Pat. Pat is a lady I work with. Actually, I am her supervisor but it often feels the other way around. This lady knows what she is doing, is brilliant, charming, friendly, and LOVES books. And she's an old biddy who curses like a sailor and is one of the few people in the world who will tell you the thing you most need, but least want, to hear.

Case in point. Just a few days shy of my 32nd birthday and there's a zit on my nose bigger than any I experienced in high school. Throughout the day I saw many glances but no one brave enough to bring up the pimple. Pat walks up and before she can say "Hello," says "Wow, I bet that big thing on your nose is embarrassing!"

That's Pat. And here's Pat ...(Those with Puritanical sensibilities should avoid reading any further.)

On the concern of Mormons of celestial marriage...

"Shit. If I get to heaven and find out there are husbands there, just send me to the other place."

On being asked what she told her husband at the end of a heated argument...

"I told him he could go fuck himself!"

An interaction with a customer (who we should always be friendly to.)

Customer: Do you have that new book called The Da Vinci Code?
Pat: We have it but it's not new.
Customer (with certainty): It must be new, I just heard about it.
Pat: I guess you've been living under a rock for the past five years?

On being told the story of an overly sensitive customer who felt demeaned by another bookseller who told him she didn't read fiction...

"I would have told him 'Look, it's only 9:30 in the morning and you have already ruined my goddamned day. Now get out of my fucking store you fiction-reading piece of shit.'"

On being told that I got asked by a customer if there was anything they could pray for me about...

"Oh, I get that all the time. I just tell them 'Look, I do my own goddamned praying, so just leave me alone.'"

Yep, it's Pat alright.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Day Cage...

The first seven days of my vacation were quite eventful. I didn't leave Waco but I did adopt a dog, entertained Robert as a guest and entertained the possibility that he may become a fellow Wacoan, and had an all around gut-busting good time.

And then my gut busted. I've spent the better part of the last three days between the toilet (both kneeling and sitting) and the couch and my bed. Of course, after it happened I learned "there's something going around." Why can't I ever hear the "there's something going around" ahead of time so I can prepare myself. It seems like it is just fair. Many people I know hear the "there's something going around" and take the appropriate precautions. It takes me by surprise.

I've fallen in love over the past few years with the ordinary days. But one drawback of the ordinary days is how fast they go by. I can live dozens of uneventful days and it seems like just a few hours. A day is a day is a day.

But throw a stomach virus in the mix and it feels as if I'm imprisoned in this 24-hour block. And don't even get me started on the wakness. The time in the restroom isn't so bad, you kind of get used to it. But laying on the couch with a puppy running around and not having the energy to even yell "don't chew!," that's a bit much.

All this to say, I haven't been a very good parent lately. I hope no one turns me in to dog protective services.

Something happened during my time on the couch that by sharing with you, I may have to turn in my man card. I was watching Meet Joe Black and fell asleep, because it's 12 hours long. I woke up in the middle of Beaches and...and...I watched the rest of it. And to answer the most obvious question-- Yes I did.

Well, that's all I've got for now.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Finally there is something in print linking the Passion movement of Louie Giglio with the resurgence of Calvinism in the younger generation of evangelicals. This month's cover story of Christianity Today is titled "Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback-- and shaking up the church," and features a young gentleman wearing a t-shirt printed with the slogan "Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy." (Incidentally, they didn't show the guy's face. Aaron O'Kelley, is this you?)

John Piper has been speaking at the Passion and One Day Conferences for years. Yet if you try to peg any of the people who are passionate about Passion as Reformed, most of them will say they are only concerned with God's Glory or exultation not some theological system. They then start talking about their faith and it looks an awful lot like a system that can be explained with a floral acronym.

I understand the desire to resist having your beliefs placed in a box. This is one of the hallmarks of our generation. Once you become labeled it is easy to become more of an object to study rather than a subject to marvel at. We all contain multitudes and cannot be described by simple formulas. But many of the tenets of our personal faith resemble that of others and it is sometime helpful to describe those tenets in certain terms. When this happens, why not call a spade a spade so we can then move on to more pressing issues.

I guess the further removed I become from my once fervent political interests and ambitions, the more disdain I have for spin. I do understand that in every conversation meant to persuade there is a certain amount of choosing which nuances to stress and which to diminish in order to make something more appealing. But there is a line where the spin ceases to be a rhetorical device and begins to be bullshit. Rhetorical devices are helpful, but bullshit is a hindrance to understanding each other moving on to more pressing issues.

Case in point. At work there is an operational procedure we are required to follow that we have never really obeyed. It's something that is pointless and, frankly, quite irrelevant to selling books. Our new management has made it a point to make sure this procedure is being followed. To accomplish this, we have been given lectures on how bad the system works when this procedure isn't done and how efficient and smoothe the world runs when it is. I spent weeks butting heads over this procedure and systematically proving it to be total bullshit. I finally got the other party in the converation to admit that we just have to do this because the compay wants us to. Ok, I can handle that. If someone says we have to call something green when it really blue in order to draw a paycheck, that's fine-- I like to eat. But don't try to convince me it's green when I can see with my own eyes it's blue. The thing is, now that this understanding has been made, I feel more comfortable with my job.

I'll be honest, here's the real reason I'm happy that Passion is coming closer to embracing it's Reformed theology: There's many things about the movement I've always wanted to embrace but felt I couldn't because I'm not Reformed. I've deliberately not talked or meditated on the greatness of God for the past decade or so because I don't want to be identified with those whose speech is identified with that talk. It's childish, I know. But that's how it is. But if Louie Giglio comes out and says, yeah, we're Calvinist, (which he hasn't) I can finally say, alright, now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about how great God is.

An Afterward to the previous ramblings:

The preceding has been posted acting under that assumption that the people in the Passion movement will be forced to come out of the woodwork because of the Christianity Today article. It's possible, however, that they won't and my thought will be void (if they aren't already.) Another interesting possibility will be if it forces people to say they don't know what everyone is talking about, that they are really Arminian or Open Theists and what's the deal-- we didn't know Piper was Calvinist. That'll really cause an uproar.