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.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I've been thinking recently, (actually, my entire adult life,) how wonderful it would be if I were a celebrity. It's never really mattered what talent brings on my status as a celebrity, I've just always aspired to be one. Recently the vehicle to superstardom I've daydreamed about has been the possibility of Oprah Winfrey randomly finding my blog and doing her first "Blog Club," like she did the book club, and naming me the blog of the month. That would be a sure bet to ensure my celebrity status.

This is sick and twisted, I know, but you think about it to. Don't lie. (Or at least, humor me.)

Why is this the case? I think I just want people to think my life is interesting. But today, for a couple of seconds, I lost this desire. I realized how bored and disappointed people would be with finding out about my life. I had the day off and here's what I did:

Woke up, drank coffee and had an English Muffin with Fig Preserves.
Watched 20 minutes of the Today Show and thought, "I sure do miss Katie Couric," then turned it off.
Walked the dog.
Contemplated what to do with the day.
Sat on the couch for around a half-hour, wondering about the possibilities.
Went to work to order a sign for a booksigning.
Went to Panera for more coffee, a bagel (WITH honey walnut cream cheese.)
Wrote some random shit located just below this posted.
Went and bought a shirt from Old Navy on the clearance rack. ($2.98)
Came back home.
More sitting on the couch.
Mowed the yard.
Went to Happy Hour.
Came home.
Layed in bed wishing the neighbor's Halloween Party would quiet down a bit.

This is not stuff for the pages of People Magazine.
Last week I told myself to write about how the idea of a year is so arbitrary, simply a construct of our need to use language to define and compartmentalize the reality that we fear.

But it’s not a construct. Years are real, and they contain meaning.

A year means we have returned
The centripetal force of the great bright ball
Has flung us back to where we once were
Sure, we are always where we once were,
But in some of those places we raise an Ebenezer
A monument to remember
The events that changed us
That mark before and after
When we were whole, then made incomplete
By forces beyond us
Yet right at our fingertips

But more than just a pointing from
This place is pointing to
The day where there is no return
For then we will all be truly here
The loss will be filled with a discovery
We will find where he went
And the reasons behind all laughter and tears
We will speak in songs
Days, minutes, years will have no meaning
Loss will be lost
"The End" will finally end

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Inspired by the new, highly emotionally manipulative, Keith Urban Song...

I'm a sucker for the crescendo, and this is probably why I could never be considered a connoisseur of great music. I'm not joking here. The crescendo may be the greatest thing ever in the history of sound.

The thing about the crescendo is that if you know it's coming, and you've experienced your fair share of crescendos in a lifetime, you can easily tell yourself, "No, not this time. I will not be manipulated by a musical device." But then it comes, and especially if it's accompanied by all drumsticks and pedals banging in fast unison, you start waving your towel, raising your hands, and maybe break out into a little jig. You can't run from it.

Well, you may can, but I can't.

Everyone's trying to figure out what someone else is thinking and we develop our theories about what is going on in the head of so-and-so. Some of us want the steady rhythm of a life lived as expected. Some are content with the beauty of quietness while others have to experience life at full blast.

We provide the notes, but rarely do we choose the musical arrangement. Most often we are not the people playing the song. The song generally plays us. When we recognize this we are free to hear the crescendo over the horizon, look over at the drummer banging away in quick, steady unison, and start waving the towels and raising the hands.

And we then realize the crescendo is taking us to the place we always dreamed existed, but often doubted. We are welcomed in by those who sang with us at earlier times and in earlier choirs, but who experienced the crescendo much earlier than we had hoped.

Yep, I'm a sucker for the crescendo.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I remember this day a year ago almost as clear as any other in my life.

I had the day off and was preparing to preach for the HUB at church. The talk was walking through some stuff in Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. A few weeks previous Kyle and I were eating lunch at Jason’s deli. As was his occasional habit he asked what I had been reading and I shared things from that book. He thought it was great stuff and picked a date on the calendar for me to talk it through.

One of the things I miss the most is having him ask me what I’m reading.

I finished working on the sermon on Tuesday and had Wednesday off. Kyle called in the morning and asked if I wanted to have lunch with him up at the church to talk through the night. He, Ben, Jamie, and I met upstairs for lunch. I remember I brought Jack in the Box, and he and the rest had stuff they made at home. (Isn’t it crazy the things you can remember?) The upstairs room has a DVR, so we spent lunch watching episodes of My Name is Earl.

When lunch was over we went downstairs. Kyle and I were in his office and I started to talk about the sermon. He waved me off, told me he trusted me, as long as I kept it brief. (I once had a hard time keeping it brief.) He told me he had met with a guy named Terry Esau earlier in the day and wanted my opinion on whether or not the church should do this “Surprise Me” experiment in Esau’s book. I said I felt it could either be the dumbest thing we ever did, or the most special. He agreed and said he thought we’d go ahead and do it.

I had already planned on seeing an afternoon showing of Elizabethtown and asked if he could get away as well. He thought about it and decided not to. With Baylor Homecoming approaching, he decided he was going to take Friday off and would need to work all day Wednesday getting stuff for Sunday ready. I left his office and that was the last time I saw him until Sunday morning.

I saw Elizabethtown, loved it, and at church that evening told him I enjoyed it enough to see it again. We decided that on Friday we’d find time to see it. Friday came and he decided to head out to his family’s ranch early, since his sister and her family was coming in.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Letter...

Dear Texas State Highway 31,

I've been giving this a lot of thought and I've decided to go ahead and declare that, of all the roads in the entire world, you are by far my favorite.

I mean, what other stretch of pavement provides a more comprehensive narrative arc to the story of my life than you? Sure, there is U.S. 59, which connects Carthage, my mother's hometown and the place where some of my greatest childhood memories lie, to Marshall, the home of ETBU where much of my development from adolescent to adult occurred. But those are just two places and the fact that all the good that road has brought empties out (almost like a sewer) into the wasteland of one of my least favorite places, Houston, kind of invalidates much of the good that U.S. 59 brings. 59 comes in second, but a distant second at that.

My dad grew up where you begin on the eastern portion of Texas in Kilgore, State Highway 31, and most of the Nash's still reside within a stones throw of of your shoulder. In fact, one of my earliest memories, visiting with my grandfather in the nursing home in Kilgore and watching The Wizard of Oz took place near your watchful protection.

From Kilgore you took my family a little further west to the great East Texas city of Tyler, where I was born. It was in Tyler that Kyle Lake grew up. Just twelve miles down you was Chandler, the little town of 1,500 where I lived. Little did either of us know we would meet and become such great friends. He and I met where you end, here in Waco.

You run right through Chandler, State Highway 31, and I will always consider that quaint little place my home. Still standing, only a few yards from you, is the tiny little preschool my mother took me to when I was very young. I'm glad I was raised there and not in the confines of my home, about a mile away from you. I love my parents, but believe they made a good choice in deciding to work and let other qualified people help them raise me. On your other side is First Baptist Church, where I learned about God and community.

You then stretch for about eight miles to Brownsboro, population: just a few, but home to the center of life for Chandler, Brownsboro, and Murchison, which is Brownsboro High School. The structure that most defines that little town is the goalpost on the north end of the football field that deposits many a field goal and extra point into your traffic. Brownsboro exemplifies what I most love about you: You don't change very much. Sure, where the home side of the football field stands was once the old rock gym that was torn down back in '89, and there has been more than enough Dollar General stores pop up next to you, but for the most part you look just as you did thirty years ago.

I know, in general, the secrets you hold on Murchison, and then you end up in Athens. I leave you in Athens for a few miles as I take the loop around. I've often thought that the place I meet you again is probably, for all intents and purposes, the place where the great mythic region that is known as East Texas ends. The only reason for this is that the last pine tree is just a few yards from where the loop ends. If I am wrong about this, then the next best guess would be the Collin Street Bakery that is located on you. This is where I get out of the car to eat junk food. When I get back in the car I feel I have shed the East Texas Craig and am beginning to put on the Central Texas Craig.

Between Athens and Waco you hold Corsicana and around a half-dozen towns that look alike and share the distinction of being places where you must slow down if you don't want to end up paying a lot of money to Barney Fife.

Just before you and U.S. 84 merge, there is a tiny little building way out in the country that is some sort of county-line beer joint without a sign or any indicator this is what it is, other than people walking in and out of their trucks looking like they've just had beer. I've passed this a million times and have wanted to go in, but can't get the nerve up. One of these days I will. If Athens or Corsicana is where East Texas ends, this is where Central Texas, and the cultural mindset of West Texas, begins. If I drank a beer anywhere east of this little building I'd be nervous and looking over my shoulder for the piety police. Past this building I spend my days looking forward to the times I spend with friends (responsibly) drinking the hops and barley I have slowly come to love.

And just past this beer joint, over the horizon, you expose the Waco lights. The Alico shines the most visible. As you bring me to into this town I realize what you mean to me, State Highway 31. It may be too much to say "I love you." Oh, hell, who am I kidding. State Highway 31, I LOVE YOU!

Thank you for where, and from where, you've taken me, State Highway 31.

I won't take you any further, because you don't go any further.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Why I Write (It's not that noble...)

When I finished posted those two poems last night I felt much better. But before I fell asleep I told myself I bet people are going to start worrying about me. The last time I wrote a lot of poetry my life was not going so well. I then read through some of my other posts over the past few weeks and realize that if you thought the ebbs and flows of my life were identical to the tone of my posts, then you could reasonably conclude I'm quite bipolar.

When I try to write more than normal, and some of it is a little melancholy, I run into friends in town who want to know "How are you?," in a very sympathetic tone. I appreciate this, as everyone should be asked the How Are You? question multiple times in any given day, regardles of how perfunctory it may seem. But my first instinct is to wonder why the concern of my well being, then I realize, oh, they read my blog.

Which still baffles my mind. You read my blog. In conversation over the past few days I've asked people, "Did I tell you about...?" and have on numerous occasions had the reply, "No, but I read it on your blog." I brush it off but deep inside I'm really thinking, "Holy Shit, they read my blog!"

And, really, the only reason I write is because you read. I've had a lot of discussions lately about art and beauty and what it means and where it comes from and I really feel incompetent when talking about it because I don't consider myself an artist. A documentarian, yes. A journalist and commentator, perhaps. And artist? I'm not so sure. I'm not saying that out of false humility. I'm saying it because I believe it to be true, and here's why: True artists hone their craft regardless of whether or not it will be seen by others. They do it because something deep down inside of them tells them they have to do it.

I do it for the attention.

So as long as you keep reading, I'll keep writing. And the more I write the more you will see the downs and lows of my life. But please know that my life, like the lives of most emotionally healthy persons, is rarely lived in the highs or lows. It's lived in the driving to work and the realization that I'm out of milk. It's in thinking about when I'm going to find time to walk my dog and in worrying about how much month is left before a new paycheck arrives.

So that's that. And it might be the last "that" for a few days. I'm in the beautiful Henderson County Seat of Athens, TX in a coffee shop across from the courthouse getting ready for a junior high retreat I'm speaking at this weekend. (I'm wondering how it happened just as much as you are, but I am looking forward to it.) I'll be back in Waco sometime Sunday afternoon

Have a great weekend, even if it is just quite normal.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

ok, so here's the deal
behind what I'm thinking
behind two posts within an hour
and three in a day

i was content being the person
who was NOT the truth teller
not that i reveled in lies
but that other people could be
the one's who "told it like it is"
but what is it
about my life right now
that is driving me around these corners
that require ME to be the grown up?
it is my being annoyed
with myself, and others
who have let things slide
until they have slid into the
pit of my stomach

damn this feeling
damn this responsibility
at nine
or there around
the weight of things
makes itself known

truth sets free
but only when told

truth waiting to be told
enslaves and holds down

i'm confronted with the arrogance of my question
"what did i do to deserve all this?"

bring me back to simple
to the land of motives that aren't pure or impure
because motives don't exist in that place

release from me
the weight of things

We Should Get Together...

I've been speaking with a gentleman in Houston about coming to do a booksigning at Barnes and Noble sometime soon. I've never read his book but am in love with it's title, The Unwanted Gift of Grief. Those who have grieved can say "Amen" to the Unwanted part, but the Gift is what makes us raise an eyebrow.

But grief is a gift. After Kyle's death I was given the gift of being conscious in a way I had never known. Part of that consciousness led to the realization that all of our tasks and chores, while necessary to move through this world, are really just meant to be the vehicle that allows us to do the real important things like breathe and laugh and contemplate the mysteries of grace God brings us by just being together.

This morning I woke up later than normal, but still early by most people's standards, and rejoiced at the cool weather that has come our way. I came to check email and received a call on Skype from my friend Tim in Germany. I haven't spoken with him in months and can't tell you how happy it made me to catch up.

Last night I received a MySpace friend request from one of my favorite people in the world, Melissa Herring. Many of you know Tony and Melissa as my "Christmas Eve Friends." I hate it that we don't keep in touch more, but am always blessed by any contact I have with them. And I NEVER say the word "blessed," so I hope you understand how much I really mean that. It is a gift from God, this friendship. Check out her page. The pictures of the Herring family are beautiful, just as they are beautiful in every way.

I think the greatest gift Kyle's death brought was the gift of people seeing how necessary it is to get together. I've noticed over the past few months that everyone seems to be scattered. Let's not do that anymore. Let's make a more concerted effort to see what is important. Let us not make it to the next death (how morbid does that sound, but it will happen) and say that we should have gotten together sooner.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I've felt like the jilted lover of a weather forecast that keeps promising change but doesn't deliever. Today, however, I was surprised. I left the house to walk Jane around 5:00, and by 5:45 the cold front finally came, and it was really (somewhat) cold. The last few "cold fronts" have been nothing more than not-quite-as-hot fronts.

But tonight I feel free to feel again. Weather has this affect on me, especially at the tale end of a season. I've been walking around like a zombie for the past few weeks, stuck in a heat I can't get out of. But tonight the pajama pants come out.

Soon and very soon, camping.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

From our alternative service yesterday, to the excerpts I read of Barack Obama's new book, and even in the few minutes I watched Oprah today before I fell asleep, the theme that seems to be finding me lately is a call to see the best in people. I'm feeling a tug to "extend grace" to people I ordinarily wouldn't deem worthy.

I'm finding this is easy in theory, but when given the opportunity to pull grace back, it's just too damn easy. I mean, why do people make it so hard for you to like them sometimes? What I wouldn't give to see basic goodness and holiness the remnant of the imago dei in all people. I generally can do this until they do something, anything.

It's just kind of been a bummer of a day, thus the melancholy post. I came close to having an anxiety attack on two occasions today, and it was not fun. They only other time this has happened to me was over a year ago when I stopped taking the pain medication prescribed after my ear surgery. I was only on those things for a few days and getting off of them caused me major mental anguish.

But there are no drugs involved now.

Maybe there should be. :)

(And maybe I just wanted to suggest I will start using drugs just to get the damned religious "sponsors" off my site.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Little Graces...

I spent a misty Sunday evening in this beautiful place performing a simple wedding that, if life were as simple as I'd like for it to be, would have been performed by someone else. But this is the hand I've been dealt so I have tried to make the best of it. It's amazing that a place like this exists just 15 minutes from the plain confines of Waco.

But that's how life works. In the middle of the plainness (which has a glory all it's own,) we have moments of grace. These moments don't always involve children, but if a young'un is around, it multiplies the chances they may occur.

Yesterday at a belated birthday lunch for Amanda, Beth had Avery and was drawing things on the children's menu. Avery must have asked her to write her name on the paper and so she wrote "Elizabeth." Avery, noticing "Elizabeth" looked longer than "Beth" should probably look, began to read it...

"Elizabeth? That's your name?" she asked.
"Yes," Beth replied," "Eliza-beth."
Avery, looking at the sheet, "Elizabeth. E-lizabeth. E-Liz-a....BETH!"
Then, in a "Interesting, I just learned something new" voice Avery said every-so-nonchalantly,"Hmm."

To their right Jude discovered a voice he could speak in that would make people laugh, so he didn't let up. It was a cross between a demon-voice and that Donald Duck thing that everyone in the world can do but me. One person laughed, he noticed it, then looked to the next person to do the same.

To my right was Sutton who had conned four straws from the waitress and made the announcement that if three other people wanted, they could share in his lemonade.

A couple of people over was Hogan, who is laid back and was taking everything in, looking at the interactions going on between people and just raising one eyebrow, in a kind of detached observational quest.

Down on the other end of the table was baby Kylee (named after Kyle), sleeping the afternoon away.

And we were all in between.

I was quiet. My mind brought me back to Avery's baby dedication, which occurred just a few months after she (and in some respects, I) was born. He said that as community it wasn't just the parents responsible for raising children. The responsibility fell on everyone. It really does take a village.

But beyond the village, I hope your life has children in it. If it doesn't, find a life that does.

This summer, when we were preparing to reenter our building, I wrote this prayer of blessing for the Creative Liturgy Project...
Among all the things we say about this place, let one of them be that it is a place for children.

Let this be a place where our children dance with joy at the thought of returning to.
Let it be a place where they receive so much comfort and peace and love that they dance with joy at the thought of leaving and sharing comfort, peace, and love with a world that desperately needs it.
May this be a place where our children feel safe to laugh, cry, learn, doubt, play, and live the life you meant for them to live.
May all the facets of the radical message Jesus came to proclaim be written on the hearts of our children in this place.
As our children grow older, may they tell stories, sing songs, write books and live full, vibrant lives inspired by the way they experienced Jesus through the community of his followers who meet in this place.

We ask this in the name of Jesus, the one who called us all to come as children.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why I Love this Town #3...

Nothing gets the blood pumping in a medium-sized city that struggles with identity and insecurity issues like an old-fashioned white collar crime. It's exciting. It makes you think that perhaps there are more things of substance going on here than just the memory of an FBI raid that ended in a fiery disaster over a decade ago.

About a week ago the resident town insider at work came through the door holding a copy of the Waco Tribune Herald with a story on the front page about missing funds from Downtown Waco Inc., a non-profit whose purpose is to make this great city more like San Antonio. Or, at the very least, San Angelo. The paper also reported that a seventy thousand dollar reimbursement check had been made out to the group, but had no information on who the check was from. This guy was in the know and he knew it was Margaret Mills, the former director who resigned earlier in the summer. I remember reading about her leaving the agency in the paper and suspected no wrongdoing. What I did suspect, however, was that, although I love this town, I am still an outsider because I couldn't for the life of me figure out why this lady leaving Downtown Waco Inc. should merit the attention of the front page of the paper.

The front page of this morning's paper showed a picture of the reimbursement check that belonged to one Margaret Mills.


Why does this story excite me so? There is crime going on all around me. In fact, my car was broken into today. All they got of value was a Dwight Yoakum CD, because that was the only thing of value I had in my car. But don't think they didn't look. My car is trashy, but they managed to make it even more so by rummaging around for something good. It was almost a favor, though, because they took all the change out of my ashtray. I've been meaning to clean that thing out for years. I'm just glad I never lock my doors because I can't afford to pay for a new windshield.

But this is boring stuff. People need things and they break in places to get it. Wrong, yes. Interesting, not so much. Even violence has been done to death.

But give a city a Martha Stewart type crime and we can almost walk a little taller. Maybe it will put the strut back into a place that desperately needs to move beyond simply the place that houses Baylor. What better way to do that than to put the microscope on some rich old lady who used the company credit card for a little bling from Dillards.

Reason #3 Why I Love this Town:
Clothing and accessories from Fendi-- $1558
Men's Suite from Perfectly Suited-- $4298
Shopping spree at Dillards-- $919
Flight to who the hell knows where-- $852
A (relatively) small town newspaper that refuses to protect the higher echelon of criminals: Priceless.

Dear Margaret Mills,

If you still have that Debit Card, I am in desperate need of a new Dwight Yoakum Greatest Hits CD.

Craig Nash.

Friday, October 13, 2006

One More Thing...

In my previous entry, posted less than fifteen minutes ago, I made the announcement that I now have sponsors. It has come to my attention recently (in the past fifteen minutes) that blogger has noticed my Christian leanings and has connected my blog with Focus on the Family.

If my blog becomes a little more edgy and profanity filled within the next few days, please do not stone me. This will merely be an attempt to shed the yoke of James Dobson.

On second thought, if James Dobson wants to pay me, then to hell with it, James Dobson can pay me.

Sell Out...

For all of you Culture Jammers out there, please accept my apology. I have decided to have advertisements placed on the top of my blog. Or, to spin it another way, I have decided to have corporate entities sponsor my writing endeavors.

So...If you enjoy reading my stuff, please pay my sponsors a visit.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Scene of the Event...

I've been thinking about Izzie a lot this week. Actually, if you want to know the real truth I'll tell you. I've been worrying about Izzie a lot this week. She spent all day last Thursday standing outside Seattle Grace, trying to reenter the building and reclaim her life. But she couldn't. She couldn't walk back in and she couldn't reclaim her life because part of her life is gone. The tragic thing about Denny's death is that it occurred in the only setting Izzie knew him in. Her work, his hospital, his home.

There's just something about Izzie and I think I've put my finger on it. Aside from being the second hottest character on Grey's Anatomy (behind Dr. Montgomery-Sheperd,) Izzy is the one who seems to instinctively value human touch, relationships, and community more than anyone else, other than, perhaps, Dr. Burke. If Meredith, Christina, or George were in Izzie's shoes, and she in their's, Izzy would have walked in with them. She would have stood there until they decided to move. Then, when it became clear they could not find the inner resources to move, she would have held their hands and walked them in.

But they just walked in, naively believing that Izzie really meant it when she said she'd be right behind them. It's no surprise that it was Dr. Burke who, at the end of the day, had to point out that Izzie was still standing outside. In fact, this was one of the most understated, poignant moments in the show's run. Most of the really important scenes on Grey's Anatomy are accompanied by dramatic camera angles and emotional music. There was no fanfare in this scene but it is made visibly clear the chasm between people like Burke and Izzie, and the rest of the crew.

Early this morning before sunrise, in real person world, a demolition crew leveled the schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania where five Amish girls were killed by a crazed gunman last week. The community decided the building was too tainted by the memories of a horrific tragedy to be used again. I can't blame them.

The Amish (as well as the monks,) play an important role in our society. Their separation from the world serves to show the nature of Christ's kingdom is altogether "other" from the nature of the kingdom of this world. In this world, Christ's-kingdom-type moments occur, but are fleeting. Meredith lays on the floor grieving with Izzie. People bring food and show concern. But eventually, work calls, lives return to more ego-centric concerns, and everyone goes in different directions. It takes the prophetic voice of Preston Burke to jar the community back into recogition of Izzie's pain.

Yet in God's kingdom, people move on together after tragedy, not because it is tragedy but because moving on together is just what they do. It's who they are and they know no different. They tear down buildings but it's ok, they will build more and they will do it together. Izzie Stephens and Dr. Burke would make great Amish.

Last night the Creative Liturgy Project at church led an alternative service for the Hub. There were four rooms commemorating Mourning, Celebration, Rest, and Work. In each room were meditations, contemplations, and communion. Groups spent time in the rooms and then moved to the next and I'll tell you what I believe to be the most significant. Not the meditations, contemplations, and communion, but the moving to the next. Walking together, not alone.

We are not standing outside the scene of our tragedy, nor did we level it to the ground. We recreated. In the past year we've worked, rested, celebrated, and mourned in that place, and we've done it walking together.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


There's a piece of wood
Over by the river
At the end of the week
I rest at that sliver

There's three, there's four
Sometimes more

If done every day
I'd worry about my liver

Monday, October 09, 2006

God and Four Year Olds...

(From a conversation I had this afternoon...)

Me: So what did you boys learn about in Sunday School yesterday?
Jude: We didn't go to Sunday School today.
Me: I know, you went yesterday. Remember I saw you there?
Sutton: I remember I saw you there!
Jude: Oh, yeah.
Me: So do you remember what you learned about in Sunday School yesterday?
Sutton: Jesus.
Me: Really? Who is Jesus?
Jude: God!
Sutton: Yeah, God. Well... some people call him God and some people call him Jesus, but some people just call him God.
Me: Is that so?
Sutton: Yes, but he's still the same person.
Me: So where is Jesus?
Sutton: In heaven!
Me: Who else is in heaven?
Sutton and Jude in twinison: Daddy!
Me: That's right. What do you think your daddy is doing in heaven right now?
Sutton: ummm, well, he's probably....well, um...um...um...um...
Jude: Playing Games!
Sutton: Yeah! Playing games!
Me: Really? What kind of games do you think he's playing?
Jude: Jesus games!!!

I've written elsewhere about our church building... the art, rooms, ambience, and the power of place. One of the my favorite parts of the building doesn't get talked about much. In fact, it's probably only seen by around a half-dozen people weekly and hasn't been talked about in months. I'm speaking of a sheet of paper located just inside the door of the nursery that instructs children's workers on how to talk to the Lake kids about their dad. It tells them not to say things like "Daddy is just sleeping" and "Daddy is underground" and the most horrible "Jesus took Daddy away."

The reason I love this so much is because it speaks of a community of faith that has been proactive in dealing with the death of our friend, of their father. But it also is a powerful reminder to me that the things we say, and refrain from saying, to children are often the things we should be saying, and refraining from saying, to each other. I wish I could have given the sheet of paper to my parents so they would know what to and not to say to me over the past year.

My previous post wasn't a cry for understanding. It was a desire to elevate my knowledge of God and Jesus beyond what I have learned over the years and to attain the maturity of Jude and Sutton Lake.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"It's bigger than we thought
It's taller than it ought to be
This pile of rubble and ruins"
-- Nichole Nordeman

It seems about once a week these days that a new book whose subject is American Evangelicalism comes across my path. As is usually the case when there is a resurgence in interest of a particular subject, I read one and the rest just seems to say the same thing but in a different way and chronicling another angle. As I mentioned a few weeks ago I read Lauren Sandler's Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement. Since then this and this and this have all come across my path and I can't help but think how there has never been something that is such a large part of my life been of interest to the public at large as right now.

Until several years ago I heard the word evangelical and thought, more or less, of someone who is a Christian and who thought everyone else should be as well. That has remained steady but now it seems to mean so much more and I have come to a fork in the road where I have to ask myself, "Am I an evangelical?" If I am, then how do I justify the direction my life and beliefs have headed in over the past few years. If I'm not, then how do I deal with the ramifications of being an outsider in a club that I used to be the ultimate insider.

I just don't know.

Last Wednesday night at church I was sitting and thinking that the only reason I was there was because I was there the previous week, and the only thing that brought me there the previous week was my presence the week before that, and on and on and on. There was no inner conversation going on within me concerning ultimate issues, nor did I feel as if I was there as an act of faith. When I was younger I would have looked down on someone for this. Just going to church because it was the thing to do was an action that this Youth Group Spiritual Overchiever looked down on with scorn and shame. You might as well stay home.

The voice of the Youth Group Spiritual Overchiever has reentered conversations with himself, sans the piety. Now the voice says you are just here because it's the thing to do. You might as well stay at home because there is beer and your dog there.

But these ramblings aren't really even about church. They are about belief. What do I really believe and do I believe it enough to turn my belief into faith and my faith into action?

It has become acceptable these days to speak about how ok it is to doubt. Our sermon this morning was even about this. I think this is ok because so many in the Evangelical Movement (and really in many faith traditions) are discouraged, implicitly or otherwise, from doubting. John Mark spoke of how it's ok to doubt and question because it deepens your faith. I like this.

But to doubt you have to care and I've found on many days I wake up without even the ability or wherewithal to care. I speak a good doubt-faith-game, but when it comes down to it, I've lost all interest.

But I still believe, even if it's for wrong, and irrational (or a-rational) reasons. Lauren Sandler, in Righteous, spoke of those like me as people who say "This is the fairy tale I've chosen, and I'm sticking with it."

I know apologetics and if you want could prove the resurrection within a certain epistemological framework and can even sound an awful lot like a liberal who suggests that every faith is reaching out to the one true God. But at the end of many days, as at the end of this one, I'm just following the fairy tales of my forefathers and mothers.

The Youth Group Spiritual Overachiever whispers in my ear, "If you don't get your act together, hell awaits."

The emergent conversationalist whispers in my ear, "It's ok if you doubt."

I answer back, can I just go to bed and worry about this another day?

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Cory has asked that I share some of my thoughts on the political situations going on right now. I used to be so comfortable with this, but now I do it with fear and trembling. But I do have thoughts, so I'll share them. I hope he doesn't mind, but I"m going to quote from his email.

With all that has happened to the Republican party over the past couple weeks – torture bill, Mark Foley and the fallout in the House, etc – what is your take? It seems to me that there is some major corruption and hypocrisy going on, especially when you actually listen to what’s coming out of their mouths (Wallis and Campolo have good blogs on this). And too many Republicans are looking the other way (since they have the power) and not confronting evil (though some are). Are you going to ride this ship til it reaches the shore or sinks? Being apologetic for them? Are you Republican idealistically and therefore able to renounce their behavior?

I'll just go ahead and say right off the bad that I'm not riding any ships and will not be apologetic for any unethical, or illegal behavior. Mark Foley (presumably under pressure from the GOP) resigned immediately upon the news breaking. This seems to be a point that has been lost but that the Republican party should get some credit for. It may seem a little childlike, and overly reactive, to immediately want to pull out the Clinton-Lewinsky card, but I think the contrast between how each situation was handled by the political parties are quite telling. This would be illegal, while Clinton's contact with Lewinsky wasn't. But both are equally unethical. In one case, the guilty party resigned immediately. In another, the guilty party refused to accept responsibility for his actions and fought against consequences tooth and nail.

If the facts come out that Foley had a sexual relationship with a minor, and that was known by House leadership, then anyone who knew about it and didn't report it should resign (and be prosecuted.) This includes the Republican AND Democratic leadership. It appears that Foley's indiscretions were suspected for a while by many. If the Republicans suppressed the information and didn't do anything about it, they were wrong and should pay for the possible damage that could have been done to other minors. But the same goes for the Democratic leadership. If they knew abou this months ago (and it appears they did) then they are just as morally repugnant for waiting a month before the elections to say anything about it. If this is the case, then both parties put minor's at risk and should be held accountable.

I think if the torture bill and Foley scandal has done anything, it's proven that the Republican party is NOT the party of people who remain loyal at all costs. Bush's wanting to rewrite the Geneva Convention was not stopped by just some random moderate Republicans, but by three prominent conservative Republicans. Bush is supporting Hastert, but you can rest assured that if it comes out that he knew about specific illegal behavior and did nothing about it, it will be the Religious Right who is the first who speaks out against it. I can say all sorts of ill about that wing of my party, but one thing I cannot question is their consistency.

The ironic thing about all this, is that I think it might actually save the Republican majority in the House. I think the reason Hastert took responsibility, but didn't resign, is to keep the Foley story in the news. It's advantageous to have Americans interested in a sexual pervert. Why? Because that sexual pervert has resigned and is being investigated by the FBI and no one believes the Republicans support him. So while people are thinking about him, what are they not thinking about? The hundreds of people dying in Iraq every week. Before this story broke, CNN was giving me an hour-by-hour count of people dying. Now all I'm hearing is about whether or not a resigned congressman made a 17 year old page "a little horny."

Oh, and the Dow Jones is up and gas prices down.

In other news, did anyone catch the Texas Governor's debate last night? It was simply unbearable. Even the candidate I'll be voting for, Kinky Friedman, sounded like a broken record. Hats off to the journalists who conducted the debate. There was a round where they asked the candidates questions about their Texas knowledge. Chris Bell was given the biggest, slowest softball of the night..."When was the battle of the Alamo?" It appeared he didn't know the answer and didn't really answer but rather sort of asked, "Uh, 1836?" Congratulations, you paid attention in 7th grade social studies. Friedman was asked what tuition was at UT, something that no one except a student and parent would know, and answered a like a seasoned politian..."Yeah, it's too high." Perry was asked the hardest question, which was what the avery mortgage rate is. He guessed 5.9 to 6 percent. The answer is 6.3 percent. Not bad. Carol Keeton Strayhorn was asked who the newly elected president of Mexico was, and couldn't answer it. Good luck, grandma.

Alright, back to my non-political, warm-fuzzy life.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Can't Keep it In...

One of the greatest things about owning a puppy is that she urinates when I come home from a long day. Everyone should have a friend who gets so excited to see you that they pee on themselves.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Why I Love this Town #2...

Dorothy Clark and her husband were missionaries for the IMB ("before they went bad," she'll tell you) in Taiwan for many years. Around ten years ago they moved home because of his health. He passed away shortly after. Dorothy, in her early 70's, speaks of her late husband as if she is still a 16 year old school girl with a crush on the quarterback. When she speaks of him dying she tells me she still gets so angry at him for leaving. The years and the grief have taken a toll on her body and it can be seen in her shaking and difficulty getting around. But she does get around and if you ever want to see my face light up just have her walk through the front door of Barnes and Noble while I'm working.

Mrs. Clark belongs to 7th and James Baptist church in Waco and is proud of the fact that her church parking lot has the most amount of bumper stickers advertising liberal political candidates as any church in town. We were talking one day and she pointed out a book about the Iraq war. "Isn't this war horrible?" she asked. I replied, "It has certainly become horrible." She pinched my side, gave me a mischievous smile and said "It's been horrible from the beginning and you know it. When are you going to admit you're more liberal than you pretend to be?" Dorothy Clark is proud to be a Democrat and, when she is up to it, marches with Cindy Sheehan during the summer protest season. Her beliefs are held close to her heart, but I never feel condescension when it is pointed out that we differ.

Today Mrs. Clark came into the store when we were busy. My face did light up as I yelled hello across the store to her, but my actions showed I was too busy to talk. She told me she knew I was busy, she just wanted to come in and ask me how my new puppy was doing. It was as if she was walking down the sidewalk in Mayberry and decided to stop into the police station to pay Andy a visit. But it's not that easy to get to Barnes and Noble, especially if you are elderly. Do you realize how special that makes me feel? That lady knows how to make me feel like a rock star.

Reason #2 I love this town: People like Dorothy Clark who know the most important thing to say when you lose a loved one is "I'm so sorry," has lived well for so long and still laughs about little things, and who does not look down on me for voting Republican. I raise my glass and say you make Waco worth living in.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Another ITunes Playlist Post (Inspired by a Sunday evening bottle of Shiner)...

I think regardless of where I stray musically, I will always be at home with country music. And I say that without qualifications. None of this "I hate country music, except for the REAL stuff like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson." The entire genre taps into my soul and is the voice for my feelings.

Here's what I'm listening to...

Want To by Sugarland-- I love Sugarland and have yet to hear from any of the authorities to find out if they are legit country or not. I'm not sure if the fact could be disputed. Jennifer Nettle's voice is like sweet tea from my maw maw's kitchen, and the melody of this young love song walks you through the woods like on a Sunday afternoon. It's inspiring me to be bold. :) (Perhaps more on that later?)

Good Old Boys Like Me by Don Williams-- Many of my readers' only exposure to Don Williams was from a drunken karoake rendition of his classic "I believe in Love," by one of the groomsmen at Blake's wedding. If you asked me to name my top five singers of all time, Don Williams would be on the list. There is a kind of content resignation to the simple life in this song. This is vintage stuff. I've long said George Jones is the next guy the young 'uns latch on to, but if I'm proven wrong my next guess will be Don Williams.

"I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak tree/ 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 old boys like me?"

Dolly Parton's rendition of In the Sweet By and By-- All jokes about her large breasts aside, Dolly Parton is an American treasure. Hearing this helps me latch on to my old beliefs about heaven, and makes them my new beliefs about heaven. I believe when I get there Dolly's voice will be prominent. Of all the songs on this list, download this one.

Highwayman by The Highwaymen-- Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristoferson, and Waylon Jennings. Can anything be bad about this combination? This is the ultimate song of ruggedness, meant bo be listened to, well, on the Highway.

Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers-- I think Kenny Rogers is one of the greatest storytellers ever. On surface level this seems like nothing more than an old time barroom brawl song. But there is actually social commentary lingering around every corner of this song. If you want a good discussion of pacifism and just war, play this song. If you don't want to go that deep, it's still just a damn good song. Some of the greatest lyrics ever is in the line "...but you could have heard a pin drop when Tommy stopped to lock the door." I get chills every time I hear that.

Seven Year Ache by Rosanne Cash-- I may have mentioned this before, but I believe this is probably the most underrated songs in the history of the genre. I think Cash got shunned by the Nashville establishment because she wasn't enough like her dad, which was ironic since the shunned him in the beginning for not being enough like other country singers. Rosanne is one of the most gifted songwriters and this song is her crown jewel.

My melancholy will make this a country music week.

No One Can Find the Rewind...

I look at the clock and see it's 2 a.m. and several things come to mind
I can't remember the last time I've been awake at this hour
It is now October
And I can't believe it is now October
October has come around, again, and there are times I believe
And times I can't believe
What happened
And then there's the 2 a.m. (Breathe) song and I'm reminded what I've wanted to tell you
Be not fooled by the popularity of Grey's Anatomy
It is good, and here is why:
"The End of the World" and "As We Know it"
Also known as the Super Bowl Episodes
Still haunt me
The 2 a.m. (Breathe) song brings me back to the crisis
The crisis was a silly plot about a bomb
But the Grey's writers know something besides silly bomb plots
They know death
I watch in silent reverence at how they capture the air around death
Sometimes my throat tightens, I can hardly stand it
There is sex and silliness and a healthy dose of character development
But I watch because when October left last year I had to remind myself to Breathe
At 2 a.m.
But back to my belief and my disbelief
When it's 2 a.m. and I've decided not to lose any more sleep on the sermon to be given tomorrow, at that tiny church
And dig through old files for old sermons given at different old churches
I run across a file that reads "Kyle- Eulogy"
I wonder what that is all about.
And I can't believe.
There are also times when people do things that are only done when someone has died
And I get angry at their kindness because it bitch slaps me into believing
So I write poems
And try to cope with the guilt of "moving on"
And being angry with those who are backing up
And breathing better than I
In the end I want to choose how I handle this
I want to pick the times to cry and I want to pick the people to walk with me
But life does not afford these opportunities
2:30 a.m. and I'm still awake, writing a blog
Naked, in front of the crowd
You'll use them however you want to
Life's like an hourglass glued to the table
No one can find the rewind.