Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Some of my favorite things...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally--

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 28, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark, thanks for sharing it with us.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I Sing Out Loud...

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

I do this. I sing out loud.

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

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

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

So there's something about me.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What I Ate...

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

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

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

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

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

But, instead, "nothing."

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dedicated to my Thanksgiving Love Feast Table...

Church Home. Church. Home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm getting cranky in my extended years.

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why I Love this Town #5...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


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

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

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

That's all for now.

The "E" Word...

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

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

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

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

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

Do you consider yourself an Evangelical?

Saturday, November 11, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 09, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Why I Love this Town #4...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

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

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

I'm out... later.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Dear Morning,

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

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

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

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

See you tomorrow,


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Time and Tolls...

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

I'm feeling the toll is being taken.

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

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

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

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

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