Sunday, March 30, 2008

U.S. Highway 64...

The stretch of Highway 64 that connects Tyler to Henderson is probably only thought of for two things by those who do not reside near it. Texas History buffs will know it because of its proximity to New London, which was the location of the worst school catastrophe in U.S. history when a gas leak caused an explosion that killed almost 300 students. On a lighter note, fans of Miranda Lambert will recognize one of the highway's numerous small municipalities, Turnertown. In her song "Famous in a Small Town," she puts off going to Nashville because of her being the first one to shoot a buck during deer season. It was such an event she made the front page of the Turnertown Gazette. (I haven't done any extensive research, but I'm quite sure this is a fictional newspaper. Turnertown is the home of a gas station, antique store, an old dilapidated garage, and not much else.)

For me, U.S. Highway 64 will always be about this man:

I've been riding or driving along this stretch of road for my entire life. My grandparents lived in Carthage, which required a trip down 64 before you were deposited onto U.S. 79. Much of the East Texas of my childhood has changed. The downtown buildings in Chandler have been destroyed and all around town sterile metal buildings housing Dollar Stores and Wash-a-terias are popping up. Tyler and the other towns are hardly recognizable. But this bit of highway has been largely untouched.

Wendy Bounds, in the book Little Chapel on the River that I have raved about for the better part of a year stated that it seemed as if Corporate Society began knocking on the door of Garrison (home to the Little Chapel,) and Garrison said very politely "Thanks, but no thanks."

As I was driving the backroads last week I saw this man plowing the fields. I imagined living his life, going to and fro on that machine for probably over half a century. He was oblivious that some punk wanting to recapture a (perhaps largely fictional) past was taking his picture.

I probably couldn't handle his way of life, and he would most likely say "Thanks, but no thanks" to mine. And yes, I hear all the naysayers screaming that I'm romanticizing a Rockwellian society that probably never existed. I largely agree. But something about standing there, thinking about how this man may go to bed worried about the future, the upcoming Texas summer and his inability to make as good a return on his work than what he once did. But how at the end of all that, he at least knew that he left it all on the table and that there is no shame in being where you are-- That made me appreciate Highway 64 just a bit more.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Time Off..

I decided to jot down some thoughts while I was on vacation. I wrote them in word so it would all be one thing when I posted it. Because of the cut/paste thing, some of the formatting may be screwed a bit. Forgive me. Oh, and I didn't proof it either.

Thanks to everyone this past week who fed me, provided a bed, and shared your time. But most of all, thank you for your love. I don't know anyone luckier than me to be cared for and loved by the greatest people on earth.


Sunday March 23, 2008—Easter
2:41 p.m.

We call it vacation, the Europeans call in holiday. While I’ll openly mock and laugh out loud at any American who calls time off from work “holiday,” I have to say that there is something special about that designation. Vacation is so empty. Vacate. Vacating the premises. Nothing more than absence from a particular place.

But holiday has magic surrounding it. It implies that every minute away from work is a minute present with some holiness that is “out there,” just waiting to be caught and bathed in.

I’m about to vacate the premises of this town I love so much, for a short while. I’ve deserved it. Around two of the roughest years of my life were spent staying in a job just so I can make it to the five-year mark and earn an extra week of vacation. And damn it, I’m taking it.

I just got back from Easter lunch with UBC family. I’m about to hit the road to Tyler to hang out with my friends the Herrings and will worship with them and the folks over at Soma. Then the road will lead further northeast, then back to Dallas.

May the moments be filled with the presence of God. May laughter surround me, tears be a fleeting reminder that the needle on the compass is always leading me home, and the music in my ears an echo of that other place, where all those I love are awaiting my return.

Monday March 24, 2008
10:55 a.m.

Last night I rolled into Tyler just in time to worship with the people at Soma. They are in a new building and it was something of a next step for them. I had a great time.

Marvin was there and I got to visit with him a bit. Hoping to catch up later in the week when I’m in Dallas. Marvin is the director of Lifewalk Discipleship School in Grand Prairie. I also ran into Kenny who is Marvin’s age and who, along with his wife, heads up a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating child trafficking around the world. It’s hard to believe that these kids I taught from 7th grade are now leading ministries of their own.

I stayed with Tony and Melissa and their boys after church. I’m so happy that over the past couple of years the Herrings have moved beyond being my “Christmas friends,” to friends I see much more often. These people know what life is about and I always feel a little more awake when I’m around them.

Now I head further east. Carthage is my first destination. I try to make it there about once a year to visit the gravesite of my grandparents. From there, I’ll head to Atlanta to see Robert.
On the road my music has been U2’s Joshua Tree and Gary Allan’s Living Hard.

Tuesday March 25, 2008

I left Atlanta early this afternoon and made a deliberate decision to stay on the backroads as much as possible. The green in East Texas right now is a green that will jump out at you.

On one stretch of road it was just me, rolling hills, and cattle for miles. Not familiar with the road, I didn’t know how long it would be until a place to stop. Needing to relieve myself, I pulled over, walked to the barbed wire, and did my business. I will not lie to you—there are few things in the world more liberating than taking a whiz on a sunny spring day on a lonely stretch of East Texas highway.

I am now in Greenville and will be visiting with my old friends Tracey and Greg Fields and Jason Sturgeon. I am anticipating much laughter.

Wednesday March 26, 2008

I’m finally in a sit-still place. The rest of my week will be here in the DFW. I’m working on coordinating meals and visits interspersed with some rest and relaxation.

Last night with the Fields and Sturgeons was a wonderful time. It’s always good to renew friendships that time has been walled up due to time. I wish everyone who is a part of my life could meet Greg and Tracey. They have the grace of noise, humor, peace, and care floating in and out of their lives and I am always blessed to be in their presence, regardless of how long the distance is between visits.

It’s been way over ten years since I’ve seen Jason Sturgeon, and, as I expected, he made me laugh as hard now as he did then.

I’m staying with Jason and Christy, who are at work right now. I’m at the Lincoln Park Barnes and Noble catching up on email and just trying to relax a bit. I think I’m going to see a movie this afternoon.

Thursday March 27, 2008

Had dinner with a great group of people who work with Jason and Christy. It was a good way to begin wrapping up the week. Earlier I went to Grand Prairie to visit Marvin and see where he works.

I’m tired, but this trip has been worth it. A veritable parade of many of the people who have helped shape my life in profound ways.

Tomorrow Casey is coming into Waco for her yearly visit with friends. We have lunch plans.

Friday March 28, 2008

I threw last nights entry in just to get something down before the day ended. When I went to bed I realized I left out the time I got to spent with Brent, who is the friend I have been close to the longest of any in my life. Over 17 years. I have more to say about that later.

About to head out and have breakfast with Jason before I make my way back to Waco.

Tonight I’ll have dinner with the Duke’s and the Carney’s.

Saturday March 29, 2008

Today has been my decompression day. I have seen so many people over so many days. And I could have seen more. After sending out a message that I would be in towns, I received a flood of calls and emails wanting to meet up. Unfortunately timing required me to shuffle things around and some people I really wanted to get together with got pushed to the side. I hate that.

Regardless, the week off has been great.

If the sitcom Friends had any contribution to social commentary it’s this—That we create family out of those who, by accident of birth and circumstance, just happen to be around. And somehow by learning to interact and share and love these people, in the process we discover who we are.

I’ve been thinking about the great time over beer I had with Brent. Our friendship is the longest I’ve ever been a part. In many ways I believe it has survived against all odds. I have learned that the people we were close to when we were younger often bear the brunt of all that is bad about our having to learn how to be friends. Our teenage friendships are like the training wheels of life. They help us get our bearings, our confidence, and show us (by much trial and error) what balance is all about. But they also often get beat up and discarded and we only pull them back out when we want to take a trip of nostalgia. I have been blessed to have a friend in Brent that has weathered all that (thanks to much forgiveness on his part) and has come out on the adult side of life a vintage model of the past—but that still works.

I came home to the love of a strange city known mostly for it’s association with a big fire over a decade ago. Most of us in this place have no connection to that incident, but we often find ourselves warmed in the presence of those who know how to take the rusted scraps lying in waste and make them something beautiful. Last night I arrived just in time for a meal with the people who have strangely become my people. We hovered over strong margaritas and good food, our laughter a subtle reminder of the buoyancy of shared lives. I love these times, if for no other reason than that Roy Carney gets passed around like a hot potato and gets to breathe the sweet smells of love that is chosen.

I also made it home yesterday in time for lunch with Casey O’Dell, a friend from college who is a part of the gang of people at ETBU that I speak of often. Casey lives in the Netherlands with her husband Jerome. She comes back to Texas about once a year and I always am happy to have seen her.

I always rely on my time off to give me a sense of calm in the midst of the busy-ness of life in corporate America. It always does, for a moment. I'm hoping the shalom lasts a bit longer this time around.

Tomorrow I will work on cleaning up around here, getting ready to return to real life. These have been holy days.

Monday, March 24, 2008


I got an email from a friend at a church in Waco this morning, and loved this quote. I've never considered dragging Easter on like we drag out Christmas. I'm hoping to do that this linger on Easter.

Easter happens every day. Easter happens each time those who mourn rise up again to honor those they've lost by loving life more dearly. Easter happens every time we stand in solidarity with those who've lost all hope and say, "Hold on, we're at your side." And Easter happens every time, in spite of woe and death, in spite of the multitude of ways we've turned away, in spite of our failures and denials, we say "yes" to life." -- Rob Ellers Isaac

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Craig Supertramp...

It's my day off, and I just spent a few hours of it watching Into the Wild while having a Marie Callender's pot pie and some Ben&Jerry's Birthday Cake Ice Cream. I enjoyed the movie much more than I had planned. I think if I had seen the movie while younger, I may have become a wanderer. Oh, you know I'm kidding. I would have left civilization only after gathering the addresses and phone numbers of my two hundred closest friends and promising that I'd call every night. Then after a couple of miles of walking (again, hyperbole-- would probably have been about a couple of hundred yards,) I would begin to miss everyone and would show back up for dinner.

But I do believe in going Into the Wild to find yourself. As a matter of fact, I'm about to do this myself. After tackling the mountain of dishes waiting to be washed in my sink, I will take Jane for a long walk down Austin Avenue, past the Austin Arms apartments, in the shadow of the crosses of a half-dozen churches and inner-city missions (it really is a half-dozen...I counted them last week,) I will then cross over the treacherous Brazos (via the suspension bridge) and head back home. Maybe I will have found myself when I return. Or maybe I'll just get a good tan on my rapidly expanding forehead.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Election Day...

This morning I was Barack-ing the Vote with the very hot Kate "Addison Montgomery Sheperd" Walsh, of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice fame.

Last night I was hanging out with a few hundred of my Republican brethren and sistren at a rally for John McCain.

You may think this is unbecoming. Perhaps, in your mind, I care more about celebrity than the state of our country. Sure, you say, we should change the tone in politics, but we can't be supporting one candidate one evening and another the next morning just because we have been in love with one of his supporters since the moment she walked into Seattle Grace and proclaimed to Meredith "And I'm guessing you're the one who's been screwing my husband."

My only response to this is a very loud and resounding... Yes We Can.


Monday, March 03, 2008


After WHAT I JUST READ, I feel like a teenager again.

And guess where the Obama headquarters are located? Right behind my house.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Like, Whoa...

I don't agree with the assertions of the Clinton camp, (and the future, as yet to be articulated assertions of the McCain camp) that Obama's charismatic style means he has no substance. This is a convenient argument that is probably meant to give middle-aged and elderly voters enough reason not to vote for him.

With that aside, I do appreciate THIS ARTICLE by Kathleen Parker on the religious fervor of the Obamaniacs. I think I've always been an old soul, which explains my cynicism toward youthful fervor. I'm not saying it's a virtue, just that it's there.