Sunday, February 24, 2008

An Apology, or "What's the opposite of closure?"

Just kidding about the second half of the title.

I am apologizing because I was in error. As I have written, I thought that my friend, Meghan, did not want to be friends with me anymore due to a perceived lack of interest, care, and effort. Then we talked and it seemed quite clear that she didn't want anything to do with me, but that was because I had hurt her by my assumption that she didn't care.

I realized that I do not do a very good job of expressing myself. I am not a very good writer, and I rarely make my intentions as clear as I pretend to know them. So here is some clarification.

Never ever did I write a post mentioning Meghan to slander her or to harm her reputation or to harm her own feelings. I didn't think that she would ever read this (not an excuse, a simple statement). And when I mention her, it is simply because I write what I think, and I often think of her. She was an enormous part of my life for almost a year, and we shared a lot in that time. I have lived in Louisville for 22 years, but after dating her for less than one everything reminds me of her. And so I think of her.

When I wrote of our troubles in the past, I never wanted pity (nor did I receive it, I believe) or to complain about a horrible person (which she isn't). Simply put, I wanted more because she is still such a valuable person. Especially to me. And when I did not get more from our limited friendship, such a far cry from what we once were, I was hurt.

Please don't think ill of her, despite my oft-skewed and unclear intentions. I was merely trying to share my thoughts in the rare instances where I can make sense of them.

Meghan and I are friends now, and we will continue to be friends. This is more than I deserve from anyone, much less this from beautiful person that I've hurt. Hopefully this clears things up. Or makes me look like a fool. The latter wouldn't be anything new, to be sure.

Also, I just found out that I offended my friend Jessie (whom I miss terribly, if you are reading this) with my talk long ago of Soka Gakkai Buddhism. I think no ill of Buddhism, nor of any followers of it, its branches and variations, or proponents of any religion. I never wanted to be waving the flag for high-and-mighty Christendom, thanking God that I am not "one of those pagan sinners." I am a sinner and a horrible person and am incapable of passing accurate judgment on anyone's heart. But that doesn't always stop me, and I am sorry.

I hope this doesn't sound ironically pathetic or just sarcastic, but I really would like to know when I offend anyone that reads this, or when I am simply wrong. Perhaps my poor communicative skills are failing me once more, and we can resolve this. Or perhaps I need to change, and I would welcome the needed improvement.

This may seem worthless to most of you. I'll write about farts or something tomorrow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Praise the Lord!

There is no reason that I should be so awake and so enthused at 2:30 in the morning. . .no, that is a lie. There are many reasons.

First: two very dear friends have already contacted me regarding my last post, and it was very sweet that they knew to be happy for this development. I have such good friends. Oh, I do.

Second: I am going to Missouri tomorrow to be with some of these wonderful friends! We will eat cake! And hug! Oh, I can't wait!

Third: I just finished reading my assignment in a book for Youth Ministry, and I get so fired up reading about how God has worked in and through churches. I cannot wait to return to Colorado and see how God is going to change things. I have very high hopes for this summer.

Finally: I am listening to "Love Liberty Disco," easily my favorite Newsboys album. It is the first Christian CD I got, which I received for being named "Camper of the Week" the same week that I was baptized, the summer before High School. It brings back so many good memories and feelings of hope, feelings of wonder at this new and fresh faith! Oh, to be made new! Oh, to be born again!

Hahaha! My heart is literally swelling right now, thinking of all this! What joy I feel! What a ridiculous post! I will end this now with some beautiful lyrics I just heard:

He doesn't love us 'cause of who we are!
He only loves us 'cause of who He is!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


This is pretty big, to be honest. If you have read much of my blog and especially my old Xanga, you know that one of the more important events in my life in the past couple of years was the last girl I dated. Things ended poorly after months of going along poorly. After, and since then, I had tried very hard to make some semblance of a friendship out of our failed relationship.

I don't know how much I disclosed on here, but it was painful and exhausting to write/call/email/message/facebook/etc. her (not all at the same time - THAT would be creepy) and to know that she wouldn't even try to contact me until at least three weeks after. And even then most of the time she either was furious about something or her message was merely an apology for not having written in so long, and nothing else.

And I tried! I tried so hard. Say what you will about our relationship, I was a very good ex-boyfriend. All grudges had been let go and all I wanted was for us to have the friendship that meant so much.

And she didn't try. Or, if she tried, it wasn't very hard. Or apparent. Or good. She told me that she never didn't think of me as a friend, so I guess her concept of "friend" is everyone else's concept of "crappy friend."

Well, it is over. All of it.

We aren't friends anymore.

I was informed with the same fury that I used to spend hours every night listening to on the phone. The same blame hurled for vague and mostly non-existent reasons. The same rancor that I always sensed was mostly unassociated with me but still wound up being used on me. We aren't friends anymore. I tried; I really tried. And I failed.

But what a freeing failure it is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bible Department Chapel

Chapel today was beautiful. It is rare that I can use that adjective (which I treasure and try not to overuse); the last time it was applicable was probably when Dr. Fortner spoke on lament. But today was inspiring.

There were three men seated in front of the entire Bible department, Jimmy Allen, Dr. Ken Neller, and Danny Matthews. Scott Adair asked them questions pertaining to their college experiences, and it was fascinating to get a look back at these great men before they became so.

Danny Matthews had studied under Neller, who in turn had studied under Jimmy Allen. And Danny had roomed with another faculty member, Tim Westbrook, who has never ceased to impress me with his care for others. And Neller mentioned being in school with Dr. Stockstill, with whom he had worked in Lexington, KY for several years. The way they spoke, they obviously held such respect for each other and truly loved as brothers.

It made me think of where I will be in thirty years. Will I have been faithful? Will I have done good things for my good God? Will I have created any work of beauty, be it song or photograph or poem or book, in keeping with my title of Son of the Creator? Will I have helped my family? Will I have failed? Will I have been a good influence on anyone?

Will I finally be a good man?

Oh, it is scary to think of what is not yet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Yes, I still Love Photography

Feel free to sing the title of this post along with that "Technology" song from Napoleon Dynamite.

I forgot to mention one of the nicest moments from yesterday. Ms. Shirley awkwardly stood and smiled at me so I could take her pictures, and then nervously asked me if they were alright.

"Oh, sure. They're fine," I answered.

"Am I ugly?"

". . ."

She asked in earnest, and I was taken aback. The mere fact that she would ask a stranger this seemed significant, like she wouldn't know how to answer the question herself. Perhaps she was simply deferring judgment to one with a more finely tuned aesthetic sense. After all, I had an expensive camera around my neck.

I assured her that she was in fact not ugly. I told her the truth and said she was lovely. And then she left.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Love Photography

Some of you may have seen me with a camera around my neck and chided me for simply wearing it and not using it (Kaitlin). Some of you may have been subjected to me continuous geeking out over infrared photography (Shelby). Regardless, I am going to tell you why I love photography.

I started in my Junior year of High School, shooting on 35mm B&W film which we, as a class, developed ourselves. We had assignments and deadlines and stress and it was beautiful. I took some crappy shots and slowly learned what would make them better.

Senior year I was accepted into Photo 2, la creme de la creme. Actually, it was just the less-lazy students. We tried new things and learned and expressed ourselves and cried over ruined shots and it was beautiful.

Since then I have missed the whole experience, but am getting back into the swing of things. Today I took advantage of the sunlight to walk around Searcy and find something pretty. Instead I found lots of puddles and stray cats, but they weren't so bad.

But here's why I love it: it changes every situation. People take notice and somehow feel compelled to talk about their old Polaroids and Pentaxes. Today I leaned in to grab a shot of some cats on a porch, and a lady across the street yelled at me to ask what I was doing. When I yelled back, the house's owner came out and immediately struck up a conversation about all of the cats that he takes care of: Boo, Bluto, Brother, Pretty Girl, RT, et. al. The one called "RT" was named for the Rings on his Tail.

Frank told me about how hard he works to keep them alive and warm in the winter. He told me of a few that he had buried while constantly adjusting the brim of his hat. Suddenly he went back inside to the TV that was still tuned very loud and I met the lady who had previously yelled at me. She was fidgety and nervous, presumably due to the camera that was around my neck, but before she left she actually THANKED me for "taking some pictures of our cats."

Then in the park I met a lady named Shirley. She asked for gas money to get back home, and I was grateful for having cashed a check earlier today so I had something to give her. Emboldened by the cheerful smile she wore, I ventured to ask if I could take some photographs of her. She agreed, applied a fresh coat of lipstick, took three steps back and smiled self-consciously. She asked for my address before she left to send me money back, but the offer alone was enough for me. I've never had any former stranger offer to pay me back before.

None of the pictures are breath-taking, I'm sure. In fact, I think the thing that keeps me from ever being an "artist" is the fact that I'm overly sentimental, and composition usually takes second place to the memories attached to that frozen moment.

But no matter. It was a beautiful day.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Scary Dream

I just woke up a little bit ago from the first scary dream in recent memory. And I just about never have dreams that relate to current events, so this was even worse.

It was today, and I decided to go with my sister to get a haircut back home in Louisville. The girl who did her hair was (in real life) our waitress from IHOP a couple of days ago, but in my dream I was in love with her, thinking her to be someone else. The girl asked if she could do my hair, too, so I let her give me a trim.

When we got in the car, I noticed that it was 8:30 PM, and I started to freak out, believing that I was late for the play tonight. Then I relaxed, remembering that the play started at 9. Then I freaked out, because I remembered that it started at 7. Then I super-freaked out, because whatEVER time it started we were supposed to be at the auditorium at 5:30.

I suppose that the play was taking place in Louisville, because I was significantly LESS worried about the eight hour trip back to Arkansas. I called Amanda, the director, and she seemed almost flippantly unconcerned. I was confused and angry.

Then I woke up and it was noon. So I've got a few hours to spare.

Close call!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day

Well, it turned out to be a pretty good day, which wildly exceeded all expectations of it being nothing more than "a day."

In case you don't know this, and you probably don't, I hate holidays. They are pointless and usually based on consumerism, hardly ever based on love. People do things because, "well, it's the holiday! We're supposed to do this!" And thus people are upset when they don't receive chocolate animals and tiny cards with temporary tattoos, because that's what they are "supposed" to get.

A year ago, I came back from visiting my Grandfather for the last time and explained to my girlfriend that I didn't feel much like doing anything for V-Day. I was preoccupied with death and worried for my slipping grades from so many missed assignments, and she consented. Then on Valentine's Day she exploded after seeing so many girls with flowers and balloons and other worthless trinkets and made it quite clear that she was furious that I did not treat her like the Hallmark corporation says I should treat a girl, regardless of how many of my relatives were about to die.

She calmed down and we went to Little Rock to eat Thai food. I wondered to myself if this was part of why I hate Valentine's Day, that you have to do very little that is out of the ordinary but you paint something red and pay a little extra for it. I loved that girl every day we were together, but because on that stupid day the only heart she wanted was a chocolate heart, that wasn't enough.

But today my mother sent me a package. Today my friends sent little notes and reminders of love, with no reason. They were not forced to. And one dear friend sent me the sweetest gesture I can remember having ever received.

If only there were no Valentine's Day, and so we were forced to act like this all of the time. If you sent me something, thank you. If you didn't but still love me, thank you. And Kaitlin, thank you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

An Awkward Moment

I would like to share with you what happened. I was sitting at the desk at the library, waiting for anyone to come and ask questions on where to find the copier, etc., when my friend Ryan came up.

Me: "Hey, man!"

R: "Hey, what's up? Oh, just so you know, we're registered at Men's Wearhouse."

(I give him a blank stare)

R: Me and Katherine.

(blank stare continues, eyes open a bit wider)

R: You did know that you're an usher, right? Katherine asked you.

Me: Uh. . .no?

R: Oh.

Me: . . .

(a few moments later, Ryan walks back up while flipping his phone shut)

R: Yeah, she says she asked you.

Me: Oh. . .

ANYHOO this all get settled with the decision that I probably forgot somehow, or Katherine perhaps just thought she asked although that seems less likely although it already is very unlikely that I would forget something like this. And while Ryan and I were talking, I kind of forgot to try to make it not awkward because I got a little lost in how honored I am to be a part of their wedding. I mean, this is a special day! And I am no special person. How gracious of them.

Oh, what a beautiful couple they are. It's one of the few relationships that didn't make me cringe when I found out they got engaged.

Anyhoo, this may not be as funny as it was at the time (or it might just not be funny at all) but I wanted to share.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What a Saint.

I was at Walgreens earlier this evening and found myself in the most ridiculous line for a pharmacy ever. I didn't think that everyone in the town would be sick, but that was clearly the case. I stood for twenty minutes before the line moved at all.

Surrounding me were several forty-something moms holding tissues to their noses, dressed in sweatshirts and pajama bottoms. Men were listening to their ring tones and smelling like smoke. The guy behind me stood very close to me and mirrored every slightest inch that I made toward the cash register, not understanding that I was trying more to get away from him than to get closer to checking out.

People periodically joined our slowest-parade-ever by coming around the aisle and remarking something akin to "Holy God" in amazement at the size of the line. Several were on their phones via bluetooth earpieces and begged for sympathy from their friends who were miles away, standing in lines at other retail stores.

People rolled their eyes and sighed heavily in hopes that being rude would make the pharmacists work harder. One lady sat in the chairs and tried to sleep. Her nose was red from blowing it so much, and her eyes were tired. From time to time she peered out from under her weighed-down lids at the mother-daughter couple that occupied the nearest chairs.

The girl was about eight and was talking. A lot. As is expected. And the mother would just sigh and ignore the little girl until she got too annoyed and threatened physical harm. At one point she vowed to "pop you one in the mouth" if the little girl did not "hush up." She was too busy singing along with Bob Seger, who was piped in over the intercom, to answer the many questions thrown at her, only taking the time to even acknowledge the girl with an exasperated "what???" whenever Bob was between verses.

The girl just wanted to talk, and the mother just wanted her to shut up.

Why do idiots have children when they only see them as perennial burdens? Were they let down in their expectations of what a child should be? Did they change one too many diapers? Did they never get used to cleaning vomit? Were they ever happy with their child?

Or are they just showing off? After a retort that the large woman found particularly witty, she gave a sly, knowing nod to the gentleman in front of me who looked like Frisch's Big Boy, hoping for some peer-praise for her bullying. I almost bored a hole in the back of that man's head, trying my best not to glare at her.

What a saint she is, to put up with that insufferable brat!

And what a saint I am, to judge her and not pray for her!

What a mess.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Memory

This is yet another random memory that I feel the need to record and share. I just realized a moment ago that it will soon be one year since my Grandfather passed away. Already being a little down due to a paper that must be written before tomorrow, and considering that it is now February, this seems apropos.

Junior year was a horrible year. Over Christmas break, not long after returning from Chicago, I got a laptop and took it with me to school. The CD drive did not work, so I took it to the nearest Best Buy in Little Rock. Then the next-nearest one, as they repeatedly told me that there was nothing wrong with the non-functioning equipment. On one trip, they finally took it and mailed it to the manufacturer to be repaired. I got the fateful call to pick it up some time later, and in the parking lot of Best Buy I got a call from my sister, saying nothing more than that I "need to call Mom and Dad." Mom told me that Grandaddy had died after a relatively short morphine-coma, and I was shocked.

I had driven up to see him, presumably for the last time, a week before and Mamaw was happy that Grandaddy seemed to feel better when I was there. He had even eaten a whole small steak that she had gotten him as a Valentine's Day treat. He was doing better, I repeated! He was eating and doing better! But suddenly he was gone.

I drove through the city without paying attention to what roads I turned onto and wound up in the parking lot of a very pretty, small church. I walked around it and looked at its stained glass, then found a bush of decorative sawgrass. The week before, one of the last things my father and I did for Grandaddy was to cut down his sawgrass. Breaking off one of the bushy heads, I set it down in the car and drove away.

Even before the funeral, my family was rubbed raw and dangerously close to completely disintegrating. Uncles almost came to blows and people were already getting anxious over who was going to get the truck. My uncle left my aunt. My aunt died. We couldn't talk about my sister's marriage with her anymore. We buried the best man I've known.

I got back to school and my laptop was soon stolen, after all those trips to Little Rock just to get the freaking thing in working order for a stranger to look up porn on it. My sister did get divorced. My uncles stopped talking to each other and one practically disappeared after his drug use was discovered. I broke up with my girlfriend because I was tired of her having to be with someone she resented.

And when I unpacked after driving home at the end of that semester, I found the bushy head of the sawgrass in my floorboard under a bag, rubbed raw until completely disintegrated.

Oh, things were dark then.

There is hope, please remind me.

There is hope.

Friday, February 8, 2008

There is hope!

My friends, I sounded pretty grim in my last post. And deservedly so. I always feel so weighted down by the end of taking prayer requests in class, because there are so many sick in so many ways.

But there is hope! But there is hope!

My friend Mary told me that her mother found out that she does not have cancer.

I don't understand prayer. I don't understand how God decides whom he will restore and whom he will let decay. But there is hope.

"Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth! Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you! I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!"

Oh, to be rescued! Oh, to be like thee!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sick sick sick.

It seems like everyone in the world is sick right now. My roommate, my coworkers, friends in my play (two girls were comparing prescriptions yesterday), and so on. It's amazing how many little words from teachers' lectures I miss from sporadic coughs from all over the room. And chapel! Our auditorium is essentially one expensive incubator right now, letting dust and germ settle on the sleep-deprived young bodies that wade through it.

But some are sicker than others.

My friend's mother might have leukemia. And Wilson's disease.

Another friend, Mary, wouldn't even tell me what her mother might be sick with, she is so frightened.

At times like this I don't know what to do. Just a couple of years ago my friend Brooke popped up on AIM telling me that her stepfather Jeff had either weeks or months to live. Those were the only options. I prayed furiously along with an unknown number of brothers and sisters in Arizona. When I saw Brooke at school, I cautiously asked how Jeff was, knowing that it had been a few weeks since we spoke. She told me in a tone that one could use for giving directions that there was no more disease in him. And she walked off. And I was stunned.

But why should I be surprised? God has done this for much longer than I've doubted his ability. He cares so much that he even chose to break protocol and heal people in person - with his very touch! God physically touched people! If he cares enough to walk on the same dust that now coats the Benson auditorium seats, surely he cares enough to heal my sisters' mothers. So I should pray, and have faith, right? Easy peasy Japanesey.

But what I hate is choosing how to react when he chooses not to heal. And continuing to pray for strength when I have been spiritually sick for as long as I've breathed.

Yes, everyone in the world is sick right now.

Where is that sun?


I was feeling inadequate quite some time before my friend Julie called today.

The sun was nowhere to be found all afternoon. Clouds kept the air hot and humid, and the grass stayed wet. I did laundry and wondered why I didn't feel like doing anything in the world. I tried to stay in bed as long as I could but my roommate was too engrossed in coughing with his mouth uncovered to aid my attempt at rest.

I wondered why I am what I am and what I wish I could be. But I'm not even very good at that. At play rehearsal every line reminded me that I am no actor, and so it seems that whatever it is that I am, I'm stuck that way. I don't even have the luxury of ability to attempt a new me.

Julie called. She lives in Jackson, Tennessee as a recent graduate and still neighbor of Union University, which was destroyed by tornadoes. The dorms were pulverized and lay looking like the leftovers from a bombing raid. Rooms and windows and possessions that once were seemingly fixed in space are splinters.

No one was killed, thank God.

The school may cancel the semester which just began a week ago. People have lost everything, and people are scared.

And I come to God with the same questions and the same prayers and the same simmering anger and the same confusion. I want to do something and to be anything but I am nothing. But, oh! to be like thee. Oh, to be in this world and changing this world and loving this world! Oh, to make a difference! I am not giving up hope just yet.

So I began the day sick of navel-gazing. I ended it feeling guilty for navel-gazing.

Hopefully tomorrow there will be a sun.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Chapel yesterday morning was. . .interesting.

I was lured there by the promise of little kids being the presenters, and I was delighted to enter the auditorium to find many elementary school kiddos littering the stage, looking excited and waving at anyone. Unfortunately, the only costume was on a teacher, and the kids mainly just sat there while they announced academic awards and clapped.

Before that, though, several sixth-grade males presented the "devotional" period. Four or five kids led a song each, and then a guy got up and began to speak.

He knocked it out of the ballpark. People laughed while he told cute, semi-self-effacing stories, and he even barely mentioned Scripture. Just like regular chapel! It was a Grade-A; some would say it was better than many led by college students.

And that got me thinking: what does this say when chapel can be recreated, almost replicated down to each component and molecule, by "outsiders"?

First, let me say that I am NOT attacking the little kids from today. They did a great job of following an example they haven't even seen that much, to the letter.

What I am saying is that I am troubled by a chapel that is reduced to a formula. That is boiled down to a language and a protocol. That is exclusive, but in a way separate from the exclusivity of Jesus.

A related bother is the fact of several Christian Rock hits having been written by non-believers, who simply tap into this exclusive language with no actual conviction or faith or love. They merely put the right words in the right order, and Jesus-ians eat it all up.

When chapel is about putting the right words in the right order, about filling all the blanks following the formula, people eat it up. And it is terribly easy to swallow. It helps that there is nothing to digest.

When we are trapped by the form instead of exploring the function, we limit ourselves and deny a wonderful opportunity for genuine transformation. When we live by formula and not by faith, the truth is not served.

So let's dream of what chapel could be! Let's dream of something that we look forward to, as our family strives - honestly strives! - to give God a sacrifice he deserves. And let's dream of love.