Mother, Mother

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Your Parents.”

I’d never met the woman who was visiting the DivorceCare class that night two and a half years ago. But something clicked for her when I was talking about churches I’d been to. “What’s your last name?”

I tell her, and she explained that, while we hadn’t met, she knew my parents from when I lived in Mississippi. “Yeah, they said you were the editor of a newspaper. They were so proud of you.”

My choice of careers had always been one of best examples of why I never even tried to win my parents’ approval. I knew they were disappointed in what I’d chosen, but I believed it was more important to pick a career that made me happy than them, so I had to do it every day. And that made it easier to make other decisions. I knew they had issues with my choice to marry Nicole, but, hey, they didn’t approve of anything I did anyway, what’s one more?

That night was a complete paradigm shift. Apparently my picture of how my parents felt about my career was wrong, or at least incomplete. The idea that they might have been proud of me was completely foreign, totally alien. It was good to hear. But the other reaction I had was, why am I hearing it this way? Why would they tell this woman, and not me?

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know that you’re proud of me. Sometimes, at least. I do wish you would let me know yourselves.

I value your advice. I crave your input. I respect your wisdom. Talk to me. Tell me what you think. But know that ultimately, my decisions are my own. If I make one that’s not what you think I should, it’s not because I don’t respect you. It’s just a mistake I have to make for myself.

I know that you hate seeing me make decisions that come back to hurt me. I know that you are disappointed at times with how my choices reflect on our name. I appreciate the former. I feel bad about the latter. But those decisions make me who I am. I am the product of all I’ve been through. A year from now, I will be different still. A little bit older. A little bit wiser. A little bit more mature. Most likely a little bit more scarred. And part of that will be because I will make my share of mistakes over the next year, too. Don’t feel bad that you can’t spare me the growth that will come from that.

God has gifted you each very differently than He has gifted me. At times, I’ve felt guilty that I wasn’t more like you. At other times, I’ve resented that you’re not more like me. It’s only been recently that I’ve been able to see and understand the beauty of that. We are all part of a body that is larger than any of us, a body that requires divers parts to function. We balance each other. We temper each other. At times I’ve found you judgmental, and yet I’m a complete hypocrit to judge you for that. The ability to speak truth is a beautiful thing. Do so always in love.

It’s hard for me to ask for your help. Has been for at least the last 14 years. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t really appreciate it when given. And crave it when I don’t ask.

I owe so much of what I am to you, both to how you raised me, and to who you are. Anything I’ve accomplished, I owe to you. And I thank you for that. I can’t imagine wanting for better parents, for different parents. No one else on this Earth would have raised the man I have become. I can trace much of the worst in me back to you as well. As with the good, both to how you raised me, and to who you are. But it’s been a privilege watching the two of you grow up, to see you deal with those issues as well. I’m proud of who you have become, and it gives me hope for myself.

I don’t live at home; I haven’t for a long time. I don’t have children. But I enjoy spending time with you, too. I feel sometimes like I get lost because I don’t bring the same things to the table as my brothers. But I’m too proud to try to intrude into your lives. We’re both busy. But I miss you sometimes.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to this — I know you love me. I’m grateful. And I love you, too.


Weekend Update … And Beyond!!!

Stuff I did this weekend, and other links and stuff I need to blog:


Before I get into the weekend, I’ll announce that I’m hosting and playing in a Face2Face improv comedy show tonight at Sam & Greg’s on the square in downtown Huntsville at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. We’ve had packed crowds the last couple of weeks, and would love to see you there tonight!


My good friends Mathis and Jill Sneed came over Friday night and we watched my Blu-Ray copy of (500) Days of Summer, which I’d not seen since it was in theaters back in August. I wrote a blog at the time about the parallels between my life and Zooey Deschanel’s last two movies. It was weird watching the movie again with a bit more water under the bridge, both with and without my own “Summer.” (The amusing coincidence that we’d also had a run of 500 days is unfortunately out of date now.) But, you know, the main thing I took away from it this time is, what do I bring to people’s lives? At the end of the movie, the guy is better for having known the girl. Do I have that effect on people who come into my life?

Save Me A Saturday Night

Saturday during the day was fairly nondescript. I made it up onto the mountain for the first time in too long, which made me very happy. (I’m going again this afternoon with my discipleship partner Dave, first time we’ve done this.) I took my car to Firestone for a long, long time, getting it ready to drive down to Florida this coming weekend for the STS-131 launch. Have I mentioned I’m going to the STS-131 launch? I’m going to the STS-131 launch. Firestone, in fact, lasted for such a long, long time that I was almost late to …

The year’s second Face2Face improv show at Kenny Mango’s, which was all sorts of awesome. We had the best crowd we’ve had at Kenny’s in a long time, both in terms of size and involvement. We actually had to turn people away, and it’s been a while since we’ve done that. The show was great. It was one of our long-format shows, about an hour and a half, not counting intermission, and everyone did a great job.

After feeling like my humor barometer was completely off last month, it was very nice to feel like I had a better feel for things this time. A show like that is an amazingly rewarding experience.

And, as a bonus, I had two updates to items on The List — I talked to the singles minister at Asbury about participating in their mission trip this summer, and it turns out one of my troupemates skydives all the time, and would love to go when I do.

Blue Like Jazz

I finished reading Blue Like Jazz while I was at Firestone Saturday, and had mixed thoughts. To be honest, I didn’t care for Miller’s writing style at all. I found his simplicity pretentious at best and arrogant at worst. On the other hand, a good bit of what he had to say, I liked very much. The didn’t challenge me the way it probably would have two years ago or so, but it was still very interesting to read his fresh takes on things. Worth reading, but there are books I would recommend first.

Teach the Children

OK, I’m lousy at this whole teaching-kids thing. I went to Sojourn Sunday morning for my third round of story-telling for the kids group. This week, the story was about Judas. I’m not sure that this week was worse than last time, but it certainly wasn’t as good as the first time. And it certainly wasn’t good.

And part of that was my fault. I could have been better prepared. I’d waited for some information from the children’s leader that I didn’t get towards the end of the week, so at that point I decided to prepare on Saturday, but then, as I mentioned, Firestone took way longer than planned, and that didn’t happen. So I was still gettting ready Sunday morning. I slept poorly Saturday night, the way I did in college when I had a test that day I hadn’t studied for or a paper due that I hadn’t finished.

On the other hand, though, I’m not sure how much difference more preparation would have made. I kinda suspect I would have still felt bad about it even if I’d spent more time on it. I feel like I’m just not good at it. I do OK with groups of adults, I do OK one-on-one with kids. I can’t connect with groups of kids, though.

And that’s challenging me. I’ve taken the viewpoint over the last year or two that your area of service should be where God has gifted you. If I’m really supposed to be teaching kids, I should be better at it. I shouldn’t have to force it. When I started becoming involved in Sojourn, I made a decision that I wasn’t going to seek involvement. I’m not going to try to shoehorn myself into anything, but I’m going to be open to where people think I fit. If someone comes to me and says they think I should do something, I’ll trust that they have a better sense of my fit for the task than I do, and if it turns out they think I’m not such a great fit after all, I won’t be offended. By that, I’m supposed to be doing this. By the way I feel, I’m not. And I’m still trying to piece together which is the case.

How Was Sunday Night Different from All Other Nights?

I went to a messianic Passover seder. But I’ve already written about that. If you haven’t read it, scroll down a few entries. Good stuff.

It’s Lonely Out In Space

Someone sent me a link to something on McSweeney’s earlier today, and that and the upcoming STS-131 launch made me remember their Letter to Elton John From the Office of the NASA Administrator, part of their series of Pop-Song Correspondences. Funny stuff.

Klingon Jesus

Saw this on Twitter today: “@XIANITY: MISSIONS: With Bible translated in their own language, Klingons no longer considered an unreached people group. Qapla'”

It amused me because of my long-standing discussion about Klingon Jesus, and whether there would be a need for such. As silly as it sounds, it’s actually a pretty involved theological discussion about the incarnation of Christ and the nature of original sin. I may have to blog about it sometime, but, in the meantime, if you’re ever talking to me, feel free to ask about Klingon Jesus.

Ask Me Anything

I’m out of user-submitted questions in my page. Ask me things. I’ll answer. I’ve also set up a Plinky account, as evidenced by the haiku a couple of posts down.

And, in other blog news, my good friend and mentor Joe Gurner now has a blog again. Read it.

Newspaper Blackout

When I saw a reference to Newspaper Blackout on Twitter, I had to check it out, just based on the title. Turns out, it’s not really about newspapers.

What it actually is — a guy takes a newspaper page, and covers over it with magic marker, skipping a handful of words that then form a poem. And it’s one of those concepts that at first struck me as gimmicky, until I realized that some of the poems are actually pretty good. May have to buy it before long.

A Hot Pocket Haiku

Sticky Fingers Travel Mug

Frozen Hot Pocket —

Out of microwave, comes "food,"

My coffee's new friend.

Ma Nishtanah

מה נשתנה, הלילה הזה מכל הלילות
שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלין חמץ ומצה הלילה הזה, כלו מצה
שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלין שאר ירקות הלילה הזה, מרור
שבכל הלילות אין אנו מטבילין אפילו פעם אחת הלילה הזה, שתי פעמים
שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלין בין יושבין ובין מסובין הלילה הזה, כולנו מסובין

How is this night different from all other nights?

That question, ma nishtanah, is the foundation of the four questions that explain the symbolism of the ritual of the Passover celebration.

For a while now, I’ve had my own version of the ma nishtanah — Why is this ritual different from all other rituals? Not regarding Passover, which I’ve known little about, but regarding the Christian sacrament of communion, or the Lord’s Supper, or eucharist. At its purest, Christianity is a religion of little ritual, which in and of itself makes what ritual there is fascinating. But I also knew that communion had its roots in Passover, making it a rare carryover of a Christian practice from Jewish ritual.

We observe communion because Jesus commanded it. But why? He was generally pretty unconcerned with preserving the trappings of “religion,” interested far more in the heart than in ritual. So why His concern about this ritual?

During my church journey, I’ve spent some time observing how different congregations observe communion, and come away with my own thoughts on the matter. In fact, just my choice of word there reflects the beliefs I’ve come away with. (I’ll save most of those for a couple of weeks, since The Rite of Communion is week 15 of my Reconstruction project.)

But I knew that I was going to hit a wall at some point until I could learn more about the Passover observance, and that I would learn that best by experience, rather than reading. I tried to participate last year, but that fell through, so I was really excited about doing it this year.

I went to Flint River Baptist Church to hear a messianic Jewish rabbi lead a Passover seder. Heck, just that right there makes it a good evening. It was, for me, a neat celebration of my view of the church of Huntsville. This had nothing to do with my primary congregation, Sojourn, and it was a blessing to participate in a coming together of members of two other congregations, two other practices of faith. It’s beautiful to see the walls we put up come down, and to worship together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

In fact, I couldn’t help but imagine that the seder captured some of the diversity of the faith in the first century. Here was a man who had grown up, like Paul, as a Jew and a student of the Torah, breaking bread with Gentiles who had never known what it truly is to live under the law.

I could go on for quite a while about the relationship between the two rituals and the meanings, but, really, that last paragraph was the most important thing I got out of the night. In relating his personal journey, the rabbi said he came to know Christ less through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John than through the gospels of Abraham and Moses. As he learned about the life of Christ, he recognized the story from the same stories told in the seder. He recognized the story of the slaughtered Lamb, whose blood is deliverance from death.

It’s easy as Christians to view the Old Testament as a sort of prequel to the New Testament, another story that provides background and context to the real story. I’ve even heard it said that the faith begins with Christ. And while He is the foundation, He is also the fulfillment of something much older. And the sacrament of communion points to that. It is a reminder both of the ancient promises and of their completion.

Even before the original Passover, the deliverance from the tenth plague, God ordered that there be an rememberance of what he was about to do that would be observed forever.

“This do in remembrance …”

Fantasy Film League

The first week’s results are back in the Fantasy Film League, and my blockbuster-in-the-making “Bible Song” raked in $1.5 million at the box office. Not a great weekly take, but I’m counting on word of mouth to help it pick up.

If you’re already in the FFL, how did your film do this week? If not, join now! You’re only $1.5 million behind.

Rachael Sage — “Sacrifice” Lyrics

When I added the Lyrics tab to the blog, I mentioned that there were a couple of songs that I’d transcribed and contributed to lyrics sites. This is one of those. I wanted to share the words as inspiration for a friend, and when I couldn’t find them, I typed them up myself, and then posted them so other people could benefit. I’m posting it today because it ties in with a conversation I had with a friend yesterday. In doing so, I corrected some mistakes in the lyrics.

Rachael Sage — Sacrifice

there was a time when I can honestly say
you were the only one who’d paved my way
you were the one who’d helped me overcome
all of the demons inside my skin

but it’s been a long time since you’ve held this hand
and since then I’ve grown from a boy to a man
I know that if you fall I will stand
you can never shake this confidence

know that these are my own two arms
know that these are my own two eyes
know that these are my own true words
even if your approval is my sacrifice

I know that I have not fulfilled your plans
but I am starting to resent this guilt
hanging over me like a weeping willow tree
there’s no fire can deface self-acceptance

know that these are my own two arms
know that these are my own two eyes
know that these are my own true words
even if your approval is my sacrifice

I was broken and I wanted too much
expected you to be so brave, but people don’t change
I was frozen and I wanted your touch
expected you to be so brave, but people don’t change, don’t change

there was a time when I can honestly say
you were the only one who’d paved my way
you were the one who’d helped me overcome
all of the demons inside my skin

but it’s been a long time since you’ve held this hand
and since then I’ve grown from a boy to a grown man
I know that if you fall I will still stand
you can never shake this confidence

know that these are my, know that these are my, know that these are my own two arms
know that these are my, know that these are
even if your approval is my sacrifice
even if your approval is my sacrifice

I was broken and I wanted too much
expected you to be so brave, but people don’t, but people don’t change
I was frozen and I wanted your touch
expected you to be so brave, but people don’t, but people don’t change, people don’t change


All That Glitters

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “The Golden Rule.”

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

Great advice. Except …

It assumes people want done unto them what you want done unto you. And they may or may not. Different people value different things. Assuming that someone wants the same things you do can be dangerous.

Just because you wish that some guy would creep into your bedroom Edward-Cullen-style and watch you sleep, it does not mean that you should do the same. That could get you in trouble. In relationships, some people need to resolve things immediately. Some people need time to think through things. If you’re the former, doing that unto the latter because it’s what you would have done to you is not going to help matters. Even if you wish that I would give you a nice tin of tasty Indianola pecans, I would prefer you not do the same unto me, inasmuch as I’m deathly allergic.

I would argue that the better version of the rule is this — Value what you value.

The things that are important to you, LIVE like they are important to you. The things you don’t live as if they matter, don’t say they do.

I value honesty; I’ve been lied to too many times by people I trust. I value promises; I’ve spent too much of my life waiting for people to keep their word when it meant less to them than it did to me. I value openness; I’ve learned too many secrets the hard way.

And I try to live like those things matter to me. I strive to be honest. I strive to keep my word. I strive not to let anybody be surprised because they depended on something they believed about me that wasn’t true. I value those things, and so I try to live my life like I value those things.

Not doing that, to me, is the root of hypocrisy — not valuing in the way you live the things you say you value. Which can be either having something that you believe is important but you don’t live accordingly, or paying lip service to an ideal that in truth is meaningless to you. If you really believe you shouldn’t do something, then don’t live like it’s OK. If you don’t think it matters, then don’t say it does.

But, if something matters, LIVE like it matters.

Matt Stanton’s Road Journal

I blogged the other day about the comedy show that I went to Friday night. The first opening act, Matt Stanton, mentioned that he posts video Road Journals online for his shows, combining bits of his routine with footage from the town where the show was.

This is the Huntsville video. I’m sharing it here despite the fact that he totally lost me about 23 seconds in.

Improv Update

In addition to the show next Tuesday that I mentioned yesterday, I will also be playing in Saturday night’s Face2Face improv comedy show at 7 p.m. at Kenny Mango’s coffee shop on Hughes Road in Madison. You can buy tickets online in advance and save four bucks. Come join us!