Thursday, May 25, 2006

Here's to You, Brother!

I am the oldest of four siblings. I have two younger brothers and a younger sister. My youngest brother and I have always had a very strong bond. My sister and I get along alright. However, DW and I haven’t always gotten along. From the time he was born until he was about three, everything was fine. Then we started to fight and the fighting went on until I left for college. We seemed to hate each other and sometimes we fought so violently we had to go outside just so we literally wouldn’t kill each other. We are pretty much complete opposites: I love to read, DW only reads an occasional newspaper and the tv listings; I did well in school, DW didn’t (he could have but he was too apathetic); I wasn’t a very good athlete, DW was; though I’m a hick I’m a refined hick, DW is pretty much a straight-redneck; etc. Despite these differences we have grown closer the last several years. We’ve built upon the commonalities we share and have minimized the differences (perhaps the two major U.S. political parties should take lessons on how to work together from DW and I). We still live very different lives. But, that doesn’t really matter.

DW arrived home yesterday from a week-long training session near Chicago. He leaves for special training in three weeks. Two months later he’ll be going to Iraq for a year. I love my brother incredibly. I’ve told him this, but he hates that (at least he pretends to). I’m also incredibly proud of him. He got into a lot of trouble a few years ago. I was in college and he lost his two closest friends in one day in a non-alcohol related car crash. I sometimes think that if I had been around I would have been able to keep him from getting into the trouble with the law and everyone else that he did. It took awhile for him to get back on track, but he did. He walked away from God for awhile, too. But he came back. That fills me with hope. He’s got a lot of growing to do spiritually, but all of us do. The spiritual life is anything but stagnant. Christianity is all about freedom and growth. Anyway, I leave for the summer in five days. Once I leave, I might not ever see my brother again and that fills me with great sadness; so much sadness that tears well up in my eyes if I let myself think about it. At the same time, I’m really not worried. God is guiding both our paths and wherever our journeys will take us, I know that if nothing else in the end we will meet again. So, here's to you brother! I love you and I'm incredibly proud of you.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


My youngest brother graduated last night from high school. My sister graduated last weekend from college. Over the past few weeks and in the next couple weeks to come there will be thousands of other commencement ceremonies around the country. In honor of these celebration, here are some words delivered to a high school class many, many moons ago. It was in a different time and a different era. It's author was a mature, but bright-eyed high school kid. The student who wrote this was full of wisdom, but it was a wisdom tempered by innocence and lack of experience. Disillusionments, jadings of the heart, and beatings by the world wouldn't happen until a few months later. The speech is dated, but it's core message is still relevant today. Enjoy.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to tonight’s graduation ceremony.
As the class historian, I believe we represent success in several different fields such as academics, music, dramatics, and athletics. Four valedictorians, a salutatorian, and a historian represent just a few of the many dimensions of our success and accomplishments.
One of the major reasons that our class has been so successful is because we are so adaptable to change. Many changes have taken place during our lifetime. We have seen the Vietnam War end and our nation’s bicentennial begin. We have watched the Space Shuttle Challenger explode. We have seen the end of the Cold War. We have lived through the Persian Gulf War. And we have been led by five different Presidents.
However, as we have grown and matured change has also occurred within our lives here at home. We have said farewell to Mr. Stout and welcomed Mr. Dillon as our principal. We have seen faculty come and go. We fought for the reinstatement of the senior trip. And one month ago over a third of our class enjoyed our victory at Chesterfield, Missouri.
As we leave these halls tonight we will be faced with the challenges of the world: genocide in the Balkans, the fight against drugs and crime in our cities, the search for cures for cancer and AIDS in our nation’s laboratories, and more personally what careers we will pursue and who we’ll date next Friday night.
I ask of you, my friends, that as you leave tonight and begin upon the great journey of life to remember our class motto: “Remember yesterday, dream for tomorrow, live for today.”
I congratulate us the class of 1994.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I Get Tired of Eating Dirt After Awhile

On Tuesday I had a job interview. I was really excited about it because it was at a school that I really, really wanted to teach at and it was probably going to be my last chance at getting a teaching job for the fall. Frankly, I'm not a great interviewee, especially when my entire future is at stake--I get nervous and my voice fluctuates and no matter what I try I can't seem to keep it in check. Nevertheless, I thought the interview went well and that I had a good chance at the job.

Apparently not because I got a call today and was informed that they had offered the job to someone else. Language cannot express how frustrated and angry that made me.
I have sent out around 30 different applications to schools that I know have open positions. I have had 7 interviews. The number of interviews should give me some comfort because I know that most applicants aren't offered that, but that knowledge provides me no comfort.

I really, really, really, really want to have a class of my own and be teaching English in the fall. I spent 2 1/2 years jumping through all sorts of hoops, spending precious time and money so that I could get the precious certification that the State of Illinois says you have to have to be able to teach. In December, I finally got that certification and in the process became stamped and approved by the government. I've been looking for a job since December and now it appears that come August, I'm not going to have one. I've done all the "proper" steps and I have the training. I've sent countless emails and have had numerous telephone conversations. I've followed up each of my interviews with a personal thank you letter. I've spent hours scouring the Internet and educational websites. I've talked to people I really didn't want to talk to just so I could get the experience. Always looking, looking, looking. And now it appears that it has all been to no avail. Language cannot describe how frustrated and upset I feel right now. I've not only done everything everyone has asked of me, I've gone far beyond it and still I am denied. I don't know what else I can do.

I should be encouraged somewhat because it will now be easier for me to move to Oregon. But I'm not. I wanted to teach so bad. I also shouldn't feel so bad because I'm quite used to rejection. Audition for enough shows and commercials and stuff and after awhile you develop rhinosaurous skin. But it's different with teaching. I'm a great teacher and a damn good English teacher. I know this. But knowing this only makes it worse. It really shouldn't bother me, I guess, because in the grand scheme of things it might not be that big of a deal and maybe it'll lead to a better opportunity. But, you know, it does bother me a lot right now. I always try to make the best out of a situation so it can be fun to play in the dirt and role around in it, but I get tired of eating dirt after awhile.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Short Passages From Anne Lamott

"Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom."--Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies, p. 161

I've discovered this myself. I have an idea for a book I want to write someday. It'll be entitled, The Annointing Is In the Bathroom.
"But in the meantime I have learned that most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of people." --Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies, p. 168

Every moment is a Gethsemane. Press the best out.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Few Words from TO OWN A DRAGON

The following passages are from Donald Miller's new book To Own a Dragon. (p. 139-145 ). I'm not saying that I agree with it all (and I'm not saying I don't), but it's really interesting to read and think about.
"What happens when sex is cheapened?" somebody asked.

"A lot happens. The main thing is there is no sacred physical territory associated with commitment. There can still be emotional territory, but there isn't anything physical, experiential, that a man and a woman have only with each other. Sleeping around does something to the heart, to the mind. It leaves less commodity to spend on a sacred mate. But all of that sounds pretty fluffy. Let me break it down into practical stuff. Women saying no to men, not letting men have sex with them, causes men to step up. If, in order to have sex with them, women demanded you got a job and shaved every day and didn't dress like a dork or sit around playing video games, then all of us would do just that. We all want to have sex, right?'

"Amen," one of the guys said, which drew some laughter.

"So if a woman demanded that you acted like a gentleman," I continued, "that you were able to commit and focus, then everybody in this room would do that, if for no other reason than we want to have sex. And this in turn would be good for families, would be good for communitites. Let's face it, we're guys, and too often we are going to take the path of least resistance. Many of us are the way we are because women are attracted to a certain kind of man. We may not have realized this dynamic was shaping us, but it has been. Nobody is exempt. So, when sex gets cheapened, we are getting what we want without having to pay for it. That's not good for anybody, not in the long run anyway. It's a great system, you know."

"But women don't withhold sex. It doesn't work that way any more," a guy from the back of the room stated.

"That true," I said. "Women are imitating men, I think. The presupposition is that men are right, and in order for a woman to be successful, she should act not like a woman but like a man. Thanks for the compliment, but I disagree. I think men need women to be women, and we need to be made to jump through some hoops. If a woman withholds sex until she gets what she wants, we are all better for it."

"You know," I started in, softly, "I hate this as much as you guys do. You try to take away people's sex, try to make people feel guilty or something, and everybody hates you for it. I mean you're a geek, right? And I don't want to be that guy. I really don't. It's just that my dad left my mom when I was a kid, and I remember visiting him and he always had some girl living with him, or was sleeping around with a girl half his age, and that affected me. I think my dad just thought it didn't matter, that he should be able to sleep with whomever he wanted. But what I needed him to do was stay with my mom, love my mother, and be my father. I think we can think nobody is affected by our actions, by our habits, but they are. We aren't independent creatures, you know. We are all connected. And in a family, in marriage, it's important that sex be something special, and as men, it's important we take the initiative in protecting it. Those habits start now. Greg Spencer, a professor friend of mine, would say sex is the most psychologically involving of the physical acts. Men fantasize that sex is mere biology. Yet nothing seems to affect us quite as deeply as sex when it is abused. I hope you don't fault me for saying all of this."

The great argument, then, is not whether sex is good or bad outside a relational commitment, but whether sex is for anything other than the release of pleasure. There is no scientific evidence to suggest sex is for bonding. Common sense tells us sex bonds people, but science can't go into the poetic. The tendency, when pleasure drives logic, is to reduce sex to a dry Darwinian definition, ignoring the poetry of our bodies. And this doesn't sound like much of a crime, until we remember the argument about the value of the dollar. Poetics, then, matter. What we feel about something, what we agree about for the sake of health and progress becomes critical. I think of sex this way, not only because this is the way God thinks about sex, but because logically, even apart from some sort of Christian morality, the poetic interpretation has to be upheld. --Donald Miller

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I Almost Cried

On the flight home from Portland I almost cried. The journey back to where I came always seems more difficult to me than the journey to a particular place; not to mention the exhaustion that comes from traveling over halfway across the country twice in three days, the sadness that comes when parting with close friends, and leaving a place where you feel at total peace to return to a place that is full of chaotic confusion.

Another reason that I almost cried on the flight home was because I was in awe of creation. Portland is a beautiful city surrounded by nature. It’s a very green city, both literally and in the environmental sense of the word. But it was more than that. Every time I fly, I find myself in awe of what God has created. Soaring above an ocean of clouds while watching the various stages of the sun as it rises and sets fills me with awe every time. The One who created all of that loves us as His own children; I am His son.

At the same time, I felt incredibly lonely as the plane returned to the Midwest. I know that I am never alone. God is always with me. Despite knowing this (and knowing it in the fibers of all that I am), there are times I feel incredibly lonely. I love to travel and even though I haven’t traveled as much as I would like, I know that I am blessed to have gone to the places I have. However, it sure would be nice to have someone to share those experiences with: either someone to join me on those trips or to welcome me home when I return. But there isn’t.

Other than my desire to perform, the only other real desire of my heart has been to marry. Yet, I’m over a quarter of a century old and have never been in a relationship. Part of the reason for that is my own doing largely because of the antiquated way I view dating. But part of it is because just about every time I have attempted to start something, I have been turned down. My heart has been damaged quite a bit. I’ve become somewhat jaded about love. Yet, my longing to meet my wife and get married has not waned. In fact, it becomes stronger as time goes on. It doesn’t help that I don’t have many friends who aren’t involved in a serious relationship and just about all of my classmates from high school are married and have children (you don’t know the meaning of awkward until you show up at your high school reunion as the only single person attending). At my core, I’m a romantic and believe that someday love will come along. Someday I’ll share the bond that my friends in Portland share. Someday I will have my wife to share the journeys we take or to welcome me home when I have to travel alone. But someday could be a long way off. In the meantime, there are times when I feel incredibly alone.

I almost cried on the flight home from Portland. But I didn’t.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Return from the Promise Land and a Reminder to Self

I write this just after returning to the family homestead from a trip to Portland, Oregon. Two dear friends of mine live there and are getting married to each other this summer. I went there to spend some time with them one last time before they are married. I also went to Portland as a follow-up to my trip there last year. Last year I visited Portland for a week and fell in love with the area. It seemed like a place that I would enjoy living; a place where I felt completely at peace. I’m seriously thinking about moving there sometime in the relatively near future, but I wanted to make sure that the euphoria of my original trip wasn’t just because of being in a new place that I had also always dreamed of visiting. Having returned again, I believe I can safely say my initial feelings weren’t wrong. In fact, driving back from the airport in St. Louis, I spent most of the time trying to figure out how and when I could move. I needed to write this down as soon as I could because I know that as soon as I wake up tomorrow doubts will begin attacking and the comfort that existing offers will threaten to overwhelm me and my desire to live an adventurous and full life might become smothered by the invasion. In fact, it has already started to happen, but now my words are here to remind me and help me. As I’ve told my students several times, words are powerful. I truly believe that.

I had a great trip. It was only for a few days, but it was awesome. I went on a short hike, saw two mimes attempt to perform a mini-musical, listened silently to my echo in Pioneer Square, saw a couple of movies in theatre pubs, fell in love with the show ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, ate some great food, drank some good beer, almost had my hand chewed off by a dragon boat, walked down a lane of childhood nostalgia filled with video games, partook in some wonderful conversations, attended a church where people really can and do meet Jesus, read some books, sat in awe of creation, and so much more. The best part of is that I was able to share almost all of it with three very dear friends.

There’s much more I could write, but at the moment I can’t. I’m too drained. Maybe later.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I had another job interview today. It went really, really, really well. The only way it could have went better is if they had offered me the job on the spot. I'll find out next week if I get the position or not.

I leave for a 3 1/2 day trip to Portland, Oregon tomorrow morning at 4:30am. I'm so excited. I think I could pee my pants. Seriously.

My sister graduates from college next weekend. My brother graduates from high school the weekend after that. A week from that I leave for another summer at camp.

I need to get new contacts.

I started reading Don Miller's new book (TO OWN A DRAGON) yesterday; I'm halfway through.

SURVIVOR is on tonight.

Mosquitoes are attracted to the scent of bananas.