Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Do you ever wonder what people really think of you?

Of course, by and large, I would rather not know what some people really think about me, but a certain email this morning had me wondering.

A co-worker (shout out to Vicki) sent me an email with the subject line "Peep Show" and a note that this made her think of me.

The attached photo had several pink Easter bunny peeps (you know those really disgusting marshmallow candy things). One pink bunny was wrapped around a stripper pole while the others were standing around wearing g-strings and pasties with money in their waistbands. Three big fat yellow chicken peeps were in the audience.

I get that this picture was comical, and that someone was very, very creative with way too much time on their hands. I can appreciate that.

Why this screamed my name, I still don't know, even though I asked. Vicki said that I was always talking about "my peeps". I may talk about my peeps, but I never realized I called them "my peeps".

My dad was talking about junk email at work, and I was telling him about this (he loves marshmallow peeps). He laughed and said he would have thought of me when he saw it because he knows that I HATE peeps.

The thought of them... the sight of them... make me gag. I can hardly talk about them without gagging. For that reason alone, I won't post a peep picture for you.

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In other commentary, I apologize for my lack of consistent posting recently. I've been busy at work and have been tired when I have gotten home. My creative juices have dried up when I've sat down to blog the past couple of weeks. Last night, I could just not think of anything to say AT ALL. Being entertaining all the time is HARD!!!

Sometimes funny things happen, but you just can't tell them for the sake of, you just can't. Just for Tracy's sake, here's our own private joke, all I have to say is, "just talk really slow and loud"

I have a stack of books to read post reviews on, but I've not had much time to read lately for some reason. I should be finishing the book I've been reading on for fun over the past few weeks soon and will post on it.

RANDOM COMMENT TIME: I'm watching Dancing with the Stars as I am typing. Boyz II Men sure was trying giving it their all to do their own choreography behind the dancers. You go Men!!! I watched the first half of American Idol earlier. Is anyone as bored with it as I am? I'm very unimpressed. I should have watched NCIS instead while Biggest Loser is Tivo-ing in the other room.

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ALSO... Lots of new posts are going up this week on Business as UNusual, the B&B Media Group blog. Check it out, and let us know if there are any books there that you would be interested in blogging on, and we'll be happy to get them out to you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Letting go of a dream

When I was a child, I wanted to be an actress when I grew up.

My grandmother (the matchmaking one) thought this dream was utterly ridiculous. On the other hand, her favorite grandchild, my younger cousin Kyle, wanted to be an astronaut. This dream was great! Yet, all fell apart when Kyle had to get glasses. Evidently, you have to have 20/20 vision to be an astronaut. It was quite the sad day.

While my brother played baseball and soccer, I begged to take drama classes. And so off and on I took drama classes over the years. I was in a few school plays over the years, and couldn't wait to take "Theater Arts" my senior year of high school because you could only take it as a senior in my small high school.

As I have explained previously, I've tried out for several plays at the local theater over the years (going back to junior high). I've never been cast in a play though.

The director had Jenny and I come in to read through a play yesterday. She was considering doing two different one act plays to take the place of the one that there weren't enough men to cast. Jenny read the part of the potty-mouthed slut for lack of an easier way to describe the character. I read the part of the naive, dateless, romance reading, hopelessly single girl (so true to life in a number of ways - especially in that the character gagged at the smell of Lysol). By the end of the short play, I had a love interest.

Well, I got an email today that the director decided not to move forward with the play as things just weren't working out. I had so looked forward to having a love interest, even if it was just in a play for 10 minutes in about 8 performances.

Actually, for scheduling reasons, I'm kind of glad I won't be in a play right now after all. It would have meant missing some t-ball and softball games, and I would have felt bad about that, even though I shouldn't have. It also would have thrown off when we had planned to take a vacation because it would delay leaving for a day and a half, and goodness knows we need every precious hour for a road trip to South Dakota. (My guilt complex can be overwhelming and for all my faults, I'm really not a selfish person.)

So, I've actually reached a decision over this past couple of weeks of trying to get into this play. I'm going to let go of my dream of becoming an actress. I think it's time. Maybe my grandmother was right. *sigh*

Yes, this last paragraph is a bit on the sarcastic side. However, I'm now going to move onto my dream of being a stand-up comedian.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm not so lucky after all

For all the story that I gave earlier in the week in regards to the wedding invitation, my parents finally got theirs today - along with one addressed to my brother - three days after I did. All three were sent to the same address that then had a forward order.

I still wouldn't have been surprised if I had gotten an invite and they hadn't. Guess I'm not so lucky after all.

I woke up way too early this morning in an effort to get to work early in order to finish all of my reports before I needed to leave at 2:45 to pick up Paige from school. (I still had to go back to work with Paige and Peyton in tow to finish what little bit I had left.) I am not a morning person, and I actually woke up before my 5 AM alarm, so the rest of this post is going to be short. I'm TIRED!

Peyton had been going on for weeks about a "by MYSELF" night at my house. She wouldn't let anyone else go out to eat at Don Jose's with us so that she could have enchiladas. She did invite Jenny to come with us, but Jenny had another commitment. However, when it came time to settle here for the night, she decided she wanted to stay at Mom and Dad's house tonight. I had to take her right back over there. None of us can figure it out other than she was really tired and we should have come over here earlier.

When I left, she was in the bathtub and told me to call her in the morning. I can't figure out the four year old today.

Tomorrow morning Jenny and I are supposed to go read a script for a play at the Warehouse Living Arts Center to replace the other play that we tried out for. We're not exactly sure what to expect. All we know is that the director asked the two of us to come. I shall update you tomorrow.

My Facebook status earlier read "It was a dark and stormy day in Corsicana, TX" to which someone said I better be blogging. (Another shout out to Laura!) Well, the weather forecast for today was a lead factor in me not taking the day off today like I had planned earlier in the week. I had planned to spend the day at the Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens for a calming break away from life. Obviously, if you live around here, you know today was NOT the day to do such a thing. Maybe I'll go on Good Friday.

Since I worked all last weekend at Christian Book Expo, I'm ready for this weekend. I'm ready for that Sunday afternoon nap. Maybe I should just go to bed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New books posted on Business as UNusual

Check out The B&B Media Group blog for postings on new books that we are working on.
There is information there on how to request copies of the book to talk about on your blog.


Designer Women by Ruth Tuttle Conard
Authentic Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-934068-75-5/238 pages/softcover/$14.99
www.authenticpublishing.com
Emmanuel Kolini by Mary Weeks Millard
Authentic Publishing January 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934068-65-6/239 pages/softcover/$16.99
www.authenticpublishing.com

Dying to Live by Clive Calver
Authentic Publishing March 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934068-80-9/154 pages/softcover/$16.99
www.authenticpublishing.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back to the question, "How did I get so lucky?"

Because my post got so long last night, I'm continuing on with my story now. Back to the story of Kim's wedding:


My mom feels that there may be hope for me to eventually marry because, after all, Kim didn't get married until she was in her 40s. She and her husband Jeff had lived together for a while, and finally decided to make it official. Why she didn't do it while her mother was living, I don't know. So anyway, they decided to just go ahead and do it in Vegas.

Jenny and I arrived at the wedding chapel before any of my family arrived. Every time someone drove up, Jenny would ask, "do you know them?"

"No, Jenny, my cousin is not the slut in the mini-shorts and four inch hills with the fake boobs."

"Do you know them?"

"No, Jenny, my family is not Scottish, and I'm pretty sure there is no way on God's Green Earth that Jeff would be wearing a kilt."
Interesting people get married in Vegas.

So, finally, I recognize, or rather hear some family, so we go in one of the chapel doors. Part of the family had arrived. The bride and groom, along with a couple of their friends were late to their own wedding because evidently, the limo driver who should have known better didn't arrive in time to get them from the Mandalay Bay, all the way down the strip, to the chapel in time.

While we were waiting for Kim and Jeff to show, Jenny and I conversed with my cousin Mark (Kim's brother), his third wife Meredith, Aunt Carol and her manfriend, Bill. Out on the sign at the chapel, it says that you can watch weddings live online. Mark told Jenny and I that if he had known that, he would have stayed home. I think he was just joking. While Jenny and I were chatting it up with Mark on one side, Carol, Bill and Meredith were living it up on the other. If you readers think that I am loud, I inherited it from my even louder Aunt Carol. A very dominant personality. Only to be outdone by Meredith (I think Mark was even shaking his head at her) and the King of Knowing-it-All, Bill.

Carol was asking Jenny and I what we had been doing while I was out in Vegas. We told them about driving out to the Grand Canyon the day before so that I could go out on the glass bridge (can you say overrated?). Bill adds all of his vast knowledge that was not quite accurate to the conversation. Finally Carol informed him that he did not know it ALL because I had just been out there and probably actually knew more than he did. (Carol's first husband was quite opinionated too.) It did not take too long for all of us to have quite our fill of Bill. A little Bill went a long way.

Finally, the bride and groom arrived with their friends Hazel and "Pancho" (I don't know what his real name was because Jeff kept calling him "Pancho"). The only reason why I bring up this couple is because they were married at this same chapel several years before. Their wedding was delayed because they had to wait for Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra to finish their ceremony. Strange, but true random fact. And you do know how I love random facts.

After the wedding, all 10 of us head back to the Mandalay Bay for dinner at the House of Blues. Jenny and I met up with them for dinner after they went upstairs to the club for the wedding toast. They evidently had quite the toast up there because they came down well on their way to being drunk.

Then, they all ordered more drinks and got more drunk. Jenny and I went with Diet Coke and observed all the others. At one point, I got out my camera, and Jeff about had a cow. "Don't take a picture of my beer bottles. I don't want your parents seeing a picture of my beer bottles." I find this hilarious because the man is in his 40's, and is worried about what my Dad is going to think. My dad's not stupid. Kim and Jeff have been living together (not secretly), are getting married in Vegas (Sin City), and he's worried there might be a picture of him and a beer bottle?


I know that most people are pretty stupid when they are drunk, but I think even more so with my family. Let's just say that Jenny and I cannot talk about the whole experience without referring to "Drunk Aunt Carol". Jenny and I cannot talk about my family without referring to "Drunk Aunt Carol". I forgot about this until I looked in my scrapbook, but during the course of dinner, Jeff had to give Carol his jacket because she was cold, and Bill says, "no one wants me taking off my shirt."

You have that right Bill. You certainly have that right. And Bill and Meredith debating at dinner was quite fascinating to Jenny. You really had to be there.

It wasn't a bad time, but just a really rather interesting with my drunk family. Jenny and I talked about them all the way back to her apartment.

So, on this invitation to Carol's casual dress wedding at the golf course, the schedule for the night reads:

Dinner - 6:30 PM
Ceremony - Sunset
Par-Tee - into the night

(Get it - a golf course - Par-Tee?)

I am not much of a party goer, but I know that a Par-Tee is a like a PAR-TAY!!! In addition to the former wedding with drunk family members, I have been to other parties of drunk family members, and it is very not enjoyable. It's just simply, not my thing. I don't really think I should go.

I left Jenny a message earlier asking if she wanted to be my date to "Drunk Aunt Carol" and Bill's wedding. She called back later, and immediately said, "yes!" I can assure you, she was joking.

So, back to my question. Knowing all this back story now. "How did I get so lucky?"

My dad didn't see the mail. I thought he had when I said, "Mom told me I got some mail." He was in middle of something at the time, and didn't know what I was talking about, I realized later. I think I'll probably pass on telling him about my invitation. Mom can have that discussion if she would like to.

Even if this tremendously long story was not funny to you, you have to admit this picture is. Do you think these two are related? It's a picture of my cousin Kim and our "Drunk Aunt Carol". Look at how they have their mouths.

Monday, March 23, 2009

How did I get so lucky?

I find today's installment of "Audra's Insanity" to be quite humorous, and hope that you do too. It is possible that you either have to hear me tell the story, or you have to be Jenny to find it funny.

In case you haven't figured it out that my family is crazy by the stories I've told about my immediate family, then you just haven't heard enough stories about my extended family. If the writers of "Days of Our Lives" have run out of ideas (and believe me, when I quit watching a few years ago they had), they really should come talk to me and I'll give them some real life stories from my dad's side of the family that would give them some new material.

My dad's family is pretty large. His father had three children with his first wife who died, then had five children with my grandmother. That makes for a large cast of characters.

As the years have gone by, my dad and his "full-blood" siblings have grown farther and farther apart. When my grandmother died 5 years ago, the lines of communications really began to unplug, and when the oldest of the five, Linda, died two and a half years ago, that pretty much ended what communication was left among certain parties. Other family situations have certainly not helped things out.

I know, I know... you are thinking, "Audra, that's not funny. That's really quite sad. Life is short and they are all family."

Yes, I know. And if you are thinking that, you sound just like Aunt Lois, Dad's oldest half-sister. Bless Lois' heart. She just wants all her brothers and sisters to get along.

Dad called her last week to tell her that he had moved, and she was in shock. Granted, it was just like four blocks away, but she knew "little brother" well enough to know that was quite an amazing thing.

Lois always asks who Dad has talked to, and Dad's answer, always putting him on the spot, is no. Dad told me that his saving grace last week was that he had happened to run into their brother Mike somewhere in town last week. In the course of their conversation, Lois says that she received an invitation to their sister Carol's wedding. "Did you get an invitation?" she asks Dad. Dad's reply is, "no, and I won't be getting one."

There hasn't been a particular event that has occurred that has driven a wedge between Dad and Carol, but they don't ever talk to each other. But, if I were him, I really wouldn't expect to get an invite either. He wasn't invited to Mike's wedding when he remarried a few years ago either. (Mike held his wedding at his annual, very wild, Halloween party. The parties are actually pretty legendary and known for their cash prizes for the costume contests.)

So, fast forward to today. After work, I went by my parents' house. Mom tells me that I am quite a special person and got some mail over at their house today - it's setting over there on the cabinet. Oh, and she did open it because the mail came opened - it looked like there was a sticker that got torn off, so she got it out and read it. (Open or not, my mother is evidently reading my mail regardless, did you catch that? I think that may be a topic for another blog.)

Mom informs me that I got an invitation to Aunt Carol's wedding. How did I get so lucky?

I think I actually asked, "how did I get so lucky?"

The way Mom has it figured, I went out to Vegas for my cousin Kim's wedding two years ago while I was visiting Jenny (I was already planning to visit Jenny about that time, and since Kim was getting married out there, I figured that was a good time), so Carol thought I could come to her wedding up at the golf course in Ferris. The reasoning behind this is that other than Kim's brother Mark, Aunt Carol and I were the only family out there in attendance. In case you are reading this and thinking, "uh, I don't know if that makes any sense," the point is, it doesn't make much, if any, sense.

I'm going to go back to talking about Kim's wedding because that story gets funny and has something to do with this story. For now, I'm going to stay on this invitation. So, because I don't guess Carol has my address (which I have had for almost 6 years now), she sent an invitation with just my name on it to my parent's old address (because they have not informed the whole family of the move). And, she does not send an invitation to her own brother. The passive-aggressive immaturity of my father's family never ceases to at least make me shake my head.

I still don't know why I got the invitation. It's not like I've talked to her or seen her since Dad has. I don't plan to attend, and I'll explain why later. But, hypothetically, if I did plan to attend, I'm wondering who in the family received an invitation.

OK, so we know that Lois did because she said so. Mike definitely did (because they are the closest two siblings these days, especially after he donated his bone marrow to Carol). Kim would be (and I assume her brother Mark). I don't think she would have invited their sister Kay, but I'm not sure about that. My real main concern in attending would be my cousins in attendance, and whether or not she invited Kay's son Steven (the reason I refuse to ever fly Southwest Airlines). I doubt he would be there since he couldn't get away for his own sister's wedding, but I would not want to chance it. Really, that's neither here nor there, but I can't really believe the family guest list is all that long. I'm still wondering how I got so lucky.

Back to why I don't plan to attend... this takes me back to the tale of Kim's wedding. However, this post is quite long already, so hold on until Tuesday, and I'll continue my story. I've already typed it up, and have it ready to post at noon.

Jason Berggren's 10 Things I Hate...

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working through the Frustrations of Faith

X-Media (March 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jason T. Berggren grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and was a part of the band Strongarm. After leaving the band, he earned an AA in Mass Communications and a BA in Theology. In 2000, he helped to start the Calvary Fellowship church in Miami, FL, fulfilling the role of Assistant Pastor overseeing several areas of service. In 2005, he decided to explore a different ministry calling, returning to his childhood ambition of being a writer. His new book, 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working through the Frustrations of Faith conveys his conviction that “positive momentum begins with negative tension” and will be available soon. Berggren felt compelled to write the book after realizing that all of his spiritual difficulties and challenges originated from the same ten issues. While his fledgling writing career begins to take flight, Berggren also runs handyman business to provide for his family. Berggren and his wife have been married since 1999. The Berggrens have three boys and attend Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA, where they lead a small group.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: X-Media (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981944302
ISBN-13: 978-0981944302

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Why Hate?



I’m wrong. I usually am.

I’m not saying that to sound self-deprecating, or to appear whimsical and charming in order to endear myself to you (though if it happens, I’m fine with that). I’m saying that because it’s true. I know hate is wrong. I just don’t know any other way to describe what I feel. It’s to-the-point, direct, and yes, maybe even a little reckless and rude. But it’s what I mean.

When I was growing up, my father — who’s more civilized than I am — would strongly admonish me for using hate to describe my feelings about something or someone. He wanted me to understand how potent this word is. He was uncomfortable with its implied violence. He wanted me to use it cautiously.

I understand. But there are realities I must face.

Like Coca-Cola. I’ve loved Coke since I was a child. I would do fine never letting another beverage touch my lips for the rest of my life, not even water. I love the taste of the ice-cold liquid as it passes through my lips and cascades down my throat. I often say I’m a Coke addict as a joke, since it has such power over me. But the reality is that Coke isn’t good for me in such large doses, and it causes me to gain weight. So I hate the fact that I love Coke. It’s a tension I have to learn to manage.

Unfortunately, this wrestling exists abundantly in the deeper, more important issues of my life as well.

My life is filled with personal conflict. This conflict has the power to crush my hopes and blur my dreams until they’re merely memories of childhood fantasies, never again to be imagined, for fear of bringing even more tension, more confusion, more hate. Especially when the conflict is coupled with failure.

I used to dream of being a musician. When I was twelve, I worked through spring break and used my earnings to buy a cheap amp and guitar. I spent years teaching myself how to play. I would listen to tapes of my favorite bands, trying to copy the music and sing along. Eventually I began writing my own songs and even went on to be in a few bands.

After investing time and money and delaying college, in my early twenties I finally realized I wasn’t very good, and I quit. It was a heartbreaking reality to face. The experience still follows me. It’s as if I’ll never let myself pursue any type of dream again. Dreams aren’t worth the disappointment and heartache when they don’t come true, and it’s almost certain they won’t. Is failure the end? Or is failure one of many steps to succeeding? The risk doesn’t seem worth it. But unlived dreams can also cast an unbearable shadow of “what if.” There’s no way to avoid this conflict in my life.

When we’re alone and being honest, most of us would probably admit there’s a deep personal war going on inside us. The smaller battles in this war break out in strange ways. They might drive us to eat a little too much dessert, spend a little too much on yet another pair of shoes, or have another drink. When left unchecked, conflict leads to confusion, regret, and guilt. And it grows. It may cause us to do things like insist on the last word in an argument and cause damage to a relationship we care about.

The truth remains: Life is a constant battle. If we’re to experience any peace, joy, or love as we learn to do life and relationships more productively and successfully, our only option is to learn to fight our own inner demons. Because if we give up, we’ll turn into a mess (or more of a mess, in my case).

I hate all this tension, and I hate having to face it. It’s a dilemma wrapped in a crisis stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But I’ve learned that bigger conflict, the deep inner conflict, can be a positive force. It can bring us past the endless cycle of reaction and regret, and lead to a breakthrough and the opportunity for much-needed personal growth and renewal. We can train our minds to use our hate, and when we begin to sense it, we can create forward momentum: We sense the tension, wrestle the issue, win the battle, learn a lesson, grow as an individual, and move ahead. This can bring a new day with a new perspective and new opportunities.

* * *

There’s nothing like watching the strength of the human spirit reaching forward in times of turmoil. This is why I put pen to paper. I’m just trying to chart a course through the murky waters of frustration and hate. I think I’m discovering a path through this fog, and I want to share it with you.

In this process, my faith has been key — which may surprise you, given this book’s title. I am in fact a Christian, though I hesitate using the term because of the baggage that comes with it. Maybe it’s better to say I’m trying to follow Jesus as closely as I can, like one of his twelve disciples. It’s not easy. This may be why I like the disciples Thomas and Peter the most. Like them, I have a lot of doubts and open my big mouth way too much.

This book is basically a log of my journey with faith, sometimes faltering, sometimes firm. It’s a record of release and renewal, as I try to work toward contentment and wholeness.

So I’m inviting you to hate with me — not the unguarded, irresponsible, and negative emotion my father often warned me about, but the inner sense of overwhelming dissatisfaction that can launch a progression toward personal growth. Identifying my feeling of hate has given me an awareness to move forward. It has ignited a drive toward newness, unseen potential, and the fulfillment that lies ahead. It has also caused me to seek resolutions to bigger questions in my life: Why are we all here? What’s it all about? Is there more to it than this?

It’s these bigger questions that led me to a faith in Jesus. It was different from what I expected, which I’ll get into. But it was what I was looking for through my wrestling. I’ve found it to be the only way to achieve sanity in my own existence.

Unfortunately, believing in him didn’t fix everything. While I deeply admire, respect, and love Jesus, my faith in him has actually added to my inner struggles. And this is a real dilemma.

Faith can be a challenge, and extremely inconvenient at times. Over and over I’ve had to face certain aspects of my faith that don’t seem to line up. I’ve been quite confused by what it means to seek God’s purpose for my life and to follow the teachings of Jesus. And while working through these questions, I came to a helpful life-lesson that has become self-evident: Wrong expectations lead to absolute frustration. When we don’t have all the facts, we usually end up disillusioned and angry. Like when a couple thinks that having kids will make their relationship better. Then comes the rude awakening: More people equals more problems.

I’m constantly bumping up against this principle about wrong expectations because it pretty much applies everywhere. It has been especially true when it comes to my faith. If you remember only one thing from this book, make it that. It will help you in every arena of life — career, relationships, marriage, sex, having kids, faith, etc. I wish someone had told me about it a long time ago, so I’m telling you now.

Everyone has a story. This is mine — what I’ve actually hated about my faith at times, and how I’m working through it all. Maybe it can help you work out some of the issues in your own story.






#1

Faith



Like many kids in America, I grew up playing baseball. At age seven, I skipped T-ball and went right to Pony League. It was extremely intimidating at first. This was real baseball, complete with the threat of being decapitated by a stray pitch. Kids were reckless. Everyone was trying to throw the ball as fast as possible, because speed equaled great pitching. Control was secondary.

After Pony League came Little League. Now pitching was something to really be afraid of. Kids were bigger, so speed increased dramatically. Unfortunately, the accuracy still wasn’t there. Plus, the formula was still the same: Speed equaled great pitching.

But for a nine-year-old, the real challenge in moving up to Little League was striving to hit a homer, as every young boy wants to do.

The homerun. It’s what dreams are made of. When boys are staring into the clouds outside their classrooms, they’re probably thinking about hitting a homerun. When a mom has to scream for her son’s attention, more than likely he’s daydreaming about knocking one over the fence. When young kids have sleepovers and stay up way past bedtime, they’re probably predicting how many long balls they’ll hit next season.

I had homerun dreams. I obsessed over them. And I was thrilled when I met our new neighbor, Bill. He was an old-timer and told me about the glory of his Little League years. You know, “back in the day.” I hung on his every word, because he said he could hit homeruns at will. He even claimed to have hit homeruns in every game. I fantasized about being him and living those moments. It seemed so unfair that he was so good.

But that was all about to change.

One day Bill told me his secret. I never felt so lucky in all my life, because his method wasn’t magical at all. The next time I stepped up to the plate, I knew things would be different. This kid was going to give Hank Aaron a run for his money. As Bill explained it, all I had to do was keep my eye on the ball. Simply watch it leave the pitcher’s hand all the way until it hit the bat, and BAM! A homerun. “Don’t try to kill it,” he added. “Just make contact.” After that, I never took another swing without my eyes locked on the ball. But I never hit a home run. Never.

I began to resent my neighbor. His advice didn’t yield a mantle full of homerun balls, the admiration of teammates, fear from opponents, or attention from girls. All I wanted was to feel the thrill of hearing the crack of the bat as the ball sailed away from me, and the victory lap around the diamond, and the applause of the crowd, and the home-movie immortalizing the moment. I wanted what so many other kids seemed to get. But it just never happened for me. I couldn’t accept that I wasn’t good enough or that I was doing something wrong. It was his fault. I felt as if Bill lied, and all his stories were probably lies too.

As my temper took hold, I did what we kids did to other neighbors we didn’t like. I lit a flaming bag of dog poop on his welcome mat and rang the doorbell so he would be forced to answer the door and stamp it out. Hot dog poo everywhere! Not really. He was too close to home. But it was hard to resist the urge to take vengeance on him. I wanted a guarantee. I wanted to know how to control the outcome, but I couldn’t. I’d been given a false sense of hope, and the results, or lack thereof, crushed me. After that season, I never played baseball again.

Not much has changed since Little League. I’m pretty good at most things I put my mind to, but not really amazing at anything. I’m also not very lucky. I’ve never been in the right place at the right time. I can’t help you get a crazy deal on a set of tires, and I’ve never won an all-expenses-paid cruise to Cozumel. I find myself just having to work hard at every little thing in life.

And a familiar feeling much like my failed homerun dreams eventually brought my faith in Jesus to a breaking point. I was reaching for purpose and meaning, but I found new questions and new problems. I started feeling as if I wasn’t good enough for this “team,” or maybe I was doing something wrong, and I wanted to quit. I often wondered if there was a way to find an angel with a sense of humor so he could help me place a flaming bag of poop in front of heaven’s pearly gates for St. Peter to answer and stamp out. I suppose I have passive aggressive tendencies in my spirituality too.

Something wasn’t quite right with my faith; it wasn’t working out that great for me. I started to wonder: What’s the point to having faith if it isn’t even helping or working?

The Small Print

There’s always fine print, isn’t there? A friend offering a free lunch comes with a catch like, “By the way, do you mind feeding my pet iguana his live bugs this weekend while I’m away? And while you’re there feeding Leonard, could you pick up my mail too?” Don’t you hate that?

I thought faith would dispel all the unknown variables and problems in my life. It seemed reasonable to think that if I took Jesus seriously, God would answer all my questions and take away all my problems. I thought it was a good deal. But it seemed to take a wrong turn, because he didn’t come through. Didn’t he understand I didn’t want to live with so much confusion anymore? It made me so mad at him, and I wanted to take back the commitment I made. To be fair, I don’t think it’s totally his fault, but I still get mad over it.

One thing I hate about my faith is the fantasy element. There’s Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, God and Jesus. We teach kids they’re all real, but they’re not all real. Eventually our kids will be okay with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy being cute little white lies, while accepting Jesus and God as completely legit — right? Now I know the intentions are good and fun, but I wonder if it’s unfair. Could this also set us up for almost certain disillusionment as we all inevitably question the existence of God and consequently the meaning of our own existence? I’ve had many a conversation with people trying to figure out how to work through this, and it’s not easy. Many times they hit a wall, and I totally understand.

In any other context, believing this “lie” would be clinical. For instance, imagine you and I run into each other somewhere and I ask if you would like to meet my friend Jane. You respond, “Sure!” With hand extended, you reach around me to find no one. But I insist. I’m adamant about her being right here with us. I even tell you how much Jane loves you and wants to help you in your life. Undoubtedly you would give me a casual smile as you contemplated making a secret phone call. The whole episode could end with me being escorted off the scene in a white jacket with lots of extra straps and shiny belt buckles, and remarking how much better this thing would look in black leather. You would call me crazy, and you would be right.

Do I expect people to think it’s any less delusional because my friend’s name is Jesus? I admit it. The whole having a relationship with someone who isn’t physically there, and talking to him on a regular basis (praying) is weird, to say the least, and eccentric at best. If only God and Jesus would appear every so often around town to buy sneakers at the mall to prove to everyone they’re real, it would make all this a little easier. But they don’t, and it makes me mad. I’ll be expecting my jacket anytime now.

Once I can get past the fantasy element, I have to deal with feeling stupid. I hate feeling stupid. Who doesn’t? It seems like I always have to face the fact that having faith isn’t really an intellectual exercise. There really are no facts and figures to prove (or disprove) the existence of God or what I believe, and that makes me feel dumb.

If I were talking to someone who considered himself somewhat intellectual and fairly intelligent and rational (as most people do), and he was explaining to me how he came to a certain large-scale life-altering decision, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear him say it involved reading some academic research, pondering certain intellectual principles, and weighing lots of empirical evidence. Maybe he would even pull out some graphs and pie-charts. And his decision would make total sense to me. But when I describe my own life-altering decision, it’s a little different.

I always end up in pretty much the same place. “Yes, I believe in Jesus. I can’t really explain it. It’s basically a decision I made based on a feeling. And I trust in the sincerity of that feeling.” Unavoidably, there’s a sense of embarrassment. And I hate that. It makes me feel so stupid. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I believe or who I believe in. I know it to be true. It’s just an awkward situation by default. Not to mention the many people who already think having faith is simply superstitious, primitive, and irrational.

I know I would sound more introspective, informed, and perceptive by pointing out flaws or being more skeptical and not believing. But I can’t, because I do believe. There are, in fact, volumes of reference-type materials that try to deal with faith in the academic arena and do a fine job of intellectualizing a faith decision. In the end, however, all these scholars and philosophers arrive at much the same place as me: Faith is essentially a decision based on a feeling. There’s just no way around it. But I hate having to push through that every single time I talk about what I believe.

Another thing I especially hate is the seemingly broken promise. As I’ve indicated, I like guarantees and predictability. I want to be able to forecast and control the outcomes in my life. Faith was supposed to bring clarity in my confusion, answering all my questions and helping me make total sense of life. This would give me the ability and confidence to make the best decisions in all situations, thereby ensuring that only good and beneficial things happen in my life — total peace all the time. Sometimes it gave me peace, but mostly it didn’t, and I felt like God was letting me down.

My confusion multiplied with the number of forks in the road. Should I buy a car or lease it? What should I major in? When should I get married? When should we have kids? Can I even afford a kid? Is this the right house to buy? We all have our own lists of unpredictable situations, and mine gets longer the older I get, as life grows more complicated. I find living with so many unknowns to be quite unsettling.

The fact is, I knew absolutely nothing about faith. In an effort to fire me up in my commitment and keep me devoted to Jesus, some Christians early on seemed to inadvertently “sell me” on this cure-all idea of faith, like some kind of acne medicine that could clear everything up and help me get a really hot girlfriend. Christian television and radio reinforced it, telling me things like “name it and claim it!” With enough faith, I’d be able to create and control the outcomes in my life and get whatever I wanted. Like Luke Skywalker using “the force,” I could move objects around in my life and make people do what I want with my Jedi mind-tricks. And if my faith wasn’t doing those things for me, I just didn’t have enough of it.

I liked the idea, but it didn’t work. This obviously meant something wasn’t right, and I felt like it was me. I was doing something wrong; I wasn’t good enough.

Where were the guarantees? Where was the security? The good deal turned raw, and I wanted my money back.

All these issues brought a dose of reality I wasn’t prepared for. I mean, who wants to trust his whole life to someone nobody can see? Who wants to tell others about this very nebulous personal decision? And who wants to keep up the commitment when things don’t exactly work out like we think they should, making it all look pointless?

That’s the fine print no one ever told me about. It’s been twenty years, and sometimes I still feel like I’m about to come apart. These things still go with the territory.

Sometimes I still get mad. But as I made myself push through these issues and work them out, I began to discover the true value of my faith. I would have robbed myself had I shut down over these issues and let my hate and frustration defeat my faith and newfound purpose.

I have to be upfront. I owe a lot of this to an old friend of mine who caused me to think through this stuff. It’s an old conversation, but it formed the very basis of why I still have an enduring faith today. This is why I have to share the highlights of that conversation. It illustrates the process of my faith.

The Other Jason

It’s always strange when you meet someone with the same name as you. It’s even weirder when you’re alike. I met Jason in my high school years, and he became a good friend. He didn’t go to my school, but one of his best friends was in most of my classes, so we hung out periodically in mutual social settings. Eventually I caught up with Jason at community college, and that’s when we started becoming better friends.

We had a similar schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We would hang out in the cafeteria between classes, usually grabbing breakfast or lunch if it looked edible enough. He always wanted to play chess, but I despised the game. It took too much thought. I’m more of a checkers kind of guy. I was at community college, after all. So we talked instead. We were young guys, so we talked movies, music, and girls. Eventually we started talking about spiritual stuff because we were both curious.

I wasn’t as smart as him, but I communicated the best I could. I started telling him things I’d been wondering about and how I’d come to believe in the life and teachings of Jesus. This subject became our ongoing dialogue, as he challenged premise after premise that I presented. Inside, I hated his apprehensions, but I began to appreciate them as he stated his questions with respect. He seemed to be tracking with me and gauging his spiritual search along the way. Our dialogue went on for nearly a year.

He first challenged me to explain why I would believe in someone or something I couldn’t see. I acknowledged it was a strange practice. I thought it through a little more, and the next time I saw him, I told him I just couldn’t ignore something going on within me (and it had nothing to do with the cafeteria food). I started to sense a void deep inside. In no particular order, I was overwhelmed by the randomness and despair in life, I was struggling with a sense of purpose for my future, and I was more and more convinced there was a spiritual element to our existence. That was the framework for my void.

Just acknowledging these realities brought an initial sense of relief, though it soon yielded a greater sense of responsibility.

I told Jason I was noticing and thinking about things I never had before, and I couldn’t stop. Clearly there was more to us than flesh, blood, and bones. I mentioned how some of our classes might actually be backing this up. In Chemistry, my professor tried to rationalize the mystery of why an atom remains intact and the universe doesn’t fly apart. She taught us about “cosmic glue,” “dark matter,” and “X.” To me, this fit what I was discovering spiritually. But to explain the unknown, there had to be more than overly generous, sweeping, generic catch-all descriptions. I told Jason I thought there was a spiritual element to life that these deficient descriptions were touching on. Specifically, hidden deep down inside him, somewhere between his heart, soul, and mind, I was convinced there was a spiritual being, something all the science in the world could never explain. It’s in all of us, it explains who we really are, and it has little to do with blood or guts or cosmic glue.

Besides, there’s so much about our existence that can’t be explained or classified. So believing in something I couldn’t see wasn’t a big issue to me, since we all do it to some degree. It was more a matter of what to do with that knowledge. Would I ignore it? Or try to make sense of it? Was there a reason for, and behind, all this mystery?

Jason could see how I got to that point. It made some sense to him, as he was having similar thoughts. But he still wasn’t sure if he was willing to have faith in something he couldn’t see or prove.

I said I understood. I also reinforced the idea that we all believe in someone or something. Every individual relies on a set of beliefs or core values, not necessarily religious in nature, that may guide them at unsure times. Perhaps people seek the advice of good friends, or ask their parents or grandparents, or take a class, or read a book. The resulting beliefs and values they develop aren’t visible, but people trust in them. So, I argued, everyone looks at the situation they’re facing, considers what they believe, and then leaps. This functions much like faith. For the most part, we’re all trusting in things we can’t see — a type of faith, to some degree. I was simply bringing it to the next level and choosing to be influenced and mentored by Jesus.

He saw my point. We finished our waffles and went off to our classes.

The next time I saw Jason, he asked why I would trust in God even when things aren’t exactly going great. He’d often observed bad things happening to people of faith, and it made him wonder: What’s the point? There had to be some immediate benefit to faith, if it’s worth anything at all. Or maybe God wasn’t as involved in our lives as people like to think: Either he didn’t care all that much, or wasn’t really that powerful.

“Fair question,” I admitted. Here was his own version of the “broken promise” and “guarantee” thing that had angered me.

I came back the next time, ordered my pizza and tater-tots, filled my cup with Coke, and told him my additional thoughts on the subject. I had to believe that regardless of how things were going, there still had to be a rhyme or reason greater than myself.

Part of this was just out of necessity. I talked about my growing sense of needing certain absolutes with regard to truth. There was a part of me that didn’t want be the sole authority in my life anymore, the sole decider of what was right and wrong. With just me, I could remodel my right and wrong at any time simply to make them more convenient, and that was too chaotic and dangerous. It made everything too relative and fluid. It meant that ultimately I couldn’t find the meaning in life I desperately wanted out of all these spiritual musings.

I told Jason I was convinced there had to be a measure that was true, regardless of outcomes. Bad stuff happening or things not working out right did not mean there’s no God. That stuff was another issue altogether (which I’d have to deal with later).

Jason remarked that perhaps my relationship to God was based less on what I was getting out of the situation, and more on who was going with me through life as I experienced it.

“Exactly!” I answered.

He said he’d never thought of it like that before — like a relationship. He compared it to hopefully being married and having kids in the future. His wife wouldn’t fix all his problems and make life perfect, but sharing his life with someone he loved deeply, and who loved him, would definitely make life better.

There was more I needed to say. I admitted I still sensed frustration, since I wanted life to be a lot easier and safer and without so many variables, so much unpredictability. But I had to be fair to God. Faith had, in fact, brought me more clarity and confidence — just not to the level I wanted or expected. Yet without a doubt, I was better off now than when I functioned without faith.

I ended with this: My faith actually gives me the ability to navigate life in the midst of the unknown.

He said that was kind of similar to what he was saying, and I agreed. The bottom line was, things may not be perfect or perfectly easy, but my life was better with faith.

We cleaned our trays and went on with our days.

Jason later admitted he often viewed faith as a crutch. I’d heard this many times and found it insulting, but I didn’t know how to respond. Was there no way faith could find a home in the heart of the truly strong-minded, independent, freethinking person?

I came back the next Thursday and confessed I agreed with Jason. I even took it one step further. For me, faith was more like a wheelchair or one of those motorized things old people drive around in the grocery store. I was beginning to gain a little life-experience, and to realize that when I’m down-and-out, beaten up emotionally, or at my wits’ end, faith is the only reason I can press on.

I also submitted the idea that those who live by their sincere faith are in fact quite strong and resolute, maybe even the strongest of individuals. Faith can propel a person forward against all odds and carry them through the storm of failure and discouragement. They may act against practical thinking and pragmatic theories, but they don’t care. They have a drive in them that’s absolutely amazing, like Rocky Balboa in the boxing ring. And no matter what they’re facing, they see each situation as an opportunity.

I said I that in the hearts of the willing, faith can lead to achievements of mythic proportions. Because of my own faith, I knew I was learning to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going in tough times. “Yes,” I told him, “I lean on my faith, because I’m weaker on my own.”

The next time I saw Jason, he asked me something I didn’t want to answer, and it was pretty big. This was really the last major theme we discussed. (Everything afterward was mostly a rehash of ideas we’d already covered.) Jason asked why I found the Christian faith and philosophy more interesting than any other. Why did I think it was true?

That was a hard one. Not that I didn’t know, but I knew my answer would be kind of polarizing.

Next time, I told him I wasn’t interested in religion, specifically. What was compelling to me was the spirituality Jesus spoke of, and the context for it he created. What Jesus said was relational, making it different from the systems our World Religions class revealed, which were legalistic (working our way into heaven) or fatalistic (you’re doomed no matter what you do in life). I understood that Jesus wanted to spend eternity with me, and even go with me through this life, just because he loves me. There’s nothing I have to do to earn his love, and I can do nothing to drive it away. All I had to do was sincerely believe.

This gave me a sense of value. My parents had separated when I was young, and growing up I never felt particularly valuable or valued; I pretty much felt like an inconvenience, like something disposable. That always loomed over me. But what Jesus said finally washed all that away. He gave me a blank page, a new beginning, a reason to set some goals and even dream a little, because my life mattered. My future did too.

It also challenged me about growing, being continually willing to stretch myself. I already didn’t like some things I was turning into. I was developing some addictive habits, had a tendency to get angry, and was typically negative and pessimistic. Reading the words of Jesus, I decided he wanted me to never be too impressed with myself. He challenged me somehow to question the status quo, reach beyond my limitations, and test my potential.

Just think, I told Jason, about those first twelve followers of Jesus. They were a rag-tag team of misfits. Many were rough and working class. Some were even hated for their professions. They were just average people, not particularly gifted or successful. No fame, power, position, or influence to speak of.

At first, this discouraged Jason’s view of the Christian faith, as if those men weren’t qualified to represent God. He even wondered why Jesus would pick them.

But look at the flip side, I told him. God didn’t want perfect people, just willing people. And when Jesus said, “Follow me,” they did. And because of those devoted misfits, we’re still talking about Jesus two thousand years later. He continues to be the most influential person in history because of that handful of failures and undesirables who found value and purpose and were willing to challenge the possibilities, even the threat of death, in those early days of the Christian faith. And that’s what Jesus wanted me to do — to keep going, to keep growing, to keep reaching forward.

I also mentioned how Jesus inspired me. Sometimes life just plain sucks; we can’t control it, and there’s no way to change our surroundings. The only thing that helps is a little comfort as we wade through all the garbage. Jesus gave me that comfort in the form of hope. He said his spirit would be inside my heart during those times to comfort me. There was something to look forward to, the promise of a better day. This helped me endure whatever situation I might be facing. To me, that’s really what hope is.

I’d become convinced that a life without hope is no life at all. Life had proven to be filled with so many personal failures and overall difficulties. Life was hard way more than it was easy. And when people lose hope (which is easy to do) — nothing to live for or look forward to — it seems like something dies inside.

I ended by saying I think we all want something more in our lives than to just exist. My faith gave me this — a sense of value, a reason to dream, a reason to grow and become a better person, and hope to inspire me.

The Deciding Factor

It was amazing. The next time I saw Jason, he said something I never expected. After our months and months of talking, he said he was totally convinced that what I’d discovered was true. I couldn’t believe it! But he also said he wasn’t ready to make the change and decide just yet. He had to think it through a little more to be fully convinced. I didn’t really understand that, but I gave him some space.

That’s where we pretty much left things. From then on, I decided to let him initiate any spiritual-type conversations.

It became awkward when I saw him. It was as if he was avoiding talking to me on a deeper level. We mainly talked about what was going on with him, and it wasn’t pretty. To get through it, I thought he needed faith more than anything. I wanted him to experience some of the peace, contentment, purpose, and clarity I’d begun to have. But I didn’t press it. I wanted to, but he was becoming distant, so I wanted to give him some room. I knew he had to make the connection himself. We’d spent a year building our friendship, and I didn’t want to ruin it by being overly enthusiastic and appear like I had some agenda (though in a way I did, but for a good reason).

Jason always had a hard time at home. His dad was never around. As a result, his mom looked to him for everything. She turned her relationship with him into some warped kind of husband-friend-son combination. He had to do everything around the house, help with the bills, and listen to all her woes and somehow fix them. It had been like this for a long time, and it got to be too much. He had to get out.

That’s about the time our conversations became shallow. He moved in with a friend who had an apartment with his girlfriend. Jason slept on their couch, but I think it was an improvement.

Things were better for a while, but then got worse. Jason’s mom wouldn’t leave him alone. She called him and showed up at his job. She told him how much he let her down and what a jerk and failure he was, and how worthless he was to leave her just like his dad did.

Jason finally decided to make another change.

I hadn’t seen him at school for a couple weeks. This wasn’t completely unusual, since we both had jobs, papers, and projects to balance. Plus, since Jason wasn’t living at home, it was hard to phone him. (Not everyone had cell phones back then; they were the size of a brick and really expensive.) Finally I asked another friend if he’d seen him. He hadn’t, but he knew where he was. He told me the story someone else told him.

One day Jason quit his job, withdrew from school, closed his bank account, and left a note to explain everything for his roommates and the rest of us. When the roommates came back late that night, they found the note on the coffee table. It was right in front of Jason’s couch, where his dead body was lying. He’d purchased a gun with his last dollars and killed himself.

I was devastated.

Then, there we were again, like back in high school, in a mutual social function. Except that this one was a funeral. Jason’s mom even read his suicide letter aloud. She was emotional and weeping and seemed strangely ambivalent to the parts in it related to her. It was uncomfortable, and I just wanted to leave. It was one of the saddest moments I’ve ever been part of. It was so empty and hopeless, and I felt partly responsible in some way. If only Jason and I could have had one more talk.

I know it’s a heavy story. Jason had a big affect on me, and his story is part of my story. He challenged what I believed and caused me to really examine it. And he also helped me learn one last lesson in his final act: Everyone has made a decision about God. Even the atheist or agnostic decides something. Even no decision is a decision.

I just wish my friend had made the decision I wanted him to make.

When Jason and I had talked, I never wanted to be overly enthusiastic and press too hard and turn him off. I always wondered, how far is too far? When do conversations on faith become pushy and self-defeating rather than healthy and productive discourse on important spiritual issues with eternal consequences? It’s a balance I still struggle with today when talking to friends, family, or people I meet or work with. Most of the time I choose to opt out of those conversations so I can seem more normal. That bothers me, because no one’s guaranteed another day. You never know about tomorrow.

As I’ve come to understand my faith’s value, it has become clear that faith is the reason good times are better, while it makes hard times livable. I think that’s essentially the promise God does make to humanity as we have faith in him — that he’s still with us regardless of how we feel. It’s a compelling promise, and I still trust in it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still doubt from time to time. But I think it’s normal to doubt. In fact, I don’t even view it as the opposite of faith. Some think it is, but that’s unfair. In the same way that caution isn’t always the opposite of risk, or fear isn’t the opposite of courage, doubt is not the opposite of faith. They can both be present at the same time. There’s always a measure of caution balancing a risky decision. There’s also a sense of fear to sober us as we advance in a courageous endeavor. And there’s always a sense of doubt that tests and purifies my faith as I step forward with it. I just believe what Jesus said is true.

To me, faith is the unknown revealed and explained. Having faith may seem irrational to you — and I assure you, it is. With faith it’s strangely possible to acknowledge the unexplained, face it, embrace it, and move forward. It’s not mindless devotion to antiquated ideas or benevolent ideals, but a calculated conclusion in the light of present reality: There’s more unknown than known. It’s a coming to terms with the mystery of life. It’s the strength to keep a conviction when surrounded by questions. It’s discovering twenty variables and one truth, then holding to that truth regardless of the present ambiguities. It can go against better judgment and modern thought, while being the wiser approach.

My faith is still a mystery in many ways, which drives me insanely crazy, but I also know it’s the one thing that’s true.

Maybe that’s my homerun.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Random people sightings

Here is a very random fact about me. As of today, I have seen two cast members from the TV show The Facts of Life in person. I saw Blair (Lisa Welchel) walking around the CBE convention today, and I saw Tootie (Kim Fields) in Orlando last year at ICRS.

Just because it's random, and I'm in a random state of mind, here is a list of people I have seen in person without them being in a performance of some kind.

Ty Pennington (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition)
Kirk Cameron (Mike Seaver on Growing Pains)
Kathy Ireland (model - actually saw her going through Disneyland with her kids)
Chuck Norris (Walker, Texas Ranger)
Willie Aames (Tommy from Eight is Enough)
Joe Bonsall (of the Oak Ridge Boys)
Ann Richards (former governor of Texas)

More randomness:

I have taken Grammy Award winning singer Sandi Patty through the Chic-fil-a drive thru, former Miss America Heather Whitestone McCallum through Whataburger's drive-thru to get her a coke and gone grocery shopping with Michael W. Smith's mother prior to a cooking segment on a TV show.

Now, I ask all of you a question. Who have you met, ran into or seen from a distance? Inquiring minds want to know!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Work it, work it!

Today, I worked at the Christian Book Expo in Dallas. I was able to have a few good meetings with media, meet with some of our authors, and caught up with some publisher contacts I had not seen in a while. We were also a part of the Believers Press booth.

It's really a shame that the attendance was not as large as expected. There were times when the exhibit hall floor resembled a ghost town.

I'll be going back tomorrow to man the New Growth Press booth, and can only imagine how light the crowd will likely be. I think I'm going to break down and buy a book or two (it is a book selling convention) and may perhaps have some reading time since I will be flying solo.

One of my meetings was with Laura MacCorkle (shout out time!), an editor at Crosswalk.com who covers several of the channels on their website, including singles. Since she too is a single, I could not resist telling her my Grandmother story from last night. I'm glad she got a good laugh out of the story. I told her she should check out my periodic blogs on the single life.

That was about the extent of my day. When I got back into town, the three nieces were at my parents, so I needed to make an appearance. I'll end with a funny Peyton story.

I was finishing off my caramel frappachino, and from across the backyard, Peyton asked what I was drinking. The child will try anything, and I let her so that maybe she won't be as picky as her sister. All that was really left was the whipped cream mixed in with a little of the drink that was at the top of the cup. There really wasn't much coffee content left in it. She took a sip, and asked "does it have coffee in it?" I answered that yes it did. Her response was "eww."

I told her that I used to think the same thing as she gave me the cup back. Then she stood there a minute, telling me something else. After a minute, she took the cup back, took another sip and said, "I like it now." She went on to suck as much as she could off the bottom. I asked her if she was finished, and she said, "there's some on the bottom."

At one point, she came up with a big smile on her face saying something about Paige didn't even know that she (Peyton) didn't speak Spanish. I think they were faking that they spoke Spanish or something. I asked, "do you want me to tell you a story?"

"Yeah!"

"When Paige was your age, actually even littler than you, you were a baby. We were wondering when you were going to start talking and Paige said to me one time, 'I hope when PeyPey starts talking, she doesn't talk in Spanish because I won't be able to understand her.'"

I had to repeat the story back to Paige because she didn't remember. Paige, really seriously thought that when Peyton started talking, she just might speak Spanish. I think my original response to her was something like, "you think that might happen, huh? Well, I don't think we should worry about that happening because I bet she speaks English."

For a bonus, I'll throw in a Madison story too. She was on the sidewalk, and standing with one foot on one stepping stone that made up the walk, and one on another. You know that childhood rhyme, "Step on a crack, break your mother's back. Step on a line, break your mother's spine."?Well, Madison had a different take on it. "Step on a line, your mother gets a cramp."

You gotta admit, that's kind of funny!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Did I just say something?

I'm in a much better state of mind today, but I don't have anything profound to say. It's not that there haven't been some things going on with me lately, but they aren't blog worthy.

My current Facebook status is: "I don't think anyone pays attention to what I say the first time I say it." Maybe it's because I talk too much and no one pays attention to anything I say anymore. I'm really not sure.

The most common instance of this is saying something to one of my parents. Literally, 15 seconds later, one of them repeats what I just said or makes a similar comment or asks the same question, except neither one paid attention to what I said even though I was with 5 feet of them.

I think some people are ignoring me via email now too. Oh, well! I'm going to make more of an effort to just ignore such things when they happen. Obviously, blog readers, I haven't had anything worthy to say lately anyway.

Anyone in the DFW area want to take a day off with me next Friday? I think I'm going to put in a request tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cookie Crumbs

While I am finishing up my lunch time, I bring you today's blog. Today's blog takes on the phrase, "that's just how the cookie crumbles."

I don't think the world is out to get me, but sometimes, I sure wish my cookie would crumble differently. (Or I wish my cookie was another flavor...dried out, hard oatmeal just isn't doing it for me...)

To give you an update on my audition from Sunday--the one time I actually think that I may have made an impression on the director and might actually have a part in the play, they have to change plans. They are going to hold off on producing the play until some other time because they didn't have men try out for the parts, and only had 6 women try out for the 4 female parts. If it weren't for the men, the selection of women would have probably worked out.

The director has not yet decided on whether she will find another play for the dates that this play was supposed to run or if they are going to have to do something else altogether. She hopes to know something by Friday. Since I tried out, and said I was available to do a play, I'd like to know something because I may end up taking a vacation next month instead.

Today is enchilada day. In Corsicana, you can get cheese enchiladas for $2.99 on Wednesdays, and that is normally the highlight of my mid-week, and my social time. However, all of my enchilada buddies dispersed in other directions today. Had I known in advance, I would have made arrangements to take Peyton for enchiladas. Alas, I did not.

I ended up going through the Taco Shop drive-thru to pay $3.99 and brought them back to eat at my desk. While not bad, it certainly wasn't the same. Chips out of a bag dipped in taco sauce from a packet just doesn't compare to chips and salsa at any of the restaurants in town. But I shall survive.

For budgetary reasons, I was going to cut out my attitude adjustment this week. I thought that would be the responsible thing to do, but I changed my mind. Luckily, I can pay with plastic. Much to Dave Ramsey's chagrin, I'm willing to take on a little credit card debt for this cause. Not that I'm going to call him up and tell him this, but if he wouldn't understand my reasoning, then he just doesn't understand the value of a good attitude adjustment. In the words of MasterCard, they are "priceless".

I have to end our lovely little time together for now so that I can get back to the mess that is my email inbox and back to work.

If I don't come up with anything profound to bring you this evening, it is my hope that I will bring you an enjoyable tidbit from my life tomorrow.

Chao for now!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

What is it about Mondays?

Maybe it's because I take a long nap on Sundays. Maybe I end up staying up a little later on Sundays than other nights before going to work, but on Monday nights, I'm exhausted. I was trying to watch Dancing with the Stars, but ended up sleeping for an hour on the chaise. That happens frequently on Mondays.

I should have been on the couch if I was going to sleep because I always push my arms down on the chaise in a way that kills my neck. And I should have taken out my contacts instead of sleeping in them for an hour because my eyes dried out and my contacts permaplasted to my eyeballs. No bueno!

And now for more randomness...

Patience is not one of my virtues. I'm really ready to hear more about the play I tried out for and if the director is going to have to do a different play or if they audition a cast for another play or what. I just want to know.

Paige is not going to be going to Nashville to the concert that might prove me to bad example. I doubted it would happen, and indeed it won't.

I'm jealous of Jenny today - she's on spring break this week. That would be the only good thing about teaching, but I wish I was on spring break this week.

I could have finished this blog post an hour ago, but I got to looking at something stupid online. I waste more time online than I care to admit. Why, I have no idea.

I think my dryer is going out. It really shouldn't take 3 cycles to dry clothes every time. Christi had to buy a dryer recently. My parents bought a new dryer when they got to the new house. Surely, this isn't one of those things that happen in sets of 3.

I need to go buy tickets to take Paige to "I Do, I Do" for weekend after next. That weekend, I will have to plan for Peyton on Friday night (she emphatically explained to Mom this weekend that she wants to come to my house by herself and have me take her to Don Jose's) and Paige on Saturday night.

That's it for now. I really need to log off and go to sleep. Besides my neck and shoulder hurt from that nap plus using the mouse. Good night to all!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Sunday Audition

This afternoon, I tried out for A Bad Year for Tomatoes. We'll see if I get in or not. They may actually have to do a different play with all women since there were no men to try out for the male roles.

I took a nap today between morning worship, the audition and evening worship. That's about the extent of today's excitement.

My parents and I are still in discussions about when we will go on vacation. There's debate involved for several reasons. I'm ready to go somewhere. I haven't been anywhere in a year now since I went out to Vegas to drive back with Jenny when she came home. The trip to Brenham and Houston with the girls doesn't count in my book.

So, I hope everyone had a good weekend!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

There has got to be something better to do on a Saturday night

Something better than doing laundry, checking email and Facebook, and watching "Surprise Weddings" on WE.

This show has women proposing to their boyfriends to get married that night. They bring out the man to see the woman in a wedding dress and the host says, "Jane wants to marry you tonight on this stage." It's really quite dumb. Not to mention that I don't know how long ago this show was taped. There is no such thing as the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas anymore. It's now the Planet Hollywood or PH. I just happen to know that.

I took the sheets off my bed when I got up late this morning, thinking I would have come home before 9 PM and am now waiting for them to dry so that I can make my bed and go to sleep.

My Saturday consisted of getting up late, then going to Target, Lowe's, Belk and JCPenney in Waxahachie. Once we got back, we did pick up Paige and Peyton, and they got to see Mom & Dad's new house for the first time. That was pretty neat for them.

The house is pretty big, and we adults have been shouting "Marco" "Polo" to find each other for the past two weeks while we have been unpacking, arranging, etc. Mom and I told them about this on the way to the house, so all afternoon/evening, there was a lot of "Marco" "Polo" going on.

The other phrase of the day was, "whatcha' doin'?" If Peyton said it once, she said it at least 25 times. "The same thing I was doing two minutes ago." It was really quite a boring day. Picking bathmats and toilet covers can only provide so much entertainment.

Let's go back to TV programming. I'll just talk about what was on Thursday night. Feel free to discuss your thoughts on any of the following:

Did anyone about lose their cookies during the reward challenge on Survivor? I've seen a lot of lame challenges, but this one was torturous. They had someone sit on this thing that I can best describe as like a sit and spin from my childhood. It was a race between the tribes, and one person had to pull the rope wrapped around the spindle making the person sitting on it dizzy. Then the dizzy person had to walk a balance beam, and the first person across scored a point. While I admit that it was humorous to watch a couple of the people stumble around, that would make me so sick to do. I'm not good with riding around in a circle without getting woozy.

Then, there was Grey's Anatomy. Lately the show ought to be call Izzy's Anatomy. I can't believe Derek took a baseball bat to the engagement ring he had been carrying around. Granted, I didn't like Meredith's "he's fine" routine. Amen to this bit of advice, "if you love someone, you don't leave them alone." (Except for when you are trying to convince your brother to have his stomach removed - uh, that's his choice. That's pretty drastic, even with all things considered. That sister was a bit bossy.) McDreamy looked a bit McDeath-warmed-over. And it kind of freaked me out when they did the close up of Karev making his speech. He's kind of weird looking.

I dozed a little during Private Practice. I'm really pretty much over that show. The best episodes of the show were a couple of weeks ago when they did the crossover thing even though some people hated those shows.

I'll even back up a few days and ask about American Idol. I'm really bored with American Idol this season, and the Top 13 just started. I doubt that I will follow it all the way through this year. But thank goodness that Michael Jackson didn't make an appearance. Everyone singing his songs was bad enough.

So, anyone else have an opinion?

Friday, March 13, 2009

If you don't like it, give me something to talk about

There are a couple of readers of my blog who give me grief when I don't blog something funny. They don't enjoy it so much when I post press releases (you work at the same place I do - we're supposed to get online posts!) or when I review other books that I have read (I want free books like other bloggers on occasion). So I warned them (at least one of them) that I was going to talk about them the next time that I posted.

(Boy that paragraph above had a bunch of parentheses.)

So, Christi and Penny, I'm talking about the two of you just because I can!

Here's part of the reason why blogging has been slow today. Sometimes work is just work. And outside of work, I've not done much lately. You work with me - what would be the point in talking about it on here for your entertainment?

Here's what I did last night: I left work, went to my parent's house, helped my mom hang her shot glass shelves, unwrapped the shot glasses, and helped put them on the shelves. (Yes, my mom collects shot glasses - it started out as toothpick holders, but then one day, I turned to my dad in a souvenir shop, and asked, "does Mom realize she's collecting shot glasses now?" I proudly bought her a "Sin City" one in Vegas, by the way.)

Once I got home, I sat down on the chaise, and watched Grey's Anatomy (I may have to rant on that later). I could barely keep my eyes open through Private Practice, which I am quickly getting bored with, and did in fact doze more than once. I took my shower, did my Bible reading, journaled and went to bed.

For the past three weekends, I've helped my parents pack, move or unpack. Most evenings, I've gone over and helped in some way. In the past two weeks, the only person that has seen their house is me and briefly Jenny.

Here, I'll go off on a semi-side story. Mom has been wanting to get the house straightened up, in order, and sort of decorated before anyone comes over to see it. Grandmother called her last night and said that she might have her friend Lisa (now that really is a huge other side story if I cared to go there) bring her over to Corsicana on Saturday so that she could come see the house. Mom told her she planned to go shopping in Waxahachie and wouldn't be home. Shame, shame, shame. Mom did say though that I should tell Jenny to come by on Sunday and see how things are shaping up though.

If Jenny happens to be reading this, that's the second time you have been pointed out as special this week by members of my family. You are special!

Now back to why my blog has been boring... I've already written about the only Paigey-beth and PeyPey stories that I have for the past two weeks. I have not seen them since for two weeks now, since the big parting of the ways, and I've only spoken to them on the phone once.

Brian is evidently still pouting and not returning Dad's calls. Mom is just ticked off and says she doesn't want to deal with him right now anyway. We all miss the girls, but at least I've talked to them.

I text messaged Brian earlier to see if I could take Paigey to see "I Do, I Do" because she wants someone to take her. Somehow everyone decided that I would be the one to take her. So that's in two weeks. If I take her on Saturday night, I'll have to let PeyPey have her "by myself" night on Friday night since she's been after me for that. And I need to let her have it before I take Paige anywhere, or a four year old will let me have it.

On Sunday, Jenny and I are going to try out for a local play. I bet whoever wants to bet me $5 Jenny gets a part because the director LOVES her and she always gets a part. (I've placed this bet with Jenny before and won although I didn't get any money.) For whatever unknown reason, the director HATES me. I've auditioned for her several times without getting a part. The last time I walked in, I got a very visible snub when I walked in the door. There's no way that I could have just imagined it.

So, let's go back to Christi and Penny. Penny should be a doctor because she told Christi a month ago that her problem was her gall bladder. The doctors finally agreed, and Christi will be having her gall bladder taken out on Monday. I would say that I would do my hardest to blog a special week of funny just for Christi, but she doesn't have a computer at home to read it.

I may have to dig deep and dedicate a week of the funniest that I can be to Christi anyway. She's felt so terrible lately, and when she left today, I've never seen someone so looking forward to surgery in my life.

Happy surgery Christi! Hope you get to feeling better soon!

Side note: Penny, I'm so proud of you learning how to comment on my blog. Now, you better post one here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jason Berggren turns negative tension into positive momentum



Can Anything Good Come From Hate?

A recent article in Britain’s Telegraph brought international attention to a decision by Oxford University Press to remove certain terms associated with Christianity (i.e. disciple, abbey) from a popular children’s dictionary, replacing them with modern words like “MP3 player” and “blog.” In short order, this story has become fodder for the blogosphere, and it’s not hard to see why. After all, our understanding of the world and of ourselves is formed, in the most foundational sense, by our vocabulary. Words are powerful. Words are important.

Author Jason T. Berggren is among the many who have spoken out against the attempt to expunge Christian words from the new lexicon. And so it comes as a surprise to many that his first book release is entitled 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith, with his website similarly dubbed http://www.10thingsihate.com/. How could a Christian author—and former pastor, no less—use such derisive language to describe his faith?

Choosing the right word has always been important to Berggren. As the founder, former front man, and lyricist for the hardcore Christian band Strongarm, he developed a knack for turning memorable phrases. Strongarm is considered by many in the hardcore Christian music community to be one of the most influential bands in the history of that genre, based in large part on the power of Berggren’s verbal style.

His rocker/poet days behind him, Berggren now traffics in prose, with recent freelance credits including an article for Engage, a newsletter for North Point Community Church leaders. As an author, Berggren is convinced that the right words—even negative words—can bring about positive change. 10 Things I Hate About Christianity is based on his realization that all of the problems in his Christian life originated from a relatively short list of issues and misunderstandings. The book is completely free of pretense, church-speak, and even the basic niceties one would expect from a work on Christian living. Berggren’s goal is to get readers talking about some of the biggest let-downs in Christendom—whether it’s faith that doesn’t deliver, love that doesn’t come easy, or churches you’d rather avoid—and to see them rise above their frustrations.

His website, http://www.10thingsihate.com/, will be the main site for the book once it releases, featuring ordering and booking information and a free sample of the book, as well as the link to Berggren’s blog. The blog (http://www.morethingsihate.com/) is the perfect place for believers, seekers, and skeptics to engage in the kinds of discussions that fill the pages of Berggren’s book. Featuring everything from the latest non-chick movie trailers to laugh-out-loud personal reflections to commentary on current events, Berggren describes the blog as “the ongoing version of the book.” Recent posts include “Sometimes I Hate Christians,” “I Hate the Green Bible,” and “I Hate the Media.”

Berggren firmly believes that positive momentum begins with negative tension. This often requires plumbing the depths of difficult issues, both for him and his readers. As such, Berggren expects to offend some people—but he considers this to be merely a step in the process of maturing in faith. “I have worked in construction off-and-on for years. The first thing you do before you remodel is demolition. If you ever watch HGTV, you know this to be true,” Berggren states. “You tear down walls and break up old cabinets to make way for the new. That’s what this book and this website are about. I am simply trying to change into the person I want to be and inviting you to join me in the process.”

While his fledgling writing career begins to take flight, Berggren also runs a handyman business to provide for his family. He and his wife have been married since 1999. The couple has three boys and attends North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA, where they lead a small group.

http://www.10thingsihate.com/

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harry Bentley's Second Chance by Dave Jackson

Today, I bring you a book review. A few weeks ago, I reviewed Where Do I Go? by my friend Neta Jackson. Harry Bentley's Second Chance was written by Neta's husband, my friend, Dave Jackson and is a parallel novel to Neta's book.

"What is a parallel novel?" you ask... Both books take place at the same time and have some of the same characters, but come from different point of views.

Back of the book summary:

Having retired from the Chicago Police Department, Harry Bentley was lying low with only one thing looming from his past: He’d blown the whistle on a gang of rogue cops and was awaiting the day when Internal Affairs would call him to testify and help put their leader, Lieutenant Matty Fagan, behind bars.

His cover was working as a simple doorman in a high rise luxury apartment building on Chicago’s lakefront. And then Gabby Fairbanks and her husband, Philip, moved into the building’s penthouse. Gabby brought home a dumpy old bag lady, got a job at the Manna House Women’s Shelter, found her life falling apart, and managed somehow to entangle Harry Bentley in the whole affair when she was faced with the dilemma of Where Do I Go? (Neta Jackson's parallel novel to this story.) But there was an upside. Through Gabby, Harry meets the classy Estelle Williams, a volunteer at the shelter, and envisions a second chance at romance.

Harry also gets involved with the Yada Yada brothers—Josh Baxter and his father Denny, Peter Douglas, Carl Hickman, Ben Garfield—who provide a new circle of friends to replace his old CPD cohorts. But when Harry discovers he has a grandson he didn’t know about, will he find the faith to take on the boy as a “second chance” to be the father he’d failed to be to his own son—even when the boy creates new dangers in Harry’s fight against corruption, and may derail his “second chance” at love?

My review:

I enjoyed this Yada Yada Brothers Novel as much as I enjoy the Yada Yada Prayer Group Series. Dave and Neta have written enough together over the years, that these two books pair together very well. It's fun to read about the men and their group from the eyes of a new character.

Harry has quite a lot to deal with for a guy that is supposed to be retired with a "boring" job in order to have something to do. Between dealing with the cop he turned in to Internal Affairs, finding himself framed for a crime, fighting to gain custoy of a grandson he didn't realize he had, worrying about his mother who needs additional care, and trying to woo a woman, who has time for retirement?

I really loved how Harry saw Gabby as a "firecracker" in contrast to how Gabby saw herself in Where Do I Go?. (Both Dave and Neta assure me that Gabby grows in the next book and addresses what I found to be her issues.)

As I have said with the last I don't know how many books that I have read, this book hit me with something I needed to work on personally. The one main lesson that Harry has to learn is trusting in God and waiting on His timing. And that's a tough lesson to learn.

Sometimes you just know that God wants something for you, but He doesn't want you to have it quite yet. And you can't make it happen on your own - you have to wait until He does it His way. I think that I realize this more than Harry did. Yet, like Harry, I have people telling me, "you have to wait", "you need to pray" or "you have to trust!" I know that, and I do trust, but as hard as I try to not be anxious, I get anxious even though I pray about it.

As Harry has to learn these lessons, it was a good reminder for me to do the same.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." ~ Proverbs 3:5-6
For more information about Dave and Neta and to buy Harry Bentley's Second Chance, visit http://www.daveneta.com/.