Friday, September 17, 2004

Remembering a Man Above Reproach

A reminder has been flying over my head for days as if to ensure that I wouldn't forget. On this day, in 1943, Preston A. Davis, my grandfather, flew his last mission over occupied France. Though his crew had completed more difficult assignments, including being a lead plane on the first Schweinfurt raid, a dead engine over Nantes, France led to their demise. My grandfather and three of his crewmates were captured on that very day and detained for the rest of the war. Three other crewmates were lucky enough to escape occupied France and make it back to Britain. And, tragically, three others were buried inside the burning B-17.

By his own admission, my grandfather was largely shaped by his wartime experiences. For it was his wartime experiences that made him aware of providence (only a minuscule number of airmen completed their tour of duty), tempered him with endurance and taught him that life itself (especially such luxuries as 45-minute showers!) is grace.

Preston A. Davis is not only my Pa-Pa, he is my mentor and my best friend. I thank God for him on this day.
happy haiku friday!

sitting in my cube

avoiding seminary

brushing and flossing

Thursday, September 16, 2004

simkins' call, my response

if i keep my feet moving
  i'll never find a place to stand

i must submit to being planted
  and absorbing the nutrients of this land

but as soon as it's time to root
  i'm off and running with a start

for though He called me to be planted
  i'd rather serve my vagabond heart

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

my current coordinates

listening: iris dement's infamous angel. iris lays down tracks that are somehow overwhelmingly sentimental, yet still insightful. thank you, iris for providing more proof that you can take the boy out of oklahoma, but...

reading: john irving's a widow for one year. irving creates characters with such depth that you cannot help but be intrigued by their lives. his characters are both sinners and saints, capable of unmentionable sin as well as a willingness to forgive. i can only hope that i value the complexity of those in my community in the same way that he values the stories of his fictitious creations. i also relish the slight hint of buechner that i detect in his work.

thinking: about carving out time to finish irving's novel and the possibility that the cards peaked at the wrong time. also questioning why i've put off visiting the dentist for so long. i am a rabid anti-dentite, but i'm even more averse to root canals.

wondering: when krista is going to start a blog.
a confession, a commitment and an attempt to properly use the hyphen

first, a confession. as a teen i was a power tie sporting, state senate paging, card-carrying member of the young republicans. i was the youngest member of 'jed' wright's reelection team and considered myself an up and-and-comer in the dirty little business that is oklahoma politics. my extra-curricular activities in high school included protesting at abortion clinics, where i could barely conceal my contempt for and the violence i longed to inflict, upon those who held the other side of the line and trying to read newt gingrich's 'contract with america.' in 1994 i was a seventeen-year-old foot soldier in the republican revolution. i even had the rush limbaugh license plate frame to prove it.

then, in the spring of 1995 i enrolled in mrs. stitch's legendary writing and research class. stitch wasn't nearly as intimidating as advertised, but she did: relentlessly push me to develop my voice, heartlessly repossess my thesaurus (she didn't appreciate my discovery of 'ergo') and constantly harp about the length of my sentences. as we approached the conclusion of the semester she assigned the dreaded research project. she wanted us to develop a twelve to fifteen page thesis that showed original thought as well as a thorough grasp of mla style. since i was a battle hardened republican, still enamored with the capture of congress in 2004, and a lapsed but culturally committed christian, i chose to explore the virtues of the religious right. when i proposed my thesis to stitch at our teacher-student conference she fell somewhat short of rolling her eyes, but i could tell that she was less than enthused. she said that she hoped the research process 'left a mark on me.'

needless to say, it did. as i read the literature of the religious right and listened to the rhetoric of ralph reed, falwell and robertson, i found it hard to distinguish their approach from that of other special interest groups. i shared the religious right's position on many social issues such as abortion and the welfare system, but their tactics as well as their intent seemed to be somewhat less than christian. when i watched interviews and read articles with the leaders of this movement, i did not hear them speak words of love, but thought that i detected a lust for power. furthermore, as i began to consider their intent to reestablish judeo-christian morality through legislation, i began to question how their approach squared with the life and teachings of Jesus. as i thought about the latter, it seemed like they were either misinterpreting or ignoring Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom as well as, perhaps, expecting republican governance under the 'right' leaders to produce a form of salvation. needless to say, i was less than intrigued by what i found. quite quickly, my paper turned from a paean to the republican right into a critique that questioned their tactics and expressed deep suspicion of their intentions.

'why the long-winded story,' you ask. good question. this story illustrates how my political resolve has often been grounded on unsure convictions, if not mere opinion. once i took a good long look at the platform and personalities of the religious right, i questioned all of the slaving i had done on their behalf. the same thing happened later with the republican party as a whole.

now that i'm older, i don't find that i'm much wiser. i am still tempted to pick up the rhetoric of a party, in this case the democrats, and resolve myself to seek their ascension. in the midst of my current political fervor, i have also found myself as unable to sympathize with republicans as i once was with the pro-choice supporters who held the other side of the line. on more than one occasion, i have openly and, unfortunately, verbally questioned the intelligence of those who support the president. yesterday, i blatantly insulted a co-worker, fellow pastor and erstwhile bush supporter by considering him an illustration of p.t. barnum's dictum that 'one can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the american public.'

i started with a confession and, in accordance with good ole' evangelical tradition, i am going to seal the deal with a commitment. i am committed to keeping my mouth shut regarding the particularities of american politics. i will not fail to speak out on behalf of my poorly-defined but deeply held values, but i will not engage in political partisanship of this blog. it is my prayer that i will also be able to set aside partisanship in my other interactions as well, but i am going to take things one step at a time. i intend to explore this commitment in greater detail at a later time. but for now, i need to get my ass back to work.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

a post-confession comic

i found this comic in a books and culture issue a couple of months ago. it is used without permission.

coupland's confession

i've carried this confession around in my wallet for years. today, i really need to hear it. thought you might appreciate it as well.

"Now--here is my secret:

I tell it to you with the openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God--that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love."

~douglas coupland, life after god

Monday, September 13, 2004

a stupid story for a fall morning

although a rebel at heart, i rarely skipped classes. during my time at soybean bible college, i never cut christian character and leadership to visit wrigley and wouldn't forego a monday morning greek class to go snowboarding with 'the community.' at the time i considered such fidelity a mark of character. now that i am more aware of my tendency to elevate task over relationship and realize how closely my identity is tied to achievement, i consider it conclusive evidence of narcissism. nevertheless, on that day it was not difficult for kevin to persuade me to cut. after all, our purpose was not merely male bonding, but religious mission, for on that crisp october morning dogma was to be released on dvd.

on the way up to the overgrown suburb that is bloomington-normal, kevin remembered that the berean bookstore was having a liquidation sale. since they had recently converted all of their sample tracks into mp3 format they were selling their scratched up sample cds for bargain prices. so, we stopped by berean on the way to best buy, hoping to find a couple of decent jewel boxes among the christian contemporary music rough. unfortunately, by the time we arrived the hordes had already descended, leaving nary a geoff moore or shitty smalltown poets album to be found. so, almost as quickly as our quest was diverted, we continued.

we arrived at best buy around 9:45, eager to pay homage to kevin smith with yet another purchase. unfortunately, best buy didn't open until 10. so we stood outside the store, sharing second hand jokes about britney spears and listening to a yuppie lawyer in a pant suit bark on her cell phone. just as the time was beginning to drag a shriveled old woman, in a long green gingham jacket and a purple beret started to shuffle by. i stepped off the sidewalk so that she could proceed, but she surprised me by stopping to talk. after she greeted me in customary fashion and i returned the favor, she looked at me through pale blue eyes and said "i'm 88!" "that's great" i replied, while internally wondering what stage of dementia she had stumbled into. "do you ever watch the rose bowl," she queried. "of course," i replied, "my family watches it every year." "that's where i'm from," she said! "pasadena," i asked by way of clarification. "yes, pasadena. during the war years i was a rosie the riveter out there. at the height of the war, we completed 4 million rivets a day." "that's great," i replied and added that my grandmother was also a riveter at a consolidated plant during the war. when she heard me mention my grandmother, she smiled, and i wondered where this little conversation would take us next, though i never could have suspected the turn it was about to take. "yes!" she said. "it was in pasedena that i learned to rivet, and it was in pasedena that i learned to yodel." she then snapped her head back and sang "yodel-lay-he, yodel-lay-he, yodel-la-he-hoo!" needless to say, after this outburst, my jaw dropped and i tried to look at kevin, who was clearly ignoring me lest he explode. the yuppie clicked her cell phone shut and began a cynical, staccato clap. and as quickly as she burst into song, the old lady stopped. she smiled and said, "i'm off to pay my phone bill now" and shuffled off in the same manner that she had arrived.

minutes later, best buy opened and we made our way inside. the purpose of our trip was confounded when the clerk told us that dogma had been delayed and i was dismayed when my back up purchase, oops, i did it again was marked well above expectation. however, as i realized immediately, and still believe today, that was one skip that was well worth it.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

here's to Jesus, here's to you!.

pastor jeff feeds his sheep

photo courtesy of...

dr. james