Monday, October 30, 2006


I always assumed parents with messy homes were a disgrace. Now, in light of the toys, shoes, various articles of clothing and dishes laying around our house, I must reconsider.

It’s Monday morning, and our house is a constant reminder of the whirlwind of a weekend we’ve just had. As I sit at the computer desk right now, I can see any number of crap laying around: sandals, receipts, playing cards, measuring tape, car seat, spoon, newspapers, dish towels and one lone red and white sock, which Wyatt pulled off sometime this morning. It’s anarchy here. It’s as if a tornado went through town last night, only it disregarded trees and roofs and headed directly indoors to 2240 Griffith.

There are plenty of excuses why our place is such a pit. We were busy every night of the weekend; we were constantly cooking for at least four people; we were so excited to discover Anna’s picture in the paper we lost track of the real world; we – uh, I mean I was so consumed with Notre Dame winning and USC losing I disregarded the more important tasks of a husband. But all of these are really poor excuses. We’ve managed to keep our domestic life somewhat in order before even with all of these events, temptations and distractions.

The real reason why our place has become the wreck of the Hesperus: Wyatt. Wyatt, you see, is now both teething and sick. At first, we thought he just had a runny nose from the teething, but last night he broke out in a full-on “struck-down-with-a-plague” cough. The poor little dude would only sleep for about thirty minutes to an hour before his nose would become plugged with mucus-delight. We tried to suction out the nastiness inside his nostril, but it didn’t last long. Pretty soon, we would hear him starting to breathe through his mouth, then he would begin to stir, then he would cry. It made for a lovely evening and morning.

It has also made me realize how debilitating it is to a household to have a sick child – at least for us newbies. Sickness equates to anarchy. We’ve lost the anchor and are currently adrift in a world that has clearly spun out of control. There is a fake knife next to a black crow puppet for goodness sake!


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Arrested Development

Lindsey and Gob doing their chicken impressions

Big Time

Anna made the Messenger-Inquirer, the local Owensboro paper!

I came home for lunch on Friday, and she warned me there might be something coming in the paper. She told me how on her morning run - during a light drizzle - a man proceeded to drive by Anna in a truck, then pulled over and got out with a camera. As Anna ran towards this unknown (and by this time seemingly psychotic) man, he began taking pictures. For some reason still ran towards him and not away from him. Eventually, he introduced himself as a journalist (so this is how Marshall must seem to some) in search of a good picture. He was kind enough to let Anna continue her run, although he did drive ahead of her and get a couple of more candid shots. Later on Friday, he called to get Anna and Wyatt's names.

That's how it all happened. And today we got a kind call from Jonathan that Anna was indeed in the paper. When we went to the grocery store a few more people recognized her. One of the butchers told Anna she was the second famous person he's met; the other was John Wayne. Anna and the Duke! This is fabulous. Tomorrow, Anna is sure to get a hero's welcome at church.

The only down part: Anna is quoted as saying, "My husband and I have thought about running a half marathon." Which, of course, binds me to this. This half marathon thing was suppose to be a personal matter between Anna and I; now it's public knowledge.

All else is well in O-town. It rained here again last night. I don't think our lawn has been dry since we moved in to this house. It's a permanent humidor, which must be why they always had such good fun growing tobacco here.



Thursday, October 19, 2006

What about the kitchen sink?

I can't sleep, so I was watching television. An ad just came on from a car dealership in Indiana. They offered an appealing deal for anyone who really is afraid they may not make it through a tough winter: buy any GM car or truck and receive 150 lbs. of beef from your favorite butcher. I wish I made this up, but I didn't. Isn't that amazing? There are far too many questions here that need to be answered, but my first question is, "what if my favorite butcher happens to be a Japanese Kobe beef specialist?"


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bears in Arkansas? No, Make That Kentucky!

Rumer has it, there is a wild, terrifying bear loose in Owensboro, KY. These photos were recently taken in that area:

Monday, October 16, 2006

Narrow Holes and Wide Gates

Juggling 101

I knew a guy out in Pasadena who could juggle while riding a unicycle! It was amazing. Shoot, I have always been intrigued and impressed by juggling. I suppose we all are. Juggling is good entertainment, whether it is a ten-year old girl picking up the trick or a master tossing chainsaws high in the air.

And being the reflective person I am – and because I can’t juggle – I got to thinking about how juggling works. This seemed safer than trying to juggle. I’ve decided there are three basic rules to juggling:

Rule #1: always be ready to receive anything
Rule #2: it’s okay to possess so long as you can release
Rule #3: you have to give something away to receive something else

That’s it. Three simple premises: receiving-possessing-giving, receiving-possessing-giving, receiving-possessing-giving. That’s juggling. Well, not really.

Juggling and the Human Person

Juggling represents a very basic fact about the human being, for we are jugglers. At first, we are born only capable of receiving. We come into this world naked and entirely dependent – seeking food and shelter and clothing. Eventually, though, as babies we begin to grasp cups, hold forks, and possess knowledge. We develop past merely receiving. And over time we also learn how to release and give possessions away. Consequently, adulthood can be characterized by the ability to be a “receiving-possessing-giving” person. To be truly human is to be capable of juggling possessions and knowledge – taking it in, giving it out.

This may explain why juggling is as old as our earliest understanding of the human person. The “juggler” has been around since hyroglyphics - playing out with skill and concentration what we all hope to master with our many demands – the ability to deftly and gracefully receive all that comes at us.

Sadly, though, many of us end up juggling life about as well as we juggle bean-bags. We can’t seem to quite keep things in order. Receiving-possessing-giving seems too unmanageable. It seems much easier to just focus on one thing.

The Rich Man: Focused on Possessing

In our Gospel lesson today, we see a perfect illustration of someone who has no idea how to juggle. So, he sticks to what he is good at: possessing.

By all worldly standards, he appears to be a well-developed and stable person. He appears sincere and eager, and he seems to be a prime candidate for earning God’s applause. He has kept God’s commandments since his youth. He has been faithful to the nth degree. He is doing wonderfully.

He comes to Jesus apparently willing to learn and receive, but the course of his conversation with Jesus proves otherwise. The rich man is hoping to gain – gain affirmation, greater knowledge, gain further means to possess God and God’s blessings. He is great at keeping; he is great at possessing. Our primary proof of this man’s ability to possess comes from a simple fact: he is wealthy.

Wealth is supremely about possessing. Ignoring luck and chance and inheritance, wealth is pretty easy to secure: keep more than you lose. This man is great at this. Unfortunately, though, this possession obsession is arresting the rich man’s development.

Possession Obsession: The most popular and destructive type of arrested development

It is never a good thing to become arrested in our development. It is not natural for us as human beings to simply receive and never give. It is tragic when children are unable to take responsibility for things given to them.

However, our modern culture does not worry too much about persons whose personalities become absorbed and fixated on possessing. We rarely consider a person to be arrested developmentally if all they can do is acquire and secure. We subconsciously and publicly envy those who possess nicer cars or bigger salaries or more friends. We even obsess about possessing more Christian faith than our neighbor.

Perhaps this is because we live in the age of the consumer. We track the health of our economy based on whether people are getting more stuff. We consistently praise or hold up possession obsession as a positive in our society. In reality, though, it is a type of arrested development. It keeps us from true maturity.

Possession obsession reminds me of old cartoons or comedians who find more and more dishes or pots or pans being thrown at them; they catch, store quickly, catch another article and stash it too. For a while, it seems quite impressive, but in the end it all comes crashing down upon them.

Jesus’ Unwillingness to be Possessed and His command to Receive

Back to the rich man and Jesus. In the rich man’s mind, life is full of potential gains that will help this man move onward and upward. Essentially, he is looking for a vehicle – a means – to get on his way.

No way. No way, Jesus says. Jesus is not going to be a stepping-stone. Neither is God’s Kingdom going to be a possession.

The Kingdom of God: Received as a Child, not Possessed as an Adult

The Kingdom of God must be received in faith, not possessed. This is impossibly hard for the rich man. It’s hard for us, especially the more we grow up and the more we see ourselves acquiring. Wealth binds itself to us; we bind ourselves to it and our possessions. But it is precisely because it is our natural tendency to settle into possessing Jesus challenges the rich man. Stop keeping. Stop gaining. Stop guarding. Start receiving.

Be willing to follow the rules of juggling:

#1: always be ready to receive anything
#2: it’s okay to possess so long as you can release
#3: you have to give something away to receive something else

A Closing Tale of Two Persons

As I contemplated the rich man and Jesus, I kept seeing two different scenes. In one scene, I see a young man who has heard great things about a glorious kingdom. His parents and friends, mentors and religious leaders assure him there is such a kingdom. Consequently, he is seeking to find this kingdom and secure entry.

Along the way, he begins accumulating gifts and possessions he assumes will make entrance into the kingdom easier. He buys books all about the kingdom in case there is a quiz. He picks up a plaque for all the good work he does to prove he will be a good addition to the kingdom. He acquires money in case there is a fee. He learns of the practices of the king and mimics those behaviors. He picks up any number of things – anything he assumes the king will enjoy or approve of: books, tapes, conferences, conversations, journals. You name it he’s got it. So, by the time he arrives at the kingdom, he has many sacks hanging over his shoulders and objects in his pockets. His head is full of knowledge. But, upon arriving, he is astounded. His many possessions, instead of helping him, are hindering him – the entrance is much too small, too narrow. In fact, you might say he looks like a camel about to walk through the eye of a needle. It’s never going to happen.

Conversely, in another scene, I see a young woman hoping to find a kingdom. Well, perhaps it is better to say she doesn’t really know what she is hoping to find. She is thankful for today. She is also seeking direction and wholeness and forgiveness. She doesn’t have much to offer, but she yearns for more. Come to think of it, she is seeking a new life, a chance to start over.

Her journeys take her all over. One day, though, she encounters a man who claims to be the son of a great king. She finds it hard to believe any son of a great king would be out roaming the countryside, but she also sees in the son a great deal of love and she also hears his words to be true. And when the son of the great king invites her to join him on his way home to the kingdom, she figures she’s got more to gain than to lose. So she sets out with the son of the king, and he assures her that the road before them will not always be easy or clear. But, he also assures her the gates will be open. He says he will make sure to open the gates. It is his mission.

So she travels with him from place to place – juggling life as it comes, receiving just enough to hold onto and giving away what is not needed. And then one day the son of the great king tells her to give it all away: they are at the gate of the kingdom. And sure enough she looks up only to see the son has held his promise. The gates are open. They have been open the whole time … maybe not wide enough to carry the whole world in with you, but wide enough to be received as you are.

Narrow Holes and Wide Gates

Narrow holes and wide gates. It all depends on how you approach the kingdom of heaven. For those who come seeking to possess and keep, the kingdom is impossibly hard to enter. For those who come willing to lose their life and receive a new life, the gate is already open; the Son already walks among us.

So what about you? Are you willing to follow the simple rules of juggling? #1: be willing to receive anything; #2 you can only possess if you’re willing to release; and #3 you have to give away to get more?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Food Fight

"The consumer eats worse, and the producer farms worse. And, in their estrangement, waste is institutionalized ... We are eating thoughtlessly, as no other entire society ever has been able to do. We are eating - drawing our lives out of our land - thoughtlessly. If we study carefully the implications of that, we will see that the agricultural crisis is not merely a matter of supply and demand to be remedied by some change of government policy or some technological 'breakthrough.' It is a crisis of culture." - Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

Today I was handed the single most alarming piece of paper I have ever received in my life. More shocking than the doomsday-prophesy trash some hyper-anxious Christians litter cars with. More shocking than my first college exam – of which I knew far too few answers. Shoot, it is more shocking than any exam I ever dreamt I received and didn’t know a single answer to.

Before you look at the sheet for yourself, let me tell you what it amounts to: organized gluttony, nutritional pornography, a buffet line encompassing four city blocks. Now, if you’ve still got the stomach, take a look:

You can also check it out on Wikipedia:

Allow me to explain the layout of the sheet. The top 1/3 provides a map of booths distributing food at the 85th Annual West Side Nut Club Fall Festival in Evansville, IN (about 30 minutes from Owensboro). The bottom 2/3 lists in scholarly detail all the foods available at these booths.

Why do I have this sheet? You guessed it. I’m going to the 85th Annual West Side Nut Club Fall Festival tomorrow; I’ve been told to bring my own plastic fork so I can enjoy all the different servings. I’ve also been told there were 70,000 people at this fall festival today.

To help take the stress out of the event (and to keep myself from wandering aimlessly down the promenade of plenty), I’ve grouped the food options into three different categories: the good, the bad (for you) and the ugly. Since the ugly will probably have the least argument surrounding them, I will start with them: beefy joes, bug juice, burgoo (used to be made with squirrel), brain sandwiches (yup, that’s real cow brain, folks), chocolate covered crickets, German golf balls (who knows?!), puppy chow, road kill chili (I bet health inspector’s dig this name), scorpion suckers, turtles on a stick, and walking tacos.

The bad (for you) are also seemingly easily to identify, although these are also the items which make the fall festival such so noteworthy and such a hit. Generally, the bad (for you) foods have adjectives to warn you of their potency: words such as BBQ, Cajun, deep-fried or simply fried. These foods also include the ridiculous, the overkills of American cuisine: deep-fried Twinkies, fried donuts, BBQ nachos (now that’s what I call Tex-Mex).

The good – at least what I am imagining to be good and therefore worth a few of my bucks – include: African peanut chicken, baklava, caramel apples with nuts, portabella mushroom fajita.

I have been joking and writing this in good fun. You sense that, I hope. But, I also attached Wendell Berry’s thought at the beginning of this article for a reason. In reality, I am also deeply troubled by what this fall festival represents. I am troubled that so much of our communal life in America has become detached from the natural produce of the land and has become affiliated with highly processed and obscenely altered food.

Fall festivals use to represent the deep gladness particular communities enjoyed and shared from receiving the fruits of their labors and fields. Natural joy came from natural food and natural surroundings. Yes, they were often celebrated and marked with excess, but the excess arose out of memories of difficult seasons both behind and before.

Today, the excess is much different. Excess is the occasion, the expectation and the norm. We have become so productive and so concerned with grand ventures, we cannot begin to fathom a season without excess. Fall festivals have become carnivals – being stripped of their communal feasting and reduced to individual booths and personal pizzas.

We are able to produce more food and more calories than we could ever care or dare to enjoy. Meanwhile, we are creating just as many gluts of waste as we are pleasure.

This really is horrifying to me. It is horrifying to realize how thoughtless and systemic the whole matter is. The same thing occurs at county and state fairs. It occurs at professional sporting events complete with concessions. It occurs in food chains. “It is a crisis of culture,” as Berry says. And, he is also right to admit that we fail to recognize our excessive eating habits as a crisis, believing instead that it is a matter easily cured through medication or dieting or some impersonal corporate body who will give us true food. We remain oblivious to the blatantly deceitful advertising schemes of big food producers. We trust that if it is edible, smells good and looks good in a picture, it will not do us much harm. It is food after all, not alcohol or tobacco. All the while, we continue to consume and consume.

So, tomorrow, I’m going to try to be a bit more conscious about what I eat. Check out my “good” list again. You’ll notice they consist of whole, natural foods … well, at least I assume so. I’ll let you know after I take my trip to the 85h Annual West Side Nut Club Fall Festival.

By the way, as I look over the food options, I’m left to wonder what happened to all the real nuts. Oh, wait, they disappeared long ago beneath layers of cinnamon glaze. They’re at booth #16 if you want them.


Night Vigil

Kentucky rains keep pouring down. We’re getting one good thunderstorm a week, and tomorrow promises to be another clashing of fronts over our lands.

I am vexed that fall has not arrived in more definite ways. Sure, there are plenty of concocted expressions of fall about: Halloween decorations are emerging from storage, football games are being played, pumpkins are being sold outside grocery store entrances. But, that’s about it really. Only the occasional crisp night has kept my spirits up and reminded me fall is surely to come.

The good news is that tomorrow is supposed to be the tipping point. Another front is to move in, and this – they say – will be the one that sends us into harvest moons and chilly nights. It would be wonderful if it does, for Thursday I am to travel to Evansville, IN for an afternoon at a fall festival. Eating caramel apples and drinking apple cider just won’t feel right if it’s still in the upper 80’s, which it has been the last few days.

I came to Kentucky for the fall after all. Well, not entirely, but that was certainly a key part of the decision: the gray, cloud-filled skies, the full moon shining behind a cloth of fog, the amber remains of corn fields harvested and dying, the lick of flames close to cold skin from a blazing bonfire, the feel of jeans and sweatshirts on a Saturday afternoon while raking leaves under crisp, crystal blue skies. Clearly being away from fall has left romantic visions.

I learned today that Jon Brennan lives in Owensboro. The name didn’t strike me at first as being anyone worth mentioning; perhaps it doesn’t you either? But upon further discussion, I was reminded Jon Brennan was the “cowboy” on the Real World 2: Los Angeles. That may ring the bell for you. But for those of you still clueless, I’ll fill in the rest of the picture.

Jon Brennan was one of the fortunate few to be selected as a member of the Real World – a show begun by MTV in the early 1990’s that brought a group of young adults together who were beginning to make life happen for them. The first year was a wild success – complete with aspiring singers, actors, dancers and Eric Nies. The second year, then, was much anticipated, and it was much more competitive for people to be selected. Jon Brennan just happened to be selected, for God only knows what reason.

He was a cowboy with a passion for family and Jesus. In fact, he might be considered the first token Christian to be placed in a reality TV show – someone destined to be ridiculed and destined to provide good drama. Both were true of Jon Brennan. I remember watching as a teenager the Real World 2, and recalling how absurd it was to cast a good ol’ boy from the country in a show grossly about hedonism and in a city of fast lanes and low morals.

My dismay over MTV’s decision has only been compounded and multiplied. Now that I have lived in Los Angeles, and now that I currently live in Owensboro, I can’t think of a more shocking and disjointed cultural trick than taking Jon Brennan out of Owensboro and dropping him in TV land.

But if Jon Brennan found the Real World to be too big of a pond for his small town values and dreams, it didn’t take him long to find a place more his size. He returned home. He returned to Owensboro, where he continues to live, and he lives here having earned a great deal of respect from this community (no doubt the result of being largely ridiculed by wider American culture). He sang here for the 4th of July, finding nothing but applause and wild enthusiasm for unashamed patriotism. He works as a music and youth director at one of the local churches, continuing to proclaim through his wardrobe and actions that “real men love Jesus.”

All the world is a stage, Shakespeare said. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that the world is full of stages of varying exposures. There are cosmopolitan stages, national stages, regional stages … and then there are places like Owensboro.

That reminds me of a quote I heard recently, which has no connection to Jon Brennan or fall, but I enjoyed it:

“God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.” – Voltaire