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December 2008

A Writing Gig

I now have a new writing gig.  This one is in print and pays money!  I'll be writing a commentary once a month for the Oklahoma Gazette.  My first one appeared today, entitled "Wild West."  You can read it on- line here or pick one up if you are in town.

Photo Updates

I've spent a lot of time working on the photo albums.  There are changes to pretty much all of them.  The Christmas 2008! album is all new.  I created a Travelling (intentionally spelt with two L's) album, merged old photos into it (and deleted some old albums) and added new photos from our Kansas City trip.  Posts coming soon.

The Boston Globe denounces the use of a bigot at the inauguration

In a powerful editorial, the paper denounced Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the inauguration as bad judgment.  Some excerpts:

Having nearly had his campaign destroyed by the tapes of his former pastor Jeremiah Wright blasting America as a hopelessly racist nation, Obama seems compelled to close his eyes to one of the most powerful forms of conservative-driven bigotry left in this country.

Now, a month before that great day that could bring all Americans together unlike any in the nation's history, Obama has gone out of his way to pick someone for the invocation who is not even close to being a pastor for all Americans.

If Warren is allowed to give the invocation, the bright American rainbow that got Obama into office will dim in a way that spells danger for what else Obama will not stand up for.

This final point is what scares me.  It is what scared me when he threw Rev. Wright under the bus and here he is at it again.

Other Christmas Letters

2003 and 2004 are missing, which is pretty unfortunate.  Those were when I was living in Dallas, so I must have saved them in some different way than all the others.  I'm not sure how they got lost.  Those were important years, so I wish I had them.

From 2005 on are posted on this site.

Slumdog Millionaire

Saturday I took a little break from the holidays to go see Slumdog Millionaire, which has received lots of praise.

And it is an enjoyable, fun film, even if credulity and logical narrative are somewhat strained.  Probably what I liked best about it is that I've never seen anything like it before -- a boy raised in a Mumbai slum who makes good by playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.  My favorite moment, and the one I keep thinking about and laughing, is of a shit covered Jamal.

So, if you want an enjoyable break from the holidays, I recommend this film.

4 popcorn kernels
3 film reels

2002 Christmas Letter

Howdy Folks!

I just returned home from a high school band Christmas concert, I've got Christmas music in the stereo, the lights are twinkling on the tree, and it's about time I get around to this year's Christmas letter. So, here goes.

I've finally taken up a sport. And not one of those normal sports that normal people get involved with. No, this one is for us special people. It's frisbee golf. It was a beautiful mild winter day last February when I said to Michael Jarrett, "Instead of playing NCAA on the Gamecube, let's go outside. I've never played frisbee golf, have you?" Well that one day led to an almost weekly exercise of throwing my drivers and putters (there actually are differences in the frisbees) and slowly improving my game.

Now, if I lived in the mountains I'd ski. I went skiing again this past winter (only the second time) and loved it still. I do declare it to be the greatest thing I've ever experienced. Maybe it's because I'm not one of those folk who lives life on the edge, so when I take my life in my hands on the ski slope, the exhilaration is incredible.

That ski vacation was to Breckenridge. I didn't like the slopes as well as Winter Park, but the town is loads more fun. This year I also travelled to Dallas to see the premiere of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones with Derrek and to Kansas City in June for a nice vacation with Ben, Kim, Chuck, Kristen, Andrew, and Jason. By the way, I highly recommend the Truman Library in Independence. Work trips took me to Nashville, Fort Worth, Austin, and Minneapolis (where I had one of the best Thai meals I've had).

Speaking of work, that seems to have been 80% of my life this year, which probably explains how exhausted I am this December. The youth group has really developed this year, and I'm quite proud of the ministry. The high point came this summer on our mission trip to Helena, AR. CBF has committed to ministry in the 20 poorest counties in America. The program is called the Rural Poverty Initiative. Two of those counties are in Arkansas. Our church sent a group of 18, mostly kids, to Helena to work on houses and building friendships in the community. Helena lies in the Mississippi Delta and was once a rich part of the state. It is suffering from agricultural depression and the continuing after-effects of integration. The town's population has declined from 40,000 to under 7,000. Over 1/3 of the citizenry are below the poverty line. 70% of the population is African-American. During the week we painted, repaired porches, constructed front steps, and installed a wheel chair ramp. And we created new and lasting friendships with members of the community. After our first day of work, when we had completely painted the exterior of one home, transforming it dramatically (just check, we went to the city pool to swim with some local youths. One young man was severely disabled and had never swam before. But, he wanted to swim, so his mother lifted him from his wheelchair and into the arms of four of my junior high boys who, without any prompting from any adults, had decided to help Cedric swim. I wrote in an e-mail update to the congregation that evening that in the work done that day our kids had embodied Christ in unbelievable ways. Still makes me emotional to think about it. In fact, I think that it was the most significant moment of my life to date.


I hope all of you get the chance to visit Fayetteville sometime. If you've talked to me this year, you may have heard me compare it to paradise. This is a fantastic town. One of my favorite routines this summer was to go to the Farmer's Market on the Town Square early on Saturday afternoons and buy fresh produce to fix for lunch and dinner, then sit and have a tart and coffee, and then pick up some fresh flowers. In these mornings you see the full mix of the towns populace. And this area is so beautiful. I was thinking last week that winter is really its most unattractive time. Then we got hit with an ice storm. The next day as the sun was shining but the ice was still all over the trees, it was like driving through tunnels of crystal -- amazing. I've enjoyed becoming more active in the community, including being elected Vice President of the Ministerial Association in May.     It seems like years since I lived in Shawnee; life has moved on. Though I do often miss certain aspects. For example, there my home was the center of a large social circle. Here my home is more like a sanctuary to return to after a busy day (I've gotten home after 10, because of work, three different nights this week). It gets more difficult all the time to keep up those connections with all of you guys, and I cherish the e-mails, letters, phone calls, etc. Charlie Bates wondered if we should revive the long-standing St. Valentine's Day Party tradition; we'll see.

This summer I reconnected with a ton of folks, as it was my 10th high school reunion. I had a fantastic time seeing people, and as I expected, many people were surprised by me. Nice to see how one has grown in ten years. The reunion was a lot of work, and I'm glad (because of that) that there isn't another for 10 years (if anyone wants a fifteenth, they can organize it!), though I hope to see some of the old acquaintances more often than that.

Quick battery of family news: Pappoo (my grandpa Nixon) turned 80 this summer, and we had a big birthday bash. Mom enjoys Oklahoma City and discovered a new joy in yachting this summer; she transformed her backyard into a magical garden, including a labyrinth that was my idea; and she has a new dog named Angel who isn't nearly as annoying as I thought she would be. Kelli and Shawn are building a house in Shawnee not far from his parents and Kelli's new job doing HR at the Eaton plant. How funny that Kelli should end up being the Shawnee-ite in the family! My cousin Tyler had a starring turn at a football game in September when he scored 3 touchdowns, had an interception, and a good number of tackles. He got injured in the second game I went to watch, so I'm not sure what kind of luck I bring.

Though still a Republican, I decided in September to officially oppose the current administration, mainly because of its warmongering tactics. As a Christian, I find that the evils of the time in which we live -- corporate greed, materialism, war, etc. -- make what have always been the radical claims of the Gospel even more a stark contrast to the status quo.

The best book I read this year was The Power of Mark's Story (a commentary on the Gospel of Mark) by Mitzi Minor. I also lliked John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, Toni Morrison's Beloved, Joseph Ellis' Founding Brothers, Tolkein's Silmarillion, and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (which is really postmodern, surprisingly). And I've gotten into Wendell Berry's poetry this fall.

Last year's best picture was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. This year I've seen less movies than any other year and have seen only one of the films mentioned in the National Board of Review's list of winners (so I've got LOTS to see before Oscar season is done). Despite my behindness, I did like Minority Report, Insomnia, Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Ring, and Eight Mile. Of course, most of the good stuff is coming out in the next couple of weeks.

Bruce Springsteen's The Rising was my favorite album of the year (though it was difficult to decide). Other good ones included David Bowie's Heathen, Beck's Sea Change, Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head, Mary J. Blige's No More Drama, The Hives' Veni Vidi Vicious, and two albums by friends: namelessnumberheadman's when we leave, we will know where we've been and Be's This Stupid Dream. Thanks for all the burned cds, particularly from Charlie B., Chuck W., Julie V., & John M. that introduced me to new artists. Every month I go to an open mic night at one of our local coffee shops and hear an interesting mix of old hippies playing mostly folk music and high school kids playing everything from classical guitar to punk.

And the best video game I've played is this season's version of NCAA. Many fun hours have been wasted on this game. Speaking of football, I've really turned into a fan of the SEC. Down here football is religion, and these teams really eat each other alive. I do route for the Razorbacks second only to Oklahoma. My sister is deeply ashamed that her brother calls the Hogs. The humiliations of OU by OSU and Arkansas by Georgia have ended the regular season on a very sour note for me, and I had been into it so. Maybe next year?

Well, the cd player just cued up Mel Torme singing his own The Christmas Song. Seems like a good place to end the letter. This fall I had a really frustrating period, but it led to a powerful time of spiritual growth. I love the mysteries and the surprises of the spirit. As we yearly live out the drama of the life of Christ, I hope that this Advent season you will take the time of preparation and reflection to heart. God is coming, has come, continues to come into this world to work to create a kingdom. And we have a part to play in that kingdom. May you live out the kingdom of God this coming year.

May you all be blessed,



Christmas Presents to Myself

On Wednesday I had a little time to kill, so I gave myself a present.  I stopped at Full Circle Bookstore and went shopping!

I purchased two books which have made many of the end-of-the year best books lists:  2666 by Roberto Bolano and The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul by Patrick French.

I also picked up a new history Oklahoma: A History by W. David Baird and Danney Goble. 

Now I just need a good snowstorm so I can get lots of reading done!!!!

Rick Warren

My first reaction was that this was evidence of Obama's bridge-building and, therefore, not something to get upset about.

But the longer I thought about it the more upset I became.

Not just because Warren is an agent of prejudice and segregation in his outspoken opposition to full equality for all American citizens, though that should be reason enough.

But because it furthers this mistaken idea that conservative evangelicalism is the mainstream of American thought and that only conservative evangelicals get to speak for Christianity in this culture.

We continue to empower these forces. 

Why not James Forbes?  Or Peter Gomes?  Pastors from Obama's own denomination who are among the most well-respected voices in American Christianity and, yes, who just so happen to also be black.  These ministers represent the long established mainline traditions of American Christianity, plus, like Mr. Obama, they were historical figures, breaking down barriers in order to broaden America's promise to all of her citizens. 

The fears that I expressed back during the Jeremiah Wright episode seem to be coming true.

Even the media coverage has angered me.  This morning one of the morning shows was addressing the issue.  On one side was the pastor of First Baptist Dallas and on the other side an activist.  Even the media furthers this ridiculous notion that only conservative evangelicals speak for Christianity.