Busy Is Good (Mostly)

Whew, y’all. This week has just been non-stop so far. On Monday, I taught until 1:00, and then I went immediately over to the main ESL site to prepare for and lead a training that afternoon. All of Wake Tech’s ESL sites have blogs, see, and each site has a blogger who publishes two posts a week about lessons or community events. They’re doing a great job of it, but a lot of them are fairly new to blogging in general, and the whole system just switched from Blogger to WordPress, and they had a lot of questions about how to use it. I am apparently an expert, so I gave them the answers. Well, a lot of them.

Anyhoe, I left there around 6:00 and then had Community Group at 7, so I went home for a few minutes before heading out again.

Then yesterday, I taught until 3:15, came home, planned my lesson for today, picked a chapter to read at my writing group, ran to Kinkos to make copies, and then went to the group at 7.

And today, I taught until 1:00, had a meeting at 1:30 that lasted until about 3, ate freshly baked apple pie over at my sister’s house, and now I’ve just gotten home. I have about 2.5 hours to prepare for tomorrow’s classes before I have to go to work again tonight. Like I said, whew.

I don’t think I have any plans or obligations after class tomorrow, so that’s nice, and honestly, it’s been a really good week. Being busy helps to keep me on top of things. I just haven’t had time to spend with you guys or go running, which is a shame. I’m definitely going to have to start over on Week 4. I’m ok with that, though. I’m not in a hurry, and I know I’ll get there eventually.

I know this is not a very exciting post, so allow me to share with you this video that was brought to my attention last night by G.Lover (and KimSko). It pleases me greatly. I hope it does the same for you.

I Made Something Up!

I’ve always thought writing fiction was hard, and the advice I got about it never helped. It was always one of two things:

  1. Just make stuff up.
  2. It’s all about characters. Just make up characters.

Both easier said than done, unfortunately, although they sound simple enough. I could never figure out why it was so hard. They’re just fake people. I know lots of real people. Fake people should be just like them, right? But I just couldn’t do it. Until today.

It’s been another long week. Even though I didn’t have to work on Monday, I still taught more this week than I normally do, so by the time I went to class last night, I was done. I had already planned for the night class, so that was no problem, but I had no idea what I was going to teach this morning. Lucky for me, Sheila was there last night with several ideas. The one I ended up using was, for lack of a better word, fantastic.

I took photos of my friends and family – random pictures of kids, adults, teenagers, groups and individuals. I turned them over and fanned them out, and each student chose one. Then I got pictures of random objects: shoes, seashells, cameras, cars, tools, luggage, etc., and the students each chose one of those as well. Then they had to write a story explaining who the person in their photo was, what their relationship to that person was, and why that person had given them the object in their other picture.

A picture of a kid I used to babysit paired with a picture of a set of luggage produced a story about a favorite nephew who’d grown up and moved to Europe to study music. As he was leaving, he gave the suitcase to his uncle filled with old photos, including the one of him as a baby. An old roommate plus a pair of shoes resulted in one of the most romantic stories I’ve ever heard, and I found out at the very end of class that as a preschooler, I was a mermaid!

Like I said, fantastic.

Well, while they were writing their stories, I decided to play along. I picked out a picture of a camera, and then, since I knew all the people in the pictures I’d brought, I found another photo of a lady on a bicycle. And voila, writing fiction was easy. In less than ten minutes, I’d created at least six characters, some better-developed than others, but still. I had a main character telling the story from her point of view, her two sisters, their mom, mom’s best friend from college and the friend’s husband. All the characters had characteristics of people I know, but hey, everybody has something in common with somebody, right?

So I wrote fiction! I made stuff up! I created characters! Apparently all I needed was a visual stimulus. I’m pretty sure that means I need to go to New York to write Neil Diamond Musical.

Hey Thursday, I like you.

It’s been a good day so far. I woke up after dreaming that I was at an art camp. I think I dreamed this because I read this last night before I went to bed. Anyhoe, I was at this art camp, and I needed supplies, and then I stumbled across a supply room that didn’t have anything I needed. So I think I gave up on art and went to the cafeteria. And I guess it was parents’ weekend at art camp or something because everybody’s families were there. And the brother of the guy in front of me was way cute and flirting with me. And as I was flirting back, my mom walked up and got in line with me. And then the cute guy asked me if I wanted to go eat candy in his truck with him, and I said, “Yes, yes I do, only I’m not so sure about the truck. But I’ll sit on a bench with you or something.”

Then I woke up and thought, I love it when cute guys find me desirable. Good dream.

Then I tried to scan some documents that prove my relationship to George Washington (yes THE George Washington) and my descent from a 12th century British king, but alas, I couldn’t get Whitney’s scanner to work, so I just read through the documents for a while, and that’s how I found out I’m related to G.W. and Ynir King of Gwentland.

Then I tweeted about it.

Then I wrote an article about two-letter Scrabble words that will probably not help me beat Whitney or my mom or the Beattys (or anyone else for that matter) at Scrabble. It’s the spatial aspect I find challenging, not the words. I can make some words. I just don’t know where to put them. You have to be good at words AND Tetris to dominate in Scrabble, and I am unfortunately only gifted in the former.

But the article is done.

So then I made some Punjab Choley and couscous for lunch and watched 30 Rock for a little while, which was, of course, wonderful. It was the one where Liz follows Floyd into the AA meeting where he spills his guts about his trust issues, and then she tells him all her weird stuff to make it up to him.

And she has some WEIRD stuff.

And while I was watching 30 Rock, a Census2010 worker came to the door to ask me some questions about the occupants of this house on April 1, which I answered not knowing that L-Josh had already mailed in their Census2010 form. So I don’t know why he had to come over here and interrupt my 30 Rock/catch me still in my jabambas at 2:30 in the p.m., but I’ve decided that if anyone catches me not yet dressed that late in the day again, I’m just going to open the door saying, “I’m a freelancer. I work from home. I have actually earned money today.”

Or I could just shower and get dressed in the morning.

Then I took a shower, and while I was in there, I had a revelation about the plot of my Neil Diamond musical, I Am…I Said. I can’t tell you about it yet because it’s still not fully formed, but I CAN say that things have been enormously simplified, and the main character and I now have a lot more in common, which is going to make it much easier to write.

And also, I’m clean.

“I am,” I said.

I live in a musical, if only in my own mind. There’s always a song playing in my head, always a lyric to fit the occasion, and if I had my way, we’d all burst into spontaneous, choreographed dance in the streets daily. The weather (natural lighting) would also fit our moods, and our outfits would always range from just a little over the top to holy sequins, Batman! This is my ideal world.

Unfortunately, the rats on the street don’t all dance around my feet encouragingly (Hairspray), getting mugged in New York is almost never a golden opportunity to throw caution to the wind and start from scratch (Thoroughly Modern Millie), and I fear most child laborers don’t psych themselves up for a long day’s work with a robust song and dance around the city square (Newsies).

The real world isn’t an ideal world, but I can create one by writing a musical.

This is something I’ve been talking about for a while. It’s an idea my sister and I had on our way to Mom and Dad’s house for Christmas one year. We were listening to Neil Diamond, and when “America” came on, we both heard it – really heard it in a new way – as an opening number.


Click play, then read on as you listen.

The strings start out low and ominous as we see the city, quiet and dimly lit in the early morning. Then as one, hopeful, sustained note plays, the sun begins to rise as the city comes to life. Husbands kiss wives good-bye as they head off to work in their suits and hats, women shake out rugs from their balconies, florists open their shops and sweep off their stoops, restaurateurs haggle with fishermen over the price of their daily catch, and as the bell chimes, we see a boat coming into the harbor, its passengers on deck, groggy and shivering, but hopeful as they catch their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

The music picks up as dock workers and the ship’s crew begin preparations for the boat’s arrival, throwing ropes, sacks and crates in time with the music and readying the gangway.

A male passenger on the deck of the ship sings: Far. We’ve been traveling far, without a home, but not without a star.

Another passenger, surrounded by his wife and several children sings: Free. Only want to be free. We huddle close, and hang on to a dream.

Someone on shore sings: On the boats and on the planes, they’re coming to America. Never looking back again, they’re coming to America.

You get the picture. Characters continue singing lines of the song until everyone aboard and ashore is singing, “Today!”

The captain of the ship descends the gangway slowly singing, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Of thee I sing today!” Then everyone joins back in with the “todays,” and as they leave the boat and enter the immigration building, they stop singing until all that’s left onstage is one boy, looking at the statue, almost whispering, “Today.”

Just thinking about it is making me want to watch it. There’s just one problem: In order to watch it, I have to write it, and I don’t know ANYTHING about writing a play. I honestly don’t know anything about writing fiction. Listening to several Neil Diamond songs, I see scenes playing so vividly in my mind, but I have no idea how they are related to each other or how they’ll string together to make a story.

And that’s part of the reason I want to go to the Living a Better Story Seminar in Portland. Living a story means knowing what a story is all about, and living a better story requires the ability to envision it. That’s basically what you need to write fiction too, am I right?

And ok, so I lied before when I said there was just one thing standing in the way of me watching my musical. There are lots of obstacles:

  1. I have no idea how to write a play. We’ve now covered that. I need writing classes/workshops/groups to help me.
  2. I’ll have to get Neil Diamond’s permission to use his songs.
  3. Once a play is written, I’ll need performers, a place to present it, people to design/make costumes and sets, a marketing team/plan/materials, and money to pay for all of these things.
  4. Not to mention, once the show is written, I’ll need to concentrate all my efforts on getting it ready, which means I’ll need funds to cover my living expenses for a few months.
  5. I want Neil Diamond to appear in the show as Brother Love of “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”

I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m hoping the conference will teach me a little about story-telling, but also about finding the resources I’ll need to do this (or any other big thing I might want to do). I’m hoping it’ll be an encouraging thing and that it’ll get my creative mind thinking about where to get the money to take the classes and pay the people to build the sets and make the costumes, etc. And I guess I’m really hoping it’ll teach me how to invite others into my story in a way that makes them want to participate and/or follow a big dream of their own.

Here’s a video about the conference for anyone else who’s interested. Wasn’t it so sweet of Don to make this for y’all? I’ll be sure to thank him properly if he picks me to attend the conference (I’m thinking cupcakes, but feel free to leave suggestions for how to thank him properly in the comments).

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

Jesus Is Totally Radical

This is not necessarily a story I want to write with my life, but seeing as I do not have that post finished yet, and this just came up the other day, I figured I’d tell y’all about it.

I was talking to Emily Furr Hogan about that summer (I think it was ’98) when we did the BeeGees puppet show for the kids at Vacation Bible School, and Patty Astronaut TP’d the sound booth (naughty Patty). I’m not sure why we were so insistent upon making the theme of VBS that year disco when it was clearly space. I guess we just wanted to have it all. And we did. As the kids were arriving in the morning, we had “Disco Inferno” playing, and when we were put in charge of telling the Bible lesson that day, we worked up a very elaborate puppet show that involved both of us working at least two puppets AND a boom box, which is quite a feat when you’ve only got two hands, and one of them is constantly stuck up in the air. But we did it, complete with “Stayin’ Alive” intro music when each new character arrived on the scene and a duet of “How Deep Is Your Love” with Jesus and Peter center stage and two other disciples singing back-up.

I don’t know if those kids still remember that, but we sure do, so it got us to thinking…we should write Vacation Bible School curriculum! I’m pretty sure all you need is a theme, songs with hand motions to go along with the theme, cheesy videos to go with the theme, Bible stories that can be vaguely related to the theme, and lots of themed…stuff – name tags and cardboard cut-outs and workbooks and stuff.

I think we can do it, and here are my ideas for themes:

  • Roaring 20s – The VBS kids would learn to do the Charleston and steer clear of alcohol (like good little Baptists and prohibitionists). They’d also learn about freedom in Christ through the new-found freedom of women in the 20’s to vote, cut their hair short, wear shorter skirts and go to work. Then they’ll learn about how pride comes before a fall when we talk about the stock market crash of ’29. And that brings us to…
  • The Great Depression – The kids would learn about the danger of worshiping idols and the certainty of God’s provision. The songs might be a little depressing, but I think the message would be powerful. All lesson materials would be printed on the backs of scraps of last year’s materials.
  • Woodstock – Message of the week: Peace and love, kids. That’s what Jesus is all about. Every large group gathering would be held outside in the grass. There would be no videos or mandatory hand motions, just music and free dance time. In craft time, they’d just be encouraged to let the paintbrush do whatever it wants to do (which reminds me of another story I have to tell you later…don’t let me forget).
  • DISCO!! – Clearly Emily and I already think this is a great idea. I mean BeeGees songs are already written in an ideal octave for little kid voices to sing them, and we’ve already demonstrated that “How Deep Is Your Love” is the perfect song to teach the reinstatement of Peter. We can talk about eternal life in heaven with “Stayin’ Alive” though we might need to Christianize most of the lyrics (not a problem, I’ve done it before). And we can learn to resist the devil with “I Will Survive.” The church is going to need a complete overhaul for this VBS week, though, with mirror balls, strobe lights and paneled floors that light up when you step on them. But oh my gosh how much fun would recreation time be? We’ll all do the Hustle and other groovy disco moves.
  • Awesome 80s – Every day, the kids will make a different piece of their totally tubular 80s attire in craft time. One day it’s a slap bracelet, the next they’re bedazzling a denim jacket, then they’re making some crazy asymmetrical sunglasses (to wear at night), and the next thing you know, they’re all decked out and ready to go to the lake or the high school football game! The theme song for the week is called “Jesus Is Totally Radical.” It’s upbeat and peppy and gets stuck in your head whether you like it or not.

That’s all I’ve got so far. I just think the cowboy and space themes are way played out, and EFH and I are just the gals to bring some fresh new ideas to the table. If you’d like to join us, feel free to share your theme ideas in the comments!

The Story of My Life

It’s a good thing I’m not a people-pleaser, because I feel like I am constantly letting someone down with all my coming and going. I leave Raleigh, and people are sad. I go back to Raleigh, and people in Asheville threaten to lock me in a closet because they don’t want to lose me. I tell my students I won’t be back next semester, and they look at me with such disappointment that I honestly wonder if I’ll ever see them again. What’s the point of continuing a relationship (even a teacher-student one) that’s just going to end in two weeks?

It’s really sweet, and it’s flattering for sure, but it upsets me at the same time to know that my actions are upsetting to others. It’s like I can’t go anywhere without leaving a mark.

True story: I worked at Caswell in the summers of 1999 and 2000. In 2001, I went down for a weekend visit, and when I walked into the staff lounge, a guy I’d never seen before pointed at me all excitedly and said, “You’re Beth Parent! I want a massage later.” Because apparently word of my healing hands had gotten around the staff house.

That’s a silly example, but the dude knew my face, my first AND last name, and my hidden talent before I ever knew he existed, which means there was extensive discussion of me with accompanying photos before I arrived. This happens a lot, and that feels so weird to me because I’m just living my life, you know? I’m not doing anything spectacular except having a crap ton of fun, and yet somehow I am special to a lot of people.

I know it’s starting to sound like I’m complaining about how fabulous and popular I am, but that’s not it. It’s really quite humbling to think that I have this gift I’ve never really noticed or thought about before, and it’s just a part of who I am, but what do I do with it?

What does this ability to impact people require of me? There’s a great and weighty responsibility that comes with it, and I haven’t figured out yet how to carry it.

If I were a character in a story, after such a realization, I’d be at a point of decision. Where do I go from here? Given the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve learned and become, how do I proceed? Everything up to this point has just been background and character development. And here is where the story actually begins, but what’s it about, what do I want, and why does any of it matter?

I want my life to count for something. I want to love people well and help those who need it, but I also want to really relish life and facilitate the fun and enjoyment of others. I look at some people’s lives, and I think, “My life is pointless. He’s digging wells by hand so villages in Africa can have water, and I’m writing a book called My Husband Ride Me.” But you know what? I love that I’m writing a book called My Husband Ride Me. I laugh out loud as I’m working on it, and I hope that one day dozens of other people will get to enjoy it the same way.

I don’t want to give up those quirky little things that make me the person everybody wants to have around. I just want to figure out how to use them better.

I want to live a life of such freedom and adventure that when my great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughters read about it, they think, “So that’s where I get it,” and feel free to be exactly who they are because they know they’re not abnormal for being adventuresome.

I want to live a life that awakens people’s imaginations as to what their lives can be, and I want to encourage them to follow those dreams even when doing so is hard.

I never want to believe or say that it’s too late for me to do something I’m really excited about. It is never too late to live the rock-n-roll life, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. Have y’all seen Young at Heart yet? Because you really must. I own it. Come on over, and we’ll watch it together just so I can prove my point.

I want to make people laugh. I want to make other people wonder what’s so funny. I get down on myself sometimes because I think I’m not doing anything meaningful. I mean, clean water is clearly more important than jokes, but here’s the thing: Laughter is bonding, and people need connection with each other. Laughter is healing, and there is a lot of pain in the world. Laughter might not be a part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but it should be. I don’t know if happy people live longer, but they sure do enjoy it more.

I don’t know what the plot of my story is yet, but I hope it involves a husband I can goof off with, travel with, raise children with, and grow with for the rest of my life, demonstrating radical love to everyone around us. I hope it involves at least a short stint in Spain (because I freaking love that country for no apparent reason). I hope it involves all the friends I currently love and all those I haven’t met yet. I hope it involves a lot of writing and a lot of foreigners, a home with an open-door policy and awesome flea market chic decor, delicious food and wine, full passports, surprises, and tons of music and dancing.

If it’s a story I’m writing with my life, it’ll be on Broadway one of these days. Mark my words.

These are the first of my thoughts on life that will hopefully win me a trip to Portland to attend Donald Miller’s conference. These thoughts are too vague, though, so for the rest of the week I’ll be writing more specific stories. Then we’ll pick the best one, and I’ll enter it in the contest.

Twitter Experiment

I’m writing an article for YourDictionary entitled “Who Is Jimmy Fallon’s Wife?” I love writing these who’s-married-to-whom articles because there’s always a love story involved, and I just think that’s precious. Unfortunately, not much of J.Fal’s love story is online. And yes, I just nicknamed him J.Fal. What of it?

So I just tweeted, “I need to say 200 more words about @jimmyfallon and his wife. Wish I knew how they met/how he proposed/where they got married. Jimmy?” and I’m going to see if he responds. I doubt he will, but how awesome would that be? If you’re on twitter, do encourage him to email me with this information.

I know who his wife is, and I can make an educated guess as to how they met, but I can’t be sure, and I don’t want to lie on the dictionary website. That would be worse than making poop jokes (which I do in those articles every chance I get). If you get a hold of him, ask him to email me (onwardhoe at gmail dot com) with the answers to the following questions:

  • How/when did you and Nancy meet?
  • Was it love at first sight?
  • How long were you together before you got engaged?
  • How did you (or she?) propose?
  • Where did you get married?
  • Who was in your wedding party?
  • Would you like to be a part of the not-actually-being-written musical “Just Now” when it is completed? I think we could toss you in a man salad. Wait. Does that mean something I don’t want it to mean? Because I mean literally, there will be a big bowl and giant tongs, and men will fly around on wires as though they are bits of lettuce and radicchio.

Thanks, blogosphere. Thanks, twitterverse. Thanks, man salad (with vinaigrette).

Open Question

This is one of those classic questions, almost on par with “If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?” or “If money were no object, what would you do with your life?” It’s one of those questions everyone is asked at some point, but I think some people think about it more than others. Here it is:

If you could do over one thing that you have done or said in the past, what would it be and why?

My initial, somewhat sarcastic response to this is, “What? Just ONE thing?” But I think that I think that’s what I’m supposed to say. Really and truly, I aim to live with no regrets, and part of that means living from here on out so that I won’t have any regrets, but the other part is not regretting anything I’ve done in the past.

Everything I’ve said and done and everything that’s been said and done to me have served in part to shape me into who I am now. And let’s be honest, I like who I am. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t put it up on the internet every day. So even though there are painful parts of my past, and even though I’ve done stupid things, without them all, I wouldn’t have learned valuable lessons that I can carry with me from this point forward.

But I’ll be honest. There have been a few boys I wish I’d kissed, a lot of money I wish I’d saved, and several unfortunate haircuts. So here are a few tips on how to live a life without regrets:

  • When considering a hair style, think about how it’ll look on your head for real, and not just how you’d like to imagine it looking in your imagination where you have that actor/actress/hair model’s hair and not your own.
  • When considering a hair style, think about what you’ll think when you look at pictures of it in 15 years. Will it just be a sign of the times, or will you think, “WHO ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN?????”
  • If you’re going to spend more than $200, do your research, and get someone else to help you.
  • Be honest.
  • Be straightforward.
  • Don’t kiss all the boys (or girls) you feel like kissing. Just because you feel like doing something, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.
  • Eat your veggies.
  • Take risks.
  • Have regular adventures.
  • Have spontaneous adventures.
  • Ask questions.
  • Do what you love, no matter the cost.
  • Be about something bigger than just your life.
  • Hold a baby every chance you get.
  • Hug the people you love. Full frontal hugs.
  • Sing in the car.
  • Write down good memories so you don’t forget them.
  • Do unexpected things.
  • Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.
  • Savor every bite.
  • View every experience as an educational one.

And here’s the open question:

What are your tips for living without regret?

Jeware. Welcome.

Today’s formspring question isn’t so much a question as it is a request, and a rather vague one at that, but here goes:

More on Jews, Please. Thank Jew.

Friends, I’m not really sure how to respond to this, but I suppose I have several options.

  1. I could start an ongoing Jew segment, giving you the history, culture and traditions of the Jewish people. Honestly, though, I think that would be a little weird and not at all in keeping with the serious themes of online dating, disturbing dreams, food, and haircare products you’ve come to expect here. Sure, there’s the occasional bizarre writing activity, but I think I’ll save all my educational writing for Your Dictionary. I am actually supposed to write an article this month on the origins of Judaism, so keep an eye out for that.
  2. I could replace “Jew” with “you” in a sneaky reversal of the song-enhancing practice I learned from Collice and Grady, and tell you more about myself. But who wants to hear that? Oh wait. Apparently y’all do. You keep coming back here to read this stuff and asking me questions to answer (some of which are going to get REAL personal this week). So I guess in a way, I answer this request every time I post something new. Jew’re welcome.
  3. I could give you some awesome song lyrics with “Jews” in place of all the “yous,” but you have to promise not to think me racist or antisemitic in any way. I’m not talking about actual people. It’s just a word that sounds like another word. And makes every song hilarious (and sometimes horribly offensive). My apologies in advance to every Jewish reader I have. If I could do the same thing to followers of other religions, believe me, I would. I actually do it sometimes with “Mormon,” putting it in place of “moment.” That’s pretty funny too. “Where was the Mormon we needed the most?” “I’m hanging by a Mormon here with Jews.” – A DOUBLE!!

So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll give you some lyrics just like Bill and Ted gave the princesses before they got taken away by those royal ugly dudes. Let’s see…

  • “Jews don’t own me. Don’t say I can’t go with other boys, and don’t tell me what to do, and don’t tell me what to say, and please, when I go out with Jews, don’t put me on display. I don’t tell Jews what to say, and I don’t tell Jews what to do. Just let me be myself. That’s all I ask of Jews.”
  • “Jews, my darling Jews, mmmm…bittersweet memories – that is all I’m taking with me. So goodbye. Please don’t cry. We both know I’m not what Jews, Jews need. And I will always love Jews. I will always love Jews.”
  • “Jews must not know ’bout me, Jews must not know ’bout me. I can get another Jew in a minute. Matter fact, he’ll be here in a minute, baby. Jews must not know ’bout me, Jews must not know ’bout me. I can have another Jew by tomorrow, so don’t Jews ever for a second get to thinkin’ Jews irreplaceable.”
  • “Jews got a piece of me, and honestly, my life would suck without Jews.”
  • “If she would’ve been faithful, if she could have been true, then I would’ve been cheated. I would never know real love. I would’ve missed out on Jews.”
  • “Jews can’t escape my private eyes. They’re watching Jews.”
  • “Wherever Jews go, whatever Jews do, I will be right here waiting for Jews.”
  • “Tell me how am I supposed to live without Jews now that I’ve been lovin’ Jews so long? How am I supposed to live without Jews? And how am I supposed to carry on when all that I’ve been living for is gone?”
  • “I’m not gonna write Jews a love song ’cause Jews asked for it, ’cause Jews need one. You see, I’m not gonna write Jews a love song ’cause Jews tell me it’s make or breakin’ this.”
  • “For all those times Jews stood by me, for all the truths that Jews made me see, for all the joy Jews brought to my life, for all the wrongs that Jews made right, for every dream Jews made come true, for all the love I found in Jews, I’ll be forever thankful, baby….Jews were my strength when I was weak, Jews were my voice when I couldn’t speak, Jews were my eyes when I couldn’t see, Jews saw the best there was in me, lifted me up when I couldn’t reach, Jews gave me faith ’cause Jews believed. I’m everything I am because Jews loved me. Jews gave me wings and made me fly, Jews touched my hand, I could touch the sky. I lost my faith, Jews gave it back to me. Jews said no star was out of reach. Jews stood by me, and I stood tall. I had their love, I had it all. I’m grateful for each day Jews gave me. Maybe I don’t know that much, but I know this much is true: I was blessed because I was loved by Jews. Oh, Jews were always there for me, the tender wind that carried me, light in the dark, shining their love into my life. Jews’ve been my inspiration. Through the lies, Jews were the truth. MY WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE BECAAAHAAAUSE OF JEWWWWEWWWWWS!”

Are Jew satisfied?

Interview With Jason Boyett (aka my best bff forever)

As you may recall, I posted a review last week of Jason Boyett’s new book, O Me of Little Faith. Well, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jason and ask him a few questions. And by “sit down with,” I mean, I sat down and emailed him, and I think he probably sat down to email me back. That counts, right? (Best BFFs FOREVER!!) Here’s what we said to each other. (My questions are all big and important, and his answers are written in a smaller font and confined in smaller boxes.)

You spent a lot of time with O Me of Little Faith. If you and the book were high school seniors, what would you write in its yearbook?

Dear O Me of Little Faith: I told you some things I’ve never told anyone else, ever. You helped me deal with some issues and clarify my thinking on a lot of stuff, so I appreciate that. But you should really put a shirt on.

Really? No “Stay cool,” “RHASL” or “Roses are red, coffee is black, and I’m the first one to sign in your crack”?? Ok then, next question…

Doubt is something that you’ve struggled with for a long, long time. What made you want to write the book now?

Because I’m tired of burying that internal struggle and disguising it behind the mask of a Christian who has it all figured out. I don’t, and I don’t see any use in pretending otherwise. In the process of being honest about these doubts, I’ve discovered that lots of other believers have them, too. So I wanted to write the book as a way to share how I’m learning to deal with it — in hopes that others can walk alongside me in this journey. I hope it’s an encouraging book that reaches out across the loneliness that always seems to be attached to doubt. I hope it provides a safe place for us to start talking about this kind of thing, rather than hiding it.

Right on. I’m a big fan of honesty.

There are lots and lots of (awesome) footnotes in the book. Why didn’t you just include those thoughts in the text? Were you one of those kids in college who gave all your serious psychology papers a title and then a second, snarky, alternate title? I was.

I have never written a serious psychology paper, so no luck there. But I have always loved footnotes. Sometimes, as I’m writing, I think of a joke or an aside that’s only marginally related to whatever I’m writing about. And I really want to use it, but it just doesn’t seem to fit in the text. It might disrupt my precious narrative flow or get in the way of whatever point I’m making. Or it just might not be necessary at all. So what do I do with this frivolous stuff? Either I edit the joke away…or I turn it into a footnote. Footnotes are the clear choice, right? Right.

Oh I concur.

I read the book almost entirely while at my job as a Census 2010 employee. Where did you write it? And what’s the most boring job you’ve ever had?

I wrote it at my desk in my office in my home in Amarillo, Texas. Late at night, mostly. Honestly, I haven’t had too many boring jobs or jobs that allowed me much reading time. My first real job involved delivering prescription medications. It required a lot of driving, which was kind of boring. But reading while driving doesn’t exactly cause the time to speed by. (It does, however, shorten your lifespan.)

Unless you get yourself one of them high falutin’ books on tape. You know, one read by somebody real sexy…like Conway Twitty.

Are you concerned at all that the book will cause doubt where it did not exist before?

Possibly. But, you know, we make it pretty clear on the back cover that it’s a book about doubt. If you are surprised to encounter doubt and hard questions when reading it, then you weren’t paying attention. You can’t say you weren’t warned. But here’s the thing: as believers in Christ, we are supposed to be following and pursuing the truth. Or, the Truth. Capital T. If it’s the truth, shouldn’t it be able to stand up to honest questioning? What do we have to fear? I think the questions I ask in the book are honest ones, born of my desire to understand. So I can ask my questions and express my doubts in pursuit of the truth, or I can hide them in the name of spiritual safety or comfort or peace of mind. Which action is the more truthful one?

Good one. Let’s open that up for discussion, shall we? Hey readers, please discuss.

Chapter 8: “The Paralysis of Weddings and Births” starts out, “I was fearless until I became a father.” But just two chapters earlier, you told us that until 8th grade, you were “soil-your-britches-scared” of roller coasters. Why you gotta be such a liar?

Ahh! Contradictions! My entire thesis has now been ruined! You’ve caught me. I wasn’t actually fearless until I became a father. I was using hyperbole in order to start that chapter off with a bang. Also, you’re mean.

I’m kidding. That’s really picky. But that’s the kind of scrutiny with which (I assume) the majority of intelligent God-doubters read the Bible. The “the-Bible-contradicts-itself-too-much-for-me-to-believe-it” argument keeps them from getting over or pushing through their doubt. What do you have to say to them?

Well, as long as we’re being honest, let me admit that I am one of those kinds of doubters. Reading the Bible is frustrating for me. People tell me the best way to combat my doubt is to “get in the Word.” But I have gotten in the Word. I’ve even written a book about the Bible (Pocket Guide to the Bible, available at fine bookstores near you). But when I read the Bible, I tend to come away with more questions than answers. You’re saying it’s not fair for you to be overly picky about the contradictions and discrepancies that certainly do exist in my book. I agree that there are probably mistakes. That’s because I’m a human being and I mess up. A lot.

But there’s a difference — I’m not claiming my book to be divine. Many people DO claim the Bible to be divine, without mistakes and without error. That’s what I was taught as a child, that the Bible was the “very Word of God.” So when I read the Bible and see these apparent errors or contradictions that require exegetical gymnastics in order to explain away — well, it causes me to doubt. It generates questions and a lot of frustration, because God has given me a brain. Should I just turn it off and ignore the stuff that makes me uncomfortable? I don’t think so, because that’s not intellectually honest. My entire faith tradition is built on what the Bible teaches. If I am going to devote my life to what it teaches, then it needs to be able to bear some close scrutiny. Again — if the Bible is true, it should be able to withstand my honest questions.

So to answer your original question, what would I say to the folks who struggle with faith due to doubts about the Bible? I would say this: I get it. I totally understand. If I have trouble understanding and even trusting the Bible, then of course I’m going to be dealing with some doubt.

What I like so much about that chapter, though, is that it encourages action in spite of doubt. No. That’s not true. It doesn’t encourage – it takes away your best excuse for inaction. It kicks you in the face and says, “Stop being so freaking lame and selfish.” That is not a direct quote or even an insinuation, really. It’s just what I took from it. By the way, Chapter 8: “The Paralysis of Weddings and Births” seriously changed my life. This isn’t a question, just an opportunity to say thank you.

You’re welcome. It’s a fairly philosophical chapter, with all that Kirkegaard stuff, but I understand where you’re coming from. Sometimes you just have to make the leap into the fog of uncertainty, right?

Exactly. Ok. This might be a long shot, and it’s totally not related to the book, but I have to ask: Do you know Don Miller, and if so, could you set me up with him?

Don and I exchanged emails right after Blue Like Jazz was released, way before he became the super-famous DONALD MILLER. So he probably knows my name, and we have some mutual friends, and as writers we’d probably have a lot to talk about. But we’re not buddies or anything. So for me to attempt to set you up with him would be all kinds of awkward. For him. For me. For you.

Which is to say, of course! If we’ve learned anything from watching “The Office,” interpersonal awkwardness is hilarious. So let me get in touch with him right this minute.

Ok I know that’s a joke, and that you’re not going to get in touch with him about setting us up, but I have to admit, I might have just had a small aneurysm from the excitement. We should move on before I go into cardiac arrest as there is no one here to find me and take me to the hospital.

This is only quasi-related to the book, but do your kids have pet turtles? Do you ever stack them up on each other to teach them about faith? Have you chosen someone to take care of them after the rapture?

I have had several pet turtles in my life. Actually, they were tortoises — the kind we discovered crossing the street and felt sorry for so we took them home and put them in the backyard. And then they disappeared from October to May. And then we saw them again, maybe, twice more before they disappeared forever. Turtles are mysterious creatures.

I have never stacked a turtle, because I am haunted by what happened to Yertle. I couldn’t live with those consequences.

I haven’t taken steps to care for my pets after the rapture, but if I were to do so I would definitely go with my friend Bart, the guy behind Eternal Earthbound Pets, which is an actual business created to take care of Scruffy after you’ve gone to meet Jesus. Bart’s an atheist, so he pretty much figures he’ll be left behind. I interviewed him at my blog, by the way. Here and here.

Awesome. And finally, my roommate and I discussed the choreography of an interpretive dance during a roadtrip we took over the weekend. Do you have a song preference?

No preference, as long as it’s either Michael W. Smith or Kool Moe Dee. If you can find a way to do a mashup of those two, then I’ll be happy.

I’m on it. If your book tour brings you to western NC, let me know. I’ll make you a PB&J and have my dance troupe ready to perform our MWS/KMD/OMOLF liturgical dance.