I am the kid of a Catholic father and a Baptist mother. My father and his brothers were raised up under strict Church of Christ rule, but their parents were good people. They did the best they knew how.

My grandfather Haines was raised by his grandparents Henke. They were German Lutheran homesteaders in Oklahoma who knew ranching and beer-making. Grandpa Haines plowed Henke’s fields from the age of 8, drank Henke’s beer from the age of 9. Henke taught Grandpa Haines to pray, albeit privately and in German. (All good Lutherans of the day knew that religion was a personal matter practiced in the mother tongue.) Grandpa Haines’ farm labor and beer-drinking produced a barrel chest, one fit to carry the Browning Automatic Rifle across Italy in the second World War. The praying produced an iron will, one he credited for carrying him home.

My Grandmother Haines grew up the daughter of a Church of Christ shop owner, a real proselytizing kind of fella. He laid a few bricks in the foundation of my family. We still hold scripture, baptism, and the Lord’s supper in high esteem, but I reckon we don’t hold to a whole host of his theological leanings. Still, he was a good man, and he knew how to turn a nickel.

My grandparents on my mother’s side where Episcopalian. The Mouks, George and Carol, are interred in St. Thomas Episcopal on the bayou. It’s a quiet church, small, community based. On Sunday mornings, sometimes the mallards splash down on the bayou backdrop as the bells usher the congregants in. My Grandfather Mouk wouldn’t have missed a Sunday service for the world, especially in his latter days. He’d sing the hymns, voice quavering, loud. My grandfather Mouk held my grandmother Mouk until the cancer did her in. He had an strong will, too, though maybe it was made of different stuff than steel.

I know very little about Grandpa Mouk’s father, other than he didn’t seem much like a faith-bearing man. I could be wrong about that, but it’s the way I’ve always thought of him. His mother, though, was known to have a pragmatic faith. I reckon she might have been Episcopalian, but perhaps she was Catholic, or Presbyterian, or Methodist. In those days, faith was inherited much like a grandfather clock or the family farm. At least, that’s what I’m told. In any event, the Mouk folks laid bricks in my family foundation, too–community, family, the singing of the doxology.

I am the son, grandson, and great-grandson of these pioneers, folks looking to find a little water along the way and hoping to pass down a brick or two of tradition. My cousins are the offspring of these people, too. Some of you might be, but even if your not, your stories are the same.

We’re all cousins, some of us kissing-cousins, even. And it don’t do no good to hate your cousins.

The way I see it, most of us are just looking for a little water along the way, and hoping to stop just long enough to pass something down that’s worth sticking. That’s all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


*Diary Date, April 30, 2013.*

The day they turned to eating each other started like any other. I was frying eggs in leftover bacon grease, allowing the white to crisp sepia around a perfectly sunshiny yolk. My toaster, which had a way of ashing bread beyond recognition, was finishing up a nice pair of shingle-like squares. I had forgotten to manually pop the toast prior to the occurrence of it’s Armageddon, and this oversight had led to the shrieking of the smoke detector, which sat directly above the television. I fanned the alarm, as if to calm the nerves of the old house, while simultaneously turning the dial to the old black and white, which I had rigged to receive cable.

The egg gave a blistering pop. I ignored it for the television. There, in highly contrasting bi-tones and lo-fi audio, stood two men, each holding the other’s opposing arm between gnawing teeth. Cannibalistic endeavors aside…

Want to read the rest of the this zombie/church cross-genre piece? Follow me over to A Deeper Church.

*Photo by Esparta. Used under Creative Commons license, via Flickr.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lyricism, Church Infighting and the Creed


My friend Lore sent me some encouragement the other day; she said, “my editor at [insert super-relevant faith blog channel] wrote me and said ‘don’t think people don’t want the lyrical stuff. They do.'” I’m not sure exactly how Lore knew I needed the encouragement to keep tapping out words, but she did. Perhaps it’s that whole “same Spirit,” thing or something. In any event, a timely word is a treasure. The Proverbs say so.


I’m going to be less guarded here, speak less in parables today. Prepare yourself.

There is a great deal of infighting on the Christian-net these days. I think it’s over the top. Let me put it this way: if John Piper (the super-educated) says one thing about women’s roles in the church, and NT Wright (the super-educated) says another, and I’ve read them both, and they both make cogent arguments, and I have not a breath of the training of either of those two men, I’m left only with my persuasions. (And I do have some persuasions on the topic.) In other words, I’ll interpret their teachings through the lens of my personal reality (or my “story”) and make a decision regarding which I believe. But why take the extra step and claim some extra-enlightened stance on the topic? Why try to teach the Christian-net the “Truth,” when the truth is, I’m just as confused as the rest of the people. You know… if I’m honest.

Honesty cuts both ways, see. It’s not just about being vulnerable about the garbage of your story, it’s about admitting what you don’t know, too.


Last night, I crawled into my bed after singing a rousing rendition of Rich Mullins’ “Creed.” I closed my eyes and found anger and discord blinking behind my eyelids, the coded computer bits of the day coming back to haunt me. I recalled a particularly nasty internet debate, a video, some snarky comments, and whatever is the opposite of a whole lotta love. This was not an intentional recollection, mind you. Sometimes the brain is an entity of it’s own; it sparks where it will and you follow. But after a few minutes of riling up, I said it over and over, “I believe in God the Father, almighty maker of heaven and maker of earth.”

After a time, the sparking stopped.


Mike Rusch once asked me, “what are the things that keep you up at night?”


Preston says that not many should aspire to be teachers, and I wholeheartedly concur. There’s a millstone awaiting the false-teacher’s neck, after all, and millstone necklaces and oceans are a lethal combination.

Caveat magister.

I don’t aspire to teach. In fact, the thought that I’d ever return to the church in that capacity terrifies me. When I was teaching the young Churchlings back in the day, when I was brandishing the title “youth minister” like a sword, I never appropriately apprised myself of the risks. Sometimes the knicker-knack of the steel comes back to cut you.

I pray, dear Lord, that you’ve already tossed my waiting millstone into the ocean. Sans Seth, of course. Lord, have mercy.


My friend Lore sent me some encouragement the other day. I’m not sure how she knew I needed it. Maybe it was because I’ve been writing about borders and cardinals. Maybe it’s because I’ve been speaking in poems. Maybe it’s because I’ve trended lyric lately.

I’m finding God more and more in the less and less obvious. I’m finding he doesn’t call me to have a voice on every issue du jour. I’m finding that there is peace in forgiveness, and tolerance. I’m finding God in the quiet places. In scripture, yes. In nature, yes. In the recitation of the creed, yes.

Maybe it’s the simplicity that’s speaking to me lately. Maybe it’s the lyric. Maybe I’m just tired of the fighting. I’m not sure.

Posted in church | Leave a comment

I’m Done

This morning, about 300 words into some Merton-inspired piece about masks and the false self, my computer began gobbling up words. It ate them slowly, savored each perfectly cooked letter. One by one. Backwards.


The computer, which I am told can crunch numbers fast enough to put me on the moon if I were in possession of the proper propulsion, might have decoded my words, might have known that even my writing about the false self was, in-and-of-itself, false. After all, he’s read daggum-near every word I’ve written over the past two years and maybe there was something that just didn’t compute. Did its cyclops eye, that blasted camera above the screen, examine my contorted face as I shamelessly quoted ‘ole Tom? Did it send a message to the processor? “He’s not ready for this. Eat every last word,” I think it said.

Letter by letter Merton disappeared, as if being backspaced into oblivion. I, less panicked and more befuddled, tried all the tricks I knew. Saving. Copying. Pasting. When none of this quite worked, I began banging any-which character in an attempt to stop the holocaust of words. The computer mocked me, replaced my words only with lyrics from the Avett Brothers. And as much as I love the Avett Brothers, these words were no more mine than Merton’s.

They came in pasted chunks:

“and I’m done.”

“and I’m done.”

“and I’m done.”

I wish the lyric would have been, “be loud, let your colors show,” but it was not to be. Reading my mind, the bit-brain began flashing it’s own colors, popped up a big purple sad face before proclaiming, “Google Chrome has run out of memory.” Then, the machine looked me square with its one black eye, and slept.


These are the drawbacks of Windows-powered machines. They, for all of their blue collar charm, stomp their unionized foot from time to time, gobble up the best parts of your work, and turn their back on you for their morning coffee break, or smoke break, or whatever it is that computers do inside the smallness of their casings. So, this is my morning message to Microsoft, whose operating systems shut down without warning and perform “updates” which I neither requested nor desired: “I’m done.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment