Jan 19

Farther Along: How Parenthood Pushed Me Back Into the Church

My friends and family members with kids warned us that having children changes everything, and they were right. Sleeping in now means 9:30 a.m. Our meals now consist of one of us entertaining our son, while the other shovels food down their throat. And date nights feel more like high school with self-imposed curfews, but I think more than anything, having a baby has caused us to examine our spiritual life. Something about watching the miracle of birth reminds us of our own mortality and the tremendous responsibility that comes with God’s greatest blessing.

Both of our parents raised us in the (mainline) church, but I can count on one hand the number of Sunday morning services I had attended in the past 15 years. Still, we knew that this was an important part of our cultural DNA and should be passed onto our son.

I previously wrote about the generations of Methodists on my father’s side of the family; religion played an even bigger role in my mother’s family. Their roots are bit more Calvinistic and several members were prominent in the world of Southern Gospel music. My maternal grandfather and great uncle were known throughout the region as performers and promoters of the craft and a couple of extended family members regularly perform with the Gaithers.

Each summer, the Rogers family gathered in rural Southwest Arkansas for an annual family reunion, which inevitably turned into gospel concerts, complete with a closing altar call. That’s right, my family reunions had altar calls.

This type of upbringing certainly engendered a thirst for piety that carried me through the awkwardness of adolescence. In high school, my friends and I spent more time trying to unlock the mysteries of scripture than engaging in typical teenage activities. Eventually, I thought I felt God calling me to the ministry, but somewhere in college that all changed and for the first time I began to question everything I had been taught to believe. Thankfully, my parents provided me enough of a spiritual foundation that my faith, though dramatically changed, survived, but I gave up on the ministry and dropped out of the church.

While I found the idea of “church” to be a bit superfluous, religion remained a hobby for me and I sought out others that would challenge me to examine my faith from a different perspective, but somewhere along the way I concluded that most of the people pushing ideas such as “Christian spirituality” and “red-letter Christianity” were actually pushing a form of “identity Christianity.”

Picking a Christian author/blogger to read, personality to follow, or church to attend was not unlike choosing a cable news network to watch–a decision that often defined a persons tastes in music, literature, and of course politics. Not to mention virtually all the leaders and followers of these movements came off as a bit pedantic. I wanted no part of it, but the things a parents will do for his child…

I knew we had to raise our son in the church, so in September, my wife and I decided to join a local United Methodist Church, with the intent of having our son baptized and to become connected with the church. I think part of me wanted God to “light the flame that once burned bright and clear,” while another part of me continued to doubt a lot of the bad doctrine I had been exposed to early life. I continue to struggle to find a faith that aligns with my previous experiences and that doesn’t betray what I know to be empirically true, which brings me here.

As I survey the wreckage of evangelical Christianity, I’m not quite sure where I belong. I sometimes feel like I know what I want to believe, but don’t always know if that constitutes the absolute truth. I know what I’ve experienced and I know what it will take for Christianity to be “real” for me once again, but how do I get there?

One of my favorite gospel songs is “Farther Along.” It’s one that was sung every summer at our family reunion and one that I heard my grandfather sing on numerous occasions. The refrain, while quite simple, serves as a poignant reminder that while the answers might not always be readily available, if we commit to our faith journey, God will in time reveal to us the answers we need to know. This new section of my blog is called “Farther Along” and will serve as a place for me to jot down my thoughts as God reveals to me the answers I need to know.

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/farther-along-2/

Oct 18

New Member

FUMC Atlanta

Growing up in East Texas, you can profess to be Presbyterian, Episcopalian, or even Methodist, but in the end, statistics show that you’ll probably  end up Baptist. Indeed, the Southern Baptist Convention’s roots run deep in the Piney Woods, making the area Baptist, the way the Vatican is Catholic. Those not born into the religion often convert, if for no other reason to be a member of the same social circle as their friends. Yet generations of my family resisted the temptation and maintained their membership at the First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas.

For over one hundred years, members of the Ellis/Hanner family not only attended Sunday morning services at FUMC-Atlanta, but also taught Sunday school, led and fed youth groups, served on various boards and committees, and supported the church with their gifts and services.

Throughout my life, the church felt like an extension of my home–literally. Like my father and grandmother before me, I grew up across the street from the church and next door to the parsonage. Like most Texas homes, our’s did not have a basement or storm shelter, so anytime severe weather threatened the area, my parents, grandparents, sister, and I huddled up in the church basement along with the pastor and his family.

As a kid, my parents considered the church part of my “safe zone” and allowed me to ride my bike across the street to the parking lot where I spent my time hopping curbs and coasting down wheelchair ramps. When I traded in my bike for a pair of RollerBlades, the church parking lot once again provided the best surface for skating and pick-up street hockey games with other kids in the neighborhood.

Of course the church served as more than just a storm shelter and rec. center. It serves as the backdrop to many of the earliest memories stored deep within the attic of my mind–tiny fragments of images long since worn and faded. The mystery stain on Family Life Center’s all-purpose carpet. The sweetness of the green juice the day school teachers gave us at refreshment time. The way the light reflected through the frosted glass in the bathrooms.

Other memories maintain a much more vibrant existence. The Sunday I joined the church with the rest of my confirmation class. Various youth group functions. And, the first time I felt the presence of something greater than myself.

Sixteen years have passed since I last maintained a permanent residence in Atlanta and FUMC moved to a new location several years ago; however, I never switched my membership. No matter how far I drifted away from the church both geographically and spiritually, it remained a part of my identity. Indeed, the church left an indelible mark on my life, and even as I teetered on the edge of agnosticism, I felt this church continued to define me.

Over the years, I managed to salvage my faith and my wife and I began attending church once again. While we always talked about trying out different churches in the area, we kept on coming back to Highland Park United Methodist Church. We attended services on an irregular basis throughout our courtship and marriage, but after our son was born in April, we made a commitment to become more devoted parishioners.

Being a member of a church requires certain things from its members, not just tithing and service, but also a commitment to fellowship and worship with other members and to witness to the love of Jesus Christ throughout the local community, which is nearly impossible to do from 150 miles away. The church is there to minister to my family as well and as I reflected on the way FUMC-Atlanta fulfilled the vows they took at my Christening, I realized I wanted the same for my son. In the words of a friend, we decided to stop “stealing God” from our local church and become members.

This past Sunday, we finally joined HPUMC. That night, I messaged a long-time friend, and former fellow FUMC member, that while it felt weird to be a member of a new church, it certainly felt right. For the first time in a long time, I see a chance to capture some of that spiritual nourishment I’ve lacked for such a long period of time.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/new-member/

Oct 07

Before You Blame Tony Romo

Yesterday, Tony Romo posted–statistically–the most impressive game for a quarterback in franchise history. That’s right, no Cowboys quarterback–not Meredith, not Staubach, not White, not Aikman–put up the kind of numbers that Tony Romo did against the Broncos. Indeed, few quarterbacks in NFL history have posted numbers like Romo’s, but in spite of the 506 yards passing and 5 touchdowns, his critics want to dwell on his one interception.

Yes, it came at a critical point of the game, but to blame Romo for yesterday’s loss is foolish.

Football has evolved over the years, but a simple philosophy remains true. If you want to win, you have to be able to run the football and stop the run. Over the past two seasons, when the Cowboys have lost it’s because they could do neither, not because of Romo.

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • Dating back to the start of the 2012 season, the Cowboys have lost 11 games, by an average of 30-23.
  • In those 11 losses, Romo has averaged 337 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception per game.
  • Meanwhile, in those 11 losses, the Cowboys have averaged 17 carries per game for a 68 yard per game rush average.
  • That number is a bit misleading, since it contains one outlier. A 2012 loss to Ravens, in which the Cowboys rushed the ball 42 times for 227 yards. If we remove this game, the Cowboys have rushed the ball an average of 15 times per game for a 53 yard per game average over the remaining 10 losses.
  • Only twice in those 11 losses did the Cowboys have more than 2 rushing attempts after the third quarter.
  • What makes that number even harder to swallow is that the Cowboys were within at least a touchdown of the lead in 8 of the losses heading into the fourth quarter.
  • On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys defense has given up an average of 132 yards a game on the ground in the 11 losses.
  • Only twice, did they hold opponents to less than 100 yards rushing (Ravens – 86 yards; Bears – 93 yards).

When I look at those numbers, I don’t think, “man, Tony Romo is the problem.” Turnovers have always been a problem for him, but turnovers have been a problem for many great quarterbacks (see “Brett Favre”). Hell, every quarterback has a weakness. A good coach will formulate design a game plan to protect his quarterback and make him less vulnerable. For Romo, it seems pretty obvious that you do this by establishing a sustained rushing attack, especially in close games.

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/before-you-blame-tony-romo/

Sep 11

Porquoi?

Porquoi

I often tell people I took the scenic route through college. This included test driving virtually every degree program offered by the school of humanities, including a brief stint as a history major while at the University of Texas-Tyler.

In one of the classes I took that semester, American 20th Century History, the professor sought early on to help us distinguish between current events and historyCurrent events, he taught us, become part of history when we have had ample time to digest them and to gain a certain level of understanding. He went on to say his general rule of thumb was that anything that happened less than ten years ago would probably be considered current events, while anything older than ten years old could comfortably be characterized as history.

Per the course syllabus, the course went through the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the time, we were twelve years removed from that event, and while we all remembered watching the Germans celebrate on top of the wall, we felt far enough removed from it to not question its inclusion in a history class.

That night as I reflected on the professor’s lecture, I realized how quiet the 90′s had been. Sure, the Soviet Union fell, we fought in a few brief skirmishes, and elected a president who enjoyed partying like a rock star, but for the most part the 90′s were marked by peace and prosperity. My journal entry for that night includes the following, “our world is ripe for some big event, where and when will it occur? It’s actually very exciting to ponder the possibilities.

Thirteen days later, I awoke up to the news on my alarm clock radio. For several minutes, I lay in bed, debating whether or not to get up and hit the snooze button. At the time, it sounded like a minor accident and I wanted to get some more sleep before facing the rigors of the day, but I soon realized that this day was going to be different.

Twelve years have passed. As I reflect on that September morning, I now understand some events transcend the binary distinction of current events and history. Instead, some events serve as lines of demarcation in our lives, dividing them into before and after. While the memories remain fresh and emotions real, I find it hard to wrap myself in the flag or to muster much anger. Instead, I prefer a more nuanced approach of remembrance.

Before that day, I faced the same existential dilemmas as many 22 year old college students. On the spine of my (black) journal, I painted in White Out the word “Porquoi,” which seemed to be an acceptable response to anything that happened in my life.

After that day, it seemed to be the only  response.

I remember a few days after talking to a friend. She was a French citizen who had somehow found her way to a small college in East Texas. We often gathered to talk about my favorite French writers—Sartre, Camus, and Moliere—but this day we discussed the event consuming everyone else’s lives.

She told me that she felt vulnerable for the first time in America and, because of that, violated as well. One of the reasons she opted to study in the States, as opposed to France, was the security promised by this land of freedom. Tragedies like this were supposed to happen everywhere else, but not in America.

Seeing the way locals treated two of my friends, because their Lebanese parents had the audacity to give them traditional Lebanese names, proved far more horrifying than anything I had seen TV.

Listening to the rhetoric of ladies at work as they told me what the problem was and what must be done about it, I wondered how such ignorance could exist.

The only thing I could do was throw my hands up and ask, “why?

Over the next few years, I think I asked why at least a thousand times a day.

Why George Bush?

Why Iraq?

Why reality TV?

And then I found some answers.

They came in the form of Amy Lowell’s poem, “September 1918.” Lowell’s poem begins with a description of an early autumn day. The bright blue skies, the glittering sun, the rhythmic motion of the trees all combine to form a peaceful setting to an unnerving time. Vivid imagery allows Lowell to transform a rather mundane event into something moving. Emotions rise and fall; paradox personified. We see “laughing” houses and “two little boys, lying flat on their faces” enjoying the autumn day adding to an already lighthearted affair. The first stanza takes on an neo-Romantic tone with nature glorified and man enjoying her splendor.

In the second stanza, Lowell invokes a new tone.

Some day there will be no war,

Then I shall take out this afternoon

And turn it in my fingers,

And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,

And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves

Today I can only gather it

For I have time for nothing

But the endeavor to balance myself

Upon a broke world.

I gave up trying to understand the events of that day and instead accepted them as products of a “broke world.” Instead, when I take it out and “turn it in my fingers,” I remember the cloudless sky and cool breeze that blew through the streets, reminding us a new season lay just around the corner. I remember the stories of heroism aboard the hijacked planes and in New York and D.C. Most importantly, I remember the way we put aside our differences, for one day, and come together for a common purpose, proving to me that “we are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.”

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/porquoi/

Aug 23

Sympathy for the Devil:Choosing Sides in the Time Warner/CBS Debacle

As a result of our recent move, our family finds itself in the middle of the bitter contract dispute between CBS and Time-Warner Cable. TWC’s digital cable package comes free with our cable unit, so we have no choice but to use them for our TV and Internet services. Since the television service is free (we pay for our internet service), many would say I have no room to complain, but as a former paying TWC customer, this seems to be about par for the course for the nation’s second largest cable provider.

When we last subscribed to TWC, approximately seven years ago, they were locked in a similar dispute with the NFL Network. Every time I asked them about the blackout of the channel, they told me that it would result in higher cable bills for all their customers.

When we moved to a location that allowed us to install DirectTV, not only did we get the NFL Network, but we also paid less and received a much higher quality picture, with a more technologically advanced DVR system.

We then moved to a duplex that offered AT&T UVerse, which surpasses even the quality of Direct for an even lower amount.

The entire time we were DirectTV and UVerse customers, we never lost a single channel over a petty contact dispute, but the second we become TWC customers again, it was deja vu.

So who is at fault here and does losing CBS really matter?

Of all the networks to lose, CBS is definitely the easiest. With the exception of this summer’s breakout hit, Under the Dome, there is not a single CBS show my wife and I watch. I’m a Cowboys fan, so at worst, I am forced to watch two NFL games on CBS each season. I am a fan of SEC football, but that won’t become an issue until September 14, so up until this point, losing CBS has been nothing more than a minor nuisance, since I can’t DVR the Price is Right and have had to watch a Spanish broadcast of a Cowboys preseason game.

Over the past few weeks, profile pieces on TWC’s Melinda Witmer and CBS’s CEO, Les Moonves, have emerged, revealing two intransigent personalities at the heart of the debate. Neither one seems all that pleasant, or willing to compromise, and both seem more concerned with their companies bottom line, than the products they offer to their customers, but as the Wall Street Journal profile of Witmer points out, “since 2010, Time Warner Cable has been in more blackout disputes with broadcasters than any other cable operator.”

TWC has also done very little to reach out to its customers, although we did receive this email today.

On the other hand, while certainly not without his own faults, Moonves has been able to recently secure deals with other carriers that TWC has reportedly rejected. I hate to say it, but I think I have to side with CBS on this one.

Hopefully, these two divas can kiss and make up before September 14. If not, they may both find themselves hearing from one of the loudest groups in the nation, the 12th Man.

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/sympathy-for-the-devil/

Aug 22

On Second Thought, Maybe that Dewhurst Tape Isn’t All That Great

When I first heard the raw tape of David Dewhurst’s call to the Allen police department, I smiled a little bit. “Surely, this will hurt his campaign,” I thought, and after this summer’s special legislative session’s attack on women, I wanted nothing more than to see him defeated in 2014.

Then, I remembered I live in Texas.

The tape may very well hurt his campaign, but I know that his defeat will come at the hands of someone well to his right, most likely the radio shock jock, Dan Patrick (no, not the funny sports guy, but rather the decidedly unfunny Rush Limbaugh starter kit). A theocracy run by the Southern Baptist Convention would be to the Left of the government Patrick would like to establish here in Texas.

As one of the most intolerant members of the Texas Senate, Patrick has pushed through some of the most draconian legislation in our state’s history. To cede to him control of arguably the most powerful seat in Texas politics would be disastrous.

Dewhurst is so divisive, even in the Republican Party, that his power is curbed. If Patrick were elected, his Republican colleagues would probably grant him a bit more of free reign. You know what they say about the devil you know…

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/on-second-thought-maybe-that-dewhurst-tape-isnt-all-that-great/

Aug 08

How to Win an Argument on Twitter

In my 20′s, I trolled many Internet message boards, mainly seeking out political debates. I took pride in getting banned from almost all of them, often under multiple screen names, but over the past few years I have grown into a sort of political maturity and try and exhibit a tad more discipline with the issues I choose to debate.

A few weeks ago, I took up the cause of women’s healthcare here in Texas. Instead of message boards, I used Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. I lost a few Facebook friends over my stand with Texas women, but gained several Twitter followers. Most importantly, I feel like I avoided “trolling.” It was a rewarding experience.

Yesterday, I decided to launch myself into the middle of another political argument, this time with conservative provocateur, Brandon Morse.

It began when Morse, a blogger at Misfit Politics, tweeted the following:

20130808-152810.jpg

I decided to try and find out just what bothered him so much about this list. He relied on the archaic argument that chromosomes alone determine gender, adding:

20130808-162702.jpg

And this jewel:

CP Offensive Tweet

I reminded him that even Pat Robertson subscribed to a more nuanced view of gender, not to mention professional organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Psychological Association (APA), but Mr. Morse was undeterred:

Quadrapod

 

Unconvinced, he asked me for links from these organizations, so I responded with this tweet:

20130808-161253.jpg

 

 

It links to an Amici Curiae brief prepared by the AMA, among other “leading medical and mental health providers,” on the issue of Gender Identity Disorder (GID). I pointed out the second paragraph:

The AMA has recognized GID as a serious medical condition that can cause intense emotional pain and suffering, and when not properly treated, result in clinically significant psychological distress, dysfunction, debilitating depression, and, for some, self-mutilation, thoughts, and attempts of suicide, and death. Based on medical research, the AMA has found that hormone therapy and SRS are medically necessary and effective therapeutic for many people diagnosed with GID.

I told him that I looked forward to hearing his rebuttal to this argument, but after a few minutes I received this response:

BM Defeated

 

 And that my friends is how you win the Internet…

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/how-to-win-an-argument-on-twitter/

Jul 23

The Political Dominos Hit House District 108

District 108

State representative, Dan Branch (R-108), officially launched his campaign for the Texas Attorney General post this morning. It’s a move that shocks no one and represents yet another political domino to fall since Rick Perry announced his intention not to seek reelection.

This announcement leaves my personal district with a huge void. As more than one Democrat friend told me, “he [Branch] is one of the good ones.”

So who will step up and take his place?

Currently, the list of possible candidates looks young and inexperienced, but that’s not always a bad thing. While District 108 still shines bright red, the southern edge certainly looks a bit more purple. Branch’s replacement will need to understand and respect this fact. For the most part Branch did and its one reason he was respected on both sides of the aisle in the Texas legislature.

More than anything, I hope the candidate that wins the right to represent me will have the courage to stand up to the radicals currently in control of the state Republican Party.

Normally, I refrain from writing letters to my elected representatives. I find them to be pedantic, short-sighted, and highly ineffective, but  the debates over HB 2 disgusted me so much I felt compelled to pen Branch a letter earlier this month. In it, I refrained from urging him to vote one way or another on the bill, but instead, drawing from my own personal experiences, reminded him the Texas legislature needed more Bill Ratliffs and less Jodie Laubenbergs.

I think that sums it up pretty well. If I had to design the perfect candidate for District 108, he or she would look a lot like Ratliff.

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/the-political-dominos-hit-house-district-108/

Jul 23

The One Downer About This Parenthood Thing…

Levithan Effect

After testing out virtually every humanities degree program at three different colleges, I finally emerged with a degree in English. In the end, I couldn’t escape my love for books and writing.  It’s a love affair that continues to this day.

Back in December, I bragged in a post that I read 18 books in 2012 and even though I knew things would slow down with the arrival of little Benji, I felt certain I would read at least half that amount in 2013.

Last night, as we prepared for bed, I mentioned to my wife that I’m still trying to finish the same book I started the night she went into labor over thirteen weeks ago, a delightfully thrilling, yet tragically philistine piece of commercial fiction called The Leviathan Effect. Normally, I devour a book like this in a couple of days, but having a child changes everything.

My reading list now consists of Good Night Moon and Brown Bear, after which I may be able to squeeze in 20 minutes of personal reading before I pass out in bed each night. This includes any long reads I may have marked on Twitter during the day.

I’m not complaining. If I pass anything onto my son, I hope it’s a love of reading, but I do miss my books.

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/the-one-downer-about-this-parenthood-thing/

Jul 18

You Never Know Who Your Neighbor Might Be

Normandy and Lomo Alto

With our landlord’s decision to “redevelop” our property comes moving time once again. For the second time, Stephanie and I depended on the services of Rogers Healy & Associates, in my opinion, the best real estate agency in the D/FW area, to find a new place. Last night, our agent stopped by with our new lease to sign and we started talking about previous place we have lived.

Prior to our current home, we spent over three years in a fourplex on Normandy just off Lomo Alto. The entire block was made up of fourplexes originally used as officer quarters for members of the United States Army Air Forces stationed at Love Field training facility during World War II. In spite of the community’s unique history and charm, the owner decided to “redevelop,” otherwise we would still be there.

The owner started by tearing down all the one bedroom units located across the street from us. One of the ladies displaced by the demolition was moved into one of the units in the bottom floor of our building. One night as we returned from dinner, she invited my wife and I into her unit and gave us a brief introduction. She told us she had lived in the same one bedroom unit since the early 1970′s when she had started working as a flight attendant. She proudly showed us copies of her old leases throughout the years and we learned that not only had she lived in the same place, but she also had been with Southwest Airlines since their inception.

As we told this story to our agent, he stopped us and told us he knew our neighbor well. He and his partner rent a room in their house to another Southwest flight attendant. Turns out our former neighbor is a bit of a celebrity at Southwest and perhaps the world’s most modest millionaire.

He pulled up her Wikipedia page, which contained this article and video interview with her from the New York Times. We had no clue. As those that know her can attest, Sandra is the sweetest, most down-to-earth person you’ll ever meet.

After reading the Times piece, I am fascinated with the tale of all the Day 1 Southwest employees. Just another reason they’re my preferred airline.

Permanent link to this article: http://geoausch.com/you-never-know-who-your-neighbor-might-be/

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