An Impressive Force of Will

For Independence Day this year, we visited the extended part of my wife’s side of the family. Her closest cousin, Allison, was up from North Carolina and it had been a while since my wife had seen her. Allison and her husband have two kids, the youngest of which (a daughter) is only a little older than our oldest daughter, and though they are similar in age, they could not be more different in personality.

From the moment we got to the get-together, Allison’s daughter assailed us with “why?” questions. Inquisitiveness is nothing new to us. Our own daughter’s first words were, “what’s that?”. But the difference between the questions is that “why?” can lead to more questions of “why?” while “what’s that” is usually answered by a single word or phrase.

After the line of questioning started getting awkward (“Why was that baby made?”), we were able to move her attention onto our oldest daughter by suggesting that they play together. Our oldest daughter is terribly shy and unused to other children, so it came as quite a shock with her slightly older second-cousin grabbed her hand and started leading her toward the screened in gazebo nearby to play.

My wife’s sister, who was in the gazebo at the time, told us that the second cousin’s version of playing was telling our daughter what she was and was not allowed to do.

“You can sit now.”

“You can read this book.”

“You can’t sit there. You have to sit here.”

And so on.


My oldest, on the right, is watching carefully to see what is expected of her in this “hand-holding” ritual.

And for the first half hour or so, our daughter hesitantly obeyed. Everywhere they went, they held hands. Well, our daughter had her hand held whether she wanted it or not. I think she was intimidated by her second-cousin’s impressive force of will. Heck, I was intimidated by the child. But then a funny thing happened. The hand-holding started being mutual. The direction they went started being decided upon by my daughter a bit more. And she finally lost her “deer in the headlights” look and started smiling.

It was one of her first out-of-her-comfort-zone experiences, and she went from uncomfortable to enjoying it in less time than I thought she would. I am pretty proud of her.

It is funny to see how people react in those out-of-comfort-zone experiences. My wife usually stays very quiet and follows the leader for a good long while. My comfort zone is unusually large, so I don’t get to experience this very often, but when I do, it doesn’t usually take me long to adapt. It is funny how my oldest exhibited both behaviors.

What is your natural reaction to being forced from your comfort zone? How long does it take you to adjust?


Great Presidential Quotes

Happy 4th of July!

If you don’t happen to be an American, you can still enjoy this day. You have my permission.

In an attempt at patriotism, I’ve gathered a collection of noteworthy quotes from various presidents. Please enjoy.


William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the United States

To Englishmen, life is a topic, not an activity.


Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States

It is not strange… to mistake change for progress.


Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States

I know only two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle,’ and the other isn’t.


James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter.

A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.

If the power to do hard work is not a skill, it’s the best possible substitute for it.


Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States

I may be president of the United States, but my private life is nobody’s damned business.

Well, there doesn’t seem anything else for an ex-President to do but to go into the country and raise big pumpkins.


Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.

Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer ‘Present’ or ‘Not guilty.’

Don’t hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft.

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.

Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.


William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States

The trouble with me is that I like to talk too much.


Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States

Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it.


Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States & Native Son of Grand Rapids, Michigan

If Lincoln were alive today, he’d be turning over in his grave.

I am bad at first impressions.

Rogers-Will-LOCYou never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

— Will Rogers,
American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor.

While this may well be true, I find myself unable to make a good first impression. Possibly, this has always been the case. But surely since I met my wife.

In fact, I don’t even remember the first time I met her, possibly this was for the best, as it allowed me to feel like I got that elusive second chance at a first impression. But more on that in another post.

Today, I want to share about the first time I met my wife’s cousin, Allison.

DeAnne and I were still dating, and I was invited to her extended family get-together over the 4th of July. It was a good time with lots of food and I got to learn a bit more about the family that I was hoping to be part of someday. On the way down, DeAnne was telling me about some of the family members that we would meet, but I think she talked most about her cousin Allison.

Allison, or Ali, had grown up near my wife’s family when they were both young. Being the cousin nearest in age, they were good friends, but sometime in there, Ali and her family moved to North Carolina. They stayed close though, seeing each other at family gatherings like the one to which we were headed.

I don’t remember if we were instantly beset by the excited shrieks of long overdue, cousinly hellos, or if that came later, but I remember the introductory conversation that I had with Allison.

“It’s so good to meet you,” said Ali. “DeAnne says that you are a really good boyfriend.”

“I try,” I said. “She has a lot of nice things to say about you too.”

“Of course,” said Ali, “if you want to be with my cousin, you’ll have to get my approval first. What do you do?”

“I work at a bookstore, running the music department,” I said. “It’s a good job and I like the people that I work with. How about you? What do you do?”

“I’m thinking about going into Nucular Medicine,” she said.

“Oh, do you mean Nu-cle-ar Medicine? I’ve never head of that, but I’m pretty sure that it is pronounced Nu-cle-ar, not Nuke-U-Ler. Maybe if you can’t pronounce it, you should look at a different field of study.”

“Wow, ouch,” she said. “Well, it was nice to finally meet you.”

“Likewise,” I said, and went off to make a bad impression on someone else.

Just recently, Ali told me that my comments that day struck home, and she stopped pursuing a career in Nuclear Medicine. She now works at a Dentist’s office and I’m pretty sure that she is happy with what she does. All the same, I feel a bit horrible for being so offensive to someone who my wife values so much, especially since I was horrible enough to change the trajectory of her life’s work.

468px-Gypsy_WomanA while back I mentioned that I keep a book where I write down ideas for characters. I realized this past week that one of those character ideas was much more autobiographical than I thought when I wrote it down. The character was a guy who was cursed by a gypsy to only make really bad first impressions. The gypsy saw herself as doing the guy a favor, because anyone who could be friends with him after such a bad first impression was likely to be a true friend. Anyway, I just realized that I was writing about myself. Unfortunately, I also appear to be the gypsy.

Anyway, sorry Ali. And thank you to all of my true friends who are able to look past the horrible first impression that I made.

A King and a Kingdom | Happy 4th of July

Picture taken by Thomas Campbell on 9/24 at the Derek Webb concert at Ecclesia Church in Houston, Tx.When it comes to music, there are people who listen to the CD in its entirety and there are people who get stuck on one song and listen to it over and over. I fall into the latter category, especially when it comes to the music of Derek Webb.

I first heard Derek on the self-titled Caedmon’s Call record back in the early 2000’s. I think my brother is the one who introduced me to Caedmon’s Call. Anyway, back then, the song that I got stuck on was “Center Aisle.” Even now, I can’t listen to the song just once when it comes up on my iPod.

But what does that have to do with the 4th of July?

Ever since he went solo, Derek Webb has been a prophetic voice in the classic sense of reproving the church. His songs are not toe-tapping ditties meant to entertain. They are calls to action, uncomfortable reminders, and scourging truths. That said, they still fall into the “can’t listen to it just once” category for me. Maybe because I need to hear the truth again and again for it to sink in. Maybe I just enjoy the songs.

Either way, I wanted to share the lyrics for Derek Webb’s song “A King and a Kingdom” today, as Americans feel the swell of patriotism, in order that we may not forget that if we are Christians, the USA is not our final home and our allegiance is owed to one greater than this country or any country.


A King and a KingdomMockingbird

 Appears on: Mockingbird

Who’s your brother, who’s your sister
You just walked past him, I think you missed her
As we’re all migrating to a place where our Father lives
‘Cause we married into a family of immigrants

So my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a King and a Kingdom

There are two great lies that I’ve heard
The day you eat of the fruit of that tree you will not surely die
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle class Republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like him


And nothing unifies like a common enemy
And we’ve got one sure as hell
He may be living in your house
He may be raising up your kids
He may be sleeping with your wife
Oh he may not look like you think