About Ken G Crawford

I love spending time with my family, hiking, sailing, walking the beach at sunrise, playing guitar, writing, and engaging in contemplative prayer practices. Since 1990 I have helped individuals and teams develop transformational leadership initiatives. In business, non-profit, faith-based, or community development organizations I help people clarify their thoughts and beliefs, align them with their core values, and experience transformation in their actions. I have a Masters degree from TCU that focuses on human behavior and organizational leadership for the advancement of communities and societies. I am working on a doctorate from SMU focusing on transformational leadership for the rapidly changing global cultural landscape. My professional work has been to partner with individuals as they seek to clarify and pursue their goals. I have worked as an internal and external leadership and life development coach in dozens of organizations. My focus is to help leaders experience the personal transformation that will enable them to create the life they desire in work, relationships and spirituality.

A Celebration of Otis

On Friday, August 6, family, friends and church gathered to remember and celebrate the life of Mark Wayne “Otis” Thornton. We cried, laughed, sang, ate, and drank. We celebrated life, his and our. We celebrated Life. And we gave thanks that we got to share it with him.

Here’s a link to the full service. Below are the thoughts I shared.
If you want to get a “Don’t Mess With Otis” #otisstrong tshirt, you can do that here. There are lots of great photos over on the book of faces, including his page and others.

Mark Wayne “Otis” Thornton

When a soldier dies they place his boots and his rifle and helmet  in memoriam? I feel like we need, right here, those combat boots held together by hope and gumption and copious amounts of duct tape, and a hammer. I’m guessing maybe Mark’s big sister Rebecca introduced him to the Trini Lopes song, and he spent the rest of his life collecting hammers, real and metaphorical, with which to hammer out danger, warning, justice, freedom, and most of all love. Thanks to his dreams for the not so tiny house, he left quite literally an enviable set of construction tools. But there were other tools, weren’t there? Also in his tool belt we would find his laptop, with big data Excel spread sheet on housing, a doo rag, a guitar, his grigri, his backpack, a subaru forester, a wine glass, a spiral bound comp book with pen, his bible and a book of poetry, and of course, fluffy. I’m sure you would add other things to this list. And we own many of these things – sans boots and cat mummy perhaps. So every time we take up those items to use them, or even simply brush a hand over them, we will remember and honor him. What a gift that is and will continue to be.

Hey there. Look at all you beautiful souls – smart, funny, talented, brave and strong. It’s humbling to be up here, but I volunteered as tribute. And like Otis says (having learned it I think from Amylyn) “We do hard things.” So here I am, and here we go.

For those who don’t know, my name is Ken, and Otis was my fraternity big brother in Farmhouse Fraternity at Texas Tech (guns up!). I showed up with a doo rag and earring and birkenstocks to this frat of mostly cowboys and preppies. They took one look at me and said, “See the guy up in the tree with the ponytail and combat boots held together by duct tape? That’s Otis, and he’ll be your big brother.” It took us a while to warm up to each other, but eventually I was drawn (tricked) into his orbit of idealistic and more than slightly obnoxious social justice warriors. We were self-righteous about our causes, but also ironically self-aware with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I suspect many of you had similar experiences with him in other settings – ASP, Vanderbilt, Habitat, Tarrant County, and here in Kingsport. 

Otis was a master at collecting meaningful friendships. He was attractive and engaging because he was curious about people, and because he was an epic storyteller. It doesn’t hurt that he lived some pretty fascinating stories first hand – some of them with many of you gathered here. Someone will need to tell the story of hiking through the train tunnel. Amylyn will have to narrate their encounter with the family of Grizzlys in Alaska. Otis would later tell us, and hopefully her, that was the moment he knew he was in love, when he was ready to lay down his life to protect hers. It took him a minute to fully act on that awareness, but we are all so glad he finally did. All together now, “Do not run!”

There are so many folks about whom we could say, “My life is different because you are part of it. Many relationships impact us in important ways. But of how many can we say, “My life is what it is in large part because of you? You taught me what it means to truly see those living in poverty. You taught me what it means to honor everyone’s home, even if it’s a place that isn’t a house. You challenged me to bring together faith and vocation in concrete ways. You taught me to play at least one cool song on the guitar. You taught me to use a framing square, and now I build stuff too. You taught me that, “It isn’t your ability or inability — it’s your availability.” My life took the trajectory it did in significant part because you showed me that we could “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living,” while still having a fierce wit, a contageous laugh, and a bowl of beans and rice that was always big enough for more folks to have some.

Life with Otis could be compared to those “If you give a mouse a cookie…” books by Laura Numeroff. See if you can do this with your life story: Farmhouse assigned Otis as my big brother. With Otis I went to the Wesley Foundation. With the Wesley we volunteered at Habitat. Our Habitat group  went to ASP. Our ASP group started a Second Helpings Soup Kitchen in two churches. Because of these experiences, I then went to seminary with the hopes of leading others in a life of service. At each of those turns, and every successive one, he was there to inquire, to listen, to encourage, to challenge, to accompany. 

Speaking of accompanying, how many of us have raised kids in Otis’ orbit? We all celebrate how much he loved being their uncle. He relished in the wonder and beauty of our children. I think they helped temper his angst and cynicism. Of course Caroline and Drew are first niece and nephew without compare. And, Mark Otis (Uncle Bobo to us) was also a godfather to so many. He would attend performances and games whenever he was in town. He would teach and play and laugh and inspire. These young ones will no doubt tell the next generation about this man and pass on the lessons of his life.

Freda, Jack and Rebecca, what an amazing human you raised. He may no longer have looked like the preppy kid who left arlington in 1985, but his heart was shaped by you and the people you placed in his life. He was at church, at youth group, and ultimately at ASP becaue of you. He loved, appreciated and admired you so very much. Thank you for launching him and sharing him with us all.

Amylyn. Oh friend. What an unfathomable joy it was for him to find himself back in your life, and to gain two amazing girls in the bargain. You two intuited so early that you as a team would be a force, like bennifer and brangelina, an entity unique and beautiful, that you would be AlOt. A hundred lifetimes with otis would not be enough, I think. And yet…

For now, we sing the christmas carols, 80s rock, and storyteller country songs, we quote the authors and read the scriptures and swing the hammers and write the letters. We show up and stand up and speak up, because he taught us to do this, encouraged us to do this, helped us to do this, relished when we did this, even if we “failed.” Be willing to fail spectacularly. Be willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of other’s comfort. Be willing to enjoy some of the fine things in life while naming that these are a luxury and a privilege not afforded to all. Build tables and kitchens and houses until everyone has enough and more than enough to share.

Speaking of which, you are enough. Yes, even you. Just as you are. You are beautiful, you are beloved, you are enough. He didn’t always know or receive this for himself, but he always wanted that for us.

On forgiveness – The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Matthew 18:21-35

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”


Several things are going on here.

In the text it seems a clear implication that God has much more to forgive than do we, or is at least far more extravagantly forgiving by comparison. 10,000 bags of gold, whatever their worth, is an incalculable debt compared with 100 silver coins. There is truly no way the former could have been paid. It’s hard to imagine how that debt was accrued to begin with. Who let it go that far? What happened to cause such a breach of trust? We don’t know, because that’s not the point.

We do well to note the opening dialogue giving rise to this story: Peter asks how many times should I forgive? The tradition taught that a righteous person would forgive 3 times, so Peter doubles it and adds 1 for good measure,to show how wise he is and how what a good student of Jesus he is.

Nope. Jesus gives a response that suggests there is no limit: 77 times (some translations read 70×7 times) suggests an infinite and perfect forgiveness. After all, whose going to keep count? I might keep track of 7 offenses and on the 8th, you’re done for. But 77 (or 490)? Never. 

Jesus is saying, “Peter, don’t keep score. Forgiveness is not about keeping track and teachings limit. God’s forgiving love is beyond limit, and this is your benchmark.”

Fine. I get that. All well and good.

But are there things that cannot be forgiven? At one point Jesus says “The only unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” But he’s talking about God forgiving us, not about us forgiving. Are there violations that are simply to great to forgive?

Or could it be that we confuse anger born of grief with lack of forgiveness. And could it be that we think forgiving would somehow nullify our grief, make the loss seem less significant, like a betrayal of the trust broken by the violation, a betrayal of our love?

I’ve never known that kind of anger or grief or pain or loss or violation. Many others have, and I hesitate to say what they could or should feel, think or experience.

I will continue to believe in the possibility of redemption and freedom from everything that captures and controls us, including those unforgivable violations.

Moving from the center toward the margins

When you (aka along with your social/ethnic/religious/political group) perceive that you are moving (being moved/”forced”) from the center of influence and power, it may feel like marginalization or discrimination simply because you/we/I experience a loss of privilege. When my privilege declines, whatever the reason, I am likely to experience grief and loss. This may translate into fear or anger.
Even when in the intellectual abstract I recognize that no one group should wield disproportionate influence, when my influence decreases I experience a disequilibrium. It may be this feeling is impossible to avoid, even if I chose and initiate the move away from the center.

As a Christian I need to be reminded that our faith is rooted in this move from the center toward the margins. This move is essential to God’s salvific work. The incarnation itself is God moving from power toward weakness (cf Col 1 & Phil 2). To begin his ministry Jesus moves from Jerusalem to Galilee. The penultimate act of God is submission to trial, conviction and crucifixion as a blasphemer and traitor (placed on the margin of society and culture).

Jesus is the embodiment of God moving from the center to the margin. Genesis 1-2, John 1 and Revelation 20-21 tell us that this is where God chooses and prefers to be – here with us.

What does this mean for the church today, in the West, in the US, here in Dallas? Will we follow God in this move toward the margin and release our hold on he centrality of our power and influence? What will such a move cost us? What will it gain us?

During this Lenten season, my desire is to move toward the margins together with the people of Central. One might argue that my arrival as the Senior Pastor of a church on the border of Highland Park is a move toward the center. This can’t be honestly argued against. And yet for me it is a dance – moving toward the center so that together we might move toward the margins. Clinging to past glory or privilege gains us nothing. Jesus never sought favor because of his royal or priestly lineage. Instead, what if we carry the benefit and privilege we have gained at the center, which may simply be our solid sense of self, and what is possible. What if we take this hope and expectation for the future and carry it with us to the margins, offering hope to others? 

Central Christian Church of Dallas, Texas is literally on the margins of multiple largely homogenous communities: #ParkCities, #NorthPark, #Oaklawn, #Uptown. We are in Dallas (and #DallasISD) but look across the street into #HighlandPark. What might it mean for Central to be literally that – to be the center toward which people from all of these communities move. In the process they would be moving from their own community toward the margins, and toward a meeting place with others.

My friend Matthew Russell and his colleagues at Project Curate are doing exactly this in the city of Houston. Matt is also on staff at St Paul’s UMC in Houston.

Missional church is another way to consider this move. Missional calls us to “go out – go deep – go together”. Missional is a move together into deep community for the sake of going out in to the world, toward the margins, where Christ may be found. When we look at the beatitudes of Luke 6 or Jesus call to serving him by serving others (Mt 25) we are being called to the margins.

How can you move toward the margins in your own life? How can you do it not as a visitor and vacationer, but as a pilgrim, a migrant, with all the inherent trust and vulnerability those suggest?