Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From Boston

He knew all the lyrics, but his mind had chosen only these two lines to recycle:

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice!

He paused. People? Or peoples? He could not remember. He knew all the words but this one letter troubled him. Regardless, on cycled the lines, unceasing and uncontrolled.

The scene around him seemed familiar. Night’s darkness stretched out in all directions around his highwayed car, except to his front where the decreasingly faint glow of a city seemed to hover. Escaped light oozed into the sky creating the haze. He recalled his freshmen astronomy lab, many years prior, where he had anticipated studying stars, galaxies, universes! Oh, what heavenly glory! Instead, the first lab taught on the tragedy of carnal light pollution. The TA had spoken as if the issue were the most urgent humankind faced in the 21st century. Genocide? AIDS? Sex trafficking? They could all wait.

He had failed that lab. The only assignment he would ever fail in college. Apparently haze was his thing.

I-93S now stretched out in front of him towards the glow, the airport where he was to pick up an incoming friend his destination. He loved driving, loved the windows down and the music up. But tonight, he kept the distracting radio off. The silence was new to him.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people(s?) rejoice!

His last visit to the city had come in a dream. He did not remember much – night, fear, a call that intuited: “Come.” This night reminded him of that night in a way he could not grasp. But unlike that dreamed night, fear was far from him, and this was rare. Also unlike that night was the fact that he was very much awake, not the object of sleep’s oppressive fantasy but the alert, alive, awake shaper of his own thought. He should have had control and yet his thoughts, like the recycling Sunday song, felt uncontrolled.

He was awake tonight. That unnerved him.

Only miles from the city, his Sentra pulled up to a toll booth. His prior home knew of no such thing, the money for road maintenance secretly hidden away in taxes on such things as gasoline, food, and cigarettes. In New England, the toll had become more obvious. Until, that is, he had discovered the E-Z Pass. As much a sign of New England as Tom Brady and Dunkin’ Donuts, the purple E-Z Pass attached to the upper windshield of a car and allowed the driver to roll through tolls sans stop. It appeared easy, as if the journey demanded no cost.

As he passed through the toll booth that night, E-Z Pass electronically detracted $1.50 from the bank account where he stored his treasure. He was no different than those who stopped to pay, who knew the physical toll, except that he allowed E-Z Pass to deceive him. He even paid for the misdirection. The deceptive purple E-Z Pass box had cost $26.79 to purchase. A small price to pay for a pass to the E-Z life, he had thought.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people(s) rejoice!

The lights of the city had taken shape by now, the haze of the previous miles giving way to the articulate clarity of the night skyline. A bridge stood out amongst the copse of skyscrapers, it suspensions seeming to defend the TD Banknorth Garden. The building’s tenants, the Boston Celtics, would play a do-or-die Game 7 there the next night after failing to earn a series-clinching win on the road the night before. The Celtic pride that overflowed in thumped chests and condescending sneers in the friendly paradise of the Garden seemed terrified of taking its talents to a hostile environment. He despised the hometown team for this and secretly (the locals would tar and feather him if they knew!) hoped they would get what he knew their heartless team deserved – a Game 7, season-ending loss.

The car dove closer to the city. The Prudential Building stood alone off to his right, cut off from the community of scrapers that composed the city proper. He always found this set-up peculiar. Did Prudential’s offer of insurance have no place?

The uncontrolled refrain in his head quickly forced the question into silenced submission, as it continued its cerebral tyranny.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the peoples rejoice!

If he had to guess, “people” should be “peoples.” He knew not why, but “peoples” was his gut feeling.

Speeding into the city, the car quickly plunged into the Big Dig, the underwater and undercity tunnel which would lead him to his final destination. Boston Harbor floated above his head as he sped through the tunnel. The harbor again brought to mind his last nocturnal visit to the city when he had recalled it as the foot of the watery trail which carried America’s first settlers. A trail must run in two directions though, and he wondered why he had defaulted Boston Harbor as the foot. It could just as easily be the head if something were to be sent.

The thought jolted his worldview for a moment. This beloved city he had always seen as a destination, both in American history and in his own life. The place seemed to beckon. Or perhaps he had only made it seem to beckon. . . .

Foolishness! America always beckons! People yearn for this place. We send nothing because nothing wants to go. The watery trail ran and runs to, and not from, Boston. It must. We can send nothing because nothing needs to go.

His car emerged from the tunnel, where a green exit sign for “Revere” immediately called to it. The town took the name of the patriot who was sent to tell the good and dangerous news that ultimately led to freedom for many.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the peoples rejoice!

The silver Sentra soon passed by the sign that read: “Welcome to Logan International Airport.” He had arrived at his destination.

In an unexplainable and uncontrolled instant, he became certain, absolutely certain, the word was “peoples.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Work

Gentlemen may cry “Peace! Peace!” - but there is no peace.
-Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775


Your thoughts? Nay, mine. My ways? Not thine. And yet
My word goes forth, oft in thy hand, to do
All I see fit. Ripe fruit it does beget.
The word, the work, the will are mine and you,

our plans!

You are mine, too. I know when you will rise
And you will set, a star within my sky.
My word went forth, a-lit thine darkened eyes
To see, afore you e’er did think to try

Ive done
I do
I will do
why dont you?

To find me. In surety, peace I labor
From town to town, the reason why I came.
Now still, as then, no fret in me doth stir
For I am Do – all work bows at my name.

I will my work, my world to re-conquest;
My word shall do, so you, in work, can rest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Or Maybe. . . .

"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly." -Soren Kierkegaard

Perhaps there really is no ordering to them. Perhaps the Beatitudes really are this easy:

Be humble. God will bless you, and something good involving the kingdom of heaven will happen to you.

Take heart in times of grief. God will bless you and comfort you.

Think of and treat others as more important than yourself. God will bless you, and one day something good will see your inheritance.

Desire what is good. God will bless you, and one day you will see righteousness win.

Give mercy to other. God will bless you and will have mercy on you.

Pursue righteousness. God will bless you, and you will see him.

Work for peace. God will bless you and adopt you as his child.

Stand when you are abused for loving good. God will bless you, and you will receive the kingdom of heaven.

Perhaps in looking for order in the Beatitudes, I am trying to explain away that which is patently clear.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More Beatitudinal Musings

Another, perhaps more conventional, grouping of the Beatitudes would seem to differentiate the first four as describing our oppression while the last five would describe our efforts.

The postures described in v. 3-6 all describe an earthly oppression derived from some lack in this world (spiritual poverty, grief, humility, desire for righteousness). These postures are never ideal by the world's standards, as they involve pain, a lack of happiness and comfort, which one perceives to be the goal of life by mere observation. Christ describes these folks as blessed, however, because in this earthly oppression, one finds the spiritual freedom of blessedness, defined here simply as the reality of God's presence.

The postures described in v. 7-12 all describe efforts one makes in pursuing righteousness (offering mercy, being pure, working for peace, standing amidst persecution, again refusing to bend when persecuted). Christ describes these folks as blessed because they aim to pursue righteousness, to do that which God commands them to do. In their efforts to serve and please God, they become blessed by the reality of his presence in their actions.

One could then conclude from this that God's presence follows us regardless of circumstance. Whether his people find themselves in times of godly dissatisfaction or in times of Kingdom work (and perhaps all times in between?), Jesus has called them blessed, that is living with the reality and knowledge of God's presence in their lives.

Perhaps the Beatitudes simply reveal the truth that God's presense and work in the lives of His people is not chained to circumstance.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Beatitude Thoughts

If you get a chance, take a quick look at the Beatitudes:

Do you think there is any flow or reason to the ordering? Do they each just stand alone as nice postures to be in or is there a grander theme by what is chosen and the order they are chosen in?

What do you think about this:

There are 9. The first 4 seem to argue that those who are blessed are in a posture of need (poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty). The middle one is mercy. Perhaps all 9 turn on the entrance of mercy into the equation. The last 4 seem to argue that those who are blessed are in a posture of righteousness (pure in heart, peacemaking, persecuted, persecuted again).

Could this not be the Gospel? Sin and Recognized Need --> Mercy and Conversion --> New Heart and Sanctification

Am I oversimplifying the ordering or imposing on it what I want to see?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Story Telling

An excerpt from an introduction to student testimonies I gave a couple Thursdays ago at our weekly Large Group meeting:

One of the hallmarks of true community is honesty, vulnerability, this idea of “being real.” In community, we truthfully share our lives with each other, that we might really know one another and truly be able to care for one another. So in the interest of real community, I am going to get vulnerable with you all tonight. I’m going to share with you one of the deepest, darkest secrets I have in my life – something that no man in his right mind would ever admit:

I like Grey’s Anatomy. If you press my on the issue, I might even say I LOVE Grey’s Anatomy. I think it’s the most intriguing show on television, the only one which I will carve out specific time in my schedule to watch – or TiVo because I'm at Large Group.

I’m fascinated by the stories of the characters – of Meredith’s strained relationship with her mother, of chief’s being torn between the woman he loves and the woman he’s committed to, of Addison’s attempt to find purpose in a world full of broken relationships, of Alex’s life change from tough guy bad boy to female heart-throb, of George’s attempt to navigate life without his deceased father, of Christina’s battle to choose love over stress, of Bailey’s story to try to keep this whole hospital full of interns intact, of McDreamy and his hair, of McSteamy and his ego.

I love these characters’ stories. And I love how all their stories come together to form “Grey’s Anatomy.” All their stories come together to form this one great story.

InterVarsity is a Christian organization, and we believe in God, the God who came to earth and revealed himself to humans through the person of Jesus Christ. We believe this God has a story. From the beginning of time, he has been writing it. Today, he is writing it. And forevermore, he will continue to write this never-ending story.

God’s story is the story of his interactions with humankind. It is rife with romance, with tragedy, with redemption, with victory, with sacrifice, with adventure. It is the story of God’s love for us, of our rejection of that love, and of God’s ceaseless work to bring us back to that love. It is a great story.

Whether you realize it or not, you have a story, a story of your interaction with this God, a story that is part of God’s greater story. Just as Meredith’s story, George’s story, McDreamy’s story come together to form the story of "Grey’s Anatomy," so do all of our stories come together to form part of the greater story that God continues to write.

The stories of our interactions with God are as numerous as there are people in the room tonight. At various points in each of our stories, there have been dramas that would make Grey’s Anatomy look like child’s play, there have been comedies written by circumstance that even Dane Cook couldn’t think up, there have been adventures known only in the days of ancient Sparta, there have been horror stories with fear that would intimidate even Stephen King, there have been romances which Nicholas Sparks’s notebook could never contain. They are great and wild stories. And we believe that all of our stories have the same theme - God stopping at nothing in his work to call his people into a deeper and deeper relationship with himself.

He is bringing forth his story one story at a time.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Just a Little Friendly Heads Up

I made a mistake last night. I said it was cold.

And it was cold. After a sunny day in the mid-70's, the temperature had dropped to the chilly 40's as I walked to our Leadership Meeting at 7:00pm dressed to the hilt in khaki shorts and flip-floppery. Here, I uttered my climatic slur.

I received varied reactions from the UNH IV student leaders. One let out a Santa Clausian chuckle which communicated, "I know something you don't. Ha Ha Ha." Another gave me a quizzical look wondering why her staff worker was telling a lie. A third informed me that the weather outside was not, in fact, cold but "nice." I quickly quieted down and resolved to send Meteorological Me into hibernation for the rest of the winter.

Upon returning to my apartment after the meeting, I found an e-mail from the Prayer Coordinator of entitled "Just a Little Friendly Heads Up." It made me laugh. Then I reflected. That made me cry. Whether you are in the mood for comedy or tragedy, I thought you all might enjoy:


60 F: Southern Californians shiver uncontrollably. People in New England sunbathe.
50 F: New Yorkers try to turn on the heat. People in New England plant gardens.
40 F: Italian & English cars won't start. People in New England drive with the windows down.
32 F: Distilled water freezes. Maine's Moosehead Lake's water gets thicker.
20 F: Floridians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves, wool hats. People in New England throw on a flannel shirt.
15 F: New York landlords finally turn up the heat. People in New England have the last cookout before it gets cold.
0 F: All the people in Miami die. New Englanders close the windows.
10 below zero: Californians fly away to Mexico. The Girl Scouts in New England are selling cookies door to door.
25 below zero: Hollywood disintegrates. People in New England get out their winter coats.
40 below zero: Washington DC runs out of hot air. People in New England let the dogs sleep indoors.
100 below zero: Santa Claus abandons the North Pole. New Englanders get frustrated because they can't start their "kahs."
460 below zero: All atomic motion stops (absolute zero on the Kelvin scale). People in New England start saying, "cold 'nuff for ya?"
500 below zero: Hell freezes over. The Red Sox win the World Series."

Come, Lord Jesus.

Preferably before winter.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Will You Take Me Back?

So, yeah, about the last couple weeks. . . .

This seems a bit awkward.

I guess I owe an apology to anyone still hanging around Redeeming Prufrock. I feel like I have returned to middle school where one ends relationships not through conversation or even an argument but through silence and the total disregard for the other's existence.

Ah, but dear reader, I did not mean to break up! I merely needed some time alone. You know, to clear my mind. I mean, it wasn't you, it was me. . . .

Ok, I'm a prude. I know, I know, I could've at least called. Or blogged. Or commented. Or something. Anything.

I really hate to write that I have been really busy. Everyone says they are busy to the point that the word carries no substantive meaning any longer. I sometimes think "I'm busy" has replaced "Good" as the generic response to the introductory question: "How's it going?" Saying "I'm busy" is like saying nothing.

Thus, I shan't say I have been too busy to blog. Had I wanted to badly enough, I would have made time for it. This week, I made time to watch the Tar Heels. I made time to read a book. I made time to eat lunch. If I (and I suspect we) want to do something badly enough, I make time for it.

So as to the silence: I have discovered over the past month that my Meyers-Briggs test stands correct. I am an introvert. My new job demands that I spend most of my time with people, which I love. People matter. However, I have found that spending time with folks wears me out. At the end of the day, I usually meet relational and intellectual exhaustion. So when time comes to write, I have trouble stringing coherent words together. I love words too much to treat them so lightly.

I have not retired from the blogosphere as previously reported in the comments. I merely must re-find my place in it, a place where I can contribute something blogworthy without eight hours of book-shelving/brainstorming each day. This process occupies my thoughts at the moment.

Consider this a DTR (Define the Relationship, for those unfamiliar with the lingo these days). I hope to redefine our relationship in a manner that works well for both of us.

If, that is, you will take me back.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

So I'm Here, Now What?

I give my first ever talk at an InterVarsity Large Group tonight with the hopes of providing a welcoming place for freshmen new to the college environment and of inviting them into God's transformational work at UNH. If you are the praying type, this all goes down around 7:30, so any prayers before then will receive great thanksgiving from your humble hack. Here's a snippet from what I hope comes out of my mouth tonight:

“So I’m here, now what?” It’s the question of the week. Somehow or another, you all got to this room, tonight. “So I’m here, now what?”

I cannot answer this question for you. At the moment, I cannot even answer it for myself. Quite a case of the blind leading the blind. What I can answer for you though is where InterVarsity is going, and I chose these words carefully because I do believe that we are, in fact, going somewhere. We are a Christian organization, and one of the biggest misconceptions of Christianity – both inside and outside of the church - is that it is a monument, a place to gather people who believe like us and think like us and look like us and just sit around and do stuff like wear halos, have no fun, “grow,” and be holy.

But this is not Christianity. Christianity is not a monument. It is a movement. And we here at InterVarsity are a part of that movement. Tonight, I want to respond to the question “So I’m here, now what?” with an invitation to you all to come along with us to where we are going.

I have recently become fascinated by the Greek myth of Sisyphus. According to lore, Sisyphus was an ancient king of the Greek city of Corinth. He was a wily man, known specifically for his deceitfulness and trickery. Tales range far and wide of how he seduced his niece, how he usurped his brother’s throne, how he betrayed the secrets entrusted to him by Zeus. My man Sisyphus was a rascal, a rogue, a rapscallion even, and this troubled the Greek gods to no end. When Sisyphus died, they decided to punish him for his life of deception. His fate: they condemned him to an eternity of rolling a huge boulder up a steep hill. Now, rolling a ball up a hill isn’t that bad. But here’s the kicker. Every time he neared the crest of the hill, the boulder would slip from his grasp and fall back to Ground Zero where he must begin again and again and again. . . . all with the same futile result. His eternal fate was frustration.

I have fallen in love with this story because, in times of transition such as now, life often feels like this to me, that I am pushing a huge boulder up to the top of a hill but each time I get close it merely falls back on top of me. I work hard all through high school to get to college – where I feel new, awkward, lonely even, left at the end of my labors asking the disappointing question, “So I’m here, now what?” I study for hours on end, rearranging my schedule and saying “No” to things I really want to do - only to bomb the midterm anyways. I spend weeks leaving everything I’ve ever known behind me and moving 900 miles from home all to realize that I’m here now, and I have no clue what I need to be doing - except pulling against the Yankees and eating Dunkin’ Donuts.

Life often feels like the boulder never crests the hill, despite my best efforts.

I tell that story as a point of contrast because the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is not like this. In fact, it is the exact opposite of this. If life sometimes seems to be a laborious and futile upward push of the boulder that never really accomplishes anything substantial, then the Kingdom of God is a snowball running downhill collecting us along its path and giving us purpose, progress, and peace. It is a bold, but tender, movement.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at UNH is a part of this movement. We are going somewhere.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

An Elephant Invasion of UNH

A little UNH in the news:

Tonight, a Republican presidential primary debate will be held at the Whittemore Center on the campus of the University of New Hampshire. Tune in to Fox News at 8:30 to see the arena in which my new second favorite college team - I'm a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred - plays hockey. I was unable to find any tickets for tonight, which is good preparation for me because I hear hockey tickets are few and far between up here. Still, I never miss a chance to brag a little on my new school; the center of the political universe, or more aptly the right of the political universe, comes to Durham, NH tonight.