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:

"NEW ENGLAND TEMPERATURE CONVERSION CHART

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.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cutting Out a Home

When moving to a new region, one must find certain places of comfort. Church, for example. Life often feels unstable in a new place without church community. I still seek the feeling of home which this comfort will provide me.

Today was a big day for me though because today I found one of these places. I found my barber.

His name is Al. His title: "Master Barber" at Champion Cuts. That's right, folks, not an "Apprentice Barber" or even a "Regular Barber." A "Master Barber." His business card says so.

Now you may think I exaggerate, that perhaps this topic does not seem blog-worthy. However, I do not like hair. It annoys me. I hate it when it creeps onto my ears, and I hate it when it sprouts on the back of my neck. I hate when it becomes long enough I can twist it and play with and not keep my hands off it. Thus, if a barber does not adequately fight back the side-hair climbing onto my ears and do some good tapering work, he has monumentally failed me. I take this very seriously.

I have spent the better part of the last four years of my life away from Charlotte and have yet to find a barber who does an adequate job. Chapel Hill, Williamsburg, Boston - none provide the comfort and home of my barber in Charlotte.

So when I strolled down to Champion Cuts today, I almost did not enter. I had lost hope given past experiences. Perhaps another barber simply did not exist who could match the standard set for so many years in Charlotte. Yet, my friends, suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope.

I choose to hope. I enter.

Al is a big dude with a bald-head. As we began, he asks me what I have up today, and I say I work at the university. Soon I would go to work. He asks me what I do. I reply I work with a campus ministry. This almost kills our conversation, as it almost did with my landlord, as it almost did with George the Chinese take-out guy last night, as it almost does with most folks I meet up here. People find Jesus awkward here, and they do not hide it. I respect that. Facade does no one any good.

I have become adept at pushing through the awkwardness caused by my occupation, so I make a comment about Appalachian St. beating Michigan. Unlike nearly everyone in New Hampshire, I knew of App. St. before they beat Michigan. I feel like I have known a secret that everyone else has just learned about, and now is my time to shine. I shine, talking about a friend I know who goes to school there and must have had a grand party Saturday night.

Pushed through awkwardness. Al and I still have a chance!

On the wall in front of the chair hangs a great deal of Boston sports memorabilia. This is Champion Cuts, after all. Right in front of me hangs a picture from the New England Patriots Super Bowl victory over my beloved Panther Nation in 2004. I have never cried over a sporting event. I came closest at that loss.

This almost ruins me and Al. Some things I cannot tolerate. Re-opening old wounds remains one of them.

But Al tapers. Al takes a two-guard to the edges of my ears. What's best, Al only charges 11 bucks. The price remains low enough that I can leave a substantial tip and still feel like I get a deal. The quickest way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, but the surest way to capture it is through his wallet. Thus, I find reason to ignore the Super Bowl poster. It's only a game, after all, and some things are more important than sports.

Like hair.

I have still yet to find a church home. I still do not know where I will go watch the Panthers on Sunday. But today, I found a barber.

Today, Dover became a little bit more my home.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Coffeeloo

Today presents itself as a watershed moment in my life. Today, I abstain from Dunkin' Donuts for the next 30 days. Today, I also embark on the longest work day of the year.

Napoleon had his Waterloo. Today, Ben may have his Coffeeloo.

We welcome 3000 new students to UNH today, 1000 of whom attended InterVarsity's Ice Cream Social last year. The number has doubled each of the past three years, so we expect at least quadruple digits tonight. We spend the day advertising and preparing for tonight's festivities, before diving into that daunting, week-long task known simply as "follow-up." After meandering through ice cream, door knocking, more ice cream, coffee, ultimate frisbee, the week ends Thursday night with our first Large Group Meeting of the year - and the first of my UNH life.

Exciting times, these are.

Demanding ones, as well. Especially without Dunkin' Donuts.

Lord, have mercy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Holy Jealousy

My favorite story of this past week's chapter camp came courtesy of a student from the University of Rhode Island. He began his story by telling that of Gideon, how the latter brought an army of 22,000 to wage battle against the Midianites. The Lord told him 22,000 was too many, so Gideon sent 12,000 home. The Lord again told Gideon that 10,000 was too many and proceeded to scatter the army all the way down to 300.

22,000 troops down to 300. Yet, the Lord, and undoubtedly not the army, brought victory in the ensuing battle.

Similarly this week, the Lord whittled down the URI contingent at camp to disappointingly low numbers, especially given that URI has one of the largest fellowships in New England that crests triple digits in numbers of students regularly attending their events. Yet, this student told of vision given, hope restored, God's purposes accomplished.

Triple digits down to single ones. Yet, the Lord, and undoubtedly not the students, brought victory this week at chapter camp.

I spoke to the student after he shared, thanking him for telling his story. He replied quite simply:

"The Lord is very jealous of his glory. He refuses to let it go to another."

I love this about the Almighty. He remains jealous of his glory, refusing to allow us to take credit for the wonderful things that he does. Certainly, Israel could not take credit for a major military victory with only 300 soldiers present. Certainly, URI could not take credit for the kingdom's advancement this past week. The credit, the glory goes to the Lord God Almighty, as it should all the time. Praise God for times like this when he shows us that reality and refuses to let our pride take credit for the transformational work that he is doing.

The Lord is very jealous of his glory indeed. He refuses to let it go to another.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lent in September

You can tell a lot about someone by his or her trashcan.



Case in point: I like Dunkin' Donuts. In North Carolina, Dunkin' Donuts exists as junk food; accordingly, my semi-addiction left me a glutton. In New England, Dunkin' Donuts exists a staple, a way of life even; accordingly my growing addiction leaves me, well, normal. Normality eludes me most days in this strange and foreign land, so I cling to it on a daily basis at the purple and orange. My trashcan reveals this.

This September, however, my trashcan will remain empty. I will not consume Dunks coffee. I will not gorge on Dunks donuts. In fact, I will not visit Dunks at all.

Lent comes early this year for your humble hack.

Now, dear reader, you may find yourself asking, "Why this new found abstinence? Health kick? That seems rather out of character. Budget cuts? Well, coffee only costs $2.00. Tired of taking out the trash, perhaps? Foolishness! A small price to pay for such excellence! If not these reasons, then why?"

Glad you asked. Allow me to explain.

The InterVarsity chapter at the University of New Hampshire will travel to the Gulf Coast this Spring Break to help with the continued Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Three years later, much work still remains to help people recover their lives, though you might not know this since the media and many celebrities have not found it chic to continue pointing towards the need. Regardless, it remains and desperately so.

Last year, InterVarsity in New Hampshire sent 70 students (2 of whom were the co-captains of UNH's nationally ranked football team) down to the Gulf, half of whom did not profess a faith in Christ. Here, they found themselves exposed to suffering, Christians who care about that suffering, and the biblical truth about how God responds to this suffering. In short, they heard the Gospel and saw it in action. This year, we have implemented a new program called "Bring a Friend to Build." The gist: this Spring Break, any IV student who invites and brings someone not currently involved with the fellowship goes for half the $400 price. The invited friend also attends for half price.

We have to raise money to make this happen. To do so, some of the InterVarsity staff, self included, will embark on a marathon. No, not the kind that involves lots of running. We will take on a task much bolder, much riskier than that. We will tackle a 100-hole (yes, 100 holes!) golf marathon in one day, that day being September 24. Trees, houses, rodents, anything within reach of my slice, beware!

I seek sponsors for this endeavor.

Enter: my trashcan.

Now, I do not have a lot of money to fling around. Most of you find yourselves in similar situations, especially considering I have already approached most of you for money to fund my salary. However, I do somehow find enough money to fling around each day at Dunkin' Donuts - specifically, $3.00/day for a coffee and 2 donuts, 6 days/week, 4 weeks/September. Abstaining from coffee and donuts will free up $72 over the course of September.

I challenge you, dear reader, to find something in your trashcan you can give up for the month of September to enable someone to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ this March. Magazines. Coffee. Little Debbies. Deodorant. Sweet Tea. Beer. Movie Tickets. Join me in giving something up for the month of September and committing the savings to non-Christians seeking Jesus Christ.

If you commit $0.25/hole, that would be $25. $0.50/hole would come out to $50. If you committed $2/hole, you would send one non-Christian to the Gulf. All donations are tax deductible.

If this peaks your interest, send an e-mail to ben_humphries@ivstaff.org to let me know. I will let you know how, when, and where to give. If we can get enough people interested, I will write a post on it, and we can keep track of how our abstinences progress (or, even more entertainingly, fail) throughout the month of September. I may even ask some of you to write a post to let us know how it goes.

What's more, we will have much to celebrate together come Spring Break.

You can tell a lot about a person by his or her trashcan. May your trashcan make a statement about the Kingdom of Jesus Christ this September.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Slaughter Rule, Anyone?

Odd Encounter of the Week: "BAL Bullpen: 4IP 20H 24ER 7BB 7K"

This box score line rolled across my television last night, as ESPN rocked me to sleep with its Sportscenter lullaby. For those not familiar with baseball, that line reads as followed: four innings pitched, twenty hits, twenty-four earned runs, seven walks, and seven strike-outs.

The line did nothing to help me sleep. It simply made me laugh out loud. In my 400-sq ft apartment, all alone, I shamelessly cackled for seconds on end. It reminded me of the time I laughed out loud while reading a book on punctuation. Despite how it may sound, I stand not embarrassed. It was just that funny. Same deal last night.

The Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles last night 30-3. And no, these teams do not play football. In fact, that Baltimore FOOTBALL TEAM had not given up 30 points since 2005. This may, in fact, exist as the grandest professional sports thrashing of my lifetime. For certain, the four innings pitched by the Baltimore bullpen have to exist as the worst collective effort of any group of athletes in recent sports memory (though I am open and eager for a discussion of this which will no doubt lead to more smiles and laughter).

The stats around this thing are horrifyingly hilarious. They are also well-documented (and will continue to be) by ESPN. However, I feel a couple comments particularly noteworthy:

-Going into the 4th inning, a third of the game already over, the Rangers trailed 3-0. Going into the 6th inning, the game more than half finished, they had a paltry 5-3 lead. They won 30-3 with a, uh, strong finish.

-They set the record for most runs ever scored in a double-header - BEFORE THE SECOND GAME HAD EVEN BEGUN.

-The Rangers had scored two runs total in their last two games.

-The Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia entered the game batting .179. He finished batting .262.

-Two players hit two home runs in the game. Texas also hit two grand slams.

-Not one of the runs given up by the Baltimore bullpen, not a one, came as a result of an error. No blame, no excuses, no rationalizations. Every run, hard earned.

-And perhaps my favorite stat of all, Texas pitcher Wes Littleton EARNED A SAVE for his work to protect a 27-run lead. On a night of hilarity, nothing remained funnier than the diction and reality of this.

Oh, why not? One more time. We may never see anything this funny in professional sport again.

BAL Bullpen: 4IP 20H 24ER 7BB 7K

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where's My Denomination?

I never knew I liked denominations until now.

In my observations of folks my age, I think this love for denomination places me in the minority - or at the very least, in a majority which makes far less noise than the minority.

I liken church denominations to political parties, something else which seems to have fallen out of favor these days. People often claim that parties divide us and make us hate one another. 'Tis not the parties which divide us but the issues around which parties form; these divisive issues would remain with us whether parties went the way of the woolly mammoth or not. As far as not liking each other, we do such a fantastic job of that in most realms of life that certainly we cannot blame our relational discord on such constructions as political parties. They simply organize our dislike which could actually make it easier to quench.

Parties do a fantastic job of relaying to the public a general political ideology to which a candidate subscribes. This can then clue us in to where this person stands on specific issues. Certainly politicians do not line up rank and file on all issues, and they often cross party lines. Even then, the line crossing creates such a stir as to alert us very forcefully to the person's stance on said issue. Thus, we become informed. For the job of informing the public, parties perform adequately.

Denominations perform a similar task, articulating where certain groups of the body of Christ stand on certain issues. Disagreements within the body exist as a simple reality. This should not surprise, as the perspective of a big toe would stand quite different from that of the elbow joint.

Denominations have taken much heat for causing these dreaded (cue dark, haunting voice) "divisions in the body." I often find this phrase hyperbolized, as generally denominations differ on tertiary issues unrelated to the heart of the Gospel, that Christ died for sinners among whom I am foremost. Using such harsh diction as "divisions," we often make mountains out of molehills, divisions out of differences when really we stand more on the same page than not. What's more, these disagreements would exist irrespective of the existence of denominations. We would simply disagree in a less organized fashion which could prove even more disastrous.

What I find particularly useful about denominations lies in the accountability which the concept provides. Forgive my use of the cultural curse word, but stereotypes do exist in our world and often ground themselves in much truth. Denominations carry stereotypes, but the fact that they do provides constant opportunity to ensure that we combat the negative aspects of these stereotypes.

For example, the denomination to which I subscribe often stands accused of being too academic at the expense of the relational and of caring too little about social causes. Whether fair or not, this reputation forces us to make sure we do focus on the fact that God very really LOVES us and that we very really love the people in the world whom he also loves. If we avoid becoming defensive, the very existence of denominations can help ensure that the main thing is that we keep the main thing the main thing - or something like that.

I have found that the New Hampshire (and I suspect the New England) church does not deal in denominations as heavily as the church in the South does. Perhaps this emerges from the fewer amount of churches here in the Northeast or from the desperate need for unity in an environment overtly disinterested, and often hostile, to Jesus Christ. I stand certain that good, godly, biblical reasons explain this lack of denomination.

However, it makes it darn hard for a new person, namely me, to find a church. Without denominations, I have no clue where to start my search, as I know nothing about any church I visit save for what their website may articulate - which is to say, not much. I imagine I could visit a church for several weeks without knowing rather important beliefs like whether it thinks the resurrection is metaphor or reality or whether it believes all religions follow the same God or not. Without denominations, it makes it difficult to ensure orthodoxy.

I do believe the lack of denomination a good thing for the church in New Hampshire if for no other reason than the people here have obviously decided it so. It merely makes it inconvenient for me, and so I whine. I'm impatient! I want a church!! And I want it now!!! [insert whiny, 3 year old in the grocery store tantrum now] The lack of denomination has slowed that process down.

I never knew that I like denominations until now.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Prayer Request

If you have read Redeeming Prufrock for any amount of time, you know by name and comment the husband and wife combo of Chris and Jenn Pappa. They comment often, with wisdom and wit no less. I found out this morning that Jenn has been hospitalized with what doctors suspect is viral meningitis after recently returning from a two week stint on an overseas mission trip. I once sat in a hospital bed a room over from a person with meningitis and discovered by audible observation that the disease does not play around.

Somehow, an odd and unexplainable community has risen up around this blog. I can feel it, and I sense that many of you do as well. It was not intentioned, and I really do not know how it happened. Jenn and Chris have been a part of this.

In that spirit, I ask you all who read regularly to pray for them this morning. Pray for speedy recovery for Jenn. Pray also for Chris during what must be a tiring, worrisome, and overall difficult time for him. Please pray also for their faith, that their onlooking family and friends may see the power and relevancy of the Gospel in the way they navigate through this difficult time. I believe they want you all to pray this.

Thanks.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Transitory Thoughts

I received an e-mail from a prayer supporter yesterday that merely said:

"you=blog
soon"

Oh yeah, blog. I can do that. If I still remember how.

Hello, dear reader! Long time, no see. My apologies on my blog silence of late. Much has happened over the past two weeks including a 950 mile move complete with interstate and Penske rental truck; five days of meetings, conferences, and, well, life; and my first couple days in my currently internet-less new apartment.

Alack and alas, I have found blogging rather difficult during this time of transition. But no more! Enter: Dover Public Library, the hero of our story, with its close proximity and wireless internet.

We talked about these times of transition in a New Hampshire team meeting recently, looking at the Joshua 1 passage where the leadership of the entire nation of Israel transitions from Moses to Joshua.

Most of us on the team enter into some period of transition heading into this school year, so the question was asked, "What promises from God do you claim heading into this transition? What will you cling to when you hit your first obstacle?"

This easy question remained difficult for a few pensive moments, as I kept thinking of things that I wanted God to promise but which he had not. Perhaps my answer needs to begin there, with that which God does not promise.

He does not promise success as I would see or define it. I think of Moses. The Joshua 1 passage starts out with a striking statement from the Lord of Life, "My servant Moses is dead." Moses died never seeing the Promised Land, the goal to which his life-long endeavors bent. He never tasted the milk and honey, only catching glimpses of it from a far cliff.

Similarly, the Lord does not promise me the Promised Land. He does not promise the chapter at UNH to grow. He does not promise that we will see people come to love Jesus. He does not promise that the students will like me. I pray that these things will come to pass. What's more, I hopefully and confidently expect them to because I do think they will bring glory to God. But God does not promise them. I have no guarantee.

What he does promise is that I am where he desires me to be in a very literal and geographic sense. Perhaps more than any moment in my life, I know southern New Hampshire exists as the exact PLACE to where God has called me. He promises this because of his sovereignty. He promises this because so much had to happen for me to claim this place as home that he could have stopped it at any number of points along the way. He promises this through my fundraising hitting a level which allowed me to move, through no traffic during the move, through the fact that my bed fits perfectly (but just barely) in my new apartment, through the fact that the rain stopped when we began to move my stuff in. . .

Furthermore, he promises to refine me independent of success or failure. In this place, the Lord will not cease to draw me closer to him and to continuously refine me in his image. This often hurts. The blacksmith must melt and mold the metal before a sword emerges. But the Lord will not abandon, forsaken, or become indifferent towards me. This remains his promise to which I can cling come mountaintop or gully.

Which brings us back to Moses's example. Certainly he must have found it difficult to never enter the Promised Land. Yet, his life did not sink to futility and purposeless. Why? Because he knew God. Above and beyond perceived successes and failures, he knew God. He prays, "Let me know your ways that I may know you" and "I pray you, show me your glory!" He does not ask for success but for God.

Transition or not, this prayer God promises to fulfill.

Monday, August 06, 2007

1

1. The local church is the hope of the world.

CAUTION #1: I did not write this statement. I shamelessly ripped it from Bill Hybels because he captures my sentiments in his statement better than I can myself.

CAUTION #2: We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by church attendance or anything related to the church. Accordingly, the acknowledgment of the supremacy of Christ's Gospel remains more important than what I shall soon write. As Chris Pappa commented, we peak only at the Gospel. Still, given my personal history and the world's opinions, this lesson struck more forcefully and more poignantly than any other this year.

And with that, off we go. . .

I love the church.

I have never had the ability to honestly say this at any point in my life. Not as a youth. Not in college. Not as recently as nine months ago.

Friends told me I should, but I refused. Youth group simply provided more ridicule for a smart kid, so I did not attend. InterVarsity and my summer ministries gave me plenty of spiritual growth, so I only attended church because IV required it of leaders. Even at the beginning of this year, I attended out of obligation and not desire.

Then I took a membership class at my church. I wanted the name tag. Here, the teacher brought us to Ephesians 5:25 which states "that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." The verse likens Christ's relationship with the church to a husband and his wife. In my walk with God, I had striven to love the Bible because Jesus loved the Bible. I had striven to love people because Jesus loved people. I had striven to love evangelism because Jesus loves it when people follow him.

Yet, I did not love the church though the Bible unequivocally teaches that Christ loves the church.

I became unable to avoid this set of hypothetical questions: Could I really love a friend if I did not care for his wife? How could I claim to love him if I refused to love the one with whom he had become one? How could I love him but not the that which mattered most to him?

In rapid time, the Lord used these Scriptures and questions to develop in me a love for the church. I still cannot explain the transformation, only attest to the results. I love church.

Now love does not necessitate hope, and I boldly proclaimed with Hybels that the church stands as our greatest hope. I believe the church works in necessary tandem with every lesson I have written about so far: It provides grounding for our faith, it meets our needs and our gifts at every age, it calls us out of ease to sacrifice, it guides us in the redemption of our past decisions, it provides a safe community of believers, it motivates and provides opportunity for generosity, it provides an answer for the searchings of our souls, it refuses to acknowledge death's lies, and it proclaims and protects the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In short, in the world I have seen this year, it provides hope.

The Lord has uniquely equipped the church for this duty. He has provided the leadership structure in Paul's epistles and in the example of the early church in Acts, laying out qualifications for and duties of the offices of elder and deacon. Furthermore, he has provided the necessary funds with which to minister to the world's spiritual and physical needs. Can anyone imagine the pile of money a 10% tithe of every world Christian's income would create? We could do unfathomable good if everyone called Christian would simply return to God that which he requireth. He has financially equipped the church as the hope of the world if we will only obey.

Yet, any organization can have solid leadership and plenteous resources. The church finds a great start there, but it differs from every other entity because of the spiritual and largely unexplainable activities between God and his church.

First, the church originates from the mouth of Jesus. Well before the first church ever appeared in Acts, Jesus Christ told Peter he would build his church upon this rock. The word order remains stark, as Christ clearly denotes that "he will build." Nothing can stand in the way of that which Christ claims to build. As Christ continues on and says, "Not even the gates of Hades will overcome [the church]."

Secondly, Jesus gives the church the authority of the keys of the kingdom. He elaborates, saying that whatever the church binds on earth will be bound in Heaven and what the church looses on earth will be loosed in Heaven. I confess, dear reader, that I do not know the specifics of that which Christ speaks. If you have any insight as to this binding and loosing, feel free to unleash in the comments. However, Christ clearly gives the church this extreme power which has consequences and repercussions in the heavenly realms. No other body possesses such outstanding authority or influence.

Thirdly, God has bestowed spiritual gifts for the edification of the church. Paul famously lays out a litany of spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12. His words toward the end of the chapter draw less attention where he claims that "God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." The Lord has certainly bestowed upon the body various and plentiful gifts but he does so by appointing them "in the church." In unsearchable fashion, the Lord has bestowed upon the church the perfect amount and combination of individual gifts that she may not lack and that her duties may not suffer.

Finally, Jesus Christ loves his church like a bride. Some of you know the love of husband and wife. Many of you know the love of boyfriend and girlfriend. Nearly all of us know the love of dream. Christ loves his church with that same intensity, fierceness, and commitment that a husband has for his wife, except this Husband loves perfectly. Just as a husband fights for his wife in all ways, so Christ battles for his church and will let nothing harm or abuse her. He looks out for her best interest and cares for her. He perfects her.

For what shall stand in the way of the love of Christ? Let the cross-crushed gates of Hell attest that nothing, nothing shall impede his fierce love!

Now certainly the church falls short of perfection and often even of goodness. It will continue to do so until Christ comes and perfects her members. Lest we use this as a fatal barb against her, if any of us required perfection, we would never marry. Still, the Lord has uniquely equipped his church to cure the ills of the world, both spiritual and physical. He has made claims about her which no other entity in the world may boast, and he has provided for her. What's more, he loves her.

In the face of a world which points to the church's sin and ignores her accomplishments, in our own experiences of disappointment within her walls, in our natural bent towards cynicism and despair, may we love her whom Jesus Christ loves.

She is the hope of the world.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

2.

2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ reigns supremely.

I do not have all the answers. In fact, I do not have many answers. The beauty, and perhaps curse, of a blog remains that the author can choose the topics he wishes to choose and avoid those he wishes to avoid. Know that many exist out there which I purposefully avoid in ignorance because I cannot explain God or his Gospel fully.

I find all life philosophies possess this same quality. All religions, all theories, all politics, all philosophies have critics. Hard questions often find silent answers, even when I speak of Christianity. Yet, I have become utterly and violently convinced of this one thing during my year off:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, that Christ died for sinners of whom I stand worst, fully satisfies the soul and reigns supremely over life.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the existence.

I wrote yesterday of death. I confess this burdened me all day. I felt bad. Dwelling on death does that to us because God did not make us to die. Romans says that death exists as the wage of sin, and the Lord designed us as sinless. 'Tis our sinned that ruined life and brought about death. No wonder death feels so unnatural. Like everything that results from sin, it is. This is why I wrote yesterday that death has nothing to do with life. God gave us life apart from death. Our rebellion brought death onto the scene.

But through the cross, Jesus has destroyed death and returned to us the life God intended us to have all along. This death which hounded me all day today, which often hounds so many of us, it is no more! Hear again, it is no more!

I love the tone the New Testament takes with death. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" cries 1 Cor 15:56. Romans 8:36 proclaims: "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." It continues, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life. . . will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The apostle Paul, in his divinely inspired words, mocks death. He calls out its weakness. He claims us conquerors, victors over death all because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mockery. Strength. Victory. These are our words to death.

Hear the arts as they join the chorus. Poet John Donne rudely addresses death in his Holy Sonnets, saying, "Death, thou shalt die." The hymn writer echoes with perhaps my favorite verse of song: "Death, in vain, forbids [Christ] rise" because Christ the Lord is risen today. In vain! Ha!

The death which consumes the world, which awaits all of us, which lyingly says we have no recourse, finds embarrassment, humility, and ultimate defeat at the cross of Christ because the Gospel reigns supremely over the existence.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the emotion.

Because of Christ's work on the cross, we have found new relationship with the Almighty God who has promised his presence with us always to the end of the age. Here lies the companionship for the lonely, the shoulder always available to which we turn, the constant Father, the constant Brother, the constant Friend. Because Christ died to remove the sin between us and a Holy God, we have everlasting companionship with the One who alone knows exactly how to love us.

Paul sits in a Roman prison facing torture and death. He is not alone.

A widow spends her days in a retirement community with only sparse visits from others. She is not alone.

A missionary couple sits in a foreign land, cut off from all they have ever known. They are not alone.

A man enters his 30's single, told by the world he should feel misery and pity. He is not alone.

A solitary middle schooler sits at the end of a table, reading because he finds no audience with the cool kids. He is not alone.

We never have to know loneliness because the Gospel reigns supremely over the emotion.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the social.

Just as Jesus Christ reconciled us to God, he calls us to reconcile with each other. From the Gospel of Jesus Christ emerges the greatest call to social justice the world has ever heard, not one of condescension or of politics or of guilt or of works-righteousness. No, the call sounds greater, nobler than that. It calls forth from thanksgiving and response.

Because of the right standing with God that Christ has given us as an indescribable free gift, we understand that we deserve nothing. In fact, we are not even our own; we were bought for the price of Jesus Christ. Who are we to elevate ourselves to any position above another? Let us respond and serve!

The Gospel of Christ shows us the way. Just as all stand equally dignified before the throne of God, so we should desire all to have equal standing in our world. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female before God. Let us strive, therefore, to love each other across the boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, and difference that we have made. Just as the Lord has provided all of our needs which we could not meet at the cross, so we should give generously of ourselves to supply the poor, the widows, the orphans, the oppressed the ones with whom Jesus hung out.

Let us strive for justice for others, even at our own expense, because of the One who expended himself for us!

What's more, the Gospel uniquely provides the power with which to accomplish this task, a power which no organization, no principality, no government has at its disposal. He is the Holy Spirit. He convicts, guides, helps, empowers, and works to bring about the Kingdom of God in justice as the Lord intends it to be.

We desire all these things because the Gospel reigns supremely over the social.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the intellect.

Though the minds of this world would call it foolishness (and the Bible says that they shall), let us not forget that smart men have analyzed the evidence and concluded the Gospel true. Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel set out to prove the Gospel false; instead they found conversion. Smart folk like Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis loved Jesus. Even great philosophers like Kierkegaard thought so highly of the Lord as to write things about him which most of us cannot understand.

People have thought on the nature of life and on the nature of man, they have observed our history and our writings, they have written and philosophized themselves. And they have concluded for, and not against, Christ. In the end, the message of Christ and the world they observed actually made sense. We should expect nothing else as we seek the one who told us to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and WITH ALL YOUR MIND" (emphasis mine).

Christianity does not require that we disregard our minds because the Gospel reigns supremely over the intellect.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the mission.

Let one never say that Christ leaves us without purpose in our earthly lives. He has commanded us to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Every moment, we have a purpose because the Gospel reigns supremely over the mission.

Every moment, we work towards that mission, to proclaim the supremacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

4, 3

4. We all seek to fill some intangible lack in our lives.

The sheer amount of spiritual material initially shocked me when I began to work at Borders. I remember taking the store tour and seeing, in order, "General Metaphysics," "Magic," and the section that contained so much weird material we could only call it "Other Divination." In my naivety, I laughed at this seemingly insulting label.

I laugh no longer because this is dead serious.

People search for something out there. What it is, I do not know. What they hope it will do for them, I do not know. Borders introduced me to Positive Thinking, "The Secret," and "The Law of Attraction," all of which say the exact same thing but have somehow marketed themselves to individual riches. I discovered that people really do believe in magic, and not Merlin from "Sword and the Stone" magic, but magic that openly claims the names of Satan and the Anti-Christ. Wicca flourishes. A co-worker of mine sports a pro-Druid bumper sticker on his car. The Self-Help section has taught me a new term: "New Age."

Here I thought our only options were Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Atheism.

And this only confines our search to that which we label "spiritual." Nevermind the role sports, pets, computers, kids, cars, marijuana play in our search for meaning.

What really fascinates me is the lack of "rational logic" which much of these ideologies can claim. "The Secret" sold millions and millions of copies on the idea that one can create one's own reality simply by thinking about it. Magic has always existed in the realm of childhood, Halloween, and fairy tales. Even the idea of placing sports as the sun around which one's universe orbits seems logically asinine.

I understand the cynic's claim that Christianity lacks reason. We do claim, among other things, that a man came back to life from the dead. From a worldly standpoint, I will not argue how foolish the Gospel may appear. What strikes me is how foolish most of our soul searches really are. Perhaps Christians and much of the world do not play on such different intellectual playing fields as the cynic may like to claim.

If these books sit on the self, they must sell. 'Tis the rule of capitalistic success. The presence of all of this diverse array of spiritual material provides strong evidence for some sort of existential lack in the lives of the public. We must be looking for something with the kind of money we spend here. Quite honestly, we must be jumping around from idea to idea in order for it all to find the success which it has.

Rick Warren sold millions. The Secret sold millions. They say not the same thing.

I have read it quoted that a God-shaped hole exists in the heart of every person. If I learned one thing from my work environment, it was this: that some kind of hole inhabits that intangible called heart. In this post, I shan't be so bold as to offer a hypothesis as to the hole's shape. I will only attest to its existence for which the mere presence of Borders provides evidence.

We all seek to fill some intangible lack in our lives.


3. Death dominates this world.

Our response to death has captured the greatest of minds. Shakespeare said to have kids. Marvell said to have sex. Donne said to simply ignore the tolling bell.

If one thinks on life at all, one must think on death.

The lover of cliche will say that life guarantees nothing but death and taxes. A glib line for certain, but one which may hold more truth than we acknowledge if we delve into it.

Now you might ask, "Humphries, you just learned this this year? Where have you been? What have you been looking at?"

Indeed, I had family, friends, and (sometimes harder) peers die in middle school, high school, and college. Death is nothing new. What surprised me was its frequency and the world's response to it.

This year death hit fast, often, and rather viciously. Early in my year, the father of a co-worker passed away. Then the infant child of my roomate's boss died in her sleep. Earlier this year, my college friend Jason Ray died in a freak automobile accident. Just last week, Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser died suddenly of a massive heart attack. And the list goes on. . . .

What horrified me even more than the actual deaths was the different response I found these deaths met with. Let me provide a contrasting example. A student passed away my senior year of college from a three story fall out a dorm window. The university shut down in the days following this tragedy. Death isn't supposed to happen at college, we said. He was too young, the campus lamented. Why, why, why, the halls echoed.

Death is not supposed to happen in college. It is supposed to happen beyond it.

This year my co-worker's father passes away. She is devastated. We console her, send cards, and. . . . get back to work. You see, in this post-college life, death, like the shit that it is, happens. People die. If we were close to the person, we grieve while the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders and says:

"That's life."

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Death is the opposite of the life in every manner conceivable. To say of death, "that's life" is a lie of the grandest and most tragic order. But this is how we respond. Death is inevitable, and there is nothing we can do about it but submit when it's our time. Death dominates.

I have become convinced that this knowledge of Brad Phillis's "certainty of the uncertain" grounds all that troubles us in this world. The reality of our own death is certain, and I believe no one, no one, can fully ignore this whether they realize it or not. I have become convinced that how we respond to this reality - whether we ignore it, submit to it, run from it, hide from it, or otherwise - determines how we live our lives.

Death does dominate this world. But it does not reign. . . .

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

6, 5

6. Community matters.

Perhaps the most abrupt change from college to non-college lies in the overnight shift from communal immersion to individual isolation. This seems fairly obvious, but I found it rather difficult to prepare for and negotiate through once it arrived.

Despite the university's general disregard for Christianity, you can always have Christian community around you in college if you so choose (and often, even if you do not choose). UNC's chapter of InterVarsity carried 350 members with it my senior year. A brotherly community, Campus Crusade, pushed into the 600's. You could not go anywhere on campus without encountering a fellow pilgrim.

Then I graduated. An apartment complex awaited where my roomates arrived home three hours later than me and where I went to bed two hours earlier than them. Often, I worked weekends, the very days which they were free. Nearby apartment doors always seemed closed in sharp contrast to the entrances to dorm rooms. Very few people at work possessed a similar worldview to mine, so though we laughed and complained together, it became difficult to connect. Even groups of friends which hung out weekly, I only saw for two to three hours a week. Similar with my church community.

Having always cherished my alone time, I found myself surprised by the effect this isolation had on me. I had envisioned lots of time to read, to pray, to run, to do all those things in life that I "never had time for." Instead, I found myself alone, feeling stale on a couch, isolated with my thoughts which quickly turned to doubts and having nowhere but bitterness, pity, and unbelief to turn.

I found out this year that it is true what they say - Satan loves to divide and conquer.

Interestingly, I found myself encouraged in my faith in silly places like trivia nights in uncouth bars, sand volleyball courts, and even blogs. The presence of people, the body of Christ, made such a spiritual difference for me.

In fact, my favorite place of all this year (besides Redeeming Prufrock, of course) was my church. I loved church. I laughed there. I cried there. Most of all, I felt safe there. Some weeks, it remained the only place where I felt entirely safe.

There really is something to this community thing. It matters.

Though I find it hard to explain, the Bible supports my experience from this year. You never see an isolated Christian. Jesus, the perfect god-man, still carried along 12 of his closest friends with him. The early church has garnered great fame for the way it broke bread together. Paul, while on his missionary travels, consistently brought along companions with him. And in our final picture of Heaven we see THE MULTITUDES praising and worshiping God in the early chapters of Revelation. For all eternity, we shall exist in community.

And yet perhaps it is not so hard to explain. Our God, the One in whose image we are made, exists as a communal God, the Holy Trinity, three-in-one. Our God is not isolated but functions in a perfectly loving relationship among the three members of the Trinity. Perhaps our need for community flows straight from Him whose image we bear, the One who is love and by definition must have an object of that love. Perhaps, as mind-boggling as the doctrine of the Trinity is, we very simply find our need for community in it.

Community matters to our God. No wonder then that it matters to us.


5. World-changing generosity begins at the cross.

I have a friend who loves people. As a result, he gives his money to them, particularly if they find themselves in poverty, in ministry, or in both. I have met few people tied less to their mammon than he.

I recently asked him why he gives so freely of his wealth. He responded instantly:

"Guilt."

Honesty came through in the quickness of his response, though he sensed the reaction indequate and began backpeddling like a nickel cornerback.

I get the sense that most Americans feel this way. We have lots of money and live out of our wants. The rest of the world does not have lots of money and lives (and often dies) out of their needs.

This makes us feel guilty. We usually respond by giving to charity. Hooray us.

The difficulty is that guilt is an insufficient motivator. Yes, it does motivate but not fully. When we act out of guilt, we do so primarily to appease ourselves. Guilt makes us feel bad. We want to feel good. Donating money makes this happen.

When this selfishness motivates our giving, we will give only up to a certain point. This point consistently lies just left of "where it hurts." If we give to make ourselves feel better, logic demands that we stop when it ceases to feel good.

Meanwhile, the poor still remain hungry, AIDS still ravages Africa, and ministers lose the opportunity to share the Gospel because of insufficient funds.

So what shall be the response? Shall we cease giving entirely? Shall we begin masochism and self-flagellation? What now?

The answer lies at the foot of Christ's cross. Our sin is terrible. Imagine it as terrible as you can, almost as bad as dogfighting if your imagination is good enough, and then know our rebellion against the Lord does not compare. We deserve nothing but separation from God. Yet, Christ bore that punishment, that separation, that Hell on the cross so that we might not have to. Instead, we have peace, joy, life, laughter, Heaven, purpose, reconciliation, freedom. A free gift, that no one may boast. Quite a deal for us.

When we begin to understand what God has given us in his great generosity, giving away our money, even beyond a 10% tithe, ceases to seem an unspeakable request. God has given us so much more than we could ever give anyone.

Hear John Stott:

"For, whether we like it or not, we are involved [in the cross]. Our sins put him there. So, far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness. We can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit. And there we remain until the Lord Jesus speaks to our hearts his word of pardon and acceptance, and we, gripped by his love and full of thanksgiving, go out into the world to live our lives in his service."

And so the radical power to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, to battle racism and sexism, the power to advance so many causes often most championed by those who care not for Jesus Christ, lies precisely in his cross. Here we find how to become that joyful giver which God loves so much. Here is where our world can change, not in the ungrounded good works which make us feel good, but in the power of the cross. Here is where the world-changing generosity lies.

Because there is no guilt in Jesus Christ. But there is that cross.

Monday, July 30, 2007

8, 7

8. Ease defines my generation.

I wrote a post around Thanksgiving in which I wondered how history would look upon my generation. I received a couple thoughtful responses, one which argued that we would enter history as the age of technology and another from my friend Alex Kirk which argued that 9/11 would define us, just as war has defined generations which have preceded us.

In reflecting on this, I believe both of these thoughts exist as details which point to this overarching sense of ease with which my generation lives its collective life.

I must begin with the caution of generalization. Speaking in terms of an entire generation always brings with it exceptions and generalizations. Please allow me the wiggle room, as I know many of my peers have very surely not lived a life of ease to this point. Nor does it seem that it awaits them.

It may prove helpful to define this term "ease" because, on some level, we all have hardships and difficulties in our lives. After all, 'tis a sinful and broken world for us all. When I say that my generation lives a life of ease, I mean that no one has ever called us to any kind of selfless sacrifice. We have never had to think of anyone other than ourselves. We have had no depression; in fact, we cry foul when the Dow dips below 10,000. The current war our country fights affects most of us only at a distance. We lost over 50,000 people in Vietnam and had to ration gas, among other things. Our death toll in Iraq sits in the 3000's, and the government has yet to ask the citizenry to sacrifice anything save for 20 minutes at airport security.

What's more, we would not stand for any demands made on us. The greatest noose a politician can currently make for himself exists in the hemp of that thing called "draft." If any politician mentioned the possibility, they would be finished. Hear me out, as a 23-year old male, I want nothing to do with the draft, but that is irrelevant for this conversation. Or maybe, and revealingly, not. What remains relevant is our complete unwillingness to be called into sacrifice. Let a volunteer go fight, we say. Let someone else make the sacrifice. Historically speaking, the current war against terror affects us little, if at all.

We have no economic depression. We have no societally consuming war. We have no necessary sacrifice. What we have in a historical sense is ease.

We have freedom to sit in coffee shops and become bitter about politics, we have time to drink and dance a bad week away on Friday night, we have limitless hours to spend on youtube, ESPN, and Comedy Central (and dare I say it, blogs) all because we have little incovenience.

To make this pesonal, could I imagine a post-Great Depression 23-year old taking a "year off" when a paying job sat available? Of course not! He or she would remain concerned about whether or not they would eat, not whether he/she could find a job about which he/she was "passionate." No way one could turn down gainful employment. To do otherwise would be imprudent and may, in fact, cost the Depression Era American his/her life.

All that to say, we have opportunities that preceding generations have not had because we have not been called from our life of ease.

No wonder the Gospel of Jesus Christ is foreign to us. Take up our cross? Love our enemies? Submit?

Uh, excuse me Jesus, could you quiet down a bit? I'm trying to watch my third episode of Sportscenter today.


7. The decisions of our youth remain with us.

It amazes me how often I refer to my high school days. My reputation as Dad, my academic achievements, my cross country days, they all seem to pop up in conversations more often than I would expect.

In reflecting on this, I have found myself in awe of how the decisions we make as children really can have marked affect on our futures. I spoke with a co-worker recently about a son's teenage arrest which continues to follow him into his adult years. I think of the statistics I hear on the sexual activity of teenagers and think of the emotional and interpersonal consequences this will have on their adult lives. I think of the foolish and sinful immaturities of youth which has led so many of us to recognize sin and thus the Gospel.

I have no suggestions, merely observations.

I really thought that the foolishness of our youth would leave us, consumed by a flood of wisdom and maturity which comes with adulthood. Yet, good or bad, our decisions - and those of people around us - as children mold us. This scares me to think that decisions we make when we are least equipped to make them can have such long-reaching consequences. So much is influential during a time in which we are so ill-equipped to properly influence anything, much less ourselves.

I still cannot get past the effect two stress fractures had on me, the desire for acceptance which middle school unpopularity has ingrained deep in my being, the difficulty in grasping grace and love because of years of uber-ambitious high school drive.

My adult life has not replaced my childhood. It merely responds to it. In this sense, the decisions made in my youth remain very much with me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

10, 9

10. We all live by faith.

Dear reader, I pose a question: What gave you confidence that the chair in which you currently sit would hold you?

You may reply with physics, that the force of the chair pushes back on you with an equal and opposite force while the feet of the chair exert an equal and opposite force on the earth to uphold the entire system. You may reply that chairs hold people up; it's just what they do. You may reply that this exists as a stupd question and move on to greater intellectual pursuits.

I propose that you cannot have complete confidence the chair in which you sit will hold. Logic and reason may say it will, but you can never know for sure. What if some vile insect has penetrated the wood and weakened it to the point of collapse? What if the wage laborer who helped construct it decided to take a smoke break instead of inserting a crucial bolt? What if your roomie has stealthily pulled it out from under you?

Regardless of all purported logic and reason, you can never know for sure that all the bases are covered, even with something as simple as a chair.

Expand this a little. We eat at restaurants in faith the kitchen remained clean. Yes, the governement inspects, but Hepatitis B still occassionally rears its deadly head. We drive our automobiles in faith that they run as they should. Yes, they always have, but tires still shred. We hop on an airplane in faith that every airline employee has done his/her job correctly. Yes, people work hard so they do not lose their jobs, but I know my work ethic during hour 7 at Borders.

One cannot define life apart from faith. If one lived a completely faithless life, it would drive one mad. Too many uncertainties exist. The details would consume and overwhelm.

I do not write this for fear's sake but to embolden you, loved ones, in faith. If you have entered a bookstore over the past year, you will have noted a rise of anti-faith books written by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. They are smart men and compelling writers who purport to argue against faith, specifically in this concept of God.

This is not new. People have always claimed that faith is irrational, illogical, and unintellectual.

Yet faith exists in our everyday lives. One can claim that the term "faith" is mindless. I shall contend that to say we can live daily life completely devoid of faith exceeds this mindlessness. Faith, the hope in things unseen, permeates our entire day. Science may provide evidence for or against faith, but it cannot eliminate it.

What's more, we all must make a decision of faith in terms of death. One can maybe argue that everything in this world has proof from empirical evidence, but no proof exists as to death. Science has no definite answer. Experience has no definite answer. Even religion has no definite answer. As my friend Mr. Phillis put it, death is the "certainty of uncertainty."

So let them not belittle faith. It must exist, if only in this question. If only in this question, though I suspect and argue more, we all live by faith.



9. Good things exist in every phase of life.

I have often heard it said that college was "the best days of your life." This means I have peaked. I refuse to believe this.

I learned this year that pro's exist in every phase of life, even that which exists outside of the carefree days of college (O, how quickly we forget the stress of study, the lurk of loneliness, the pressure of peers, the questioned questions which accompanied those "best days"!).

A few cheap examples from this year:

-I never had a weekend ruined by the ominous cloud of Sunday night homework.

-When I left work, I left work. It never came home with me like class always did.

-I had cash flow.

I have fond memories of college, yet given the good which came with my exit, I remain uncertain whether or not I could return.

In all seriousness though, the difficulty with the "best days of our lives" theory is that it forgets that the best thing in our life remains with us always. His name is Jesus. He is the same today as yesterday as tomorrow.

The Shorter Westminster Catechism asks the universal question: What is the chief end of man?

The response: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

This charge does not merely apply to youth. It does not merely apply to college students or newly weds or retirees or whatever phase of life one wishes to apply the title "best." In every moment of every day, we have the opportunity to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We do this by seeking the Lord's will, submitting to it, and following in obedience. This is the abundant life Christ promises in John 10:10, and it should not surprise us given that the One who made the rules of the game also made us.

This life is for all ages, stages, and phases. God, the Best, is with us always. What's more, he is with us now. In that sense, now is the best day of our lives.

And this Good Thing exists in every phase of our lives.

Top 10 Year Off Lessons

On Thursday, I work my last day at Borders. The following Monday, I load up the Penske truck and begin the trek to my new home in New Hampshire. Times, they are a-changin'.

As this most recent and rather brief phase of my life comes to end, I have begun to reflect back on lessons learned this year. My generation seems to label my past year the "year off" - that is, the one which stands between the final year of college and the beginning thrust towards some semblance of that thing called "career."

The term "year off" implies rest, lethargy, and (let's be honest) waste. Many generations preceeding mine had no option to take a "year off," given the existence of things like depressions, world wars, and the like. I shall get to this later.

At times, I have thought this year a waste. Transition and instability can often be. I found it difficult to solidify in a community outside my apartment. My job at Borders provided no financial gain beyond survival. My faith even met challenges, violent and deadly ones at that, which it had never before seen.

What a waste! I might say.

Perhaps, I might respond.

As I reflect back on my last 11 months since I drove home from Boston, Sentra full of my life, I see that I have actually learned a great deal between that time and the literal U-Turn I make on Monday. I have found it difficult not to. The world outside of college forces lessons upon us. Life simply does not allow a year off.

If nothing else, we must learn the value of health insurance, no longer grafted into the family plan.

So what do we do with important reflections on a life-changing time here at Redeeming Prufrock?

That's right. You guessed it. Top 10 List. And not just any old regular Top 10 List. A week-long Top 10 List.

In honor of this week o' closure, I will spend it blogging about my Top 10 Year Off Lessons. Cease the verbosity! Let the countdown begin!

P.S. Oddly enough, I currently only have nine lessons. RP cannot have a Top 10 List with only nine entries. If anyone has any suggestions, you know where to find me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Like New Year's Eve, Only Better"

As I sat in Chick-fil-A eating a value sized #1 combo, I realized that I had not prepared properly for the night. True, I had only a shallow understanding of Harry Potter, our guest of the night, and I had not properly revved myself up for the task of emceeing a large crowd. But at the moment, this did not worry me.

It hit me at dinner that I had forgotten an undershirt for the night. Oh, and socks. On a night in which I stood inherently unprepared by my lack of required reading and my overall lethargy, I had dropped the ball on even that which I could control.

Thirty minutes later, I used the diaper station in the Borders bathroom to change into my rental tux. I had never used a diaper station in my life. A lot of firsts would occur tonight. Like, wearing rental tux shoes without socks.

Now before your barf on your home row keys, let me put your mind at ease. When you grab a pair of rental shoes, bowling or tux for example, you do not fear the shoe. You fear the people who have worn the shoe before you. The ones with the nastiness. Well, dear reader, I am that person you fear. I have nasty feat, most of which I blame on my years of cross country which induced fungus, black toenails, blisters, calluses, broken toenails, toes with no toenails, stench, and that yellow stuff that accumlates at the base of your toenail for which you have no explanation. For this reason, I did not fear what the shoes would do to my feet because I knew what my feet would do to the shoes.

Still, not a comfortable way to enter the night. Unprepared.

By 8:15pm, I had begun the trivia competition. Teams of 3-5, two rounds, top two teams from each round advance to the finals. Winner take all. I explained the game and started reading the questions. Easy enough.

Until I reach question ten. My supervisor had thought it a good idea to include occassional non-Harry Potter related questions into the trivia game. I knew this is trouble but, like John Buford said before the Battle of Gettysburg, I could do nothing but help this fail. I prefaced the question with some garbage about us desiring them to have a well-rounded education before dropping a question on them about "Lord of the Rings."

The place went silent, except for the crickets. You know, the awkward crickets. Too bad I did not have an undershirt because I immediately began to sweat. As murmurs and frustrations began to come my way, I responded with strength. I stood there like an idiot. I could not have made up a Harry Potter question if I had wanted to. I had no way out.

A little girl sits on her mother's lap not three feet in front of me. She is probably two. She is cute, as two year old girls are wont to be. She also probably speaks with that Tiny Tim lisp; when you're the bad guy, that's just how these things go. After a minute of deliberation, she looks up at me and asks, "Sir, why did you ask a question not about Harry? Why?"

I had nothing to say (though I directed a lot of mental cuss words at my supervisor who had made up the questions). I felt like the Grinch when confronted by the cute little Who girl. She had an innocent, holy question. I had no answer. I was stealing Christmas.

You're a mean one, Mr. Bench.

The trivia did swing back to a high point later in the night, however. A competitor asked me if I could change a question since his team did not know the answer. "I can't do that," I replied. "I'm only a muggle." Inside, I pulled a Tiger Woods fist pump. Relevancy! Coolness! Social Acceptibility! I confess, loved ones, that I was exceedingly proud of this.

Trvia ended well. The final four teams got all five final questions right which impressed me and speaks volumes for the dedication of the Potheads (as if more volumes needed speaking). We broke the tie with a spelling contest. "Alohomora" won it for Team Pigworts.

My night proceeded on smoothly with only three major bumps:

1) I missed the dance competition due to work. Not that I wanted to compete. I just hate missing a chance to get the jiggles out.

2) Due to long line, I did not dye my hair.

3) In an attempt to make conversation with a teenage customer, one of those know-it-all 12-year old types, I asked her whether she believed Snape was good or bad.

"He's good," she replied. "I'm sure of it. I've researched. [pause] What do you think?"

I froze.

"I, uh, well, you see, what happ. . . ."

"You're not that into this, are you?"

"Haven't read a word. [pause] I agree with you though. Snape's good."

[pensive pause] "Thanks!"

And she walked away. I had survived my exposure as a fraud.

Midnight struck. Word on the street was a broom in the parking lot turned into a pumpkin. I have no pictures to confirm though.

We counted down from ten. A great shout went up when we reached one. Boxcutters came out, and the books began to fly. A couple thousand books went out of the store that night, keeping us open, despite our best efforts, until 2am.

They gave me the microphone one more time that evening, a little before HP-Day around 11:40pm. I informed the mob about the count-down and made the comment that tonight "felt like New Year's Eve, only better." That statement met with the loudest pre-midnight response we heard in the store.

Well, I said it, and the mob concurred. Consensus! How then shall we sum up Friday night's Grand Hallows Ball?

Like New Year's Eve, only better.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. . .

. . . though writing is a higher art form. I shall compose a recap of my night with the Potheads soon. But do not fret, I shan't use thousands of words. I fear I must disagree with the cliched conversion ratio; words are far more precious than that. If you cannot capture a moment with the pen, you possess little hope with a camera - no matter how many megapixels you hold in your possession.

Love words, dear reader. It shall change your life.

That being said, the beginnings of a photographic montage of Friday night:


"Spell 'spell.'"
"S-P-E-L, spell."
"Wrong again, Chris Pappa."



I could have been one of Barker's Beauties on The Price is Right. I guess I shall settle as one of Harry's Honies instead.



Blog friends Tasha and Erin (who, I shall add, were real friends well before they became blog friends) made the pilgrimage to visit Redeeming Prufrock in person and to partake in the evening's festivities - namely laughing at me.


More to come soon, as some photographic precincts have yet to report.

Coming to a Blog Near You!

Pictures will be posted by tonight. I just got a hold of them this afternoon. Hopefully, a recap of the evening shall follow. My apologies for the tardiness. Alas, life. . . .

Friday, July 20, 2007

HP-Day

If you find yourself stuck in an office today, you may not feel it. Similarly too if you sit in a summer school classroom or library. Boredom acts as a bad conductor. But something electric courses through the air today. Even in the wet, thick, heavy summer air of North Carolina, one can sense it.

'Tis not the colossal effect of the British Open, the third of golf's four majors currently hacking through its second round. 'Tis not the colossal noise of the PETA protest currently roaring into the ears of accused dogfighter Mike Vick, Roger Goodell, and NFL fans everywhere.

'Tis Harry Potter. He releases himself tonight. No one releases Harry Potter except himself.

Officially, Harry Potter does not come out until tomorrow, but millions will not see the inside of their eyelids before they feast their eyes on Mr. Potter and some rather dangerous hallows.

Many have already begun the pilgrimage to their local bookstore to grab their bracelet which allows them to later purchase the book. Others have already finished their pilgrimage, anchored in a line from which even a pack of Death Eaters could not move them.

I do not take my spot as worship leader until 8pm tonight. Borders has provided me, the Harry Potter trivia game emcee, with the rules of the contest and the questions I should ask. My only job: execution.

I shall take pictures and do my best to post them here on Redeeming Prufrock Sunday night. I have never done such a thing, but in response to demand, I shall try.

In thinking over the worst case scenarios, I have decided that a tie in the trivia game ranks high on the list. I will not have enough prizes for more than one team of winners. More importantly, I will be out of questions with which to break the tie. In this case, we shall turn to a spelling bee. As my friend Chris Pappa told me yesterday, just tell them to spell every word I hear.

"Spell Hufflepuff."

"Spell Voldemort."

"Spell Potter."

"Spell spell."

I have decided the final tie-breaking question will not be a question concerning Harry Potter. It will be something more along the lines of "Who was President during the Civil War?" or "Name a broadway production of the last ten years." or "Who wrote 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'?". I want hearts broken, not over a lack of Harry Potter knowledge, but over a lack of historical, cultural, and literary knowledge. This shall exist as my subtle but stark rebellion.

Because there are things more important than Harry Potter.

Of course for the sake of my physical safety, I won't be saying that tonight.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

They Would Do Anything For Love

With a nod of the head to Meatloaf. . . .

I have begun reading John R. W. Stott's book "The Cross of Christ." You will certainly hear more on this later. I recently came across a passage that I enjoyed greatly and wanted to share. Note the simultaneous gravity and delight with which Stott writes of these men who love the cross:



"The verdict of scholars has understandably percolated through into popular Christian devotion. Allowances should be made for Christians who at Christ's cross have found their pride broken, their guilt expunged, their love kindled, their hope restored and their character transformed, if they go on to indulge in a little harmless hyperbole. . . .

Justin Martyr, the second-century Christian apologist, confessed that wherever he looked, he saw the cross. Neither the sea is crossed nor the earth is ploughed without it, he writes, referring to a ship's mast and yard, and to a plough's blade and yoke. Diggers and mechanics do not work without cross-shaped tools, alluding presumably to a spade and its handle. Moreover, 'the human form differs from that of irrational animals in nothing else than in its being erect and having the arms extended.' And if the torso and arms of the human form proclaim the cross, so do the nose and eyebrows of the human face. Fanciful? Yes, entirely, and yet I find myself willing to forgive any such fancies which glorify the cross.

My modern example is the most eloquent description I know of the universality of the cross. . . . Brought up in a Socialist home, and familiar with Socialist Sunday schools and their 'sort of agnosticism sweetened by hymns,' [Malcolm Muggeridge] became uneasy about 'this whole concept of a Jesus of good causes.' Then:

'I would catch a glimpse of a cross - not necessarily a crucifix; maybe two pieces of wood accidentally nailed together, on a telegraph pole, for instance - and suddenly my heart would stand still. In an instinctive, intuitive way I understood that something more important, more tumultuous, more passionate, was at issue than our good causes, however admirable they might be. . . .

It was, I know, an obsessive interest. . . . I might fasten bits of wood together myself, or doodle it. This symbol, which was considered to be derisory in my home, was yet also the focus of inconceivable hopes and desires. . . .

As I remember this, a sense of my own failure lies leadenly upon me. I should have worn it over my heart; carried it, a precious standard, never to be wrested out of my hands; even though I fell, still borne aloft. It should have been my cult, my uniform, my language, my life. I shall have no excuse; I can't say I didn't know. I knew from the beginning, and turned away.'

Later, however, he turned back, as each of us must who has ever glimpsed the reality of Christ crucified. For the only authentic Jesus is the Jesus who died on the cross."



What is it they say, that love makes us do silly and foolish things? And yet I find myself willing to forgive any such silliness. . . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Holding On

A couple friends of mine invited me to the lake on Saturday. Early in the day, we threw the water skis into the aqua and had at it.

I had only tried to water ski once in my life before Saturday, and I did not get up. Thus, I have never actually water skied, only tried but fallen before ever getting my body vertical. I attempted 11 times this weekend, making some improvements but only getting close to vertical one time. They say when I did my eyes got real big. Unfortunately, the position of actually water skiing felt so unusual and out of place that I panicked - and fell within two seconds of actually standing up.

The odd thing about my attempts is that I generally fell the same way for the same reason. Rather than letting the boat pull me out of the water, I would pull hard on the rope in an attempt to pull myself out of the lake. This created slack in the rope. When I leaned back, no rope tension caught me, and I would fall backwards.

One time, and one time only, I fell forward. I do not know how this happened, but within seconds of the boat speeding up, the front of my skiis went under the water, and I catapulted forward out of my skis and faceplanted. It was fun.

A lot of power exists in the act of water skiing. I could feel the power of the boat when it started to take off, a power a lot greater than me. I could feel the power of the force between arms and rope, skis and water. I could certainly feel the power when my mismanagement slung my helpless body to the water. So much power remains involved in this whole process that it makes it silly, ludicrous, and downright unintelligent that I should even think to pull myself up. Enough energy exists in the process that all I need to do is hold on for the ride.

So goes my relationship with the Almighty Sovereign. My shortcomings in water skiing paralleled my shortcomings in my relationship with the Father, those shortcomings being that I refuse to acknowledge my shortcomings and allow The Power to do the work. So often I refuse to pray, I work myself to a pulp, I stress over things I cannot control but want to, all because I neglect the role God plays in the work in my life. I speak as a Christian, work as an Atheist. I am constantly pulling back on the rope. More often than not, I fail to stand and topple backwards. Occasionally, I faceplant.

"BECAUSE YOU HAVE TRUSTED IN YOUR OWN WAY, in your numerous warriors, therefore a tumult will arise among your people, and all your fortresses will be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to pieces with their children." -Hosea 10:13-14 (emphasis mine)

Praise God that he continues to circle the boat to pick me back up when I try to do things in my own stregnth, fall into the lake, and miss the boat. The Fisher of Men has picked me up all 11 times, nay 111 times, and has promised to do so again.

We have a lot of power out in front of us, my friends. May we submit ourselves to it. May we pray to it. May we not fight against it. May we simply hold on tight so that we may stand.

So that we may take off on the rides of our lives.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More Potty Mouth

Today, I encountered Harry Potter for myself. It tasted terrible.

Odd Encounter of the Week: serial comments

I have had a record number of comments the last two posts. This confirms my theory that Harry Potter is popular, though my readers maintain only a small portion of the larger world population. My biased sample could skew results.

On my end, Harry Potter continues as the most relevant force in my occupational life. He dominates customers and, by extension, Borders. I feel as if I have a front-row seat for perhaps the biggest story of 2007.

This supply-and-demand situation leads us to an inevitable conclusion: another Harry Potter post. More Potty mouth from your humble hack.

So we return to my opening statement. Did he finally read part of a book and hate it? one might ask. Is he proclaiming Optimus Prime's superior existence once again? one could query. Does he now, in fact, hate Harry Potter? a cynic could postulate.

None of the above. In an attempt to open my mind (and let's be honest, be "cool"), I encountered Harry Potter today. I bought the jelly beans which carry his name. All $6.50 of them. Apparently, putting the name "Harry Potter" on anything inflates its value, oh, 6.5/.99 X 100% = 656.56%. The flavors: dirt, soap, rotten egg, pickle, earthworm, vomit, black pepper, sausage, booger, and earwax.

Once again, can anybody explain this to me?

My Harry Potter experience tasted terrible. I thought the flavors were a joke, but the flavors tasted as labeled. I tried them all, and each possessed its own distinct part of bad. All except the booger flavor actually. Man, I had not tasted boogers since I was four, and I had forgotten how delicious they were!

Needless to say, I now have in my possession some great, um, "resources" with which to produce more vomit flavored ones if Jelly Belly feels so inclined. Dear reader, do not buy these. I tried them in your sted. I sat on the grenade. Do not buy the Harry Potter jelly beans. And don't say I never did anything for you.

I tried another experiment at work today. Upon hearing two teenage customers discuss their excitement for July 20, I broke conversation with a nearby co-worker and loudly interjected into our conversation: "I hate Harry Potter!" (remember though that I do not). I pulled a Mrs. Lot just to gage their reactions. In my quick glance, I saw a glare no man should ever see. I turned and sped my way to the sanctuary of the back room. I cannot lie, I smiled.

Speaking of the back room, the books have arrived. Lots of them. I stand under orders not to reveal how many, only say "enough" when customers (and presumably blog readers) ask. In their black, cubed packaging, they remind me of the final destination of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

On a related note, a co-worker of mine walked into the back room on Wednesday, bowed to the box, and proclaimed: "I am not worthy." I would not kid you about this thing.

The level of security around these things is rather impressive. The books are boxed, boxed again, wrapped in some rubbery stuff, tied with plastic string, and who knows what else. We all had to sign a release form saying we would not open the box or sell any of the books before release day under penalty of receiving a pink slip and presumably a mob hit. 'Tis a shame, in my case. Five of those books on the black market at this very moment could support me for my three year commitment in New Hampshire. Heck, it could support InterVarsity's entire ministry in New Hampshire for three years. Alack and alas, integrity.

Come to think of it, I actually did not read the fine print that I signed. Hopefully, it did not say anything about the taboo nature of talking about the shipments. Or describing them in detail.

Apparently, the in-store policy is only the tip of the wand when it comes to the security measures being taken. Our manager tells a story of a buddy of his who drives a truck. His company loaded him up with a shipment of HP books, then ordered him to take them to "New York."

New York is a big place, he said. Where in New York?

Can't say, they responded. Call when you hit the state line, and we'll guide you from there.

I would love to continue on, but I just popped a rotten egg-flavored jelly bean. My stomach turns. Here I thought I had a Potty mouth simply because I spoke on Harry Potter. Given that these candies taste like poo, perhaps one may say I have a potty mouth on a very, very different level.

Maybe washing it out with a soap flavored jelly bean will do the trick.