Thursday, June 28, 2007

Southern Fried Reinstatement

My Madison adventure ended Wednesday when I touched down in Charlotte at 9:10PM, two hours and 20 minutes after my plane should have landed per the initial itinerary. Even cuter, my bags did not return until 4:30PM on THURSDAY. Next time, I'm taking Greyhound. For all its flaws, Greyhound won't lose my bags. Plus, rumor has it I might fall in love there.

My posts became exceedingly lax the second half of my time in Madison which I imagine is rather unfortunate given that we moved on from fundraising training just about that time. Fundraising may be the axis on which the staff world turns and the honey in our tea, but it must remain painfully unexiciting to you, dear reader. For this, I apologize. It simply becomes harder to find time to blog when you like people, and I began to like spending time with the folks I worked with as the week wore on. It appears blog posts and human interaction are inversely proportionate to one another.

This mathematical truth probably speaks volumes about my Charlotte social life.

Nevertheless, I re-entered Southern society with a gastrointestinal vengenance today. Madison has a great diversity of restaurants - Japanese, Italian, Mediterranean, Afghani, Wisconsian - that I enjoyed greatly. But like America in the 1920's, my stomach needed a return to normalcy. Today, that is precisely what it got:

Lunch at Bojangles:
4 Chicken Supremes
mashed potatoes w/ gravy
green beans
biscuit w/ grease
32 oz. sweet tea (refilled twice)

Dinner at The 'Cue Shack:
Hickory Smoked Pork Butt (lest ye think me a prude, this is how it is labeled on the menu)
Mac and Cheese
Fried Okra
Hushpuppies
more sweet tea

Welcome home, Tummy, welcome home.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tasty Murder

A favorite spotted t-shirt that made for a good laugh at the breakfast table this morning:

"Meat is murder. . . . tasty, tasty murder."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Work by Faith

I heard a quote Friday from an InterVarsity donor who used to work at Arthur Anderson before Arthur Anderson disappeared in a day. Right after the company went under, he told the staff worker to whom he donated:

"I wish I had known that I lived off faith just like you have to."



You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth. -Deut 8:17-18

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Super Market

Odd Encounter of the Week: farmer's market

Every Saturday during the summer months, the city of Madison opens up the square around the capital building for the purpose of hosting a farmer's market. The event is rather large, taking one a solid 30 mintues for one to stroll through.

A few odd observations from Madison's market:

-Vendors sold meat from bison and ostrich, in addition to live chickens and turkeys. If you wanted a chicken or turkey, a sign told you to "Inquire."

-Farmer John sold cheese at a booth. John Farmer is my roomate from Richmond, VA. In a touching moment, they met. Chiasmus, bringing people together.

-Vendors advertised cheese as "sqeak-a-licious." We asked why. Apparently, new curds create cheese which squeaks between one's teeth during mastication. We tested various samples of cheese, and lo and behold, they squeaked.

-A woman told me her she once had a dream of growing a beard. To achieve said dream, she rubbed Miracle Gro on her face. Though a beard did not emerge, her face did turn blue.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Prayer for the Church

As I mentioned earlier this week, the slightest little spark will ingnite a flame of applause in the conference room where 130 new staff interns assemble for training everyday. Just the mere mention of part of God's character or the visual of a fictionalized character signing over a support check or the announcement of a free book will turn the Best Western Ball Room into the Dean Dome.

So today, in prefacing a discussion on financial church partnership, a speaker began with this:

"The church is great."

He hesitated through his sentence until a brief pause at the end. Three people in the room clapped. Sensing momentum, five or six more joined in. At this point, an explosiion usually occurs.

But it didn't. An awkward pause fell over us as the eight or nine exhausted their applause. And silence dominated.

Because trivialities such as movie clips receive great applause at this event, I do not think it presumptuous to read intention into the silence. Many people do not care much for the church, especially in a room of folks who have chosen to minister in a context outside its "walls."

This silence really saddened me.

The church is not perfect and most certainly has hurt a great many people, but the reality is that Jesus Christ loves his church. He died for her. We claim to love people, justice, and the Word because Jesus Christ loves people, justice, and the Word. We often fail to strive to love the church even though Jesus Christ loves the church.

As recently at six months ago, I too did not care much for the church, so I do not say this from a point of condescention or great knowledge. I simply write in hope that we may pray for a resurgence in people's love for the church, for the sake of Jesus Christ and for the sake of ourselves.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Called

"I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." -Isaiah 42:6-7

Most of us think a great deal about why we are here, what our purpose is in life. My generation, self included, articulates (read: whines) about this often, as we jump from job to job, trend to trend, fad to fad, attempting to be happy.

If you seek purpose in life, I imagine you could do a lot worse than Isaiah 42 - no matter where you are, in full-time ministry or no.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why Fundraising Matters to Me (and You Too!)

As a staff worker for InterVarsity, I have to raise my own salary through a process of letters, phone calls, and face-to-face appointments with family, friends, and church members. My apologies for using the term "fundraising" in earlier posts without explaining what exactly I meant by it.

The apostle Paul spent a lot of time fundraising for his mission work, and his letters in the New Testament bear this out. Because of these funds, Paul had the means to take the Gospel out of Jerusalem to the surrounding Mediterranean Region and eventually all the way to Rome. Furthermore, this "apostle to the Gentiles" helped bring the news of Jesus to folks of non-Jewish descent.

I am a Gentile. I also do not live in Jerusalem.

If the people in Macedonia and Corinth and Phillipi do not give Paul the funds for his work, he probably would have starved in a prison cell early in his ministry. Even if he survived, he might have had to gone back to tentmaking, directing time away from and necessarily stagnating the spread of the Gospel.

Without sufficient support, perhaps the news of Jesus Christ does not get out of Jerusalem. Perhaps it does not make its way to Rome. Perhaps it does not make its way further into Europe. Perhaps it does not make its way to America.

Perhaps it does not make its way to me.

I raise my metaphorical glass tonight to the Macedonians, the Corinthians, and the Phillippians, the unsung heroes of the New Testament, who freed themselves from the slavery of money and gave to Paul so that I might know the good news that Christ died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

A Total Glimpse of the Heart

We interns, we are a loud bunch. We stand on the brink of a new and exciting job which the Lord has called us to. This is exciting and worthy of outbursts.

Plus, we are stuck in a hotel conference room for hours upon hours. Our only release: yelling, screaming, and clapping whenever the slightest chance presents itself.

We heard all kinds of great stories yesterday. People coming to faith in college. People coming to faith through fundraising. People coming to faith on their deathbeds. Answered prayer. Fundraising blessings. Reconciliation achieved. Anger concurred. God magnified, glorified, and I wish I had another verb that ended in "ified."

These all drew great applause.

But what sparked the loudest hurrah?

A movie clip from a film about a man who needed to raise funds in order to complete his mission of crossing Antartica. We watched in silence until a companion of the protagonist signed over a $24,000 check to him.

"AMEN!"

"PREACH IT!"

"SWEET JESUS!"

A glimpse into the heart of a campus staff intern.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Worthy to Suffer

At the end of a fundraising training session tonight, the leaders asked everyone to stand whose parents did not support their decision to go on staff with InterVarsity. Slowly, over half of the room of 130 rose to their feet. As we laid on hands and the folks from the front prayed, many people cried. They did not sniffle. They wept.

It was, and still is, heart-breaking.

The scene really humbled me because I believe these people, like Job, have been found worthy to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Granted, we all have our crosses to bear, but some seem heavier than others.

At some point down the road, I may rue tonight, but I pray that one day I will be found worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ like my brothers and sisters who stood tonight.

A Sign of Things to Come

"BEST WESTERN:

WELCOME

INTERVARSITY

AND

UW PSYCHIATRY"

-the sign/board out in front of our hotel

The pairing is unintentional.

I think.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Grounded

I hate flying. Flying requires one of two things:

1) great science

OR

2) great faith

I remain an English nerd who constantly struggles with unbelief.

So when the captain of our tiny commuter plane said that Madison was currently experiencing 15 MPH winds with gusts up to 25 MPH and storms within a 30 mile radius of the city, I began to sweat. Small plane. Big weather. Despite the floor air conditioner which pummeled my sandaled feet to ice blocks, I began to sweat.

After a 40 minute ride, we hit the ground with only minor turbulence. Though I now smell like I just ran a half marathon, I have returned to land safely. Being grounded never felt this good.

Isaiah writes that "even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary."

Father, I desire to place my hope in you, that you might renew my strength. But if it's all the same to you, I'd prefer to run and not grow weary, thank you very much.

Live From Wisconsin!

Wisconsin, home of cheese, an aging quarterback, Bucky, and (most relevantly) InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

The city of Madison takes its place as my home for the next ten days, as I navigate through InterVarsity's Orientation for New Student, henceforth known simply as ONS (pronounced "oh en ess" and not like the plural form a common preposition).

I will attempt to blog frequently about my experience in Wisconsin, this being not only my first visit to the state but also my first visit to the Midwest. Given our schedule, my posts will be short and consequently not well thought out.

The former characteristic may be new for my consistent readers. The latter? Well, just business as usual from your old hack here at Redeeming Prufrock.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Fruits of Name Dropping

My friend, and more importantly frequent Redeeming Prufrock commenter, Brad (or Bradley, apparently depending on his mood while commenting) Phillis has a fledgling blog which has just recently taken flight. He dedicated a recent post to me, and it is well worth your three minutes.

Plus, I am vain. If you reference my name, I will send some props your way.

The post's dedication is questionable, depending on your opinion of yours truly. His writing, however, is masterful.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Second Pair of Britches

Odd Encounter of the Week: a hit

"Did you find everythi. . . "

In the middle of my Microsoft Borders Clerk v. 2.0 register speak, I found myself interupted by my own name.

"Ben," the voice whispered.

I halted my monotone register greeting and looked up, down, all around. I heard it again.

"Ben."

I admit, dear reader, I began to come undone. The voice had disrupted my flow, and though I still continued to check out the books, I stood visibly flustered, stumbling through words and not really paying attention as I tried to find the source of the voice.

I looked around but saw no one I recognized. Where was the voice coming from?

Then over the shoulder of my customer, I saw an older man, mid-60's, looking at me. The voice had come from him. He smiled, big and loose.

I did a double-take, trying to look - but not too hard - to see if I knew this man who seemed to be calling my name.

We made eye contact. This may seem irrelevant, but you must understand what eyes mine had contacted. He had big, bulging, Mr. Potato Head eyes. But unlike Head's orbs which snap firmly and snuggly into place, his eyes seemed unattached to anything in his head, as if they could look any direction on a 360 degree field. It seemed as though he could have rolled them in a complete circle without, well, batting an eye. If he wanted, he could've had one eye looking at me and one eye looking for me.

What's worse though, he appeared to have no control over them. He had "the krazy eye."

My heart skipped a beat. As odd as it sounds, I stood legitimately afraid. Who was this guy and what did he want with me?

While pondering this man's identity, he flashed me a hand sign gesture thingy as if we had some secret communication. A gang symbol or something.

The fear grew. I began to sweat. It was cold.

Still baffled, I heard him speak: "Sooza. . . . Sooza." The hand gesture flashed again.

The name "Keyser Soze" popped into my head. Soze, pronounced close enough to "Sooza" that it triggered the association, is fearsome character from the movie "Usual Suspects." If you have not seen it, do. For the sake of the movie, I cannot say much about Keyser Soze except this:

He kills people.

The scene of the last 15 seconds swirled together, and as ridiculous as it may seem, it terrified me. This man knew my name. He flashed gang symbols. He uttered something eerily familiar to a ruthless movie murderer. And he looked krazy.

Perhaps all the Sopranos talk had gotten to me, but I felt certain this man had come to off me.

Here I thought the horsehead I had found on my pillow the day before was merely a joke by my vanquished tennis opponents. And that black rose which appeared in the mailbox this morning looked like chocolate, simply an early birthday present.

Why the heck did the mob have a hit out on me?!?!? I didn't do anything, I promise! I'm just a kid, I swear! The police made me talk! They made me!

I'M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Do you have my cd's? The John Phillip Sousa ones I called in for an hour ago. Remember we talked?"

I did not move for a solid four seconds, as the fear adrenaline quickly fled, leaving me to crash back to the reality of my bookstore surroundings.

"Oh, yeah, heh heh, Sousa. John Phillip Sousa. Yeah, I, uh, put them on hold right over there. I'll help you as soon as I finish with this customer."

"Thanks, Ben."

He gave me a thumbs up, flashing his goofy smile again.

I finished checking out my customer and snuck off to the back room for a private moment, to emotionally recover but also to change pants, having had the piss scared out of me by a 65-year old man who apparently loved "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Omaheels!!!! (again)

In case you watched the series finale of The Sopranos last night (which I imagine many of you did) or watched Game 2 of the NBA Finals (which I cannot imagine many of you did) or did not watch any television at all (which I commend you for), the UNC baseball team defeated the University of Little Carolina 9-4 last night to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Redeeming Prufrock is very excited about this.

The Heels made it to Omaha last year and lost in the championship game 3-2 on an 8th inning throwing error. Those of you who followed the team closely know how badly this disappointment hurt, how you loved that team because it was your second semester of senior year and you spent so many afternoons at the stadium and not in class because class had ceased to matter, how you watched in a bar alone on your birthday because you were on assignment in Boston where only the Red Sox matter, how you left despondent and alone with the Northerners not knowing what the big deal was, how you didn't talk the rest of the night - and didn't sleep either, how even months later that pang of "what might have been" still hanunted you, how you ranked that loss as the 3rd most emotionally intense sporting event in your top 10, how you felt those guys deserved better than such a gut-wrenching loss.

You must permit me a moment of lost perspective. Emotion often trumps logic.

A few baby blue demons still haunt Omaha and need exorcism. This return trip provides that opportunity. What sweet relief, even justice, it would be for them to triumph where they fell just short a year ago. Maybe even the second baseman could get the game-winning hit.

But a lot of those demons fled last night. This return trip to the College World Series ensures that the championship game from last year will not be the dominant memory for so many of those players (only four did not return from last year's team). Tar Heel sports addicts will remember them as the first back-to-back College World Series participants in UNC history, not as the team that came so close in '06 but threw the title away.

This makes us excited here at RP because that team deserves to triumph over the final game of last year. They deserve better than that because they play with great heart and, from all reports (and I do mean all), they represent the university as well as any group of atheletes can. They deserve better than what happened to them last year.

They deserve a national championship.

The road begins Friday at 7:00pm.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Wresting Rest

I feel bad. Not the just-clubbed-a-bunch-of-baby-seals-for-coats bad but the stayed-up-too-late-going-clubbing bad. Now, I did not spend last night downtown, but I just feel that way. I feel icky. My stomach growls, but I do not feel like eating. Stubble has become me.

I shall call it fatigue.

Now, I have not come to Redeeming Prufrock whine. We are all tired. Old and young. Employeed, part-time employeed, or unemployeed. Justified or not. We are all tired. I have become convinced by observation and experience that feeling fatigued unites us. We are always busy and are thus always tired, no matter what we have done or how much sleep we have gotten.

In his song off the "Save the Last Dance" soundtrack (and yes, I own it; who doesn't?), Ice Cube opines, "Life ain't a track meet, it's a marathon." I fear I must disagree with Mr. Cube. When I used to run cross country, we loved our long runs. We'd run ten, 12 miles and think nothing of it. Why? you may ask. Because we ran S. . . . L . . . .O. . . .W. We chatted. We relaxed. We enjoyed the weather. What killed us were track workouts. We'd run a shorter interval, say a half-mile, about as hard as we could, then take two minutes of rest before gearing back up for another speedy half-mile. These workouts were brutal. These workouts made people barf.

In my experience, life is more like the track workout, not a marathon but a "series of sprints" as my friend Alex Kirk puts it. This explains why we feel so tired all the time. This explains why we so often feel the need to emotionally barf.

This reality puts a premium on what we do in the interval between repeats. How do we recover? How do we wrest rest from out busy lives?

I looked up rest in the Humphries Kneejerk Dictionary and found this:

rest (v.) - to not work.

One could do worse than this definition, I suppose. After all, we rest by going to the beach, by reading or watching television, and by napping.

Yet, I have found a great irony in rest. As I get older these activities oftentimes do not make me feel restful. I used to spend Sunday afternoons "resting." I would lay on the futon for seven straight hours after church and watch football. This would seem as Heaven, especially during seasons when the Carolina Panthers found success and Michael Vick found failure. (and honestly, can anyone remember when the latter was not the case?). Come 5:00 though, I began to feel icky, stale, worthless, In short, I felt unrested.

Three Things That Do Not Make Me Feel Rested:
-Sleeping more than 11 hours in a day
-Laying on the couch all afternoon
-Doing nothing

Six Things That Do Make Me Feel Rested:
-Laughing
-Controlled sleeping
-Controlled football watching
-Hanging out with friends
-Writing
-Running

So my kneejerk definition breaks down. Oftentimes, simply avoiding work does not provide rest. How about a second defintion, this one from the Benetian More Thought Out Dictionary:

rest (v.) - to do that which rejuvenates.

What this actually looks like stands beyond me. Sometimes hanging out with people wears me out. All the time running does. With this defintion, rest can take many forms depending on your mood and your personality. It also makes it very difficult to provide "An Answer" to the question "How do we rest?" Perhaps this is where we must leave it. It simply may not be a black and white issue.

The Bible mentions rest a good bit but very rarely details. God rested on the seventh day of creation but the text does not elaborate. The folks of the Old Testament and some in the New took a Sabbeth day which again seems to simply mean a day to abstain from work. Jesus constantly took rests where he retreated from his public life to spend time alone with the Father. This seems the best, most complete picture of rest that the Bible provides.

Perhaps we can do no better than to say a restful day, whatever form it may take, must include spending time with the only One who really knows how to give us the rest that we need.