Sunday, December 13, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I serve on a committee (which identifies me as a bona fide academic) seeking to understand the current state of spiritual life on our campus (Regent University.) That's a tall order, even for a much smaller organization. I've been impressed with our committee chairperson who has insisted on a broad sampling of input from across the campus community, from facility services to undergrad students to Vice Presidents. I've decided its the type of spiritual community I prefer to grow in.
As you may remember, we've been taking a look at a monk from the 5th century named Benedict. He says in his rule, "Whenever weighty matters are to be transacted in the monastery, let the Abbot call together the whole community..." As a spiritual leader, Benny took seriously the call to listen to his followers. (see Rule 1) In fact, he goes on to say, "we said that all should be called for counsel, because the Lord often revealeth to the younger what is best." This equalitarian strain of hearing from all went directly against the iron-willed rule of many monastic communities of the day. In fact, the tenor of the work that most directly influenced Benedict's rule, "The Rule of the Master" could be summarized in the vernacular as "shut up and color!"
What kind of spiritual community are you attracted to? Do you like a rigid, rules-oriented group where your boundaries are clear and your thinking is done for you? Do you prefer strong, directive leaders who have definitive answers to all of life's pressing questions? God bless you, I wish you well. That's just not for me. I like Benedict's eggs better, thank you very much.
I prefer spiritual community which strives to listen to even the least among them as they pursue God's will.
We all live in a cultural context, and in Benny's day, the church had grown rich and powerful, and many thought it had lost its spiritual focus. So Benedict gathered groups of 12 fellow Christ-followers and lived according to his rule, seeking God together as a community. In fact he started 12 such communities, on the model of Jesus who gathered 12 men around him to do life together.
Many consider our times to be similar to Benedict's. Where once our culture was secular and the church spiritual, now the church is secular and culture spiritual. (not necessarily Christian!) Yet as tempting as it is to hole up in a spiritual community with strong leaders who will build the walls high and "keep out the evil" with strong prohibitions, it seems that Benedict has a better rule.
Rule #2 "Listen to one another, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
My problem is that I don't so much like rules. Any of them, I'm not choosy. I don't read instruction manuals, and I don't like people telling me I'm doing it "wrong." I'm hard headed that way, and in my children I find a mirror of what happens when one refuses to "listen." Funny, but that's exactly how the Rule of St. Benedict begins, "Listen, my children..." Just like a young vine needs guidance in its growth from the arbor, so a child needs guidance from his parents; and (reluctantly acknowledged) I need guidance from my spiritual fathers and mothers.
Fine... I'll listen. Are you willing to listen to Benedict? I discovered he's not a preacher, not a priest, but a "layman." An ordinary working stiff who was trying to help his friends find some sort of center of soul in the busyness of working. And he wasn't talking to just religious people, as he says, "To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will..." Hmmm...there's a secret there, from Benny, that the rule is first to listen, then to admit you may be going about things all the wrong way. Thousands of men and later women listend to Rule #1 from Benedict of Nursia. That's why he came to be known as "the founder of western Christian monasticism".
So... Rule #1 from Benedict today is simple.
Stop and Listen...you may be wrong.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In that vein, let me throw you a theological conundrum. As Americans, we are grateful for our freedoms (including the freedom to worship!) and give God thanks for the men and women who purchased and protected that freedom, often with their lives. We see in Scripture great warriors who also served God, including Moses, Joshua, David, and in the New Testament Cornelius and the centurion. Godly men and women can serve their nation and their Lord with honor.
Yet we are also instructed by our Savior " Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:44) To be honest, it comes easier for me on a day like today to pray for our troops, our friends, our "side." Yet Jesus, from His cosmic perspective, looks down on all men, sending rain on the just and the unjust, and asks us to pray for those we consider enemies.
So today I pray for our troops, and for the militant Islamic terrorists who war against our very way of life. I pray their hearts are softened, their minds are changed, and their lives reflect the love they attribute to Allah. I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that Arab and Jew, Palestinian and Israeli would find common ground. I pray for South Koreans AND North Koreans. I pray for the corrupt Afghani government officials, AND the ... are there any other kind? Just curious.
Let me know what you think. How can we pray for both sides?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Perhaps some around Regent have found themselves muttering about a different phrase, an insider’s slogan; that may seem equally foreign, equally obtuse. “Becoming Community.” What does it mean? Who is it for? Is this a socialist plot?” some may have asked.
As one who was there when the term was coined, I feel obligated and perhaps compelled to explain this insider’s phrase, and to make sense of its meaning and intent. Because I too have a fever. And it’s for More Community.
The phrase “Becoming Community” originated in a Student Services brainstorming meeting, whose intent was to set a theme for the year that would capture our sense of what God was up to on our campus, and would name our hopes for the academic year 2009-2010. Becoming Community was unanimously selected as our theme, and has since filtered out, like any good inside joke, to others, both in the faculty, staff and student body.
To be fair, not everyone gets it. “What community?” Who gets to decide? It sounds too soft and gooey to get my arms around.” Individuals point out that community requires trust, a scarce substance in many places. It requires socializing and eating together, something made difficult in Regent’s online environment. In our culture of advertising hype, it sounds like yet another empty cliché, designed to pad recruiting or retention statistics. But still, I have a fever.
I’m not sure whom to blame for my malady. I desperately, with all my being, want to be part of a living, thriving, healthy community. I want to work in a place where I know the people around me, and in turn am known. I want to invest myself in others and celebrate their accomplishments, and in turn be celebrated. My heart hopes for a place where I trust those above and below me to work side by side for a mission greater than all of us. But I need more cowbell…or I should say, I need more community at Regent.
I’d like to see more students meeting together in the Commons, studying the Bible and sharing what a verse means to them, rather than staying up till midnight—door closed to others- to turn in an online post for a class. I want to see more faculty and staff in the Ordinary, pouring themselves into mentoring relationships that cross generational and denominational boundaries. I long to see a weekly chapel packed with students, staff and faculty laying aside cherished worship preferences in order to express their common faith in Jesus Christ, united with students around the country and the world though online access.
The Apostle Paul had it when he spoke to a deeply divided body of believers, 10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. I hear the passion in his voice as the great pastor and educator pleaded with individuals and groups to get along, to work together, to be united in mind and thought. Would he ask for less from a Christian institution founded for God’s glory, whose very seal includes a ribbon symbolizing the unity we proclaim to a watching world. Shouldn’t we all have this fever?
And Guess What? I think I hear the distinctive ring of community’s beat. This year Residence Life professionals along with Student Services staff were joined by area churches on a true Freshman Move-in day. Music played, brightly colored signs welcomed new students. Blaze orange “Volunteer” shirts on Vice Presidents and “2 L’s” melted diversity of rank into unity of purpose. I was there in the room when Katie first met Lauren, their mothers smiled and cooed as they envisioned their girls in each others’ weddings years hence.
I watched as students organized a new evening chapel and were joined by dozens of their peers from every graduate school as well as the large contingent from undergrad. I’ve seen Students involved in Free Enterprise (SIFE) unite Operation Blessing, CBN and Regent through their service initiative to Can Hunger. (honored by Campbell’s Soup with a “seed money” grant.) I was witnessing the fever spreading…not an epidemic, to be sure, but the story getting out, the flame spreading. More “outsiders” getting in on the joke.
To this ear, it’s the familiar ring of a favorite song. One that brought seven professors and seventy students together to pray and to worship and to seek God’s face united in a community for His glory. And when an undergraduate student shared with me that upon his mother’s death, students, staff and faculty rallied around him, his flight home was paid out of the Regent Student Emergency fund, and he received a personal call from the President and Chancellor Dr. Pat Robertson, I knew what we needed more of…more Community. More cowbell. So I’m wondering, do you have the fever?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Each time I hear from our distinguished professor from the Robertson School of Government, Admiral Vern Clark, (Ret.) I gain a fresh appreciation of his singular gifts. The depth of insight, the breadth of experience, the stark challenge of leadership brings me to the edge of my seat every time! Join us online or in person to hear Admiral Clark elucidate the leadership challenges of becoming community at a religiously diverse institution, such as Regent University.
For an added bonus, hear the exciting mission of Students Involved in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and their "Can Hunger" drive. If you are attending in person, be our guest for a free lunch following chapel, provided by our friends from SIFE.
Be blessed today!
Monday, September 14, 2009
So what is it about the dentist that touches a nerve in me? (other than he is one of the few people in my life who could literally touch a nerve in me) After all, Jesus himself included dental pain as one description of hell, "Where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth..." (Mt. 13:42) For me it's a couple of things. First, when I was growing up I had terribly crooked teeth. Apparently the Kidd gene included coding for being slow, preferring bananna pudding, and having the same bite pattern as a saber-tooth tiger. So I had four "canine incisors" pulled when I was an impressionable 12-year old. I can still feel that needle and the novacaine going into my gums, all the while the dentist telling me it wouldn't hurt a bit. I wanted to jab him in the knee with a sharp implement.
Second, I really didn't feel like I needed the dentist thing. After all the mess of braces (and yes, I lost my retainer in Jr. High and had to dig through the trash...it was a rite of passage!) I made it through my childhood and entire adult life without a cavity. Of course, being the proud human being that I am, I took my strong enamel as a commentary on my moral superiority. Who needs a dentist? All they do is get me down in the mouth.
During my last visit to the dentist, they warned me that one spot on a tooth looked weak, and put it on a "Watch list." (Sort of like North Korea?) But that didn't slow me down. Sure of my superior dention, I ignored the warning for two full years. But two weeks ago my fantasy of dental perfection was shattered. "Dr. J" let me know that decay had penetrated the outer wall of enamel in one tooth, and he was going to have to repair it. That's where I'm headed today... to have a hole in my head filled. I'm dreading it...
So it made me wonder, what other warnings are we ignoring? What other weak spots in my life have I received notice on, but haven't done anything other than schedule a visit to de-nial? Going to the dentist, of course, is a good thing. It is part of being a well person, to respond to the inevitable problems that plaque and Double stuff Oreo's bring my way. Today, I'm going to get my fill of dentists. What weak areas need filling in your life?
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Good! We'll see you tomorrow for University Chapel at noon in the Moot Courtroom . Be there, or be elsewhere.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
We're back to school and back to worshipping God together! Join fellow staff, students and faculty for University Chapel, Wed. Aug. 26, at noon in the Moot Courtroom. We'll kick off our year-long series on "Becoming Community." Are you a Bodybuilder? We're all building a body of some sort, one decision, one donut at a time. What kind of body are you building?
We'll see you there! (Streamed online for those who can't make it in person... go to Regent's My Web Portal, click on the Campus Ministries tab).
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Rev. Cheeks (or Bishop T.D. Cheeks, as I like to call him) will be sharing on the theme "Transformers--more than meets the Eye." Not only can my son sing a song with those same words, I am vitally interested in the topic of transformation. Real change is really rare. But from what I've seen in my friend Roger's life, he is a life-tested authority in this issue. He's lived, loved and changed with the Lord's help, and I am looking forward to hearing from him on this subject.
How about you--are you being transformed?
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Marc Santom IS the man. He's speaking in University Chapel tomorrow and I for one will be there. Of course I 'm paid to do that, so I suppose that is not a very remarkable thought. Nevertheless, even if I wasn't paid to do that, I would do that. He is a great, engaging speaker, and he has life experience that adds depth to his presentation.
So check it out tomorrow! Noon in the Library Auditorium.
Rock on Marcus!
Friday, July 17, 2009
"We searched for the tapes everywhere," NASA engineer Richard Nafzger said in an interview with the Associated Press. Don't you feel for the poor schlemiel who erased, not the first steps of little Johnny across the living room, but the historic first steps of Neil Armstrong on the moon?
Turn to the magic of Hollywood, of course. For a mere $230,000 the same geniuses that restored Star Wars intergalactic luster have restored the footage of the moonwalk. Where were they when I needed them?
But it made me think...why is it I always forget the important stuff, but fill my memory with inconsequential clutter? How exactly would Richard Nafzger feel if the world discovered he had taped over the moon landing to make room for some quality Hee Haw episodes?
But in effect, that's what I do. I cram my digital databank with memories of slights from days gone by, people who have wounded me, intentionally or not. I recall missed opportunities with continued pain, beat myself up with failures and mistakes. In short, I remember all the snapshots of pain and shame with crystal clear precision.
But what about the really important stuff? Times I served others? Times God stepped in with complete grace and saved the day? Family and friends and the thousand precious moments that should last forever in my memory, but don't. Those are the things I should remember. How about you, what should you be remembering? How about a few things you need to forget?
A "Precious Moment" from Easter 2004
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Paula White Returns to Church Without Walls
Monday, July 13, 2009
One of my problems is that I have a hard time putting myself into a category. Most categories seem a bit of a procrustean bed, lopping off the extremes of most of my positions. Maybe one day I'll grow up and fit in one camp or another, but for now I have to sample a bit here, and a bit there. Kind of like Golden Corral for theology, but less grease.
Friday, July 10, 2009
While for this stay I did not have 200-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, I met a staff who has given out thousands of free blankets to the homeless. I could not order fresh squeezed wheat grass shots for breakfast, but I could receive a generous helping of love and a bagged lunch to take me out into the community to help AIDS patients, or sing for cerebral palsy sufferers.
So I didn’t have fresh flowers at check-in, but I did have a wakeup call. According to the NY Coalition for the Homeless, there are 9,538 homeless currently in shelters in the city. That’s an increase of more than 5,000 people since 2002. In Hampton Roads terms, that’s a whole aircraft carrier full of people who don’t have a home beyond the streets.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Oh, I know. I’m not supposed to worry. I worry about that too. If I’m worrying, then at least I feel like I’m doing my part! I worried that Jars of Clay would talk more than they would play (unfounded, as it turned out.) I worried that I would blow my lines as I asked the band questions from students. Most of all, I worried that the guys in the band would walk in, see forty people assembled for chapel, and decide that I was a loser, and that coming to Regent was a mistake.
Do you ever create doomsday scenarios in your head? I do. My stomach can get wrapped in knots that even sailors and Boy Scouts wouldn’t recognize. There I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the triple-Grammy award winning band to come on stage—suddenly awarding them the status of judge of my own worth and value. But as I watched these “stars” take the stage, to the applause of 800+ folks, I had a rare moment of insight. “Jars of Clay” was a message for me. Not the band, but the name.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us,” said the man once known as Saul of Tarsus. If ever there was a Type-A, high-powered individual who sweated every detail, it was he. But in a blinding moment of insight, he saw all of his own gifts and talents, his accomplishments as nothing, in light of God and His power. These four normal guys, Dan, Steve, Charlie and Matt, chose this name “Jars of Clay” to remind themselves to focus on the pure liquid of God’s message. These guys proved to be so normal, so unassuming, so unworried that it spoke to me.
My worth isn’t based on my performance. If there were a few cracks in my jar, then the focus could be all the more on the pure liquid treasure of God’s wonderful message. I leaned back, smiled and enjoyed the chapel, thankful that it was God’s surpassing power at work and not my own meager gifts. But now I have to plan my next chapel….
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
But do you think a 4 year old is going to listen to her daddy on a subject like that? No. So after touring all of Tomorrowland, and Frontierland together as a family, Rachel discovers that her rabbit has come up missing. Shrieks and wails ensued; travesty and calumny issued forth from my daughter. I patiently explain the laws of cause and effect. I demonstrate that this is the natural and logical consequence of disobedience. More shrieks, wailing, gnashing of teeth and bitter tears. I look at the mother; her eyes are telling me logic is not working.
So I, the father, go on an illogical, irrational, all-out search for the lost bunny. I searched on the Goofy Roller coaster. I search by the juice stand, and in the gazebo where we took a picture with Pluto. I turned Disney World upside down to find Rachel’s rabbit. Until I FINALLY I found that rascal rabbit, tucked behind the sewing machine in Minnie's House, and I apprehended her and brought her back to where she belonged.
I gave the rabbit back to Rachel, this rabbit who had been lost but now was found, who had been dead, but now was alive. And I said, “Rachel, do you know why Daddy did what he did? It was because of the name of your rabbit. What’s your rabbit’s name Rachel?
Through the tears she said it, “Daddy her name is Grace.” That’s right Rachel. Her name is Grace. Daddy told you not to leave her, daddy told you the right thing to do but you disobeyed. But Rachel, grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Grace is unmerited favor. Rachel, never forget, your daddy loves you, and when you least deserve it, you will receive grace.”
So who is Grace? Grace is more than a rabbit, grace is a father. Grace is a Father who because of His illogical, boundless love for all His children patiently gives instructions for our safety. And when we ignore them, and we all do, He embarks on an illogical, irrational search for us in the midst of our poor choices. I am so glad Grace is a person, because I spend more time lost than I have any right to...but each time, I get not what I deserve, but instead I get the gift. The gift of grace. Man I love that rascally rabbit.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I find it interesting that the logo page for Twitter includes a small sparrow, presumably Tweeting away in his tree. The truth of the Scripture is that God listens to all her tweets, and cares for each sparrow's fall. That's encouraging to me, because it means my hunch of importance is confirmed in a Father who listens and is always interested and who always cares.
What I'm trying to say is, God reads all Tweets. Thank goodness, because I don't.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
This morning my mom died.
She was diagnosed with cancer 7 ½ years ago, and was given about two years to live, five on the outside. She wept when she heard because of the sadness about not being able to watch her beloved grandchildren grow up.But from the day she first heard the news she wasn’t afraid of death. She was always very grateful for her life, and maybe more importantly, she felt like God had given her a mission that she had completed faithfully. So was time for her to pass the baton for the next generation, and go home to be with God.
All that suddenly changed when my sister-in-law was also diagnosed with terminal cancer. My mom’s own mother had died of cancer when she was young, which had always been the primary heartbreak of my mother’s life. She received that has a call to “come out of retirement” so that she could shepherd my brother and sister-in-law’s three very young children through that tragic experience.That may not seem like a particularly heroic decision, but it’s one of the most heroic and sacrificial things I’ve ever seen anyone do. Determining to stay alive as long as she could and order to care for her grandchildren meant subjecting herself to years of countless indignities and cruel medical treatments.
Daily soldiers and missionaries give up their lives to serve others, which is an awesome sacrifice. My mother made an even more awesome sacrifice, in my estimation: she made the sacrifice of choosing to remain alive, and endure excruciating pain for five more years in order to serve her grandchildren who needed her. And she bore it without complaint.
I realize that for many of you, it will come as a shock to my mother was sick, because she insisted that we never share with anyone – not even her own sister or my grandmother living next door knew. I admit that at first I didn’t agree with her desire for secrecy, but over time I came to understand. She knew that if others knew that she was so sick, that they would concentrate constantly when serving her – but she had stayed alive in order to serve others, she didn’t want to be the focus of attention. She poured enthusiasm and energy into people who had no idea that she would return home to sleep for hours in the middle of the day because it was so exhausting for her.
Since they finally learned last week about how sick my mother was, many people have commented about how difficult it must have been for my father, brothers and I to live for so long with that knowledge. And in some sense it’s true, but in another sense, nothing could be further from the truth – this time has been a tremendous gift.
As I counsel people whose loved ones have died, I frequently hear about their regret at having missed the opportunity to say so many things they wish they had been able to say. So many of the most precious things we would ever want to communicate to someone we love can seem out of place or excessively serious in the rush of daily life. So while we chatter about the minutia, we leave so many of the most important, intimate things left unsaid – assumed.
But after someone has received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, any awkwardness around saying something too serious or too personal disappears immediately – suddenly it seems like the most natural thing in the world to say exactly how you feel, express your appreciation freely. What an incomparable gift has been to live like this with my mother for the past seven years. I’m sure I’ll have many days of sadness ahead, but I don’t think I’ll have too many regrets.
David asked God in Psalm 35 “"Show me, LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is”, and in the same vein, Psalm 90 records Moses’ prayer that God would “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Living with death in mind changes the way we live, and in my relationship with my mother and had the privilege of doing that.
Many people have also commented on how proud my mother must have been to have raised three sons who all attended elite universities and graduate schools, and are successful in their respective fields. She was more proud that we all are very hard workers, regardless of our level of achievement, and exercise integrity even when it hurts. But in truth my mother was much prouder still that she’d raised three boys who are faithful husbands, and devoted fathers, and that in a world of broken families, our family remained devoted to one another. Aside from the ephemeral scuffles of little boys about whose turn it is to go next, or “who started it”, I have no memory of any significant conflict among my brothers. For the past two months, my father and brothers have all spoken together at least weekly, and for the past week we’ve spoken everyday. That is what my mother would have been most proud of – and with good reason, because she is most responsible for nurturing that family environment.
My mother was vital and active until just a week before Easter. But still, when I visited with her that week, she dismissed too much talk about her condition, and wanted to share her excitement about what was going on in my life and those of my wife and children. She must have told me 50 times that day how much she loves me. She didn’t have to tell me so many times – her words and actions over decades have made that impossible to miss.
Over the past couple days her condition declined very rapidly, but I am so thankful that she never experienced any obvious pain. And she never expressed a moment of fear at any time in the past seven years – her faith is absolute, and she looks forward to being with Jesus.
This morning she took in one last quick breath, and then died quietly, and made her way to heaven. There is an ancient prayer for a “Good death” – and it is not a quick death the way some of us imagine – it is a death that one can see coming from a long way off, so that one can enter into it deliberately and participate in it fully. It is a death in which one has time to be reconciled to God and others, and make her death a gift of life to others. In every way, my mother had a very good death.
If you’ve read this far, I thank you for your interest and for allowing me to process my feelings this way. Please know that there’s no need to respond by saying that you’re sorry or that you care – I’m so thankful to live among a community of friends and a very nurturing church in which people routinely and clearly express how much they care and how supportive they are. I am thankful that we truly do share each other’s joys and sorrows, and I feel very loved.
I thank God for the gift of my mother, and pray that the way that I live reflect her values and honor her memory.
Lord- please receive my mother with joy and welcome her with your eternal embrace. Speak to her the words all Christians long to hear when we meet You face to face: “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master's happiness!” (Matthew 25)
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
- Jesus is stripped - top of the stairs to the right outside the entrance
- Jesus is nailed to the cross - upstairs just inside the entrance, at the Latin Calvary
- Jesus dies on the cross - Rock of Golgotha in the Greek Orthodox Calvary
- Jesus is taken down from the cross - statue of Our Lady of Sorrows next to the Latin Calvary
- Jesus is laid in the tomb - in the edicule on the main floor, inside the tiny Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre