Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What is Poetry?

Recently, Sarah Palin resigned from the governor's seat in Alaska. She delivered a speech that garnered mixed responses. But her exact text was delivered in a different setting, to an entirely different end.

Watch that link here... Palin's text
So the question is... what is poetry? Is it the words, or is it the delivery, or is it both?
I think about the beautiful poetry of the truth, and how often I marr it almost beyond recognition in my own telling. Is it poetry just because it's true? Or do I have a responsibility to handle the words well, to draw attention to the truth in deft, artistic moves?
What do you think?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hey this is my Man!

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

Oops. One Giant Misstep for Mankind

"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?

But of course we've all done that, at some point. In the old days, all it took was opening the back of the camera at an inopportune time. (those of you with an all-digital memory, please find some older person and ask them to reminisce about the small square do-hickey with four little bulbs called a 'flash.') All it takes now is one mishandled download, and four hundred precious pics from Hannah's Chuckee Cheese party are gone in a flash. What's a guy to do?

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

Church Without Shame?

Paula White Returns to Church Without Walls

Help me understand why this isn't a crassly economic move to stave off bankruptcy at the church and foreclosure on the property? I mean, that in itself is not a bad goal, but to dress it up like this is to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Am I missing something here? I know she's popular. I know she's a better speaker than him. (Sorry Randy) But someone doesn't think that this is just a bit awkward? I have seen divorced couples try to stay in the same church; usually they pick different services or steer clear of each other. But where does he go--she's preaching all the services? Will she lead the divorce recovery group, or teach it?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reformed Resurgence

My friend Sean shot me this through Facebook, and I really liked it. Check it out and see if it connects to your experience.


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

Love is the Ultimate Luxury

My last stay in New York City laid me in the lap of luxury. The “W” Hotel on Times Square exuded sleek, modern elegance. Their signature service is to orchestrate every design detail to convey comfort, style, and class. But there is another New York. My most recent visit has reminded me that the city has another face, not so coiffed, not so elegant.

My hosts this trip were the amazing folks at the New York School of Urban Ministry or NYSUM for short. For twenty-five years the Rev. Peter DeArruda, his wife Darleene, and their magnificent staff have been serving the “other” New York, the gritty world of the streets. Their signature service is a late night “room service” visit to New York’s homeless. The delivery? A care package of personal hygiene goods, and a late night snack. Then, with the help of volunteer groups from around the country, they serenade their “guests” with live music and love.

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.
This Spring Break (2010) students from Regent University will come with me to visit this other New York. And when they check in at the bare bunks and sparse halls of NYSUM, I know that they will have a chance to serve those in need. They will discover, as I have, that love may be the ultimate luxury.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Chapel, July 8

What, Me Worry?

The ushers were in place. The crowd had been lining up for over an hour. The “green room” backstage of the Performing Arts Center at Regent was set with a small banquet of goodies for the band. All the details for Jars of Clay were prepared…leaving me only one task to complete; worry.

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….