Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Slice of Americana

"What took you so long?" joked Virginia's 71st Governor, "Landslide" Bob McDonnell as he took the stage to honor candidate Scott Rigell on his 50th birthday. Partisans from Virginia's 2nd Congressional District crowded the Cavalier on the hill; majestic landmark to old Virginia Beach money. A swell of enthusiasm and laughter greeted the good natured joking between two old friends and new allies. "No joke, I've been trying to get this guy to run since 1994."

The offhanded comment revealed a backstory, no doubt present in every campaign, of how the players got to center stage of the political drama. Watching on in the crowd was a grey-haired veteran both of the automotive business and the political game, the Hon. Conoly Phillips. He smiled, perhaps remembering how he'd met Rigell as a young, promising MBA student at Regent University in 1987. Truth was, he gave him his start in the local car world, where Rigell worked for about five years until he was able to purchase his own dealership.

And now Mr. Phillips serves as chairman of the board for Regent University, that aims to train "Christian leaders to change the world." He has to feel good, seeing a governor, and perhaps a future Congressman, espousing values he holds closely, sharing a stage and electrifying the swelling crowd. But perhaps most importantly, Shannon Kendrick--African American Regent government staff, and Juan Gonzalez- local Latino pastor and community activist, as well as Hunter Hangar, current Regent second year law student, are amidst the crowd, cheering on the candidate as well. This candidate brought together a community; the young, the religious right, a significant Hispanic minority (meeting campaign manager JAson Miyares' mother was a thrill!)

For a moment, on Memorial Day weekend, at Scott Rigell's 50th Birthday party, as his third generation Marine son Justus stood to thank the crowd, I took in the joy of being an American. Not the thrill of being right, but of having a choice. Of families that can better themselves through education; achieve the "American Dream" of earning probably more money than they ever imagined. Regardless of the election results, Scott said it "This is, without a doubt, the best birthday I've ever had!"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Makes People Magnetic?

I spent time with my mentor Bill today. It's tough to do on a normal day, because he has people waiting in line by the dozens to spend time with him, talk to him, ask him questions or seek his counsel. But this time it was especially difficult, because he just underwent surgery for colon cancer. Everybody on the East Coast, and beyond it seems, has been wishing him well for the last several weeks. The thought of a world without Bill struck so many of us as wrong and frightening and frankly, unthinkable, that even the waitresses in local restaurants were going out of their way to communicate love, support and well wishes to this magnetic man.

It made me wonder: what makes some people so irresistibly interesting? What qualities in some people around us bring us back for more and more? Why are certain people the ones we call when catastrophic or celebrative events alike take place? Why are we drawn to them so?

I asked a couple of my friends at Regent University--guys I trust, and whom I have seen draw others to themselves because of their strength of character and boldness of action. This is the list that they drew up. See what you think. What others should we add?

Courage: Immediately one of them said "courage." People were drawn to David in the Bible because of his courage. Not only in standing up to his enemies, but in confronting evil, and in the insistence he do the hard things himself .

Humility: The other gentleman added "humility." Peter the apostle mentioned it as a crucial quality a shepherd leader possesses. No one is drawn to a narcissist.

Authenticity: This one was easy to point out from the life of my friend Bill. He is himself no matter who is around... sometimes to a fault. He speaks the truth, and models approachability to both prince and pauper.

Selflessness: Knowing that someone who lay down his life for you, lay down his schedule for you, listen to your needs without jamming his agenda down your throat...these are the qualities of a selfless friend. They make my friend Bill magnetic, a beacon to those in trouble, who are hurting, who have screwed something up in their life, and are looking for an understanding heart and a listening ear.

I would travel for days by dog sled to tell my buddy what he means to me, and express how much we've lifted him up in prayer. My fellas here reminded me that David in the Bible drew 400 folks who were hurting and in trouble and inspired fierce loyalty in them for the rest of his life. He's a magnet...there's no doubt.

What do you think makes people magnetic?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Roots--Pt. 1

Roots... everybody's got them. Here I refer not to family heritage, but intellectual roots. Which is to say, what set of experiences and thought systems fed and nurtured my thinking? And though my theological tree be a dwarf bansai or a majestic oak, in what soil is it rooted and grounded?

I guess what got me started snooping around the base of my theological trunk was an excellent post by my colleague Dr. Dale Coulter in School of Divinity at Regent University. He was asking questions about the Reformed movement from outside that camp. In the post (you should read it) he takes a historian's view of three streams of Reformed thought; 1) Puritan Congregationalist, 2) Scottish Presbyterian and 3) Dutch Reformed. That may already be more theology than you'd care to consider, but for me it awakened memories of joining the little Presbyterian church in my hometown of Shelby NC, and coming into contact with the first root of my tree--the Reformed faith.

Root 1: Reformed thought
For those of you who don't know, in the Presbyterian way of life, you get wet as a squawking baby at the insistence of your parents. They get to feel better about themselves because they did something holy for their kid, but not quite as good as Catholic parents, because I wasn't considered "saved." That comes later. But at about age "12" you hit the next important phase (no not acne) and that's called "Communicant's Class" a.k.a. "joining the church."

I was pretty excited about joining the church because it seemed a real bummer to miss out on the grape juice and crackers that made their way around the little 150 seat sanctuary every month or so. Members could partake of that important act in a fully adult fashion, and I was eager to do so. But first, my friends and I from the 6th grade class had to make it past the pastor's "Communicant's" class .

The things I remember from that class are not all theological. I remember the girls eagerly quizzing us boys if we were in fact circumcised. We dutifully memorized verses out of Romans that we were told formed a "road" that seemed important somehow. But the big showstopper requirement was a personal interview of one of the "elders" of the church.

I arrived at the elder's home, armed with a hand held cassette recorder, knees knocking to speak to the only Doctor in our small church. But in a moment, the doctor/elder melted my fears and wrapped me up in a big, warm explanation of the truths of God, His providential care of His children, and how He made all things work together for His good. The way he said it, I just knew that it was all true.

And so it was that with my fellow communicants, and most of the members of our church, I gathered at our church camp to celebrate my first communion. And as I lifted the small cup and put the juice to my lips I caught the eye of the elder/doctor and he smiled. And my father saw that smile, and he smiled, and then the juice went down, hot and stinging. But I knew that I was in a family, rooted to generations of thinking believing men who believed that God would and could work things together for His good.

What were the roots of your beliefs? I would love to hear them.

Root 2 (Coming soon) Charismatic
A similar tangled root system can be found in the writings of James Smith who teaches philosophy at Calvin College in Michigan.