Saturday, December 27, 2008

Choose life as a difficult as it may be

Life is difficult, isn't it? I accept this as the true state of the world rather than a pessimistic outlook. Life is Good as the t-shirts say and so does God in Gen 1, but life is also difficult. If this premise is dealt with then there are two texts that are meaningful for reflection.

From Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, p. 53
"People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold to what is difficult; everything alive holds to it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself in its own way and is characteristically and spontaneously itself, seeks at all costs to be so and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is a certainty that will not forsake us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it."

Deuteronomy 30:19b-20
Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestores, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grin and Bear It


I wrote the piece below for Eagle's Nest Camp, a summer camp that formed me in the ball park of the shaping done to me by church and family.

Here's a poem I wrote for my blog, http://monkawe.blogspot.com/, and a reflection below. Picture is from Wikipedia--American Black Bear.

The Bear

Loping
not a care in the world
in the high grass
of a field
just up a hill
from the Little River Valley.
The blood red bear
pulsed and pumped
as I reared back from running
to watch the
loping
as she loped away

When I was 16 it was the summer of 1991. I was a Junior Counselor at Eagle's Nest in Cabin 10. I was given the okay to go running in the early mornings so long as I was back in the cabin by the time the bell rang. I'll never forget the morning that I ran into a black bear. There's a trail that runs up hill off the trail that connects The New Lodge and The Sun Lodge. This trail that heads up hill is pretty close to the Rabbit Hole. At the top of that climb is a small clearing before the trail picks back up on the way to the swing, and turtle overlook, and to the power lines. Some of you might know just where I mean. If you don't, imagine the best of the property that starts to feel like ENC's gateway to the rest of Pisgah Forest.

I saw a bear just as I was cresting the hill. She was less than 50 feet away and running away from me, thankfully. I felt safe. I took a good look and emblazoned the image into my mind and onto my heart and then headed back down the hill in a hurry. I did not think I would be chased and I wasn't. The bear was doing her morning run and I was doing mine. No harm, no foul. The image remains as one of the pristine moments of my life--an encounter with something powerful and beautiful, quiet and almost surreal. It was one of the watershed runs of my young life and I think I still run trails to this day in the hopes of recapturing moments like that one half a life ago.

By the time we were walking from flag raising to breakfast, the rumor had spread among all 200 or so people in our little community. I can remember my feet sinking into the white quad rocks, but the rest of me was on cloud nine as I shared the information. Helen Waite was ecstatic. For her, it was no coincidence that I was a Natseeho and therefore it made perfect sense that I might have such a run-in with a blood red bear. I thought then, as I do to this day, that she hung the moon. The story was a centerpiece of Indian Village the following Sunday. Grant Bullard mentioned that he had recently seen bear scat up that way and in talking to a Pisgah Forest ranger, there was an estimate that there might be as few as five bears in Pisgah Forest from the ENC property all the way to 276. That's thousands of acres, so I guess I was pretty lucky to catch a glimpse of one. In case you are wondering, I am pretty sure the bear population has grown in that neck of the woods which is good news for bears and good news for us. More of us might get to see them!

This encounter with a bear is one among many memories of my nine summers at ENC that only grow more and more vivid as the years pass. If you have vivid memories of your time as a camper or a counselor you should write them down or tell them to a loved one. Thanks for reading mine.

George Linney is an ordained minister in the Ecumenical Baptist Church and a middle school teacher in Durham, NC. He was a camper and counselor at ENC from 1986-1993. He can be reached at geliii@earthlink.net.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

26 days til Christmas? No. Little River!

Christmas is great and all and He's coming in nine days. The saviour of the world is born, but what I want to write about is a necessary diversion--The Little River Trail Run. It's 26 days away and I wonder if I will be ready. My calves are hurting a lot each morning and keeping me from doing the hard workouts that I would like to do. I raced ten days ago and my calves are still hurting particularly in the mornings. I'm running most days, but I am afraid to go really fast. I've already missed three workouts. Oh dear, the need to be patient. I've learned the hard way before, don't run fast on little injuries that need their time to heal. That's how little injuries become big injuries and there goes a season of racing. I'll have to try and remain in an Advent posture--patient and waiting. Silly church, your always teaching me how to live the rest of life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Keeping Tabs on Baptism

In the church where I am lucky enough to attend and be a member, we make a big deal of the claims, "Remembering Your Baptism," or "Renewing Your Baptismal Vows." What do these claims mean? What does it look like to remember one's baptism?

I consider myself intimately responsible for four baptisms. My own baptism and the baptisms of my three children. In some direct and indirect ways I need to keep up with these four moments in time in some unique ways.

November is winding to a close which means I spend more and more time with my 2009 calendar. I'm back and forth between the 2008 and 2009 calendars and starting to think more about mapping about next year's set of dates and activities. I looked at a calendar that I have on my PC, but one I don't look at very often anymore. One nice thing about it is that it brings up some anniversary reminders which is what got me thinking about baptisms and four dates that will help narrate my prayer life in 2009.

On January 8, 2006, Kathryn Nevins Linney was baptized. Baptism of our Lord celebrated at Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, NC. She keeps asking me, "Daddy, why do we have to die. Oh yeah, because we were born."

On January 13, 2008, William Nevins Linney was baptized. Baptism of our Lord celebrated at Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, NC. Yeah, he will be sealed and marked for one whole year. His is still nice and fresh. I don't think the finish has worn off yet, because I think mine needs a new coat.

On March 13, 1988, George Edward Linney, III was baptized (that's me). Palm Sunday celebrated at First Presbyterian Church, Maitland, FL. Wow, almost 21 years ago. If I hadn't given up the sauce because of allergies I could start drinking again.

On April 10, 2004, George Edward Linney, IV was baptized. The Great Easter Vigil at Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, NC. Oh, what a night. Kristen Nevins Linney and I were also received into the fellowship at Holy Family on that Resurrection night nearly a half decade ago. See also: http://monkawe.blogspot.com/2008/09/baptismal-inspiration-from-meredith.html

I'm going to mark these dates and pray with these special moments in 2009. Which saints are being celebrated around the world on Jan 8, Jan 13, Mar 13 and Apr 10? I promise to find out and lift up these days and these special memories. When were you baptized, confirmed, married? What dates, besides birthdays, do you need to take special care of in 2009?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where the rocks meet the roots and the tree

The text below is the original Hebrew of Psalm 1. I don’t know Hebrew, but I like the way it looks and it helps remind me that scripture comes to us as a stranger.

א אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ-- אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ, בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים;
וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים, לֹא עָמָד, וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים, לֹא יָשָׁב.
ב כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה, חֶפְצוֹ; וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה, יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה.
ג וְהָיָה-- כְּעֵץ, שָׁתוּל עַל-פַּלְגֵי-מָיִם:
אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ, יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ--וְעָלֵהוּ לֹא-יִבּוֹל; וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִיחַ.
ד לֹא-כֵן הָרְשָׁעִים: כִּי אִם-כַּמֹּץ, אֲשֶׁר-תִּדְּפֶנּוּ רוּחַ.
ה עַל-כֵּן, לֹא-יָקֻמוּ רְשָׁעִים--בַּמִּשְׁפָּט; וְחַטָּאִים, בַּעֲדַת צַדִּיקִים.
ו כִּי-יוֹדֵעַ יְהוָה, דֶּרֶךְ צַדִּיקִים; וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים תֹּאבֵד.

English Text of Psalm 1 can be found at: http://www.biblestudytools.net/OnlineStudyBible/bible.cgi?new=1&word=psalm+1§ion=0&version=nrs&language=en

On Wednesday, November 19, it is time to teach on Psalm 1 and all fall I’ve been thinking about verse 3:

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season,
whose foliage never fades,
and whatever it produces thrives
(Tanakh, JPS).

“He” is the faithful person, the one who follows the teachings of the Lord. The psalmist tells us that he mines the scriptures day and night. I like this idea of faithfulness. I wish more of us thought studying scripture were a worthwhile thing to do, and praiseworthy to God, and beneficial to our own lives.

So “he” is faithful and as the image at the river unfolds, he is imagined as a tree with roots going down deep and wide. These roots will produce fruit in season and also beautiful flowering branches--long and full. The fruit that grows on this tree will not wither, but it will thrive. My friend and professor, Jo Bailey Wells, utilizes this image as a hopeful guide for leadership development in the church and more broadly, I think she would include all Christians. She remarked, “I hope to grow leaders whose leaves will not wither, whose branches have the capacity for summers of fruitfulness and winters of frost. Preparing for all the seasons, by addressing the roots first and foremost, is what I understand we are doing in the work of spiritual formation” (from “Roots Down, Walls Down,” AEHS Perspectives, 2008-2009).

This is an apt use of Psalm 1:3 and attending to the roots is also much of the work of teaching middle school boys. Sometimes as teachers we must feign immediate validation, knowing that healthy roots are under the ground, growing into the earth, spreading in all kinds of jumbled and confusing directions, and the invisible roots may not grow into trees that bear the fruit we think they ought to until after we have parted from these trees, these roots. Psalm 1 is a call for patience in dealing with the trees and roots around us.

Maya Angelou, one of the world's best poets and authors, brings in a third earthly element, beyond the tree and the river, the rock. Is the rock the solid foundation that is the teaching of the Lord, the Law, the Torah? Is the rock a new president, one who feels solid and dependable? Is the rock a country which we put our hope and trust in? Is the rock a stumbling block to the path of the roots that must have room to grow in order to grow fruitful branches?

Her poem: A Rock, A River, A Tree can be heard and seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDtw62Ah2zY
or
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mayaangeloupresidentialinaguralpoem.htm

What else could the rock be? How does the rock relate to the river and the tree? Are the rock, river, and tree in communion with one another or are they in a kind of erratic disharmony all with different needs, purposes, and drives?

The rest of Psalm 1 denounces the wicked, those who are not faithful, are like chaff that wind blows away. Think tumbleweed, not a well rooted oak of Mamre or a 300 hundred foot tall tree that has lived 300 years in Glacier National Forest. No, this is dead grass.

In Angelou's poem, I think the images of rock, river, and tree are ultimately meant to represent our country. She was, in fact, helping inaugurate a president and I take nothing away from her amazing poem. But that is only the most superficial level. Upon closer reading, it is clear that Angelou is talking about the Earth. She is also talking about God. In A Rock, A Tree, A River, she picks up on the imagery in Psalm 1. She makes inferences to Dr. King's language "The arc of history is a slow bend towards justice," when she says, "The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change." Her poem is so great that it inspires us to take the meaning even further than hope in America. Psalm 1 takes us to a deeper level than country, that the rock, river, and tree are our lives inside of God's life. There are frosty and wintry periods. There are paths blocked by rocks and twisted roots. But ultimately there is fruit and produce that blooms from these elements as a result of life with the Lord.

What does your life with God look like? Is it like rocks, roots, trees and rivers growing together? Or is something very different? I welcome comments from students, parents, and any other readers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Track Work, No...Hill Work

The last two weeks I was slated to start a schedule of track sessions to get myself race ready for fast winter running. Here is my proposed schedule:

For nine consecutive weeks on Wednesdays @ 4pm run 1000s (or 2.5 laps around the track). Pace between 3:00 and 3:30 (15min-17:30 5K pace). Rest interval moving down from a 400m walk to 100m jog.

11/5/08 4 x 1000m

11/12/08 5 x 1000m

11/19/08 6 x 1000m

11/26/08 7 x 1000m

12/03/08 8 x 1000m

12/10/08 4 x 1000m (goal: adjusted to 100m jog recovery)

12/17/08 5 x 1000m

12/24/08 7 x 1000m

12/31/08 10 x 1000m

Sadly, the first two weeks that I have tried to get on the track the Duke coaches have been unwilling to share the track because their athletes are doing drills and repeats. It's been a show of general inhospitality, but rather than get all worked up over it, I needed to adjust my plan. So last week and this week I ran 4 x 3:30min and 5 X 3:30min on the Wallace Wade Stadium stairs with a two minute walk break in between each hard effort. It worked out to be the same time effort I would have been doing on the track below the stairs and what great workouts they have turned out to be. I ran hard up, across, and down. Not so hard down that I felt like I would fall, but much faster then I would normally move down concrete stairs. I would like to get on the track for some leg turnover, but Duke coaches will likely not share until the holidays. I can wait and now I have an alternative option. Plus, it was kind of fun to jog up to the track and still not know whether I would be doing track work or stairs.

I should have been doing these workouts before the Shutin race on November 1, http://www.shutinridgerun.com/ where I totally blew up and dropped from ninth place to 42nd. Much of the course was more like climbing stairs and stair climbing may be the best simulation for us piedmont folk whose hill references are still really flatlands to the folks of Asheville, Brevard, Hendersonville, Cullowhee, etc. I've been making the excuse that I had a sinus infection, which I did, but maybe I just didn't quite find the best workouts. I love running, because finding just the right workouts for a particular race is always a big puzzle with factors such as weather, health, nutrition, goals, training partners, sleep, work, and the list could go on.

So here is my plea to Duke University--Don't renovate Wallace Wade Stadium. It's a waste of money. It's a beautiful venue as it is and really, are you going to fill 10-15 thousand seats for football? Most importantly, where will I do my stair workouts come next September and October for redemption at Shutin on November 7, 2008?

Yours, George/Monk
Divinity School Alum, 2006


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Treasure of Carolina North Forest

That God makes creatures this cool--I love it.




Courtesy of http://carolinanorthforest.blogspot.com/. This photo was taken in the Carolina North Forest, Chapel Hill, NC, near the Municipal Drive entrance. I'll try to find this deer on Thursday morning on a run with my friends: www.trailheads.org

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Stand at the Crossroads

Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, "We will not walk in it."

- Jeremiah 6:16

Why are we so reluctant to walk where the good way lies? There, the way of the good, is where rest can be found. But we go other ways--ways of turmoil and distress and terror.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Way He Sees It




I've been listening to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kltZ0jDmtWw&feature=user all day. Raphael Saadiq is going on my Ipod tonight. How have I missed this guy? He's like a modern day Marvin Gaye/David Ruffin/Stevie Wonder/Delphonics. That's about as many compliments as I have to offer a musician.

The album, The Way I See It, was released this week and you have got to check out what for me is a sensation, and should be an instant hit, Falling in Love. "Falling in love can be easy, but staying in love is too tricky." ---It's not so tricky it can't be done, but if anybody says that staying in love is not at least a little tricky, then you haven't been in it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why Run?


If someone read the description of my blog, Running, Writing, and Renewal, then I'm not sure they would consider me being all that faithful to the Running part. Oh I'm Writing a fair amount. And I talk a bit about Renewal if not directly, then indirectly. But very few of my posts lately are directly about running. It might seem like everything I write is about God--things like baptisms, or the arc of a rainbow after a great flood. And I would not shirk this description and I have no shame in such a description. I guess these sorts of topics are the renewal part.

But behind all this writing about being renewed in God is always a nearby run. If I had my way, I'd run every day, in fact, twice a day if my body could manage it. Running provides much of the fuel for my writing and whether I write well or junk, and most first drafts are junk, and sadly some last drafts are junk, running keeps the keypad being struck and the ink being spilt. No kidding, running is where I am renewed, renewed to keep writing.

Running is more than just physical fitness. If it were simply a way to stay healthy I think I would take the advice of the many who think it is crazy or those who have had a knee or two replaced, and I would swim or spin on the elliptical to no where. But running outside is the drug, better than caffeine, which fuels my daily writing.

I consider running to be active prayer, like I consider writing to be active prayer. Some saints of the church have said the task of the believer is to try to become all prayer. I love that. It's so Eastern Orthodox--with hope that one might move towards perfection. It's so Methodist or Wesleyan--with a doctrine of Sanctification where we grow more and more God-like.

I'm not suggesting that running and writing is a requirement for anyone but me. But whatever your vehicles for prayer might be, and maybe you are still searching for them, I would suggest you find them and start driving them. Take them for a ride as often as you can. Get paid for them if you can, but do them even if you cannot make a living at them. Drive your vehicles of prayer because they show you the way--a way with God.

Eugene Peterson has a book about reading the Bible called Eat This Book. One of the things I take from this great book is that you better eat what sustains you. I'm with him, wholeheartedly, and reading Scripture is part of my daily diet along with a healthy serving of running and writing.

In a scene described in Psalm 42, I imagine a runner, a deer, who has had a long healthy run in the woods and comes upon a stream. This has been a tempo run or a fartlek run, which is a run filled with speed-play. She is just running today because she can. She finds the stream that she has been longing for and she takes a good long break. No rush. She laps up water that will renew her. Make her able to keep running. To cross the stream. To outrun danger if it is lurking.

She's a trail runner, ideally on a trail like the gem pictured above. Or she's a bushwhacker if the spirit or a foe moves her to dart off trail. But she needs the water. She's always looking for it. The water is the power, the fuel in her diet. All that out of this text (vv. 1-2):

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? I think this is an Ellen Davis translation from the papercut outside Goodson Chapel at the Duke Divinity School.

I like this translation too:
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? from the New Revised Standard Version.

Go find your stream.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Raisin' Kids


I wrote this note to friends from a summer camp that I worked at nearly a decade ago. I grew up at various summer camps, and like so many other people, the experience shaped me in some lasting ways. I still draw on those experiences as a how to manual: how to be a parent, how to teach, how to be a minister, how to be a Christian.

Dear Illahee Friends,
I was writing the note below to A. about the kids. She asked a perfectly benign question, but it got me thinking. Probably not worth all this, but I thought I'd share it with a lot of folks who helped me learn how to take care of children by mostly laughing stuff off. I got mad last night when this story occurred, at the kids for being kids, at Kristen for not being on the same page with me, since of course, my page is the right one. But the more I thought about this, especially today, the funnier it got.

A. asked if the chickens (our three kids) were minding their manners:
I wrote:

"Of course the chickens are not minding their manners. They run all over the farm and don't listen worth a you know what. Everyone else says how well behaved they are, but they don't see stuff like, last night, George and Kathryn were playing fort for about an hour past bedtime, building forts in Kathryn's bed and whispering at the top of their lungs. Every stuffed animal in the house looked like they were bedded down for the night, but the three and nearly five year old were no where near wound down and ready to sleep. Finally, I made George sleep in the other room (usually he is in the top bunk in the same room--great for bonding, but bad for being quiet). You would have thought I cut his arm off. He wailed and screamed for his mommy and of course, we all argued about it.
It's a lot more fun to think about the next day then in the moment! Seriously, we are having a great time. Of course, I lucked into marrying a saint who puts up with all my... And further, nobody, I mean nobody is able to forgive you like your children. I'm sure that will change in the next decade, but I will take it while I can.

Send your fort memories or at least think of your own, etc. so we can share in the old Illahee days if only by memory and the web. All of us have taken care of children, been short with them, and wished we had been more patient. If my laughter interrupts my discipline, then I am usually a better parent. Discipline has never been a struggle for me--sadly. It's not physical, but it can get a little loud and I've seen the fright in a young child's face when I've raised the volume too much. For that, I am certain I will have to answer for come judgment day. I'm going to remember to be patient the way I was trained as a cabin counselor and hopefully helped train a few of you. It's always easier to be patient with other people's kids, but my own deserve the same benefit of the doubt.

I miss you all dearly though many of you I only worked with in a formal way for one or two years, and that really means somewhere from three to twenty weeks. But we all know, camp time is like dog years.

Have a great week! George

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Two Bills


I just had the courage to listen to a sermon I delivered at the Myers Park Baptist Church on June 8, 2008. I had a CD of it, but I just couldn't pull the trigger on giving it a listen. I tend to be my own worst critic, wishing I had edited that word, or spoken quicker there, or whatever--so it takes a peaceful place to listen to your own stuff. I stumbled onto the sermon at: http://www.mpbconline.org/sermons_2008.php

After I gave it a listen, I was checking out Facebook trying to respond to a student's post and it was one of those "ah ha" moments, because the picture I was trying to paint in the sermon was of a white guy and a black guy making friends over some sacred reading. In the sermon, the shared reading is from Isaiah and the story is told in Acts 8--Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. But the "ah ha" moment came when I rediscovered this picture which I have named Two Bills:

This picture was taken by my dear friend Lanecia Rouse and it is the meeting of two strangers: Bill Nathan is on the left, a stranger, far from his home in Haiti and sitting on somewhat pretentious steps in Durham, NC. He was our guest at the Duke Youth Academy this summer and such an amazing man. http://www.divinity.duke.edu/programs/youth/

The toddler on the right is my youngest son, William Linney, inquisitive and ready to make a new friend. They do in fact seem to be exchanging a notebook, some kind of reading, like the link between Philip and the Ethiopian.

Frederick Buechner once spoke in a lecture, "I wish we could meet again as strangers." He went on to say how there is something so authentic that can occur when we meet someone for the first time. In this picture I think there is authenticity, and peacefulness, and I'm bold enough to even say love. Two strangers meeting with no presumptions or expectations, just see what happens next.

Life can change drastically in such seemingly inconsequential moments.

Check out Lanecia's photos and support her trip to Uganda at: http://sunshinepapier.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 8, 2008

Baptismal Inspiration from Meredith

Meredith, A friend of mine from church was published on the front of our church's newsletter and I was inspired. Inspired to hunt down her blog and thank her. Inspired to hunt up my own writing about a baptism in the beautiful marble font at Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Meredith sealed the image of a baptismal story. Read her fine story at:

http://web.mac.com/mleight/Doodler/Merediths_Blog/Entries/2008/8/4_Sunday_at_Holy_Family.html

Here's mine:

Author: George Linney, parent.

It was April 10, 2004, The Great Easter Vigil at Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, NC. On that night, not only would I witness a baptism, but later my wife and I would be received into the Episcopal Church. The candidate for baptism was my oldest son, George Edward Linney, IV. This day marked exactly six months since his birth on October 10, 2003. His parents are George, the author, and Kristen Linney. We were baptized in the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches, respectively, both around our 12th birthdays. George’s godparent is my only sibling, Allison Linney of Charlottesville, Virginia. The priest who baptized George was the Reverend Dan Hall, assisting were Timothy Kimbrough (Rector), and Bobbie Armstrong (Deacon). My mother was also present as well as Kristen’s mother, father, and two younger brothers.

The church smelled of Easter lilies and incense. The lilies penetrated my nostrils in an eye-watering reminder of spring. I do not think the lilies were even in the church yet, maybe not until after we went outside for confirmation and receptions, and the church would be re-dressed as we entered through the West door. But if the lilies were not in the Nave, they must have been waiting in the Sacristy, or somewhere nearby, because they were consuming my nose and eyes. In regards to the other smell, the altar had not been incensed in about an hour, right before the scriptures began to be read, and I heard about a mighty chasm with water walls and a damp earthen path trod by the frightened yet unharmed Israelites. Even though an hour had passed, the incense still hovered like a gray cloud. I could not see the cloud through the darkened Nave, but I could smell the fragrant odor.

George was baptized in the middle of eight to ten others, by descending order of age. I knew we were off to a great start when a fifty something year old was baptized by immersion. It all happened so fast. To this day, I have to watch other baptisms to slow it down and celebrate the details of my son’s own initiation. I do remember walking downstairs quickly after he was wrapped in a white towel and placed in his mother’s arms. In the lobby between the Office door and the Daycare, my wife nursed George and tried to bring him back to a more comfortable state after this atrocity had been performed on him—the skinny dipping affair. I remember the amount of oil on his head, wondering if there was any left for the others. Thanks Timothy…for the double portion. His head was anointed, rather covered, and his hair was greasy. He remained that way the next day, and was sad and grumpy on the day of the Resurrection. We have a great greasy picture of the sad over-tired six-month old. His exhaustion and sadness in that photo reminds that baptism comes at a price. Jesus was fasting in the desert and then tempted by the devil immediately after his baptism. What perils await each of us, immediately after we are soaked in the life-giving water in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

What else do I remember?

I remember an old bald guy, who has taught me a thing or two. He tried to single handedly levitate the roof with a heartfelt “Amen.” He always does that. My wife remarked to me, that she can’t wait to hear him yell, Amen. You can always hear him apart from the others. Thank God for that loud voice. That same old curmudgeon once said something to me that I shall not ever forget. In the winter before our eldest son was baptized I confessed some angst over baptizing an infant. I was probably just worried about my father, for I did not have any theology to make this case. I still, to this day, do not hinge a baptismal theology on infant versus adult baptism. The old geyser said to me, “George, I don’t know what the answer is about baptism—infant or adult, but I know this. You should baptize the way your church baptizes.” That sealed the deal. My church encourages infant baptism and our eldest was baptized the following Easter Eve at the ripe old age of a half-dozen moons.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Arcing Into Shape

Tomorrow begins a new teaching year at Durham Nativity School. I will welcome students to classes in New Testament, World Religions, and Old Testament. Each course will meet on Monday's and Wednesday's from September through May. We have nine months of work together. Let's make each class a good one.

Where will we begin? Hopefully, with the end in sight, but where are we going?

Are we to become better followers of God? Are we to become more learned in Scripture and Literature? God we ask you--who are you? And what are you calling us to do and to be?

Maya Angelou writes in A Rock, A River, A Tree:
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.

Like the bow in the clouds that God showed to Noah and all those left after the flood (Gen 9:13), we are arcing into shape. The horizon leans forward and the day is breaking before us. To paraphrase Angelou further, and utilize her fine poem for our purposes, she invites us to give birth again to our dreams.

Help us listen to our dreams and determine the steps to making them come true. Lord, allow us to be courageous enough to ask difficult questions of you and ourselves. You will show us the way, but we must search along the path with diligence and perseverance. Keep us leaning forward, arcing into a shape that is pleasing to you.


Maya Angelou can be heard reading this poem at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDtw62Ah2zY

Monday, July 28, 2008

Vocation and Eschatology

For two weeks I was a mentor at the Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation at Duke Divinity School http://www.divinity.duke.edu/programs/youth/.
It was an amazing ride. I am just now getting my feet back under me. We worshipped each night. Prayed each morning. Studied every day. Reflected in most spare moments. Worked late. Ate often. Bathed when necessary.

On the last day of lectures, Friday, I was given the task of writing about the lecture. Here are my notes:

Vocation and Eschatology

In our final plenary gathering Dr. Warren Smith taught us to merge our thinking about Vocation (God's call on our life now) and Eschatology (the end-times that await us). He merged the two in the claim that we are to live hopefully. As Christians who remember and participate in Christ's Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection we are called to live lives that are a present witness to the hope of the coming kingdom of God.

What is hope? Our hope is the object of our calling that points to God's final purposes for the world. We need to live in such a way that we are prepared for future lives in the resurrection. We don't live just for now. We live with an eye for the future. In terms of our vocation we must think less of a job which we choose, but a job for which we are chosen. Further, vocation is not necessarily something that you are seeking out, but something that God seeks out for you.

Dr. Smith conveyed that the most important dogma that we must agree on regarding Eschatology is that Christ was raised bodily from the dead and we will be raised bodily. Though we hear so often about Rapture, how Christ will come again, and the Millenium, these issues are surrounded by questions where the Church has not had full agreement. We should always turn our attention first to the cental issues of Resurrection--Christ's and our own.

What does bodily resurrection mean for us? Jesus' resurrection becomes the prototype for our resurrection. His resurrection inaugurates the period of resurrection. This doctrine means that in light of Jesus having been raised from the dead, Christian's grieve death with hope--the hope that looks forward to when we will all be redeemed.

Finally, Dr. Smith offered some wonderful and heartfelt comments regarding marriage and sex and reminded us the neither are acts that will be included as part of our final redemption. Therefore, we are given the gift of patience when considering either in our own lives. Not all are called to marriage and sex and a culture that says otherwise is a culture that Christians must stand over and against. Both are a reminder that God has made us in God's own image, and that neither will part of our final redemption when we are equal to the angels as sons and daughters of the resurrection (Lk 20:36).



Possible Quotes:

"Your hearts are the eyes of your soul." Warren Smith (inspired by Eph 1).

"This is a pregnant passage and I am going to try to help Paul give birth." Warren Smith walking us through Romans 8:18-25

When we look at Jesus resurrected on Easter morning, we don't just see one man raised from the dead, (we could have looked to Lazarus for the raising of just one man), but in Jesus we see the entire humanity raised from the dead." Warren Smith

Monday, July 7, 2008

Kayaking



Yesterday I went kayaking at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. I dragged my mother, wife, and three children away from the basement, the holy land of my parent's home, as holy as the catacombs in Rome. Usually they play down there the majority of the time whenever we visit Charlotte. I don't know if my mother actually has relics or the remains of any saints, but their must be something down there, at least an ark or a bush that burns and is not consumed. I've been down there and its cool and all, but the kids see things I clearly do not. My children beg for the adventures presented in the basement at Grammy Charlotte's house. They have forts, and numerous Halloween costumes, music, free space to run, books, and of greatest importance--Grammy Charlotte. So dragging these five basement worshippers away from their sanctuary was a long shot. Somehow, they took the bait and we traveled the 20 miles Southeast towards the Catawba River where thousands of horses power six turbines creating whitewater where lack of elevation change would say there could not be rapids.

It was the first time in almost a year that I had been in a kayak and the first time in more than a year that my children had seen me in a kayak. Usually kayaking is a fairly quiet and reflective activity for me. I go and surf on the artificial waves in Charlotte. I talk to a few people, but most I keep to myself. Sharing the experience with my children as they looked on from the side was an altogether different kind of experience. They wanted to know when they could go kayaking. I imagined converting an old Mr. Clean C-1 into a little C-2 or OC-2 for Kathryn and George. I would teach them a few paddle strokes. They both need to become more proficient swimmers before they get any canoeing lessons, but it could be a year or two away.

Paddling was life changing for me when I first encountered it as an 11 year old at Eagle's Nest Camp. I was never the same after that first trip on the lower Green River. I wonder if it will transform my children. It is certainly okay if it does not, but they at least deserve an opportunity and I could provide it them a few years earlier in life.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Saints on the Chattooga

I just finished Saints at the River by Ron Rash and it is an excellent book that conjured up vivid memories from my childhood and early adulthood. I picked it up by sheer luck (it was on sale and I liked the sound of the title), at the Gothic Bookstore at Duke University a few days ago while I was waiting to meet with a ministry colleague and only a few pages in and I knew all the hidden names of my most favorite river in all the world--the Chattooga. The book centers around Raven Chute Rapid in all its transcendental glory with a 200 foot outcropping in the background. This image of this rapid held the book together for me like a tapestry, a backdrop of beauty, power, and possible death. The book took me through a host of emotions and memories from the terror of possibly losing a child, memories and my own understanding of baptism and death and how water is an element so common to both, and the host of the book--the Chattooga River.

When I was a little boy, I grew up at Eagle's Nest Camp in Brevard. I discovered whitewater canoeing and never looked back. By my second summer of paddling I was a part of an overnight trip to Section Three of the Chattooga. Someone took a picture of me taking a solo shot at Second Ledge and there I was with a sixteen foot Bluehole canoe beneath me, and a goofy pink helmet, and a plastic Carlisle paddle, and my gangly 80 pound body trying to muscle my way over those forgiving falls. Second Ledge looked big, but the pool at the bottom, unlike other rapids on the river, makes for a soft landing should one capsize. That memory and all the rest over the next few years would end with a look at the tricky double drop at Bull Sluice, but no camper was allowed to paddle it. I remember finally becoming a counselor at age 18 and as I stood scouting on the river right bank, I thought, "Now, there is no one to stop me from doing this." The power of the river and I had come face to face and I knew I would try to gather my fears and turn them to focus as I maneuvered the first of many class 4-5 rapids that would drive my activities over the next seven years and take me to the Gauley, and the middle Green, and creeks and rivers in Colorado.

Memories of Section Three of the Chattooga pale in comparison to points downstream--Woodall Shoals, and Seven Foot Falls, Raven Chute Falls, and Five Falls. Their grandeur is too great to put to words for now, but I will think on it for later.

This article at the link below gives a description of the drowning that is clearly the loose basis for the book.

http://www.chattoogariver.org/Articles/1999SF/Recovery.htm

As tormented as I would be by the death of any of my own children, and as important as I think physical bodies are in the human experience, I would not want a fight to be the overwhelming story of a child's death. The bottom of a river as beautiful as the the Chattooga--there are worse graves.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Here I Am

Last night our church conducted the fourth of five nights of our annual Vacation Church School. The week's theme is "We Want a King," and last night we learned about Samuel and how God called him out of a slumber and how Samuel had a special purpose in anointing Israel's first king--Saul. In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel answers God with three simple words, "Here I am." This peculiar call and response happens in three's as so many important "God-talks" occur in scripture. "Here I Am"--these are the same words uttered by Moses before the burning bush(Exodus 3:4) and Isaiah at his call to prophecy (Isaiah 6:8). The words are so utterly different than the way in which Adam cowers from God who comes to find him when all Adam can say is "When I heard your voice, God, I was afraid and I hid" (Genesis 3:10). "Here I Am"--these three simple words, which give a location and then the simplest of subject-verb clauses, these three words are so similar to the words God uses for God's self in Exodus 3:14 when he tells Moses his proper and mysterious name. God says, "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" or "I Am Who I Am." At least in part, it is as if Samuel, Moses, and Isaiah answer God in the affirmative by the simple utterance of God's name.

When God calls you, will you have the courage, despite your greatest fears, to say, "Here I Am. Send Me"?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Prerogative

You are a good God
of that I feel sure.
You kept saying that we were
good, in the Creation.
You keep making concessions,
Flood, Manna, Cross.

Though none of it comes on our terms.
You will be what you will be
You are gracious on your terms
You will be merciful on your terms
If I see your face, or I do not,
your prerogative.

Criminals ask for a crumb of your memory,
and you say to felons,
today you will be with me in Paradise.
Can this be?

Some pick grapes for only 60 minutes,
they too, get the usual?
All your grace? Same as me?
This can’t be.

An old Cherokee word,
Hante, means, “I went away and learned.”
Tells of a sojourner with tales of a distant land.
but you raise up a boy who went away
and slept in filth.
Squandered
Wastrel
When do I get mine for staying?
More importantly,
when does he get his for leaving?

So this is what it looks like to follow a good God.
Hard work.
Difficult to comprehend.
Seemingly unfair
But, you did raise the dead, so I guess you could show mercy
to bums like these and me.

*Biblical references include: Gen 1, 6. Ex 16, 3, 33. Lk 23, Matt 20, Lk 15.
**This was written with the help of a sermon by TEK (9/21/08) and the Holy Family book club (9/22/08).

June 1, 2010, preached and taught this poem at the Durham County Detention Center by reading the poem once, then reading the scriptures that were referenced and finally, reading the poem a second time. Roughly 15 men joined for worship and it was a joy to bless the Lord with them. I was inspired to use this poem and method by David Whyte who spoke at Duke on May 21 regarding The Power and Place of Poetry as part of a conference called, Lifelines: Poetry for Our Patients, Our Communities, Our Selves.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Nostalgia



This is my oldest child, George IV, at age two in the basement of my parent's home in Charlotte, North Carolina. I know...he's so cute. The image is making me feel very nostalgic. This picture could easily have been me, 31 years earlier at the same chalkboard, different basement, in Fredericksburg, Virginia at the home of my mother's parents, William and Ruby Lee Johnson, my beloved grandparents. My sister and I used to play down there for hours at that chalkboard and with games like Chinese Checkers. In the winter the furnace was always blazing hot. I remember watching A Christmas Carol, the George C. Scott version, one X-mas Eve, and thinking how the setting was perfect--smoky smelling and cozy with that black knit blanket, or bundled up in that green sleeping bag/blanket that had bottons that mummified the wearer. That chalkboard was always at the foot of the basement steps. To see my children draw on it now takes me back to my earliest memories, mostly the smells of that old homeplace on William Street.

I'm about to turn 33. George IV is nearing his 5th birthday. The years are floating by now as quickly as days, even minutes sometimes.

A week ago I was ordained as a minister in Christ's Church at the Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC. It was one of the greatest days of my seemingly short life. Friends sharing in blessings and prayers. The same friends heard my promises to God about how things would be the same, but different. Ministry will somehow become more focused, more guided, it would seem. Getting it right matters. Formal schooling is over, at least for now. Mentors preached and prayed and gifted me with embraces. Parishoners who have watched over me since I was young enough to first scribble on a chalkboard prayed in my ear that I would be a faithful servant to God.

Present at the ordination service, to my shock and surprise, was my 93 year old grandmother, Ruby Lee Johnson. Our youngest, William, is named after her husband, William Scott Johnson, dead now 15 years of cancer. He was as honest and loving as any person I have ever known. As I wept during the Laying on of Hands by each of the 100 people present at my ordination, I felt his old weepy self crying right along with me.

Looking at this picture is a way back into the story of my life and an ordination last week that was as culminating an event of God's work in my life as my birth, baptism, marriage to Kristen, or the birth of any or all of our three children. I have not been able to write too much about the ordination yet, at least not anything of significance. I feel anxious to get it all down, but I am praying for patience. I don't think the weight of that Sunday afternoon will depart me anytime soon.

Peace.

P.S. Here is another picture from that weekend. Our son sure was a cutie! He still is--just taller.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Doors closed for good

Doors closed for good. Joseph says these words to his brothers after they tried to kill him and after a life in Egypt for which he had not planned. "Although you intended me harm, God intended if for good." Has this ever been true for you? Bad stuff is happening all the time--missed planes, injured legs, criticisms we did not want, things we wish we had not said. Sometimes though, the seemingly bad turns out to be for the good. Look for that today.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Language Matters

Language matters. The words that we use, particularly those most common in our speech, are as important to who we are as the food that we consume, the clothes that we wear, and the neighborhoods where we live. Language is essential in the human experience and caring for our language is one of our greatest responsibilities. We have formed habits that affect our language and speech and our writing. We need to be thoughtful where language is concerned.

I have noticed a disturbing trend in the last decade, primarily among the running community. I am not certain if this misuse of language is ill-intentioned, but I think we can do better. When middle of the pack runners refer to those who win prestigious races, they use a common term—“Kenyans.” We who use this language are almost exclusively slower than the elite and we are almost always White or Caucasian. White upper-middle class folks represent the majority of the endurance running community. We also represent the power structures of the world, and I think it is time we take better care of our speech. We are using the term, “Kenyan,” a bit too haphazardly. We have become sloppy with our speech.

How many times have Haile Gebrselassie or Kenensia Bekele been labeled as a Kenyan when finishing at the front of a major race? My guess is that it is not once or even twice that these gentlemen have been mislabeled. Granted, it is possible that the next 10 finishers were all from Kenya, perpetuating the word choice, by the very excellence and accomplishment of runners from Kenya. But these gentlemen are Ethiopian, an entirely different nationality. What they do have in common with many elite Kenyan distance runners is that they are fast and their skin color is dark. I am not of the belief that because I am white and a mid-pack runner that it is just okay for an onlooker to assume that I am Canadian. I am from a whole other country. In the case of Gebrselassie and Bekele, it is even more insulting given the pride that they take in their homeland. They are always seen wearing the colors of Ethiopia. Gebrselassie has given his country an amazing economic boost from his personal success. At various times in his career, he has held every world record from 3000 meters to the Marathon. If I am distance running fan and I call him a Kenyan, I am ignorant, and I insult him.

This article intends no disrespect to any Kenyan or the nation of Kenya. Kenya has produced some of the finest distance runners the world has ever seen, but not all African runners of success are Kenyan.

How is this assumption, this lumping together of fast runners of African descent, any different than labeling all Latinos as Mexicans? We need precision in our language.

Are we using the term Kenyan collectively because names like Robert Cheruiyot, Abderrahime Bouramdane, Khalid El Boumlili, Gashaw Asfaw and Kasime Adillo are too much trouble to try to learn how to pronounce? Is there skin color a latent factor in our lack of care to know them by name and by country? Is there a subtle religious arrogance, since some of them are of Muslim descent? These names represent the top five finishers at the 2008 Boston Marathon, yet only one of them, Cheruiyot, is from Kenya. Many of us who might see the results and lazily say something like, “The Kenyans finished an hour ahead of me at Boston. I can’t believe how fast they are.” How is that different than making an off-handed remark like, “The Mexicans who cut the grass in our neighborhood, they are really great guys.” What if it turns out that in fact the lawn service is two brothers from El Salvador and the simple fact is that I have not bothered to find out where the men were born and from which Spanish speaking country they come from.
Even when our remarks are basically well-meaning, acknowledging an excellent running performance or being thankful for those who work hard, we need to be careful with language. It is not simply that we live now in “P.C.” or Politically Correct world where we have to walk on egg shells in order not to offend. It’s more than that. Being careful with language reflects how we take care of one another. Labels matter. Whenever we begin to speak of people collectively we had better know what we are talking about and who we are talking about. Runners from East Africa have revolutionized distance running around the globe from Kip Keino to Juma Ikanga to Sydney Maree and Paul Tergat. Let’s not call them all Kenyans because they look like they might be from Kenya. Ethiopia, Tanzania, and the like, deserve their props as well.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ionesco and Memory

At Durham Nativity School our Thought for the Week of April 14 is by a early 20th century French dramatist. Eugene Ionesco writes that "Dreams and anguish bring us together."
When Eugene Ionesco writes about dreams and anguish as uniting forces in our lives, he is speaking more broadly about memory। In some cases a collective memory of suffering and anguish are a uniting force. For groups that are tortured or enslaved, it is their anguish that unites them. What other groups are bonded by collective suffering?

Ionesco also writes, The light of memory, or rather the light that memory lends to things, is the palest light of all। I am not quite sure whether I am dreaming or remembering, whether I have lived my life or dreamed it. Just as dreams do, memory makes me profoundly aware.”

How do you remember your greatest achievements? How do you remember your greatest failures? Are all these memories strictly self-generated or do they somehow have a corporate life with those who share in them?

I remember a canoeing trip when I was thirteen years old. It all culminated in the last rapid, the Nantahala Falls. To go back there now to that whitewater, as I have done many times since, the Falls are never as big as they were on that hot July afternoon in what must have been 1988. Jeff Barr and were each 75 lbs. soaking wet and we muscled around a big Green Bluehole--a 16 foot whitewater canoe. We managed a 360 in the top hole which means that above the bottom drop we managed to turn our canoe in a full circle before going down the falls. We peeled out of truckstop, a massive eddy on river left and headed toward the center of the river with me in the stern controlling the 45 degree angle to the right. When we flopped down over the top hole, Jeff laid down one of his brilliant draw strokes and with that magnificent stroke and the force of the water we had hit the top hole as an eddy and quickly prepared to peel out before getting side surfed in the turbulence of the top hole. I exposed the bow to the quick moving down stream water and before we knew it we were heading back down stream and over the falls. Meggan and Brian, our counselors, and the other paddlers on our trip cheered over the loud pounding of the frothy water. We were heroes.

I've not written of this story ever, nor thought of it in several years. If not for memory, it would be all but gone, as though it never happened. I can remember it more clearly because it did not happen separate from community. The cheerers on that trip would have retold that story when we returned to camp that evening. They would have even encouraged Jeff and I to retell the story. If it happened alone, I'm not sure I could recall it in the same way. Not to say that significant occurrences do not happen alone, but they are quite different than experiences that others witness and share in. Thanks to memory and the dream of a special moment in a young boy's life, I can recall it as easily as I can breathe. Thank you memory. Thank you Eagle's Nest Camp.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?
Lyrics by Sandy Denny

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbpURBJA4uA

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it's time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it's time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it's time to go
So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?
(Copyright © 1967 Sonet Music)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Stream Splashings

About ten Trailheads ran at the Bel Monte Endurance Run outside Waynesboro, Virginia on Saturday morning. I had a great time running in the 25K or 15.5 mile race. The race started in the dark and my favorite parts of the race came in the first half hour where there were multiple stream crossings. I enjoyed the cool feeling of seeking out a sure path in the dark of the morning and the dark beneath the surface of the water. East coast steams are usually surprisingly smooth with rock that have had water running over them for thousands upon thousands of years.

As a tribute to my favorite aspect of Saturday's race, I ran for about 70 minutes on Monday afternoon and splashed through Carrboro's Bolin Creek, back and forth across the stream simulating the crossings on Saturday in Virginia. I felt like a kid relishing in getting wet and muddy. What fun. I felt like I was singing praises to the Creation and the Creator.

I woke up Sunday morning, stiff and tired, and a little sad for having chosen running over the Easter Vigil at Holy Family. As the birds sang to me, I sang back one of my favorite Easter hymns, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Al - le - lu- ia!" I have no idea how this hymn was in my head. I bet I had not sung it in a year. Of course, it was sung at Holy Family later that morning in worship. The fourth stanza of the second verse goes, "Christ has opened paradise, Al - le - lu - ia!" There is all kinds of theology latent in such a claim as this such as Christ undoing what was done by Adam and Eve in the Fall and I have loads of use for it all, but for Monday's run, I felt like Christ in the world opening paradise with each stomp on the surface of the water. Rather than tiptoe around and look for only dry rocks and paths I turned headlong into the danger of ankle twisting and falling and opened up the paradise of Bolin Creek over and over.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Prophetic Stirrings



Who is holding this scroll?
What is the reference?
What does it mean to you?
Whoever holds these words:
With a word, the Lord stirs me in the morning; in the morning, he stirs my ear to hear like a disciple,
I like the person and the words on the scroll. I find it a shock that anyone ever gets up in the morning. Teenagers have to be dragged out of bed with a front-end loader. When someone is depressed they have trouble stirring, though they usually are not really sleeping. Those who mourn want to stay in bed. Why get up? Someone dear to them is gone. They wonder, how long, oh Lord, will you forget me forever. But the Lord does not seem to forget. At some point, even if late the next day, God forces us up and out of the bed. Is it a Word that we hear or something else? For most of us, most of the days of our lives, God stirs us in the morning. We get up.
What do you hear first in the morning after you have been stirred? Lately, I hear the birds of Spring. They are noisy and while it is still dark they sing songs. Are they working, mating, building, fighting. Whatever it is, they sound busy. They say, get up. We do not care how long you waited to go to bed, no matter to us, because it is time to start again today.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ordination--putting myself out there

Today, I forwarded an ordination paper or a spiritual autobiography to a church in Charlotte who, to my surprise, would like to ordain me to the ministry. Some of my running friends have wanted to know what it means to be ordained. Whatever I say, never seems to satisfy their curiosity. Here is what I know. Ordination publicly recognizes and confirms that an individual has been called by God to ministry. It acknowledges that the individual has gone through a period of discernment and training related to this call. Ordination authorizes that individual to take on the office of ministry and to perform baptisms, marriages, and preside at The Lord's Supper. All of this is by faith and understood to come by the power of the Holy Spirit usually witnessed in the laying on of hands at some point during the ordination service.

In my spiritual autobiography, I wrote many things, ten pages worth, but here is one excerpt about running and writing:

I believe in starting projects everyday, like running and writing. I start them, and then put them away, when we begin to fight with one another. It might be a sore knee, or a cluttered thought, but I will know when the fight has begun. I walk or turn away and begin the journey tomorrow. The essential is to begin the projects everyday. The days that they work, and juices start flowing, I will barely stop or take breaks. But here is the kicker, the days that I never start, do not even have a chance of being great runs or whole chapters to a book.

If you are in the business of prayer, and more of you are than you would like to let on, please pray for my ordination that it be to the glory of God.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

athlinks.com --- post your results

I stumbled onto this website that keeps up with race results --- http://www.athlinks.com/. This is a very cool site and you should consider logging on and creating your own account so you can see how you have been doing the last few years. If some of your results are not posted and you remember a race that you would really like to see on your list, just click on: "Add a Missing Race," go through the steps and the athlink's folks will post your missing race within a day or so.

Have the last few years showed a steady quickening or slowing in your race results? Are there gaps that represent injury or a time when you were out of the country? If you are as vain as me, you might even delete the races that you'd rather folks not see or those races, you know, you didn't race hard, or you were running with someone else, but you don't want anyone to think that you are actually a 55 minute 10K guy. No offense to those who move kinda slow like, because I've learned the hard way, there is always somebody faster. We should all be humbled for the digital ticker never lies. Our excuses try to make a liar out of the clock, but the clock just does its thing. Regardless, athlink.com will allow you to tinker a bit with the results you make public. I'm also a bit embarrassed by how often I enter these races. What am I doing with my life anyway?