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
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


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.

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.