Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Way He Sees It

I've been listening to 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:

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.

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:

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:

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: