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

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