Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Be gentle..."

This week's writers' group yielded yet another exercise for your reading pleasure. Or maybe just for your reading, I don't want to be presumptuous. We had ten minutes to write a short story starting with the words "The first time I wore." I chose to write about a baseball cap. Batter up.

Life From Under The Brim

The first time I wore a baseball cap marked the end of a long-held vow and the beginning of a love affair. I had seen the capwearers and always thought them less serious, less mature. It seemed that caps had the exact opposite effect as glasses. Perhaps if you wore both at the same time, they would cancel each other out.

Anyway, one sunny day, I found myself reaching for a cap that had been a gift/castoff from a friend of mine. As I slid it on my head, I found it fit perfectly and immediately my outlook changed. I wasn't less serious. I wasn't less mature. I was me, but I was cooler. I was a little mysterious because the brim shaded my eyes, keeping those who could from stealing peeks into my soul.

The world looked completely different from under the brim. Looking up had become a more intentional and focused activity. The view in my direct line of sight was always framed, as if with an errant letterbox.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

ALPHA @ Ebenezer's

I mentioned the Alpha course in my last post. But it bears repeating. It a course for people of all levels of faith, from persecutors of the Church to the Apostle Paul. It's part dinner party (i.e., free food every Monday), part movie, part discussion group. We discuss everything from "Why does God let babies die if He's so 'good'?" to "How can I effectively use Tongues in my prayer life?"

God has been seriously up to good (as opposed to no good) in my life and the lives of the other people involved in Alpha. It hasn't been the "Great, I found my missing silver dollar" good, it's been about seriously transforming and renewing minds. If these things are any indication of what He has up his sleeves for Alpha, and please believe me when I say it's going to be HUGE, it would behoove you to be at the corner of 2nd and F Streets, NE in Washington, DC on Monday, February 20th at 7:00pm. That will be the big kick-off dinner at Ebenezer's Coffeehouse - the new hotness in Capitol Hill java joints - and a chance to get more information. E-mail alpha@theaterchurch.com for dinner reservations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I love it when a Plan comes together.

I know I'm supposed to be talking about gay elementary school kids and the death of puppy love, but that's not really where my head is at right now. God and I had a really good night.

Breaking a long held vow, I rode the Red Line all the way to Shady Grove. Nothing bad happened. It came on time and dropped me off on time. Then I got off the train directly onto my MoCo Ride-On bus with no wait. I realized too late that the bus I got directly onto wasn't actually "my bus," but stayed on anyway and still ended up going exactly where I needed to. Then on my trip home, I caught my return bus with no wait, got back to the train station and got directly onto the Red Line with no wait. When I got to my destination, I had to add extra money to my farecard to exit. The machine rejected my dollar, but added the money to my card anyway. Clearly, I had somehow acquired the fabled public transportation anointing.

More importantly, the Lord used the purpose of my trip to help me gain some much needed perspective. I am helping to coordinate my church's Alpha Course (a 10 week class offered by thousands of churches worldwide that combines apologetics, discipleship, and fellowship and is a must for anyone with a pulse), so I went to observe the Course that another area church was running.

I am highly analytical. It is my nature to break things down into their component parts, and poke and prod at them as if each were a universe unto itself. This makes me a whiz at electronics and minor repair, as well as a highly successful obsessive-compulsive. But it also means I can occasionally lose sight of the big picture. This had started to happen as I worked on some of the details in my Coordinator gig. The funny thing is that I hadn't noticed what I was doing until God reminded me of the big picture.

Tonight, I looked out on a sea of people sitting and listening with rapt attention. Word by word, they grew more and more excited about Jesus because they were hearing the truth of who he was and who he wanted to be to them. I could see hearts, minds, and lives changing before my very eyes. I got a little misty, but more than that, I got a lot of clarity. Although I never doubted it, I know in a way that I didn't know before that everything is going to work out. What God is going to accomplish is going to be so much bigger than the sum of the details. It never ceases to amaze me how God can give you exactly what you need but never knew you lacked. A side effect of the whole omniscience thing, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program...

...to bring you the latest exercise from my writing class. For this exercise we had ten minutes to write about a cup of ice. Here's what I came up with.

Cup of Ice

She shook the cup of ice violently back and forth, in part to speed its melting into something more closely resembling the diet soda she'd just finished. She also shook it as a way to channel her rage at being stood up.

It wasn't like she'd never been stood up before, but she had sworn this time would be different.

"If I say yes," she vowed, "this will be the one to stick."

She had gambled a lot on the blind date her sister and brother-in-law had insisted on. So she never saw the bluff coming. He was supposed to be a nice guy.

"He's the sweetest guy in the world," Bill had declared. "You guys would be perfect for each other."

Perfect? What was perfect anyway? Perfect was the two-story house, the picket fence, the two kids and the dog that magically appeared in her head as Bill described Tim or Tom. She couldn't remember his name and had planned to slur her greeting had he actually shown up to cover that fact.

That was perfect, she thought. This, sitting alone in a crowded restaurant getting sympathetic stares from the waiter, is not perfect.

"Screw this," she rose and threw a few bills onto the table. "I'm out of here."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sign 'O' The Times: Sign 'O' The Times (Part 1)

I was at the airport yesterday coming back from a weekend jaunt to AZ. As I stood in the bus shelter, I noticed some graffiti that kept me thinking for most of the hour that I was forced to wait for the shuttle bus. It read:

4 Now

Donte and DeAngelo could well be the names of a spry, septuagenarian husband and wife, but I feel safe in the assumption that these are teenage boys that informs my commentary. At any rate, it seemed all too apropos an allegory for issues facing the current generation of youth.

There's little hope of any coherent exegesis of this topic, either at this hour of the night or with any semblance of brevity, so this intro will have to mark the beginning of yet another blog series, probably a trilogy.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

...the need for speed. (Part Two)

Because I know we speak a different language on the subject, I often feel like I have to explain the concept of need to God. Then I have to explain what I need, why I need it, when I need it, and occasionally how it will benefit him, the Kingdom, and mankind.

Although I know his definition of need is better (i.e., right, true, just, perfect and holy), it's hard to let go of mine, especially when I feel like we have different perspectives. To me it seems that God's perspective of need is like his perspective of time. How can my perspective on time be the same a someone who is eternal, who exists outside of time, who was around before time existed and will be around after it disappears?

So along with need I usually provide an in-depth explanation of time with my petitions. For example when I say "now," I don't mean "in this generation," or "before the Rapture," or "for a time such as this." Soon is another tricky term. "I need a bus or a train soon." "My rent is due soon." "Jesus is coming soon." These are three very different soons. Jesus is coming eventually, my rent is due at the first of the month.

I guess in the end, adjusting to and trusting God's perspective of need and time is not a matter of faith, it's a matter of fact. God has provided me more than enough hard evidence that his concepts of need and time work out better than mine. I just have to collect and examine the facts, and make my decisions based on them. I'm sure I'll get to that point...soon.

I feel the need... (Part One)

Through a conversation with a friend, God reminded me of a simple but difficult truth: If I have it, he gave it to me, and if he gave it to me, I need it. On the other hand, if I don't have it, either he took it away or he never gave it to me. In either case, I don't need it.

I figured this thought came from God because my concept of need is very different, much more external. In my thinking, the thing that I need is the thing that is just beyond or just within my grasp. I never, or rarely, have the sense of fully and securely possessing the things I need. Everything is always just around a corner, just beyond this or that accomplishment, or just on the other side of some moment in time. And if it's not, if I actually have it, it can be lost or taken away at any moment.

Fortunately, God doesn't think like me. In his infinite grace and purposefulness, God ensures that if I need it I have it, and if I have it I need it. So, all of those things I don't have that I'm absolutely sure will complete my existence (e.g., a couple extra inches of height, several extra thousands of dollars in income, and an iRiver IFP-799 mp3 player) would either be icing on the cheesecake or they would be additional baggage that would eventually slow my progress.

Stay tuned for Part Two