Thursday, October 30, 2008
I've really enjoyed these past couple of days with my kids. They're in a great season right now, all three of them. We've laughed a lot, played Memory, gone to parks, baked brownies, done errands. It's been great.
My frustration is over not being on campus with just a few weeks left in the semester. That's all.
Meanwhile, as my wife continues to star in Law and Order, the jury duty that we thought was going to be a token day or two looks like it'll stretch into the beginning of next week. Ergo, we've called in the re-inforcements.
Poppy and Grandma and Aunt Kate are coming for the big Halloween weekend-palooza (previously scheduled). And Gram is driving up on Monday after work to spend a couple days with the grandkids...and let me be on campus for at least a little bit next week.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I think that's a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile the kids consumed more sugar per-capita today than they probably have all year. I blame the time of year (Halloween) rather than the parental situation (me all day).
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
So we hit up against a passage in James 1 that has regularly been used by the Lord in my life: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The next day (Monday) we hit a trial in our lives. Kelly had what we expected to be a token day of jury duty. It has turned into possibly an eight-day ordeal. She can't tell me much, but most jury duties go for a day or two, so this obviously isn't a jay-walking case.
With three kids, we don't really have many options in terms of child care. I'm having to take this week off of work as she's sitting in a courtroom all week. I'm really wrestling with the Lord over this, and not because I don't know what to do with/don't want to be with my kids.
This fall on campus has been and continues to be rocky. My impulse (and perhaps neurosis) during such a time is to roll up my sleeves and try to fix it. We only have a handful of weeks left in the semester. I desperately want us to finish the semester at a stable place.
And now this. A trial that's a trial. It just feels like one more thing that's gone weird this fall. Another week where stuff isn't normal, isn't in sync, isn't in rhythm. I've had too many of those the past nine weeks or so.
So I'm trying to hang onto the promises of James. And I'm trying to work up some mustard-seed sized faith that all of this is okay. But right now, I'm having a hard time counting it all pure joy.
Monday, October 27, 2008
This resonated with my own experience. When I'm in a sweet season of prayer, it most often comes about as a result of having the time and space and initial inclination to pray and to get in a groove over several days. Alas, I'm not quite at such a place currently.
But the comment got me thinking about other things that are more caught than taught. Here's an initial list:
-Riding a bike
-Throwing a frisbee
-Writing well (including blogging...oi, my posts have been choppy and full of poor form recently, a thousand apologies to my dear readers)
-Reading for formation v. reading for information
-Negotiating a good deal
-Appreciating the cultural nuances of the State Fair
Like I said, just an initial list. Some of those things are on the list because I've never "caught" them, even though I've made learned attempts to do so.
Other things that could go in the "caught, not taught" category?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I mean, I cringed when the defensive back gave all the honor and glory to Jesus in the post-game interview for tripping up the wide receiver on the goal-line slant. Sure, some big things were cool to thank God for, but some of it felt a little demanding. Why was it always about him?
Now that I have kids, much has become clear that was once fuzzy.
When I pour the juice for my kids, they need to say thank you. Not because I need to be propped up by my two-year-old. Not just so that they won't appear rude when we're out in public or when they're relating to others. They need to thank me because I don't want them to become rude, self-absorbed people.
My children are dependent creatures. All of us are. It is a good and proper and right thing for them to live in the reality of that. It is a good and right and proper thing for me to live in the reality of that as well.
And of course that can go to an extreme and they can become co-dependent or never learn healthy inter-dependence (I don't actually think "independence" is a Biblical/Christian value). But right now, that's not the issue. The issue is that they recognize the good thing that is the gift of someone supplying a need. That's my issue, too.
There is tremendous blessing in realizing that we are made to have healthy inter-dependent relationships where real needs are met in real-time by an outside source. It is not all up to us to make it on our own. It relieves one of having to be God...a terrible self-imposed burden carried by far too many in our world.
God doesn't need me thank him to make him feel good about himself. God needs me to thank him so that I don't end up a spoiled brat. And to start with, I'm grateful that he loves me enough to want good things for me...like becoming a person of integrity, someone that'd be worth hanging out with when I'm older.
I hope my kids might be on that path, too.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
1. Anger seems to be an appropriate response to world that is full of wrong. God is angry in Amos--the people of Israel are exploiting the poor. Some of my students get angry at injustice. Anger is the right response to not-right-ness. It is a good and useful tool that moves us beyond our usual self-protective shell to engage in the fight where it is good, right, and necessary.
2. Usually, however, anger does not seem to be used or experienced in this redemptive way. Most often we get angry when we are overlooked, taken for granted, feel snubbed or overworked. In other words, anger seems to play out most consistently in regards to the need to be propped up, applauded, approved of, respected, and having our own needs met.
In some cases, our anger in regards to something that has happened to us is justified and right under condition number one: we have personally experienced a wrong that needs to be righted somehow. But often in our culture, anger is self-serving rather than making-things-right-serving.
3. Anger is a serious impediment to the spiritual life. The conversations we have in our heads, the ways we self-justify and work up our self-righteous diatribes, the ways that anger most often compels us to act impulsively, hastily, in over-reaction rather than in right measure all impede a life of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Henri Nouwen talks about this in his book The Genessee Diary. That his anger and the resulting stew-pot of internal-world churning is often grossly disproportionate to the actual offense. What this reveals, he proposes, is that we are such insecure and deeply needy creatures that even the most insignficant slight raises the specter that we are unimportant, not loved, and alone. In other words, that all our worst fears about our lives and circumstances might actually be true.
Scripture talks plenty about anger--I mentioned Amos already, but perhaps most famously in the New Testament: "in your anger, do not sin." This resonates with me. It leaves room for a Jesus-clearing-the-temple kind of anger that is rightly prompted by something that is wrong...but it doesn't let me off the hook to love the Lord and my neighbor, even in the midst of my anger.
Friends of ours did this cool thing when they had a baby: they took pictures of their child each month with the same stuffed animal. That way you could see how much they'd grown each month.
Davis loved this pink pig. Sometimes when Davis was fussing, I would pick up his stuffed pink pig (other kids have teddy bears, Davis loved his pig) and I would animate it—voices, hand motions, break-dancing, whatever.
Davis, of course, was enthralled. His response was to reach out and grab the pink pig. Of course, once the pig was in his hands, the "life" that was in it was gone. It went back to being an ordinary stuffed pink pig. Not a bad thing, but not what had enthralled him with the pig to begin with, not what he was looking for. As soon as Davis had control of the pig, the very life that he had enjoyed about it was gone.
The same thing is true for us when it comes to our work and the bigger purposes behind our lives. The only way for our lives to have real meaning, to have real life, is for Someone Else to be in control of them. Our control is an illusion. It is something to be released and repented of again and again, any time it rears its' ugly head.
Rest re-aligns our souls with the fundamental realities of the universe. It cuts against the lie spoken to our first parents that "we might be like God." Rest reminds us that there is only one God. And we are not Him.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Work: to co-operate with God in using our gifts and abilities to tend to the world he has given us in order to provide for our own needs, bless those around us, and bring forth beauty and life to the glory of God the Creator.
Work can only bless us under the under the umbrella and in its proper place of this co-operative relationship with God in order to point back to the power and goodness of him.
And then of course, sin enters the picture. Sin is broken relationship, first with God, then with one another, and of course with the rest of the created order. So instead of work being a joyful derivative good, a joyful good that we experience under the umbrella of a bigger and better good of a relationship with God, all of the sudden we’ve got thorns and toil and sweat and ultimately death.
Our relationship with work is way more complicated because our relationship with God is broken and as a consequence all of our relationships are messed up, including how we relate to the tasks that we’ve been given to do.
And so we’re confused. We don’t understand that work is good but it’s a derivative good.
And what happens with our broken relationship with work is that for many of us, myself included here, work becomes a place where we find our identity. It becomes our place where we try to find life.
Your work/GPA/major/career is NOT intended to:
give you ultimate life
give you meaning
give you purpose
give you your identity
become your name
be the thing that defines you
be the thing that validates your existence or makes you a worthwhile human being.
But our world doesn’t know any better, and many of us get so wrapped up in our work or GPA’s or resumes or achievement . And so we become obsessed with doing as the thing that validates us, makes us important or significant in the world.
And here at UNC, we’ve even invented our own name for all of this: The Carolina way
Basically “the Carolina way” is a way of nicely saying that your significance as a human being is primarily wrapped up in how much you do: “The Carolina Way” runs on and is fueled by anxiety and grasping and ambition and fear, but the Scriptures say that life lived in step with God is fueled by faith, hope, and love.
Because here’s the deal: ultimately you cannot serve both Jesus and the Carolina Way.If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Jesus into both faithful work and faithful rest, the Carolina Way will gladly take your life and give you nothing in exchange and to draw from a warning from Jesus: you just might gain the whole world and forfeit your soul.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday morning I was looking over my talk and trying to keep myself from getting overly-caught up in the moment. I wanted to keep perspective. So the Lord brought to mind a Scripture I read earlier in the week: "Apart from you, I have no good thing." Psalm 16.
So I meditated on that, repeating it over and over again while I was in the shower, shaving, getting dressed. Apart from the Lord, none of what I said or did was a good thing. And not just that moment, not just that presentation. All my husbanding and parenting and meeting with students and speaking and leading and listening and serving are no good apart from the Lord.
Apart From You, I have No Good Thing. AFY NGT. I wrote those letters in pen on the inside of my wrist. I tried to meditate on it, to think on it, to pray it, all day long.
I wanted what I said to bless and inform the board. I had a job to do, I had been called to serve, not advance myself. This was a cool opportunity, but done apart from the Lord it was no longer a good thing--at least not for me, anyway. I could say good things that the Lord might use, but in terms of who I am becoming and what kind of character I'm developing and the intent of the Lord to bless me with this experience, it could be possible to miss it. I didn't want to do that.
And so I presented. 1:30 Mountain Time to a warm and friendly crowd of about 25 people who all love the Lord and want to see InterVarsity grow in our ministry to students. It went extremely well. The questions they asked were wise and thoughtful. I had a ton of fun.
I just got back a couple of hours ago. I think I did what I was supposed to do there, especially the work of not missing the blessing of doing it in and through and with the Lord.
"Apart from you, I have no good thing."
Friday, October 17, 2008
*As if I needed any more reasons to be annoyed by NC State football, there was a Thursday night game last night against Florida State. The Fair Grounds and the NCSU football stadium are roughly 200 yards apart. Ergo, it took us an hour to get to the fair.
*If the State Fair is any indication, North Carolina's definitely going McCain's way. McCain's folks had the place covered--buttons, pins, dirigibles...okay, no dirigibles, but lots of McCain-Palin stickers and buttons. But then again, I do spend most of my days in Chapel Hill, which is slightly to the left of Stalin, so my perspective might be a bit skewed. To see anyone supporting McCain is a bit of a shock to my system.
*Our night was filled with kids riding great rides (floating bumper cars?!? what'll they think of next?) and seeing what there is to see. The sheep were a big hit, as were the baby pigs fighting to nurse on the mama pig--Davis is sitting here, he's saying that was his favorite.
*We packed it up and headed back home around 8:30. It's funny how it felt like it was midnight, I think that once you have kids long enough you see everything through their eyes.
*If we headed home an hour after bed time, you can imagine how much later past bed time it was for the kiddos. Could be a long day managing the little ones for my wife who's bearing that burden today!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I've also added the "Blog Follower" gadget. I have no idea what that means, but Esther Linnartz, one of my students, signed up to be one, so I figured I'd put her up there. Jump on the bandwagon! Everyone's doin' it!
*Try as I might, I just can't get into playoff baseball. I really want to want to watch it. I just can't get excited about it. Maybe when the World Series rolls around I'll watch some of that.
*I didn't watch much of the debates last night. But from what I saw, McCain looked like a nearly-beaten man. I think Obama is the best leader between the two and the right choice for now. I just shudder to think about the Supreme Court justices that we'll be saddled with after his term(s) end, given how incredibly far-left his stance on abortion is.
*This weekend I'm getting to give a presentation to a group of really important people in my little fish pond. I've got half an hour to talk about "Christian Students Today." Not just Christian students in the South. All of them. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
And time for the Kirk family to engage in a time-honored tradition: the annual trip to the State Fair. Opens tomorrow, fifteen minutes down the road in Raleigh. As I type on State Fair opening day eve, there are thousands of pigs and horses and chickens and rabbits and antique John Deer tractors their associated owners driving in from all across the state to display their wares.
Last year the surprise of the trip was Davis discovering rides...at $3 a pop, it wasn't the most pleasant surprise. This year, we're playing it smart: advance ticket sales at the local mall.
Tomorrow night at this time, I'll be un-pleasantly over-stuffed with fried State Fair goodness, I will have most likely been exposed to any number of farm-animal-induced bacteria, our kids will be psycho-over-stimulated-wired-up from lights and sounds and rides, and I'll be glad to participate once again in this particular slice of Americana...even amidst the craziness and anxiety of all that's going on on Wall Street.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
As an easy (and lazy) point of reference, I talked about a speaker who we asked to talk about hope and who ended up talking about justice. That pastor was Tyler Jones, pastor of Vintage 21 in Raleigh. He and I went to school together. He's one of our students favorite speakers. He's one of my favorite speakers. He very graciously e-mailed me today, saying that he wanted to honor IV and asked if I was talking about him in that post.
I was, and I need to post an apology. Both to honor Tyler and make sure that my students who read the blog don't think ill about him.
My intention behind the post was to say that any one of the nights that we've had at large group where we've talked about justice in and of itself would have been fine. But together, it's felt like a lot. And my process has led me to asking what does it mean to shepherd people into issues of justice and race and ethnicity when for many of them it is new?
Tyler's talk about hope wasn't soft and fuzzy. He challenged Christian students to become agents of hope in the world--exactly as he should have. If we had done our work around Tyler's talk to invite students into a welcoming and deeply gospel-centered community, students could have received his talk or any number of things that we've challenged them with much better.
But as it is, we didn't do our work of building trust before and after he came to help shepherd students into the good challenges that we've put before them. Tyler did not dishonor us in his talk. He spoke the truth. We haven't done as faithful a job gathering and building trust. And so some have left--obviously not all, and clearly large group is not the only reason why they've left.
But I chose my example poorly in my post the other day. I should not have used the example that I did. It came across as someone not honoring our request to speak about a specific topic, when in actuality he spoke exactly as he should have and did nothing wrong.
And I want to make sure to clear things up so that I'm not dishonoring a friend who has faithfully blessed our community year in and year out with his gift for teaching and his heart for the Lord.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Once I started working on the talk, I realized that not getting rest was only a small part of the problem. If we have a distorted view of work then it will be impossible for us to rest.
So I started by talking about work and then moved to rest. It was one of my classic two-talks-for-the-price-of-one moments. I've continued to think about work and rest since then, so I thought I'd share some of that talk here with my lovely blogger audience:
First, hear this: work is good
In the Biblical story of creation and Adam and Eve, Adam and Eve are created and before anything bad happens, before they eat the forbidden fruit, they are told to work –to work the garden, to eat the fruit and enjoy the place where God has put them.
Work is a good thing. But it is only a good thing in the right context.
Work: to co-operate with God in using our gifts and abilities to tend to the world he has given us in order to provide for our own needs, bless those around us, and bring forth beauty and life, to the glory of God the Creator.
Okay, so the point of this definition is that work is intended to bless us and those around us as a derivative good. Work is a derivative good, a secondary good.
It can only bless us under the under the umbrella and in its proper place of this co-operative relationship with God in order to point back to the power and goodness of him.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
So as we’re evaluating our first several weeks on campus, one piece of what’s gone “wrong” is that we’ve talked about justice. It wasn’t scheduled. It sort of just happened.
Speakers ended up tying in issues of justice when we asked them to speak on hope. Students have plugged opportunities to get involved in making a difference in a justice-sort-of-way. Just about every week we’ve touched on issues of justice.
What happens when you start to talk to southern, churched, eighteen-year-olds about issues of justice (and multi-ethnicity) is that they push back. Or leave. These are largely culturally and theologically conservative students who have never had anyone in a church-setting talk about these issues. And so it sounds like a politically-correct liberal campus agenda.
So I’ve definitely been thinking about how much I wish we’d done things differently.
But then my read-through-the-Bible-in-4-years plan started me reading in Amos this week. Holy crap, God’s ticked about issues of injustice. Friday I talked it over with four of my junior guys who are core leaders in the chapter. They were all for us being who we are—multi-ethnic worship, doing the justice thing, even as they figure out what it all means. Then this morning at church we talked about the desire for justice as a “point of contact” and part of what it means for us to be image-bearers.
We’ve definitely made mistakes these first weeks. Our large groups have been too intense. Our greatest strength (community) is the greatest felt need of your average first-weeks freshmen. We should have led more strongly with that. And there’s important questions about how you actually shepherd people into God’s heart for issues that they’ve never seen or heard addressed before. We haven’t exactly invited new students in, more like beat them over the head.
But it’s been good to be reminded of the centrality of justice (and multi-ethnicity as a part of that) in the gospel story. And it’s been encouraging to have students who are willing to make sacrifices (even have smaller small groups!) to live out our values.
The Lord is good to remind me of what’s important when I’m willing to listen .
Thursday, October 09, 2008
This fall on campus has been about the funkiest that I've ever experienced. I came in with great expectations. We've got fantastic student leaders, I'd been thinking a lot about growth and how we could continue to grow and expand our ministry on campus, we've got a great staff team...all the pieces seemed to be in place for an all-systems-go start to the year.
But it hasn't happened that way. Everything's felt a little off: our New Student Welcome events were good but not fantastic. A few were major disappointments. Our weekly large groups have felt overly-intense and very low energy. Our new room that we moved into thinking that we would continue to grow (we've added about 100 students to our ministry in the past couple of years) has swallowed us whole.
The clearest indicator of our funk came at our New Student Retreat a couple of weekends ago. We had 125 two years ago, 115 last year, 50 two weeks ago. Like I said, off.
So I've spent much of the past several weeks frustrated, and at points trying to figure out what it means to be disappointed faithfully. I'm not sure how I've done. I've been frustrated a lot with the Lord and with myself. I've been mystified by our funk. I've been a little disoriented.
Friends have tried to tell me what I know to be true, but I've resisted their counsel. I've wanted to be mad at the Lord. I've wanted to try to fix it. I've ridden the roller-coaster the past seven weeks of frustration, disappointment, striving, anxiety, anger, questioning, and finally just in the past week or so, I've come to a place of restful resolve.
This past Sunday we gathered our leadership team together and I tried to put words around what's gone on these first six weeks. And then I tried to rally us towards the future. It's only early October. The Lord's not done with us yet.
I called our leaders to be FOR one another (not to quit on the community), to call on the Lord together, and to consider that if we can't just throw a party and have 125 new Christians show up, then maybe God's calling us to throw a party and pray that 125 non-Christians show up. We need to have more fun. We need to "live more playfully and believe more recklessly." We need the Lord to do a miracle to push us forward in a fresh way.
Tonight, we had another large group meeting. It was probably the best large group we've had all year. The Lord's not done with us yet. I have a lot of hope. But I had to work through that disappointment stuff. At points I probably wallowed, and was over-anxious and all that. But the God of all Hope has come. And he's doing something really cool and really unique in our community this year. I can't wait to see what happens
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
So last election season, Oma was talking with the Dutch relatives. She asked them what the Dutch thought about Bush and Kerry.
Their response was striking. They said that most of Europe just sort of rolls their eyes at American Presidential elections. That basically, it doesn’t matter who’s president, the policies are more or less the same. When you’re voting in a European election system that has real-live socialists, communists, democrats, republicans, libertarians and many others, the two-party system looks a little narrow.
It struck me how funny it was that from our perspective (on the “inside”) our two parties looked hopelessly worlds apart. But from the outside, the two parties looked more or less the same.
I certainly think that there are some significant differences between the two candidates. But I wonder if we sometimes get a little lost in those differences, blow them up to the Nth degree in order to give CNN something to talk about 24/7.
My take on the debate the other night: both did fine, but McCain needed to do more to create momentum. One month out, I’m not sure if Obama can lose, barring some sort of colossal mistake. But I’m still undecided.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Of course, given the way things are going around here with the stock market, perhaps the best idea might be to go ahead and move to Turkey.
But then again, I did just have my "proud to be an American" post yesterday, so maybe I'll just stick it out here and see what happens.
Whichever of the two Turks that we choose from will have his hands full: a messy and unpopular war, an economic mess that no one really knows how to fix, and lots of other potentially explosive issues to deal with as well over the next four years (Supreme Court justices, and all the fun abortion/gay marriage stuff that entails).
At least we have Saturday Night Live skewering politicians recreationally to keep us entertained.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
As a part of that prayer time, I invited folks to pray that God might forgive our country for how we've participated in injustice.
Afterwards, I had someone approach me and ask me about this whole "justice/injustice in America" deal. According to him, if it wasn't for the U.S. all the world would be speaking German or Japanese. If it wasn't for the United States, injustice would be a way of life.
This got me to thinking--how do I think about our country? How do I talk about it?
Okay, so first what I want to say is that clearly the United States has issues. Injustice abounds towards minorities, in our international trade practices, in just about every aspect of our corporate lives.
But there is something from this conversation that has lingered with me. In my part of the world, it's simply cooler, more intellectual, you get more street cred if you diss our country. What I want to inform how I think and talk about and pray for our country is the Spirit, the Scriptures, a heart full of faith, hope and love.
Cynicism, sounding sophisticated, or sounding cool & intellectual is not how I want to live as a child of God in this country. Being grateful for the freedoms that I have is an important spiritual discipline. Being grateful for the ability that I have to sit here and write snarky comments about my own country is an historically rare thing.
So let me say this: I'm glad that I live in this country. There's no where else that I'd rather be.
If that propels me into a smug, self-satisfied apathy, that's a bad thing. But if I'm falling off on the other side of the equation and reveling in country-bashing because it's just cooler or sounds more intellectually elite or I'm just cultivating my own propensity towards cynicism, that's just crap.
There it is.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
This is a great, great stride in western Christendom...and one that will eventually yield much fruit in terms of a fuller, richer understanding of God and the work of Christ.
The danger here is a reverse discrimination against the rich heritage and legacy of God's work throughout the centuries in the west. In other words, as we're embracing a more global understanding of God's kingdom and entering into a richer dialogue, let's not chuck a couple thousand years of God's work in Europe and America.
This is good for evangelicalism in particular, as we figure out how to engage a multi-ethnic, pluralistic world. We've got to have a Christ-centered, multi-lingual gospel.
Thus endeth the posts on the Emergent Church...and the pressing issues that I see in my students all the time!