Archive for February, 2008

Quote of the Day

February 14, 2008 1 comment

From The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis’ brilliant satire:

Evangelicals have become great believers in their various systems, institutions and programs. It is a mark of the contemporary church that its illusions of external prosperity have almost completely blinded it to its poverty of actual spiritual power.

Categories: Church, Faith

Stop This Train

February 11, 2008 Leave a comment

A great song by John Mayer, which I’ve been reflecting on quite a bit over the last several months. It goes like this:

No, I’m not colorblind
I know the world is black and white
Try to keep an open mind
But I just can’t sleep on this tonight

Stop this train
I wanna get off
And go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

Don’t know how else to say it
Don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own

Stop this train
I wanna get off
And go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

So scared of getting older
I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game
To find a way to say that life has just begun

Had a talk with my old man
Said “help me understand”
He said “turn sixty-eight
You renegotiate”

“Don’t stop this train
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly we’ll never stop this train”

Once in awhile, when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
Till you cry when you’re driving away in the dark

Stop this train
I wanna get off
And go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can
Cause now I see I’ll never stop this train

I think what hits me the hardest is the father’s advice, “Turn sixty-eight, you’ll renegotiate.” I take it to refer to renegotiating the son’s expectations of life. The song itself speaks mostly about his fears of getting older and losing the freedoms and comfort of being young, but to me it also includes taking on the responsibilities of being a man, my plans and dreams, as well as what I expect life actually to have in store.

I feel like a lot of my life over the last three-plus years has been a process of renegotiating – or avoiding the reality that needs to be renegotiated. And I think renegotiating is probably the hardest thing a young man with huge ambitions and big dreams has to do. It’s certainly been the hardest thing I’ve had to do so far. When I listen to this song I relate to the feeling – stop the train, this isn’t how I expected things to go, everything’s supposed to work out and not stay difficult. What happened to being safe and sound and surrounded by friends and family?

And I’m struck every time by the father’s advice about renegotiating –

“Don’t stop this train
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I’ve tried my hand
John, honestly we’ll never stop this train”

He speaks from the authority of having already gone through the same experience of renegotiating, and of his process he only says, “I’ve tried my hand” – without saying if it went well or not for him. His advice then is essentially, don’t quit the process. I think I’d rather hear – everything will turn out how you hope it will. But instead it’s only – who knows, just don’t check out.

And for me, that’s been about the hardest thing to do. When life is this difficult for this long without many payoffs, the last advice I want to hear is “just keep going.” Checking out is about all I want to do some days. There’s sadness and anxiety for me in this also – as well as frustration, anger, and fear. Sometimes I can rally hope and motivation and put forth some effort towards the things I’m missing/hoping for – valuable community, a deeper relationship with God, a new job, even a new job back in New England. But most days I’m just frustrated by it all. I’ve had my dreams shelved since we came to Cincinnati, and I feel that, in one form or another, every day.

Context is King

February 7, 2008 Leave a comment

You may have noticed a decided lack of posts lately on the topics I began this blog around – finding community, investing in a church, and following Jesus in general. I’ve been thinking about why that is – why these things haven’t been on my mind much lately – and I’ve come up with this: we’ve been missing our context. As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, neither of us are particularly self-motivated folks, so when we’re without the context of active community and worship experiences that inspire us to pursue our faith within them as well as on our own, we tend to put our energies into whatever else is actually demanding them (did I mention we have three kids under 4?). So having been to church maybe once in four weeks, and being around Christian friends not at all in months (except to watch a certain football game that shall go unnamed), we’ve been missing our context lately. And not to mention a being a little under the weather recently.

Being Sick Sucks

February 5, 2008 Leave a comment

And I’m not talking about my cough that won’t let me slouch in my seat, or my 2-year-old’s that tends to trigger his gag reflex, ejecting the contents of his lunch in a ball of slime on his shirt, or any of the other flying nose slugs that have graced our home recently. I’m talking about Amber with the flu, a sinus infection and a migraine on top of it. Who invents this stuff? Isn’t there some shutoff valve on our immune system’s intake ports (I guess that would be our noses and mouths and such) that only lets a limited number of diseases in? This is ridiculous. She’s got all the pills and sprays and Big Pharma placebos but really all that’s working in her favor so far is time. Where’s the I’ve Had Enough button?

An Open Letter to New England Fans

February 4, 2008 2 comments

I was there tonight, wringing my hands on the couch while Tom Brady took one beating after another through three quarters, then pacing and dancing across the back of the living room as he led the drive in the fourth quarter to regain the lead, then stunned and sullen after Plaxico Burress danced through the corner of the end zone to all but finish it.

Honestly – what were we playing for tonight? For utter and unchallengeable supremacy in the sporting world? The best season in history, the greatest team ever assembled? Is that what we really wanted?

We’ve tasted the glory of not just one, and not even two, but three Super Bowl titles already this decade, establishing our Pats as the reigning dynasty in football. We’ve held on through a dramatic and record-setting year that saw no losses in the regular season, plus a generous dose of major NFL records broken. We have the best quarterback, the best receiver, the best offense – we have plenty to boast about. Did we really want 19-0 and a Super Bowl title too?

Well, in a word – yes. What else is there?

Is it not enough that we also have the best team in baseball? That’s two out of the last three World Series titles, three out of four recent Super Bowls, and we could even toss in the best team currently in basketball. (Let’s steer clear of the NHL though, shall we?) No other city in history has experienced the sports glory that Boston has enjoyed these last seven years. Seriously – is this Super Bowl what we New Englanders really wanted?

Did you see Eli Manning’s face after the game? Do you remember the feeling we all had six years ago tonight when our Patriots did to the Rams what his Giants did to our Patriots? Do you remember the cars honking to each other on the streets of Boston after midnight? Can we in good faith simply impart to Eli and his gang that experience of glory? This is far from our lowest moment as Pats fans, but for Giants fans there’s been nothing sweeter, including Super Bowls XXI or XXV.

And if domination was our aim tonight, then what do we go on to hope and cheer for? Seriously, what else is there?

I had a surprising experience tonight as the Pats’ final drive ended in a flurry of Hail Marys. I wasn’t devastated. I expected the disbelief to give way to fury as Bill Belichick trotted into the tunnel and the officials cleared the field for the final play. I expected the same moroseness that set in after Champ Baileys INT in 2006, and Peyton Manning’s sudden and ferocious competency in 2007. I expected to be lying awake tonight bitterly replaying all the missed opportunities and inventing fantasy plays that saved the game.

But here’s what I felt instead – and I’m about to commit what most of us New England fans consider blasphemy of the highest order, but stay with me here – I was aware tonight that it was only a football game.

Let that sink in a minute. In the panoply of things I’ve wanted in the course of my life, this one ranks actually rather low in the area of any potential meaningful impact. Had the Pats caught the break they’ve always caught in the closing minutes of a nail biter and come out on top, what would it really have meant to me? For one, a little more pride in being a New Englander. For another, the right to tell my grandchildren I was there, I was a part of it all in the 2007-08 Patriots season. But these are things I already have in the six world titles and in the 2004 Red Sox, whose once-in-a-lifetime season was more meaningful by far than the 19-0 Pats would have been.

So I’m faced with the strange reality that this game wasn’t really that important to me. It wasn’t; yet it was – I still paced, and jumped and hollered at the TV. I actually found myself keeping my fingers on the pulse in my neck at times, as though my passion were on tap tonight. So what was it I was after then?

And as New England sports fans, what is it we’re after? To the extent that it hasn’t already come true, I know we don’t want Boston to be the new New York. And I know we don’t need another championship, or another season for the ages. Honestly, we’ve been given more sports glory than any city in modern history. But its’ true – we do want something more than just irrevocable bragging rights.

I know all that excitement and desire I had tonight was real – I didn’t fabricate it – and so at some other level there must be something in all this that I really do want, something more than just a football game: to be part of something bigger than me perhaps, or to know that everything will indeed be alright – better than alright! – in the end; to see everything bad in my life come untrue (to paraphrase Sam Gamgee); to see the things I invest myself in, that represent me, succeed – or to fight for something and see it happen. All these things I really do want with at least the same intensity I expressed tonight.

So, fellow New England sports fan, I ask you – what is it you really want?

Clemens Fesses Up!

February 1, 2008 Leave a comment

That was my dream last night, at least. And that’s probably about as far as it will go with The Rocket when it comes to the allegations regarding his use of performance-enhancing drugs to reboot his career over the last five years. In my dream though a headline such as the one above landed in my RSS feed and I thought to myself, finally – he’s come clean and regained what little remains of his reputation. Who knows for sure what he did or didn’t do, but he certainly isn’t winning any more respect from anyone but his lawyers by maintaining his stubborn insistence of complete innocence.