Monday, March 26, 2007

Shooting in the dark

No, this is not a story of crime in my neighborhood. Rather, it describes what I was doing at 8 pm tonight after UNC's loss to Georgetown. I have a tradition of shooting baskets each year after the Heels lose their last game of the season, no matter what time it is. Sometimes I am shooting at 11 at night, others in the afternoon. But most seasons, I end it on a court somewhere. So tonight, after listening to Roy William's postgame interviews, I went to a court in another part of town and shot hoops for a few minutes, making some of the baskets that the Heels just couldn't seem to get to fall this evening.

The first time I did this was in 1984. I was eight years old, and the Tar Heels had just lost to Indiana. There was no reason that this Indiana team should have beaten my Heels that year, what with Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins on the team. I had been allowed to stay up to watch the game, and when it was over, my dad suggested we go shoot some baskets in the driveway. When you're 8 years old and already up way past your bedtime, the chance to play 'ball with your dad at night was a rare treat. So we went out and shot, the floodlight casting long shadows. As far as I can remember, every year since then, that's how my UNC basketball seasons have ended (except for the years when I saw their Final Four losses in person).

I remember getting yelled at by an RA at Carolina in 1995 when the Heels lost to Arkansas in the Final Four because we were shooting on the Avery Dorm court after quiet hours (who was studying at 11:00 pm on a Saturday, especially with football players carousing in the balcony, apparently {and inconceivably} celebrating the loss?). I remember shooting in the dark in 2004, having given up TV for lent and thus relegating myself to trying to not listen to the Heels game against Texas (I dunno, I figured that listening to them was cheating or something), and hearing Rashad McCants' tying three fall short, went straight to dimly lit courts of Lake Daniel Park.

Tonight, more than any other night that I can remember, I was shooting in a fog. The way that Carolina lost, letting a lead slip away bit by maddening bit over the course of 7 minutes, letting a game that we had led pretty much from the start slip away because we could not get the ball in the goal, it just stunned me. I couldn't talk. I wasn't angry. I didn't want to throw anything. It just didn't seem real. Still doesn't.

Now there's 8 long months until the 2007-08 season starts, and I'm uncertain as to which players will still be on the team then. Maybe it's time to change my homepage from to I just don't have the heart to do it yet.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A prayer for Glenwood, and beyond

Was reading in Isaiah this morning, alternating between the TNIV and The Message (yes, I have a parallel Bible with each of these "rogue" translations), and Eugene's translation of Isaiah 32:15-20 really made sense to me in the context of Glenwood and our new Community Garden (see this link for a newspaper article) that we have built (see this link for a news story and accompanying video).

15-20Yes, weep and grieve until the Spirit is poured
down on us from above
And the badlands desert grows crops
and the fertile fields become forests.
Justice will move into the badlands desert.
Right will build a home in the fertile field.
And where there's Right, there'll be Peace
and the progeny of Right: quiet lives and endless trust.
My people will live in a peaceful neighborhood—
in safe houses, in quiet gardens.
The forest of your pride will be clear-cut,
the city showing off your power leveled.
But you will enjoy a blessed life,
planting well-watered fields and gardens,
with your farm animals grazing freely.

Justice will move into the badlands desert
Right will build a home and where there's Right, there will be Peace and what does Right bear? Quiet lives and endless trust.
Are peaceful neighborhoods, safe houses, quiet gardens only for those who can afford them? Of course not. And this garden, I hope, is a part of bringing Right to Glenwood, not to exclude the poor but to bless them, as well as everyone who makes up our community.

In a sermon by Ray Bakke (an urban ministry veteran and "grandfather" in this movement) he recounted a conversation he had with some evangelical leaders in Chicago. They were hearing about his ministry, and one said, "When you talk about sharing the gospel with people in your neighborhood, I get excited, but when you talk about changing systems and things like that, I get uneasy because it sounds like a social gospel." This particular man lived in the suburbs (and there is nothing wrong with that, let me say up front), and Ray asked him why he chose the neighborhood that he did. The man proceeded to list the advantages - safety, good schools, great healthcare options, peace and quiet, and more. To which Ray replied, "All of those reasons that led you to choose your neighborhood are social reasons; you believe in a social gospel as much as I do. Everyone wants those things, but those who have them often say that those who don't should just be content to not have them and that we shouldn't get involved in those social issues." (this is a less-eloquent paraphrase of his story).

As Christians, whether we move in to hard places or not, I think we are called to bear the progeny of Right and work for peaceful neighborhoods and well-watered gardens for all, using whatever gifts and influence that we have on behalf of others, and I have seen many wealthy Christians in Greensboro who don't live in the harder parts of town do just that. I just think that in general it is easier to care about these things when you live on the unpeaceful street, because you are working not just for others but for your own living space.

Interestingly, I feel like my neighborhood association in Glenwood is working for peaceful streets and quiet space, but I fear that this will happen at the expense of the poor. Unless we plan now and make room for Right, for Justice, the peace and quiet will be affordable to fewer people. When others are excluded because they are forgotten and not fought for, that is not God's plan for Shalom, true peace and right-living. I don't think that my neighborhood association is out to get anyone or exclude anyone intentionally - many of them are sympathtic to this issue and sincerely are considering the implications, but displacement is going to happen unless there is intentional and creative planning and leadership.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Allow me to be cynical for just a moment

As an IV staff I am guilty of thinking that I am the expert on how Christians should present themselves to culture and interact with culture, and so when something seems somewhat cheesy, I am quick to jump on it and run it down. Sometimes I go overboard. Maybe this is one of those times, but this site, Godtube, just makes me squirm. I know that the intentions behind this site are most likely from a desire for Christians to have safe, "clean" options as alternative to "wordly" things that are admittedly tricky to navigate.

But to me this seems like yet another attempt to remove ourselves from the world, making ourselves insulated and isolated from those who might think differently than us or have conflicting values. It's all the same stuff as regular YouTube, only it's sanitized, Christianized, and mostly irrelevant to people who don't know Jesus. It makes me sad that tons of Christians out there are going to celebrate this site as a positive witness for Jesus on the internet, not realizing that for the most part non-Christians won't darken the virtual door of Godtube, unless it is to mock or shake their heads. Why do we as Christians continue to struggle with relevance, lacking creativity and drive to engage the world with excellence on the world's turf and terms? It's not easy, and it's certainly simpler to spoof and parody in Christian-ese and know that it will be accepted and liked by people who speak the same language. Sigh. Maybe I'm being too hard on this instance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Couldn't be prouder

Now that my two weeks of spring break groups are gone, I can catch up on my blog posts (I have a list of topics in my tasks in outlook).

Each week of spring break we took the Salvation Army disaster van out on a Tuesday night to visit homeless men and women in the city and take them food and drinks. The second week our first stop was right across the street from Greensboro Urban Ministry, and because the weather was warm, the overflow beds were no longer available. Result? There were lots of homeless people hanging out on "the block", and so when our truck rolled up, they all came across the street. Just a few at first, then more and more. And as the first group came, I was across the street from the college students talking with a couple of men that I had met in previous trips out with Nightwatch.

So, there I was, the most experienced in this type of situation, all the way across the street, and a group of 10 college students, who were expecting to talk with maybe one or two homeless people at a time, on the other side with a group of 10 homeless men and women. When I got to them, the students all looked a little stunned, but as I reminded them to simply talk and pray with each person and led them in getting food and drinks out, they recovered and began to really minister. They laughed and talked with our friends, and each person who came was warmly welcomed and prayed with. Students were speaking truth about the Lord and were offering friendship, crossing racial and class and cultural lines, not necessarily with ease but with purpose and love.

While I have grown to realize the truth that the homeless are real people with dignity and real stories to their lives, that has taken time and many relationships and conversations. For most of the students, this was their first time confronting the stereotypes that many of us have, and they did it so well.

Monday, March 05, 2007

All the Pieces Coming Together

Many of you know that we have been running our tutoring program for about 5 years now, and it has continued to grow in size. However, we had size with little to no infrastructure, and so, as a friend of mine put it, it was like this tsuhami of kids crashed into us each week, and then we would recover for a few days and get hit again. There never seemed to be time to get thing under control, and it more felt like survival. That same friend has commented that with tutoring it's like you get two Fridays every week - one on Tuesday when tutoring is over and then the regular one on Friday.

This, however, is changing. God is beginning to move people into place to transform this ministry into one that is effective for the kids and more enjoyable for the tutors. He brought Regina Clark, a businesswoman who specializes in developing an infrastructure to make vision come to pass. He has brought Millie Smith, who has a degree in physical education, and works for a state organization that promotes health and physical activity. Millie now leads an organized play time for our kids and tutors each Monday, which has increased relationships and teamwork amongst them. God brought Jeb Burns, a graduate school education major who is a parent of middle schoolers and who also has a passion for middle schoolers, and he is helpind bring an organized curriculum to that portion of our program. God enabled Melissa Lewkowicz to come on as a paid staff with InterVarsity as an administrative assistant for GUPY and this program. God gave John Freeman, the middle school pastor at our church, a heart for the middle schoolers in our program, and so he serves one day a week. God has brought 7 adult tutors from our church and other churches, which has given maturity and presence to our class rooms. God has given us a tremendous resource in a reading teacher from Guilfor County Schools who is teaching us about discipline and how to help kids read.

Adding these pieces to what we had already has begun to transform our program. Regina has helped us implement a regular schedule each day, which the kids are responding to in a great way. The play time has taught kids and tutors to play together. And there is a calm and an order to our time that there hasn't been. Thus the tsuhami feels more like and regular tide, with some occasional rough seas from time to time (like today when one of the kids stopped up all the sinks in the boys bathroom and turned the water on, resulting in about 1.5 inches of water on the floor and some water in the ceiling below). God is positioning us to have a program next year that is going help the children tremendously.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Diane and I had the privilege of going to the UNC-Duke game and had a great time being together and watching the Heels win. However, I have not experienced mass anger like there was in the Dean Dome after Tyler Hansbrough was bloodied by Gerald Henderson.

There was a moment where I thought things could get ugly, and I wondered if the refs would just get Duke off the court and call it with 14 seconds left. No one threw anything, no one went on the court. But the place was boiling. I felt bad for Henderson - he's just an 18-year-old kid, getting booed off the court and probably being called who knows what. And it was disappointing to feel like the mood at the end was more anger than celebration.

But this has now supplanted the "Bloody Montross Game" of 1992 as the game that UNC fans will remember and point to when thinking of this rivalry.
Incidentally, I have watched about 10 replays of the hit, and while I don't think Henderson was aiming for Tyler's face, he was coming in to commit an aggressive and hard foul after starting the play at the foul-line extended part of the court, and he was bringing his arm down hard, not swatting at the ball and not simply falling into Tyler.

I was disappointed by Coach K's implication that the injury was partly Roy William's fault for having Tyler still in the game with UNC up 11 or 13 and 14 seconds to go. 1) Coach K was calling timeout after his team scored to cut the lead to 13 with 50 seconds left. Certainly not giving up. 2) A sub had been waiting at the table for Tyler when Bobby Frasor was at the line, and Fraso simply missed the foul shot and Tyler got the rebound, setting up his ill-fated free-throw. See this article for more.