Thursday, May 24, 2007

Relearning rest

Rest doesn’t look the same as it once did. It used to be that when I needed a break or a vacation, I did whatever I wanted. Slept in. Watched a lot of TV. Took extended times with the Lord. Went to movies. Funny how having three children under the age of four will disrupt such simple and self-focused patterns.

It has taken me a while to accept that rest looks different now than it used to, and I have found that the more I embrace where I am, rather than wish for where I was, the more rest comes.

A few weeks ago we went to the beach (and whoever said “getting there is half the fun” did not spend a full morning loading a Toyota Sienna with luggage, toys, a portable potty seat, and enough finger food to stuff a preschool class), and for the first day I was really frustrated. My kids needed and wanted to spend time with me. My wife needed and wanted time to read a book and relax. And I needed and wanted to rest, which I thought entailed my being alone, doing whatever I wanted, and playing with my kids when it was convenient for me. That expectation was being shattered, and for a while I resented and resisted learning to rest in a new way.

Thank goodness for the love of God for me and in me, as He began to lead me in letting go of my way and submitting to the season of life that He has for me right now. My children won’t be this little for very long. Precious times of playing in the sand, reading books before bedtime, fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be gone before I know it. And in loving my wife and kids, and being loved by them, was great rest. I came back from the trip refreshed and thankful.

This week, post-Rockbridge, has been a similar experience. There is a part of me that longs for the days when, as a single staff, the “comp-week” after Rockbridge was filled with, well, me-time. But this week I have been to the museum with Psalter, to the zoo with Eliza, Psalter, Diane, and Jacob, and to story time at the library with them all. God is redefining rest, and I learn that the most rest comes when I simply cooperate and receive what He has and find Him in the midst.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ruined Again

Tonight was the next-to-last session of worship for Rockbridge, and once again I am so thankful for the ministry of InterVarsity and what God is doing in us in the area of multiethnicity. In the worship set tonight we went from a gospel song to a song in Swahili to a song in Hindi to a gospel-style medley to a Chris Tomlin song. I can’t describe how great it was to see students of all races worshiping God through various styles and forms, and not just going through the motions but really entering in and enjoying the different cultures represented. They were dancing along with the Gospel song, trying to sing the words in the Hindi verses, shouting in the call and response of the Swahili song. And they were being led by a worship team of black, white, and Asian students and staff who were all taking turns leading the music and singing. It was especially sweet for me to be led in a Hindi song by a white student from Wake Forest who, I am guessing, never would have thought his role as worship leader would have included that style of song. Yet he led us in praise to Jesus, and you could see joy on his face as he pronounced some very difficult words.

To me this is such a picture of what the Church should look like, worshippers of different races in one place, leading one another to see a bigger and bigger picture of the Lord Jesus and different ways to respond to Him in love. Perhaps it’s just that I have a heart for multiethnicity (ME), so I enjoy things like this. But I doubt that all 400 of the college students here at camp had ME as a high value or had even experienced worship like this anywhere except maybe Urbana. Yet they have embraced it and they worshipped God, whether or not they understood the words they were singing (we also sang this week in Hebrew, Korean, Tswana, French, Spanish, and Mohawk (Native American). I have seen African American students worshipping their heart out to “white” contemporary Christian songs and white students making up dances to gospel songs. This generation is so open to being shown new ways to praise God.

And so now it is hard to go back to my home church where our worship music is nowhere near as diverse. This doesn’t mean that the music is bad or insincere or that I am being critical of what is there. It’s just that being here with IV reminds me of all the worship forms that are not at my church (or at most churches), and I really think that when our worship is more monocultural, we are missing out on seeing and experience more of God. I know that in a few weeks I will reacclimate myself to worship that is more main-stream evangelical, and I will enjoy meeting God in that form, while still hoping and waiting to see the Church (and my church) move towards being a place of diversity in unity as we worship one Lord through many languages, styles, and expressions.
PS For a taste of what we were enjoying, or to even begin a journey of diversifying your own worship experience, order a copy of One Calling, Live, the worship CD from Urbana.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Remembering the Intimidator

Tonight Diane and I went with two friends to see Dale, the documentary about Dale Earnhardt Senior (to see the trailer, click here ). To get tickets I had to go and test drive a Chevy (I drove a $31,000 Silverado pickup), and I have to say that movie was WAY more than worth the time that it took to do that test drive. Whether you are a race fan or not, the story was compelling enough that you would enjoy yourself the whole time, and for me, it really was one of the most enjoyable movies I have ever watched. The Carolina Theatre here in Greensboro was nearly full, which was cool to see.

The things that I appreciated about the movie were the ways that it showed what a regular, “everyman” that Dale Sr was, and what a great sense of humor he had. On the track he intimidated and dominated, and off the track he fed his cows and farmed his land. There were also some very sad and poignant footage of Dale Junior as a kid, watching his dad from afar at the track and in victory lane, longing to be noticed and invited closer but not receiving that. It made me sad for him, and I could see why he was so driven to succeed in racing, seeing it as a way to get closer to his dad. I also see the everyman quality in Junior today – he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, takes racing for what it is, and shoots straight with people.

I can understand now why Teresa Earnhardt is reluctant to sell the majority share of DEI to Dale Jr, too. She was Senior’s business partner, helping him build that company from the ground up, and I think that she really had a lot to do with its success. To put herself in a minority ownership position after all that would be hard.

There was great racing footage, too, and it was interesting to see how dominant DEI was becoming as a race team, with Senior, Junior, and Michael Waltrip. Had he not died, there’s not telling what that outfit would be now.

We laughed a lot, and everyone cheered when Dale finally won the Daytona 500 in 1998 (I remembered watching that race in my living room, pounding my basketball into the floor during the final laps). And the last line was classic. It was during the credits, and Senior was filming a “how to be a considerate driver” piece (it seemed like it was for young race drivers). He was talking about looking out for people around you and checking your mirrors, and then he said, “And if you see that it’s Jeff Gordon, put that sum-bitch into the wall.” A roar went up, the lights came on, and it was time to go home. What a fun night.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

It's Bigger Than a Fence

Tonight at our neighborhood association meeting, we had a lively discussion about our Community Garden’s fence. Sounds riveting, I know (I think my journalism professors would give me an “F” with that uninspiring lead). But, as the title says, it’s bigger than a fence.

See, our garden is up and running with 20 plots built, 4x20 feet each, and people are planting and things are growing. But two weeks ago the city began construction on the fence around the garden and the poles were eight feet high! I was concerned. An eight-foot chain link fence does not say, “Welcome to our garden.” It says either, “Keep out!” or “We’re afraid of you!” or both. I mentioned this to my new friend Todd, who is very justice minded, and soon emails were flying. Todd began talking with plot holders, the people from the city parks division and county agricultural extension, as well as the neighborhood association leadership, and tonight we had a long discussion as a group about the fence.

It was a good discussion, but it was interesting to hear the opinions of each side of the argument. There were people saying, “They will vandalize”, “They will jump the fence,” “There are drug dealers out there in the park.” “I’ve seen them jump an 8-foot fence like it was nothing.” Then there was us saying, “Some of those homeless/drug dealers/prostitutes are our friends, and those who aren’t, we want to try to welcome them, not run them off. Plus, all our neighbors who come to the park don't fall into those categories.”

For me, I am not worried if people take my cucumbers or if they walk on my plants. I am not concerned with vandalism of the tool shed. A community garden is designed to build community, and it’s hard to lean over an eight-foot fence to talk with your neighbor.

But the issue is bigger than a fence. It’s a neighborhood in transition, trying to figure out how to build community across race and, especially, class lines. It’s prejudices and ideas about race and culture framing how we perceive the world around us. It’s the language of “us versus them." I’m not trying to cast the people on the other side of the fence (har har) in a poor light; I really think that they are sincere and are working out what they think a neighborhood should be.

This issue points towards gentrification, towards people with power due to race and class being able to move others on without much of a fight, towards those with a voice sticking up for those who don’t. It’s bigger than a fence. And it’s a conversation that will continue, that needs to continue, for a longer period of time. It was great to talk with my neighbors about this and to have a dialogue about a small thing that is actually very important.

For the record, we held a vote as to whether to lower the fence to 6 feet or 4 feet, and my group, the four-footers, lost 13-9.