Friday, July 10, 2009

The Unlikely Disciple

I read myself hoarse tonight, poring over a fantastic book that Stacey and I could not put down. What began with me spouting off a few funny quotes while we sunned ourselves this afternoon turned into hours of digging deep into the rich loam that is The Unlikely Disciple. I have never read a memoir written by a young person that was this honest and just knocked my socks off. The unique opportunity to see Christian culture through the eyes of someone foreign to it was priceless. Kevin Roose never sought to defame anyone in this book--he was just honest and very graceful. There are some things he mentioned that stung, but these are often things that also bother me about the particular brand of Christian culture purported by Liberty University. Kevin's struggle with faith but complete openness to fully participate in spiritual life on campus was remarkable. I also loved the random shout-out to my alma mater Grove City College that occurred amongst the pages.

But what will stay with me the most is what the book said to me about the value of relationship in a person coming closer to knowing Christ. Kevin presented himself as an 'insider' on the campus and was able to view everything without pretense and bias...and he walked away experiencing what it means to be truly loved by a Christian community. Maybe we should never put labels on people, separating them into camps of 'saved' and 'unsaved' and just live life with them. No shying away from doing the stuff of faith with them, ushering them into the experience but being gracious when they aren't ready to participate. Maybe this is 'relational evangelism' done truly well. I've always had an inkling that living life and drawing others alongside was it, but it never felt fully formed. This book as assured me of that truth.

The hard part is that life is rarely like a residential college campus, where you spend most of your time with the same people, doing all the activities of work (study), meals, sleep, and play together. There is no other time in life when community is so obviously present. This makes me all the more affirmed in the power of the collegiate moment to shape the trajectory of life and all the more empowered that God has me working in this moment with just these people. May He continue to provide me with the grace to expand what I've learned through this book into things I can put into practice on a daily basis with the students I serve.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Not My Home

I had an incredible Boston 4th of July weekend--the kind that makes you incredibly thankful to live in a place where people all over the world desire to come and celebrate the Nation's birthday. I spent yesterday with some lovely old friends and new ones, chilling out on the Esplanade the entire day, enjoying great munchies, games, good books, fantastic people watching, and basking in the heretofore absent sunshine. It was no less than brilliant. As Lia said, it ranks right up there with my top 5 days in Boston, even with the crazy climbing over and through fences, and walking the entire 3.5 miles home with my good buddy Jon.

My blistered feet were screaming this morning along with the rest of my 30-something body. But...time to make the chowder for family meal! It was a sweet morning, prepping the old family recipe and watching the epic Roddick-Federer Wimbledon match. Then Kristin and I ran off to city hall plaza, where she found all the cool free stuff and I ate the other kind of chowder. Tonight we had a super fun family meal night with way too much food (as per usual), lots of laughs, loud talking, and impromptu singing.

All of this was so sweet, but it somehow left me longing. Knowing that so many friends are leaving Boston in weeks or months, I felt a sense of needing to cherish the moment. Just like when I was a kid, savoring each gulp of grape juice, holding it in my mouth to fully taste the sweet layers of flavor before swallowing it, I took in these days. I want to be wrapped in a warm blanket of friendship without anyone leaving me. I've had my share of leaving and being adds up after awhile. I'm missing those old friends from college years more as I approach our reunion this fall. I'm pondering Florida memories and good times with Boston friends who've left.

There's nothing wrong with remembering...but there's something else I need to remember: this is not my home. No matter how I feel about God calling me to Boston, my true home is not here, but in heaven. This sounds bizarre, but it's true. No other place will fully satisfy my longing to be loved, cherished, and respected. Christ is the only one who will never leave me though I may run away from Him. I aspire to be like the followers mentioned in Hebrews 11, of which the writer says, "Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them" (Heb 11:13-16, MSG).

Despite the startling beauty of the moment, friends, fireworks...there's more than this that is not fleeting and waiting to be broken. Let me cling to the one who uses our longing to turn to Him.