Saturday, February 25, 2012

"A Blessing for Wakefulness"

I woke up early Wednesday morning from a nightmare easily identified as an indication of stress. Amidst a busy season at the office and midterms in grad classes, we find ourselves confronted making a decision about kindergarten. Of course, it’s not just a decision about kindergarten. It’s a decision about the next many years of our family’s life and development and energy. It’s a decision about a community to which we will commit our children and into which we will pour our hopes for their formation.

When I woke up with the dream’s leftover anxiety, I prayed for the sort of courage that might write a theology of school choice. I found some solace in remembering dear friends who have made the same choice before us. I am deeply grateful for friends who are honest about both beauty and missteps in their lives. They are models for me and their kids are models for my kids. Someday I might like to write the theology of our school choice. Wednesday morning though, I leaned on words written by a friend, words I find particularly meaningful when I face fear and must remember to whom and to what purpose I am committed.

Waking up is hard to do
But once we see
How deep the suffering goes
How high the purpose of human beings
Created in the image of the Creator
What is sleep, but settling for so much less?
What is sleep, but surrendering to a tiny, lazy savior?
What is sleep, but biding time in such boredom
That eternity becomes bad news?

So, friends, may you be fully awake,
And in that wakefulness:
May you love beyond reason.
May you hope beyond what’s realistic.
May you find true pleasure in what pleases God.
May your hunger and thirst for shalom
Be satisfied by the Bread of Life
Embodied in the bread of earth.

You may find the full poem, "A Blessing for Wakefulness" by Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsema, here:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Living the questions... still.

Last Monday, I gathered with the group of student leaders who facilitate service-learning in the residence halls for our biweekly meeting and asked them a simple question: "What do you want to talk about this semester?" Our meetings happen late at night due to the obnoxious complexity of college student schedules, and I'd been feeling at a loss regarding what topics would be worth their time and attention. So I asked. (I'm a big believer in democracy.) And I was astounded by the response.

My CPCs wanted to know how to communicate a vision to people. How to encourage other people to care about the things they already are passionate about. How to integrate service and intentional lifestyles into a variety of different careers and lifestyles after they graduate. How to balance--or juggle--the tension between witness and service and evangelism. You know, small questions.

I was really proud of them, on the one hand--and terrified, on the other. I'm only two years older than they are, after all. How am I supposed to speak into any of those amazingly profound and wonderful questions?

But that's the wrong question too. Because the point isn't that I have the answers. The point is that they are asking the right questions, and we can ask them together. Together, we can look for faithful responses to those questions--because there aren't clear, simple answers, and we might never arrive at resolution. But that lack of resolution is no reason not to search for truth.

So my plan for the next meeting is to tell stories--parables, like Jesus did, that point us to the Truth of the Kingdom, and that leave room for the shades of gray that exist in our life now. I'm going to talk about immigration reform, and introduce them to the people I know and love whose lives have been messed up by a broken system, and I just might get all riled up and teary-eyed. But in the process, I hope and pray that they'll glimpse my passion and maybe develop a bit more of their own. And that's the best I can do, right? Because just like Jesus did when He spoke to the woman at the well, we're invited to "come and see." Just like God did when He put on humanity and became incarnate, we're invited to become more human by learning and knowing each other's stories--and in the process we see a bit more of the truth. Like Karl Barth writes, we only are truly human when we're in relationship--when we look into another's eyes and really see her, or listen to him speak and really hear him, and therefore know Another. Then, as we see the truth about this world, ourselves, and each other, we come to care, because all of a sudden this brokenness is personal. Then, all of a sudden, we realize that we've lived into the questions with passion and that there's still room for grace, and that God is faithful even in that chaotic search for truth, and that ultimately His Truth will set us free.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Bride

Hi folks. I'm Jack. I'm a part of the Church.

I am not my own. I do not live in a vacuum. I cannot be governed simply by what I want. That won't work. Paul said, "I joyfully react to God's law in my head, but I see another law at work in my body, fighting God's law in my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin." A prisoner of a law that makes me miss God's desires. Wow. That sucks. Who will save me from this body of death?



There's no condemnation for us now, who are in Jesus, because the law of the Holy Spirit set us free from sin and death. Not that we don't still feel it. But we're not prisoners to it.

What? How?

I'll dare to say: Church.

When we confess our desires that don't match up with God's desires, we can begin to be free of them. I cannot confess to myself. The devil could have me lying to myself all day. I need my brother or sister in Christ to join me, and in His name, there He is with us, and sin cannot stay where He is.

We need Church.

I live at an intersection of two worlds. At the corner of Wealthy Street and Diamond street stand contradictions. On one side is the Wealthy Street Market, a small, family-run food mart with enough high fructose corn syrup and salt to fill its customers up nicely, but wreck their heath in the long term. On the other side, the Electric Cheetah and Brick Road Pizza, two restaurants with delicious, healthy, beautiful, local, lovingly made and procured food. Who frequents these places? How much money do they make? How much money does their family have? What is the history of their people? How have they wounded each other? Do they even know that the other exists? Do they even care?

Who can rescue us from this ugly separation? Jesus. How? The Church. How about a potluck, where rich and poor, all races, both genders, share food, are equally sustained by one another's contributions to the table?

We need the Church. Our neighborhoods need the Church.

I have learned, in my time at Calvin and at City Hope (my congregation), that the Church is a body of people. We are welcomed in at Baptism and sustained by the Lord's Supper. We are to be formed and re-formed into God's Image, as a community, not just one person. That formation happens in the congregation, and then the people are to go out, carry the light of Jesus out.

I want love for the Church and commitment to a congregation to be central to life at Calvin. Calvin College is not a church. But it forms us. Big time. And if we can be formed to love the Church and be committed to a congregation by our college, that would be wonderful.

Baptism used to be a pretty dangerous thing, because it meant the Roman Empire saw you as unstable and against the Empire. It's not that dangerous today, but it's still hard. It's a commitment. It's a sacrifice.

But it's worth it. Because God is Good. And the Church is His baby.

Love Her. Respect Her. She's not perfect. But she's our mother.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Who We Are

I've been taught, though words and/or experience, that it's the pinnacle of naivete to believe that people are innately good, but for some reason, I've believe with all my heart in goodness of humanity. Sometimes I think that my belief stems from being surrounded by such wonderful people as my friends and co-workers at the S-LC. Whatever the reason, I think you, with all your idiosyncrasies and flaws, are good.

Core classes at Calvin are infamous for being a drag. I'm a junior, and I've been skipping around my religion core, but I'm finally taking Religion 121. Well, Calvin professors and classes will never cease to surprise me with their insightful tidbits of knowledge. We have been studying Genesis 1 and 2 this past week, and my professor was elaborating on the topic of the "image of God." He pointed out that all of the Bible after the fall says nothing of this image being damaged or taken away. In a way, we humans have retained our innate goodness that God proclaimed when he said, "It is very good." Now, I know Calvin is reformed and total depravity and all that jazz, but I don't mean for this post to be a theological statement in anyway. I also don't mean to disregard our need for God's grace. I only mean to say that perhaps we are meant to see in others the image of God and thus see also the goodness in my annoying sister, in your unlovable classmate or co-worker, in the poor and unwanted.

Let us not in our recognition of the brokenness of this world fail to see the goodness God created in the first place.


Sunday, February 5, 2012


Lists: Oh, how I love them. To-do lists especially. In the midst of my crazy, busy life they help me stay sane and semi-organized. I was going to post a sample of one of my infamous task lists or my penciled full planner, or my desk full of sticky notes, but I will spare you all the pain of this horrid sight – especially on this, the end of only the first week of the semester. I don’t know about you, but for me these first 5 days of class flew by – right in front of my face like a cheetah or racecar or a bullet or the speed of light maybe. Yet, it somehow feels like I’ve been in class for weeks. (Does anyone else ever feel like this, or is it just me?)
Anyways, while I would normally shrug my shoulders to this feeling that I have felt so many times before, it dawned upon me this week why it is I feel this way. I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t because of the large amount of work I actually got accomplished for once, or the ridiculous amount of time I spent in class, or the new go-go-go busyness of a new semester schedule. BUT because…Ready for this? I am amount to be very profound. Hold your breath. Drum roll please……..I have discovered time flew this week because I have learned so much. Really. It was a lot. I seriously had a list (surprised?) of topics and good quotes and life lessons and bible verses that all came up during my week – all of which would have made awesome discussion topics to comment on here in this blog. The problem was that I couldn’t choose just one. They were all just too good. And in combination, they brought me some great insight as a whole:

1) Calvin is a place that fosters learning. And I love it!

2) Sometimes God has something he wants to teach us. Even if we aren’t in a place of looking or searching for answers. He puts us in the right place, at the right time, with the right people for a reason so that we might learn and grow.

So I have started making a new list, a list of what I’m learning each day, and each week, and each month because these are ‘aha moments’, facts, lessons, self-realizations that are worth remembering.

What have you learned lately? I challenge you to reflect on your week and see what God is trying to teach you.
Peace and Blessings in this endeavor,