Monthly Archives: January 2013

In the present

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithin a four day window, I started a new job, start my final undergraduate semester, will “finish” a chapter of my thesis, and will travel to North Carolina to attend a seminar having nothing to do with any of three previous activities.

I said I’d go to the conference because I was invited in October.  I remember the distinct thought, “It’s the first weekend of the semester.  What could I possibly be missing out on?”  I now have no less than three places I need to be this Saturday afternoon.

Knowing that this week would be uncharacteristically busy, I remember thinking that the drive back to campus in the evenings would be long.  Instead, I find myself wanting the road to be longer and wishing I could script the thoughts that come when I drive.  They’re always the most eloquent.

When I drive home, ideas come out in organized phrases that get strung together and rearranged like they would on paper, and in them is the reason otherwise absent in the momentous chaos and excitement that characterize this last week.  Slipping into mechanized motion (not zoning out, I promise), it’s so much easier to shut off the processor and just be.  And rest.  And pray.

Funny thing is, I don’t even know what that road is called or which way it goes.  It’s just the way home.  This is a slightly embarrassing fact, and I probably ought to look it up in case I need to give somebody directions sometime.  But it all sortof speaks to the point.

To that end, I will cope with the new phone that wouldn’t activate, the possibility of not being able to port my number, and the fact that the library closed at 5pm with all my books in it.  In doing so, I’ll funnel this week’s emotion and stress away from tense joints and toward my fingertips, step away from WordPress and back to Word, and finish draft one of chapter two, tonight. 

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Crowd Harmonies, Healing & Hope

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hate it when the perfect words come out at the wrong time.  I never seem to have anything to take my notes down when the words come.

I have no idea how many hands passed over the ticket I took to this evening’s Night of Hope and Healing concert for Newtown other than to say it had to have been a lot. I got a facebook message an hour and half before the concert asking me if I was free.  I thought I’d just been invited to a fundraiser at a coffee shop.

Of course the timing was uncanny since I’d spent the last six hours in the library and was yet to interact with another human today, in addition to the much more important fact that the cryptic and thoroughly nondescript message indicated that it was some kind of memorial event.

We arrived an hour late and spent almost as much time looking for a parking spot as we did driving to Bridgeport.  As we walked out of the parking garage, I heard the traffic director yell at a guy the floor below that the lot was full and to send everyone else home.  Probably less than a dozen cars made it in after us.

Turns out that I mistaked coffeeshop acoustic guitars with Chris Tomlin, Mandesa, Laura Story, TobyMac, Casting Crowns, Louie Giglio, Max Lucado, and Stephen Curtis Chapman.  The truth is, I care very little about seeing these people live.  As far as the music, I’d just have well preferred to sit on my bed and looked out my massive windows with my ipod up a little too loud and quiet prayers falling out my fingertips.

But it really isn’t about the music.

It’s about the people and the worship and the healing.  At one point, a very specific moment, as I don’t know how many people sang the line of some chorus acapella, I remember wishing that they’d have dimmed the spotlight like all the other lights that had just faded.  It didn’t matter who was on stage, backstage, or in the crowd; it was the single loudest, most melodious and pleasing sound of praise I’d ever heard.

I know the night was for healing and hope, but the whole evening left what felt like a shaving over the top layer of tissue on my heart.  I scraped my way through AP bio some years ago, and while that’s as impressive as my science background goes, when I say layer of tissue on my heart, I mean that I am literally thinking about the muscle tissue making up the organ.

To me, this is an odd image, especially given the context of the situation.  I had the perfect words to explain it on our way out the building and they are escaping me now, but I think it comes down to that moment of praise.

I heard harmonies that rarely appear in choirs so large.  In our words melted anger and desperation, and while there was not yet resolution, there was hope, but it was not offered to or received by any one individual.  In simultaneous praise, came simultaneous peace.


Blessed at BK (Onething, Part II)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our first night, I waited over an hour and a half for my whopper junior.  I felt so bad for the guy taking my order, I almost tipped him.  I just wasn’t quite sure how to do that at a fast food joint.

Ever since then, we’ve made it a point to ditch the conference sessions just a few minutes early.  The guys and I ran to one of the handful of cheap restaurants within a half a mile of the Kansas City Convention Center for each meal.

I’d have loved to eat better and I usually do, but what are you going to do?  My thinking was dominated by economics.  Four days without access to a grocery store is expensive.  Tonight, I had hoped that the little bit of my lunch that I had saved for dinner would be enough, but by 9pm, the leftovers were clearly no longer cutting it.  Somewhere in the middle of an evening talk, I peeled off in search of food.

So I walked back to Burger King.

It was a long line, but not nearly as a bad as the first night.  Before anything even went wrong, the people in front of me and I talked about BK’s hardworking staff.  I think the same group was working each of the three times I’d been there in the last four days.  Despite these hours, the manager was still all smiley and talked to a group at the register about how much money she had made during the conference, but she also said that the crowds were overwhelming.  I felt for the exhausted woman.

Then the computer went out.  I mean totally out.  The register was broken.  She pushed buttons, coaxed it, tapped it, did everything she could to get it going.  A minute later, the manager jumped up, and gave everyone in line free ice cream and soda.  When the machine didn’t come back to life, they locked the doors and gave us all a free dinner.

I’m might be still be a student, but I’m by no means destitute.  I could have afforded the $4 whopper junior meal, but not getting turned away when they could no longer sell us food lifted the exhaustion that weights you down at the end of a four a day conference.  The staff’s attitudes weren’t just coping, they were thriving and positive.

So here’s to a holiday spirit that doesn’t end on Christmas.  I tried to thank the BK staff, but I think they were moving too quickly to even hear me.

Before any of this, I kept thinking that 25,000 young people attending a Christian conference and infiltrating all the fast food restaurants downtown Kansas City is a lot.  I had hoped that the conference participants would bless the socks right off the restaurant staffs’ feet instead of wearing all the people out.

I don’t know if that happened, but I do know that the midnight worship set I missed at the conference was worth skipping.  The blessing I just received tops it.

Happy New Year.