Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Keys to Thriving (not just Surviving)

Something to think about.
This contribution comes from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship - Emerging Scholars Network.
Keys to Thriving (not just Surviving)

Last week when Dr. Joe Kearns, MD, Emergency Medicine, presented on Keys of Thriving (Not Just Surviving!) in Medical School and Beyond at PSU-Hershey’s Christian Medical Society lunch lecture, I couldn’t help but think this has ESN written all over it. Below are a few main points which I culled/distilled from his presentation. Let me know what you think of their relevance to your graduate school/professional experience. Feel free to highlight, expand upon, or share a story in relationship to one or several points.

  • “Life is going to get better after…” This is just not true. Life doesn’t get any better after you finish your degree, it only changes. Note: it is particularly important to keep in mind the growing complexity of commitments/responsibilities with family, friends, community, church, workplace, professional societies. …
  • We must feed upon the Word of God. We need to learn how to live between Genesis and Revelation. As Jesus answered the tempter, by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written, ‘Man doesn’t live only on bread. He also lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ “ (Matthew 4:4, NIV). Do not forget as you treat your patients [translate to your vocation/profession] that although the creation is broken, God created it all good. Furthermore, part of our mission as members of the Kingdom of God is to restore the creation. And one day God will bring full restoration in a new heaven and new earth.
  • Dwell in the wisdom literature, i.e., Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Why? Because in school you’ll get a lot of knowledge, but you’ll not engage with wisdom directly. Soak up the poetry, songs. A lot of life is vanity. Don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s important to keep yourself in perspective.
  • Be troubled by the account of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30). Why? Because being rich is a mixed blessing. The more you have, the more trouble you have. And having everything doesn’t make you happy.
  • In summary, the two things necessary to thrive in school and after graduation: read/query the Word of God AND have fellowship with the people of God no matter the work load. If you can’t do the two above, then quit school. Don’t become narrow and seek accolades. Before moving for your job, make sure there is a good match with a local congregation. Don’t focus on making money, limit your hours to be involved with community, church, family. Take time to interact with your patients (translate to your vocation/profession).
  • Jesus came to give life and give it abundantly, not just to survive in school. Without a relationship with the Creator, you don’t know who you are.

Written by Tom Grosh
September 9th, 2009 at 10:21 am

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day of Jubilee (A Sunday morning story)

I don't think I know Josh personally. But I know SVC (Sycamore View Church), and this sounds characteristic. It's good to know there are times when Christ is so clearly reflected.

I've never witnessed anything like it. It was bizarre and it was risky.
After preaching from "The Lord's Prayer" with a focus on "Give us this day our daily bread," I ended the sermon by pointing people to the communal function of this prayer. We've often interpreted this phrase as a call to personal reflection about our willingness to trust in God to provide. There is a sermon there; it just isn't the way this prayer functions.
Jesus teaches us to pray, "Give us..."
Jesus teaches us to pray with the world.
The church in Acts 2 and Acts 4 seemed to have been formed by these words of Jesus. They met each other's needs by selling land and homes. They grew because they knew how "to do" compassion.
My prayer this week was that Acts 4 would come to life at SVC today. did.
We had two baskets up front. Mark Taylor (a good friend and a minster at SVC) was holding one and Stoney Ramsey (a dear friend and a man of compassion) was holding the other. God provided me with $3200 in cash, and I had divided it into 4 piles of $800--2 for the 2 baskets in early service and 2 for the 2 baskets in late service. Then, I invited people to give whatever cash or change they wanted to give, because today we were going to take care of one another.
Then, it got bizarre. Very bizarre.
We have members like many of you do who are struggling with needs. Do they pay for healthcare or do they buy food? Do they pay off credit cards or do they pay the utility bill? Do they buy school supplies or new clothes for the kids?
I invited all who were in need to come and to take handfuls of money. (I sounds crazy, right? I know of a couple of churches who have done something similar, and I was inspired.)
I rebuked the spirit of pride, embarrassment, fear, and shame. We have created a culture where we are unable to say, "I am in need." Needy people are often looked down upon as if they don't work hard enough, or they haven't managed money well, or they just haven't been blessed by God.
I begged those in need to not deprive people from the joy of giving. I pleaded with them to not deprive God of providing for their daily necessities.
And, it happened.
Within the first verse of the first song, people were waiting in line to drop money in the baskets. I was shocked to witness how many people were carrying cash. I had people coming up to me afterwards saying things like, "I never carry cash, but for some reason I went to the ATM yesterday."
I will never forget the lady who came forward with a handful of change and said, "This is all I have, but I want to give it." It was the story of the woman who gave her two coins lived out right in front of me.
We had people dropping checks in the baskets with the "Pay to the order of" left blank. These checks were for $50, $500, $1000 and the memo read, "Acts 4".
As people were putting money in the baskets, others were coming to take money out. There were plenty of tears and even more laughter. Widows were provided for. The needy were taken care of. The people who cried on the way to church today because they didn't know how bills were going to be paid went home rejoicing in the providence of God. We witnessed the power and activity of the Holy Spirit.
We gave away every single penny. We refused to count the money, but I'm assuming we gave away close to $10,000 today. I sent the basket of change home with a 20-year-old college student whose grandmother needed the money.
I am so proud of our people at SVC. I get to preach in front of people every Sunday who have surrendered their lives to the Jesus-story. They teach me something new every week.
Today, at SVC, it was a day of Jubilee. We were leaping for joy because the presence of God was alive and active.

Now, I'm drained. I'm going to sleep.

PS--I wish you could have been at the bank with me when I cashed a $3200 check. I handed it to the lady and I said, "Mam, I need a bunch of cash, preferably in all 20's." She laughed. I told her that it was for a day of Jubilee. Before I knew what was going on, I was explaining to the workers at Bank of America what Jubilee meant for God's people. They couldn't believe that there was a church that was going to give money away to people on a Sunday morning. The workers at the bank went home knowing about the power of God in Acts 4.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Is being Christian "cool"?

Please read this one! It's an incredible post!

Hip Christianity: Part 3, Christianity is Cool

Hip and cool are related even though John Leland in Hip: The History argues that hip and cool should be treated as distinct constructs. However, given the relationship between hip and cool we should, at least once in this series, wrestle with the question:

Is Christianity cool?

Similar to hip,...

Monday, March 30, 2009


In the college group at Westover, we consider "Pungent" our name. It's an unusual word and right out of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. (2:15) A few days ago, another blogger made use of our theme.

Fragrant Jesus

2009 March 24
by Mike

Jesus smelled.

That may not roll off the tongue like the more familiar “Jesus grew” or “Jesus wept” — but it’s still true.

Everywhere he went on passion week, he smelled. The good kind of smell, that is. When he went into the upper room, people caught a whiff. Ditto for his appearances before Pilate and the Sanhedrin — even as he walked the Via Dolorosa. He smelled because his friend Mary of Bethany had anointed him with nard, an expensive spice from India. It was strong; it wouldn’t wash right off; and this was a world where people weren’t washing their hair, splashing on aftershave, or dabbing on perfume daily.

Sunday I spoke about that extravagant gesture of Mary in John 12. Afterward, our dear friend Sherry Rankin shared these thoughts before communion — thoughts that called us not only to talk about Jesus but to be the presence of Jesus in this world.

The Aroma of Christ

They tell us that the sense of smell is the sense most connected to memory, and I believe that. My grandmother has been gone for 25 years, but the smell of Ivory soap transports me back to her tiny, neat bathroom. Just a whiff, and I’m 7 years old again, taking a bath in the deep, porcelain tub, drying off with the towels that were stiff and scratchy from being dried on the line.

The smell of coffee and bacon instantly transports me onto the hide-a-bed in grandma’s living room. I can hear her bustling in the kitchen, making a breakfast for my grandfather before he would go to work, long before daylight, at the gas station down the road.

Many smells are associated for me with specific memories:

The chalky smell of rain after a long dry spell takes me back to the back porch of the house in Wyoming where we lived till I was eight years old.

The odor of Johnson’s baby shampoo, and I am rocking my daughter late at night, holding her head against my chin.

Pine trees, and it’s Christmas time. Wood smoke, and I’m camping. The smell of the ocean at night, or of sawdust in a workshop; freshly washed sheets; hay in a barn; my husband’s favorite cologne; someone smoking a rosewood pipe; laundry starch; lavender and rosewater; the lemon polish used on the dark wood of the church pews where my father preached. Even the distant odor of a skunk. All of these smells come packaged with a specific and wonderful memory.

But then there are the bad smells, and the bad memories.

The reek of mildew, and I’m back at work cleaning dormitory bathrooms in the July heat of Arkansas.

The smell of pimento cheese spread immediately reminds me of an unfortunate morning sickness incident over 20 years ago.

And the smell of a certain brand of disinfectant takes me back to the hospital room where my father died.

Smells are so powerful because they contain within them a story; a memory. A whole event, complete with the emotions, good or bad, that went with it.

So what does it mean for us to be “the aroma of Christ”? Who is smelling us, and what memories will that smell encompass? When someone remembers you, what will their association be? As we’ve all heard and known: Actions, like odors, speak louder than words. If we say one thing but do another, it is our actions, not our words, that will leave a stink in other people’s nostrils.

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times; only if necessary use words.”

We preach without speaking. We leave an aroma everywhere we go. Let it be the aroma of Christ, poured out upon the feet of others to the eternal glory of God.

(Thanks, Sherry, for letting me put this wonderful communion meditation here.)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Woes of Weakness

Throughout school, I’ve always wondered what ‘difficulty’ actually looks like. 15.5 years of formal schooling later, the question persists. This is not to say in any way that the studies I’ve had thus far were any less taxing, challenging, or infuriating than my dismal high school sleeping schedule suggests. However, for me, the idea of difficulty has always been very binary: you either get it or you don’t. Perhaps internalizing Master Yoda’s wise words from an early age, physics problems in which I had poured countless hours in complete befuddlement didn’t seem quite so bad once the solution was apparent. Homer didn’t quite seem the transcendent, enlightened savant once his initial barricade of “winged words” was penetrated. Even courses in college that, at the time, were long, bloody, painful wars of attrition seemed almost elementary once the concepts were mastered (circuits come to mind). Furthermore, this suggests that the process of learning only seemed ‘difficult’ as long as I was failing, not understanding, not cutting it. For some strange reason, hindsight is always 'easy.' Where then does ‘difficulty’ live? Does she only take up residence in the present (gender assignment completely arbitrary I assure you)?

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says that, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (NIV). For me, the most curious part of this assertion is in the last line; Paul groups together weakness, insults, hardships, indicating that this is the cross we must bear. However, there arises a qualitative discrepancy that I can’t seem to reconcile.

Upon closer examination of this laundry list of struggles, it appears that insults, hardships, and persecutions are all external while both weaknesses and difficulties are deeply internal. For me, the two are worlds apart. While the external persecutions that we face in America are certainly insidious, subtle, and conniving, I certainly don’t fear for my physical safety when attending church. The focus of my dilemma however is on the internal. Weakness and difficulty often like to hold hands and play together. While weakness describes my inability to act/overcome/understand, difficulty perhaps then describes the nature of the need to perform the very same action. Paul himself describes this internal struggle he faces in Romans 7: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” What Paul wants to do is obviously very difficult and where he fails, instead doing what he hates doing, is where lies his weakness.

What then is weakness? What is difficulty? Is it only the storm of internal conflict that rages when I am struggling to do what I know is right and then abates once I make the right choice, then relegated as ‘easy’? Or does weakness depend on my continual failure? Do I understand my own weakness by how persistently I “have the desire to do what is good, but […] cannot carry it out”? If difficulty ends when understanding/action begins, does boasting “all the more gladly about my weaknesses” require my ongoing inability to perform? I know that when I overcome evil, it is not I, but Christ living in me who does it. But if this is true, where is my weakness?

Monday, January 19, 2009

bit of Eternity

This is from a friend of mine.

bit of Eternity

July 23, 2005

My paternal Grandma lost her sister about 15 years ago. She told me often how hard it was to let her go because they were so close. She told me once about a dream she had about Jodi and in this dream she could feel Jodi’s flesh and even smell her. She said that the dream was refreshing and brought her much comfort.

About a year after Nathan died I laid awake, finally fully aware in one instant that he was completely gone and that I was to for the rest of my life be lonesome for his touch. I wanted so badly to feel him and see him again.

I remembered my Grandma’s dream and begged God for the same small bit of relief. It was some months later that I woke up with tears soaking my face and the feeling of a deep something inside of me that I couldn’t place.

It was one of those dreams that sits right at the front of your brain all day and just on the tip of your tongue until finally, a word is spoken, an image is flashed and the memory of the dream comes flooding back. I was on the phone with Mom when she said something that triggered my memory.

I had dreamed that I saw Nathan. He was in a building that was under construction and he was wearing a suit and a hard hat. I knew somehow that he was in charge of the construction, like a real estate mogul or some sort. He didn’t say anything to me and I didn’t say anything to him, we just embraced.

I could feel every muscle in his arms and I could even hear the deep thudding of his heart. I started to weep, loudly. I cried with a loud, mournful and yet joyous wail that I could actually see reverberating off the walls of the building and then outside into the world. I saw the echo of my cry repel off canyons and skim the waters of the ocean. In one instant I saw the surface of the entire universe, and I saw it all get bathed in my grief and my joy.

When I woke up I had this sense calm and peace that had no tangible identity. It was as though I knew the truth, but I wasn’t sure what the truth was; a feeling of all at once wholeness and longing.

At the remembering of the dream, I realized the word for what I was feeling: Eternity.

That was the feeling deep in my gut that gave me that peace. For just an instant I felt Nathan, I smelled him and I felt the eternity in which he waits. Eternity is the only comfort the grieving have. It is the promise that death is only for a little while and grief knows an end.

I am not sure if any of this makes sense. I just really needed to write about this dream.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas... Hope

Here's a little Christmas hope. This is the kind of football I'm trying to teach my son to play.

There are some games where cheering for the other side feels better than winning.

by Rick Reilly

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.