There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

Archive for November, 2005

throw away lines

“our thoughts and prayers go out to (x)”

“sorry we can’t be there in person, but we’re with you in spirit”

“he’s not gone [dead] so long as he lives in our hearts”

what are some of your most exasperating throw-away lines: those patently double-tongued phrases people feel the need to say because they can’t think of anything else to say, even though what they say is furthest from what they’re really thinking or believing?

who are you? who, who? who, who?

From our earliest days we have this urge to put on alternative personas or engage in imaginary realities. I would savor pretending to be an astronaut. I would look forward to my buddies coming over in the afternoon to play a simulated war game with all our plastic m-16’s and silver-painted 6-shooters. The interesting thing about our generation is that technology has allowed us to indulge that preference for donning identities not our own and living vicariously in worlds we’ll never travel to. Does the explosion of media for catering to that need have any long-term effects? Here’s an article written in last month’s The New Atlantis about what our penchant for slipping into something a little more. . .whatever you want it to be, might be doing to us. What do you think?

at bedside with Hannah, part II

I went back to visit Hannah again this afternoon, still perturbed by the fact that I could feel sweat rolling down my back and it was a third of the way into November. I keep waiting for Fall to stop being so spineless and stand its ground. Summer’s had its day and is now acting like those people in your life who utter protracted, aimless monologues at you, like they’re trying to make up for lost time when they were a child.

I digress.

Hannah was her jovial self, but not in an over-the-top, “you are from another planet” way. She’s just optimistic and, to be honest, it was rather refreshing to hear someone whose outlook wasn’t so bleak.

She’s been there almost two weeks now and will likely go home Friday.

But I write not to tell you of minutiae but to continue the story that continues to unfold for her…and I think also for yours and my benefit, courtesy of our Maker.

Last night, a number of nurses were visiting her to check on her progress. When the small contingent had finished their review, one stayed back, and waited for the rest to depart. Hannah had never had a conversation with this young nurse before, but without hesitation, the young woman came right out and asked Hannah if she would help her understand Scripture. She owned a KJV but with her family back on another continent, she had no one here with whom she could share her desire to understand Scripture’s overall message.

Hannah, wide eyed at the fact that she’d never spoken with this woman before, began a simple explanation of the Gospel. In time, the nurse seemed to grasp Hannah’s unvarnished, extemporaneous retelling of the grace of God.

Hannah, as you may remember from the last post, had prayed for another nurse’s pregnancy in recent days, but somehow knowledge of Hannah’s knowledge of Scripture had found its way to this other nurse. And now this second nurse, desirous to get beneath the surface of the Biblical text, sought her out–this octogenarian undergoing some pretty grueling physical therapy each day.

Hannah’s exasperation early into her hospital stay stemmed from the sense that she was of no purpose in present circumstances. Praying for the pregnant nurse began to chip away at that notion; this second encounter put it to rest.

It’s what she said in passing that stays with me: the joy in being available to the Father for His purposes made her pain bearable. She hadn’t sought the pain; she wasn’t relishing the pain; but the engagement in representing Him in whatever way she was able did something to the pain. I doubt it acted like some sort of analgesic, but it did make its size and significance begin to shrink.

Hannah is what you call “abiding” in Him. It’s no opiate, but it is the way to being included in His work, which has the interesting capacity to make whatever suffering therein mysteriously more, as she said, bearable.

thus endeth her lesson today….

standing at Hannah’s bedside…

There’s an older woman in our church community—let’s call her Hannah—whom I was blessed (and I don’t use that word thoughtlessly here) to visit this morning in the hospital. She’d recently taken a tumble and broken her left arm and left hip. Despite the pain in both areas and the difficulty in the therapy for the hip, she was able to muster up the humor to explain that now she was balanced again: she’d broken the other hip a little over a year ago. The right hip had weighted her down. She was now no longer listing to starboard.

We exchanged kindnesses; I inquired about her progress and when the doctors felt they might release her. She confessed this fall had made her a little angry with God, but after a little reflection she had asked for His forgiveness, insisting that it wasn’t Him she was mad at. It was the simple circumstance of the fall, and the time it would take to get back on her feet, and all the discomfort in between that had drawn her ire—if the woman whose sweet spirit seemed so fundamental to her could indeed foment something like “ire.”


What beset her most was the waiting—having to wait until things were as back to normal as they could be—and what to do with that time, how to be useful.


And then she told me a little story about how she’d tried to do just that—be useful.


A young nurse had been taking care of her a few days prior. A pregnant nurse. She was, Hannah told me, such a slight woman that if you looked at her from behind you couldn’t tell she was pregnant. But after she and Hannah had established a minimum of rapport, Hannah came right out and asked her, “are you a Christian?” (Clearly, Hannah has never been through sensitivity training.)


Hannah perhaps represents a generation who, for all their interest in good manners, doesn’t assume that a religious question like Hannah’s was intrinsically offensive. She imported no animus into her question and therefore assumed her nurse wouldn’t import it either. If Hannah had been born closer to my generation, and she were a bettin’ woman, she might have wagered her nurse would adopt the popular angst when posed such questions; religion is a private affair we are told. Questions of that sort should be solicited, not posed. Had Hannah been as concerned with how a simple question might be received, she might’ve then opted to forgo the question all together.


Fortunately, she didn’t—a potentially awkward moment averted because Hannah didn’t know any better. And fortunately for both of them, her nurse took no umbrage at the unvarnished, unassuming question. The nurse, instead, answered quite honestly that she didn’t know if she were a Christian but conceded she was not a churchgoer. Again, another potentially awkward moment: How might Hannah respond to her nurse’s admission of being outside the Christian fold? How would I respond in that moment? Befuddled silence? Would I offer some sort of silly invitation I didn’t mean like, “well, would you like to go to church with me sometime?”—as if her reasons for not going could be distilled down into the mere fact that no one had invited her before. Or would I try to cover over even the slightest possibility of offense by cowering with some sort of silly “well, with your hours I’d want to sleep in too!”?


Hannah felt no awkwardness though. She responded simply with a simple request: could she, nonetheless, pray for the child growing inside?


Regardless of what that nurse might’ve thought of Christians or their Christianity, it may be hoped that Hannah’s request was interpreted as nothing less than a simple act of love. Whether that’s true, Hannah doesn’t know. But whatever the nurse thought, Hannah’s request was received with the love with which it was intended. The nurse welcomed the offer.


Hannah prayed for that baby, and, according to her, any time she mentioned Jesus’ name, the baby kicked, or leapt, or did a uterus-dive, or whatever.


That’s love.


And that’s evangelism in the real world.


I was thankful for my time with Hannah today.

for those in class yesterday….

what’d I tell you:

“At the end of the day, I don’t have to worry about what people think of me, whether they hate me or not. People hated on Jesus. They threw stones at him and tried to kill him, so how can I complain or worry about what people think?”
Owens to Miami Herald, July, 2005

hubris so uncorked, it bruises anyone near it…

Cristo Rey needs Basketball Coaches!

Cristo Rey now has about 10 eight and nine year old boys signed up to play on a team that we are sponsoring in the YMCA’s basketball league. Just one catch: we need a coach. Ideally, this would be a Christian man (though we would be glad to have women assist in coaching – we just have a lot of boys who don’t have fathers in the home and it would be good for them to have some male figures in their lives) who has a solid knowledge of basketball fundamentals and who would be able to open and close practices with prayer. We will be assigned a practice time one evening during the week, and games are on Saturday starting in December. We will need the coach to pass a background check – which we can pay for. Please contact Josh Geiger for more information or to sign up!

Your Momma does dance…

in case you haven’t gotten your fill of our exploration of the Church, your “mother,” have a look at this essay by Derek Thomas, aptly entitled, Mother Church. And while you’re there have a look around a whole new website called Reformation 21.

question from the hip

are we a thankful generation? what evidence would you provide to substantiate your answer?