Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ron Weasley

He's easy to overlook.  He's the only character you can't buy as a single Lego.  His picture is the one in the crease of the magazine.  But he's a faithful friend.  He sticks through the bobbles and trials that come with years of friendship, and without him, the trio just doesn't work.

Like him, I may struggle with my role.  (Who doesn't want to be the hero? To have their own lego? To not be the "other guy" in the picture spread?)  I may not always feel like a hero, but I just may be someone's Ron.  And when all is said and done, I hope I can be like him and stick it out to the end. 

Yep, I kinda want to be a Ron Weasley.

Old Bay

I know I'm supposed to be the salt of the earth, but I think I would rather be the Old Bay.  There's no seasoning quite like it.  (And if you're from Maryland like I am...it just tastes like home.)  Old Bay stays with you. It warms your mouth and lingers long after the food is gone. That's the impression I want to leave with people.

That's how Jesus is with me.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I love the Olympics.  LOVE them.

I love the huge triumph. The crushing defeat. The fact that 1/100 of a second "is apparently a huge crapload of time." (Thank you Jimmy Fallon.) The heartwarming human interest story. The world coming together for 17 days. A parent cheering. A coach looking proud. A record broken. An athlete looking terrified (or proud or bold or happy or humbled). National anthems. Camaraderie between competitors. The antics of Mary Carillo. Familiar heroes. Emerging stars. Inspirational commercials. The Olympic spirit.

I love it all.

The 2008 summer games were a lot of fun because I could watch so many of the events live.  (Including my favorite moment from Beijing -- Jason Lezak's anchor leg in the men's 4x100 relay.  I'll never forget that.)  The 2012 games have been different.  Between the time difference, my lack of cable at home, and NBC's broadcast strategy, I haven't had the opportunity to watch many things (especially "headline events") unfold live.  So I haven't been as addicted to the TV during daylight hours.

But then there's NBCOlympics.com. 

A section on the front page that lists all the medal events of the day.  And as each event occurs in London, the page is updated in the USA.  Even more awesome, if it's an event like gymnastics you can open the event page and it updates after each competitor completes their routine.

Last week I spent a lot of time watching that page.  Counting down the hours and minutes to the events.  Anxiously hitting "refresh" every few moments so I could get the results as soon as technologically possible.

And let me tell you, when Michael Phelps won his 18th medal I screamed "YES!" just as loudly as I would have if I could have watched it live.  (When he won his 19th an hour later, I gazed at my computer quiet pride that wasn't any less keen because all I saw was text on a monitor.)

When Danell Leyva and John Orozco were vying for men's all around gold, I felt my heart drop just as much for their pommel horse scores as I would have if I had seen their routines on screen.  (Does it mean I watch too much when I can tell that much from a simple 13.5 and 12.566?  On second thought, don't answer that.) 

Those are just two examples.

Even though I knew I would get a chance to watch the video, even though I knew WTOP would inform me as soon as I got in the car, I felt...compelled...to stay connected to the web page.  If a race was scheduled for 3:37, I was hitting refresh every minute by 3:38.  (Every 30 seconds by 3:39). If the gymnastics scores didn't update every minute, I wondered what was going on. 

I just had to know!

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

It got me thinking.  When was the last time I felt that driven to connect to God?  Sure, the connection is there. But when was the last time I hit "refresh"? What if I was that passionate about being as up-to-the-second with what he was doing?   

How might my life change?


It was a warm summer night about a year ago.  I was house sitting, curled up in a chair reading. The window was cracked open so I could enjoy the evening air.  A few chapters in, my mind was torn from the drama on the page by the faint strains of music wafting through breeze.  After pausing to get a better listen, I realized I knew the tune.  It was a praise and worship song.  Curiosity got the better of me and I untangled myself from the pile of puppies that surrounded my feet to look out the window and see what was going on. 

It was such an endearing scene.  A group of people was gathered in front of the house next door. They had built a fire, and were just sitting around enjoying each other's company. Some people were sitting on the porch, others were gathered by the fire.  One guy had a guitar, and he was leading the song.  A few others were singing with him, even providing harmony at times.

Despite the song that caught my ear, it became quickly apparent that it wasn't a serious night.  The song dwindled to silence and a new one started.  One that quickly turned silly.  The main singer changed the lyrics (inserting names and jokes and such) and it quickly became a group effort -- equal parts singing and laughter.

I settled back into my chair and let the sounds of their friendship become the soundtrack of my night.  It made me think of memories I treasure -- Of a summer when we lost power at church camp and just sat around singing and goofing off.  Of impromptu moments in the hallways at Winterfest.  Of bonfire singing and smores at Arlington Echo.  Of late nights with "Mike and the Ferrantes" in a living room in Columbia.

They had no idea of course, but their fireside music filled me with hope.  To know that the cycle continues.  That there's a new generation of people that love Jesus, but who obviously love each other too.  That know how to have fun and not take things so seriously.  That change song lyrics and mix pop songs with praise and worship.  That stay up way too late and fill their nights with laughter and conversation. 

Faith. Friendship. Fire. ...hope for the future. (Passing the torch?)

Later, I learned that house is some sort of halfway home.  I don't know why, but that just makes the hope burn all the brighter.

Not Alone

It was a simple Facebook invite:  "The Worship Collective is meeting tomorrow to do a little manual labor! We are starting the build out of the South Street Chapel Project, and I'm looking for some volunteers who are willing to get a little sweaty doing some honest work then get some ice cream at Kilwins."

Manual labor and ice cream?  I was immediately in.

A day later, four of us made our way into the basement that will one day be an awesome chapel space.  We surveyed the situation (lots of "potential" if you catch my drift), geared up (dust masks have never looked so stylish), and got to work.

There's truth in the old adage "many hands make for light work."  By our powers combined, we were able to get the space all cleaned and ready for the crew who would come in later to lay the floor.  It only took a little more than an hour, but the room completely transformed.  I think we were all surprised at how quickly it all came together.

But the real surprise came later.

I don't remember how the conversation got started.  Maybe it just came out of the comfortable silence that happens between people who have just bonded over a shared experience.  But while we were perched outside of Kilwins enjoying our ice cream, I remember Rachel opening up and admitting,  "I feel like I've been fighting something and I just can't figure out what I'm fighting.  I don't know what it is, but I've just been feeling frustrated and angry and I don't know why."

You know what I felt?  Relief.  It was like she had just looked into all the stuff that was swirling around in my heart and put my emotions into words.  But as I was getting ready to tell her that, Casey spoke up and said, "Me too."

I don't know if I can describe it correctly, but suddenly we weren't just fellow workers. In the time it took to eat a few bites of ice cream, we became brothers in arms. Separately, we had all been struggling with the same thing.  Fighting a battle but afraid to speak up.  Because who wants to admit they're struggling?  Especially if they can't find a name or a reason for what they're fighting.  Besides, we're all normally fun, quirky, creative people.  People who are passionate about lifting the burdens of others, not adding to them with our own.

Oddly enough, the wisdom of Luna Lovegood came to mind.

Luna: We believe you, by the way. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and you fought him, and the Ministry and the Prophet are conspiring against you and Dumbledore.

Harry: Thanks. Seems you’re about the only ones that do.

Luna: I don’t think that’s true. But I suppose that’s how he wants you to feel.

Harry: What do you mean?

Luna: Well if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat.
(Order of the Phoenix)

Ironically, Rachel sharing her burden didn't make mine heavier. In some sort of reverse physics, sharing her burden ended up lifting mine and when I left for home that night, it wasn't just the room that had been been transformed.  Sure, my circumstances were still the same.  And to be honest, the battle still raged.  But suddenly, I didn't feel so alone.  My nameless fear had become a common foe.

And somehow that changed everything.