Friday, September 29, 2006

I Went to a Worship Service and a Wedding Broke Out

On September 16, I had the honor of being best man in the wedding of my best friend, Ryan, and his wife, Amy. In my never-ending effort to steal every creative idea Bill Simmons ever conceived, I decided to keep a running diary (actually, he didn't invent it, but he made it an art form). So, this is my trip from Boston to Wethersfield, CT and back. I hope you read and enjoy.


Friday, September 15

10:30am: I pull through the toll leaving East Boston and ask the attendant how she was doing. She blew a nice cloud of smoke out of her mouth and cracked "hi" in a voice that would make Joan Rivers sound like a songbird. This is going to be a great trip.

10:43: I walk into Men's Wearhouse to get my tux. There was nothing more than a quick fitting check and a lecture from the salesman about how much better pizza is in Jersey. Why is it that people from Jersey are so proud of it? Anyway, I resisted making fun of Springsteen and was out of the store with tux in hand in 13 minutes.

The tuxedo is classic Ryan: tails that went down to the armpit of the knee, bowtie, suspenders, vest (with a touch of purple), all around classic.

11:23: Stop off at the church to see the world's best church administrator to discuss some details about a class I'm teaching. This has nothing to do the wedding, but it was part of my day, so get over it.

11:46: Quick stop at Quiznos for a Chicken Carbonara toasted sub with no mushrooms and a fountain Pepsi, one of my favorite meals. Let me explain the no mushrooms thing, because it shows you how my father scarred me for life. When I was a kid my dad was fond of saying that mushrooms are the 1st cousin to athletes foot. Now, I can't go near them, it makes me think of nasty feet and dirty locker room shower floors.

Oh yeah, went to Target real quick to buy some white undershirts, can't wear a dark shirt underneath a white one, right?

12:40: Got a call from my friend Sarah as I'm on the road, she just finished raising support for her glamorous life in missions. We talk for a bit, then it's just me and the road. At this point I'm getting worried about the speech I have to make. I don't know anyone at this wedding other than Ryan and Amy, so I have no idea how I will fit in with everyone, and the speech could totally bomb. Carumba.

2:15: I pull into the parking lot of First Church of Christ Wethersfield, a fairly large historic church. I changed in the car, which is always fun, especially when you stupidly stay in the driver's seat and have to maneuver around the steering wheel. The rehearsal doesn't start until 3, so I have some time to kill. I walked around the cemetary connected to the church property and try to think of something for my speech. I'm not sure a cemetary is the most inspiring place for such endeavors, but it worked a bit.

3:30: Rehearsal gets started a little late, and it ran like most rehearsals, so I won't go into details. The church sanctuary set-up was interesting. The main section in the middle (split into two sections) seated 125-150, and lining the walls of the room were penalty boxes, complete with hinged doors and everything. I considered cross-checking a bridesmaid to see if I'd get 2 minutes in the box. Anyway, here's the rundown of the wedding party:

Bridesmaids: Jessica (Ryan's sister), Sarah (Amy's friend), Heather (Amy's sister-in-law), and Matron of Honor Mary (Amy's sister).

Groomsmen: Stephen (Amy's brother), Matthew (Ryan's friend), David (Ryan's friend, he was a last second replacement, see below), me.

5:00: It's dinner time, and I am hungry. We go to some place that supposedly serves great seafood, which ended up being true. I got to talk to some of the wedding party and get to know them better, especially David and his wife, Samara (I think I'm spelling that right). We talked mostly about missions and other ministry related things.

7:25: Groomsman gift time, I got hooked up with the City of Champions: Best of Boston Sports dvd and a hymns cd (Fernando Ortega, quite good). You can see why Ryan is my best friend.

8:20ish: Instead of a bachelor party, we (Ryan, David and I) take a trip to the hospital. You see, 4 days before the wedding, one of the groomsman, Bill, was the victim of a freak accident. He was driving down the road and an object flew off a truck doing the other direction. That object (I believe it was a spider gear) went through Bill's windshield and hit him in the head. He has had some reconstructive surgery, but I think there's still more to come. He just got married 2 months ago, but his wife (Michelle) is staying strong. Her faith is inspiring. We prayed with the family for a bit and left. Not necessarily the ideal bachelor party, but I think it meant a lot to the family for Ryan to go and visit.

9:45: We finally arrive at the hotel. It was raining wicked hard and Ryan and I weren't really looking forward to running from the car to the hotel. So, we took a cue from our friendly neighborhood televangelist Joel Osteen and asked God to give us the best spot available. Sho 'nough we got ourselves a front row spot, forever proving that you can indeed have your best life now.

Remember, this is past my normal bedtime, so I'm tired. Ryan, Matthew and I are sharing a room; we head down to the bar with Jessica and hang out. We saw a guy wearing a funky flannel shirt tucked into his sweatpants that had a racing stripe down the side. Good times (by the way, I hate that Bill Simmons uses "good times" so much because it makes people think I'm copying him by using it when it's been a tried and true phrase for so long).

11:30: Finally, bedtime. Let me gives serious props to the Marriot for having comfortable beds and amazing pillows. I thought about stealing one, or two.

Saturday, September 16

4:30ish am: Some stupid bugs outside the window wake me up. It was so bad that I actually picked up the patterns of their noises. Is that weird? Anyway, I lay there for an hour and a half before I jump in the shower.

7:30: Ryan, Matthew and I head to Dunkin's Donuts. This was one of the most important times of the weekend. Let me explain: Ryan and I through most of seminary would go to Dunkin' Donuts (or Dunka Do, pronounced Dew) every Saturday morning for a couple hours. As we ate our donuts or bagels and drank our coffee we would discuss pretty much every topic under the sun (sports, politics, theology, etc). The most important thing we discussed was ministry, we solved pretty much all of the church's problems during those times. We often referred to ourselves as "The Idealists."

Those times have had a lasting impact on me. I am not an idealist by nature, in fact I've been accused of cynicism on more than one occasion, and I'm certainly prone to my times of depression. Idealism is not something that would describe me at various stages in my life. But those times with Ryan changed my attitude toward ministry and the power that we as children of God have through His grace. I can't point to any one meeting or thing that Ryan said, it was just the general attitude of optimism that came out of being with him that has changed my life. I went from a disposition of doubt to asking the question "why not?". That change is huge. So, while on this particular trip to Dunka Do we didn't get to talk in depth or for very long, it was at least symbolically important.

8:18: We arrive at the church to begin changing into our tuxes. Nothing too exciting here, except for the comedy of watching us try to put our own suspenders on and work the bow tie.

8:50: Ryan father gives me Ryan wedding band. It's my job to make sure these get to the altar.

8:56: Tux is on. Why did it take me so long? Because the wedding doesn't start until 10 and I don't want to be hot. Can you blame me?

9:00: Steve, Amy's brother, gives me her wedding band. The pressure is on.

9:14: After some quick pictures, it's boutonniere time. After a couple broken pins we finally got everybody set up. I think someone had to use a safety pin. I should have brought my duct tape.

9:29: Ryan and I head to the back room with the photographer, who takes some pictures of us lounging around. It's funny how many people know my aversion to my picture being taken, just about everybody who found out I was in a wedding asked me about it. If I'm in someone's wedding I don't fight it, it's just not that important. Even if the camera does steal my soul.

9:37: The photographer leaves and Ryan and I hang out along for a bit. We pray together for a while and share a touching Jonathan and David moment, only without the kissing. I honestly can't tell you how happy I am for Ryan and Amy and honored to have been in this wedding.

9:58: The pastor comes and gets us, the show is on. From here until the end of the wedding I don't have exact times (hey, I wasn't going to bring my cell phone up to the altar). I slip the rings onto my left pinky as we walk out the door.

10:15ish: The wedding gets started a little late. I won't go through the entire wedding, I'll just hit the high points. Everyone made it into position without any major problems, everyone except for the runner. It was Matthew and Steve's job to roll out the runner after the bridesmaids came down the aisle. However, the runner got caught in the rope or something so Steve pulls out his pocketknife and cuts the rope. Why does someone bring a knife to a wedding, let alone up to the altar? I have no idea, but it was serendipitous. Anyway, that issue is resolved and Amy begins to come out, escorted by her father. I have to be honest, I thought she was going to lose it before she ever got up to the altar. But she and Ryan did okay, not that there is anything wrong with bawling at your own wedding.

As the pastor pointed out during the ceremony, Ryan and Amy really took seriously that this was a worship service. I suppose to normal amount of hymns sung at a wedding (if any at all) would be 2-3. Ryan and Amy chose 5, and it was like an all-star cast of hymns. Here you go: To God Be The Glory, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Crown Him with Many Crowns, How Great Thou Art (the only song that does double duty in my "That Better Be Played at my Funeral" and "That Better Be Played at my Wedding" lists) and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. It was awesome, what great selection. Honestly, I think we were a Be Thou My Vision away from ushering in Christ's return.

As I stated earlier, my job was to ensure that the wedding rings got to the altar and ended up on the ring fingers of our couple. With only a minor delay to get some soap and warm water to get the rings of my pinky we had no issues. That didn't happen by the way, but it would have been funny if it did (unless Amy is reading this, then it would have been awful).

10:55: I walk out with Mary (Matron of Honor) and Ryan and Amy are officially married. Those two thoughts aren't logically connected by the way (us walking out and them being married), merely temporally. The ceremony was actually much quicker than I thought, only about 40 minutes, not bad considering we sang 5 hymns. The pastor didn't say too much, that helped keep the time down. It really was a worshipful time, moreso than most weddings I've attended. The organist was wicked good, apparently he's a world renouned organist. I haven't been able to keep up with my world class organists since the Pipe Organists Guild booted me out for allegedly playing a Casio keyboard. Bunch of snobs if you ask me.

11:15: The wedding party gathers to pose for some pictures. I really liked the photographers, they kept everything quick and painless. The would get us into position and click a few times and tell us to sit down. They were awesome (a husband and wife team, by the way).

12:10: We pull up to the Simsbury Inn where the reception was held. We posed for some more pictures at a gazebo and eat some little snack things. I was particularly fond of the bacon-wrapped scallops. I could eat those all day, and would have if they kept bringing them out.

1:15: Each member of the wedding party is announced at the reception and come out with their corresponding person. I was quite disappointed that Mary wouldn't strut out with me, especially considering the song was some funk diddy (a touch of Ryan). If you can't strut when you're all dolled up, when can you strut? Ryan and Amy have their first dance.

1:25: It's time for the best man speech, always a fun time if you aren't the one giving the speech. Like I said, I didn't know anyone at the wedding, so I was nervous. I didn't want to ruin it all in front of all these fancy family members and friends.

Coming up with something was difficult, partially because Ryan doesn't open himself up to embarassing stories. So, I opted for a poem. My goal was to write a full sonnet, a la Bill Shakespeare, but had to settle for a partial one (for those who don't know, a sonnet is a 14-line poem with 3 stanzas of 4 lines, known as a quatrain, which have an abab cdcd efef rhyming pattern and a final 2 lines, known as a couplet, that rhyme- raise your hand if you're surpised I knew that). It went fairly well. After a quick toast that got a laugh or two I sat my butt down and considered it an okay speech. Who remembers this stuff anyway?

Dinner was great, a fine job with the food. There were about 6 options for a main dish (actually, I think 4 weren't considered main dishes, but they are in my book, as one who eats cereal for dinner at least twice a week). I couldn't decide which one to have, so I didn't decide and just ate all of them. Good choice. The wedding party also got ice cream cake, my favorite.

3:53: Time to hit the dance floor. That's right, you read that correctly, Danny got out on the dance floor. The electric slide was a little rough (I ran over Sarah, one of the bridesmaids, about 6 times, poor girl, even the DJ made fun of me) but I rocked the Cotton Eyed Joe dance (which may have a name). I can also twist with the best of them.

4:10: Off the dance floor.

4:40: Back on the dance floor, I teach a girl to waltz (not that I'm good or anything).

4:50: Back off the dance floor.

5:00: The reception is now over and it's time to say goodbye. Ryan and I get to talk a few minutes and that's about it. Who am I to hold up a man's honeymoon?

5:30: After changing in the parking lot (I promise, I don't make a habit of this) and giving the tux to Ryan's father for the drop off, I'm on the road. I'm sweaty, I'm tired and I'm full. Sounds like a great wedding.

5:50: Okay, I got lost a little bit, in a neighborhood of Hartford that looked like the kind of neighborhood I didn't want to be lost in.

6:07: On the proper highway and ready to get back to Boston. Good times.


A couple quick thoughts, one not so important and one more important:

I wrote this post over a 12-day period so it's really uneven. Reading back through it, I noticed my verb tenses change throughout, very poorly written. I'm just too lazy to go back through and fix it. This is why I always wrote papers for school in one long sitting (or two long sittings at most), my brain is better off being used for long periods of time only occasionally, rather than consistently day in and day out. I guess I'm a binge thinker.

Some might not realize it, but I'm a big sap. I get incredibly happy for friends when big things happen, like getting married or having a baby (just ask Bruce about my reaction when he told me Morgan was pregnant, the ensuing mockery has taught me to subdue myself). The way I see it, there is so much that is screwed up about life and this world. It seems that things are always going wrong somewhere. Maybe I'm "overly aware" of how things are not the way they're supposed to be (which is also the title of a great book by Cornelius Plantinga), but I'm not sure it's possible to be too aware of the effects of sin and evil on this world. That's why I get so excited about my friends getting married and having children. It shows us that some things that are good and were intended to be blessing from God are still present in our lives. That's a reason to celebrate.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Go Read Something Else...

Hey, I just wanted to direct both of my readers to something I ran across earlier today. Originally I wasn't going to link to it, but when I went back a second time it struck me again. Go check out The Jericho Road, blog of Jan McKenzie, who has commented a couple times on this very blog. I was really convicted, maybe you will be too. It's a quick read, but take the time to think about it, for your own good. Thanks.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

From the Red Sox to the Patriots, it's September

It's been a while since I posted anything about sports, and this is an odd time since the most likely candidate to post any comments is Ryan, who is getting married this weekend (I'm the best man!) and will probably not make his new wife happy by checking the ole blog-of-danny. This will be fairly random, just so you know.

I hate to admit it, but Derek Jeter really stuck it good to Big Papi this week. For those who don't know, David Ortiz (that's Big Papi, for those who really don't follow sports, but if you don't there's a good chance you're not ready this post anymore) commented to the media that his road to the MVP is tougher than Jeter's because of the weaker Boston lineup. He said of Jeter, "Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup ... Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be." Jeter responded with, "I don't have to do it in his lineup. ... I'm not thinking about the MVP right now. We're thinking about winning a division. We've still got something to play for." And followed that with, "No one here's focused on individual awards." Ouch. There is no better response than "I can't worry about that, I'm too busy winning." Not only does he make Ortiz out to be selfish, he makes him out to be a loser. Mind you, Ortiz is neither of those things, but in a war of words, Jeter blew Ortiz out of the water.

This Sox season has really fallen apart. The truth is that when you have a team that is weak offensively and multiple starters get hurt, you don't stand a chance. I'm not sure they were going to win the division anyway, but it doesn't help when you lose your starting catcher (didn't the pitching staff fall apart after Varitek got hurt?), your starting right fielder, your starting left fielder who happens to be one of the best bats in all of baseball, your DH and baseball's premiere clutch hitter, and even your starting short stop, one of the top gloves in baseball. Add that to injuries to the pitching staff, both starters and relievers, well, you just aren't going to win.

Everyone in Boston is getting on Theo Epstein for not making any moves at the trading deadline. It is noted how he has "failed" miserably. The problem with that is that they are judging him by a different standard than what he is going by. I don't think Theo is trying to win right now, I honestly think he looked at this team and said "we don't have a deep enough team to win." And he was right. So, he decided against trading his future stars for overpriced veterans who wouldn't have been enough to win the division anyway, let alone a World Series. Honestly, can you name me one (or even two) players who they actually had a shot at getting in a trade who would have put them over the top? Let me answer that for you, you can't.

Thank God for the Patriots! Although they didn't play all that well in their 1st game, I'm still excited. As my dad pointed out the other day, they've won 2 Super Bowls in seasons where they started 2-2, most notably their 2nd Super Bowl season when they were blown out 31-0 by Buffalo in the opening game. The fact that they didn't play well in Game 1 (and they certainly didn't) doesn't mean much. Thankfully.

As for this whole Deion Branch situation, it's rather unfortunate. I liked him, and I suppose I still do. But is it that hard for him to honor the contract that he signed with the Patriots? Either way, in the end I think the Pats did the right thing. If he was really wanting a 6 year, $39 million contract, well, goodbye. I'm of the belief that almost no receiver is worth that money (the exception being Jerry Rice in his prime). Wide Receiver, though important, is a position that is completely dependent on other positions, moreso than perhaps any other position on the field (I'm open to other suggestions). Remember, the Patriots won their first Super Bowl with Troy Brown, David Patten and some other guy I can't remember right now as their 3 receivers. Not one #1 receiver in that group (Brown was no longer a #1 at that point). Branch is definitely good, but not $39 million good.

Think about this for a second. Branch has never had a 1000 yard season (998 last year, so I guess that counts) and has averaged 3.5 touchdowns a season. This is worth $39 million? Let me type that out so you can see all the 0's: 39,000,000. I realize that in the Patriots offense players will not put up the huge numbers, that just isn't the way they work. But still, this is something Seattle will regret. It reminds me of us Red Sox fans when we got Josh Beckett. We talked about potential, made excuses for his lack of big numbers in his short career (blisters, etc) and would constantly bring up the fact that he won the MVP in the World Series in 2003 against the Yankees as proof of his great potential. In the same way, Branch is being touted as someone who hasn't been able to put up big numbers in the Patriots offense (which as I noted is true) and won a Super Bowl MVP, which shows just how good he can be. Well, year 1 of the Beckett era hasn't worked out too well, and I'm not sure the Branch era will be looked at all that fondly either.

As for the current Pats lineup, they do need help at receiver (which sounds funny considering what I just wrote about letting Branch go). The Pats have two good tight ends in Watson and Graham, and that is nice. But it jams up the line of scrimmage too much. They don't really have anyone who can stretch the field, and I'm not sure where they'll find someone. I don't necessarily think that this will preclude them from winning it all, I just think it'll make things harder and force Belichek and friends to work overtime.

More important than fixing the receiving corps is fixing the offensive line. They played horribly on Sunday. It'll certainly help the receivers if Brady had a little more time to get them the ball. But when he's rushed on every play and has to throw off his back foot, well, bad throws will be made. That's just the way it is. That line needs some work.

One final note, Brady made some interesting comments the other day, and I'm not talking about the statements regarding being distracted because Branch is a good friend. During his weekly interview on a local sports station he took the blame for the offensive line's poor play, saying that he didn't make very good reads of the defense, which caused all the problems. Let it be known that no one buys this, everyone knows that the line stunk up the joint and that had nothing to do with Brady. It's just refreshing to see someone, who is the best QB in the NFL, by the way, deflect criticism of his teammates onto himself. Just the opposite of Eli's brother in the playoffs last year, who made sure to note in the media that they lost in part due to the "protection problems" the offensive line was having. I think that shows you why one quarterback has 3 rings, and the other has none.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Spirit & the Community

You may remember a week or so ago that I guest blogged at another site, or I suppose you may not remember. Well, I opted to carry the post over here, you know, just to fill some space until my overdue Hymn of the Week and much needed football posts come around. I originally wrote this late Friday the 1st and early Saturday the 2nd of September. As I reread it I'm not all that happy with it, but it's something to discuss and ponder.


Here are two stories about my church community from the past week.

1. The last couple days are some of the craziest in the city of Boston. With over 300,000 students in this small city (it really doesn’t cover much land), and most moving in or out on the same day, this week can be one of the most frustrating of the year. Nothing works out as planned, and you can forget about meals at normal times or sleeping the recommended amount (I got 7 hours of sleep in two days and skipped dinner 2 nights in a row). It just won’t happen.

Last night I got a phone call from a young lady in my church. She and her roommate had hoped to avoid the craziness of this day by hiring movers to transport their stuff, a plan that the rest of us had admired. The movers were to arrive around noon- I got a call over 6 hours later and was told that they hadn’t arrived. The landlord was screaming at them to get out and they had few options. The option they did have, however, was to ask for help from their friends from church. Before you knew it, there were 15 people (most of whom were already tired and sore from moving themselves and others for the last 2 days) bringing couches, desks, a piano (curse that piano!) and other odds and ends down the steps and into a giant truck that one of the church members donated for the evening. Odd as it sounds, it was actually a lot of fun. And of course the steak quesadilla I got to eat didn’t hurt.

2. This past Sunday 40 or so people from my church gathered in an apartment to say goodbye to 2 dear sisters. We sent these 2 out as missionaries to serve an existing church planting team, they will be gone for 1 year. At one point during the evening we gathered into the living room (yes, it was as cramped as it sounds) to have a time of encouragement and prayer for these 2 young ladies. We laughed, we cried, we shared stories and Scriptures. It was a bittersweet moment for all of us, happy to send two of our own out to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, sad to see them leave our fellowship.

As I looked around the crowd of people loving these two, I thought about some of the folks in the room. I saw some who have had their hearts broken and were cared for by others in that room. I saw some who have felt rejected all their lives and have found acceptance by others in that room. I saw some who have had wonderful times of rejoicing (weddings, engagements, babies, new jobs) and celebrated with others in that room. I saw some who have been depressed, stuck in sin and on the verge of giving up who have been loved by others in that room. The truth is that there is no community like the community of God.

That shouldn’t be surprising, though, given the fact that the Spirit of the Living God dwells within this community. Think about that for a second, the Spirit that hovered over the earth during creation, the Spirit who descended upon Christ like a dove, the Spirit who came upon the church at Pentecost like tongues of fire is the same Spirit who dwells within each heart of those who believe in Christ. It is the Spirit of God that binds us together. The community of God is powerful, and empowering, because it is empowered by the Holy Spirit. As my associate pastor is fond of saying, “the great thing about us is the One who is among us.”

This small community of believers in the city of Boston has been a powerful force in the lives of many. It isn’t because we are smart, good looking and uber-spiritual. We haven’t concocted some secret formula that makes us holy, we haven’t passed out copies of the latest Christian self-help book at our services. We have been able to bless others because we are blessed with the presence of the Living God.

We most certainly aren’t perfect, I’d be willing to bet that every person involved in the 2 stories I shared have been hurt by someone else in our church, including myself. That is, unfortunately, a part of life together. But we’ve also learned how to love and forgive each other. We’ve learned that where the Spirit of God is, there is community.

Consider some of Paul’s teachings for a moment.

When Paul was dealing with the division between Jew and Gentile believers he teaches us that the Spirit brings God’s people together. “For through Him [Christ] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph 2:18). “And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Eph 2:22, italics mine).

The Spiritual gift of prophesy is used to edify the church (1 Cor 14:5), in fact, Paul urges the Corinthians “since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor 14:12), that is, rather than seeking personal gain. Regardless of whether or not you think spiritual gifts are still in use today, you can see the point that the believer can build up the church by the power of the Spirit.

Compare Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:16-17 and you see how the believer, by being filled with the Spirit, can encourage, admonish, and teach others through songs and music. Again, the result of being Spirit-filled is worship and teaching that is community driven, not self seeking.

The Spirit in the heart of the believer is the restorative force amongst the people of God. Right after he lists some of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), Paul states, “if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual [that is, living by the Spirit in the manner Paul just talked about] should restore him gently” (6:1).

My point is that when the Spirit of God is present, there should be unity and community. We are bound together by the Spirit of the Living God, that bond is far greater than cheering the same baseball team or voting for the same politician. We (and I’m speaking of all Christians here) are enabled to love each other will a sacrificial and selfless love because we have been showed love. This is nothing we can do on our own; any self-made work will surely falter in the long run. It amazes me that a group of sinful and depraved people can be brought together to worship and serve the Lord. Truly the great thing about us is the One who lives among us.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Pittsfield-up: farewell to the World's Best Cute & Cuddly Usher

This past Sunday we at our church said goodbye to my good friend, Kurt (who comments on this very blog under his Roman name, Kurtius). Kurt graduated from Harvard Law, took (and hopefully passed) the bar and has been assigned by the state to a different part of the state as a public defender (I suppose I'll leave out the actual town name, just in case someone is after Kurt and he's really not a lawyer but in the witness protection program). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (or, as I prefer, the People's Republic of Massachusetts) has seen fit to use his services far enough away that he can't continue to attend our church. It's our loss.

I first met Kurt a few years back when he was the faithgroup on Harvard's campus. Make sure you read that correctly, he was the faithgroup (for those who don't know, "faithgroups" are what we call "small groups" or "cell groups"). I didn't really know Kurt very well back then, I just knew he was wicked funny. That aspect hasn't changed, but I've gotten to know him a lot better.

I think we became better friends in September '05. We were part of a three man team sent to Mississippi to help with relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina (with our friend Bruce, who also makes appearances in the comment section). I learned a couple things about Kurt: he grows a surprisingly good beard for a baby-faced kid, he has far more stamina than I do, and he is capable of growing quite a bit in a short period of time (not physically, of course). Instead of explaining myself, please read his post about it before you go on: check it out here. Rereading it brings back the memory of how blessed I was for Kurt to be open to the Lord's leading and conviction. If you float around his blog during that general time frame you'll get an idea of what we did. There may even be a rare photo of me in there somewhere.

Back on the homefront, I was coleading a faithgroup with another guy and Kurt was one of our faithful members. This group became known as Man Club, although not officially since the church leadership, though they thought it was funny, didn't really want to put that on our church website. Pansies. Anyway, Man Club soon multiplied (we never use the word "split", in case you were wondering) into two separate groups: Kurt and I led the group that continued to meet on the same night (which became known as Man Club: Original Recipe, a name inspired by Kurt himself) and the other met on a different night (this group became known as Man Club: Variety Bucket, which coincidentally was also the more racially diverse group of the two, that wasn't intended).

Kurt and I would get together every Thursday before faithgroup to talk and pray. We went through a book together, which I talked about here, prayed, laughed, never cried and ate a lot of pizza. We avoided confessing sins, but ultimately got around to most of them anyway. Kurt was always fun and honest, two words that I think characterize him perfectly.

The title of this post comes from one particular Thursday get together that didn't end up quite as well as we had hoped. Shortly before we met up he had gotten word that he was not getting the assignment near the city like he had hoped, instead would be sent 2 hours away. As we ate our food two words became the refrain for the evening: "this sucks." Not poetic, but it does accurately portray our feelings. But as we discussed (I think it was that same night), we remembered the teaching of a pastor in Texas. He likes to mention that we need to adopt a "hell-up" mentality, meaning that we deserve hell, yet God is gracious to us, so we ought to be thankful for anything more than hell, or "hell-up."

Pittsfield, I guess, would be the equivalent of hell in the law system of Massachusetts. Allegedly it has a poor court system, it's in the middle of nowhere, and it is much closer to New York than it is to Boston. In other words, a bit like hell. Kurt didn't get Pittsfield, he got "Pittsfield-up." It could have been worse, it could have been Pittsfield.

Again, I've seen Kurt grow over this time. He has come to embrace the idea of moving away. Instead of attempting to make the trek every Sunday back to Boston for church he (rightly) has decided that since God has placed him in a different community, he will attend church there and plant himself right in the middle of things. He has even thought that maybe he'll stay there longer than the 1-year appointment (I hope he changes his mind and can be reassigned, but we'll worry about that later). This attitude shows a tremendous amount of maturity. I would be whining and considering changing careers. Kurt has a Pittsfield-up mentality. He has been blessed, and he will make the most of it.

At any rate, I know it's not like he's dying or anything. Truth be told, I'm a fairly sentimental guy, when things are going well, I don't want them to change. And good friends can be hard to find. I can think of two instances off the top of my head within the last 6 months where I was going through a rough point and Kurt was there to encourage. He didn't have to write a long e-mail of make an hour-long phone call, in fact, the second time he wrote an e-mail of about 4 words. Kurt understands the art of being there without smothering a person with encouragement, to the point they want to strangle you.

There are plenty of others things to note, like the fact that he is cute and cuddly (ah, that never gets old). He is also the World's Best Usher, or so says the shirt he wears when passing out visitor's cards. And when my roommate and I were planning our move and coming up with our short list of possible roommates, Kurt was the short list. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. But remember- Pittsfield-up.

For those who know Kurt, feel free to share any thoughts or stories. Again, this isn't a eulogy or anything, so remember he'll be reading these. This post doesn't really contain everything, of course, and I wish I were a better writer to get the point across. Like maybe make you cry or something. At any rate, Kurt, we'll see you around, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Now, somebody cue up the old Michael W Smith tape and let's sing Friends.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

laundry, guest blogging, mirrors & smoke, blogprops

I was supposed to do some laundry tonight, but I really wanted to sit down and write this (not this part, but the upcoming blogprops). So, instead of doing laundry, I went out and bought some more boxers. That's just as good.

Guest Blogging
I had the pleasure of guest blogging over at Oh Me of Little Faith. I was one of a series of guest bloggers on the topic of community, I recommend you check them all out.

Mirrors & Smoke
I posted last week about a music video I saw for the new Jars of Clay song "Mirrors & Smoke" (I would link to it, but I want to make you scroll down and pass my posts in between). What I did not know at that time is that this is not the video the band came up with, but rather a video done by a fan. Whoever this person is, well, he (or she, I shouldn't assume) is possibly the coolest person who has ever lived. By the way, the more I listen to this song, the better it gets. Really well written, in my opinion.

Last week my roommate (Jonathan, aka JP) and I moved across the city, which might as well be across the state (at least when it comes to moving in Boston). This year's move was far more successful and less frustrating than last year's move (maybe someday I'll get Jonathan to write about the living hell that was Moving Day '05). This would not have been possible if not for some wonderful friends, to whom we owe a great debt. I want to thank them publicly, or at least semi-publicly.

Our friend Dave let us borrow one of his work trucks on Thursday night, which enabled us to cut down the number of trips back and forth. It also allowed me the adventure of driving a vehicle that is far bigger than what I am used to (I had no problems, for those wondering). Dave also loaned another truck the following night to a couple damsels in distress (mentioned in my guest blog noted above). Dave is simply a quality guy.

A nice fella named Jeff got far more than he bargained for. He thought that we were moving a mile or two away, he had no idea we were going across the city. Mind you, I figured he knew, but I'm not that smart. I didn't account for the fact that in the past couples months he has planned a wedding, got married and went on his honeymoon. I suppose keeping up with Danny's comings and goings wasn't on the top of his priority list, and I can't blame him at all. Either way, Jeff was awesome, he loaded up some boxes, tied a queen size mattress/box spring (Jonathan's, not mine) to the top of his SUV and helped us out. Thanks, Jeff.

Coming up huge for us was our good friend, Neil. Neil traded vehicles with me for a day and a half, he took my car (broken bumper and all), we took his pickup. Without this there is no way we would have been able to move our stuff. The bottom line is that Neil sacrificed a lot to help us out, and I am eternally grateful (as is Jonathan, I imagine). This is why Neil is one of my favorite people in the world. I apologized and thanked him countless times and he would simply reply "this is what it means to live in community." He has earned the right not to be made fun of for his manpris for at least a week.

I wasn't there, but Steve Holt helped us move some stuff into our apartment. This is no easy task, since we live on the 3rd floor and have a steep, windy staircase (quite common in this old city of ours). We barely know Steve, so him volunteering is greatly appreciated.

Finally, the biggest blogprops go out to Matt and Pam, who have modeled love and patience this past week. Here is a catalog of what they have done for us in the last week (and I hope I'm not leaving anything out): they helped us move items on Wednesday night into the apartment, including our couch, which barely fit up the stairs; they let us move items into their apartment for temporary storage on Thursday afternoon (some of them are still there, unfortunately); they helped us move stuff in on Thursday night (when I was still at our old place); they drove to our old apartment that night and helped us load up two trucks and their car; they went back to our new place and helped us move stuff in (staying up well past midnight, even though Matt had to go to work in the morning); they let us stay at their place starting Thursday night until tonight; they made breakfast for us (Swedish Pancakes, Neave style); Pam made grilled cheese (with bacon) tonight for my dinner, even though I explicitly told her not to, because that's the kind of godly woman she is; they have not uttered a single word of complaint despite the fact that we have mooched off them like leaches, although Pam almost threw up in her mouth when I wore my "lounging around the house" clothes. I think that's most of it, though I'm sure there are things I've left out. There really isn't a way we can say "thank you" strongly enough to Matt & Pam, certainly not with some stupid "blogprop."

Thanks to everyone who helped us move, may God bless you greatly for your sacrifice. You helped make a miserable time more bearable.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hymn of the Week: O Worship the King

Earlier today I was attending yet another wedding and decided to pass the time (before the wedding, not during) by flipping through the hymnal. I ran across this one that I haven't heard in a while but really love. It's written by Robert Grant:

O worship the King,
all glorious above,
And gratefully sing
His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender,
the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor,
and girded with praise.

O tell of His might,
O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light,
Whose canopy space,
Whose chariots of wrath
the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path
on the wings of the storm.

Thy bountiful care,
what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air,
it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills,
it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills
in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust,
and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust,
nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender,
how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender,
Redeemer, and Friend.

One of the better versions of this song is from the Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern cd. I like it because it is powerful, as the lyrics of this song are (some songs just weren't meant to be done in a soft or folky way, this is one of them). It also adds a chorus (generally a bad idea) which actually works because it takes lines from the original song and reworks them. Anyway, nicely done.

As I said, I think this song is powerful, meaning it presents a powerful picture of God. I particularly love the line "pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise." The whole picture of the terrible wrath of God and His tender mercies strike me as a perfect balance, as we see in Scripture.

This is another hymn that rightly places us in relation to God. He is the One who is clothed in splendor. He is the Defender and Shield. We are feeble and frail, we rely on His unfailing love. This is a picture of grace, of God's willingness to love and protect His people despite themselves. The God who created all and controls the light and the storm has shown Himself to be a faithful, loving God. His mercy is both tender and firm. Let us, as the song says, gratefully sing praises to our Lord.