Welcome Week – a guest post by Jerod Crockett

[This is a repost of grandson Jerod’s post about welcome week at Lipscomb University.]

Welcome to Welcome Week

August 23, 2016

Jerod Crockett

Move in day. Scores of minivans stuffed with Ikea furniture and Target paraphernalia jostle for access to the front entrance of the residence hall. Overenthusiastic upperclassmen in matching polos begin grabbing our belongings and declaring to us exactly to what degree we are welcome in this building. As my family shuffles to the elevator I overhear this exchange between some dad and his wife:

Wife: “I just don’t think he has enough things to last a semester.”

Guy: “You’re not moving into that dorm room, he is! And he doesn’t want all of that junk!”

I meet my roommate briefly as we haul in all of my stuff. Our moms begin chatting about how likely we are going to starve without this or that appliance. My new television does not work, but I don’t think I need a television at all, so I don’t mind (for now).

For dinner, families and students are separated, so I have to enter the line by myself. My mom begins tearing up at the thought that I will have to eat dinner alone. We are served chicken fingers, nothing else. I could have used some celery or maybe an apple. Anything with nutritional value would have honestly been a better meal than chicken fingers.

After my family leaves (yes, I cried), my roommate and I spend the evening engaging in light conversation. I go to bed early, ready for my first night 4 hours away from my family.

I’m still on Eastern Time, so I get up extra early; however, I don’t have anything to do (theoretically, this is when I am supposed to meet my lifelong friends, but nobody is standing around outside my room waiting to friend me, and I do not possess the charisma, charm, and energy to find people (introversion, y’all)), so I decide to fix my TV. I get lost three times, visit 3 separate stores, purchase 4 items, return 4 items, including my original TV and all of the items I purchased before, and get stuck in rush hour traffic for at least an hour and a half.

But, I now have a working TV and a much better sense of direction in the area where I live, so I got that going for me.

Dinner is hamburgers and hotdogs. If I don’t get diabetes by the end of the week, then I will certainly have some serious digestive complications.

I get up early and run for the first time this week. Today is the beginning of the official welcome week festivities. There are no scheduled activities for this morning, so I must meet people organically, which means I won’t meet people this morning. For lunch, we get to eat in the cafeteria. I fulfill my freshman role as the loner who wanders with a tray looking for someone as lonely as me.

The welcome week introduction session is just as enthusiastic as I feared.

In the evening we participate in the “Olympics.” We are randomly assigned teams based on nations in the Olympics. I am given a sticker with the Chinese flag on it, but there is no team China. After finding some other dude with the same problem as me, I ask for help. I am told that I actually have the Japanese flag (oh, I’m sorry, I guess the nation of Japan forgot to inform me that they had adopted the flag of their biggest rival), and that I, therefore, needed to join team Brazil, which already has about 10 more members than any other team. I sustain a terrific contusion to my left hip after a dramatic fall during a dizzy bat game.

 The flags of China and Japan may be easily confused. For reference and comparison, we have placed them together. (Photo Cred: www.wikipedia.com)

People stay up too late again.

I’m not getting enough sleep.

In the afternoon we visit the Parthenon, but it costs 6 bucks to go inside, so I just play Pokemon with some dudes in the park. I reveal my country roots when I stare at the tall buildings the whole ride there and keep commenting on the traffic and how rich everyone is around here. [1][2]

 Just like the real thing, except, y’know, not ruined. Also please leave sacrifices in the lockers provided outside.

I get back to my dorm at 10 after visiting some relatives and find that a party is occurring right in the lobby, and that my student ID does not work as a key to the residence area (q.v. note 3 for the full saga). This is problematic because I am now forced to go to a party with loud music. The band has two drummers, two rappers, and one trombone player. I have to admit that they were really cool and that I showed off my sweet moves down in the mosh pit with complete strangers.

 A blurry photograph of a generic “safe” college party.

I don’t go to bed until after 1 am.

We have constant informational meetings from 9 until 11:30. One guy comes up and talks about making choices in college and speaks more sense than anyone I have heard yet. He presents several videos and statistics on pornography. Afterwards, I tell everyone around me about my struggle with pornography and the redemptive grace I found in Jesus. I get a lot of awkward silences and no one wants to make eye contact with me.

After a quick snack lunch, we head to our service day areas that we signed up for earlier in the week. I volunteered to go to a local lake and do maintenance work. The maintenance work consists in adding mulch to the trails. We form a mulch brigade along a 1-mile trail, passing full wheelbarrows to the next person and sending back empties.

I decide to sprint all of my transfers, to the protest of my calf muscles and odd stares of everyone near me.

We were supposed to carpool to the lake, so I drove one of my new friends plus two girls who I don’t know. On the way back I learn that one of them knows my second cousin and the other knows my great aunt and uncle very well. [3]

We have a fancy dinner tonight. It feels like prom, except I’ve known these people for 5 days instead of 10 years, and the food is terrible.

This evening we host a hypnotist. It gets really freaky, really fast. It starts off as silly jokes and tricks. After a while, though, the show starts to resemble a mass brainwashing exercise. The freakiest part, however, is not the people on stage doing embarrassing stuff; it’s actually the people in the crowd who get hypnotized. These people are not supposed to be in the act; they are passive; they are supposed to observe. Several leave their seats and walk up to the stage. One even climbs up in the balcony and leans perilously close to the railing. The hypnotist has to be told when these people show up, because he is constantly checking the people on stage to make sure they are safe and don’t do anything embarrassing. Watching these zombies wander towards the stage is like watching a television viewer wandering onto a set in the middle of a scene.

 “Who’s excited about college?”

The hypnotist is constantly declaring how “good” it feels to be hypnotized. After several people scramble to the stage and fight for the right to be hypnotized, I begin to think critically about what people will subject themselves to in order to “feel good.” There are now several videos out there of these people engaging in ridiculous acts that would cause you to seriously question their judgement and character in a normal setting, yet not a single victim regrets their participation because it “felt good.”

It rains a lot. Not much to do today besides meetings. I skip a lot of things today because I am tired of the summer camp feeling on campus and am ready for some academic challenges. Oddly enough, today we are assigned a reflection piece for our first class that requires us to explain our greatest academic challenge in attending college. I finish it very quickly this evening and resist the temptation to say that my greatest academic challenge will be keeping myself interested in the easy course material.

We have a Mountain Dew festival on the campus lawn. This event has been hyped up since the time I took a campus visit last fall and represents the last organized, “summer camp” kind of activity before the real school year starts. I get completely soaked in soft drinks of all varieties, including diet Pepsi, which is terrible because diet drinks are unquestionably terrible. I enjoy myself for a good hour, but then I become conscious of that uncomfortably sticky feeling that can only come from having a sugary beverage soaked through your underwear, so I ditch the last hour and hurry my way to the showers.

I begin to realize that without structured activities, I really have nothing to do besides write this piece and read The Brothers Karamazov. What I dreaded most about a Welcome Week was the constant events and awkwardly forced meet and greets, but these have ironically become the things I look forward to the most in my day.

I visit with some friends that live in the area instead of hanging out in the dorm by myself.

I finally get to sleep in.

I have now been here for an entire week, but it feels like a month because of the novelty of my experiences and the substantial amount of activities that were crammed into 7 days.

This evening we participate in our initium ceremony, basically the opposite of graduation. It has a really cult-like vibe, with all the candles, robes, dim floor lighting, and whatnot. As I finally get over my initial amusement of the whole thing and start to use the ceremony as a time of reflection upon my entrance into an institution of higher learning, we are instructed to listen carefully to the lyrics of “Home” by Phillip Phillips. [4]

So, my welcome week experience is now complete. I have now been, theoretically, initiated into a larger community that will support me for the next 4 years. I say theoretically because I do not believe (and did not believe before I arrived on campus) that a healthy, loving community can be formed in one week through icebreaker games and other structured activities. However, even though I often times felt as if these activities were shallow and not worth my time, I do believe that I have set the roots for quality friendships with several classmates and have introduced myself to enough people that I will always have someone to sit with at a meal or talk to before a class. And that’s where the real value of a welcome week lies, in simple introductions rather than the abstract idea of community that is preached to us throughout the week. While I haven’t bonded for life with new friends in seven days, I am much more prepared than I was before this week to embark on a new stage of my life journey and to face the very real challenges that lie before me in my first year away from home.

[1] At this point, I would like to make a note of the general demographics of this campus. Almost everyone here is white and Christian. Also, there are significantly more girls than guys. Just imagine swarms of girls in short shorts and long t-shirts that come down almost to their knees, and phones that they carry in little things that hang off their wrists (another note: most of them are also extremely pretty, but that is not important (well, it is for me, but maybe not for you)).

[2] Somewhat related: if I mention that I am interested in becoming a doctor, I can hold any girl’s attention with whatever I say for at least the next 3 minutes.

[3] We have now arrived at the time for the full saga of my ID card woes:

            I had noticed when I first arrived on campus that my card did not work on any of the doors, but the doors weren’t locked yet, so this was not a problem. However, once the doors started to lock, I had to stand at the door like a schmuck and wait for someone to pass by in order to get to my room. I asked my RA (Resident Advisor) about it and he told me to visit the security office in the morning. Morning comes, I visit the security office. Security lady tells me to ask the head resident of my dorm. He’s not there. I come back in the afternoon and he’s still not there. I ask the dudes at the front desk where he is, they don’t know, tell me to go back to security lady to fix my problem. I go back to security lady, she does some computer thingy, tells me it works. I go back to my dorm, it doesn’t work. I go back to the security lady. I would like to point out that the security office is at least a quarter of a mile from my dorm. Finally, she just makes me a new ID after making some phone calls. I get back to the dorm. IT STILL DOESN’T WORK! Well, actually, this time it does work, I just don’t know how to open the door to the dorm because I’ve never had a working ID. For never was there a story of more woe….

[4] Oddly enough, this is only the second weirdest song I’ve had played at the end of a formal ceremony. My school played “I Can’t Feel my Face” by The Weeknd at the end of our graduation, a song about being high on cocaine.

Speaking of Jesus

Speaking of Jesus,Jack Caputo writes:

 

“He kept one thing uppermost in his heart, the love of neighbor and of God, which was unconditional, the sum and substance of the Torah, and he treated everything else, however sacred it was in men’s eyes, as man made, conditional, flexible, deconstructible. His periodic flashes of anger are reserved for those who confused the latter with the former.”

Trust the Gospel

You have to trust the Gospel to do what it says it promises to do.

 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (I Thessalonians 1:2-10)

You have to preach the gospel and trust it to the work it should do.

Two mistakes to avoid:

1) Making your own agenda the “to do” list for the Holy Spirit. That’s a big leap: I want it to happen to God wants it to happen.

2) Turning to other motivations- like guilt, condemnation, guilt, manipulation and guilt- to get the work done.

Really. This is so important and so true.

If the Holy Spirit isn’t going to produce it by constant, earnest presentation of the Gospel to the people of God, then does it need to happen?

 

And if the Holy Spirit isn’t the primary motivator, how can other motivations- like guilt and condemnation- actually do anything worthwhile?

Michael Spencer

Pickled Feet

Pickles feet

I find it disturbing how much of Earl is familiar, not to mention Opal.  My family will understand.

Glimpses of Shadowland

From the time that it was announced that First Alliance Church was planning a church plant in Jessamine County and I heard our designated church planter, Bryon Ethington, share his vision for Shadowland, I have been trying to capture that vision and put “flesh on the bones”, so to speak. It is not that I didn’t hear what Bryon was saying.
The vision is really simple…I’m praying for a group of believers who want to gather weekly together and can be the type of people that we want to invite other folks into relationship with. We have no agenda other than that. We trust the Spirit to lead each individual into mission.

Those words, and his continued elaborations struck a chord with me. The challenge was, and continues to be, understanding how the acceptance and integration of that vision would reimagine my view of church and daily living in a way that would bring me closer to Jesus. I would say that I have made progress in that quest, but the challenge remains. I believe, that challenge is not an obstacle to be conquered, but an adventurous journey that brings with it perils, pain, disappointments, encouragement, surprises, joys, hope, and love that all serve to strengthen my faith.

From the beginning, I have collected what I call, “Glimpses of Shadowland”. These are articles, quotes, thoughts, etc. that I think capture in someway the expressed vision for Shadowland. They have been helpful in at least two ways. 1) They often provide clarity or perhaps a different perspective that challenges my assumptions. 2) More often than not, I find them a source of encouragement as I realize that there are others on similar journeys, struggling and seeking to come closer to Jesus.

An example of a “glimpse” is a recent quote from a Richard Rohr blog post entitled “The Loss of Community”. 

People want something more from church; they long for a spirituality that connects with their whole life, not just on Sunday morning. The very nature of our lifestyle and our church teaching must point to the goal: the communion of saints, a shared life together as one family, Trinitarian relationship, the “Reign of God.” Church is meant to be a place that nurtures and supports individuals along their journey toward this goal. Much of formal church has been unable to create any practical community. Yet today we see the emergence of new faith communities–many para-church structures–that seek to return to this foundational definition of church. They may not look like obvious “church,” but they exemplify the kinds of actual community that Jesus, Paul, and early Christians envisioned. People are gathering in neighborhood associations, collective gardens, social services, and volunteer groups to share resources, support each other, and nurture connection. They’re coming together, seeking creative ways of healing and whole-making. The invisible church might be doing this just as much, if not more, than the visible. The Holy Spirit is both humble and anonymous.

Two observations about Rohr’s words,

First, the sentence, “People want something more from church; they long for a spirituality that connects with their whole life, not just on Sunday morning.”, describes my own underlying motivation to join with others to plant Shadowland.

Secondly, I was drawn to his description of “new faith communities”, which, I felt, resonated with the vision for Shadowland. Reading that quote was reassuring and confirming that we are on the right path. For that reason, I quickly added it to my collection of “glimpses”.
I hope this glimpse will serve as reminder as well as an opportunity to evaluate the extent to which the Shadowland vision is shaping our lives.

Pre-departure checklist

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It has become increasingly clear that I need to develop what I call a pre-departure check list. Apparently I have reached the stage of life where such measures are necessary. Truthfully, I would not have recognized the need except for my faithful, concerned, loving wife. Therefore, in the interest of avoiding embarrassment for her and other concerned relatives and friends I am adopting the checklist below. Please note, this is a living document. It will be revised and updated as required. Suggestions are welcomed.

  • Fly zipped.
  • Shoes/socks match.
  • Nose crust removed.
  • Check shirt/ pants for food / stains.
  • Glasses cleaned.
  • Bed head combed.
  • Ear hair removed.
  • Do clothes coordinate.

Your assistance is appreciated .

God’s Presence

At worse, we give lip service to God’s presence, but then feel and act as it we were completely on our own. I think of church committee meetings, pastoral counseling sessions, or even spiritual direction meetings I have attended. They often begin with a sincere prayer, “God, be with us (as if God might be in attendance at another meeting) and guide our decisions and our actions.” Then at the end comes, “Amen,” and the door crashes shut on God-attentiveness. Now we have said our prayers and it is time to get down to business. The modern educator Parker Palmer calls this “functional atheism . . . the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with me.”

 

Gerald G. May (via Pete Enns )

How lucky we are!

We might want to believe that, “There but for the grace of God go I,” but a more accurate telling of our behavior denies the graces which have made our lives possible even exist. We don’t think success is grace, we think success is us.

What might our world look like if more Christians recognized the role of grace rather than our illusions of enterprise? Perhaps we would ask what others needed rather than what others deserved. Maybe we’d concern ourselves with sharing the bounty of our table rather than the protection of our property. Perhaps our language would be seasoned with hopes of elevation rather than the rhetoric of condescension. Maybe when we considered what best promoted flourishing the answers wouldn’t always be haplessly regurgitated cliches about the work we thought we did.

Knowing we live by grace, our interactions should always be generous. Generosity of dollars, charity in our assumptions of other’s worth and work ethic, and kindness regarding the individual and corporate sins might become our hallmark. Judgment, it seems, is born from exalted self-evaluations. This is why Romans insists that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

 

The New Testament argues that no one is “self-made.” “Every good and perfect gift comes from God.” Your life is a product of grace. And as John 15:5 teaches, “Without God, you can accomplish nothing.”

Sean Palmer

Seeing death from a different place.

We strive toward intimacy in anticipation of loss. If my father, now 88, were destined to live forever, and if I were destined to live forever, too, then our affection would be stripped of its poignancy and urgency. If my children were destined to stay indefinitely 6 and 8 years old, I wouldn’t cling to their childhood for its sweetness; nor would I endure its liabilities with the reassurance of imminent maturity. The cornerstone of optimism is the willingness to believe that the inevitable is desirable. There is no other fruitful point of view.

Andrew Solomom

Food for Thought

My age and circumstances (in Florida for two months) are fertile ground for more than usual opportunity to think about a variety of subjects. Despite the ubiquitous din of political rhetoric and inane commentary, two subjects have arisen which continue to stimulate and intrigue me.


 

The first subject is about the spirituality of aged Christians and how they fit into the church community.  I have been thinking about this for a number of years but a recent blog post renewed my interest. “What About this Cutting Edge?” The post is worthy reading. The quote below concludes the article and asks some of the questions that I am wrestling with.

I know it’s now true that the Millennial generation has surpassed the BBs to become the largest living generation. I understand why the church is so concerned about ministering to them and including them in its life. But for heaven’s sake, there are about 75 million graying people out here too. And many of us are asking, “What does life with Jesus look like when I’m 65? 75? 85? older?” What does it mean to follow Jesus in the late autumn and winter of our lives? And why don’t churches seem to care?

I plan to post some of my thoughts, material and resources that I encounter along the way.


 

The second subject has arisen as a result of our participation in a local church plant.  The vision cast for our church plant community is in significant contrast to the mother church. Like any church plant, there is a concern as to whether or not it is succeeding or failing. Typically, success or failure is determined by stated or implicit metrics i.e. attendance, giving, conversions, ministries , etc.  If the church plant is simply a replication of the mother church, such metrics can be helpful in measuring success or failure. However, when the vision of the church plant is unique, the usual metrics may not serve as well. The question I am pondering is, considering the vision of our church plant, what, if any, are the metrics we should use to measure our progress or lack there of?  Similarly, I plan to post some thoughts and ideas on a regular basis.