Thursday, March 08, 2007

Simply Connected

I played Halo 2 with some friends over XBox live for a few hours on Tuesday night. I was reminded of how much a few simple gifts in the past 7 years has changed everything. Video games systems bring limitless opportunities for contagious community. One of the many bits of wisdom that I have picked over the years is that community forms around shared memories. I would add that, for men, community flourishes around shared memories and nicknames that come out of those memories.

I haven't researched this statement but I believe that Jesus was one of the first recorded nickname-givers in history. Simon became the "rock" (not the people's champion), James and John became the "sons of thunder." God has been in the business of changing names from the beginning. In many ways, the newly given names point to who the persons will become as they fulfill God's calling on their lives.

That was a side comment on nicknames, now back back to memories. In April 1999, I received a Nintendo 64 from a friend in my small group and we started playing Mario Kart after every small group gathering. Quickly, the competition became intense. Every night, new memories were created because no two races were the same. Every time we played together was a unique event.

Years later, my wife bought me an XBox for my birthday and the game of choice was Halo. Once again, I hosted numerous gatherings of playing Halo with friends. The XBox took playing to the next level because my friends and I could connect boxes and get as many as 16 players together. The "Halo Fests" were some of the sweetest times of friends getting together. One aspect of the fun was the nicknames that came out of playing together. Each player creates a player profile with the name and quickly we began to change how we referred to one another. Gregg became "Maximus" and Jeff became "Julio" and etc..

Years later, and this brings us to the present time, I played Halo 2 over XBox live with friends from multiple chapters of my life. In fact, there were additional players who were invited in by other friends too. In one game was a friend from UVA (and also afterwards), a friend from a small group right out of college, a friend from a church after I got married, a neighbor from my old neighborhood in Virginia, another common friend, and a brother of my friend from UVA.

We couldn't have orchestrated that gathering even if we tried. The community continues on and the memories are being made, and yes, more nicknames are being given...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Early mornings

I can barely remember the days before the kids when I would set my alarm in order to wake up to read Scripture and pray. I still read Scripture and pray but I often have Dora the Explorer yelling in the background.

This morning, I was able to get some time alone at 6 AM. My "routine" reflects my love for reading Scripture and reflecting on what I hear. Recently, I have been reading from the lectionary along with others in the Company of New Pastors. I decided to start on my own this morning with a reading from Psalm 119. Psalm 119:45 says "I will walk about in freedom for I have sought out your precepts." I composed the following prayer after reading and rereading this verse.

Holy and Gracious Lord, you are the source of freedom and lover of my life, you have given me your precepts as a source of life, may you grant me the grace to follow them so that I may walk about in freedom, for your name's sake, Amen.

What does it look like and feel like to "walk about in freedom" throughout the day? I can honestly say that right now I am experiencing that reality.

I have heard a lot of criticism, whether direct or indirect, about "personal piety" during my time at Princeton Seminary. The comments often focus on "quiet times" just like the one that I described. To be fair, I agree with the criticism aimed at legalistic systems that lead to individuals feeling like they have performed their Christian duty. The criticism that I have heard, however, often focused on the act itself of "spending time with the Lord."

In my view, spending time with the Lord is life-giving and the best way to begin a day. I don't know about you but I would like to be a person who "walks about in freedom."

How do you respond when you hear say that they had a "quiet time" or "spend some time time with the Lord" this morning?