Monday, January 25, 2010

A Convicting Point

This was a blog post that rather cut me to the core. Enjoy!

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year ala Philadelphia Snow

Not writing a blog post on January 1st seemed inappropriate. However, I was not quite sure how to begin yet another year of online composition. Previously, I've done "Year in Reviews" but found my answers this year to be a bit lacking. They shall not be shared. Take your complaints to the editor.

In its stead, as you sit around your houses, verbaling espousing new years resolutions and inwardly avoiding all nagging demands of commitment, eating the last of the Christmas goodies, reminicing about past years, and drinking your sparkling cider or other beverage of choice, you can be entertained by my Philadelphia celebration. It acted as a 24 space between the 30 and the 31st and neatly capped off the year.

This past year, Philly as seen more of me than I had imagined that it would. I have also seen more of it than I had imagined I would. The two are not exactly the same thing, though at this exact moment I am baffled as to what the difference may be. It began with excursions to outlying villages such as Fort Washington, first in May (to see Tim, Leah, Kristina, Jon, and the other Hurd family), then in August (same), and then in early November to attend the Philadelphia Biblical University's Worldview Conference (with previously stated Hurds and Miss Mundell) and then to drop in on Lindsey Smyth. Now this Lindsey character was a staffer at the Beach Project, my home this past summer. She is now the Area Director (ooooooooo, aaaaaaaaah) of the metro Philly/South Jersey regions for the CCO, abiding in the interesting region of South Philly. The November trip was the first time I had spent any recognisable time in the actual city. I rather liked it. Philly is its own world, completely unique unto itself. Most cities are like that, I have found, but Philly has quite a history and current goings on that it has a particularly strong personality. This personality resists judgement; is not particularly welcoming; is undoubtedly attractive and strong.

The thing about Philly is that while it has its own unique character, it is also rather diverse in how it plays itself out. South Philly seemed to be a really dynamic expression of this. Or perhaps I just associate it with my first hair raising trip to Lindsey's house in the dark, where I drove the wrong way down a one way street, failed to parallel park correctly, and couldn't find the right house. Arriving a second time on her door step (while the parking issue was the same), was a much more lovely experience. I was there to celebrate the Beach Project with a small reunion. I had seen most of the folks present at some time during the semester but it was lovely to be with them all again. Risa (my roommate), Lindsey, and I cooked up a Beach Project classic for dinner (egg plant parmesian) and by 6pm eight of us were gathered around the table to share what crazy things God had been up to over the past few months. Though the location was different, the sense of security, hospitality, and joy that marked the Beach Project community was very present. It has been quite the semester for us all. We gathered in the living room afterwards, full of warm eggplant (I assure that eggplant tastes better than the name implies) and laughing, crying, ranting, sympathizing in turn. I forget how much God taught me through these people, through this past summer, until I am among them again. It can be hard to remember when very few in my direct circle at school even remember that I had spent my summer in Ocean City, encountering things I didn't know I needed to encounter. I have grown in ways necessary for all that unfolded for the ministry I have been able to participate in at Penn State this semester.

The guys eventually left and the girls enjoyed a long night of talking, book recommendations, a trip to Wendys (where they were out of frosties, frenchfries, and spoons), McDonalds, personality types, and the like. In the morning, we slept in, ate pancakes from homemade batter, saw Risa off to the airport, and stopped by a local coffee house. The driving let those of us unfamiliar with the area get to enjoy the strange inconsistencies, quirks, and life of Philly without being responsible for the driving. To quote Lindsey: "Driving here is like performing in a circus without rules. I love it!" Weeeelllll... I wouldn't be able to live there, but the strange way parks crop up out of nowhere, the way the trees stand self-consciously behind small fences, the way the sky scrapers reflect the sky and look like they are full of snow, make it a place that I can somehow imagine having an affection for. This is even including my intense hatred for the roads and traffic which had me gridlocked behind City Hall for a very long time. It was the first time in my life that I think I truly experience panic (but that is another story for another time). Even with all of this, I was sorry to leave when the time came.

The 24 hours there were a reflection on the semester, the summer, the year, but one we were able to share together. We scattered to our homes to be with family and other friends but I sense that those hours were the true marking of a change in time. Weariness, fatigue, doubt, and fear mended themselves in the background. I am more than a little grateful for those folks in my life and for the freedom I have among them. While I have various "resolutions" or desires for the next year (ex. reading more Doestoevsky), I think keeping an awareness up for His community will be key. I want to be aware of it and seek it out, knowing that in those places the growing and changing happens. It comes everywhere: my dorm hall, my family (key!), at Navs, next year in Patty's Place, discipleship, the local church (Oakwood at school and wherever I may be in the summer), my writing workshops... looking for these will make this quite an exciting year.

And to quote the spiritual that Alex sang the last Sunday in 1st Pres of Ocean City (which I take to be talking about my Savior and His provision through His people):

"I've been washed up/ I've been beat up/ I've been misunderstood./ But with you I belong/ and you help me be strong./ There's a change in my life/ since you came along."