Tired and Hopeful

Well, another semester, another year, is wrapping up, which means time to look back and to look forward (and to start blogging again).

I’m usually pretty tired at the end of a semester, which means I’m also a little more grumpy/cynical than normal. This is the natural outcome of another year watching people make the same mistakes over and over again (even though your advice and guidance is so golden). Of another meeting where someone is on their phone the whole time. Of another person late for the millionth time. Another cancel. Another flake.

That’s life. That’s ministry. And at the end of a semester it sure feels like it has added up into a huge mound of “why-can’t-people-get-their-stuff-together.”

But despite that I can’t remember a year ending and feeling this good about life.

Fundraising has gone well, with the usual unbelievable stories that go along with it.

I am so proud of our students. This year has been packed with great stories, life change, and a very clear front-row-seat to God moving.

I love our little community in Roslindale. Having multiple friends right down the street has been life-giving.

Our family is amazing. Amy is an incredible mother, and Marina is a joy to be around (those things are very strongly correlated).

And I have a lot of hope that there are some very cool things coming up just around the bend. The future is bright. Praise the Lord.

First World Problems, Atheism, Gender, and Thinking

Tony Jones created waves this week when he said that he is not an atheist (despite his doubts about God), because the overwhelming majority of people around the world believe in God. (Original post here; response to waves here)

In other words, atheism is a first-world problem.

Which is a fascinating way to think about it, and it highlights a common conversation I have with students.

Higher education in the US places students squarely in the middle of a great paradox.

  • On the one hand, they are lucky enough to have access to an incredible amount of knowledge, research, information, and skills. They have access to more of these things than any other human beings in the history of the world.
  • On the other hand, what is presented and taught as enlightened/educated/sophisticated thinking (and not just the thinking but also the conclusions) are ideas that are actually shared by a very small percentage of people (both historical and living).

A great example of this (alongside Jones’ point) can be found in this interview with Camille Paglia. Her point is neatly summarized by the sub-title of the article: “ignoring the biological differences between men and women risks undermining Western civilization.” (Read the whole thing, it’s a tour de force).

I’m sure my feminist friends at various universities around Boston would want to paint Camille as a quack, but here’s the more essential point: what is often packaged as truth and enlightened thinking are ideas and conclusions that very few people around the rest of the world actually share.

Now, I am not a traditionalist, I am not advocating for group think, or for chucking our ability to draw our own conclusions.

But, and I am speaking here most directly to my student friends, what is often communicated to you, especially in the university setting, are conclusions draw from a very  narrow stream of thought. The knowledge available in this world is a big, wide steam.

There’s a lot more out there.
Keep thinking, keep exploring, keep learning.

Drama Camp #sojournboston #collegiateministry

One of the beautiful stories of the summer is unfolding in the Dorchester neighborhood through one of our key neighborhood partners. The Quincy Street crew pulled off a great summer Drama Camp program last year (they did a performance of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”), but they have taken it to a whole other level this time around. They wrote grants (and received them), they hired neighborhood youth to be Jr Counselors, and they recruited Sojourn students to be interns and volunteers.

This summer the campers are writing their own play, which is very cool. In addition, they are learning all kinds of amazing skills, new games, positive ways to interact and help each other, and getting to see some sites via Friday Field Trips. I love everything about this, but I especially love watching our (college) students invest in this program and this neighborhood. Most of the students volunteering or interning have experience in theater or music and it’s beautiful to see them using their skills and training to bless these kids. I attended the Drama Camp Open House last night and was blown away by what they all have accomplished over the last few weeks. Check out the pics:

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DIG!

Great start last night to SojournBoston’s summer gathering, which we like to call DIG.

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Easter!

Celebrated Easter with REUNION (our church community) and then had students and family over for dinner. Good times!

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Affirmative

HPIM6762There are volumes of virtual articles and actual books that examine the current generation of 18-35 year olds. Some of that work is highly positive, a lot of it disconcerting, and there’s a bit of it that is downright paranoid.

There are certainly things to be concerned about. If I wasn’t concerned I wouldn’t do what I do.

But, I am also deeply encouraged.

I see signs of hope all the time. During conversations over a cup of coffee, in students who wake up early on Saturday mornings to tutor kids, in our leaders, and on trips like we took to Joplin.

For 8 days I saw students who have grown up in the most self-centered, narcissistic era of all time (according to some), give and serve and sacrifice, and do it all with a happy heart, a cheerful disposition, and absolutely no complaining.

Which was amazing, but here’s my favorite part:

At the end of each spring break trip I’ve been on I’ve led groups through a simple exercise called “the hot seat.” When you are on the hot seat you silently sit and let the rest of the group speak words of affirmation and life into you.

It’s deeply moving.

Students today get all kinds of accolades and positive feedback from the culture at large (especially if they buy the right things, wear the right things, and say the right things on Facebook).

But, in my experience, as these cultural accolades increase, there is less space for
an actual person,
who actually knows you,
who has actually seen you in your element,
to say real and honest words
to your face.

In these moments you see the power of words, the power of real human interactions, and the greatness that resides inside each of these individuals.

We are blessed right now with some amazing students who God is using to do amazing things.

I’m grateful to just be here and to witness it.

“Most American …

“Most American teens do not, by and large, abandon their identification with religious faith during the first year out [first year in college]. Religious involvement drops, to be sure, but not teens’ self-identification as a religious person…

“Teens who deposit their religious identities in a lockbox during the first year out do so because they see everyday life and religious identification as separate and distinct entities. Teens view religious faith and practice as largely irrelevant tot his stage in their life cycle.

“The religious story of most teens is the story of a thousand missed opportunities…it is striking how haphazardly most congregations go about it…they gain only sketchy and frequently mistaken understandings of what their religion believes and practices…

“When all is said and done, what most teens gain from this haphazard religious socialization is reinforcement of the theistic and moral dimensions of popular American culture: ‘There is a God; God wants me to be a nice person; and he’ll help me out if I am.’ It is a simple faith, but a surprisingly enduring one, as it can withstand long stays in an identity lockbox.”

From “The First Year Out” by Tim Clysdale