Fenwick Northrop

Fenwick Northrop walked calmly down the sidewalk, kicking stones as he headed home. It was approaching 1 a.m., and Fenwick was returning to his dorm just before visitation hours ended and he would have had to leave his girl friend’s place. It was a school rule that nobody particularly cared for, but most grudgingly followed. It was most annoying when you tried to watch a late night movie but had to segregate genders come 1 a.m.

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Bookstores Like Libraries

Tonight I noticed that a large section of the populous doesn’t understand my ideals. I’m working on a paper for one of my graphic design classes and I’ve been having some difficulty finding information. I tracked down a new book online that looked like it would be helpful, and found a bookstore that carried the book. I went to the bookstore, got the book, and sat down with my notebook to read the opening pages. The coffee shop area of the bookstore I was sitting in was crowded with forty-somethings. A forty-something band was playing in the corner. There wasn’t a person under thirty in sight, besides me and my fiance. As I copied notes from this book I could feel every eye in the place looking over me disapprovingly. Apparently I’m supposed to buy the $75 book for four pages worth of information. Everyone else in that section of the store had a book they were reading–of course they intended to purchase the book when they got up to leave. I returned my $75 book to the front desk where they had held it on reserve for me. A large section of the populous doesn’t understand this cheap college student mentality. If I had the money I’d buy all sorts of books. But I don’t, so pardon me while I browse the shelves and copy down a few notes. Bookstores should be more like libraries. You can take the book home and read it, but you don’t have to keep it.

I Don’t Have the Answers

The April mist sinks to the ground forming tiny dots on the glass, asking why I’m still awake. Contemplating this and considering that, seeing myself with righteous eyes and wondering how I can change the world with my own two hands. Or I could just let them all go, the heathens–a lost cause. But truly it’s a wonder that I’m not the lost cause. Perhaps I am. Perhaps God has given up on me long ago, leaving me to wallow in my own arrogant pride.

I like to think I have the answers. I put up this front, this face fixed in thought, the furled brow and the hand stroking the chin. I’ll raise an eyebrow when I see you stumbling down a path I’ve been down. I know where it goes and someday you’ll undoubtedly come to my conclusion. Until then I’ll just nod and smile and let experience teach you. I’m so smart. But if you really push me, push each thought and action, you’ll see I’m just as hollow as you. If you really push me I’ll cave in, admit I’m not that smart, and throw up my arms in righteous surrender. I may be wrong, but I know when to admit I’m wrong, thus I save face and don’t look quite as foolish as I am.

We like to think we have Jesus all figured out. We like to think ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ was such a simple and easy test. But we really don’t have a clue. We’re as lost as the Pharisees. And when I point this out I’m just as lost. I’m secretly hoping you won’t realize that one of the tables Jesus overturned was mine. You see I was in the bathroom when he came through, saving face once again. We look at Judas and see a man thoroughly given to Satan. That’s what we like to think. But really you are Judas. I am Judas. We kiss the face of Christ, and then walk away. At least Judas realized what he had done and dropped the act. What we do if grace found Judas before the rope? Wouldn’t that be a skeleton in our closet? The grace of God is something I’ll never understand. He would have wrapped his arms around Judas and laughed. Tears would well up in his eyes and he would have thrown his head back shouting to anyone who would hear, “My son has come home.”

That grace is mine as well. Christ wraps his arms around this self-righteous soul and his tears wash it all away.

Stealing Isn’t New

In one of my classes today we were discussing the demise of the author and the internet was drawing heavy flak. In modern literary theory the work has become more important that the author who wrote the work, and such ideas are being reflected in all of society, and especially the internet. In business collaboration is encouraged, making it impossible to give individual credit. On the internet personal property is becoming more and more public as ideas are “borrowed” and many people fear out right robbery. Being a web page editor I felt obliged to defend the internet. After all, it’s not the internet’s fault that people are crooked.

Of course the whole discussion wasn’t simply an attack on the internet. But what I did come away with is an understanding of how the internet has changed our ability to break the law. If someone is going to steal copyrighted work, they’re going to steal copyrighted work. In the pre-internet days that meant photocopying a magazine article or simply retyping it yourself, or making a cassette of your friend’s record, tape, or CD. Now with the internet we have massive information deliverable instantaneously. Hence it’s easy to steal written work, and more usefully, recorded songs. Look at the proliferation of mp3’s and the fuss it has every major recording company in. Trading songs without buying the CD isn’t anything new. Bootleg tapes have been around since tapes were invented. Mp3’s have just enabled people to get the exact songs they want faster, easier, and cheaper. The internet hasn’t brought about any new disrespect for personal work, it has simply allowed that disregard for the author to magnify itself.

People complain about the internet being such a threat to copyrights and an individual’s work. But we’re not dealing with anything new. We’re dealing with plain and simple human ethics, the same thing we’ve been dealing with since the apple.

The Woman’s Response to Jesus

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9 NIV)

This passage intrigues me. It seems to go against everything we read in the Bible, it makes a declarative statement about what will be told when the gospel is preached, and it seems like no one ever listens to or understands this passage. All through the Bible we see a theme of ‘give to the poor.’ Jesus seemed to echo that theme. He told us it would be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus told the rich man to go and sell all that he had and follow Jesus. Enter a woman with a jar of expensive perfume. We’ve seen Jesus in action before and we think we know the answer. The woman should have sold the perfume and given it the proceeds to the poor. That’s what Jesus will say! No. He calls her action beautiful.

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Elian and Jerry Springer

Sorry about the hiatus. I skipped town for Easter weekend and was a little slow in getting back in the swing of things.

Elian. Just by starting with the name I’m driving some of you away. That name and his smiling little face has been in the news since December. I’m a college student who doesn’t keep up with a lot of what’s going on in the world, but I can’t help but know what’s going on with Elian. I really don’t care to know, but you can’t get away from it. This weekend Elian was forcibly taken from his relatives in Miami and reunited with his father. What I don’t understand is why this thing has dragged on for so long. The poor kid’s mother died, so put him with his closest relative, his father. What does it matter that his father lives in communist Cuba. You’d think we’d be over that by now. And what was with that forcible raid. The media flashes so many memorable images (there’s a contradiction) and the image of an INS agent in riot gear with an assault rifle aimed at Elian and the man holding him will stick with me. Who is acting in that child’s best interest when he has to be dragged away screaming at 5 in the morning by men with body armor and rifles? Obviously the government had to deal with the protestors outside and relatives who weren’t exactly cooperative. But a pre-dawn raid with machine guns? And what about Elian’s Miami relatives. What were they thinking? We love this child so we won’t give him up, even though that means you’ll come busting through our house with guns.

This whole thing just blows my mind. It’s utterly stupid. It’s the typical plot of a daytime talk show. What I want to know is how many other children like Elian are there out there? How many other children are caught up in sticky custody battles with feuding families? But nobody seems to care. Why should I be so concerned about a boy in Miami?

Another Church Rant

Venomous rhetoric and unfounded claims, simple affirmations without citation. You pull on the heart strings and claim you do good. But you have a hidden agenda, don’t pretend you’re innocent. It boggles my mind the way facts aren’t really facts. My facts and your facts are completely different, and so I throw my arms up in the air. We can’t even get along with our own kind, how are we supposed to change the world?

Christians, of all people, should be taking a visible stand for what is right. Churches, of all places, should be free of stereotypes, racism, sexism, hypocrisy, materialism, pride, and hate. But are they? I don’t think so. How often do we walk into church and an hour later go home unchanged. A once a week service means little to us. Certainly we believe, how dare you question our faith? It’s our action that could use a once over. Are Christians the people you think of when you think of social activists? It seems we’re too content to hide in our churches and mutter about how the world is trying to destroy us. Whose side are we on? I don’t remember signing up for the losing team. The battle is already won, yet we whimper and whine about each little infringement on our rights. We hold up any martyr we can and moan for fair treatment. You want to talk about infringement of rights, what did they do to Jesus? They didn’t just picket Jesus or try to limit his constitutional rights. Who cares if they want to walk all over our rights? Who cares if they pass laws that we don’t like? Our job isn’t to make a wishy-washy Christian nation. Our job is to make Christian disciples. You don’t need a Christian nation to do that, so why don’t we stop trying to legislate our morality and start spreading the word?

Faking My Way Through an Apartment Search

Have you ever done something and had absolutely no clue what you were doing? Your only recourse is to fake it. That happened to me this afternoon. In an attempt to solve my summer housing situation, my fiance and I went on a tour of a potential apartment. In the past three weeks I’ve learned more than I’ve ever known in my entire life about renting an apartment. I’ve looked places up, made several dozen phone calls, and made multiple calls to my parents in one week.

Today I took the big step and actually toured a place. As the manager lead us across the property and towards the empty apartment we were going to see, a dull silence descended on the three of us. The multitude of questions I was prepared to ask had somehow all slipped away. I had a sheet full of questions you were supposed to ask before renting an apartment, all sorts of odds and ends like where can you do your laundry, how much does it cost, and are there specified hours when you can do your laundry. All kinds of in depth stuff that you probably wouldn’t think of until the situation actually arises–if it ever does.

As we walked across the property I forgot everyone of those questions and could only listen quietly while the manager rattled on about this or that insignificant detail, punctured by awkward silences when I felt like I was supposed to congratulate her on her complex. As we toured the apartment all I could do was poke my nose into every corner and nod, as if I knew what I was looking at. Yep, that’s an empty bedroom. I don’t see any holes in the wall. Yep, that’s a linen closet. It has shelves. Very good. What am I supposed to say?

Near the end of the tour I managed a better showing, actually asking several questions and procuring a copy of the lease, something that’s certainly not necessary at this stage. But it made me feel like I knew what I was doing.

Why do I feel like I’m going to be faking my way through the rest of my life? If you look at every major area in life–I probably have experience in none of them. So what am I going to do? Fake it. I suppose eventually you get good at faking it, and by then you know your stuff. See what college does to your perspective on life?

I Am the Pharisee

For some reason I always think I have the answers. Why is that? I never do. You’d think I’d learn by now. So often I’m the Pharisee. I’m the one trying so hard to be righteous that I forget what it’s all about. I fuss and complain when Jesus doesn’t do the things I want him to. I judge others and somehow I always end up on God’s side of an issue–or rather God is always on my side of the issue. So often we look at the Pharisees in the Bible and think, “Silly Pharisees.” But we just don’t get it. That’s us. So often I think of them as the hypocritical religious leaders and I relish watching Jesus stick it to ’em. But if I’d look a little closer, Jesus is sticking it to me, too. Arrogance and pride are deadly sins (aren’t they all?), and if it happened to the Pharisees, who am I to think it can’t happen to me?

Reflections on Palm Sunday

Today I threw off the shackles of homework and responsibility and I cleaned my room. What a concept, huh? When I get busy I start stacking things in piles. Let’s just say my corner of the room was becoming one big pile. I had a pile on my dresser that was more than a foot high. So I spent my Sunday afternoon cleaning and organizing. Sometimes it’s nice to devote Sundays to something besides what you do the other six days of the week. If only I had the time to treat Sunday like a Sabbath day.

Palm Sunday. Several times today I saw people walking around with palm branches. Once was on the way home from church when we passed another church that was just getting out. The second time was while we were eating at Perkins and a family came in after a Palm Sunday service and the kids were still carrying their palm branches. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt and the people laid down their coats and cut down palm branches to lay in the road. Make way for the king. It’s quite an act of praise, and something a lot of churches try to reenact. But what gets me is the attitude of those people who were praising Christ. A week louder a crowd was shouting for Christ to be crucified. Was it the same crowd? If it wasn’t the same crowd, where were the palm branch people when Jesus was on trial? We see it as quite a triumphant entry, but it wasn’t really that triumphant. The people were hoping for a king who would overthrow Rome. Jesus wasn’t interested in that. Furthermore, Christ knew what the people were thinking. He knew what would happen in a few short days. Can you even imagine the emotions that had to be playing in his heart?

Easter is an immense time. It’s very difficult to understand exactly what we’re celebrating. I think it’s very rare when we actually understand what Jesus did. We like to lay it out in a simple four step plan, print it up in a fancy little pamphlet–but it’s not that simple. It’s one of the most profound and amazing things. And thank God for it.