Sunday, August 28, 2005

Because Even Criminals Have Bed Times

Three weeks ago on Sunday evening the Absurdist was at a cookout at a home on Spring Place Northwest in D.C. At about 8:00 as we sat on the front porch enjoying bratwursts and beer, we witnessed a D.C. National Guard Humvee, towing high-powered lights, pull up to the triangle formed by the intersection of Spring Place and Perry Place where Spring takes a turn north.

Three soldiers emerged from the Humvee and erected the lights, which ran off a generator in the trailer at the base of the light pole. As they were setting up they were joined by two D.C. cops who drove up in a MPDC van. The lights were set up to illuminate the entry to the alley behind Perry Place.

As we watched this scene unfold, the discussion turned to speculation about the purpose of this operation. The consensus quickly reached was that this was an effort to discourage drug dealing at that spot, prompted by the community’s complaints to the police.

Once the light was erected and shining on the alleyway, the soldiers and police officers stood around chatting for the next two hours.

At 10:30, the National Guardsmen tore down the lights and drove away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Grace Happens

The more I learn about Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, the more I admire the man and the more apparent it becomes that his legacy has shaped who I am. John Wesley was both a theologian and a social reformer. You could say that he not only talked the talk, but that he also walked the walk.

One of Wesley’s contributions to theology was the concept of prevenient grace. Now, I don’t know about you, but prevenient isn’t a word that I use every day. It turns out that it means coming before or preceding. Prevenient grace is the love of God that already exists for each of us no matter who we are or what we have done. When we open ourselves to the experience of prevenient grace we are not tempted to sin. Salvation is an experience in the here and now, not just the promise of everlasting life.

Wesley’s concept was in contrast to the teaching of the theologian John Calvin - predominant amongst Protestants at the time - that grace is applied selectively to those whom God has determined to save.

Someone has found a pithy bumper sticker phrase to explain prevenient grace. I’m sure you’ve seen these bumper stickers: the one’s that say “Grace Happens.”

If you think being a Christian is about living by rules, then you’re missing the point. Because grace happens, anyone of us can be saved. You are saved when you allow yourself to be loved by God. You are not saved by getting the theology right. You are not saved by believing in the correct doctrine. You are not saved by belonging to the right church – not even Foundry. You are not saved by reading your bible every day, going to church on Sundays, taking communion, and praying before meals. Although, all those things will help you to feel grace happening.

I am trying to put all the pieces of our religion into their proper perspective. There will always be questions which we cannot answer. God warned us of this in Isaiah 55, verses 8 and 9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We cannot always know what God wants of us. Christians will always disagree, but we can rest assured that God’s love is there for us when we are ready to accept it. Ours is a faith that is experienced – and the experience is waiting for us.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Are You Sure There is a Shuttle to the Airport?

Last weekend I needed to fly to Manchester, New Hampshire and spend the night. I compared hotels and made a reservation at the cheapest one that offered a courtesy shuttle to and from the airport: the Econo Lodge.

When I arrived at Manchester Airport I walked out of the terminal and found the parking area for the hotel shuttles. I saw neither a shuttle for the Econo Lodge, nor a sign indicating where to wait. So I headed back into the terminal and used the hotel courtesy phone to call Econo Lodge. I was told that it would be a while before the shuttle arrived and to take a taxi and get a receipt to be reimbused by the hotel. That worked just fine for me.

The Econo Lodge is located in one of Manchester's many old mill buildings. When I checked-in I mentioned that I needed to be back at the airport by 8:30 and I asked about getting a shuttle. "No problem," I was told. I headed up to my room.

Econo Lodge fills a very important niche in the hotel industry. It offers reliably clean and comfortable rooms inexpensively. The Econo Lodge's that I have stayed in have been well worn hotels, but that is fine by me.

The continental breakfast the next morning offered coffee, orange juice, cold cereals (Cheerios and Corn Flakes), and plastic wrapped muffins and danishes. Photographs on the wall of the breakfast room revealed that the building had originally been a shoe factory.

Having eaten breakfast and packed I went to check out and asked when to expect the shuttle to the airport. "Eight o'clock" I was told. It was just quarter till. I bought a copy of the New Hampshire Sunday News (a mediocre newspaper with a conservative editorial line) and sat down to read until the shuttle arrived.

Eight o'clock came and went with no sign of the shuttle. I'm a patient person, I just figured it was late. At ten past I asked, "are you sure there is a shuttle coming?"

"The shuttle is running late. I have called a taxi. It is on its way."

Within minutes the taxi arrived and I was delivered to the airport on time. Obviously the hotel didn't reimburse me for the second cab ride.

I doubt very much that the Econo Lodge in Manchester offers a courtesy shuttle. Maybe they once did. I suspect that they do just as they did with me on the occassions that someone actually asks about it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

However, Yankees Fan is Always an Insult

I have a friend from church who was born and raised in Arkansas. I grew-up in Vermont. When she wants to give me a hard time she calls me a Yankee.

It seems she thinks that is an insult.

Yankee is a word that’s meaning, both who it applies to and the denotation, differs by geography. Outside the U.S. it is used to apply to Americans generally. It is just as often as not used derisively. In the American South, it means anyone from the North and it is always an insult.

For New Englanders, Yankee is used self-referentially and denotes self-reliance and thriftiness. It is sometimes used jokingly to describe older men who hoard things for some possible future usefulness or who go to ridiculous lengths to avoid spending a small amount of money (these traits are actually very common in New England and they are considered charming and amusing).

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Mixed Messages

One of the new Circulator buses passed by me on Seventh Street at Pennsylvania earlier this evening while I was walking to Screen on the Green. The sign on the bus was alternating between "Try Transit" and "Not In Service."