High School Retreat and Great Quotation!

Our high school ministry at First Pres, The Core, is headed up to High Altitude this weekend. I know it will be a fun for all and am hoping for much more than that.
This is a retreat that I used to attend when I was in high school in the south Denver suburbs. So there is a little nostaligia for me, but the real fun will be to see our kids worshiping, playing, and connecting with 300-some other kids from Fort Collins and all over Colorado. I can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do in our group and in the individual kids. My prayer is that we are all attentive enough to recognize it and obedient enough to not just go with it, but to spur it on ourselves.

Parting shot for the weekend: John, one of our middle school guys said on Wednesday evening at dinner (addressed at no one in particular): “I find that a small explosion usually works well.” I love middle schoolers!

Until Monday, Peace in Christ.

The Necessity of Tragedy

I just picked up the two Christmas albums by Over the Rhine, which is my new favorite band. The album entitled Snow Angels has an almost title track called “Snow Angel” (note the singular vs. plural). As I listened and re-listen to this song and particularly to the story in the lyrics, I was struck by the odd, but somehow fitting placement of a story of tragedy set at Christmas time. The song draws up a longing in me like a heavy bucket in an old well. It is bittersweet, both satisfying and painful, even as the poem ends with a glint of hope.
Being the obnoxiously introspective type, I began to wonder why I liked this song so much and after some pondering, I began to think about what might be the representational archetype of this story-song, what is the metanarrative of which the slain soldier and his love left behind tell but a piece? It was then that the song became reminiscent of others that I love, namely Jon Foreman‘s “Somebody’s Baby”, Nickel Creek‘s “The Lighthouse’s Tale” and “The Hand Song”, “Under Bridges” and “Estrella” (even “Heart Still Beats”) by Brave Saint Saturn. There are others, but these stand out above the rest to me.
In the lyrics and music of these songs, in the harmonies and minor chords is something that you know from experience. These songs are loved, are embraced by us because they validate our pain and illuminate our own tragedies. Regardless of whether or not the world is imploding at any given point in time, we all know tragedy. Maybe you experienced it when your grandmother died or when that girl rejected you or when the guy you gave your heart to, broke it before causally throwing it back to you. It might have been a tragedy of failed business or of daily struggle for sustenance.
Tragedies come in various shapes and sizes, but they are real to us, regardless of their meaning to a world of cold spectators. Though publishing stories of tragedy is nothing new, it seems to strike a chord in the human heart. Whether the story is by Shakespeare or Sophocles. Those great stories handed down through eons…especially those of love and love lost such as Romeo and Juliet and Oedipus Rex. And certainly, the oldest portion of the Bible is the tragedy of Job (yes, it is a tragedy, restoration of wealth and family does not replace children who are dead).
I look at the recent earthquake in Haiti and see tragedy. And while our primary concern needs to be the alleviation and comfort of suffering people and a suffering nation, it is just as human to want to explain tragedy. Some, like Pat Robertson, explain this tragedy and others as divine retribution. And while that is a general possibility, I certainly don’t think that it is the case in Haiti, at least not the way that Robertson is pushing the idea. But this sort of theorizing has always been a tendency of humanity. We have enslaved ourselves to rational causality!
Look at Job. After tragedy strikes, he is in mourning and his friends join him. Shortly, they begin to offer their views as to why Job’s wealth, health, and offspring have been taken from him. They want to point to his own actions as causing his predicament. Job himself seeks the answer in his own questioning and in his defense against their hypotheses.
And as Rob Bell points out in his video “Whirlwind” (Nooma #24): after everyone has had their say, God speaks. Most of what God’s words are questions directed at job which insult every human instinct and desire of explaining causal relationships in series of events. The bottom line is that God is sovereign.
The ultimate tragedy was the death of God himself, incarnate as Jesus Christ, the God-man. Even Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I will not argue Christ’s motive in this allusion to to the Psalms, but I will say this: God experiences our tragedy with us. It was necessary for salvation, for redemption. I believe that part of the reason we love tragic story is that redemption must come out of tragedy. Whether that is the fall which leads to salvation through Jesus Christ or the crucifixion, which leads to the resurrection. There is an intimate connection between tragedy and redemption.
Look to your own life. Look to your personal tragedies. Look to your music and to current events. Grieve for tragedy. And look for redemption. Look to God, see what he can do, what he has done already. And look to tragedies like the Haitian earthquake. Be part of the redemption. Help write the rest of the story and look forward to the final restoration when Jesus comes again.

Customer Service Kudos – Newegg.com

In July of 2008 I purchased a 22″ flat panel monitor from Newegg.com. Newegg no longer carries my model, but they do have it in the 20.1″ size: here if you want to see it. It was a decent buy at $240 (with a final price tag of $180 after a $70 mail in rebate). Now I had a former roommate who had a smaller monitor (his was a 19″ I think) from the same manufacturer, Sceptre. His monitor died after a while and mine just had the same problem. The issue appears to be an electric switch that tells the display whether to be in standby or normal mode. In both instances the switch failed to be always in standby: thus nothing on screen. Needless to say, it is a bummer to not be able to see anything.
My monitor was out of warranty by a couple months, but luckily I had purchased an extra year of coverage from Newegg. So step one was to make a claim with ServiceNet, the company handling the extended warranty. This went smoothly and I received instructions to ship the monitor sans cables to them for inspection and attempted repair. This went off without a hitch.
Shortly thereafter I received a call from Newegg conducting a survey of the customer service I had received, which I gladly raved to them about. I them waited for several weeks and then received a check in the mail for the full purchase amount! I then received a second survey call from Newegg wanting to make sure I was satisfied with their service. I again raved about it.
After all of that, I actually netted about $20 and the power, audio, and VGA cables which came with the monitor. I doubt I will buy another Sceptre display, but I will continue to use Newegg.com for the majority of my computer hardware purchases. For me, Newegg is not just about great selection and low prices, but primarily about good service. I stand behind them.