Saturday, April 15, 2006

Good Friday

Went to the Service of Darkness tonight at Church. I love these services, and the way they force us to come face to face with the ugliness of Good Friday, so that Easter morning is that much more beautiful. As much as we would like, we cannot escape the sheer brutality of what happened that day. We cannot have Sunday's resurrection without Friday's crucifixion.

After the service I stuck around to walk through the Stations Of The Cross. It was incredibly moving. It reminded me of walking a Labyrinth. 7 artists in our church supplied 2 works of art each, to help illustrate the stations. There was a booklet with a picture of each piece, relevant verses of scripture, an explanation and a prayer for each station. The booklet also included descriptions by each artist of what inspired and motivated them to create each piece, and what they were thinking as they did, which I found most interesting of all. I was amazed at the level of talent within our congregation. I also really love the fact that my church places such a high emphasis on art in worship. Several stations offered opportunities for interaction. Station 2, when the cross is laid upon him had an actual cross for picking up, and feeling the weight. The stations where Christ fell (3,7 and 9) all had stones for you to kneel on, so you could feel the sensation of cobblestone or gravel on your knees. Station 8, where Christ meets the women of Jerusalem, and tells them not to weep, had tiny cups of salty water so you could taste their tears. Station 11, the Crucifixion, had a hammer, huge nails, and a piece of wood for you to nail into. I'm so proud of my church for offering an opportunity like this for the community. I think it would be great if we could leave them up all year long, but unfortunately we just don't have the room.

Tonight's experience made me wish I were more creative. I'm far too lazy. It also brought to mind something that's particularly appropriate for today, which we all might get a kick out of. I haven't read this in forever, but I thought i could include it here, for posterity.

The Gate
Inside the stony gateway awaits the anxious hoard.
They nervously anticipate the coming of the Lord.
Through the ancient doorway rides the only son of God,
To traverse the cobble roadway holy feet have yet to trod.
"Hosanna! Blessed is the king!" the master hears them say,
Bearing coats and branches that they lay down in His way.
He cries for them, and knows deep down inside for Him, their hate.
An ass's colt His mount as Jesus enters through the gate.

Now they wait, outside the gate, an angry mob this time,
To see the man condemned to die, though guilty of no crime.
A heavy cross upon His back, and beaten half to death,
He struggles up the muddy hill, gasping for a breath.
Though His burden's heavy, from the maddening crowd He hears
Streams of curses aimed at Him, blaspheming in His ears.
He knows His death is imminent, Golgotha will not wait.
In spite of this, He loved me still, while stumbling out the gate.

Hanging there upon a tree, His soul vacates it's shell,
Through the murky depths descends the catacombs of Hell.
Bound in chains the souls of those who died before the cross.
His holy ones will be redeemed, they shall not suffer loss.
Forgiving sin, the sacrifice, He died all souls to save.
Three days and nights His body lay, lifeless, in the grave.
He breaks the bonds and steals the keys to seal the tempter's fate.
Hell cannot prevail against this rock who stormed the gate.

A stranger to this world, I am - a pilgrim in this place.
My path is straight and narrow made because of Jesus' grace.
Atoned by substitution - Praise the Father! Praise the Son!
Praise the Holy Spirit - for it's nothing I have done.
My righteousness as filthy rags, I scarce can take it in.
Grace, like a bloody blanket, warms my heart and hides my sin.
Lord, should I falter and forget thy goodness, do not wait,
To take my hand and lead me to my home beyond the gate.

- Jason Thomas, 1991 (age 14)

How embarrassing.

BONUS: a prize for anybody who can tell me what that picture is from. I'll be your best friend, too.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Interpret THIS...

So, last night I had this dream. I dreamt I was in some kind of travelling theater company or something, and we had this play we were going around doing at different places. Next stop: Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. Rob Bell's church. Naturally, the dream-me was super pumped up at the thought of being at the real-(dream)-life Mars Hill, and hearing Rob speak in person again. For whatever stupid dreamy reason, we arrived after their two morning services had already finished, and just in time for their last service of the weekend, on Sunday night, and would therefore not be hearing Rob after all - but would instead be the main event ourselves. I wandered around the building amidst the crowd of people, hoping to meet the man himself, when all of a sudden, here comes Rob Bell clad in a leather jacket and Ray-Ban shades, down the aisle toward the back of the room. He brushes right by me as I say, "It's really cool to meet you in pers- oh.. .nevermind then...".

My thirst for celebrity thoroughly quenched, I turn to see my fellow players coming toward me, asking where I've been, and pushing me toward the exit doors. Color me startled when I bump into someone on the way out, only to turn around and see something I never thought I would. My own grandfather, W.H. Rallinson Jr. (in extremely poor health of late), a man who hasn't darkened the doors of a church in decades, is standing there. Turns out he'd been commuting to West Michigan from Minden, Louisiana every weekend for years and years, and hadn't bothered to mention it to any of us. Looks like it took a church like Mars Hill to bring that man back around to God's side. I guess if there's any church that could do it - that's the one. He smiles a big smile, and we share a moment there because it's been a while since we've been together. Too long, we say.

Dumbstruck, I'm in even more trouble now because the curtain is about to go up, and I still don't know if we're doing Twelfth Night, or Twelve Angry Men, or what. End of dream.

Beats me what the heck it means. As I mentioned, my grandfather has been in very poor health lately, and I have not been for a visit in quite some time, what with the new job, new city, and all. There may be a bit of fear on my part that something unfortunate will happen to him before I have a chance to see him again - which is odd, because although I love him dearly, I've never really been sentimental about him. There was a sense when I woke up, not of joy because he was in church again after all this time, but of dread, because maybe his being at church meant that his time had finally come, somehow. Maybe on some level I feel guilty for not having seen him in so long (I missed his birthday again this year), and this is just my mind's way of expressing it. Or maybe, like Sigmund said, "A cigar is just a cigar."

Monday, April 3, 2006

Fair warning...

This Wednesday morning at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 a.m. in the morning - the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06. This won't happen again until the year 3006.

So... I guess... make a wish. Or kiss somebody. Or take a picture. Or all of the above in any combination. Or - OR... you could just, you know... sleep.

In other news, you'll never guess what I did last night. Jr. high guy and I chose 10 names out of a hat, and invited those kids over to his house to watch Wrestlemania 22 on Pay-Per-View. Seriously? Wrestlemania? His idea. That's exactly the kind of event I would talk myself right out of. I guess it just figures that it was the most fun I've had at a youth event in a LONG time.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Number one with a bullet-point

It's J.T.'s 100th post extravaganza!!
In celebration of my hundredth post, may I present to you - bullet-points.

- It's halftime of the LSU/UCLA game, and things are not looking good for the Fightin' Tigers. That's okay, though - because our boys are no strangers to a point deficit - not for years. Anyway, I have confidence that even if they don't win this one - they can erase the 15 points that currently seperate them from UCLA. If they DO win, then look out Florida. No way you beat us twice in a row. Either way - Congratulations, guys. You played a great season, and got infinitely further than I ever figured. Your games vs. Texas A&M, Duke, and Texas provided me enough thrills to last me a long time. Can't wait until next year, when I'll tune in earlier in your season. GEAUX TIGERS!

- How about this week's LOST, huh? I'm still debriefing on that one. How about that map that Locke saw when the black light came on? Full of diagrams and Latin phrases. Well, for your edification, here are a couple of enhancements and translations of said map. I think you'll find them interesting.

(Click either one to enlarge)

- Anybody see those "The More You Know" PSA's done by the cast of The Office this past Thursday? Too funny, man. I'd embed the video of them here, but I'm a little gun shy right now, for reasons I'll mention in the next bullet point. Instead, you can find them right here on the NBC site. I think my favorites are the ones about calling your own fouls, and taping yourself having sex.

- So, a couple of days ago, I was checking the Stat-Tracker on this site, and saw a couple of visits from an unexpected place. The U.S. Department of Justice. A couple of weeks ago I linked to a video from of the West Wing promo that showed Josh and Donna finally getting their kiss on. I'm not sure if maybe there's somebody in the D.O.J. who really enjoys TWW, and was checking out a several-weeks-old promo video on youtube on taxpayer time - or if the D.O.J. is issuing a round of fines and subpoenas for people who use video that's not theirs. You think I should be worried? I can't imagine NBC being upset about it, though. After all, I'm giving them for free what they would normally have to pay for. Right? Right?

I took the video down.

- GiGi is a lady at my church who runs the Journey Bookstore. She's the coolest, really. Always makes me smile. Periodically on Thursday nights, the bookstore hosts a special lecture, or teaching on specific subjects. A while back, GiGi asked me to do one on some Jewish traditions, or something... I forget exactly. That kind of pumped me up, because we all know how I love the Jews, and their traditions. I guess I let that one slide a little bit, b/c she came back to me with a different idea, and this time - she brought dates. She asked me to do a lesson on De-bunking the Da Vinci Code. Now, I gotta be really honest here. I've never even read the Da Vinci Code. I'm not even all that sure it needs to be de-bunked. I'm not even sure what bunk is, or if the Da Vinci Code contains any. What if I read the book, and really enjoy it? That's not outside the realm of possibility. I'm actually kind of excited about the movie that's coming out. Well, GiGi is not the kind of lady that you can say no to. So, here I am - de-bunking scheduled for the end of April. I guess I'm looking forward to it.

- Brian McLaren's new book, The Secret Message Of Jesus is out. That pretty much means that all my other reading (after the Da Vinci Code is done, of course) will get put on hold. Blissfully on hold.

- By the way - if you read this, and you're on MySpace and haven't found me yet, look me up.

Well, that's all I got. How's that for a 100th post? I could probably have covered all of those if I had bothered to post at all in the last couple of weeks.

J.T. out!