I’ve Got Spirit, How ‘Bout You?

This week, we’ve been in full-on “school spirit mode,” as we prepare for this weekend’s Homecoming activities. 

I’ve never been a huge sports fan, but I have always been a booster of wherever I am–I have colors from a number of places:

–Red, white, and blue (Central-Hower and then Niles)

–Purple and White (Mount Union and now Garrett)

–Blue and Gold (Akron U and METHESCO)

–Black and Orange (ONU)

–Purple and Gold (Ada)

I think that’s it.  There may be others.  I’m a sucker for school spirit-themed items, and I absolutely love school sweatshirts.  In fact, when I was in high school and college, I even went through a phase when I wore college sweatshirts from schools I didn’t even have a connection to (Harvard, LSU, OSU, Akron U, Baldwin-Wallace…)

A few weeks ago, when ONU played Mount Union (which is my alma mater–there, I’ve admitted it!), Kelly and I wore shirts that cheered on both teams.  Kelly’s shirt said, “I (heart) N & M,” and mine said, “Go United Methodist-Related Universities!”  It was fun, and a great way to cheer on both of our beloved schools. 

There’s something about cheering on the home team that unites us all, brings energy to a crowd, and helps build community in places where community might otherwise be very difficult to build.  When you’re cheering on the Buckeyes, or the Polar Bears, or the Zips, it doesn’t matter if the person next to you is a Democrat or a Republican, or if they belong to your religion, or if they are the same color as you, or anything else…as long as they’re not cheering for the “other guys,” they’re o.k.  School spirit is fun, too, and there’s never been anything wrong with that. 

So, as we gear up for the big ONU Homecoming celebrations, I’m taking some time to appreciate all the places, people, and great schools that have made me who I am today.  And, I’m grateful to be working in an environment where wearing my school hoodie is frequently encouraged.

Go Team(s)!

–David

 

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Breathing Space

This time last year, I was writing about the stress that students were feeling as they contemplated the mid-term of the semester with no break in sight until Thanksgiving.  I remember that even those of us on the staff of the university were feeling the stress build up, as we dealt with increasing levels of anxiety among students, and the general sense of low morale.

Thankfully, this year’s academic schedule includes a fall break, which will occur this weekend, and then Monday and Tuesday of next week.  I don’t know about all of my colleagues, but I’m intending to take those days as days off as well.  I need it! 

All of us need breathing space from time to time.  We all need to sit back, relax, and engage in the spiritual practice of doing nothing of any use.  God’s commandment to the Hebrews of the Bible was to take one day in seven to rest.  Most people have a “weekend,” even if that day or two off occurs at a time other than Saturday and Sunday.  Companies that seek to employ the best workers also recognize that those workers need time to themselves, and time to spend with their families.  I’m convinced that our bodies need rest on a regular basis if we are to function at our best.  The same can be said about our spirits. 

What do you do to take time out, to relax and connect with God?  Do you attend to your physical and spiritual need for rest?  Or, do you value yourself based on how much work you get done, how productive you are, and how many hours you put in on your job site or in your office?  Take some time this weekend to reflect on how well-rested you feel.  An exhausted body/mind/spirit is, in the end, no good for anyone at all.

Blessings for rest,

David

 

Shutdown, Violence at the Capitol, Online Communion, and Twitter Quips…what a week!

This week has been one for the record books!

For the first time in 17 years, the U.S. Congress was unable to pass a budget in time to prevent a shutdown of the government.  In the present political climate, it seems highly unlikely that Democrats and Republicans will be able to reach a compromise, since both parties seem to be dead set on maintaining their rigid positions, even if it results in chaos, and the eventual loss of support from the American public.  I’ve heard a lot of “throw them all out!” this week, and I have to say, at times I have agreed with that call. 

In the midst of the shutdown, it was reported yesterday that shots were fired on Capitol Hill.  At first, my reaction was, “Now what?”  I thought that we would have to go through another round of hand-wringing by both sides of the gun debate about what we should (or shouldn’t) do to curb gun violence/gun ownership.  Instead, we later learned that the shots were not fired by a citizen, but by the Capitol police, in order to stop a woman who had led the police on a chase through Washington, D.C., from the Treasury all the way to the Hill.  As the woman got out of the car (unarmed), police opened fire.  Now, what seemed at first to be a cut-and-dry case of gun violence has turned into a conversation about police powers, necessary force, and on a wider scale, how we as a society handle people with severe mental illness.  At it’s base level, that’s really what all these conversations about violence have been about–how do we handle mental illness in a society where we are so often quick to make judgments about motives for violence?

In The United Methodist Church, a group of bishops, agency leaders, pastors, and theologians gathered this week to discuss what response the church should have to the possibility of offering communion in an online format.  The conversation ranged from those who absolutely would forbid the practice, to those who are already practicing e-communion.  Ironically enough, the much more interesting debate (in my mind) was argued on Twitter and Facebook.  It seems that a sub-culture of UM’s has developed over the past few years among those who observe and comment about the goings-on of the church in real time–even (and especially) those of us who are not at the actual event being discussed.  The result is usually snarky, an a little funny (in my mind, the two are often the same thing–I’m working on it!), and can lead to frustration among those who are actually on the floor of the debate or conversation.  “Why don’t you people on Twitter just leave us to have our conversation without making side comments that are tangential to the topic, or are unhelpful because you’re not here in the room?” is something I sometimes here from these types of events.  My response?  Why do you create and publicize a hashtag and encourage people to tweet and comment, then?  As we continue to see an increase in the use of social media in the church (which, by the way, is as usual several years behind the curve of the wider culture), we need to find ways to enable authentic conversation that utilizes technology as a tool for building, rather than destroying, community.  I guess people like me will have to leave the snark in our back pockets from time to time in order for that to happen, but I also think it would do the hierarchy of the church well to realize that technology is neither something to be feared at all costs, nor something that should come to replace the value of face-to-face interaction. 

Finally, on a similar note, I was humbly put in my place this week when I commented on someone’s tweet on Twitter.  After the fact, it was pointed out to me that the original tweet, and my comment, were slightly sexist.  I admit that I hadn’t seen it that way at the time, but I was grateful for my friend who pointed it out to me.  It was a good example of the love of Christ working through social media, correcting error and building a more beloved community.  Instead of tweeting back, “Don’t be so sensitive, it was just a #joke” (which was my knee-jerk reaction–emphasis on the “jerk”), I was able to open myself to another person’s perspective.  This was mostly due to the fact that my friend had pointed out my error in a loving and non-judgmental way. 

So, the common  thread in all these stories?  Life is rarely ever what it seems on the surface.  Motives are usually not as simple as they seem to be from an outsider’s perspective.  No one is easy to understand.  Relationships take time to build up, and trust can too easily be destroyed by an off-hand comment.

My advice?  We all need to take a step back sometimes, take a deep breath, and chill out.  And I need to listen to my own advice on that one.

Peace and Blessings,

David