Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remarks at the Memorial Service for Dr. Omar Khalidi

Memorial Service for Dr. Omar Khalidi

Let me welcome you to the MIT chapel. We gather to honor and remember Dr. Omar Khalidi. He was a friend, a mentor, a scholar, a librarian, a father and a husband. He was also much more. In the days following his death, I have read the words of people across the world who have responded to his passing.

“India has become a little poorer with the passing of Dr. Omar Khalidi.”
“(His) voice will be sorely missed.
“I lost a dear mentor today. And the Indian Muslim community—one of its intellectual guiding lights.”
“(He was) the voice of the Indian Muslims during some of their darkest hours,…”

I do not doubt the truth of these words because on of the things I wanted from Omar was to learn from him. We had been talking about something that we might do together as he stitched the next chapter in his life. It was an intriguing possibility for me; for him it was a chance to do what he had done for a long time, a chance to teach someone who needed to learn what they did not know about a corner of the world he knew very well.

As is often the case here at MIT Dr. Khalidi was better known beyond our walls than he was here. That is a sad reality for many who labor in realms removed from science, engineering and related disciplines. Belatedly today we remind one another how much he was loved, how highly he was regarded. We do that because human kind is often left with limited weapons in our contest against our mortality.

Our best response to Omar’s passing is to share with his family the grief we all carry. Their burden is even greater than ours for they knew him in so many different ways: beyond professional accomplishments, beyond words on paper and we will realize I believe that what have lost with Omar’s death is much more than we thought. We lost a friend, but also a teacher; we lost a window on the world that we cannot replace.

Our time together today is a time to reflect on what has happened and a time to begin thinking about the holes we must fill. What happens here will help; what happens after we leave and gather over coffee and tea in W-11 is part of the process and that is what it is: a process that will go on for along time and always hurt. I am reminded of Emily Dickenson:

THEY say that “time assuages”,—
Time never did assuage;
An actual suffering strengthens,
As sinews do, with age.
Time is a test of trouble, 5
But not a remedy.
If such it prove, it prove too
There was no malady.

And in this case there is a malady; time will not assuage but we who carry on will do our best work in honoring Omar’s memory by having eyes that see a larger world, and hands that do greater work.


How Can We Understand Death?

What can we know of death, we who cannot understand life?
We study the seed and the cell, but the power deep within them will always elude us.
Though we cannot understand, we accept life as the gift of God. Yet death, life’s twin, we face with fear.
But why be afraid? Death is a haven to the weary, a relief for the sorely afflicted. We are safe in death as in life.
There is no pain in death. There is only the pain of the living as they recall shared loves, and as they themselves fear to die.
Calm us, O Lord, when we cry out in our fear and our grief. Turn us anew toward life and the world. Awaken us to the warmth of human love that speaks to us of You.
We shall fear no evil as we affirm Your kingdom of life.

Gates of Prayer, 624

December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Living Holy (Whole) Lives—Family
This semester in chapel we are in a series entitled, “Living Holy (Whole) Lives”. Today we will focus on the family.
The family begins with the marriage relationship. We see God’s intent for marriage early in the Scriptures in Gen 2:24—a passage often quoted in weddings, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
God shows us in this passage a number of things:
• that in marriage a man and a woman begin new life together—and this new relationship is even closer than that of the parent and children,
• that this relationship is not temporal but permanent,
• and that sexual intimacy is approved by God in the marriage relationship.
There is much wisdom here that if followed will bring wholeness. Even while newly married couples would be wise to seek counsel of their parents, this new relationship needs SPACE AWAY FROM their parents to thrive—there ought to be some physical distance, and financial and emotional independence. The umbilical cord needs to be cut and both parents and their adult children who are marrying need to be ready for this new kind of independence.
Also, sexual intimacy is intended to be experienced in a committed relationship—the husband is to “hold fast” to his wife. “Hold fast” can be translated STICK, FASTEN ONESELF or CLEAVE. Without the security of a committed relationship, intimacy of any kind will be short-circuited. Without an assurance of stick-to-it-ed-ness in the marriage relationship, the real self—fears and weaknesses—can never be fully disclosed because the relationship is continually vulnerable to the threat of one partner leaving for greener pastures.
So, there is wisdom here in living by Gen 2:24. I’m reading a book right called Sex, Romance and the Glory of God by C.J. Mahaney and he notes that this passage is interpreted in a distinctly Christian fashion in the New Testament. In Ephesians 5:22-23, the apostle Paul quotes Gen 2:24 then says, “This mystery [of being one flesh] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” The remarkable thing about this passage is that marriage between a man and a woman is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church and not the other way around. That is, the relationship between Christ and his people is the proto-type. Christians should seriously consider this God-given, holy design for our marriage, and mirror it. We should resist the designs for marriage that we are offered by Hollywood and by our culture that based on self and it’s not based on our needs. Happiness is a wonderful by-product of marriage, but it is not the main purpose for it.
In my own marriage, I as a husband am instructed to love my wife, Michelle, as Christ loved the church. What does this love look like? Christ loved his people by coming to earth, by modeling a life of perfect devotion, by dying for our sins, by praying for us and by one day returning for us. Christ’s love was an intentional love, an initiating love, a sacrificial love and a caring love. Does Michelle experience this kind of love from me? Does she feel more like a wife or a mom? Does she feel pursued by me? Do I know what she likes—the places she hopes to see, the books she would like to read, the gifts she would like for Christmas, the ways I could help with the kids and around the house? I need to proactively ask and learn these. What are 10 specific ways that I could love my wife this week? I need to make these happen and be as intentional—even more intentional—with her as I am in my professional life.
Prayer: Father, I pray that our marriages would grow in oneness—that our marriages would grow in unity of purpose and of love. I pray that they would be marked by a humility rather than pride, by mutual submission rather than subjugation. Father, may our marriages serve as relationships that promote wholeness in both partners and in the children who live under these marriages. Amen.

Mike Bost
Campus Crusade for Christ

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Tuesdays in the Chapel
October19, 2010

From The Good Life, by Peter Gomes

For most people, the time of failure is the most important time of testing in their lives. Margaret Thatcher once said that “Failure is not an option,” by which she meant to imply the inevitability of success, but the truth of the statement transcends even her own meaning: we do not willing choose failure, but our moments of testing and maturity will be determined by how we choose to deal with the failures that are inevitable. We might say that where there is failure, there is life; and it is failure in life, as in science, that will help us to redefine what success is, and what success can be.


Jno. 13:5 “For I have set you an example, you should do as I have done for you.”
Matt. 23:11 “The greatest among you will be your servant.”

Our words today are about failure. How do we integrate failure into our lives if we wish to be whole? I think immediately of Brooks Conrad, the infielder for the Atlanta Braves who committed three errors in a game against the San Francisco Giants and cost his team the game. He will be remembered for his failure and more significantly he will have to remember what happened.

The topic is not an easy one and one not dealt with explicitly in the Christian tradition as I knew it growing up. “If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.” is not found in the Bible. It is a maxim from the early 19th century used to encourage students to do their homework.

And the difficulty is that there are failures and there are failures. When you fail to jump from one flat roof to another in an urban setting you have a failure that you may not get another chance to redeem. When you fail to be on time picking up your children at the movies you may hear about it for the rest of their lives, but you will not lose your children. You just keep apologizing. When you fail to do a problem on a P-set you learn to do it right and you can.

So failure may or may not be terminal And you can learn something about yourself when you fail. “You are what experience makes you.” says Brian Wilson the reliever for the San Francisco Giants comment on the experience of watching doctors fail to cure his father’s cancer when he was was 17. That is also the message from J.K. Rowling.

But there is a more fundamental problem with failure. It is un-American. Our job is to make things happen not live with the incomplete and flawed. There is as well another notion that runs through our religious traditions: the notion that we are called to serve. And service is for many of us just another way of making peace with not being the best. There is a little book that has influenced many and shows up in surprising places called Teacher as Servant: a Parable by Robert Greenleaf. Early in the account, the protagonist tells the reader, and the Housemaster of the dormitory where he wishes to live, that the notion of being a servant bothers him and the Housemaster, a physics prof, tells him that the key to understanding what it means to be a servant has to do with doing things without being concerned with getting credit. Being a servant does not mean not accomplishing anything or being second rate, but simply not worrying about who gets the credit for what is done.

To serve is not to fail or to settle for second best, but rather to enable to process of doing to continue without putting ourselves front and center. It is a challenging task but one made easier by remembering the text from the teachings of Jesus. We are called to serve the common good. We are called to serve our university, our community, our family, our work and this remains true no matter where we are or what our vocation is.

This is a difficult notion to get our minds around. It is easier seen in how Christina does the jobs I ask her to do. She can say to me, you asked me to do such and such and I have done it. But each week she also pursues her work as a vocalist in a variety of venues where the measurements of success and failure are less clearly defined and often she serves others by not so quietly helping them be better than otherwise they might be. Often she shines and draws attention to her own work, but not always and often her own standards are higher than the audience’s standards.

In our efforts to be whole, we will be better for thinking through this difficult topic.
How do I manage the inability to not do something or simply not do it to my own measure of success?
Does my willingness to fail make me more compassionate when working with others who are learning what they cannot do?
Do I measure success by the attention it brings me or by the work that is done regardless of who gets the credit?
Brian Wilson is right: we are what our experience makes us, but we also hear the voices of our teachers the examples they leave us.

Closing Reading

J.K. Rowling
Harvard Commencement
June 5, 2008

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Work

The following readings and comments are from Tuesdays in the chapel for October 5, 2010

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – The Village Blacksmith

UNDER a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.
And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.
He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought

In some ways, I suppose, we might say that Whole or Holy Work is embedded in the very mission of MIT as an institution.

If you do not know it, let me read it to you and draw a few reflections for us this morning.

The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world's great challenges. MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind (emphasis mine).

It is this last phrase that seems particularly applicable to our topic today.

In many ways, I’m not sure I could write a better mission statement for the work of a chaplain at any institution or write a better theology of work.

This mission to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind echoes an encouragement of the Apostle Paul in the Christian scriptures to how Christians should be diligent about, “…doing something useful with you own hands, that you may have something to share with those in need.”

This seems like Holy Work – educate for the betterment of humankind.

But, as I visited this pas week with a student entering the Institute to pursue his doctorate in electrical engineering, I was reminded that our mission in theory does not always meet our mission in practice. Because there are competing missions that are at work to fragment the Wholly/Holy intention.

As this student reflected about their current job, there was a sense of dissatisfaction because there was nothing left to discover, nothing left to create…only continue to take what exists are and make it more efficient. Over and over.

Where excitement began to pour out was in the description of what lies unknown at the crossroads of genetic mapping and electrical engineering, the reason for entering The Institute. It is likely that the “work” he will get paid for when he is finished has yet to be discovered. But, he wants to be a part of that discovery, something stirs him to be part of making something for the future.

I tell the story because whether we serve in the chaplaincy, as instructors or we are engaged as students I’m sure that we frequently experience this tension, whether in conversations with students or colleagues, but just as likely a wrestling within ourselves… a tension that divides us. Working a job for good money, or something with a deeper satisfaction.

It is a related tension I hear when visiting with entrepreneurs who speak of bottom of the pyramid and developing markets as both those who can be helped with access to new technology as those who also become consumers, new markets for larger profits.

Although working for the betterment of humankind is a lofty goal, and one might even say holy, the experience of my own life (and I would say likely most of us) and my experience as a chaplain is this lofty goal of work is often hijacked by two other equally powerful forces:

• Identity/Status
• Wealth

Work is holy or whole when what we do and who we are does not create fragmentation.

There is a weariness found in fragmented lives. When work is simply a means to an end.

In the Christian narrative man is created in harmony with work in the garden, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

There is a harmony between God, His creation, and the work of taking care of the earth. Holy work, is work that integrates our soul rather than satisfying fragments over competing missions.

Working for Status/Identity and wealth often competes against our work for the betterment of humankind.

The result is not simply a wrestling with what is right/wrong or a concerns of unethical practices. The result runs much deeper. It creates internal conflicts. Conflicts that cannot be worked out in an ethics class that is distant from the praxis of our work.

When I work for status/identity, when my work defines me, when success defines me…what happens when I do not reach the goal? No one I have ever met has entered The Institute to become mid-level management at a mediocre company.

Quickly we must split the soul to deal with our lack of success…work becomes a means to an end, we lose our passion for what we do.

When wealth becomes part of the equation…and no doubt…when millions of dollars for R&D are being spent with an expectation of results and way of life is connected to this dependent chain…we are more likely to compromise…to use others…to falsify results.

We are more likely to split the soul, to convince ourselves that the end will make the means pure. We must compartmentalize and fragment to move ahead.

But, what we witness in this fragmentation is a weariness that comes with unwholly/unholy work. We see weariness of work often. Not because we are physically incapable of the labor, but because our soul wearies at the battle.

There is a great story told in the New Testament, in the gospel of Luke about a man named Zaccheus, defined by Luke as a tax-collector…by others as “a sinner”. The story is short…Luke doesn’t tell us the nature of the conversation between Jesus and Zaccheus…only that there was a dinner party. In the midst of which Zaccheus stands and says, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
9Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house…”

I’m struck by the story, because my contemporary ears and my own journey wonders at the relief that Zaccheus must have felt as he reintegrate his life…to re-align his life…and not just to give back what he may have fraudulently taken, but 4 times that amount! That is moving toward the betterment of humankind. Zaccheus could fragment and justify his work.

“It is for building roads to connect commerce.”
“I’m looking out for my family.”
“My position allows me influence into civic life.”

Wholly/Holy work compels us on an individual level, as well as an institutional level, to reflect on whether our work is accomplishing the mission…for the betterment of humanity. Or whether competing missions, identity, status, wealth, prestige, etc. only give nod to our real mission and leave us fragmented in our soul.

Timothy Hawkins

A Celtic Blessing

May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work that you do
with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light
and renewal to those who work with you
and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of
refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert,
approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

On Families

Living Holy (Whole) Lives—Family
This semester in chapel we are in a series entitled, “Living Holy (Whole) Lives”. Today we will focus on the family.
The family begins with the marriage relationship. We see God’s intent for marriage early in the Scriptures in Gen 2:24—a passage often quoted in weddings, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
God shows us in this passage a number of things:
• that in marriage a man and a woman begin new life together—and this new relationship is even closer than that of the parent and children,
• that this relationship is not temporal but permanent,
• and that sexual intimacy is approved by God in the marriage relationship.
There is much wisdom here that if followed will bring wholeness. Even while newly married couples would be wise to seek counsel of their parents, this new relationship needs SPACE AWAY FROM their parents to thrive—there ought to be some physical distance, and financial and emotional independence. The umbilical cord needs to be cut and both parents and their adult children who are marrying need to be ready for this new kind of independence.
Also, sexual intimacy is intended to be experienced in a committed relationship—the husband is to “hold fast” to his wife. “Hold fast” can be translated STICK, FASTEN ONESELF or CLEAVE. Without the security of a committed relationship, intimacy of any kind will be short-circuited. Without an assurance of stick-to-it-ed-ness in the marriage relationship, the real self—fears and weaknesses—can never be fully disclosed because the relationship is continually vulnerable to the threat of one partner leaving for greener pastures.
So, there is wisdom here in living by Gen 2:24. I’m reading a book right called Sex, Romance and the Glory of God by C.J. Mahaney and he notes that this passage is interpreted in a distinctly Christian fashion in the New Testament. In Ephesians 5:22-23, the apostle Paul quotes Gen 2:24 then says, “This mystery [of being one flesh] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” The remarkable thing about this passage is that marriage between a man and a woman is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church and not the other way around. That is, the relationship between Christ and his people is the proto-type. Christians should seriously consider this God-given, holy design for our marriage, and mirror it. We should resist the designs for marriage that we are offered by Hollywood and by our culture that based on self and it’s not based on our needs. Happiness is a wonderful by-product of marriage, but it is not the main purpose for it.
In my own marriage, I as a husband am instructed to love my wife, Michelle, as Christ loved the church. What does this love look like? Christ loved his people by coming to earth, by modeling a life of perfect devotion, by dying for our sins, by praying for us and by one day returning for us. Christ’s love was an intentional love, an initiating love, a sacrificial love and a caring love. Does Michelle experience this kind of love from me? Does she feel more like a wife or a mom? Does she feel pursued by me? Do I know what she likes—the places she hopes to see, the books she would like to read, the gifts she would like for Christmas, the ways I could help with the kids and around the house? I need to proactively ask and learn these. What are 10 specific ways that I could love my wife this week? I need to make these happen and be as intentional—even more intentional—with her as I am in my professional life.
Prayer: Father, I pray that our marriages would grow in oneness—that our marriages would grow in unity of purpose and of love. I pray that they would be marked by a humility rather than pride, by mutual submission rather than subjugation. Father, may our marriages serve as relationships that promote wholeness in both partners and in the children who live under these marriages.

Michael Bost
Campus Crusade for Christ
September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Holidays/Holy Days

Opening Reading

"But there is something in the Jewish Sabbath that is absent from most Christian Sundays: a true cessation from the rhythms of work and world, a time wholly set apart, and, perhaps above all, a sense that the point of Shabbat, the orientation of Shabbat, is toward God.

Pick up any glossy women’s magazine from the last few years and you’ll see what I mean. The Sabbath has come back into fashion, even among the most secular Americans, but the Sabbath we now embrace is a curious one. Articles abound extolling the virtues of treating yourself to a day of rest, a relaxing and leisurely visit to the spa, an extra-long bubble bath, and a glass of Chardonnay. Take a day off; the magazines urge their harried readers. Rest.

There might be something to celebrate in this revival of Sabbath, but it seems to me that there are at least two flaws in the reasoning… We could call the second problem with this current Sabbath vogue the fallacy of the direct object. Whom is the contemporary Sabbath designed to honor? Whom does it benefit? Why, the bubble-bath taker herself of course! The Bible suggests something different. In observing the Sabbath, one is both giving a gift to God and imitating Him. Exodus and Deuteronomy make this clear when they say, “Six days shall you labor and do all your work but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” To the Lord your God.
Lauren Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath, pp 11-12

One of the reasons we are gathering each Tuesday is because it is important to give attention to what matters and to talk about it. It is a form of discipline. Broadening the conversation helps us grow. Our readings this morning reference Shabbat and the Christian Sabbath, both Holy days. It is not a mistake that the authors are Christian women trying hard to carve out sacred space in busy lives. Protestants seems not to do that very well.

Here at MIT we have a particularly difficult time in this regard. We are a place that seldom slows down. I was a bit taken aback the other day when my wife described me as having a very ordered life. By that she meant things were planned out in advance, scheduled. I immediately took offense thus proving her point because I have a very long list of things I do not get done and wish to do. If ordered, I am always behind.

I may be disciplined but I do not always get things done as I would wish and I seldom celebrate holy days. My style is holiday. Your know that the words have the same root and you also know as well the difference between Shabbat and the 4th of July. One celebrates us; the other points to God.

We serve our students best when we model behaviors that point beyond ourselves to the things that shape our lives. N.T. Wright has written:

"We honor and celebrate our complexity and our simplicity by continually doing five things. We tell stories. We act out rituals. We create beauty. We work in communities. We think our beliefs. No doubt you might think of more but that’s enough for the moment. In and through all these things run the threads of love and pain, fear and faith worship and doubt, the quest for justice, the thirst for spirituality, and the promise and problem of human relationship. And if there’s any such thing as “truth,” in an absolute sense, it must relate to, and make sense of, all this and more...
Take away any of these elements, as frequently happens—take away stories, rituals, beauty, work, or belief—and human life is diminished.”

From Simply Christian by N.T. Wright, pp. 49-50.

When you are always in holiday mode, you do not give attention to the substance of life. We fail to tell stories; we may act out rituals, but they are the rituals of self indulgence. Too much booze, to much food, too much sex; beauty is eroded and community destroyed by our self-indulgence. I see it most often in students who do not know that alcohol has more than one purpose, getting wasted.

Holy Days stop us in our tracks and ask of us that we think about what is finally important. I have found it touching to watch the Jimmy Carter family come to grips with their legacy as a political force. When he left the White House, it was clear that Jimmy Carter was wounded by the way things played out. His presidency was in the eyes of many a failed presidency. Carter has come to grips with what he did and did not do and seems now to feel comfortable with what he accomplished. His public wrestling with the past should give us all some comfort as we do the same. And Wright gives us a way of thinking about the process. Let us tell stories, act out rituals, create beauty and work in communities while thinking about our faith. We can never give too much attention to why we do things.

Let me offer a modest suggestion: Let each of us each week or month, tell a story, and make a record of it, that illustrates what we value. Carter spoke into a tape recorder, we may not have that luxury but if we consciously try to illustrate what is important to us over time a picture will emerge of who we are and what we value. The effort will make part of each day holy, and the sum will help us be whole.
Robert M.Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute

Closing Reading

"When I was a junior in high school, my boyfriend Herb played on the varsity basketball team. He was not the star player, however. The star player was a boy named David, who scored so many points during his four-year career that the coach retired his jersey when he graduated. This would have been remarkable under any circumstances, but it was doubly so since David did not play on Friday nights. On Friday nights, David observed the Sabbath with the rest of his family, who generously withdrew when David’s Gentile friends arrived., sweaty and defeated, after Friday night home games.

David would sit there in his kippah, openly delighted with the blow-by-blow description of the game. While the Shabbat candles still flickered….

I still remember the night someone asked David if it did not kill him to have to sit home on Friday nights while his team was getting slaughtered in the high school gymnasium. “No one makes me do this,” he said. “I’m a Jew, and Jews observe the Sabbath.” Six days a week, he said, he loved nothing more than playing basketball and he gladly gave all he had to the game. On the seventh day, he loved being a Jew more than he loved playing basketball, and he just as gladly gave all he had to the Sabbath. Sure, he felt a tug but that was the whole point. Sabbath was his chance to remember what was really real. Once three stars were visible in the Friday night sky, his identity as a Jew was more real to him than his identity as the star of our basketball team.
When I was seventeen years old, I had never heard anyone my age say anything like that before. Thirty-seven years later, I remember that living room as clearly as if I were looking at a photograph of it, with David sitting on the sofa like a rabbi teaching the rest of us the way of life…. Sabbath was not a burden for him… Sabbath was who he was.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church, pp. 136-137.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Year

We began our Tuesdays in the Chapel last week. David Thom gave us a good start. Each week we will add the chapel presentations to this site.

Coming to the Chapel each week offers us the opportunity to experience this sacred space. The chapel is lovely and the organ played well offers music that raises the spirit and is heavenly to hear. Occasionally Brian Aull will offer music on the piano for reflection.

When President James Killian set about to build the chapel, it was his intent that the space be used for only a few purposes: simple gatherings for baptisms, and other rites of passage, weddings,and memorial services. Private space for meditation was also important and people have told me their lives had been saved by having the chapel as a place to retreat. Killian would have been pleased that the Chapel is used as a setting for beautiful music.

As the number of people who come here grows each year, it is less common that people tell me that they did not know MIT had a Chapel. After a half-century of use it is about time!

Our gatherings on Tuesday have another benefit that is less obvious, but also important. These times of reflection give us a chance to think and write thoughtfully about important matters in our community. Last year we focused on responding to difficult times. This year the focus is on living whole (holy) lives. We need to be reminded to be thoughtful about such matters. Our gatherings give us the opportunity. It is a perfect blending of space and purpose. I hope you will take the time to join us.

Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5

Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Genesis 12:1-5

In beginning a chapel series that intends to explore living whole or holy lives, I am impressed by the thought that God would love it if we understood His wholeness, and leave our lack of wholeness to Him. Focus on Him and the effect can’t help but be good. Focus on ourselves? Nothing but misery. We hate our holes. God is at work to fill in those holes and like an expert mechanic, He’ll make you pay more if you insist on helping. When God chooses “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Cor. 1:27), that means that God starts His work on us by using people in our lives whom we think that we’re better than. God’s going to use people with holes you can see a mile away to show you holes in yourself that you don’t want to see. And the only way to recover from that ugly sight? Stop gazing at yourself and start gazing at Him.

So here’s God and Abram. God wants to bless all the families of the earth through a married man who has no children because his wife is barren. Now, I am no scholar of Hebrew, or of Genesis, I’m just telling you what I see: Abram looks to me like your average good guy. I’m not sure when he got married, but let’s assume it was somewhere between the time he was 25 and 50. So at 75, he’s known for about 25 to 50 years that his wife is barren. And as we begin his story, we know of no other children by any other wives or mistresses, so one thing we can say is that he’s kept things honorable over the many years he’s been married. Has he been hopeful? I think so. I think The Lord speaks to him in answer to his own very specific prayers about his very specific situation: I don’t think God appears randomly out of the blue deciding to just bless some random guy: I think that God has chosen just the right strong and wise man to shake up.

Has Abram been frustrated about all this? That’s gotta be true too. Abram seems delighted that God is going to answer his prayers, but it seems like he thinks things are going to happen the way he wants them to happen. And how does he want things to happen? I think he wants them to happen without Sarah. See, I think it’s possible for him to have been walking in integrity, committed to fidelity in their marital relationship, but I don’t think there was any real relational harmony. My bet is that they were both terrifically discouraged over Sarah’s barrenness and they probably stopped having any kind of a relationship. That could explain why it was so easy for Abram to give up Sarah to Pharaoh, one of the first things that happens in what we know about Abram. I think that for all intensive purposes, relationally, they were divorced. In Abram’s case, I think he would be happy to move on and unite with someone else and be able to have those children that God was talking about. In Sarah’s case? She doesn’t seem to argue with the arrangement.

Well, if we read the text together, we’d see that Sarah is returned to Abram, and the relationship seems to continue to be frozen. When do things actually begin to change? When is the relationship between Abram and Sarah repaired to the extent that a child is even possible? In Genesis 20, it happens again: a king named Abimelech takes Sarah. With Pharaoh, I think Abram was just trying to speed up God’s plan. But this time, I think he’s so frustrated with things that he’s actually giving up. His name is now Abraham, and now God uses Abimelech to get Abraham to stop gazing at his and Sarah’s problems and start looking at Him, The Lord. God wants him to begin by verbalizing or as we might even say “confessing” his utterly inexcusable behavior for letting Sarah go. My impression is that in Abraham’s so called confession in Genesis 20, instead of being a man in his marriage he persists in excusing himself and blaming Sarah for all their problems. When asked why he gave up Sarah, first Abraham says, “I was afraid you’d kill me” ~ Wrong! Abe’s a first-class warrior. Second he says, “And she’s really just my sister” ~ Wrong! She’s his wife. And third he says, “And besides, it’s God’s fault I’m even out here in the first place and she agreed to this arrangement anyway.” ~ Wrong! The arrangement was a cop-out for both of them. How does God respond to Abraham’s lame confession? God has His man Abraham witness a tremendously authentic and sincere confession by a weak and desperate Abimelech as he confesses his own sin in taking Sarah by giving an enormous reparation to Abraham for taking her and then Abimelech also gives Abraham even more reparations meant to vindicate Sarah and clear her name of any wrong-doing before all men, including Abraham. That is huge! The potentially adulterous couple? They look great. Their holes are filled in! The only person left who still looks like a total schlep? Abraham.

What happens next? The best line in the whole story: “So Abraham prayed to God.” Up until now, The Lord has initiated every conversation between Him and Abe, and Genesis records every word Abraham ever says to The Lord up until this point, and he’s a talker (!), telling God this and that, even arguing with Him, but this is the first conversation He initiates with God. And it isn’t recorded: I think that there must have been some very personal words exchanged between Abraham and The Lord. I can’t prove to you how this was a turning point, but I don’t see how God could have used a man to bless the nations of the world if he hadn’t begun to deal with a broken relationship with his wife. So what happens? Abraham finally looks to The Lord and healing takes place in Abimelech’s household and children are being born again, and then healing takes place in Abraham’s household: in due time, Sarah bears Abraham a son: Isaac.

It’s been 25 years since God promised Abraham that he was going to have a family. Why’d it take so long? Well, I think that since it took Abraham and Sarah 25 years to build up animosity toward each other it was going to take 25 years before they could learn to accept one another. After running away from his problems not just once, but twice, Abraham finally looked to The Lord, and healing began. Isaac isn’t so much the miracle as much as their restored relationship is.

Today is my last day at age 49. I can barely bring myself to say the F-word that I can hardly bare to hear. A lot can happen in 50 years. The foolishness and weakness of Abraham has properly shamed me in my wisdom and strength more times than I can count. Join me in being thankful to The Lord that He loves us so much that He Himself promises to fill our holes, knowing that no one else, not our spouses, not our children, not any of our creations, not even ourselves or our best intentions, can fill our holes. We will always suffer from poor motives and poor understanding. Accept your wife and accept your life: perhaps things will go better for you. And even if your first confession sounds awful, it’s a start. God bless you on your journey.

Closing reading:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

Dave Thom
The Cambridge Roundtable
on Science, Art & Religion

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Memory is a terrible thing to waste. I have just returned from Israel. It was a brief visit, but long enough to get a sense of the country and the concerns of the people. It is not Eden and the nation is not perfect. A common concern among Israelis was that their best friends, the American people and the American government, were forgetting them. Many Americans do not realize the reality that shapes Israel: 36 million Arabs, many of whom will not acknowledge their right to exist, surrounding 5.4 million Jews. That is an unknown fact for many; it is not a forgotten fact.

What has been forgotten is the Shoah, the Holocaust. Israel was founded on a wave of repulsion at what had been seen in the death camps. People remembered and acted. Today there are those who have forgotten and there are those who are intellectually challenged who think it never happened. Israel looks ahead to peace, but it also does not forget. Their neighbors remind them from time to time with rockets aimed at civilians that forgetting is perilous.

Yesterday a judge in California ruled that the ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. The case will continue through the court system with judges responding to the notion that the values of marriage may be shared between partners of the same sex. Today the cries of judge made law are heard. The will of the people who voted against same sex marriages was cited as of more importance than the rights of a few.

Forget that the best way to strengthen the institution of marriage is to better educate those who wish to marry about the values and virtues of the institution. Remember that Americans would not have ended racial segregation without being told to do so by those who held to higher moral standards and those who interpreted the law as serving all people in our nation. Look ahead and understand that health care for all makes us a better and healthier people. Sometimes we need to hear what needs to be done even if it pushes us beyond our comfort zone. This is especially true when there are those who play on our fears and exploit them. When folk have to resort to lies to make their point there is something terribly wrong. Just ask Shirley Sherrod.

Memory is the key. We know where we have walked and by the grace of God we have a chance to be better. Let us not forget.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Drink Responsibly?

Living in the land of the forever young, I try to avoid being a curmudgeon, i.e. a cantankerous person. Occasionally, however, someone needs to play the role.

As we move toward the 4th of July, I am wrestling with a sermon for Sunday. I fill a symbolic role in a local congregation, Senior Minister, in addition to my role at MIT. Once a month or so I preach. The challenge on the 4th is to say something that will be heard beyond the music of the Pops and the bluster of the day. In my hometown on the northshore one small church has opted for a Patriotic Hymn Sing. I think I know what they mean, but my cantankerous side bristles a bit. But this is not about my sermon. Nor is it my sermon.

Drunk drivers on the holidays we celebrate get our attention. Drunk driving anytime leads to tragedy as we were reminded recently in the aftermath of the defeat of the US in the World Cup. Those who sell alcohol ask us to drink responsibly. I'd like to believe they mean it. The current Bud-Light campaign makes me wonder if they really do. The end of the world? Grab a six pack and party away. The Declaration of Independence? It is better with Bud.

We at MIT know what a real concern drinking responsibly is for young adults. How do we teach moderation and self-control when we also wish to encourage passion and creativity? For Budweiser bad decisions lead to passion, some good laughs and sell more beer. Their concern, like other corporate entities of late, seems to be with the bottom line.

Here in Boston we also hear a lot about the Sam Adams Brewery and their desire to craft beer that teases the palate and complements the season. On Saturday night when I have hard conversations with small groups of students with large amounts of beer, they are not drinking Sam Adams. I think I know why. Selling a beer that complements food does not have the cachet of diminished inhibitions.

It is time to ask Budweiser if they really want to be the Goldman-Sachs of the beer industry.

Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Invocation for MIT Graduation


Almighty God, known by many names, called by many voices,

we invoke your presence with us on this day of celebration.

We celebrate the accomplishments of students who have learned and grown as they have longed for this moment.

We celebrate the accomplishments of families who have supported their sons and daughters in ways that transcend the checks to the bursar.

We celebrate the accomplishments that are the result of teachers who went beyond expectations of peers and demanded the best of the students in their care who did not know how good they could be.

We celebrate the accomplishments made possible by mentors who led by example; of spouses who held up tired arms and encouraged flagging spirits, of children who waited.

In these hard days when we are reminded often of what we cannot do, help us to remember what we have done. Let angry words not be our mantra, but rather words of celebration, words of joy and words of hope. Tomorrow will be better because of what we celebrate today!

This is our prayer,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

thoughts from the Koran

Assalamu alaykum=peace be with you, an Islamic greeting in Arabic.

I am truly delighted to be among the believers of God. The Islamic scripture Qur’an says, “Do not despair of solace from God. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who do not believe. (Surah, ie. Chapter Yusuf, no. 87). In these stressful times, I find the particular passage from the Qur’an as a source of strength for us all. As we approach Mothers’ Day, I am thinking of a Hadith.
saying of the Prophet Muhammad. It says: “Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.” I am sure all believers will agree that mothers deserve our love, respect, and admiration.

Omar Khalidi

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are We Listening?

First Reading:

Together, one with one, we can build the new Earth, a place of wholeness in diversity. We can transform our organizations into communities, places of compassion and care.

Our leaders will focus on affirming and renewing values, building community, and releasing human possibilities. Connection, not acquisition, will be seen as the primary human motivator. The core question will be, How can I help?

Together, we will build spaces of renewal, creating safe places in dysfunctional organizations, seedbeds for a new world. We will advocate a new leadership based on service above self. We will replace the leader on top of our pyramid with a leadership circle, moving beyond the rhetoric of participation to shared governance in fact.

In calling forth this new day, let us be guided by our hearts to be the vessels for the light that powers the Universe, to be a chord in the one song of our healed and holy Home

- John Jacob Gardiner, Professor of Leadership, Seattle University, Washington

Good morning. My name is Abigail Francis, and I am the Director of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Services at MIT.

Sometimes I think I may have been called to this position. Have you ever had that feeling…like you were somehow in just the right place at just the right time with just enough experience, skills, and knowledge for the situation? Was it luck…effort…planning…fate…God…that helped you get there - maybe some combination of these things?

I like the idea of a calling because it implies that I have the awareness and the ability to listen. Listening is a skill that I think could use some sharpening at MIT. We have no problem sharing our ideas, our innovations, our solutions. But sometimes I think the real answers lie in our ability to just be…still…quiet…patient…and to hear from those whose voice has been left out. In essence, this is the true nature of my work, and I argue that it is in fact, all of our work.

As a community we share a collective responsibility to create an environment where everyone is valued, where all good ideas matter, and where all are invited to be their very best. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Sometimes it takes some digging for me to see the good in people who actively hate others or in a situation where a student faces a deep despair. Imagine that after saying just three little words - you loose all emotional, spiritual, and financial support from those who are supposed to love you the most. All your community, history, and sense of self-worth - gone - after saying “mom”, “dad”, “fraternity brother”, “sorority sister”, “athletics teammate”, “I am gay” or “I am transgender”. Or imagine living your life in hiding because coming out as LBGT in your home country or home state could have you arrested or even killed. Imagine having your spouse die in the hospital while you and your children aren’t permitted to see them because you are the same gender. Imagine being fired from your job simply because of your gender identity.

Every day I hear from those who are silenced, oppressed, discriminated against, assaulted, isolated, and neglected. Their stories are real, and their negative experiences are a constant. So I wonder, as a leading institution, how can we “build a new earth” as John Jacob Gardner describes? What would it take to reach a place of “wholeness in diversity”? And as an institution, do we all care to reach for that place? Is it worth the journey to a place or time where everyone feels included and valued as equals? Can we even imagine the possibilities if everyone at MIT were able to operate at their peak performance? What would happen if we could eliminate all forms of power, privilege, and oppression? Do you agree with Nelson Mandela that “the time for the healing of wounds has come”, that “the time to build is upon us”? And if so, then how might we get there?

I’m afraid that these questions are without a scientific formula. The problems of achieving equality for all people, of transforming an institution, are not a quick fix. Yet, progress is possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It may very well get messy. Mandela says, “there is no easy road to freedom”. But as with science, we can learn from our mistakes. We can think about our own forms of privilege, and we can improve on multiple forms of cultural competence.

The real challenge is that in order to succeed we must act together. We must ask about what we are called to do as a community, as a society, as a department, as a laboratory, as a board, and as an institute. If it does take a village to raise a young person, then what role will we play collectively, to help this generation of students grow and develop? And how can we ensure that they all have an equal chance at success?

I think we all have a calling to be part of the “birth of a new world”. The real question is: are we listening?

Second Reading:

The time for healing of the wounds has come.
The time to build is upon us...
We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people
from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation,
suffering, gender and other discrimination...
There is no easy road to freedom...
None of us acting alone can achieve success.
We must therefore act together as a united people,
for reconciliation, for nation building,
for the birth of a new world.

- Nelson Mandela

Thursday, May 6, 2010

On Prayer Dottie Mark

"Accept , O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for
us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty
of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving
care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and
for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to
acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of His
Word and the example of His life; for His steadfast obedience, by which
He overcame temptations; for His dying, through which He overcame death;
and for His rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of
your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make Him
known; and through Him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks
to you in all things. In Jesus name we pray, Amen"

When asked by Bob Randolph to give a short talk on my dreams for the future, I first wondered just what could I, the wife of an MIT professor, mother of 4 incredible young adult children and their spouses, Gram of 9 wonderful children, possibly have to say that could offer some words of hope. Here are my thoughts.

Roger and I live at Sidney-Pacific, a graduate residence for 700 students, half of whom are internationals. We have been involved in SPICE (Sidney-Pacific Inter Cultural Exchange) groups which meet over dinner to discuss such topics as their families’ origins, cultures, histories, religious beliefs and inter-cultural marriages to name a few. As I watch them talk and learn to listen to one another, I realize that my dreams and hopes for peace and justice, as well as overcoming poverty, illiteracy and racism, in this world can happen through these young people as they become leaders in their countries, in universities and large companies. How can this happen you might think? Well, my answer is through the mighty power of prayer.

So, why pray? Simple, Jesus prayed! Even as the Son of God, He prayed while He was on this earth. If the Son of God needed to pray, how much more do we stand in need of prayer?

Jesus began his ministry on earth with prayer. Before He chose His 12 disciples, He spent a whole night on a mountainside in prayer (Luke 6:10). Before raising Lazarus from the dead, He prayed (John 11:41-43). Jesus also gave thanks to God before blessing the five loaves and two fishes and feeding five thousand folks who had come to hear Him (Matthew 14:19).

We also have significant decisions to make in life, but do we pray about them? Having been a Christian since high school days, I remember praying about where to go to college, what to study, what job to take, whether to marry or not (and then I met Roger and knew the answer to that prayer!). When we had our children, I felt so strongly that we needed to pray about them from the moment of conception…and still we pray for them! In fact, prayer has been a vital part of my spiritual journey. I’m not sure how I could have raised our family, reached out to elderly parents and friends, without being under girded by the strength and wisdom one gets from prayer.

Stanley Hauerwas, professor at Duke Divinity School, opens all of his classes with prayer. In one he said, “Lord of all Wisdom, we thank you for your Word, Jesus Christ. Illumine our minds and bodies by that Word so that we might see every part of your creation as a reflection of your glory. In particular help us not to miss the small and contingent rocks, plants and animals in which children so delight. Make us like children so that we might enjoy the sheer giftedness of your creations. Amen.”

Where does one pray? One example that Jesus gave was to get alone to pray. It is in such undisturbed quietness that our souls will be ready to listen to God. Often He does not shout His messages to us but gently whispers them. Being alone and silent is often not enough .We need to spend time with God in talking to Him and reading His Word, the Bible.

Oswald Chambers, in his book, “My Utmost for His Highest,” says “If we think about prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts, we think rightly. The blood flows ceaselessly and our breathing continues ceaselessly, even if we’re not conscious of it, but it is always going on. We are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect union with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life. Beware of anything that stops spontaneous prayer. ‘Pray without ceasing’ (I Thessalonians 5:17), keep the childlike habits of spontaneous prayer in your heart to God at all times.” In other words, you can pray to God where ever you are, even while driving your car, sitting on the T or walking across campus. We should also remember to give thanks for each day, for food, shelter, and good health…, but most importantly, we must remember that nothing pleases God more than to see us pray for His will to be done (Matt 6:10).

Our lives should be such that we glorify God. Our work and our deeds should be aimed to glorify God. Therefore, when we pray, we should pray for that answer to prayer which will bring glory to God. Jesus knew that when he prayed alone in the garden of Gethsemane, just before He was crucified. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Oswald also said, “It is not so true that ‘prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes ME and I change things…prayer is not a question of altering things externally but of working wonders in a person’s disposition.”

Therefore, as I look to the future, at our MIT students and their potential for serving others and God, if they so choose, and at my family as they work to bring peace and justice to this troubled work, my prayer continues to be that their lives will bring glory to God in whatever they do and where ever they will be in this world.

Let us close by reading together the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.” Amen

Dottie Mark
Sydney and Pacific

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

For Mother's Day

The Lanyard

Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Blind Side

Tuesday’s in the Chapel
April 6, 2010

William Hurlbut when he was on campus for the Veritas Forum shared his notion that: “The central challenge of our age becomes the search for an integrated understanding of human life that draws on both our scientific knowledge and our spiritual traditions while providing the foundation for progress, global cooperation and the defense of human dignity.”

In my own way I have been grappling with that challenge for as long as I can remember and Hollywood has once again come through by helping me understand what I have been struggling with. The other day I finally watched The Blind Side with my daughter and wife. I had not wanted to see the film convinced that the movie would not do justice to the book. Besides, I thought Sandra Bullock was a light weight as an actress. I was wrong on both counts. Bullock deserved her Oscar and the movie is a good film. It finished a story begun for me long ago and in so doing answered a question that has long haunted me.

Let me tell you the story. In 1945 my family moved to Memphis; we lasted only a few months and I never went to school there. That happened because of a church business meeting. My grandfather was the minister of a large, downtown church and at a business meeting of the church the issue of the janitor’s house came up. It was infested with rats and the business meeting concluded that it was good enough for niggers. Dad concluded that was not good enough. He did not want his children to grow up in such an environment and we returned to California. I have always been grateful.

The Blind Side helped me learn how the story turned out. Michael Oher, the central figure in the movie, is a casualty of the Memphis School System. That system was decimated by the good Christian people of Memphis who created the segregationist academies profiled in the movie. Good people can do terrible things when the only thing they feel is fear. Christians ought to be able to surmount their fear, but often they cannot. In Memphis they couldn’t. The Blind Side is inspirational if your God is football and the money that can be made playing sports. Otherwise it is an unvarnished tragedy.

I grew up thinking that the influence of Christians in a community would make the environment better. The Blind Side reminds me that that is not necessarily so. Certainly the Tuohy family made a difference in Michael’s life, but their Christianity is muted at best. The only overt appeal to Christian values is made by the football coach who is really concerned with his own job and his football team. The Tuohy family made their contributions because they were able and willing to go against the system. “.... the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:8)

I may be naïve, but I still hope that the presence of values, values that put people first, values that commit us to the long term good of society and not the short term ends of the moment, will prevail. I take heart in the recent health care debate, not because a flawed bill was passed, but because I like to see our leaders do what is right even when it is not popular. I say that knowing that some will argue that that is what W did when he invaded Iraq and I will counter by arguing that war is always easier to wage than peace. What I wish for the future is that we can find the courage to wage peace and I am grateful to Hollywood for reminding us all what happens when we lack courage.

Robert M.Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ecstasy in Living

I find ecstasy in living, the mere sense of living is joy enough
~Emily Dickinson

These weekly reflections on Tuesday morning asks us what about tomorrow?

So I asked myself in preparing to write for today – so what about tomorrow?

I think about tomorrow through the possibility of today

This came to light one day on my way into work on the T….

As like every T rider, you read, sleep, put your headphones on, zone (or meditate) out, this particular day I was reading (for pleasure). When I read, I can also ‘zone out’ and intuitively know when it is about ‘that time’ for my stop. Well this day, as I was reading I, all of a sudden lifted my head from the book (before my stop was near) and heard a conversation of a pair standing to my left---I am not sure why I heard them, yet as I went back to my reading – This twosome said aloud what I then read in my book…..Of course this was a very odd experience, but what made it a message and more of a powerful experience was the words shared, “when one door closes, a window opens” This reminded me of the power and possibility of each day.

Allow me to share with you my joy in the day

I wake each morning – warm under quilt and a light on as I pull the chain on the lamp or pull the shade of the window, I step into slippers (a funny pair of shoes – just for morning & again later that night) – rubbing the blur from my eyes and my mouth wide open to capture oxygen to fill my lungs – i wake from a dream place to begin at another dream place– a place of living. I turn on the faucet for water, turn it again for hot water – splash my face and a reach for a dry, clean towel to pat off the morning dew – I push the button or light the stove for caffeinated water that smells so good and feel so satisfying as it travels down

– simple life habits – simple life tasks – all with the lens of appreciation.

Valuing life, valuing abilities, valuing capabilities – our lives – living life as a dream to help put the difficult days behind.

Friends who support us family who loves us work who pays us Legs & cars (and public transportation) who transport us smiles that greet us, birds that sing to us

Spring is coming, cold days behind – be present

See my daily tasks as joy in the living
I dream of the day that each of us appreciates each moment on earth.

And that is reflected in our practice.

Smile to strangers – pick up litter- take baby steps and leaps of faith
Watch the crocus peeking up through the ground, smell the fresh brewed coffee – feel those warm slippers – share laughter with colleagues – start the day with reflection ~

dream deeply, live simply
Donna Denoncourt
Associate Dean, Residential Life

Reading for the Morning

Book 1: The Twelfth Chapter


IT IS good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men.

When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, he realizes clearly that his greatest need is God, without Whom he can do no good. Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he laments and prays. He wearies of living longer and wishes for death that he might be dissolved and be with Christ. Then he understands fully that perfect security and complete peace cannot be found on earth.

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reflections on the Prodigal

The Spire
From Luke 15

We learn from the experience of the Prodigal the power of the desire to explore the new, the distant, the exotic. We learn as well that the exotic may be less than we expect, the new far from satisfying. We learn from the older brother the tragedy of a dream deferred, of hope unshared. And the father remains always waiting. There is Desmond Tutu’s sermon again: God loves us and desires us to be drawn to him.

Tutu tells a story near the end of his book, No Future Without Forgiveness, that we all need to hear. He recounts the first time he flew in a plane piloted by men like himself. They were Nigerians and he was delighted to see them and felt a shared pride in their professionalism and then the plane encountered weather that caused it to jump and buck and he was terrified. He thought to himself: "I wonder if they can manage the plane." and then he was horrified by his thought: “I could never have believed I was so radically brainwashed…I would have denied it vigorously…I had accepted a white definition of existence, that whites were somehow superior to and more competent than blacks.”

He goes on:

“We should never underestimate the power of conditioning. That is why I hold the view that we should be a little more generous in judging perpetrators of human rights violations… And it might make us say to ourselves a we sit in judgment “there but for the grace of God go I.”

“All of this says that there is hope. There is hope because (people) are revealed as human beings, frail but with the capacity to do better if they (we) get out of the self-justifying mode, the denial mode, and are able to say quietly, humbly, ‘I am sorry, forgive me/us'.”

God waited for Israel. God came near in Jesus and made things new. God waited for the Prodigal and the brother. As we move toward Easter are we open to the offer of God to be reconciled? I think we are.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy Spring

Dream for the future

In most respects, the new year begins for me in the Fall. Like I suspect many of you, I’ve spent most of my life on an academic calendar. So the Fall is when I think about my work accomplishments and goals. I am also a Reform Jew and, therefore, religiously mark the new year at Rosh Hashanah, usually sometime in September. And I am a Virgo, with a late August birthday, so that’s when MY new year literally begins.

All of those new beginnings get marked pretty ritualistically. Whether it’s organizing my work “stuff” for new projects, participating in Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur observances, or celebrating the date of my birth with family and friends. I even take an annual retreat during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to more meaningfully reflect on and mark these transitions.

But there is for me a subtler new year’s celebration which occurs in THIS season and in which I invite you to participate. It is called Spring. And it is a wish for more Spring in our lives that is at the heart of my Dream for our Future.

We don’t literally hibernate during the New England winters, but we do spend a good part of our lives effectively in a cave, surrounded by familiar objects and people, comforted by our routines, lulled by the belief that all we need is within our reach. In our cave, we are not aware of the outside world, not aware how small our world is, not aware that we are missing anything.

And then comes Spring.
During the first days of spring, we breathe deeper, we let our skin feel the air, we walk a little slower, we might smile a bit more easily. Did you have a moment like that this past weekend? Can you bring back that feeling right now?

In early Spring, we have an awakening awareness of the outside world and, perhaps, the visceral remembrance that we are part of a larger whole, that the world, and our place in it, is bigger than our cave.

My dream for the future is for us to stay alive to that moment, to, in fact, WAKE UP from our frequent dream state, to see through what is petty and unimportant about our day to day existence and focus on the reality beyond our routines.
My dream for the future is to spend less time dreaming and more time being; less time protecting myself from the uncertainties of the outside world, and more time embracing the adventure. My dream for the future is to experience the dawn of spring in the midst of every season, every moment

So the question, the challenge, I give myself and offer to you is this: What would it take? What would it take to carry that sensation of early Spring, of awakening to a life bigger than our own, into the rest of our lives?

And with that, I wish you “happy Spring.”

Francine Crystal
Organization Development Consultant
Human Resources

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesdays in the Chapel

Tuesdays in the Chapel
March 2, 2010
Luke 13:31-35

1. The season of Lent comes to us with a large stop sign! It is like someone stepped in our path and crossed their arms on their chest. Wear the ashes that remind us of mortality; put frivolity aside and think about the journey we are on.

The metaphor of a journey is important because we all are on several journeys but we often do not think about them. There is first the journey of life itself. The poet, Alison Apotheker captures a bit of the journey in her poem Ground Water. Pregnant, playing with her 2 year old son in the snow, she concludes:

"But now, as we walk home in the dusk,
my two-year old riding my hip,
patting my cheeks with his mittened hands,
I never want to leave this earth.
Inside the baby tumbles and reels,
already knowing where the body will take us,
that we have no choice but to follow its lead."

Life is what happens between the infinities of birth and death or as my favorite actor, Robert Duvall, says in one of his roles: “We live between the sweet grass and the slaughter house.”

There is a moment after the Christmas season when this sense of mortality becomes especially important for me as I look at the pictures that come in the mail over the holiday: the children who are another year older. When we see each other regularly, we do not notice how we change, but when the cards come at Christmas you notice. I go through my address list and change the addresses of those who have moved and remove the names of those who have died. The poet notices; Jesus was on such a journey on his way to Jerusalem during this season. Luke from Chapter 9 on in his Gospel has Jesus on a journey to Jerusalem. That is why it is a serious time.

2. But everything does not need to be taken seriously—or so seriously. Our Jewish friends know this; that is why Purim is such a sweet break in this season. Remember too that we are also on a journey toward spring. You saw the news this week and the young woman who repeated on several networks: “I am so ready for spring.” I was in Chapel Hill last Sunday. Daffodils were blooming. Forsythia was blooming. It was a good reminder of the progression of the seasons. On March 14th we will welcome daylight savings time. It the morning it will still be dark when we get up but at 6 pm the sun will be up. The Red Sox will be coming north shortly thereafter and once again we can breathe; we have survived winter. We may not always admit it, but that is also why we take this season seriously. We know where it leads us.

3. There is also the more personal journey for each of us. One of you had a birthday last week. Others made progress on a paper you were writing, on a project at work. These are our modest personal journeys not marked by life and death but the daily accomplishments by which we mark progress. With eyes open we go forward and we coordinate our journey’s with these other journeys—the cosmic journey between infinities, the turn of the seasons, our own progress in life.

4. AND then there is Easter.

It is a story we have heard before and sometimes it is confused and distant; we hear the rituals that some have at Easter and wonder what in the world they are doing. A friend mentioned a trip she likes to take to Guatemala during this season to observe the rituals leading up to Good Friday. They sound very interesting and exotic. You have to wonder, however, how others hear of our traditions: we celebrate Easter when a large rabbit appears and then we hide eggs. It is another way we make light of serious stuff. If you cannot deal with the mystery of Easter, make it humorous.

But it is serious business and with Luke we turn our eyes toward Jerusalem; we reach beyond the Bible to claim the story of the people of God who lived through a tragedy that brought new life. It is a story that began in a dark stable, was revealed by Wise men who came from far away to proclaim that something important had happened. It is a story that has at its heart promises; there are disappointments and ultimately triumph. God has, we believe, reached out to us and brought us close. That may be a blessing, but It can also be our challenge. The Lenten season helps us journey to where we need to be.

Dr. Robert M. Randolph

Monday, March 1, 2010

About Love

February is as good a month to talk about love as any. We have just passed Valentine’s Day, it is National Women’s Heart Health month, and for those who follow the Christian liturgical calendar it is also the start of the Lenten Season. Matters of the heart are thus much on the mind. They are also central to my hope for the future, a hope grounded both in my own Christian faith and also in my humanitarian (if you will) desire to live in a world free from the violence, sorrow and destruction that plague us when love fails.

Unfortunately, what we hear about most often in the news are the failures of love: the powerful taking advantage of the weak; the rich reserving for themselves excess while the poor go without any; trust repaid with cruelty; children abused by the very adults who should be caring for them; nations that believe their differences are best settled by war; individuals who believe that their frustrations are best resolved at gunpoint; the list could go on and on.

But this is not our calling – our exempla cannot be found in the newspaper. We must look instead to our scriptures, and the example of God inscribed therein. What we find is that it is not enough that we should love that special person who makes our heart skip when they enter a room, and which we celebrate so enthusiastically on Valentine’s Day. Nor is it enough to love our children or our parents or others we have known long and deeply, with a love which brings comfort and encompasses companionship. No, we are called to a love for every one of God’s children whether they are lovable or not; whether they bring comfort or not; nay, whether they are even known to us or not.

Indeed, love is not even ours if we do not give it away. It only has existence in the act of dispensation. Love that would be internal to ourselves can only be self-love; it is opposed to charity, and without charity we cannot truly have faith. St. Maximus the Confessor (early 7th c.) puts it this way: “As memory of fire does not warm the body, so faith without charity does not effect the illumination of knowledge in the soul.” Love that is not directed outwards is not merely diminished in substance and in volume, but it is actually oppositional to the love that God has in mind for us. It would be like a fire that does not warm us, that is to say, like no fire at all.

So my hope for the future is that we would throw caution to the wind, and try real love the way God intended it for us, that we would show our world that we have been called to live another way. To this end I call you, and me to:
Weep alongside someone you do not know. Rejoice in the beauty – yea, the very likeness and image of God – in every person. Pray for those who thwart you as assiduously as you pray for your daughters and sons. Lend a hand, or a foot, or a mind. Be patient with those who slow you down. Hear someone out, even if you suspect they are crazy. Return fury with calm, violence with peace. Laugh with abandon – with others, at others, at least when the alternative would otherwise be anger. Most especially, laugh at yourself – there is no easier way to practice the art of forgiveness than to see your own foibles for what they are. Open your pantry, your purse, your treasure chest – a small meal shared with others is so much more filling than a feast eaten alone; for “You are as prone to love as the sun is to shine.” So says Thomas Traherne, 17th c. Anglican poet and priest who had much of eloquence to say about love.

We can also rest assured that our love will not run out. Like the sun, it can shine on all without being diminished for any. Indeed, the sun would only be diminished if you insisted that it shine just for you.

So in this month during which we think so much about matters of the heart, I would urge us to spend our love recklessly, prodigally. We will be transformed by it; our world will be too.

Prof. Anne McCants

Friday, February 26, 2010

Do What You Can

Do What You Can: A parable for our time

This morning on my “joyful” jog around Cambridge, I came upon a blue Toyota waiting at red right turn arrow. A large Mercedes came up behind the Toyota, honked loudly (is there any other way to honk?) and received from the driver of the Toyota a gesture in the direction of the red light. The Mercedes paused and then quickly pulled out of the lane and turned in front of the Toyota. At the same moment the arrow turned green giving all the option to turn right.

The moral order did not shatter. This was no occasion to invoke proletarian conflict. After all, I covet a large Toyota Land Cruiser. No clash of cultures here. The Teutonic Mercedes and Asian Toyota were oblivious of the rising tension.

Here was a parable for our time—too blind, too impatient, too rude to be civil. I am reminded of the mantra of Forrest Church, the late minister of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in New York City. “Be content with what you have. Know who you are. Do what you can.” If we want a more civil society, we can make it happen and it begins at red no turn arrows when impatience grabs hold of us.

Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Four Lessons

Lessons for Life
These stories have been around for quite a while. Their message, though simple, can still be a cornerstone for the way we see those around us.

Lesson 1
During the second month of a small college, a professor gave a pop quiz. One very conscientious student breezed through the questions until the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. The cleaning woman was often around at the end of classes. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but who would know her name?
The student handed in the paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward the total grade.
"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello."
The student never forgot that lesson or her name: Dorothy.

Lesson 2
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.
"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.
"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.
The little boy pulled is hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. "Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.
By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.
The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.
The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies… She realized, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

Lesson 3
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!
Every obstacle presents new opportunities.

Lesson 4
Many years ago, in a hospital, there was a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and usually fatal disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.
He hesitated for only a moment before taking a deep breath, "Yes, I'll do it if it will save her.
As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as did all the staff, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away".
Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor: he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Final Thought

Akavia ben Mehalalel said, “Consider three things and you will not miss the mark. Know from where you have come, to where you are heading, and before whom you will give justification and accounting.” Pirkei Avot 3:1

Rabbi Samuel Seicol

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jacob: On Wrestling with God

As our semester series theme asks “What about tomorrow?” I think of Jacob, spending the night alone on the bank of the river Jabbok, and wrestling; a word whose root is pronounced awback, or pretty close to that. Y’think there might be something to these words sounding similar? The irony of the man at the river’s crossing engaged in wrestling is that it befits his name in two ways. “May He – God – protect” is a dimension to Jacob’s name because even though the sound and sense of it is similar to the noun for heel, “aw-kabe,” a sense that never lets us forget that he came out of the womb holding on to his older brother’s heel, the verb means “to watch from behind,” something that God was doing through-out Jacob’s life even while Jacob was doing so himself: watching from behind. So here is Jacob, watching from behind, watching out for his family, in the fear of running into his brother Esau.

Jacob has just left town with two wives, their two servants, children he has had with all four women, and a zoo full of livestock. It has been said, unsympathetically, that the man has been living by the skin of his teeth, conniving his way through life, from his youth, like a con-man on the lam. Heel-grabber; supplanter; trickster. I respectfully disagree. But we’ll get to that. Where we find him is in anticipation of his brother Esau’s murderous vengeance for Jacob’s claiming and taking of Esau’s first-born birthright inheritances and blessings. Knowing that Esau has an army of men with him, Jacob has arranged for three overly-abundant wagon-trains full of livestock to be given as gifts to hopefully placate his brother’s wrath. Three droves of gifts have been sent on ahead a day’s journey while Jacob and his family spend the night at the river’s crossing. But Jacob spends the night alone with his thoughts. What might he be thinking?

You have to start from the beginning to know where Jacob’s coming from: how would you feel if you knew your grandfather was destined to have descendants as numerous as the sands of the sea, and your dad has only two sons, and even though it’s the oldest to whom the destiny of blessing falls, it’s your mom who tells you that you’re the one whom God told her was to receive the blessing. How would you feel? God didn’t tell that to your dad, or your granddad; He told it to your mom. But honestly, who listens to women? Well, we all should; but you, Jacob, listen to her because it’s about you! So in your youth, you try out her theory: and you watch from behind. And your mom’s right: wow, your brother really would give up the blessing of his birthright for a little stew! And then your mom deceitfully accomplishes arranging circumstances to lock your brother out of his own blessing by your father’s own hand, hijacking your father’s approval in the process. If you’re mom was right then she was right, and she wasn’t lying or deceived, why did your blessing have to come at the risk of cunning and deceit? I would imagine that you’d spend the rest of your life watching from behind, wondering whether or not it was all really true. And along the way, you may as well put God to the test, after all, it’s His blessing that you’re destined to be blessed with one way or the other! And blessings DO keep happening to you, but the strangest problems develop all along the way too! Jacob ends up sleeping with his wife’s sister – and it is such a Hollywood mess. I think he finally comes to the end of his rope: the blessings multiply, but so do the problems, and his own brother is in a position to end it all in a blood-bath. Is he really blessed?! Or isn’t he?! Here’s what I think: he’s really not sure, but he really wants to know.

So does he really wrestle with God, or doesn’t he? I think he does. It’s the strangest conclusion: he prevails against God. Now, who in the world could ever actually beat God in a wrestling match? God throws the fight and lets him win. But it’s not enough! Jacob doesn’t want a win, he wants an answer. Am I blessed or not?! I’m not letting go until I get an answer! Jacob gets his answer, and God gets His answer. This time, He knows that Jacob isn’t content to just get an earthly answer. Jacob isn’t satisfied with his brother’s consent, or his mother’s approval, or his father’s blessing. He demands, and gets his answer: from God. And now, God knows He has a man he can work through: someone who doesn’t blow with the wind: Jacob is now tuned into the approval of God, and not the approval of men.

And he’s re-named Israel: What’s that mean? Take your pick: God fights, fights with God, God fights for…hard to say. But suffice it to say, it’s no longer Jacob who fights. God touches his hip in such a way that it cripples him for life, and with that ever present reminder, there’s no more need to watch from behind. The issue is settled for Jacob. Is the issue settled for you? If you’re looking for accountability, affirmation, assurance, and approval from man, you may find it, but it will never completely satisfy. Do you need to know for sure that someone else isn’t jerking you around? You could hire video crews and private detectives and you still couldn’t be 100% sure. Do what’s right, do what’s real, and let the chips fall.

“Needing the approval of men syndrome” is a double-edged sword: not only are you insecure about yourself, but you’ll also be insecure about others. Others are a threat to you because you don’t know whether or not you approve of them! The vicious cycle of distrust ends when you trust God: if you really don’t trust God, you’ll always be insecure about yourself and others.

I think it may be routine to say that we wrestle with God: we all wrestle with God. But that raises the question: what kind of wrestling? Are you wrestling with thoughts about God, or feelings about God, or ideas about God? Maybe you are, but try this: demand to wrestle with God face to face and God will take you on: chin to chin, nose to nose, eye to eye. He is not just an idea, or a thought, or a feeling. He is not an it. Can you imagine wrestling without any emotion? Anger, joy, those things come to mind as why two persons will roll around on the floor with one another. Try it some time. God will meet your emotions feeling for feeling: reflecting your anger, doubling your joy. Jacob was fed up with not knowing, when it came to tomorrow, whether or not he was truly blessed, whether God really approved of him. He got his answer. How about you?

Chaplain Dave Thom