sacrificial couch

There's a burning couch in the middle of Euclid Avenue. That either means they couldn't find the cigarette, or the University of Kentucky basketball team did something incredibly big.

Our team is now one of only four still in the running for a national, big tourney title. Two more wins and the Wildcats will be the only Div. I team this year able to brag about winning their very last game. Nearly every kid studying at UK right now was in the single digit years of their life the last time that happened. So if anything is worthy of a good, old-fashioned, public couch burnin', this probably is.

Basketball is a near religious experience in Kentucky. During the season, wins (gratefulness) and losses (faith) make for perfect sermons. God is UK. Satan is the versus. Visiting evangelists are made aware. Church services are subject to game times from October to April. Like the crusaders, we conquer and rename cities, e.g. Catlanta, Big Blue Newark Nation, Blue Jersey, and whatever Houston ends up falling to. Restaurants are louder when we're winning. The people smile more. Benevolence increases. Jesus is thanked. And evidently, when we win the big, big games, we sacrifice furniture.

I try to be a live-and-let-live kinda guy, so I didn't give the flaming furniture a lot of scrutiny. If I'd been the parent who paid for it I might have, but otherwise I didn't think much about it. Except to wonder how the conversation went that led up to the moment of combustion.

TV Announcer Jim Nantz: "And that will do it. The Wildcats, going back to an old Kentucky home, the Final Four!

College student #1: "Yes! Yes!! YES BABY!!! We're going to Houston, baby!! Woo hoo!!! Oh my gosh!! Can you believe it?! We're going to the Final Four! We're going to Houstoooonnnn!!!"

Chest bump. High five. Chest bump. Tight hug. Awkward stare. Chest bump.

College student #2: "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! We gotta celebrate, man! We gotta par-tay!!"

College student #1: "Oh my gosh, man! Everybody's going to the street! We gotta go!"

College student #2: "This is crazy, man! We-are-gon-na-par-tay!!"

College student #1: "Hey, man! Let's do something off the hook! Get the other end."

College student #2: "What?"

College student #1: "Get the other end, man!"

College student #2: "Why?"

College student #1: "We're gonna burn it, man! Woo hoo!!"

College student #2: "What?

College student #1: "Seriously, dude. Get the other end."

College student #2: "Dude. You sure? This is Kendall's couch."

College student #1: "Kendall shoulda been here to protect it."

College student #2: "Woo hoo!! We're going to Houston, man! We're gonna par-tay!!"

Local news announcer: "Worshippers took to the streets in Lexington tonight, celebrating the Kentucky Wildcats' first NCAA Final Four appearance in thirteen years. A couch was burned in honor of the occasion. No word yet on whether it was a virgin."


for japan...

“The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty; Let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice. He wraps himself in light, and darkness tries to hide. It trembles at his voice, trembles at his voice.”

These were some of the lyrics that called us to worship this past Sunday morning. We sang it, but it didn't mean much to me. I mouthed, “How great is our God! Sing with me, how great is our God! And all will see how great, how great is our God!” I wondered if I could convince a dazed and devastated Japanese to sing such a thing right now.

It was too easy - singing about the earth rejoicing and trembling and all. Is that what it was doing last Friday when it shook and rolled and killed tens of thousands of my fellow humans in and around Sendai? It was no trouble at all to turn to my pew buddies and share the Peace of Christ knowing that the calamity and turmoil in the headlines is 7,338 miles that way. In my safe place, where the air and water is clean and a meal within the hour is not if, but what, I had a hard time not feeling guilty.

I don’t think I personally know anyone who so much as lost a light bulb in Japan. Still, I wince and get a knot in my belly when I see cars and boats and all the deeply personal and sentimental pieces of people’s lives scattered among the splinters that used to be houses, and know that rodents will find some of those bodies before the recoverers do. I’ve cried or wept or sighed every single time I’ve seen a picture or a video or heard an interview – all from strangers, but still very moving.

When I was a kid I once had a Sunday school teacher who told the class that we should never question why God does what He does. I always wondered why God let drunk drivers and drug dealers and robbers do bad things and keep on living. I thought that was her point. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me then that God did earthquakes and tornadoes and blizzards and stuff. Then I got older and learned that attorneys and insurance companies (and show promoters) hold God accountable for destruction beyond man’s control.

Maybe if all the bad people in the world lived where the tsunami hit, I’d feel bad but not so bad. At least it would all seem more reasonable and give God a better image (at least among the conservatives). At least I’d feel like the evil-doers got their comeuppance – and the good, hard working, honest people were spared. But that didn’t happen.

In spite of my Sunday school teacher’s warnings, I question God about a lot of things. Sometimes it’s about the curious, like why the circle of life needs chiggers. Sometimes I ask Him why He doesn’t stop the selfish, mean people in their greed and violence. I often question His apparent lack of interest when kids and innocent people get sick and don’t survive. I always wonder why He’d let His nature, HIS nature, do angry deeds.

In Japan, when the planet stopped shaking and the ocean flowed back, the overwhelming majority of us looked on at the ugly mess from far away. A lot of us prayed, but found our meditations sprinkled with little fits of futility. Probably because we’re Christians with no answers, and that’s hard. The only thing left is for us to believe as best we can for those who can’t. So for the beautiful, precious, incredible people of Japan I sing, even in my misgivings, in honor of you.

“And age to age He stands. And time is in His hands. Beginning and the end. Beginning and the End. The Godhead, three in one. Father, Spirit, Son. The Lion and the Lamb. The Lion and the Lamb”.

Very pretty words and music by Chris Tomlin.