2017 Fall Issue 1
Life and Breath Under the Green Roof
by: Sandi Smoker
During my first months at Regent I kept hearing the phrase, “Under the Green Roof”. I’m embarrassed to say it took some time before I clued into what that meant exactly. In case you’re wondering, all events at Regent College take place under its green roof. Really, it’s that simple. But they’re not the typical sorts of events I’d expect from a graduate college. Lectures, presentations by world-class scholars, student gatherings – yes. Also, concerts, art gallery openings, poetry readings, community soup lunches, and sometimes events unplanned and unadvertised – events that collide our creatureliness with God’s generosity. Quite unexpectedly, I found myself at the centre of the latter as I headed down the staircase, to take part in my first class this term, Christian Imagination.
I stepped into a perfect storm. The new wait-staff at my favourite sushi spot combined with my body’s aversion to gluten put me in anaphylactic-type shock. I sat down on the steps, mid-stride and called out, “I need help.” The words spoke an invitation to another, a stranger, to enter into my vulnerability, my uncertainty, and my suffering. As my body endured wave after wave of convulsion, the calm and thinking presence of people in community, people who said yes to my invitation, concentrated the event to its most basic – breath. I have yet to see breathing as an event listed Under the Green Roof, maybe because it happens with such regularity that no one pays much attention. It’s a non-event.
Even as my body’s reaction threatened to suspend the pneuma of life my companions invited me to “breathe with.” “Breathing with” brought my very existence to its elemental beginnings. Later, I recalled themes from Walter Brueggemann’s article “Remember, You are Dust,” an assigned reading for the class I missed. Brueggemann refers to Genesis 2:7: “The Lord God forms the human person of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature.” He makes the point that dust is not a self-starter: “The vitality of the human person depends on God’s gift of breath which is freely and graciously given without cause, but which never becomes the property or possession of the human person.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel thoroughly entitled to the act of breathing. And when it is threatened the sense of vulnerability is visceral. Brueggemann offers perspective again: “Human vulnerability…belongs to the healthy original characterization of human personhood in relation to God. This is what it means to be human…the human person as a creature, lives by the daily, moment by moment generosity of God.”
As my body received again the gift of breath and my heart rate slowed to its usual pace, a sense of elation overcame me – a new vitality and appreciation for the ability to breathe, for people who say yes, people who choose to come alongside and accept (even welcome) disruption to their personal trajectories. Although I haven’t seen “coming alongside” listed as an event Under the Green Roof, like breathing, it happens without fanfare.
As I sat on the steps, my body shaking uncontrollably, someone breathed the words, “You are in a safe place.” I want to say the same to you. I don’t need to tell you that vulnerability is necessary for remembering what it is to be human. And we say “yes” to one another toward whatever redemptive happenings occur Under the Green Roof. At the very least, we can remind one another to breathe as we live day by day, moment by moment in the understated regularity of the generosity of God.
The Desert Road
Hot, humid, and bright... the vast sand makes it hard to keep walking on a straight path... the body is tired, fragile, fainting, desperate for the water that gives life. The day goes long and it seems like there is no end; and even at night, a restless soul in need of a savior. The desert road is tough and draws us to our knees. We lack the strength to keep walking...it seems like there is no end to the journey...there is just a vast horizon without end. And there, on the hopeless desert road, Christ the desert Conqueror, breaking rivers, blossoming gardens full of trees and shade out of nothing in our broken soul...broken in many pieces like the sand of the desert. He was there...he was there before we were...he knows every single step of the desert road...desperate, alone, tempted. But never afraid. Never failing, never giving up. In deep suffering and anguish. And there, in the desert, he invites us in...come, join me on the road of suffering, on the desert road. Let your heart be broken by the heat of your humanness, let your heart be broken by your own brokenness and let me recreate it. Does your heart break? Why would the desert Conqueror lead me into the wilderness? Because there I find myself. I find myself as a dearly loved child, adopted, belonging, together, restored, blossoming. On the desert road, I can breathe again, my heart breaks over and over again and blossoms as spring. On the desert road, I meet his Spirit. I am no longer a slave of fear. I am a daughter of the desert Conqueror. I am doing a new thing - can you not perceive it? I see it with my eyes...I can hear him moving in the desert wind. I cry, Abba! Abba! Father! How long... The desert is mine and yours. How the heat of the desert road reminds me of the heat on your face in that last hour... you cried out, and I cry out... I could not breathe, but now my heart is breaking. And it breaks, and it breaks, and it breaks and…
I am free...you lead me to the desert road so that I can breathe! You guide me in the wilderness for your name's sake. It is in the barren road that I see you and your provision...I see the flowers and the rivers, the fountains breaking out of the sand, your abundance, your glory, your manna. Breaking fourth, glorious, powerful, forever, eternal!
My heart breaks...and is remade, breaks, and is remade. Because I am no longer a slave of fear...but a daughter...loved. You sent the Son to the desert road and now he sits at your right hand. You send me to the desert road and I live assured, adopted, in the expectation that one day I will enter into your eternal inheritance. In the meantime, I walk the desert road, side by side with my desert Conqueror, with the One who walked the road himself - the road of suffering, the desert road.
A Ten-Step Guide to Asking Questions in CTC
Fall is the time of year when bright eyed, go-getter new students walk into Christian, Thought, and Culture (“CTC”) with no idea what any of those things mean. The question period at the end of the class is an important time for clearing things up. So here are some tips on scoring a homerun question:
Be sure to make your way to the microphone as the lecture is not quite finished. You cannot seem too eager.
Thank the lecturer for the stimulating lecture, even if it wasn’t.
Find a way to the thank the lecturer in different words. Try using words like “appreciative” or phrases such as, “It was a blessing to me.”
Be sure to question your own validity in asking; you may actually know nothing.
Always remember that the lecturers know infinitely more than you. Approach with fear and trembling, like unto a god.
Before actually asking your question, frame the query with detailed life experience to provide some context. This part should be no less than two minutes. The more details and rabbit trails, the better.
While asking your question, be sure to use as many Regent buzzwords as possible. This is a great time to distinguish yourself from the Philistine masses. For example:
Considering the liminal and de-constructed soteriology of the post-modern world, how can ‘Christians’ dancing perichoretically, in the nuanced realities of sacramental ontology, embody an incarnational humanist hermeneutic?
8.Cite an obscure historical figure that no one else has heard of.
9.Before you finally stop talking, provide an opportunity for the lecturer to completely dismiss your question as irrelevant.
10.Wait for a response, breathe heavily into the hot mic, with each breath expressing more regret for asking your question (regardless of whether or not the lecturer addressed your concern, be sure to repeat step 3 one more time).
If you do ask a question in the first or second week, understand that you are now a designated questioner and are obligated to ask in all following lectures. All joking aside, ask things that are on your mind, and a short question can be just as good as a long one!
You are with us, Lord, but we are not always with you.
A Prayer from Kasey Kimball
You are with us, Lord, but we are not always with you. Our senses are often captivated by
constantly updated headlines;
the buzzes and dings of notifications;
our growing to-do lists and diminishing bank accounts;
the success we crave and the failure we fear;
the pleasures and people for which we lust;
the voices that say we need to be put-together, to be smart, to be right, to be powerful, to be rich, to be comfortable, to be highly esteemed, to be praised.
Even when we turn our senses to that which is of you:
the gratuitous beauty of your creation;
the gift of friends and family;
the peace and prosperity of this nation in which we live;
the time you have given us to be in this place as students of your word;
and the very breathing in and breathing out that quietly sustains our lives.
Even then, we often miss you: the source and fulfillment of all that is good, true, and beautiful.
In the midst of the noise and the anxious frenzy and our sinful self-preoccupation, Lord, teach us to want.
Call us! Shout!
Break through our deafness.
Banish our blindness.
Lavish your fragrance upon us and touch us, that we may desire you, and all other things for your sake. Teach our restless hearts to find their rest in you.
Abraham's War According to Philo of Alexandria
a poem by: Yehuda Mansell
nine warring kings
five without - four within
I could await the gradual degradation
of their powers
allowing one of the factions to win
courage faces down fear in darkened alley
temperance and indulgence trade vicious blows
wisdom crosses her sharpened lance with regret
while justice eviscerates lust, her impatient foe.
Some Letters by Some Editors
by: Ross Tuttle and Jesse Chui
I know what you’re thinking. And I’m sorry. You’ve been waiting for the Et Cetera for three weeks now and your patience was running thin! You’re a shiny new student and you were promised a weekly paper full of illuminating articles, political manifestos, jokes, ads, and some heated discourse on “purity culture”! I mean, that’s why you came to Regent! Or you’re a sixth year M.Div. student, your skin wan and nearly translucent from the countless hours in the library and the only connection you have to the rest of the now alien student body is this weekly publication. Or you’re one of our hip theo-artists, desperate for white and green material for your papier-mâché bust of Joel Osteen. Whoever you are, I’d like to welcome you to this year’s gauche yet endearing iteration of the Et Cetera.
As you peruse this first issue, as you span the spectrum of human emotion, as wave after wave of articulate articles wash over you, you may be wondering, “Could I write for this paper? Can I join this holy literati? May I add my voice to this harmonious song?”
The answer: “PLEASE, for the love of all things breathing, YES!!!” We need you to write. Your perspective is important. Your thoughts are invaluable. Your poetry, stories, satire, your cries for attention are earnestly welcomed. It’s my one hope that this publication be as witty, diverse, heartfelt, smart, and socially awkward as our beloved student body but we can only make it so if you are willing to engage, encourage, and most importantly submit your work!
I’m really looking forward to working with you this year as your editor, comrade, and precious friend.
“All the rest on us depends.”
- Ross Jos. Tuttle
Did you, dear reader, notice that our beloved editor used all caps in a key portion of his letter? So, in the stately and solemn tradition in which this publication illumes, we urge you: SEND US STUFF! YOU CAN DO IT!
- Jesse Chui