Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Night Before Easter


‘Tis the night before Easter, and all through the town, not a creature is stirring.  No gladness is found.
Disciples each cower alone in their bed. They fear for tomorrow.  Their Master is dead.

And I, in my sorrow, my shame and despair, try now to forget what it was to be there.
I was there in the garden. I was there for the trial. I was there for betrayal.  I was there for denial.

I hid in the crowd as He toiled up the hill. I watched from afar as they closed in to kill.
Between other crosses, His rose in the sky, as though to allow me to look in His eye.

I heard Him cry “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And I turned away.
Disgraced, in retreat, from the Skull-place I ran. Still I heard the hammers drive nails in His hands.

So now, as my slumber by heartbreak is torn, the hour passes midnight and heads to the morn.

I hear, or I dream, that there is such a clatter that women are running to see what is the matter.
The dawn on the crest of the newly-bought tomb gives a luster of brightness dispersing the gloom.

Then Mary is startled by two men in white who stand there beside her and give her a fright.
They say, “He is risen, just as He said! Why look for the living among all the dead?”

I open my eyes: this cannot be real. This is an illusion that day will reveal
To be but a dream, science fiction, a lie. I surely must know, for I saw Him die.

Then what to my wondering eyes should appear but the face of the Master.  As I look, He comes near.
No door has He opened.  No window broke through.  Yet He stands right before me, the same Jesus who,
Spilling water and blood, was pierced with a spear.  He died just last Friday, yet now He is here.

His aura might cause me to ask who He is, but His voice, when He speaks, leaves no doubt: it is His.
His smile speaks forgiveness.  His arms open wide, as though I had never abandoned His side.

Why is this important?  What can it all mean?  His death on the cross is what washed us all clean.
But death could not cheat Him.  He’s fought, and He’s won.  His victory means our new life is begun.

 I follow His lead.  With His love I’m endowed.  I know I can trust Him, for he rose as He vowed. 
The grave cannot hold us.  Our souls will survive.  The world now is different, for Christ is alive!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

How to Recruit Prospective College Students

Having just returned from taking my daughter Carolyn to visit six colleges this week, and having gone through eighteen official visits with my two older children so far, I fancy myself something of an expert on the subject.  In case you are interested in opening up your own university and trying to recruit students, here is the tried and true formula that is endorsed by every school we have seen:

First, you need a recent graduate of your school, preferably in his or her mid-20s, who cannot get a real job and so has hung around the old alma mater as an assistant admissions counselor, which means he or she reads a few thousand essays of 18-year-olds who want to come to this school and also that he or she gives the one-hour presentation about your school.  This assistant counselor should be good-looking but should make an obvious attempt to be just a little bit nerdy in order to appear academic - a sweater and glasses are required, and some other dweeby touch (like maybe a checked shirt with a striped tie) will complete the look.  One terribly corny joke is required.

Once you have this assistant admissions counselor picked out, you need to teach him/her the script:  "Here at ______ U, we are happy to welcome you and are glad you are taking the time to visit.  Let me say at the outset that if you are looking for a place that is just like all the others, then _________ U is not for you.  We are unique.  For example, we actually value undergraduate research, and we have set aside millions of dollars that is just waiting for you if you come to school here.  Our run-of-the-mill undergraduates have, in the last year or so, discovered the cure for fibromyalgia, redesigned Pringles cans, and developed prosthetic limbs for amphibians.  We know that our campus is where you will want to spend all your time, so naturally 100% of our students study abroad for a semester.  While we only have a few classes with over 300 students in them, we promise that every professor will know your name by the third minute of class.  Our campus is not too big but not too small, and it is located in the perfect rural/urban/suburban town/city, not too far from the action but not too close to distractions.  All our students were in the top 3% of their high school class, but we do not really think your high school grades are an important part of the admissions process.  Similarly, we do not overvalue standardized tests, and all of our students just happen to have made a 2300 on the SAT.  97% of our students are on need-blind, merit-based scholarships, but make sure to fill out the FAFSA and all financial aid information just in case."

Next, after this admissions counselor has finished, you next need very attractive and articulate undergraduates to lead campus tours.  There should be nothing remotely nerdy about these students, who should emit health and love for ___________ U in every breath.  Their script is also easy to learn:  "I love it here at __________ U.  I have to spend about 5 hours studying for every ten minutes in class, and that of course leaves time for my fraternity/sorority, my seven service organizations, my four intramural teams, the religious activity of my choice (which of course is completely optional but easily available here at ______ U), and my frequent dinners in the homes of my teachers.  The faculty here at _______ U have really been great to me, emailing me weekly just to check up on my grandmother's health, lending me a puppy when I am lonely, and giving me their spare household appliances.  Greek life at ___________ U is very unusual, since unlike most schools, we delay rush until the second semester and actually have friends who are in other clubs... at least, most people know people who are in other sororities, and I know of two people who spoke to unaffiliated sophomores last year.  We are a very safe campus, but just in case, we have emergency phones every fifteen feet on campus, and our university police force is made up entirely of Navy SEALs.  We offer a ride service on weekend nights for students who are... ahem... too sleepy to get themselves home.  Now, as we tour campus, I think those are academic buildings over there, but let me take you to each of our nineteen dining facilities, our all-you-can-eat Chick Fil-A, all three Starbucks, and our smoothie counter.  Fortunately, we have a great workout center that is larger than the administration building and library put together.  Here at ____________ U, we really focus on our studies."

Make sure that you have dozens of glossy fliers in plastic bags to hand out to the students.  They all say the same thing, so don't worry too much about which ones you give to which students. 

After so many meetings, I am glad my kids have such clear decisions to make.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Going Home Again

I don't care what they say - you can go home again, at least for a little while.

I moved to Nashville when I was eight years old.  I graduated high school here.  After law school and marriage, Gena and I came back here to live for thirteen years.  So I have lived here for 22 or 23 years of my life.  We have been back periodically over the last ten years since we left, and I always feel that I am coming home again.

I do not mean to disparage my current home town.  We have a good life where we are, with friends, good jobs, and a church family.

Still. if you ask me where "home" is, I will always say Nashville.

Staying with good friends.  Driving around the city.  Going to church.  It is home.

But home really is people.  Some people are out of town this weekend.  We haven't seen them all.  But we have seen plenty.  I will change the names here, since I have not asked permission, but my friends will recognize themselves.

Craig and Lisa shared all about their kids who are now in college.  I was in their wedding in a different state, and I have known him for many years.  There is nothing to "catch up on" when we get back together.  There is nothing discernable that has been missed.  We simply pick back up.

Greg and Norma immediately dive into conversation with us.  We have traveled together, raised kids together, gone through heartache together.  And now we sit and talk once again.

Peter knows me in ways nobody else does.  I don't exactly know why, except that he and I are cut from the same cloth.  We understand each other with nothing more than an exchange of looks across a room.

Leslie does not change.  I have known her since I was in high school and she was just out of college, and she and her husband Bob have always been something of role models for Gena and me.  She never changes.

I sat in the congreagation and looked up into the choir loft, where I had my place for years.  I saw dozens of faces, some new but mostly of folks with whom I sang and communed and grew and shared and lived.

We went to the hospital this afternoon.  It happens that while we are home, our friend Sharon has just had surgery, so we dropped in to see her and her husband Mike.  Another friend of a couple of dozen years, Rob, was there as well.

Lunch with several families.  Conversations.  Just seeing some faces.  Sam and Angie.  Stan and Mary.  Melissa.

The buildings are nice.  The streets are largely the same.  The scenery brings back memories.

But when I see and talk with and love on the people, I know that I have come home again.