Fall 2007 State of the University Address
Sacred Encounters continued
Cliff Hamlow, some others, and I sat with some architects a few years ago, and I will never forget it. We were designing, what is today, one of the most expensive buildings (by a factor of three) we have built to date: the science building. We break ground on that on September 25. I will never forget that architect saying, “Life isn’t lived in the buildings; it’s really what happens between the buildings that defines what a community looks like.” I think it is true for the Cornerstones as well. One of the things in your packet is a silver cross designed to be a lapel pin. David Peck and a couple of us got together, trying to find a way to clearly paint the picture of this year’s assignment. I thought an illuminated light would be good. Everybody gets one, spouses, faculty, and staff. David had these unique silver crosses made. I would like you to keep this somewhere as a reminder to you that I am asking you to move into the sacred encounter not knowing exactly what it’s going to look like. Whoever you are, whoever you meet, Blackhawk parent, adult students, undergraduate, fellow worker, be receptive to what the Spirit of God wants to do with you in that situation.
The second piece in your packet tonight is a reminder card. In the next four months, before we go home for Christmas, I believe God will identify for you a student within your span of care. The student that God identifies to you is will be someone who has a need or a pain or is in need of a word of encouragement. Or maybe they will have done something extraordinary and you want to tell them that. I would like you to write them a note on the card you received tonight, put it in the envelope, and mail it. I would like to ask you not to have any of these left on December 31. Maybe I will receive several hundred as Christmas cards, but I don’t want you to have any left. We will do another batch in the spring. Here is the thing, I am absolutely convinced, after spending that time around the campfire, how powerful our words are.
I got the email that Nate Rawlings went to heaven. I was his dean of students. Last year, he sat right here, and we all celebrated the chemo and how he had handled it. When Nate came as a freshman, he had had cancer as a young boy and they had amputated one of his arms, but he was a pretty good athlete. He came as a one-armed football player and they put him as a defensive end on the side of the line that had the arm. His hand was like the size of a dinner plate. Everything about Nate was big. He grew up in a great Christian home, his dad ran a Christian camp in Arizona, and his older brother had come through and was two years ahead of him. John Milhon in biology, was actually a classmate with Nate that year. Nate was far from God, about as far from God as you can get and still be here, and he was an idiot. Being the dean of students, you have the short list of people who cause problems, so that, on Monday when you get the campus safety reports, you call them. About 80 percent of the time that short list resolves the issue that happened over the weekend.
On top of that short list was Nate’s name. In fact, he wasn’t even on that list; he had his own list with one name on it. I remember specifically on one occasion, Nate was absolutely out of money, flat broke. The guys in his hall suggested to Nate a way that he might get enough money to take a young lady to La Femme or Spring Fling. This was the era of streaking, when taking all of your clothes off and running across some public square, was considered to be high fashion or something. These guys talked to Nate and put enough George Washingtons on the table so that Nate agreed to streak through McDonald’s across the street. Can you picture this? As only freshman men can do, they made this sound perfect sensible. Nate put on a bathrobe, got to the edge of the street, disrobed, got hung up in traffic halfway across, streaked through McDonald’s, came back, put on his bathrobe, and collected his money. I called him in the next day. I said, “Nate, somebody went through McDonald’s without their clothes on last night, wearing a ski mask.” He said, “Jon, they had a mask on.” I said, “Nate, the person had one arm!” You got to remember he was a freshman guy. In those days the dean of students was also the chaplain. Nate had a heart as big as his dumb ideas.
I remember before he crossed the line to fully give his life to Christ, I asked him one day in chapel if he would come up and tell us why he had not yet crossed the line. He said, “I just can’t yet. I don’t want to fake it. When I make the decision I want it to be real.” There is nothing about Nate that was not real. His football coach, a Bible professor, and a roommate helped him cross that line. There was a sacred encounter, and if you know anything about Nate’s story since then, it has been a remarkable journey. He and Mary have three kids, including a set of twins; he is an accomplished attorney, and an amazing Christ follower. What would have happened to Nate, not just in eternity, but what would have happened to the seeds he had planted if he had not had the sacred encounters that led him to the character and nature of Jesus Christ?
Our marching order for this year is this: go into the future. But the future is right now with the 10,000 students we are going to touch. Live in the space between the Cornerstones in that sacred encounter. Tell a student that God has put under your care or provided divine appointment that they matter. That passage of Scripture, Romans 12:9-13, describes a remarkable kind of love. In short hand, this is the love of another kind it describes. It is without hypocrisy, it can distinguish between good and evil, it focuses on the needs of others, it sustains us through hard work, it motivates us to excellence, it has staying power in adversity, it sees the needs of others, and it is hospitable to strangers. I have seen that in you and Nate saw that in us.
Any questions about where we are going this year? About the space between the Cornerstones about what God’s calling us to? The tradition of this evening has been that we are commissioned into this call. The tradition has been that the chair of the board commissions us into the call. Dr. David Le Shana is not able to do that, he is out of the country. His son, Dr. Jim Le Shana, is a faculty member, adjunct, a pastor, a parent with two sons here. Jim has a B.A. from George Fox, an M.A. in Theology from Fuller, an M.Div. from Haggard, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. from UCR. He is a member of the George Fox Board of Trustees. He is a pastor at Rosedrive. I had his son, Chase, a remarkable young man, in my Walk About group. I thought that with these credentials, Jim could do this. As is also our tradition, when Jim is done—we are trying to be good Quakers—we are going to sing a hymn. I am thankful, I am grateful, Jim, that you’re willing to do this. Shalom.