A New Version of Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians in Asp’s Suggested Paraphrase (ASP)

It took me almost a year to finish my personal translation, or paraphrase, of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. In the first four-and-a-half months of 2020, however, I’ve already managed to complete first-draft translations of three other books from the New Testament! That’s partly because I’m getting better at translation from Greek to English (“Practice makes Perfect”). But it’s also because I’ve been stuck at home, with more time to work on translation projects, throughout the COVID-19 shut-down.

Generally speaking, I’ve been trying to follow along with H2O Kent’s teaching series this year (as long as we’re in the New Testament, where Koine Greek served as the original language). My translation of Titus lagged a little behind our actual teaching series — through February and March — and there’s still some work to be done to polish it up and get it ready for other eyes to see. I managed to hang with our study of Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians in April and May, even though some days it took me two or three hours of study. But still, those first-draft translations needed some quality control after the fact.

Now, however, I feel like my translation of Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians is ready for others to read and consider.

As with my earlier translation work, I’m calling this project Asp’s Suggested Paraphrase — or “The ASP” or short. I know that it’s a bit vain and silly, but I figured it would be helpful and fun to have a handle for my work. I want to see the project continue to grow in the years to come, as I follow a similar process of discovery for other books of the Bible. But it’s really, primarily, for my own study and enjoyment. As noted previously: I went with the “P” instead of the “V” — a “Paraphrase” instead of a “Version” — because, well, it created a better acronym and because it seems like a more humble and realistic assessment of what I’m really doing.

I followed the same process for 1 Thessalonians that I followed for Philippians: starting with the original text in Greek… using study resources to fill in the gaps in my knowledge… and establishing a literal translation that didn’t read very smoothly. After that, I would create my own idiomatic translation (or paraphrase) of the text, often while referencing other translations. I leaned especially on the English Standard Version, the New Living Translation, and the New International Version. To further polish my first-draft translation, I compared my translation with several other translations including the King James Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, The Voice, The Message, and the (Dutch) Nieuwe Bijbel Vertaling. And after one final reading, out-loud, to check for readability and cadence, I created a time-stamped PDF to share with others.

My ASP is not perfect. In fact, I reserve the right to edit, update, and amend my version of 1 Thessalonians as my knowledge of Greek, my relationship with God, and my general life of faith might dictate in the years to come. But for whatever it’s worth, you are welcome to download this version of 1 Thessalonians (or “To the Thessalonians A,” as it’s literally named in the Greek), for your own study and enjoyment:

For those who might be interested in more of the minutiae of what I learned in the process of translation, here are some things I noticed about 1 Thessalonians along the way:

  • As with the Book of Philippians, he Apostle Paul loved to write really long sentences! In translating these long sentences, there’s a challenge: Either (1) Deal with extra-long, unwieldy, sections of prose that can be confusing for the modern English reader — all for the sake of more faithfully and literally representing the original Greek version; or (2) Use punctuation (and some extra filler words), and break up the sentences to enhance clarity — while also, admittedly, introducing more subjectivity to the translation. I probably tended more towards breaking up the long sentences, but that was easier to do in some cases than in others.
  • I stuck with my previous decision to consistently translate the Greek second person plural as “You guys” instead of the simpler “You.” I liked the fact that this translation is true to the colloquial speech patterns of the United States Midwest. But the real reason why I made that choice is to emphasize the communal nature of the Christian experience, instead of feeding into an individualized reading of Scripture. 21st Century American society is one of the most individualistic societies in history. Clearly more so than ancient Thessalonica. So I like the way that “you guys” communicates the fact that the letter was addressed to a group, not an individual. It may make things sound a bit less formal. But it’s not taking any liberties in terms of the way the original Greek words were intended to define their audience.
  • Translators have been struggling for the last fifty years to deal with the Greek preference to default to masculine pronouns for groups of people which may or may not have been mixed with men and women. It’s hard to make a translation decision on this one without feeling political. I decided to go with “Our dear family of faith” instead of “Brothers” (ἀδελφοί), just because I feel like that captures some of the tone of the original Greek, without making a gender-specific choice. It gets clunky, I know. And it is not a literal translation. But I think it’s a useful equivalent.
  • I’ve haven’t spent as much time in 1 Thessalonians as I have with other parts of the New Testament, but I’d guess I’ve still read through it dozens of times. This time through, however, one thing that really stuck out to me through this translation project (and the deliberate isolation because of COVID-19) was the theme of togetherness in the midst of separation that weaves in and out of the whole letter. Paul and his team talk about the way that this informs their everyday choices, as well as their long-term hope for the Day of the Lord. It feels highly relevant for 2020!

Anyway, I’d love to hear any reflections you might have, if you give the ASP a read. Whether you’re a Greek expert or not, I really believe it will be helpful to get other perspectives. But for those who might prefer some selected highlights from my Asp’s Suggested Paraphrase, I’ll share a couple of my favorite verses in my personal translation:

  • 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 (ASP) – “You guys have become an example to all the believers in northern Greece and in southern Greece. So the word of the Lord is ringing out — not just throughout all of Greece, but all over the place. Your faith has gone viral; we’re not the ones controlling the message any more. Other people are telling us about the legendary hospitality you extended to us. They’re telling us about the way you all changed your ways: serving the true and living God now, instead of idols. And they’re telling us to wait expectantly for the Son of God from the heavens — Jesus — whom he raised from the dead to bring deliverance from the coming Day of Judgment.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8 (ASP) – “But now that Timothy has come to us after being with you guys — and he’s brought good news about your faith and your love, saying that you guys think so fondly of us all the time — it sounds like you guys long to see us just as much as we long to see you guys. This brings us so much comfort, our dear family of faith — to get through all our struggles and distress — knowing that you guys are holding onto faith. Standing strong in the Lord, even! This breathes new life into us.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 (ASP) – “So seriously, let’s not let ourselves drift off to sleep like everybody else — but let’s keep alert with our eyes open and sharp. For sleepy people like to sleep at night, and boozy people like to booze at night. But those of us who belong to the day ought to stay alert, wearing the armor of faith and love and the helmet of hope in salvation.”

All right. Enough commentary. Enough hemming and hawing. My translation is not perfect. And remember: I reserve the right to edit, update, and amend my version of 1 Thessalonians, as my knowledge of Greek, my relationship with God, and my general life of faith might dictate in the years to come. But now it’s out there. And may God bless the reading of His Word!

Posted in Asp's Suggested Paraphrase of the Bible, English, Greek, Language, Recommendations, Recommended Reading, The Bible | Leave a comment

Strange Season for Seniors

Elliot gave a speech for his high school commencement ceremony from our Living Room this morning. We recorded it on a smartphone and then uploaded to Google Drive for review by a teacher. If approved (and selected from other submissions), it will play on the big screen at the Midway Drive-In Movie Theater on May 30th. That’s when Elliot, his classmates, and their families will drive in to observe their high school graduation.

This period of managing the COVID-19 pandemic is a strange time for all of us. But especially for seniors.

After submitting his speech, Elliot drove off to the high school (by himself). He had an appointment to walk through a carefully-prepared segment of the building. Teachers ushered him through a process to walk across a stage and receive a dummy diploma (not an official document) by two members of the high school staff wearing face masks and face shields. He paused for a photograph by the high school band director. Then, he handed the dummy diploma back to another set of teachers to disinfect for the next senior. As I understand it, this process is being repeated in ten-minute increments for each member of the graduating class of 2020.

The graduates will pick up their real diplomas on the afternoon of the 30th. Before the ceremony / screening at the Drive-In Movie Theater.

Later in the evening, H2O Kent “gathered” its graduating seniors on a video conference. We wanted to celebrate everything God has done in and through them over the last several years of their involvement with our church. Some of the H2O Staff hosted the event. And we decided to dress up for the occasion with a shirt, tie, and jacket. But I also chose to poke fun at the “occasion” by wearing basketball shorts and tube socks underneath the desk. To toast the seniors, I brought a champagne flute and a can of our finest La Croix (sparkling water).

It was not what any of us would have wished for. Their final farewell to Kent should be a grand occasion. Much grander than face-shields, and Zoom, and basketball shorts, and La Croix.

But the strange stuff is better than nothing.

Our H2O celebration consisted mostly of story-telling. Students spoke of key relationships formed during their university years. We remembered special events from the past several years. We talked about the character formation that occurred, as well. And we finished with praying for the students. We asked God to use each moment of their lives — including the strange ones — to draw us closer to Him.

I’m proud of the way that each of these seniors are taking all the strange stuff in stride. I hope that the weirdness of these days will make the story-telling all the more wonderful in the years to come. And I pray that they will walk with God all the days of their lives.

Posted in Children, Church, Culture Shock, Family, H2O Kent, Kent, Nostalgia, Ohio, The United States of America, Traditions, Transition | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Response to Evil

2020-05-13 14:30:36

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the recent news of Ahmaud Arberry, who was killed earlier this year, in Georgia, with no apparent reason except for being black in a white neighborhood. The story has been in the headlines a lot recently because of a video of the incident that recently surfaced. It’s also been on social media, with a lot of people posting his picture or running 2.23 miles to remember that day when he went out for a run and never came back (on February 23, 2020).

I haven’t felt great about putting up my own social media tributes for some reason. Or perhaps for multiple reasons. But it’s not because I don’t have sympathy for the injustices against African-Americans, both historic and current. I’m actually really discouraged about it.

I guess the biggest thing that concerns me is the Cause-of-the-Moment phenomenon. Isn’t racism always a problem in our country?!? Aren’t young black men being murdered every week, whether there’s a video camera there to capture it or no, with at least some root cause of racism and systematic oppression?!? And isn’t racism just one of a big, sad list of injustices happening every day around the world, like war… genocide… sexual harassment and sexual assault… female genital mutilation… “re-education” of ethnic- and political minorities in China… vast economic inequalities that lead to starvation and disease and greater vulnerability in natural disasters… disease… climate change… and evil in all its forms?!?

How does a person realistically create a social media snapshot of all this evil?!? Could #IRunWithMaud potentially even minimize racial issues, not to mention all these other issues — because it helps middle-class white Americans like me to feel like they expressed righteousness even while (subconsciously) continuing to perpetuate the issues?!? There’s something about these media flare-ups that just makes me feel like I’m being manipulated. Played. Trucking in a different sort of status (even if it’s well-intended)…

I feel like I’ve spent decades learning to understand and adopt core values that speak to these issues. And I feel like these core values address the issues in meaningful and sustainable ways. But I don’t want to be self-congratulatory or insulate myself from each individual problem that comes up by saying that, “My core values are already addressing the issues.” I’m still learning and gaining understanding. Still, I don’t want to lose the opportunity to share these core values that are immediately applicable, replicable, and sustainable.

First and foremost: The Gospel is my hope for a world in crisis! It’s the only way that I can make sense of all the brokenness and injustice. I regularly share the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection — and its implications for the world around us — by speaking in terms of self-centeredness and sin versus selflessness and salvation. I don’t know if it’s fully true to say that this is an everyday item of conversation — but it’s pretty close. We all need to understand that each of us struggle with sin and self-centeredness, and this is at the root of all the grave injustices in the world today. I’m so glad that the Gospel has become the centerpiece of my personal life and my career, and I’m praying that it can stay this way for the rest of my life — and for generations to come.

It’s not just a “religious” thing or a “personal salvation” concern. It’s about God making all things new. Yes, there are individual implications, particularly repenting from my own sin and self-centeredness — which includes a personal recognition of the ways that my experiences being bulled in sixth grade by a dark-skinned Mexican classmate fed into deep prejudice and hatred — and renewing my mind every day, as my flesh tries to creep back in. But it’s also way bigger than me — both for the worse and for the better.

Secondly, I want to renew my focus on crossing cultural lines, widening world views, and being a good neighbor to all sorts of different people. This is why I started making videos for Great Commission Ministries back in the late-1990s, and it’s also why I left that position to focus more on face-to-face, life-on-life discipleship. It’s why I moved to Europe for ten years. It’s why I still feel like cross-cultural missions are so important. It’s why I make a point to connect with international students at Kent State University. It’s why I am so passionate about our Thirsty Thursday Outreach in downtown Kent and our church’s “Fifteen Forever” philosophy to prioritize connecting with new people before and after ministry events — as opposed to automatically hiving off into our comfortable cliques as quickly as possible. It’s why I believe so strongly in church-planting and plowing as many resources as possible (financial resources and human resources) into the Great Commission. It’s all connected to this core value of crossing cultural lines, widening world views, and being a good neighbor to all sorts of different people.

I know that it sounds kind of silly to say that a lifelong commitment to “Fifteen Forever” serves to meaningfully combat that systematic injustices that seem to have been exhibited in the death of Ahmaud Arbery — but I really do think that this regular habit is one of the most practical ways we can work against human tendencies towards hate and fear. If white people like me can become friends black people like Ahmaud… or Ethiopian scholars like my friend Abdi… or disabled students like Ashley… or high school drop-outs like Hunter… or gay students like Michael… each of these encounters goes a long way towards building understanding and reducing the apparent misunderstanding that led to the incident on February 23rd.

I still believe there are other political avenues to be engaged. I do shy away from candidates for public office who truck too heavily in “Us versus Them” language and ideology. I do vote for prison reform and government spending to mitigate inequalities (to the point that I would even be in favor of reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves, even if it would cost me dearly). I do keep an eye out for injustices that might be happening within my immediate vicinity and sphere of influence, trying to speak out for others when necessary.

But I also want to keep learning and growing. I don’t want to just pat myself on the back and ignore other opportunities for action. But I do want action, not just hashtags. So help me, God.

Posted in American Politics, Church, Culture, God, H2O Kent, Introspection, Politics, Prayer, Social Issues, The United States of America | Leave a comment

Over the Line in Orangeville

It took over an hour to drive to Orangeville. But we broke up the journey. Namely, we stopped at the Short Stop Diner — in Center of the World — to get some take-out food. And it was actually kind of fun. Until we had to wake Cor up from his motion-induced nap in the back seat.

After the initial grumpiness faded, however, we were able to complete our mission: To stand in the middle of Orangeville Road in Orangeville, Ohio. It’s not a particularly beautiful road, nor is it a particularly beautiful town. But it’s special for one key reason. Orangeville Road just so happens to be a part of the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So we could stand — as long as there was no oncoming traffic — with one leg in Ohio and one leg in Pennsylvania. We played some games where we jogged along the state line until the person at the back of the line shouted either “Ohio!” or “Pennsylvania!” and then raced to see who could touch the grass on the other side of the road first. We posed for pictures by a state sign. And then we drove the 70 minutes back to Kent.

Why would we do something so silly? Well… Because it’s there! And because our Monday afternoon “Special Thing” happened to fall on a cold, rainy day. The weather kept us from hiking or playing outside. COVID-19 kept us from movie theaters and museums and cafes. But with a car, some musical entertainment on my smartphone, and a gimmicky destination, we actually had a lovely afternoon together.

Posted in Children, Family, Ohio, Recreation, The United States of America, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction to the Psalms

The Psalms, Week One from H2O Church Kent State on Vimeo.

As the COVID-19 crisis started unfolding and society started to shut down, our church felt compelled to focus on simplicity and small-scale spiritual formation. At the time, we wrote: “The current situation provides us with opportunities to get back to the essence of the Christian life. We don’t need an elaborate production or a highly-skilled team of musicians to worship the Lord. We don’t need 35-minute monologues from professional preachers to learn new things from the Word of God. We don’t need a crowd of hundreds to experience fellowship in the Spirit. In fact, Jesus explicitly told his followers that, ‘where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them’ (Matthew 18:20).”

As weeks have stretched into months, however, we’ve started experimenting with different ways to stimulate that small-scale spiritual formation. We’ve supplemented that simplicity with strategic support in the form of monthly Zoom Reunions and weekly video exhortations from a member of our Teaching Team.

We still haven’t started our own Sunday-morning live-stream (though we do encourage our people to tune into the live-stream put out each week by H2O Bowling Green). We haven’t gone the route of drive-in gatherings either, like we’ve seen some other churches doing. But this week — as we turn to a new month of encouraging our church to study the Psalms individually, in small (3-5 person groups), and through our ongoing weekly videos — we decided to try add in a couple of prerecorded worship songs. As the representative of the Teaching Team, I also try to catalyze communal study of the Psalms with some very practical tips.

Even so, I feel like we’re still dialing in our rhythms and routines for the coming summer months. We’d love prayer support and feedback for the steps that we’re taking — so please let me know if you have thoughts to share. In any event, we keep carrying on month-by-month, walking by faith until God makes it clear what comes next.

Posted in Church, God, H2O Kent, Preaching, Recommendations, Recommended Viewing, The Bible | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Pressures and Peculiarities of COVID-19

Back in the Office for H2O’s Seniors

One of the weirdest things about the last two months is the lack of reasonable, reliable information regarding COVID-19. This is partly because it’s a new virus that’s only recently been introduced to human experience, thus science is still catching up. But it’s also a result of all the different ways that a major health crisis like this impacts our world. It has health implications, political implications, financial implications, social implications… So there are a lot of different pressures and peculiarities coming at this issue from a lot of different angles.

Since this crises started, I’ve been staggered by the amount of information and counter-information and misinformation that’s bouncing around. Social media, especially, seems to be a big game of high-stakes poker: “I’ll see your article and raise you one.” How should I handle the mail that’s delivered to our house each day? When am I going to be able to hug my parents again? How likely am I to be re-infected or to infect other people if I’ve already developed antibodies against the virus? I feel like ten different news sources might give me ten different answers to these questions. Even from trusted sources of information — like the Ohio Governor’s Office — it feels like there are conflicting messages about wearing masks or not wearing masks, allowing an expansion of one’s “Circle of Micro-Organisms” to include family outside of one’s household or not.

How do we really know what to believe?!? How do we talk about these strange new elements of our everyday experience?

I don’t know if any people are really reading other people’s articles — but I’ve found little islands of reasonable, reliable information in the rising flood of misinformation. And I like to hold onto those.

The Atlantic recently published an article titled “A Guide to Staying Safe as States Reopen.” I found it to be really helpful. They interview a panel of three experts, and their recommendations come across as remarkably candid, empathetic, and full of well-educated common sense. One example of this is the experts’ response to the question: Can I expand the “Bubble” of people I interact with closely? “Part of the stay-at-home guidelines was essentially, ‘Your bubble should be your household… and what we’re potentially shifting to is, ‘If you’re an extremely small household and really struggling with social isolation, it may be okay for you to have closer contact with a limited number of individuals.’ Restricting your bubble to just your household is still ideal, but… it’s ‘probably not terrible’ to carefully incorporate very limited others.” I guess it’s just helpful to hear experts acknowledge the fact that we all have to make difficult decisions about complicated conditions, and we’re all trying to figure out a way forward as best we can.

On a separate-but-related note, my friend Chad recently sent me a link to an article from CNN titled, “Skin-Hunger and Corona-Jerks: The Dutch Are Inventing New Words to Describe the Impact of the Virus.” Of course, I have a soft-spot for these sorts of articles — being both a grammar-geek (a longtime obsession) and a Dutch-speaker (from my ten years of living in Amsterdam). But I really appreciated some of the insights that these Dutch neologisms help to encapsulate some of the experiences that are becoming common to this global phenomenon. Huidhonger — or “Skin Hunger” — is probably one of my favorite new words to describe that sense of longing for physical contact with other human beings. The Dutch is better than the English because its alliterative and all smushed together in one word. But it just seems like a perfect description of the way this current health crisis is making us all feel. I also really liked the words Hoestschaamte (“Cough Shame”) and Anderhalvemetereconomie (“Six-Foot Economy”). Again, I just think there’s something lovable about the sounds of these words and the way that all the words get smushed together to express a single concept. But even their English equivalents capture new human sensations: that social pressure you feel in addition to the physical pressure that comes when you have to cough in a public space… or the way that we’re all learning to instinctively stay six feet apart from each other.

I don’t know. We’ve still got a lot way to go before we’ve got this all figured out. Still, it’s helpful to have little bits of reassurance that we’re in this together, even if it’s six feet apart.

Posted in Culture, Health, Language, Nederlands, Politics, Recommendations, Recommended Reading, Social Issues, The Netherlands | Leave a comment

Remembering May 4, 1970

Student protests against the Vietnam War grew so intense in the spring of 1970 that the Ohio National Guard was called in to patrol the campus. Shortly after noon on May 4, 1970, something triggered the military personnel to fire into a crowd of protesters and bystanders — killing four students and wounding nine others.

It was a significant moment in the lives of students who were on campus that day, in the University’s and the city’s collective memory, and in United States History. 

I spent some time today visiting the sites where the ROTC Building was burned to the ground… the route the National Guard marched across campus… and the parking lot where four Kent State University students were killed…

If it wasn’t for the COVID-19 crisis, this 50th Anniversary would have been a really big deal on campus. Instead, it appeared that just a handful of people kept vigil overnight on the sites where the four students died. It felt sad on a whole different level from the sadness that would have been prompted by the originally-planned remembrances. But I also felt a strange sense of hope in the middle of all the sadness and silence.

It was helpful to remember a time when our nation was ideologically divided, when the University’s academic year was unexpectedly cut short, and when the world seemed like it was falling apart. And to remember that we got through it. Or at least we’re getting through it.

I’m praying for peace and perseverance today.

Posted in Introspection, Kent, Prayer | Leave a comment

COVID-19.755

It was a beautiful morning for a “race” — albeit a completely self-devised event, at a distance that is not particularly popular in the running community (in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of anyone else ever running a “Three-Quarters Marathon” before).

It took me about thirty minutes to drive myself approximately 19.755 miles to the site of a former train station called Jeddo. I know the distance so precisely because my original plan for this event was to run straight from Jeddo back to my home in Kent. The railroad that used to run through Jeddo has been converted to a “Hike & Bike” trail, so it was a convenient place (and helpful spot to park) to start a long run through the countryside.

I ran alone / together with Grace and Mark. We sorted ourselves by anticipated pace and staggered our starts by a minute (as a precaution in the time of COVID-19). So it really did end up being a solitary endeavor. And there was very little spirit of competition among us. But meeting at the trail-head did make our three-quarters marathon feel a little bit more like a race.

The spectators were geese and goslings, horses and foals, sheep and lambs, Amish families going about their Saturday morning chores, and motorists on the roadways (especially gangs of Jeeps and Corvettes).

The countryside was beautiful but unfamiliar, so I got lost a couple of times. But it was hard to complain with such lovely weather and such lovely scenery.

I don’t know what comes next. It seems like all road races will have to be self-devised for the foreseeable future. I briefly though about ramping up for a COVID-26.2 (full marathon), now that I’ve completed the COVID-13.1 and the COVID-19.755. But that honestly feels like a bit too much. We’ll see. For now, I’m going to enjoy the afterglow of my run from Jeddo to Garrettsville to Nelson to Parkman to Hiram to Jeddo.

Posted in Health, Ohio, Photography, Recreation, Running, Sports | Leave a comment

Day Fourteen

Our household is now on Day Fourteen of our quarantine within the quarantine! Cor rejoined the household last night, after 72 hours of no fever, and we’re thankful that his sickness only lasted for five days — and it seemed to be a pretty mild version of the sickness, at that. Marci, however, is having a hard time shaking this thing. She had a few days — like, Day Ten through Day Twelve — where she was feeling better and better. It was frustrating that the thermometer wasn’t cooperating and giving us the readings we wanted to see, but we had hope that the sickness and fever were going to disappear at any moment. Yesterday, though — unlucky Day Thirteen — we had a regression. Her fever was back up above 100° F, as high as it’s ever been, actually. She had new symptoms like a sore throat, a headache, and the glands in her neck were swollen and painful. She just seemed to be wiped out — physically and emotionally.

We tried our second consecutive Date Night in the Master Bedroom, eating take-out and talking across the room. But it didn’t go well. We ordered Panera from the wrong location (Graham Road instead of Kent Road), so we started a half-hour later than planned. And then, after less than an hour of talking, Marci started started to feel so badly that we needed to cut things short and give her a rest.

That may have been the low point.

After a good night’s rest, Marci felt better: no sore throat, glands less swollen, no headache. But she still had a temperature of 99.2° F. Thus a 14th day of fever and fatigue. But with the easing of some of her other symptoms, we felt ready to consider reintegrating our household. The science seems to suggest that the most contagious period is the 24 hours before first showing symptoms and the 24 hours after first showing symptoms. And we’re already well beyond that window, without any new cases since Cor. Even while Marci’s immune system is still fighting off the remnants of this virus, we’re thinking that her “viral load” should be pretty low by now. And honestly, even if Elliot, Olivia, and/or I get sick, that doesn’t feel like the worst thing in the world since we’re all steering clear of the outside world, anyway.

We recognize that reintegration is a gamble. But we spent the first few hours of the day thinking about that gamble, and we both felt increasingly comfortable with making that gamble. We figured that it would be an emotional lift for our family. We wondered if it might even provide a physical lift for Marci, boosting her endorphins, or dopamine, or oxytocin, or whatever natural stimulants to the point that she might be able to finally gain the upper hand in her battle against this virus.

We finally broke the touch barrier around three o’clock this afternoon.

It felt so good to hug, to kiss, to play with each other’s hair, to lean into each other’s bodies again, for the first time in two weeks. I hope I might never take these “little things” for granted in the future. Even if I get sick (which seems only marginally more likely than it did yesterday), I think the ability to communicate affection physically is worth it. I really do love my wife, and it’s just good to tangibly feel like we’re in this whole mess together again.

In addition to those positive developments, it felt like Elliot’s transition from high school to college became exponentially more real — in a really encouraging way. The high school announced its plans for graduation festivities. There’s a video submission process for commencement speeches and musical performance. There will be a drive-through distribution of caps, gowns, and tassels. On Graduation Day itself, there will be a drive-up distribution of diplomas with official photographs by Dr. Roebke. And for the ceremony itself, we’ll be given a ticket to the local drive-in movie theater, where we’ll get to enjoy the screening of the official commencement ceremony video compilation.

It’s a bit quirky, sure. But it feels thoughtful and special and memorable — and everyone in our family feels grateful for the chance to make something special of this moment in Elliot’s life.

In addition to all that, it looks like momentum is building for Elliot’s entrance to Kent State University. He’s working out a roommate match and their housing options. He’s scheduled to attend an online orientation event later in the summer. It just feels like things are finally moving — and even moving in a positive (if also uncertain) direction. During a time like this, we’re thankful for signs that life is moving along. Doubtless there will be further fits and starts, but we’re walking by faith into things.

Posted in Children, Family, God, Health, Home, Marriage, Prayer, Transition | Leave a comment

Lifeless

The campus of Kent State University is lifeless.

At nine o’clock on a Thursday morning, Risman Plaza should be overwhelmed with pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, protesters, recruiters — possibly even swordsmen (the live-action role-playing kind). Especially in the last week of classes, when the weather is so pleasant. Especially when final projects, presentations, and exams require students to be up and at ’em, on task.

Kent State University Campus during COVID-19

Today, however, the University Green, the Student Center, and the University Library are absolutely empty. A shell of what it should be.

Walking on campus these days reminds me of going to the funeral home viewing for someone I loved. The face is recognizable, but also flat and foreign. The hands look lifelike, with every wrinkle and blood vessel clear to see, but when I touch them they are cold and waxy. The soul is departed. The life is missing.

Kent State University Campus during COVID-19

I don’t like to see the campus this way. So I pray for a revival, a resurrection. It doesn’t feel like it is possible. But I say to God, out loud (for who else is near to hear), “All things are possible for you.”

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