lenten journal: no day like today


    Packing up the youth group to go skiing is easier here in New England than it was in Texas. For one thing, Maine is a hell of a lot closer to Marshfield than Colorado was to Fort Worth; for another, the vans come equipped with DVD players these days.

    We weren’t even through the city before the movie was on and I could hear the simple piano intro that captures me every time I hear it. Then the voices joined:

    Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
    Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
    Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
    How do you measure, measure a year?

    I was driving the van with the musical-theater kids who are getting ready for their Spring Show, Randumb Axe 5 (that’s Random Acts to you and me) and a couple of the RENT songs are in the show. But their connection with the movie runs deeper than that; they have been captured by the film since it came out at Christmas. Jane – the same girl who broke her arm on the trip – has been completely captured by the musical. And I can see why. It moves me, too. I’m sure I’m not alone as one who has found a way to work the lyric to “Seasons of Love” into a sermon (picking up where we left off):

    In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
    In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
    In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
    How do you measure a year in the life?
    How about love? How about love?
    How about love? Measure in love

    The way a car DVD player works is the sound fills up the car, but the images can only be seen by those in the back seat. I could only hear the music and the audible responses of my passengers, all but one of them seniors. This was the third trip to Maine I’d taken with most of the kids. We’ve skied the same mountain and stayed at the same place, the Sunday River Inn, which is run by Steve and Peggy Wight. The inn is a step back in time. In an area fast filling up with condos and luxury hotels, theirs is a family style lodge, with some private rooms upstairs, dorm rooms downstairs, and a dining room and common room – with giant fireplace – on the main floor. Everyone is expected to be together. We all brought out books into the common room to read by the fire and ended up in unexpected conversations with the other guests.

    There was one big change this year: the Wights are selling the inn and retiring from their career of hospitality. They are ready to measure their lives in other ways besides meals, towels, logs on the fire, and inches of snow on the mountain. It will require a change for anyone who is used to going to the inn because the person who buys it at today’s prices will probably not be able to run the same kind of show. The seasons are changing, just as they are with our youth group.

    The recurring musical connector in the movie is a chorus that says:

    There’s only us; there’s only this
    Forget regret or life is yours to miss
    No other road, no other way
    No day but today

    The words and music filled the car like pure oxygen. When we stopped for dinner they were energized by the sense of urgency and community the movie so beautifully conveyed. They were lifelong friends watching a movie about friends at the end of life all coming to the same conclusion:

    There’s only now; there’s only here
    Give in to love or live in fear
    No other path, no other way
    No day but today

    Ginger and I saw RENT when the first road company – which was the original cast who are also in the movie – came to Boston. Our friend Patty took us as a Christmas present. The things I felt that night came back as I listened to the movie as we made our way up I-95. I was once more taken by such a story of hope told in the midst of such seeming hopelessness. The eight friends clung to each other in the present tense because what they had done in the past had cut their futures short. Yet, they were not hanging on in desperation; they were relishing the moment. “No day but today” was not a statement of resignation, but of gratitude.

    Yes, the characters were full of contradictions and made choices I wished they could have done differently, and I loved their spirit: give into love or live in fear.

    Both churches that Ginger and I are involved in are in the process of “visioning.” (I have to say here how much I hate turning nouns into verbs.) We started with the US Congregational Life Survey, a nationally used instrument to give us some data about how we view ourselves. At my church, we are now in the middle of muddling through the stack of statistics we were sent by the survey folks. The graphs and charts are helpful to a point, but they feel without context to me because there are no stories attached. We are all sitting in a circle, looking at photocopied pages, waiting for them to tell us where to go next when what we need most to do is put down the papers and ask and answer the question ourselves.

    There’s only now, there’s only this; no day but today.

    It’s Parker Palmer’s theme as well. We have come up with all sorts of ways to quantify success, to show what we are achieving and what we think we are making, but we are losing our sense of context: our connection to creation and to community. We are so frightened of failure that we have lost sight of ourselves for fear we don’t measure up.

    Give in to love or live in fear; no day but today.

    We don’t measure up and we don’t have to because success is not the measure, neither is wealth, or perfection, or effort or ability. “You are loved, you are loved, you are really loved,” as Victoria Williams sings to a different melody than the cast of RENT, neither one of whom is singing an original song. It’s as old as creation and as fresh as the sparkle in the eyes of my seniors. Like the man said,

    “Consider the lilies. . ..”



    1. Lacy and I watched RENT for the second time Saturday night. I was able to get more out of it this time around since there weren’t jerks watching it with us.

      I have used the movie as a reference several times this year. I love pure theme of redemption and love; mainly created by Angel.

      After watching the mini-doc on the creator, RENT will always be a story that I return to. Just as the entire Chronicles set has.

      Thank you for the words of wisdom.

      Joe Kendrick

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