Saturday, December 03, 2011

Missing Uncle Sam

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

“Christmas is a time of joy,” my boss said yesterday. “I have to keep reminding myself of that.”

It is. A joy tinged with sorrow, as the Man of Sorrows left his throne and came to be born in a manger, knowing he would be the sacrifice that redeemed the world. But a joy nonetheless, because the end result of that sacrifice was resurrection – not just once, but for all who believe.

I’m holding onto the hope of resurrection right now. Holding on to the hope that the Day-spring will put death’s dark shadows to flight. Because they are dark. And they are present. And I ache in the missing him.

“I’m okay,” I keep hearing myself say. “At the moment.”

On the one hand, day-to-day, I didn’t see Uncle Sam much – certainly not compared to his students or his fellow professors of music. But sporadic lunches, quick conversations in hallways or offices, greetings at concerts and events were enough to keep that long-seated friendship fresh, one that had grown from years upon years of relationship with my grandparents, my parents, my sisters, his brothers, his nephews, our shared friends. And now I am left with them all, aching.

He was a musician. I know that. But it’s not like that stood out to me in a unique way – saying Sam Hsu was a musician would be like saying any other person had eyes. It’s a given. His music was so much a part of him that I sometimes didn’t even take note of it.

I know that must seem strange to those who knew him from the world of music. But that wasn’t the world where we overlapped so much. We met more frequently over meals, at family celebrations, or academic discussions. He was my friend, my “uncle”; and my friend came with music in his blood.

He was a friend I was privileged to sit under as a student, enjoying the breadth and depth his knowledge gave to a class that could have been routine. And in between the insights into the music, art, and literature of the western world, were tidbits of great beauty and depth that would flow from him: “He’s experienced a little of me and I’ve experienced a little of him. That’s what friendship is, isn’t it?”

He was a friend who may have been thought somber by those who did not know him well. But they never got to experience the moments of humor that would come from around side – hilariously unexpected. I’ll never forget the day he sat at the keyboard to introduce us to a Russian Romantic composer and paused with his fingers hovering above the keys: “I’m going to show you how the Russians loved,” he said. Then he lowered his hands to the first chord; it struck and faded as he paused again: “I’m not a Russian. I hope you know that.”

I stood at the hospital on Thursday afternoon, looking about me at Uncle Sam’s students who were there, and thinking of those, former and present, who were not. Men and women of God whose passion for music is fueled by their passion for Christ. And I thought: that is what they learned from their teacher. More than fingering, more than history, more than style. They learned Christ-following from one who was, preeminently, a Christ-follower.

I have allowed my mind to swim freely in the lyrics and music of hymns and carols for the past few days, knowing that it is a place he would have loved to be with me. And the joy of Christmas, the beauty of this world, the grandeur and faithfulness of God, the great truths – all of them have resounded over and over to me.

And I will rejoice. For God is with us.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Slow Burn

It's been a long autumn this year. The colors have passed their peak (evidenced, if by nothing else, by the fact that I could barely see the lines in the parking lot at work this morning for the carpet of yellow that covered them), but only just, and they began weeks and weeks ago. I saw a flaming maple in the middle of the park at the beginning of October, all alone in its glory, the deep green of late summer still on the limbs of the trees around it. The massive maple across the street has shed most of its foliage, but others are still bearing their yellow and scarlet leaves. I saw sun light the crimson tops of the grand oaks on the front drive as I was leaving work today. Meanwhile the small oak in my front lawn rusts away quietly.

A slow-burn autumn.

My mother has nicknamed me the Dragon. It's a nickname that brings concerned expressions to the faces of strangers and raises eyebrows among aquaintances and friends sometimes. But family - and I mean that in the non-biological definition of the word - family understands the name. I love the nickname. It reminds me that there's someone in the world who knows that deep inside of me is a burning intensity that I don't let out very often, because it's likely to scorch. That there's a passion and energy there which I'm constantly reigning in just so that I can function on a day-to-day basis. That when I've found something to believe in, or something or someone that I love, I do it fiercely-if quietly, because I struggle to express its force.

A slow-burn intensity.

I write. I write because I'm a storyteller and because I have ideas that can only express themselves through story. But it takes me a long time to get it all down. I mull and mull and mull over scenes or plots for days or weeks or months (or years, sometimes) before I start writing them. I play conversations out in my head before I type them on the page. I run through three options of direction a scene could take before I choose one.

A slow-burn creativity.

I've realized that I like a slow-burn autumn. I always say that fall and spring do a lot to make up for winter and summer here in Philadelphia - they have a lot to make up for, winter is usually pretty lame and summer is stupidly hot. Fall tends to be lovely here, with brightly colored leaves dancing in blustery breezes on sunshiny days. But this slow-burn autumn makes me even happier - like all the majestic intensity of this past week when so many of the trees seemed to suddenly realize it was fall and come out dressed for the season together was made better for the wait.

And that has made me wonder if slow-burning isn't so bad after all.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nothing is Wasted

This has become a theme of my week - not because I'm going through anything particular, but simply the truth of it - and its applicability to past and future events. Its been, for lack of a more somber word, "refreshing" to remember that Christ redeems sorrow and pain.

The hurt that broke your heart
Left you trembling in the dark
Feeling lost and alone
Will tell you hope’s a lie
But what if every tear you cry
Will seed the ground
Where joy will grow?

Nothing is wasted.
Nothing is wasted.
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted.

The wound that leaves a scar
Becomes a part of who we are,
But this is not the story’s end.
The pain that closed the chapter
Sets the stage for what comes after
When all we’ve lost is found again.

Nothing is wasted.
Nothing is wasted.
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted.

When hope is more than you can bear,
And it’s too hard to believe it could be true,
And your strength fails you half way there,
You can lean on me and I’ll believe for you,
And in time you will believe it too.

Nothing is wasted.
Nothing is wasted.
Sometimes we are waiting
In sorrow we have tasted,
But joy will replace it
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted.

Jason Gray, “Nothing is Wasted (Alternate)”

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Living Stones

In Joshua 22, there's this misunderstanding.

The tribes who took allotments of land on the east side of the Jordan are finally going home after helping the other tribe conquer the land of Canaan, and they build an altar, somewhere near where they are going to cross back over the Jordan.

The tribes in Canaan think they're trying to build a second place of worship, away from the Tabernacle, so that they don't have to travel so far to make sacrifices. They rise up to make war against the eastern tribes and fortunately stop to ask questions before they do so.

It all comes out in the explanation: the eastern tribes didn't want anyone to forget that they fought for the land. They pulled out the practice of their fathers and forefathers and built an ebenezer - a an altar of remembrance - so that when their children asked why they had to go all the way to the tabernacle to worship, or when the western tribes' children asked why these strangers from across the river kept coming over into their land, someone could point to the altar and say, "See, your fathers and our fathers fought together and God gave them this land. It is His, and we all worship Him here."

Except, here's the thing. The stones could stand for generations, and they could represent what the eastern tribes wanted them to say, but only if someone said it first. The whole misunderstanding arose because no one was there to remind the western tribes of what had happened.

I've been thinking lately about living stones. Josh Garrells uses the phrase in his song, "White Owl": Every dream that you have been shown / Will be like living stone / Building you into a home / A shelter from the storm.

And I've been listening to him almost incessantly, so, frankly, living stones in my head. But that is just the background music.

On Tuesday evening we gathered together the Chorale that went to Poland this spring for a reunion. A significant portion of the group was able to make it, and we were able to have a little bit of time for people to share what God had been doing in their lives since the trip.

One by one, as they shared, I was reminded of the things we learned together as we traveled.

And I had this thought - we're living stones.

The Israelites set up piles of stones to speak as a remembrance of the things God did. But without a message to go with them, as we see in Joshua 22, they failed to tell the story.

But then I started thinking and trying to remember exactly what it was that Peter says about living stones. I looked it up: "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." It's all in the context of the Church - and fitting that it's one of Peter's letters that uses the analogy. Jesus is the cornerstone, the one upon which He will build His church, but we are the walls, the steeple, the body - a spiritual house.

As I wander forward through history I begin to see that we didn't leave the piling of rocks back in ancient times. One has only to look at Notre Dame de Paris, or Westminster Abbey, or St. Paul's, or the National Cathedral for that matter, to realize that we've been piling stones as markers of God throughout the centuries. Problem is: one only has to look at the words coming out of some of those buildings to realize that the message has gotten confused along the way.

Perhaps then, we should pour ourselves into building piles of living stones, gathering around us other members of the holy priesthood who can remind us of what we learned, of what we want to remember.

But then we run into this: for all their faults in communicating messages, stones have one serious factor going for them: they last. There are still altars built along the Jordan River. We don't know exactly if one of them is the one from Joshua 22, but it's quite possible. If that one isn't standing, others from near the same time still are.

Living stones on the other hand, well, they're fallible.

Time, philosophies, and the evil one take their toll on living stones; making us wonder if perhaps they were never stones at all, but something false, like the lithops plant that avoids being eaten by blending in to the stony ground around it. And we're left wondering if it might have been better to build up stone walls as remembrances, rather than facing the disappointment and confusion that false living stones give us.

I haven't finished thinking about this whole thing, but I'm going to say no. Living stones are worth the risk. Because not only can they tell the story of what happened then, in that time that you're building the remembrance of, they can also tell the stories of what has happened since, and the new things that God has done.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Little Bit of You

I've been attending a writer's conference for the past few days and have founds some really helpful tools and met some really interesting people. There's been encouragement; there's been frustration; there's been review; there's been new material.

In all, a positive experience.

A few thoughts and things I've learned:

1. Put a little bit of you into every character you create. - This shouldn't have been a new idea; and I don't know that it really was, but it struck me today in a way it hasn't before. And I immediately started thinking about an unfinished novel I've got in which the three main characters are basically a tri-furcation (see, I can make up words now) of my own personality. And then I had to tell myself not to get distracted from the other projects I'm working on.

2. "Save the cheerleader. Save the world." - There's a reason why the first season of Heroes was amazing. It lies in their tagline - all the cards were on the table. Goal (what are the characters aiming to do?) - "Save the cheerleader." Motivation (why are the characters doing what they're aiming to do?) - "Save the world." Plain, simple, and absolutely perfect. Note: once they saved the cheerleader, the entire television show fell apart.

3. It's really nice when the conference you're attending is at the place where you work, for, not only can you lock your purse up in your office all day and not have to carry it around with the 10 pounds of manuscripts in your bag, but also you can mooch coffee off the Admissions staff in the Welcome Center, which is way better than the Food Services coffee provided.

See, there you have it. I'm learning things.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Eleven Years

I first met him in the Oxford Valley Barnes and Noble on a rainy afternoon about eleven years ago.

I’d heard he would be a bad influence on me, but I wanted to draw my own conclusions before entering the debate. And time was running short: a discussion about his worth was planned for the next day.

It was a tentative first meeting – I wasn’t sure I was ready to invest in the relationship, but I wanted the option to do so if things went well.

So I did what any frugal college student would. I found a comfy chair in a quiet corner and sat down overlooking the parking lot (no, the view from the Oxford Valley B&N is not what draws one to spend time there). Three hours later, my stomach growled, reminding me that as a frugal college student, I should eat in the dining commons. I sighed. I stood. I looked down at the paperback book in my hand, my finger marking the spot a couple hundred pages in, and I decided to take the plunge.

I walked downstairs to the counter and bought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I wolfed down dinner then returned to my room. Less than three hours later I closed the cover on the final page and took a deep breath, returning to the rarified air of reality after reveling in the rich atmosphere of fantasy for the bulk of my day. And I knew I’d made a new friend.

I won’t say the relationship wasn’t rocky at times. I went to the panel discussion and heard one of my favorite professors recommend staying away from Harry, not because he was necessarily evil, but because the Bible tells us to avoid even the appearance of evil. Another favorite professor lamented: “Fantasy writers create fantasy worlds. That’s how it works. I wish, for the sake of Christians, that Rowling had used something other than the trappings of magic for her world, but that’s what she used.”

They didn’t sway me away from my newfound friend. The trappings of magic were no trouble to me. They were simply the d├ęcor in a world unlike my own.

I started late in the relationship. Many were there before me. Rowling had already aged Harry four years by the time I began, and so I was able to work my way through books two and three in good time.

Then came the wait. I’d finished The Prisoner of Azkaban, but Goblet of Fire was only available in hardcover. College student that I was, I couldn’t justify spending $25 on a book that wasn’t for class. I waited for summer vacation, hoping I’d earn enough to justify the expense. A birthday present of a Borders gift card sent me to Border’s Express, where I found the book for just $19, and devoured it within three days.

I thought the wait was awful when I went a few months between books, but after Goblet, we were all forced into three years of agony. The pain was mitigated, slightly, by Harry’s arrival on the screen.

I remember going to meet him in visual form for the first time. The theatre was huge. I was with my friend Bekka. I sat in the vast darkness and watched quidditch for the first time, just as thrilled as I’d been to imagine it in the books.

In the time it took for Harry to turn from 14 to 15, I aged three years. I finished college and found myself working in the summer programs at SEND the next time I was eagerly anticipating Harry’s visit. I’ve never been a midnight showing kind of girl, and midnight book releases hold little more appeal to me, so I waited until the day of his release, after work, to find a copy of Order of the Phoenix.

And then, in panic, I searched in vain. Barnes and Noble, Borders, Borders Express – no luck at any one of them; all sold out. Unwilling to give up, a brainstorm occurred to me: Meijer. The great, the wondrous, Meijer. I swung into the parking lot at Eight Mile, hopped out of the car, and ran inside. Meijer has probably 20 aisles of groceries, a good acre of clothing and home goods, and another half acre of electronics, toys, pets, etc. But there’s only one row of books.

I went directly there. And found many copies of Order. I picked up the thick tome and took it to check out, proud that I’d out-smarted hundreds of other obsessed fans.

Order was probably the most difficult point in our relationship. As a 15 year old, Harry became annoyingly whiney and brooding. Sirius, who I’d come to love in Azkaban, wasn’t much better. I ignored my urge to slap Harry and pushed through to the end. And then, of course, Sirius’ shocking death. But I heard the prophecy for the first time, and another piece of the grand puzzle fell into place.

I finished Order staying in a tent on Grandma’s back porch over July 4th weekend. The house was full of guests, we added the tent for space. It was hot, and humid as only Southeastern PA can be. By the time I finished, the books pages were wavy

The two-year wait for Half-Blood Prince seemed like a blip on the screen after the longer one for Order. But when the book was released I found myself in a conundrum. I was living in rural Alaska, far from a bookstore. I hadn’t ordered the book online, because there was something about getting it off the shelf that appealed to me. But I wasn’t planning to head into town around its release. I considered ordering it, hoping it would make it to me promptly, but I knew if I could just ask someone to get it for me, I’d have it sooner. Problem was: I was living in a community with a lot of those Christians who were caught up in the fact that Rowling had used the trappings of magic. Not wanting to offend, I didn’t know who to ask…until one (again rainy) afternoon on a boat in the Prince William Sound, when I overheard Larry say, “I’m going to town this weekend. We need groceries, but really, it’s because Josh wants the newest Harry Potter book.” And Kelly, his wife, chimed in, “Yeah, Josh reads through those things faster than anything. I’ve never seen him so focused on a book.”

And I’d found my solution. I sidled up to Larry a little later, and looking out over ice floes and glacier silt, I asked him to get me a copy. A few days later I had the green-covered book in hand, and I was happy to discover that Sirius’ death, though tragic, seemed to have pushed Harry out of his whiney phase and back into a nice form.

Throughout these years the movies came out one by one. I watched most of them in the theatres with friends, though Order, which I dreaded, I didn’t see until it was on DVD. Happily, time constraints forced the writers to reduce Harry’s whining significantly, and he was a much nicer person in visual form than on the page.

Waiting for the final book, I began to look back at them all with a critical eye. I thought I detected a chiastic structure which gave me ideas of what would happen in the end. I debated with friends questions of who would live and who would die. And I hoped for an ending worthy of the choice I’d made years earlier to invest in the relationship.

Then came the final anticipatory summer. Back in civilization, I got The Deathly Hallows from the bookstore the day it was released, and, not working at the time, I settled in to the final chapters of my relationship with Harry similarly to my first experience with him. The final book is significantly longer than the first, of course, so I couldn’t go straight through in a day, and besides, I wanted to make it last – but I allowed myself to be engulfed in the world of Potter, it’s magical trappings, and the friends I’d made along the way.

And at the end, I once again took a deep breath of the rarified air of reality and returned, satisfied.

It’s been five years since that summer when I stepped onto platform 9 ¾ for the last time with Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and their children. Filmmakers have given me layers of the relationship to continue to explore – seeing Half-Blood Prince come to life and reveling in the quiet emotion of Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 on the screen have sated my desire for “more” when the author inside me knows there can be, and should be no more.

But this weekend, the final part of the final version of the final chapter of this friendship will project onto screens. I’m not sure when I can see it – I have responsibilities this weekend which prevent me from going right away. I’m embracing the delay, though. I anticipate seeing the translation to visual Harry, but I don’t want it to end. I don’t want to experience that epilogue’s finality again. I know I have to.

But here’s the great thing about this friendship that started eleven years ago on a rainy afternoon: it doesn’t ever have to end. If I want, at any time, I can go back into the world of Hogwarts and Muggles. I’ll never experience them again for the first time, but I can experience them again.

So it’s not an end, per se. But it is a close. And the world is different than it was eleven years ago. But then, so is Harry. And so am I.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I've always admired elephants. It's a little complicated to explain to people (they always jump to "that's weird" before they hear the whole reason), but if I were able to choose an animal to be, it would be an elephant. I love that they remember things; that they commemorate them. I do that as much as I can, but I'm not as good as an elephant.

But there are moments when I curse my elephant memory. When a conversation overheard about taking time off for a funeral sends me immediately back to a snowy January morning when I called my manager and asked for more time off because Keren had died.

And I'm there. And I'm grieving all over again. And I'm reliving that morning through my elephant memory.

And then I'm thankful. Thankful that that phone call to my manager was made from Michigan, not from Pennsylvania. That I was there, with my sisters and brothers-in-law and friends and family. That I did not have to get those phone calls when I was alone or drive or fly there by myself.

Mercy. It's a memory of His Mercy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Update on Poland Trip Preparations

Friends -

I wanted to post an update on what's happening regarding the trip to Poland this summer. This coming week is the airfare deadline, and there are still quite a few who are short the money. Please pray! We know that God is the great Provider, and we trust that He will provide the finances for each student He wants to go to Poland to be able to go. This evening the Chorale has a concert in New Jersey in which they will share about the trip. Pray for the Lord to move in the hearts of those attending to give.

This morning, I shared at Glenside Bible Church, my church here in Philadelphia, about what we plan to do and how to pray for us. As I did so, I realized that one thing I really need you to pray for me about is my role in mentoring and leading the young ladies on the trip. Pray that God would give me wisdom and a giving heart in my interactions with them both before we go and as we travel together. I've come to really enjoy the members of the Chorale, and I look forward into building into their lives more closely.

The response I received at church this morning was loving and encouraging. I know that we will be upheld throughout our travels by those who have invested in our journey. Currently, I'm a little short in my account for my plane ticket. If you feel the Lord leading you to give, please do so as soon as you are able. Thank you to the many who have already partnered with me financially and in prayer. I currently have about $1,000 in my account, and hope to have the entire amount, $2,525, raised by mid-April. Please use the response form below and return it to Nancy Musgreave in the School of Music and Performing Arts. Please place my name on the response form only; do not write it on the check.

I’d appreciate prayer for these needs right now:

1) Pray for me as I continue to build relationships with the students in the Chorale

2) Pray for the Chorale as they continue to train train to sing, and as they perform concerts throughout the region this spring

3) Pray for open hearts among the people of Poland

4) Pray that God will teach me all He wants me to know through this experience

Thanks for considering your part in what God is going to do through this trip to Poland this summer. You can follow the Chorale as we prepare and as we travel by visiting our


~Carrie Givens~


This trip and its ministry will not happen without your prayer and financial support. Would you join me in this ministry opportunity?




Phone number ______________________________________ Email address ___________________________

Team Member _______________________________________ Account number 20-4201-5161-303

O Prayer for me and the team as we prepare

O Financial Support: $50___ $100___$200___other____

Please send this Response Form with your financial contribution. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Please make checks payable to: Philadelphia Biblical University (PBU)

PBU is a non-profit organization and is registered with the state of Pennsylvania.

According to the I.R.S., gifts to PBU, even though designated for a particular ministry event or individual’s ministry support, are under the control of PBU and that while PBU will seek to apply the gift to the designation, PBU retains the right to redirect use of the gifts based upon the needs as determined by the Board of Trustees. According to the I.R.S., the tax-deductibility of your donation is dependent on it being “unconditional and without personal benefit to the donor,” and that it “is made to or for the use of a qualified charity. Further, Philadelphia Biblical University (PBU) must have “full control of the donated funds, and discretion as to their use, so as to insure that they will be used to carry out its functions and purposes.” Thus, we can only accept tax-deductible donations which are given in this way.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Of late, my "blog" posts have rarely made it off of the paper they often are started on. In the few moments when I actually sit still without a task in the week, I find myself thinking (which to me, means writing), and I'm rarely in front of the computer screen at those moments. That's the whole point of those moments - NOT being in front of the computer.

But then, to share with the world, I have to transfer. And in the transference, what was once timely may become out-dated, what was once living may become a dead thing.

Still, I don't want to let go of my paper. The rolling of the tip of pen over the blank space gives me a feeling of security that black characters on a white screen cannot replace. The ruled lines give me a structure that a bare document or post box cannot contain.

I love to look back at my handwritten words and see where the ideas really got flowing, and the letters lengthened and angled, and the periods became more pronounced. In re-reading a typed document I lose that. I have to rely on my memory to know if it was a great creative moment - and I forget too easily.

No, I do not hand-write everything. I am a product of my generation and have touch-typed at ever increasing speed since I was 15, but sometimes, when the thoughts really begin to flow, the speed of my fingers on the keyboard give me no help in getting them out of me. So I go to the pen.

And I write on paper.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Every Creation Myth Needs a Devil."

I finally saw The Social Network yesterday. Yes, I know I'm well behind the times. But, you know, these things happen. There were many fascinating aspects to the film. I see why they have continually pointed out that this is an unauthorized version of events, and that these are characters based upon the real people, not representations of the people themselves. I see exactly why it has been winning awards left and right. There are great things I could mention about the writing, the directing, and the acting - but those are all well-discussed elsewhere. I don't need to.

Instead, I've been dwelling on one line that caught in my memory, which in the context of the story being told is directed at the main character, Mark Zuckerberg: "Every creation myth needs a devil." The phrase is stated to Zuckerberg at the end of the film, following the depositions which have been used as the framework device to communicate the tale of the origin of Facebook. The character speaking is saying that Zuckerberg himself will play the role of the devil in that particular creation story - that is, the version that arose from the depositions. But what fascinates me is the layering of this creation story throughout the film.

Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter, and David Fincher, the director, have managed, in a single film, to tell at least two creation myths for the phenomenon which is Facebook. Atop the myth that reveals itself through the depositions in the film, casting Zuckerberg as the devil, is the myth revealed by the film overall, in which identifying the devil is more complicated.

In the film's version of the creation story, Zuckerberg certainly is one candidate for the role of devil. He begins the film by eviscerating an ex-girlfriend in a blog; he promises three other students that he will build a website for them, and instead builds Facebook for himself; he begins the company with his best friend, and then dissolves his friend's ownership share in it down to nearly nothing, while keeping his own share absolutely intact. There's plenty of evidence for the deposition version of the creation myth.

But there are enough nuances throughout the film which raise doubt about Zuckerberg's role. When he meets the girl he wrote about in the blog later in the film, he goes to speak to her. He does not apologize, per se, but the audience is not quite sure whether he would have had he been able to. His attitude is such that we think he might truly regret his actions. When he reneges on his promise to build the website, there's a certain amount of understanding we have for him. He was 19 years old. He talked with some guys who had a great idea for a website. He said he'd help them out. Then he started thinking more about it, and came up with a better idea - yes, inspired by the first, but bigger and broader - and got excited about it. Perhaps the fact that he didn't follow through on his promise was not, after all, deliberate perfidy, but rather the immaturity of a teenager who has a brilliant idea. The betrayal of his best friend is, perhaps, the hardest element of Zuckerberg's devil-role to poke holes through, but the film brings in other characters whose influence over him could be the reason for it.

It is one of these characters, Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, who is, in the end, the other best contender for the devil role in the film's version of the creation myth. I was reminded every time Parker came on screen with Zuckerberg of a snake fascinating its prey before it strikes, weaving to and fro before it, beautiful and dangerous. The character Zuckerberg is on the one hand, lured into a world he doesn't really care about.

But here's the thing about humankind: even when they are archetypes in a creation myth, they don't stop being human. Zuckerberg is not innocent. While the character is portrayed as not caring about the money his new company will bring him, he is consumed with a desire for prestige on his own terms. We see that he was not deeply involved in the dissolution of his friend's shares in the company, but we also see that he allowed them to be dissolved. While Parker fascinates him, he buys into the fascination, because he sees in Parker something of what he wants to be.

In the end, the film leaves us with a creation myth that needs a devil, and Zuckerberg is probably the best option for the role. But it also leaves us with questions about the nature of mankind, about brilliance without guidance, and about the idea of influence and power.

And, finally, we're left with a character who could be any one of us: a young man who had a great idea and was capable of accomplishing it. And we're left asking what the cost was for him to do so.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I'm getting on an airplane again!


You know those times when you have something big happening in life, but you just haven't found the time to tell people about it yet? That would be the state of my past couple months. There have been many big things going on in life, and, while this email is about one in particular, I wanted to take a moment and share a few of them.

As many of you know, I've been working at Philadelphia Biblical University for the past 18 months. I started right after graduating with my master's from Arcadia University in Professional and Creative Writing. What do I do at PBU? I'm writing - among many other things. I work as a Communications Specialist in the Communications and Marketing Department at PBU, and I spend my time writing, editing, managing projects, helping build web content, coordinating the upkeep and expansion of our photo library, and generally having a good time. I work on a team of about 10 people who handle everything from making sure people have business cards, to overseeing the University's communications operations with prospective students, to launching a brand new website. The PBU website is one of the major things that's been keeping us all busy in recent months. We launched an entirely new site in January, and are still working on upgrading and working out the kinks. Another big part of my job is writing for and editing the University magazine, PBU Today. I've really enjoyed magazine writing and am looking into freelance opportunities in that field.

In addition to my work in Communications and Marketing, I've been an adjunct professor in the School of Arts and Sciences for the past three semesters, teaching freshman writing courses. I'm taking a break from that part of life this semester, which means that I don't have 10 papers to grade each week - and that's nice. Outside of work I'm involved at my church, Glenside Bible Church, teaching the college-age Sunday School class. I spend lots of time with college students in general, often having small groups over to my apartment to hang out or eat a meal. In the fall, my friend Christine began working full-time as a mobilizer with SEND International (I know, my mission!), and she moved down to be based out of the Philadelphia area as she covers the Northeast and Northwest regions of the US. She moved in with me and we've enjoyed sharing an apartment in Newtown, PA.

All this working with college students and living with Christine and continuing to have a finger (or two) in the world of SEND have converged to bring about a new opportunity. In May, 2011, the Chorale of Philadelphia Biblical University (PBU) will be presenting evangelistic concerts in Poland. Christine and I have been invited to go as co-leaders with the Chorale Director, Dr. David Shockey, to help oversee the group of about 45 students. Christine is also coordinating and leading the pre-trip training for the team and I have been able to help her with that some. In Poland, we’ll be serving with missionaries from SEND International.

Why are we going? SEND International, working with pastors and believers in Poland, is starting churches in strategic regional towns where there are no evangelical churches. Only 1/10 of 1% of Poles are true followers of Christ. Most of these new churches are very small, so the Chorale will perform in community centers. Our concert will give the church an opportunity for many people to hear the gospel and meet local Christians.

We will be going to Poland May 21 – 31, 2011. The cost for each team member is $2,525 which covers airfare, food, lodging, etc. In order to not be a burden to the students who are raising their own support, I am aiming to do the same.

I need ministry partners to join me in prayer and/or financial support for this ministry. Would you consider how the Lord could use you to be part of this team? If you feel led to assist in this trip, either with prayer or financial support, please use the response form below and return to PBU.

I’d appreciate prayer for these needs right now:

1) Pray for the missionaries in Poland as they set up concerts

2) Pray for the Chorale as we train to sing, and start our regular Chorale concerts in churches in the near future.

3) Pray for open hearts among the unreligious people of Poland

4) Pray that God will teach me all He wants me to know through this experience

Thanks for considering your part in what God is going to do through this trip to Poland this summer. You can follow the Chorale as we prepare and as we travel by visiting our blog:


~Carrie Givens~


PBU Chorale Poland Trip

This trip and its ministry will not happen without your prayer and financial support. Would you join me in this ministry opportunity?

Your Name:____________________________________________________________________________________________


Phone: _________________ Email: ___________________Chorale member:___________________________ Acct #______

O Prayer for me and the chorale members as we prepare.

O Financial Support: $25 ____ $50 _____ $100 _____ Other _______

O Prayer support for the trip to Poland

Please mail this completed information with your financial contribution to Philadelphia Biblical University, 200 Manor Avenue, Langhorne, PA 19047, Attention: School of Music and Performing Arts. Please make checks payable to Philadelphia Biblical University. All contributions are tax-deductible.

**Gifts to Philadelphia Biblical University, even though designated for a particular ministry event or individual’s ministry support, are under the control of PBU and that while PBU will seek to apply the gift to the designation, PBU retains the right to redirect use of the gifts based upon the needs as determined by the Board of Trustees and the Administration of the University.