Friday, October 21, 2016

Methods of Hiking

On a recent hike up Mt Monadnock in New Hampshire, one of my companions noted that for them, hiking was about getting to the top as quickly as possible to enjoy the view, and then dashing back down the hill to move on to the next thing. As a slow hiker, I've come to the opposite conclusion, that hiking is about savoring the journey. 

Are we so focused on the wonder that awaits that we miss the wonder of the journey or are we so caught up in the wonder of the journey that we stop pressing forward?

What if there was a balance between the two?

Friday, October 14, 2016


During orientation week at seminary, the administrators stated that there are three groups of people who come to seminary: those who know what they want to do after seminary, those who have no idea where they are going after seminary, and those who think they know now but will leave with a very different idea. Even as I reflected on my own life, particularly over the last eight years, the most formative experiences and things I enjoyed, such as interning in Kauai and Estonia, participating on a speech and debate team, and learning Greek and Hebrew exegesis, were not what I had expected to treasure (or even do). Acknowledging the unexpectedness of life from my perspective, where am I to focus and what am I to do as I seek to move forward?

The story in Matthew 14 of Jesus and Peter walking on the water continues to be an encouragement to me during these early weeks in seminary. As I pondered this passage on a recent retreat and also read over the passage directly preceding it of Jesus feeding the five thousand, the image of rowing came to mind. Instead of needing to know exactly where I am going after seminary, throughout my adult life, or even knowing what will happen later today, I, as a rower, am called to sit facing the rear where one, Christ, is calling out the strokes for all those in the boat. I can see where Christ has brought me, I can hear the stories of those rowing beside me, and I can know what Christ has ultimately done for me and how He calls me to respond.

The disciples had thought they had reached the limit of their abilities and there was nothing more they could do for the large and hungry crowd. Jesus, moving past their attempt to say the day was over, told them to continue serving the crowd. When they cited their limited resources, Jesus requested that they give what they had to him and through their obedience He performs a miracle they didn't expect. The disciples were not required to know exactly what Jesus would do with what they offered to him, they were called to obey in hope and love.

Do we focus to much on trying to bend in awkward ways to try to glimpse where we are going, instead of setting our attention firmly on Christ and digging into where we currently are?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Apple Picking

There is something about picking your own apples that is less convenient than the supermarket, particularly when it is raining outside, yet also more enthralling.

Do we go for what is convenient/instant at the cost of not seeing the beauty in a longer process?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Relational Driving

One of the noticeable differences between the West Coast and the East Coast of the U.S. is the unique driving styles. Not only do people on the East Coast not believe in the safety and utility of long on and off ramps to the freeways, but one often finds drivers doing things (not all negative) that you wouldn't expect them to do. For example, whereas I would have been fine waiting for the car on the road to turn off left before I made my left turn, the driver waived me ahead of them despite the growing line of cars behind them. During my first few ventures driving around the area, I was confused and slightly frustrated at this difference. Then, earlier this week, one of my friends helpfully explained to me that West Coast drivers are legalistic whereas East Cost drivers are more relational. One is not necessarily better than the other (excluding the difference in freeway ramp styles). However, it is necessary for one to adapt to the driving culture of the local area.

In what areas can we stand to become more relational?  Also, in what areas do we need to be more legalistic in order that we are clear on the mutual expectations and are able to accomplish the task before us?

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Interrupted Rest

Midway through the week, I became exhausted and regretted not having taken more of Sunday off to intentionally rest from academic work.  As an assignment I had anticipated taking most of my time mid-week was postponed, I decided to take my lunch to the beach.  

Despite being a mostly clouded Tuesday afternoon, the beach was crowded with people soaking in the last bit of summer.  I sat up on the boardwalk enjoying the marvelous view as I munched on my pb and j sandwich and began reading.  One middle-aged man came and sat down across fro me to put his sandals back on his sandy feet.  He asked if and where I was a student.  When I responded that I was a student at the seminary he immediately responded “Don’t tell me you’re one of the Jesus people.”  A short conversation ensued in which he continued to ask pointed questions about what I believe.  After the series of questions, he stood up, walked over to me, shook my hand and introduced himself as a pastor.

In Luke 24, two disciples allow a stranger to come alongside of them on their journey.  They are challenged in their thinking by this new companion who challenges their current perspective of the events surrounding the death of Jesus.  Realizing the fruitfulness of this conversation, they continued to make space in their lives by inviting the unexpected companion to join them for the evening.  As the evening progresses, they suddenly realize that they have been listening to the risen Christ.  Jesus disappears and the disciples rush back to Jerusalem with renewed energy with which to encourage the other disciples that the Lord has indeed risen.

My interaction with the pastor on the boardwalk was not nearly as life-giving as the experience the disciples received on the road to Emmaus.  While I found myself somewhat frustrated by the pastor’s approach to the encounter, it did lead me to reach out to several friends with whom to debrief the experience and renewed my excitement to be at a seminary where I can continue grappling with some of these tough questions. 

Do we allow space for our lives to be interrupted and challenged in the midst of our regular demands?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Focusing on the beach

Amidst the week when course syllabi suddenly present a view of a semester containing mountains of reading and assignments, one friend came and pounded on my dorm door inviting me to the beach.  Despite my initial decline, her persistence led me to find myself standing on a beach where my long shadow cast by the setting sun seemed tiny in comparison to the distance of the ocean that stretched out beyond.  The daunting (yet exciting) horizon of rigorous academics temporarily found its place in a bigger picture.  One of my main hopes for this semester is that my academics will stay in their proper place, namely in that God is calling me to see, experience, and participate in far more this semester than just what sits on my desk.  Doing so will require a prioritizing of where I invest my focus.

In Matthew 14, Peter sees Jesus walking on the water and asks to join him.  Peter has initial success walking on the water by keeping his focus on Jesus.  When the wind swells up, Peter loses his trust in Jesus and cries out for help.  Notice that the passage does not say that the wind which challenged Peter ceased when Jesus reached out and grabbed Peter, but rather it ceased when they got back into the boat, implying that there was a time when the wind was still there while Jesus was restored as Peter’s main focus.

How does our primary focus and love influence the way we perceive and handle all areas of our lives?

Hebrews 12:1-2

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Lastingness of Temporary

Four examples of the lastingness of temporary:

a) As I moved into my dorm room and adjusted the old window, several Hebrew flash cards came fluttering out, apparently having once been used to keep the window in place.  I laughed thinking of how I have shared and will share some understanding with the previous resident, despite never meeting them, over the shared task of studying Hebrew.  The previous resident has graduated seminary and now is on to a new adventure, yet the lastingness of the shared experience remains.

b) One of the librarians mentioned that the library was a place where one is physically surrounded by a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12:1), namely referring to the testimony of those who had looked to Jesus, walked in faith, and wrote about what they thought and encountered along the way.  Even though their earthly experience was temporary, there is a lasting quality to it that remains to encourage and challenge us today.

c) I’ve jokingly called this orientation week my finals week, since I’ve taken five tests to try to waive courses that are similar to ones I took at Whitworth.  Despite the extra stress it caused, taking those tests served as a reminder that I am building upon my previous experiences (see blogpost from June 6th about embracing culture for more thoughts along this line).

d) Long-distance friendships can still be life-giving.  While we may no longer be singing the doxology as we leave the library at midnight, making late-night runs to the grocery store, and catching up over lunch in the garden, there is still a connection in that we once shared those particular experiences together.  As several of my friends begin their seminary experience, return to Whitworth, and settle into new jobs, there is a potential (as in requires one to be intentional) for them to be lasting friendships.  I’m looking forward to staying connected with people and creating new memories with new friends here that may also last beyond the temporary.  

And finally two questions:

What does it look like to draw lastingness out of the temporary?

Where is the balance in treasuring the past while embracing the new?