Friday, March 24, 2017

Chair to Chair

Almost two years ago, I interned with a church on the island of Kauai. As the weather here on the East Coast returned to cold after a teaser of spring, I've been thinking about the warmer days I had on Kauai. It didn't help that when I called the parents earlier this week, I could hear wind on their end of the phone and knew it was the breeze coming off the Pacific onto the shores of Kauai whereas I, midway through my busy semester, was scrambling from the library to the desk in my room through the wind which made the temperature feel well below freezing.

The pink armchair came as a surprise, both in that I hadn't planned for a long time on interning on Kauai and was not expecting that day to find the chair on my hike. The chair I sit in now, a brown, cushioned office chair, is something I've anticipated for a while. Both chairs provided me with a place to pray, ponder, and be productive. While I expected to one day be sitting in this sort of office chair, still in the realm of academics, my p's (praying, pondering, and productivity) in this brown chair are still influenced by my time in the pink chair.

What chairs are behind the one we currently sit in?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Doors of Opportunity

What does it look like to choose a door to walk through, knowing that by choosing it you may have to close others and that once through its frame, it may close behind you, encouraging you on to a new room with different doors?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Chocolate Chai

Having grown up near Seattle, whenever I step into a Starbucks coffee shop, I always have a little sense of home. Along with a few trips to the Starbucks near campus this semester, a sense of familiarity has also appeared in my studies, particularly when studying for my Aramaic class. The practice of creating piles of flash cards and repeated writing and speaking paradigms is a practice I am familiar with having already taken Greek and Hebrew. So, today I changed it up and went to study Aramaic in a local coffee shop near campus that wasn't Starbucks.

What are the rhythms in our life that remain the same with a warm sense of familiarity? Where might we change our practices to discover new flavors, or perhaps a combination of flavors that we haven't thought of before, such as chocolate and chai?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Space for Light

This week, one of my assignments for a class is to write out an order of a worship service for two different Sundays. As I gather the pieces for the service, I am coming to appreciate how the service is a space where the elements can come together to engage the worshiper, reminding them of the grand narrative of redemption and showing how individual practices all weave into that area. Perhaps the service is like a coffee shop I was in a few weeks ago, where as the sun shone through the painted window the purpose of the coffee shop stood out, namely the purpose to be a place where coffee, culture, and community connect. Like the coffee shop needing the sunlight to show inside what was outside, the worship service needs the work of the Holy Spirit to transfer the words being spoken and sung to those that take root in the heart. 

Where are the windows in our life that allow God to shine through? Surely God doesn't need us to create a window, but I believe He desires for us to create spaces where we dwell and delight in His light. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Take a picture of that

Being the first day of the year when the weather was forecasted to be mostly sunny and over 60˚ Fahrenheit, I set aside the books (temporarily) and journeyed out to the beach with several friends. While at the beach, I had the pleasure of walking alongside a friend from last semester who is returning to their home country later this week. As we walked along, we decided to take a selfie, I pulled out my phone turned on the camera, but before I could switch the camera orientation into selfie-mode, my friend, peering onto my screen, noticed how beautiful the sand that the camera was currently pointed at was and asked me to take a picture of it.

While we may willingly share our 'pictures' with one another (see previous post), do we trust others enough to let them into our lives as we seek to live out our calling, letting them add their input? It may lead to a different picture than the one we were aiming for, but often the picture will still capture an aspect of God's love. 

I've treasured the friendships that have thus far survived the transition to long-distance and still keep me accountable. I've come to realize though that while such friendships ought to be valued, it is also vital to build relationships locally with the people who are seeing me day in and day out that may hold me accountable. The local friends are those who are able to peer over my shoulder to see what is currently on the screen of my life, possibly better than those who are at a distance. Allowing such friends to speak into my life and hold me accountable has changed the 'pictures' I produce. For example, one of the subjects that I am now focusing on is Sabbath rest. As I go about life here, my friends have seen me with class related books in my hand seven days a week and question me as to that habit. I doubt that I would be so focused on Sabbath this semester on a personal level if it wasn't for these friends walking alongside me. 

Calling has both individual and collective aspects. While I feel called to focus on certain areas, it is important to allow others to walk alongside me who may observe the tools I have and point me to what is often right in front of me. It takes vulnerability, but in the end, the best photos are often those that capture life unposed.

Do we leave our life open enough for people to peer in to hold us accountable as we seek to live out our calling?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Shooting the Same Subject

Earlier this week, campus was coated overnight with a few fresh inches of snow. I walked around with my camera, snapping a few photos. Even before 7am, there were other people wandering around, also taking photos. Throughout the day, more photos of the campus covered in fresh snow flooded my Facebook feed. What's remarkable to me though, is that even with pictures of the same subject and captions describing the beauty, the photos and captions each person posted maintained a uniqueness.

Within the class where students shared their calling stories, it was readily evident that not only was the clarity of our calling different, but also the frame of our callings were unique. There were those in the class who were eager to engage in full time pastoral ministry and some who currently are full-time pastors. There were those who wanted to stay local to the area, and those who had or are planning on relocating and ministering to another community. There were those who felt called to dedicate their time to youth and some to ministering to those in the armed forces. Each frame was slightly different from the others, yet each frame was filled with the subject: the shared calling to love God and love others.

Do we take the time to examine the photos of others as they continue to focus their lens on what it means to revel in the beauty of God's love and share that with others?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Calling through the snow

This week I experienced my first major snowfall while living on the East Coast. Yesterday, I sat in my dorm under a blanket with a book in hand, gazing out the window at the view which had become obscured through the swirling snow. Today as I hiked up the snowy hill to class I could clearly see where my path was leading. Continuing to reflect on the subject of calling, I realized that it may be like these two pictures of snow (one below) in that the sense of calling, particularly in regards to clarity, is different for different people.

Earlier this week I was assigned to write out my sense of calling in under two-pages, double-spaced. I brought the assignment to class where before turning it in, the professor instructed the class to get into groups of three and share what we had wrote with one another. One person in my group had a very clear sense of calling, even a particular moment when he was called that he could reflect upon. The other person wasn't sure what exactly his calling is, though he is actively taking steps towards what he thinks it might involve. The variety of call stories continued to become more and more apparent as the class heard briefly from each group about similarities and differences that emerged. I felt myself growing emotional as I listened to the stories about what had brought this group, comprised of people from a variety of cultures and life stages, to invest in seminary as they look to be more effective in their ministries. It is such a joy to hear people speak about their calling who have a clear sense of it, yet it is also encouraging to listen to people describe their continuing journey of discovery in regards to their calling.

Are we willing to take steps towards our call even when the path isn't entirely clear? 

As I work on translating the beginning of the Gospel of John for another course, I am amazed at how quickly the disciples knew who they were following. While the disciples were quick to know who, they spend the rest of the book discovering more about who He is and what that means for their lives. Surely they didn't see the path of their calling fully in the moment when they started to walk with Him, but they did respond to the part of the call that they had received and followed Him.