Friday, April 7, 2017

Roles in Community

With the trees around here yet to regain their leaves, today I found myself excited for the coming fall. Today I attended the seminary's student association panel featuring candidates for next year's positions. I was impressed by how the candidates all expressed an eagerness and commitment to serving the community next year, whether or not they are elected. Many of them used this comment as a stepping stone to empower the audience to realize that they, even though not in an official position, still had influence as we walk together into the coming seasons.

What inspired me even more than the candidates speeches today was seeing the number of positions that are going uncontested, where only one person is running. The lack of competition is not because these positions are unimportant, for they are really quite the opposite. There was, in fact, more people considering pursuing those positions, however after hearing the vision of the other candidates, they decided to support that vision and find other ways to serve at a more organic level in the community.

What are the roles of community members as they move forward? Is it to cast the vision? To empower others? To support another's vision? I wonder if we perhaps compartmentalize these areas too much at the cost of losing sight of the relationship between them all, even within how we see ourselves as leaders.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Unexpected Place of Community

Having just returned from a meeting where I was able to talk about the many ways I have benefited from the unexpected adventures in my life (learning biblical languages, ministry internships in Kauai and Estonia, etc.), I came across another surprise. As I rounded the corner to turn into my room, I discovered two facilities workers checking the air quality there in. Their reader was picking up something from my bedding and clothing pile which I had just washed last Sunday. Upon further investigation, they discovered bacteria in the dorm's washer. With the washer out of commission, I set out with a dorm mate to a local laundromat, which was a new experience for us both. Needless to say, neither of us were particularly excited about this new adventure. 

Upon arriving at the laundromat and getting the loads of wash underway, I was surprised at the sense of community that the place held. Having brought along several books, I was surprised at the lack of opportunity to really sit and read as I felt like I was constantly loading, unloading, checking dryers and feeding them more quarters, and folding. The others there were evidently regulars as well, sharing updates on their lives with the attendant and joking with one another as they went about doing their laundry. The sense of familiarity there among the people, of sharing the regular task of life together, and possibly the old tv playing an episode of Jeopardy which reminded me of being at my grandparents back when I was a little kid, made the place feel homey in a way that I had never anticipated. 

As one born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I love the culture of coffee shops. There are hints of community at coffee shops, yet this laundromat provided a different, positive aspect of community, where instead of the quick two minute conversation in passing, conversations weaved in and out over the course of several hours amidst the responsibilities of life. Coffee is often available after a church service, bringing part of that culture into the life of the church. I wonder what it would look like to involve more of the laundromat style of community in our approach to church. Possibly it would be a community that still treasures the coffee times, whether it be the two minute conversation or the intentional coffee date, but also finds the space to work side by side doing the tasks of daily life and find joy in sharing in that aspect of life together.

Where are the areas where we do life together, alongside of others, either inside or outside our home? 
I am happy to report that the washer in my dorm is now thoroughly cleaned out and back in working order and also that I resisted the temptation to put quarters into the pinball machine at the laundromat.

(Pictured is the view from the laundromat's parking lot)

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?