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.  

Friday, February 3, 2017

'Treat treat'

This month I had the privilege of dog-sitting. As instructed, I would slide open the back door of the house a few times a day to let the dog out. After a few minutes, I would call out the dog's name, hoping that he would readily return. There were a few times, however, when the dog didn't respond readily to his name. If he was in my line of sight, he would even look up to show that he had heard his name, yet not move from where he was. As soon as I would say the words 'treat treat', the dog would jump in excitement and run full speed towards the door. After almost a week of house-sitting, I hoped that when I would call out his name, the dog would eagerly return without me having to call 'treat treat'. Instead, the dog got into the habit of coming to the back porch, watching me as I would slide back open the door, and wait till I said 'treat treat' to fully enter the house.

Are there things that we wait for before entering into where we are called? Are there times when we use the absence of a particular sign, even though we may be sitting on the porch aware that we are being called, as an excuse not to go?

This theme of calling is one that will continue to be explored on this blog every Friday for month February. In the coming blogposts, I hope to share a few thoughts specifically on being called to seminary and how that call still plays an active role in my time here as something I pursue, grapple with, and find assurance in.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Finding the Temple of Zeus

About a year ago this week, I set out with two friends to find the Temple of Zeus. What we thought would be a short 20 minute walk from where we were turned out to be an hour of friendly arguing about which street to go down and laughing about  our inability to navigate in Athens. Despite the extended journey, it continues to be a memory that I look back upon as an example of the value in enjoying the journey, particularly in treasuring those you are walking besides. 

This semester I am 'required' to read Peace Like a River, which happens to be one of my favorite novels. One of the reviewers notes on the back cover that when you read this book, you are eager to find out how it ends, yet at the same time you don't want to speed-read over the wonderful writing that is displayed on every page. 

Do we seek to reach an end, whether it be completing a degree, finishing a book, or arriving at a destination, at the cost of not being open to joy where we are currently at?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Rest in Transition

January has usually been a period of transitions for me. This month in particular, I've transitioned back into living on-campus at seminary after Christmas. I spend my days in the library researching and writings the assigned papers for my Jan-term class. After I return from work in the evenings, I transition into reading and trying to work ahead on assignments for what will be a busy spring semester. In the midst of this, finding snippets of time and trying to devote almost a full day a week to rest has been hugely important in helping me to personally process much of what is going on.

The photo is from a year ago when the group I was traveling throughout Greece with enjoyed an extended period of rest from our busy traveling schedule. While all that we were learning through the sites we were seeing and the museums we wandered through was important, perhaps equally as important was this moment of relearning the refreshment and renewed energy that come after rest.

In moments full of transition, do we find space to rest?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Watching the Branches Move

Having lived in the Pacific Northwest during winter, I am used to seeing trees maintain their pines all year round, creating a green curtain that covers up the trees that lost their seasonal leaves. Now living on the East Coast, I am astounded at how much further I can see when the trees lose their leaves. Today as I was working on an assignment in front of a tall window in the library I watched the tree branches sway in the wind. In the next few months, the leaves will reappear and I will be glad to see green hills again instead of brown, but this is a season of examining the core movements.

In my January class, the professor discussed the idea that one of the main opponents of Chalcedon (declaring Jesus Christ as having two natures (perfect humanity and perfect divinity) in one person) was arguing for the same ideas Chalcedon supported. Their disagreement was based on two different uses of the same Greek word. Now that scholars are in a different season, one which features the distinguishable English terms 'nature' and 'person', they are able to look back and examine the core arguments and see that the opponents were actually in agreement, though they didn't realize it at the time.

Do we sometimes cling to leaves that sometimes need to fall in order for us to watch the core movements? Such leaves may include different forms of technology and social media, busy schedules, relationships, etc. (In the time surround Chalcedon, the leaves included various definitions of particular terms and the assumption that one's interpretation of it matched others and the stress of needing to come up with a clear view of who Jesus Christ was in order to confront heresies that were spreading.)

Are there regular seasons in life when leaves change, or do we find ourselves clinging too long in one season when there is more to be seen?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Punctuated by Worship

A year ago tonight I joined the group of others who had gathered together in the university's chapel to praise God as was the weekly rhythm. It was the eve of my trip to Greece. In many ways, it symbolized the beginning of the trip, particularly as it was a visual reminder that over the next three weeks as I and others would be journeying through Greece, others would still be at the university, regularly gathering together to praise God.

The group I traveled through Greece had a particular love for singing the Doxology together. We sang it together on the bus, in monasteries, in a tomb, and while circled together in evening reflections on hotel rooms and roofs. It served to draw our attention back to praising God and as a reminder of the global nature of the Church.

I am thankful that on New Year's Eve my brother sounds in the New Year with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne followed by the Doxology on the bagpipes. May this new year be one frequently punctuated by the sound and sight of the Church gathering together to offer praise to God.

Psalm 150 (ESV)

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Happy New Year!