03 March 2016

shame and vulnerability

“It is not the critic who counts; not the [woman] who points out how the strong [woman] stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [woman] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends [herself] in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if [she] fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that [her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”   ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Secrecy, silence, and judgement: the three ingredients that allow shame to thrive.
Empathy: the ingredient that douses shame.

With whom are you showing empathy? 
Who is showing you empathy?

08 December 2015

on seminary and tunnels

I came to Seattle Pacific University because of a direct call from God. I entered seminary because of a call. Yet what I’m learning is that a call is not a guarantee. You have to cultivate a call. You have to nurture it, pluck away the weeds from around it, water it, and protect it. But it’s worth it.

I thought that because I was called that I would love every second of it. But that hasn’t been the case. It’s been hard. There have been so many times where I wanted to quit, where I thought that I wasn’t going to make it. And to a certain extent, I still do. However, what I know to be true is that I’m not doing this alone. I have a crowd of witnesses around me, encouraging me and supporting me, cheering me on.

At SPU, one of the undergraduate traditions during graduation weekend is a ceremony called Ivy Cutting. It takes place in Tiffany Loop, one of the central locations on campus. Tiffany Loop is like a town’s “Main Street”, it’s an identifying marker of the school. All the graduating seniors gather in the middle of campus—far enough away from Tiffany Loop that it is not visible. The graduates then enter the ceremony along a sidewalk that leads into the Loop. But this walk is not the solitary walk of the formal graduation ceremony. No, this walk is crowded and noisy and wonderful. You see, the sidewalk leading into the Loop is lined with every professor and staff person. As the graduates walk, the professors and staff cheer and hoot and holler. This is a moment of celebration!

Tonight I was reminded of that ceremony in a conversation with one of my professors at the end of the class. We were talking about some of my struggles in seminary. He said, “You’re too valuable. We’re not giving up on you; and we’re not letting you give up on you.” Seminary is like that entrance into Tiffany Loop at Ivy Cutting. Yeah, it might be more like crawling than walking and the path may seem more like a climb up Mt Everest than a paved path, but it is lined with professors, staff, colleagues, classmates, friends, and family.

Often we use the language of tunnels to describe the timeline of a journey. The person who just finished the last quarter of classes is at the end of the tunnel. The person in the last year of classes can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've gotten into the habit of joking that I'm in the middle of the tunnel with no end in sight, that there doesn't even seem to be an end. But my metaphor is missing a crucial piece. My tunnel is not a lonely tunnel. I have a crowd of witnesses attesting to the fact that there is an end and that I'm not alone. I am the one who has to walk the journey, I am the active participant in my story. But I am not alone.

21 November 2015

advent and the importance of the incarnation

In light of the Advent season nearly upon us, I've been thinking a lot about the importance of the incarnation. Advent is the time of waiting and preparing for Christ's second coming while also preparing to celebrate his first coming. So why does it matter if the Word became flesh, if God became God-with-us? Because it tells us something about who Jesus is, about who we believe in, and who we follow. I am reminded of this in my studies this quarter as we discuss how to approach youth ministry. Andrew Root wrote about the connection of youth ministry and the incarnation in his book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation.

"When the incarnation is discussed in connection to relational forms of youth ministry, it is often discussed as God's strategy or plan, making it possible for us to cut off the incarnation from the incarnate One. We often assume that being incarnate means being present in such a manner that we earn the leverage to influence others, as though God in heaven decided that incarnation was the best way to influence humanity. This position holds that God used God's humanity to convince people to accept God's message; it denies that the message itself is God's humanity. To think of the incarnation as a tool of influence is to deny the necessity of Jesus' humanity...It would have been just as well if Jesus only appeared human--he only needed to be human enough to influence. But Bonhoeffer has revealed that the incarnation is much more; it is not simply the strategy of God but the very heart of God for creation that opens the very being of God to humanity. If our humanity is to be transformed, we need a fully human God. We need a God who bears our reality and takes it fully into Godself. We need someone to accompany us (share our place) all the way to hell. Speaking of the incarnation as only of strategy for influence cuts free Jesus' humanity, making it possible for him to be only an idea, a logo, and not the who that encounters us within our human situation." (Chapter 4)

Jesus is the one who encounters us within our human situation. He is the one who encounters us in the middle of our relationship turmoil, our miscarriages, our academic studies, our oppression from systemic racism, our racialized society, our fears, and our comings and goings. This is who we are preparing to celebrate in Advent.