Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.” 
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Merton Prayer

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton

Monday, June 10, 2013

Top 10 Books from My Time on Staff

As I am wrapping up my time on staff and start looking back over the last 3 years, I notice that there has been a lot of change in my life- good, bad, and undecided. But books seem to be the things that permeate and leave deep traces in my heart and mind, and have been some of my most influential shapers. God has spoken to me quite a bit through these books, and I think they are books everybody should read at some point in their lives (my own humble opinion).
So here they are, the top 10 books from my time on staff- AKA Books I Think Everybody Should Read.

1. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society
by Eugene Peterson

This was one of the 10 (yes, 10- one for each day) books given to us at the Orientation for New Staff I attended in June 2010. I read it that summer, and it was deeply encouraging to me. Peterson basis each chapter after a key attribute in each of the Psalms of Ascents, and he basically describes the process God uses to shape us- and it is a slow and deliberate one. This is contrary to our culture (and to what I would prefer), because I like things to be fixed quickly. But his book helps to remind me that God's ways are not mine, but they are good even if they are uncomfortable for me.

2. Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America
by Robert Lupton

I read this for the first time the summer I did FUI as a student in 2009, but I re-read it each summer I staffed FUI in 2011 and 2012. Each chapter is only 2-3 pages, and each tells a story that deals with an aspect of urban ministry. Lupton poignantly connects the Gospel to everyday life- particularly how it pertains to "the least of these." I think it is one of the most compelling explanations of the Gospel I've read- it challenges anyone who reads it, but in a way that is very tangible and understandable. One of my friends said he gave it to a friend who is considering Jesus, and I think it is the perfect book for that. It makes Jesus look really good- but in a real and honest way, one that makes you self-reflect and inspires you to action at the same time.

3. The Human Condition
by Thomas Keating

Both of the summers I staffed FUI, Todd Minturn (the FUI director) had the staff choose one of four books that related to the concept of True Self/False Self as part of our staff development. This was the first book I chose, and it is small and short but incredibly deep. It is one of those books that I probably need to re-read about 45 times to really grasp all of it. Keating challenged me to really look inside of myself to what God is doing, and not keep trying to change and look for answers on the outside- since, as he says, "the key is lost inside the house" even though we like to look outside because there is more light out there. This book really helped me to reframe the way I looked at my spiritual life and circumstances- it kind of blows my mind/heart.

4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain

Even though it is not an explicitly Christian book, this book was incredibly shame-relieving for me. Cain explains the "extroverted ideal" that our culture holds, and why the very needed and real gifts introverts hold are often down-played or overlooked- even by introverts themselves. She talks about how introverts brains are actually wired differently from extroverts- and this has implications for learning (group collaboration not being helpful), work, and relationships. As I was reading it, I felt like she was explaining me and my relationships, and it was so affirming and liberating. It is very well researched, and she interviews a very wide variety of people. I'm still pondering the idea of "the orchid principle"- that many people (extroverts) are like dandelions, and they can grow fairly well in almost any environment. But introverts are like orchids- put in the wrong environment, and they will not grow at all. Given the right environment, however, they will flourish - sometimes even more than extroverts. I've been thinking about that quite a lot lately- in relation to myself, but also thinking about urban settings, and the implications of that idea on introverts in the inner city. Basically, this book is fantastic, and anyone who is an introvert, or an extrovert who loves or works with an introvert, needs to read it. It will help explain a lot.

5. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
by Beverley Daniel Tatum

Written by a psychologist on the development of racial identity, Tatum describes racial identity in general, then goes through the development stages for each ethnic group- including multi-racial people. It was very helpful for me in thinking about my own ethnic identity, but also in thinking about those around me. The stages she describes have implications for how we look at and relate to each other, and how we can navigate through the complexities of all the diverse people we will come across and that are in our lives. It is probably especially helpful for parents and teachers (because it goes through the different age stages) but I think everyone has and needs to ask questions about race that most of us are thinking but are afraid to ask.

6. Falling Upwards: A Spirituality of the Two Halves of Life
by Richard Rohr

Todd Minturn (former FUI director) first introduced me to Richard Rohr when I staffed FUI in 2011, and I am very grateful he did. I have needed the insight and the way Rohr looks at life and faith- a way that is beyond black and white and lives in the gray areas, and that is familiar and fine with imperfections and mystery. In this book he explains the two halves of life- that in the first half of life we are busy building our containers and our boundaries, following laws and finding our group and our jobs and our spouses. Some people stay in the 1st half of life forever- exemplified by black and white, Ten Commandments type of thinking. Some people move forward into the second half of life- and it usually takes either great love or great suffering to move them forward. In the second half of life you realize that all the containers that you have constructed in the first half of life have to be moved past. Not abandoned, but not constrained by. Its much more gray area, Beatitudes kind of thinking- and it is much deeper and more spacious, and it is actually what Jesus is inviting us into. It is another book that I need to read another 30 times to fully grasp, but it has been a great support for me in the midst of a lot of chaos and transition.

7. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality
by Ronald Rolheiser

Like Rohr, Rolheiser is a Catholic priest, and they seem to be much more comfortable with paradox and mystery than Protestants- and it has spoken to me where I am right now. This book looks at all the aspects of Christian spirituality: private prayer and morality, attention to heart and spirit, social justice, and community- and says that they are all necessary. All of these I've heard before, but he explains it in a way that is both understandable and fresh. It really makes you self-reflect. My favorite chapter is "The Spirituality of the Paschal Mystery" which talks about the need to imitate Jesus' death and resurrection in the different deaths that we experience in our lives. In the midst of the deaths of our youth, dreams, etc, how can we let it go, and receive the new spirit for the life we are now living? So helpful in the midst of transition, and the book in general gives a refreshing way to look at the Christian life.

8. The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom
by Henri Nouwen

The title is intense, but Nouwen never shies away from real, hard stuff. All of the books of his that I have read have been very deep and very practical at the same time. He is vulnerable and honest with his own struggles, which helps me think about how I can be vulnerable and honest with mine. In this book, he gives one page encouragements for anyone who is going through anything. They have been so encouraging to me, and reading one or two before going to sleep or as a devotional is incredibly helpful. I lent it to a student who was going through some hard things and wrestling with some tough questions, and she said it refreshed her every time she read it, and helped keep her afloat. Nouwen knows from experience what is needed in hard times.

9. Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America
by Eugene Robinson

This book was suggested at the first InterVarsity Black Staff Conference I went to in 2011, and the leadership said any staff who wanted it they would buy it for. And I'm glad I got it, as it was helpful for me to think about the new paradigm of black students I was trying to reach. Robinson talks about how their used to be one black America- unified in ideology and experience. Since the 1960's and 70's, that has been slowly morphing into four Black Americas- and they all see and experience the world very differently. There is what he calls the Mainstream- or the growing Black middle class- which most of the rest of America doesn't know exists, but is very present. Then there is the Abandoned, or the forgotten poor. There is the Transcendent, or the wealthy black class. And finally there is the Emergent, which is the growing African immigrant population, as well as the growing multi-racial population. Robinson talks about how each of these groups has a different definition of what "blackness" is, and yet all are still trying to hold on to the idea that there is one definition of blackness. But that doesn't work anymore, and so we all need to reshape how we see blackness, and by doing so we can see from each others' perspectives, and help those in need. Such a helpful book.

10. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
by Anne Lamott

I really don't know why it took me so long to discover Anne Lamott, but I picked up one of her books at our friend's cabin in 2011, and I read it in about 3 days. All her books are funny, witty, insightful, crude, deep, and touching all at the same time. She is an unabashed raging liberal, and she is honest and makes you want to be her friend. Her books have been good for me to read, because they are just about life and don't make you think too much like a lot of the books on my list do. They help you see yourself with real eyes, but in a way that makes you want to- it is do-able and not scary somehow. Each of her books are just a collection of stories from her own life, and it is hard to pick the one I like best. But I read Traveling Mercies on the plane to Panama in 2012, so I think it was one of the more memorable ones for me. Her books make me feel like its ok to be me, and that God is one who is quite alright with all of me as well: the good and the bad, the stuff I wish were different but may never be, and the stuff that I'm proudest of. And they are easy to re-read.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Lesson in Identity

From March 5-8, I had the privilege of attending InterVarsity's annual Black Campus Ministries Staff Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was an incredibly refreshing experience. It felt like family, and the content was literally amazing. Reverend Jackie Thompson (from Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland) preached in the mornings, and it was food for our souls. Some highlights for me: She first preached out of 1 Kings 19 when Elijah was complaining to God after a big ministry success, and God called him to anoint Elisha as the next prophet. She said "sometimes God doesn't deal with your feelings, He just gives you a new action plan." The next day she taught out of Mark 5 and the bleeding woman who touched Jesus' cloak, and what spoke to me was when she said "Sometimes God allows things to stay in our life to change us." It was some good stuff. And I was amazed that she taught the whole time with zero notes. I do not have that gift.

A highlight of the conference for me was on the first day when we broke up in to groups to talk about reaching Black students on campus in all their diversity. We joined the group that we felt we could contribute the most to, and the options were: African-Americans in a Black context, African-Americans in a non-Black context, African nationals, Caribbeans, Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students, and Multi-Racial students. I joined the Multi-Racial student group, and 5 of us sat down and thought about: What is the religious context of our group? What are the cultural values? What are the influential voices or poets? What are the stumbling blocks to the Gospel for this group? And what are potential bridges to the Gospel?
It was fascinating to think about, and it also helped me learn more about myself as a Multi-Racial person. We talked about how often community can be a struggle for Multi-Racial people. I didn't realize it until that moment, but I realized how when I walk in to a room full of new people, immediately my "radar" goes on. Will I be "enough" to this person? Or to this person? Will this person or group be able to handle my complexity? Or will they only see me from a limited perspective? We as Multi-Racial people often anticipate rejection or feeling outside a group, and therefore we anticipate isolation.
We talked about how absolutes can be a struggle for Multi-Racial people, because that is not their reality- it isn't their experience. This can be a stumbling block to the Gospel, because God is an absolute. But it helps me and I think many other Multi-Racial students when faith and following God is presented in a way that makes room for complexity, and is not stuck in black and white thinking. The experience and need for complexity can also be a bridge to the Gospel, and has been for me, because of course, Jesus can handle my complexity, where few others can. It makes a big difference to me when a community can handle my complexity too.But I think Americans need to get used to this complexity and tension, because by 2050 Multi-Racial people will be 20% of the US population. We're growing. Fast.
What has been a struggle for me at times has been that when I am in majority Black contexts, I can get the feeling of being "not enough". But many times when I am in majority culture (white) contexts, my ethnicity is completely disregarded and seen as unimportant, when it is of immense importance to me, and very much colors how I live and see the world, and who God has made me to be. So it can feel like I am not fully seen or understood.  It is always a blessing for me when neither of those scenarios occur. Unfortunately it tends to be a pleasant surprise, and not the norm.

Each group presented the material they came up with, and it was so amazing to see the incredible diversity that exists within Black people, and the challenges and opportunities that exist for reaching the diversity of Black students on campus.

But it was also very good for me to learn more about myself.

On the plane trips to and from the conference I was also reading Beverly Daniel Tatum's "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" which is a psychologist and a professors' discussion of the process of racial identity development. Fascinating, and so helpful. Everyone should probably read that book. I don't know what's taken me so long to read it, since we always have students read the chapter about White identity development at FUI.

Culture and ethnicity are so fascinating to me, and so important for me to discover who I am and what that means for living in this world.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

10 Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

I feel like most of what I do on this blog is post interesting things that other people write... some of that may come from my history degree: we were taught to look through sources to find pieces that we wanted to include in our original writing. So here's me putting my degree to work!
I saw this post by Eugene Cho (who is an amazing pastor in Seattle that I saw speak at a Fuller justice conference I went to in 2011- he has a great blog: on Sojourners website (also awesome: and it made me laugh. Women in ministry is the one of the few topics I get slightly militant about. This has gotten me into trouble in the past. But Jesus is working on my heart to help me to love my complementarian neighbor :) 
But this list is a satire of the usual reasons that are stated for why women should not be in leadership positions in the church:

10 Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained 

10. A man's place is in the army

9. The pastoral duties of men who have children might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. They physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be "unnatural" for them to perform ministerial tasks.

7. Man was created before women, obviously as a prototype. Thus they represent an experiment rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. Their conduct at football and basketball games demonstrates this.

5. Some men are handsome, and this may distract women worshippers. 

4. Pastors need to nurture their congregations. But this is not a traditional male role. Throughout history, women have been recognized as not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are prone to violence. No really masculine man wants to settle disputes except by fighting about them. Thus they would be poor role models as well as dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was betrayed by a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment remind us of the subordinated position all men should take.

1. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep sidewalks, repair the church roof, and perhaps even lead the song service on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the church.

-Dr. David M. Scholer, former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary

Side note: a very helpful book I have read on the subject of women in ministry is Men and Women in the Church by Sarah Sumner- it is very thorough and scholarly while being personal at the same time.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Whole-hearted Living

I've been thinking a lot about vulnerability and shame, especially since I was introduced to the TED talks by Brene Brown by my counselor. She is a researcher on vulnerability and shame (I didn't even know people did that for a living!) and the way shame negatively effects all of us, and how vulnerability leads us towards love. I just started reading her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead and it has been challenging me a lot, especially since this is how I generally feel about vulnerability: I DON'T LIKE IT. But in her book she talks about people she calls "the whole-hearted"- people who have come to believe in their own worthiness, and refuse to believe the lies that they are not enough. She said she found these "whole-hearted" people were able to let go of:

1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self Doubt and "Supposed To"
10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and "Always in Control"

Pretty much all of these hit home for me as ways of being and living that I usually don't indulge in. What does it look like for me to live whole-heartedly? How can I say no to the lies that tell me to keep holding on to these things, instead of letting them go? I'm glad for reminders like these to help me step in to whole-hearted living.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Psalm 46 and God's Sovereignty

Today I felt re-directed towards Psalm 46. This Psalm I think first came to real importance for me back in June right before my dad's surgery. We were at InterVarsity's regional conference on Catalina Island, and I was talking with another staff, Natalia, whose mom was just about to have a kidney transplant as well. She suggested that I ask God for a scripture to hold on to in the midst of the surgeries and afterwards, and Psalm 46 came to me. It says:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam 
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations He has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

I think what stood out to me was how in the midst of the world literally falling apart, and nations being in uproar, God is still a refuge and strength, and He is still in control. He still has power to end wars and do things like melt the earth. And the repetition of God being "with us" seems to be really important- because it keeps being repeated. 

I think I've struggled with the idea that I got somehow from osmosis in Christian culture that God will end your problems and take them away, and even that God does things peacefully- while this has not often been my reality. But in this Psalm, God doesn't seem to stop "the earth giving way" or "nations being in uproar". They seem to be just stated as fact. God being present and with us and protecting us seems to be more important. To be sure, God can and does end the wars and melts the earth. But it seems to me like God is saying- "in the midst of all the craziness that is life, I'm over it all- even if it doesn't always look like it. So don't be afraid, I've got you". I think I need to be reminded of that a lot. It is not my default thought that God is sovereign in the midst of the drama of life. And I need a lot of reminders to be still and to know that He is God, and that He is with us, and with me. Keep the reminders coming, Jesus.