"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some September Snapshots

I thought I’d give some snapshots of some of the standout moments of life of late. I’m in such an exciting season of so many beginnings. I’ve only been married for just under seven weeks, and I’ve moved into a bi-vocational situation, not only co-pastoring this church plant but now working part-time as an ESL teacher to international students at Evergreen State College.

The happenings of late and the way this season has taken shape for both Joann and I—both now involved in jobs that allow us to do what we love—have been a huge gift to me. I say a “gift” because I’m trying to receive the good things in my life as such.

Some snapshots…

• Trinity Community Church continues its “becoming.” We’ve met for Bible study three times and had our first Sunday gathering this past weekend, with fifteen of us gathered for worship, prayer, sharing, and lunch. As each week goes by, the vision the three of us pastors have continues to become reality. The Sunday experience felt very intimate, organic, relaxed, and holy, as I think we all savored and were moved by the beauty of people gathering to remember our identity and to celebrate and honor the One who has given us that identity. The gathering felt highly participatory and not leader-focused, which I hope and believe will continue.

• One of our hopes as leaders is that our church would be a continual presence of light and hope in Olympia, in simple ways that are within our reach. We’re still trying to find where those regular “outlets” will be for us, though we also want to honor the spontaneity and creativity and initiative of our members, who may have a specific way they want to do some good in our city. I’m excited that this church culture is already emerging, as we have a member leading our church’s second pancake feed for homeless in one of the downtown parks in a few days. It’s a desire he’s had for some time, and he seemed to just need an encouraging push from the church community. So he’s going for it. I feel like this captures the active- and mission-minded culture we hope to see emerge in our small community.

• I spent several hours the week before last watching the Twilight series. Joann loves the books and movies, and has been waiting for me to come around and watch them with her. Joann is getting good at not saying “points” instead of “runs” when referencing the score of a baseball game. Point: we’re learning how to be good spouses to one another.

• As I have to fight the depression that comes with watching a historically bad offense continue to show few signs of life, I simultaneously am thankful that I’m privileged to “watch” (MLB Gameday) one of the greatest pitchers in the game every five days. And I hope that Cy Young voters can look past mostly irrelevant stats like W-L record and give Felix his due credit this year.

• I’ve been in observations this week for the new ESL job I mentioned above, and have had my appetite whetted for the exciting and thoughtful interactions that I’m sure lie ahead with my students. Today I was in a classroom that had a mix of Taiwanese, Saudi, and Venezuelan students, and watched a Venezuelan girl and Saudi guy attempt to Salsa together as class was winding down. That’s the Kingdom of God right there—the Peaceable Kingdom, Paradise, a glimpse of what I believe to be life-as-it-could-be-and-ultimately-will-be.

• I got to mediate an interesting disagreement between two Muslims earlier this week while I was observing a class. The teacher was leading a discussion on horoscopes, the main point of which was to expand the students’ vocabulary of personality descriptors. One guy in the class refused to participate because he didn’t believe in the legitimacy of horoscopes and felt that as a Muslim he could not participate. Another Muslim girl didn’t see the big deal and told her classmate that she didn’t embrace them as truth but still could do the lesson. They seemed to be talking past each other, so I stepped in and tried to state back to each student what they were saying, trying to turn the conversation into more of a dialogue than an argument. The guy eventually decided he could participate, finding value in the language learning aspect of the exercise, and I think realizing he could discuss an ideology he didn’t embrace as his own without abandoning his loyalty to his own faith. I don’t know that there is a role I love to play to more in others’ lives than this—developing others’ ability to learn from, welcome, receive, and value what is “other” to them, be it a person or an idea. I’m working on that same challenge myself.

• I’ve really enjoyed my fellow faculty at the international school, and have been pleasantly surprised by the level of intrigue in our church plant. A couple conversations especially stand out where I’ve had the opportunity to not only affirm the importance of Christ in my life but also talk about TCC, to which some have responded with interest. The shared leadership of our church seems to be one thing that really intrigues people. I also find people are intrigued by the aspects of faith that seem to really excite me, such as being a source of reconciliation and healing between people and people groups who are in conflict. One woman in particular who seems to have a non-Christian spirituality and hasn’t been to a church (in a while or ever, not sure) has shown serious interest in being updated on our ministry and possibly visiting us some week, repeatedly affirming various aspects of what we’re attempting as a church.

• My Grandma, who is thrilled beyond belief that I’m now married, asked me yesterday if I wanted some advice on sex. I politely declined.

• I walked across Evergreen State College the other day with my lunch in a plastic Safeway bag. I felt embarrassed the entire time, fearful that everyone around me was either judging me or pitying me. Evergreen has a national reputation for being eco-friendly or “eco-cool” as I read somewhere. I made a point to not repeat this mistake the next day, bringing a reusable bag.

• I’ve been extending the distance of my runs lately, pushing myself a bit more, including a 12-mile run recently, and am most likely going to sign up for the Olympia marathon in May. I’ve been considering a marathon for a couple years now, and am ready to take the plunge. Training is extensive, but I think the endeavor will be a worthwhile disciplining of not only my physical life but also my emotional, mental, and spiritual life.

• I got to speak Chinese yesterday! I am a bit amused at how genuinely excited it made me feel and still feel. I really do miss being in China a lot—miss the lifestyle, the culture, and my dear, dear friends. It’s nice to feel like the experience continues through such encounters with my Chinese students here at Evergreen.

• Although, staying in touch via email with my student friends from Xiaogan does yield some great quotable lines. Here are some about Joann and I:
  • “You are definitely "A Doomed Couple"(i do not know whether i use it correctly, haha...) I admire you two so much.”
  • “Say ‘hi’ for me to your wife, please. Wish you have a baby tomorrow.... hehe.”
  • “Your honeymoon was very funny? You did what? :) Tell me something....Haha.”

• A Hauerwas thought that has challenged me this week in my own life and in how I understand some of the goals of church leadership: “Peacemaking as a virtue is an act of imagination built on long habits of the resolution of differences. The great problem in the world is that our imagination has been stilled, since it has not made a practice of confronting wrongs so that violence might be avoided. In truth, we must say that the church has too often failed the world by its failure to witness in our own life the kind of conflict necessary to be a community of peace. Without an example of a peacemaking community, the world has no alternative but to use violence as the means to settle disputes.”

• It’s amazing how long the smell of garlic smells with you. I overloaded some pasta sauce with chopped-up garlic on Tuesday evening, and I could still smell it today at work. I have a sensitive nose, so I doubt anyone else noticed it. I hope no one else noticed it. I’m new there, and don’t want to be unfairly branded “Garlic Guy” in the first week.

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