Thursday, April 26, 2007

Would Jesus Get an "A" in Preaching Practicum?

[Jesus] spoke in confusing riddles (parables) that evoked a spiritual search in the hearers. Nowhere does he give three-point devotional sermons that cover all the bases. His audience had to do all the hard work of filling in the blanks. In other words, they were not left passive but were activated in their spirits.

Alan Hirsch, in The Forgotten Ways

I read this right after reading Matthew 13's parables. I don't think Jesus would do well in a typical preaching class--"Good use of Scripture, but no resolution." One preaching professor's style would mark Jesus down because he doesn't help us know what his teachings look like practically.

But maybe Hirsch is right in that these parables are to provoke a search. And this activation of my spirit did happen, because I felt like more a person who is "ever hearing but never understanding...ever seeing but never perceiving." Reading these passages over and over you think you know it all, especially growing up in church. But it's precisely that attitude that can make you ever hearing but never grasping the implications. That's what I'm struggling with as I seek to understand the Kingdom parables: how do these parables shake our understanding and practice of mission and ministry? And we can't get it spoon-fed--takes all the fun out!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ethnic Workers' Summit '07

Although we realized that the median age of attendees of this conference was probably 40s and above, we did meet some great people doing good work all around the Pacific Northwest. The conference speakers were typical and OK, with lots of references to John 4. The workshops were just so-so, but the last one we took on Buddhism was great, because the speaker was clear and informed on the topic.

The best part was stuff that's not always planned; eating a meal with others. Since we didn't know anyone else, we ended up sitting with new people each time, and got to hear about what God is doing in different areas, churches, and ministries. Someone even eagerly volunteered to pray for us in our church planting adventure.

I feel stuffed with opportunities, networks, and other Christian co-workers of the Kingdom. Time to shift the balance and start living it out.

Top: At the SIM Missions booth
Bottom: Thai Presbyterian church performance on traditional bamboo instruments of "How Great Thou Art"--like a bell choir.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Seattle's Best

It's always fun traveling with Tammy to new places, and even better when it's sunny like it has been for the past few days in Seattle. We went to Pike Place, the famous fish market and other crafty/unique stores on the waterfront. It apparently was very much a Spring theme with all the tulips in the flower stalls. It's the kind of community gathering place that we need more of in LA--and I don't mean more malls! You rub shoulders with pretty much all kinds of people: rich and poor, different ethnicities, young and old.

I believe part of Kingdom work is what sort of community building we do as the church. And I mean both inside the gathering as well as in the community. If we're about creating space for connection with each other and God, then I think that overflows into helping fragmented communities connect better as well.

And yes, we're at a conference. But I'll post later on that :P

Top: Savoring a cup from the first Starbucks ever. Notice the old school design...scandalous!
Center: Flower market stall snorting.
Bottom: A famous shot of the market. Can you guess what company it's used for?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Funnier Than Barna

This book is a nice foil to George Barna's rather bombastic manifesto Revolution. And it's definitely funnier than Barna. Perhaps it's the fact that I don't need more talk, but more stories about practicing revolutionaries. Shane Clairborne is one of those "new monastics" who lives and ministers in Philly amongst the urban poor and marginalized. And his personal stories make me tear up both with frustration at the way things are and hopeful for what could be in the American church. And that's my feeling only through the first few chapters.

Shane has a lot of choice phrases and wording I've enjoyed boring Tammy with by reading them aloud to her standing in the Target checkout line. Here's one I liked:

I know there are people out there who say, "My life was such a mess. I was drinking, partying, sleeping around....and then I met Jesus and my whole life came together." God bless those people. But me, I had it together. I used to be cool. And then I met Jesus and he wrecked my life. The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued, and hoped for upside-down. I am still recovering from my conversion.

I think that's a good way of describing my own journey: the more I grow in trying to follow Christ, the more he messes up my life. The process of this last year certainly has messed with my direction and calling to ministry and church planting to the point I don't think I can ever go back to "traditional" pastoral ministry. And that no longer scares me, oddly enough! What scares me more now is stepping out and not having God show up. But Clairborne's book gives me hope that God always seems to show up.

Monday, April 09, 2007

More of Christ this Easter

One of the things I've wanted to change is the way we celebrate Easter as a family. Christmas has cultural support which makes it easier, but Easter is more work. I always wondered growing up why my nominal friends got a "2nd Christmas" for Easter whereas, I--the "true believer"--got nothing but an extra sunrise service to go to! So it's been a chip I have on my shoulder for awhile. I also realize you got to plan it to happen if there's ever hope for it to become a meaningful tradition.

We went to CEFC this Sunday since some people we knew were getting baptized. It was nice to celebrate with our "home church" family here in LA. There were others who were also doing the same thing, like coming home for Christmas.

More significantly, Tammy missed out on Ambassador's Good Friday Tenebrae Service, due to her being the on-call therapist and getting a call just before we were to head out the door. When I got back, I decided we should have our own abbreviated Tenebrae service. I used the same symbolism of writing our personal confession of sin on magician's flash paper which we ignited in the "Christ" candle before snuffing it out. It's a cool effect; try it out sometime!

Next year, we're going to have a special Easter dinner...with hot cross buns!

Picture: Our "Easter lily" amaryllis this's the 3rd time it's bloomed in 4 years, and it never blooms in Christmas anymore.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Agitated Prayer

I was tossing and turning last night, and woke very agitated. And the first thing that came to my mind in the predawn hours was being very angry at God for the slow pace of finding a job. After I recovered from feeling a bit guilty for being angry at "GOD," I did what every self-help book would recommend: find out the source of my frustration and anger.

I realized that I have felt very powerless in this whole process--sending resumes and not hearing anything back....having to plug away even though I've only had one interview thus far for a job that I didn't pursue. I don't have a lot of guidance in job searching in the digital age. I'm not at a point where I can just go back to school, volunteer, or intern. And "pastor" on a resume just doesn't translate well into lots of practical skills for lots of organizations.

It was good to relay much of this into prayer as it helped me turn all this internal turmoil over to God. I found some Scriptural articulation later this morning in my reading of Psalm 61: "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer...I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

Thanks Google....tanks!

So I guess this blog wasn't lost, just "in transition." Now that I have two blogs; what to do?
To go with the implications of "bivocational," I'm going to do both blogs: this one for life musings and the other one for my headier classwork stuff on Emerging church/ministry in a postmodern context:

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A "Great Race"

We got up at 5am to leave for Dole's "Great Race" in Agoura Hills yesterday. I did the 1/2 marathon while Tam did the 10K. The 1/2 marathon course was beautiful once we got into the trail section with the orange glow illuminating the chaparral hills. We ended up scrabbling over rocks and dirt to get up those hills around mile 8. I finished in 2:08, which considering the trails, hills and the fact I didn't do intervals I was "OK" with; but I hope to work towards a sub 2-hour soon.

I think it's a "Great Race" for the fact that it has the best free post-race food: eggs & sausage, pancakes with strawberries/cream/chocolate, burritos, Don Francisco's coffee, Emer-gen-C samples, and lots of free Dole samples too! Being a shameless Asian, I got an empty box to fill up on all the samples.

All I need to figure out is how running events can be missional too!