At some point in the past couple of weeks, I passed the seven year mark since I started this blog. As it turns out, I’m pretty sure that this post breaks my longest streak ever for time away from the blog. I didn’t stop intentionally. No good, spiritual, profound reason. Life just got a bit intense for me, and eiter I didn’t have any words or the words I did have weren’t ready to be shared.
I’m writing this post from a hotel room, just outside of Portland, where I’ve spent the past couple of days. It’s been a very good trip for me – I’ve gotten to celebrate the official part of my completion of a Doctor of Ministry program through George Fox Seminary. I’ve spent time with the friends who I’ve worked with for the past few years, and the school faculty and staff, who have been so wonderful. I can’t speak highly enough of my George Fox family – they are creative, energetic, and hopeful servants. I look forward to a continuing friendship with them.
When I return to Seattle later today (after some bonus time seeing Ryan, Holly, and Pax Sharp), I’ll get back to work at The Purple Door, and my inter::mission students. We’re about half-way through the Spring quarter at UW, so we’ll be bringing this school year to a close soon. At that time, I’ll also be bringing my time of service (at least, in an official capacity) there to a close. I mentioned a while back that my denomination has been going through a time of reorganization and transition. I will not be a part of the new strategy. This was a decision that was made for me by others, not by me. It’s a long, long story, and one I’m not quite ready to get into here. Basically, I’ll be wrapping up my employment at the end of June. I’m thankful to say that the denom isn’t killing inter::mission, and I will be able to hand this dream off to the capable hands of a friend.
So what’s next? That’s a fabulous question! If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. I really am about as wide open as I could be right now. I’ll begin circulating my resume soon.
I’m out of time for this post, and I’m sure I’ll tease out some of what I’ve hit on here. But for the sake of the readers of the blog (whoever is still left!), I wanted to at least get some general info out there on what’s been going on.
When I woke up this morning, and sat down with Americano #1, I looked out my home office window to see a beautiful orange and pink and purple sunrise sky. It’s a nice way to greet the day. But now, just a few hours later, I’m looking out at the trees blowing in the wind in front of a dark grey, ominous canopyh, and watching the rain fall. The speed of change in the weather reminds me of my emotional state lately – I’ve been a moody roller coaster.
But that’s not what this blog post is about.
I mentioned a few days ago that I spent time at some denominational meetings last week, where some significant changes were being decided upon. I’ve had several questions about what that means, so I’ll try to describe that briefly – anything more than brief will be boring for you and probably frustrating for me! Please do yourself a favor and click away from this if it gets boring anyway – I won’t be offended.
The regional denominational body that I work for encompasses all of Washington, Oregon, and Northern Idaho. The vote last week that was passed is going to rearrange the way we do what we do. Rather than some of the field staff people like me being distributed into 14 different zones (or associations as we call them), and being given different kinds of job responsibilities – collegiate ministry, church planting, etc. – and other having “departmental” positions at the home office – disaster relief, children’s ministry, evangelism, etc., we’re flattening our structure. Instead of 14 zones, we’ll now have only six. And rather than having some staff at the home office, almost all of the staff will be redistributed into the six zones. And everybody will be given one of two job titles – either Church Planting Strategist or Church Health and Evangelism Strategist. Just those two things – no more sub-departments. My denomination has always attempted to focus on the local church, and this shift very heavily attempts to move us in that direction.
There are some things that I really like about this change. I like flatter organizational structures – there is usually more potential for creativity and collaboration. I also like that each zone will develop its own set of strategies, based on the culture of that particular region. Southern Oregon has a very different culture than Seattle, so there’s an ability to develop custom strategies . . . theoretically, anyway.
The down side to the changes, for me anyway, have to do with the fact that collegiate ministry isn’t specifically addressed in the changes. I will be assigned to one of the six zones – don’t know which one yet, and I’ll get one of the two job titles mentioned above. It will be my job to advocate for the value of collegiate ministry within the zone I’m assigned to. Right now there are still way more questions than answers about what that will look like for me, or for any of my colleagues around the Northwest. Even if we’re allowed/assigned/encouraged to continue with the work we do on college campuses, there are certainly some changes coming to the way we approach that work.
So there it is, the brief version. As more clarity emerges, maybe I’ll update things along the way. For the time being, all I can do is wait for more information to be released from above, and keep rockin’ inter::mission the way I know how. I do know that I’ve got that job assignment at least until the end of the 2008-2009 school year. For those of you who care, and those of you who pray, thanks for thinking of me.
Oh, and in case you’re really interested (or pathetically bored), you can find a “news” write-up on all this stuff here.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s non-post, I was away for almost a week, so I wasn’t able to do my usual write-up on our latest inter::mission teach-in. I usually write these things on a Friday morning, so conveniently enough, here I am . . .
Last Thursday, The Purple Door was pleased to host Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, his wife Ricci Kilmer, and their two children for dinner and our teach-in. It was soup night – we made some vegetable and some corn chowder. They showed up early and hung out in the kitchen as we were finishing preparations.
Eliacin and Ricci live in community at the Mustard Seed House, along with two other couples, and work together with Mustard Seed Associates. Last year, the inter::mission gang was able to make a visit there to enjoy a meal, so several of our folks had already met them. They spoke with us about what living in community means for them – the way they integrate spiritual rhythms, work, family life, gardening, and play. Ricci talked about living with a mind toward simplicity, and how that challenges our western consumeristic culture.
Another aspect of living in community that Eliacin hit on is the way that it shapes faith. Having been raised in Puerto Rico, he learned about the power of communities in shaping vision and values and even lifestyles that can create counter-cultural movements toward change. Interestingly, though intentional communities as spiritual expression may be a relatively new and somewhat hip thing for us in the wealthy West, Eliacin noted that the choice between communal and private approaches to faith is only available here. In most of the world, communal faith is the norm – mostly because it has to be. Here, we have to somehow become “enlightened” enough and be willing to “sacrifice” enough before we discover the value that sharing life and faith together provides.
Our inter::mission students enjoyed having Ricci and Eliacin, but also really loved having Catie (who turned six years old yesterday) and Gabriel with us. They played quietly as mom and dad talked, and demonstrated how everyone has a part in community. Catie told us about her part of the Mustard Seed House garden, and a few things about fairies too!
Normally I like to wait until after an inter::mission teach-in before bragging about how good it was. But, since I’ll be quite occupied tomorrow and Saturday at the Born Again Church Tour, I won’t have time to blog it. So I’ll just make an assumption that tonight’s teach-in will be a great experience, and I’ll go ahead and brag ahead of time.
We are very excited to welcome our first guest speaker of the year this evening – none other than Mr. Todd Hunter. Todd is the former President of the National Association of Vineyard Churches and Alpha USA and has been involved in church planting and leadership development for 25 years.
I met Todd at a church planter’s round-table think tank thingy about six and a half years ago. He was generous enough with his time to give me some church plant coaching when I was in that phase of life. Over the years, I’ve had several opportunities to sit under his teaching, and I’m always eager to hear him. I don’t know anyone who has more fully integrated a Kingdom vision, a deep understanding of culture, a desire for people to know and follow Jesus, and a sense of humor. Todd is also an alumnus of the school program I’m trying hard to finish right now.
Todd has a new book coming out soon, called A Christianity Beyond Beliefs, so we’ll ask him to share a bit from that. We’ll also have him share about his experience with evangelism, and his newly launched organization, Three is Enough.
I’m really excited about the evening ahead . . . but I’m also a little fearful. As in, “Crap! Todd is my first guest speaker of the year. How am I possibly going to match that for the whole rest of the year?!” So, yeah, uhhh, if anyone has NT Wright or Bono’s number, give me a shout, yo.
I’m feeling really out of touch right about now. With the start of the new school year at UW only a week away (which means move-in for inter::mission only two days away), I’ve been sprinting to get lots of last minute projects and details done. Good meetings with students and staff, heaving furniture up The Purple Door’s tight and winding staircases, getting keys cut, and plotting out our fall series of teach-ins. While all that’s going on, my parents flew in for a quick visit over the weekend. It was the most time Michelle and I have had with them in a long, long time, so we enjoyed it. Oh, and I’m still buried in my dissertation these days.
All that has added up to me almost completely ignoring the fact that the world is moving along rapidly without me. Other than seeing Twitter updates from people who lost power, I know very very little about Hurricane Ike and the destruction that caused. I heard about more financial signs of the apocalypse, and the stock market losing 500 points in a day, but not much more than that. I’m pretty sure there’s still a presidential campaign going on, but I’ll have to verify that to be sure.
I just checked my RSS reader, and from the four (supposedly) respectable news sources I track, there are over 1700 unread items. By the time I catch up, I’ll be out of touch again.
This sense of not knowing what’s up in the world has me thinking a lot about how willful I often am when it comes to my ignorance. The truth is, despite all I’ve just written, this state of being is actually quite normal for me – it’s just that I usually ignore different things than I’m currently ignoring. Rather than being unaware of the daily details of the news cycle, I’m unaware of homelessness in Seattle. Rather than not hearing the latest polls about who the latest imperial figure head will be, I don’t hear about how subtle (and not-so-subtle), but insidious forms of racism continue to hold back the bride of Christ from being more beautiful.
Willful ignorance may sound like a harsh term – I don’t mean it as super negative. In fact, it’s actually quite normal. People choose to be ignorant about things – whether it’s the NBA, the music scene, news from other parts of the world, news from across the street. This information age we’re in has made it impossible to keep up with everything, and all we can do is choose our categories of ignorance.
It’s just that if I’m going to be ignorant, I’d sure like to be ignorant about some things that don’t matter so much. Whether it’s fashion trends, the entertainment industry, global terror, or the debate over emerging church terminology (please don’t get offended at my choices of examples), I have the power to walk away from things that add nothing to God’s kingdom. Instead I can be well informed on a better set of information.
So, what about you? What are you an expert in that you might better be ignorant about, or vice-versa?
While the first week of August means that a lot of universities are gearing up for students coming back to their campuses, in the University of Washington community, we’ve still got some time. School doesn’t kick off here until September 24. So, our days are still a bit slower-paced than normal, which in my case means a couple of things: one, I get to go home and see my wife almost every evening, rather than stay in the U-District late into the evening; two, I get to work on my doctoral dissertation. Oi – not so sure that second one is a better alternative to hanging out with college students!
Anyway, lately, my days have been filled with the fun of building maintenance projects at The Purple Door. Plumbing, furnishing, carpeting, window repair, cleaning out the refrigerators and freezers. This is the stuff nobody tells you about in seminary. It’s o.k., though, because the work needs to get done, and I’d rather do it during the slow summer months than when we’re in the middle of things in October.
I also spend a good bit of my time prepping for inter::mission 2.0. Setting up calendars and teaching schedules, talking with prospective students, reviewing some of the adjustments we need to make. It gets me really excited, and eager to get going. We’ve definitely had a great summer in terms of the number of students who have heard about us (entirely through word of mouth – we’ve done no marketing) and want to join up. The Purple Door is gonna get a lot cozier than last year! Our men’s floor is completely full (including a couple of double occupancy rooms), and we only have one or two more slots available on our ladies’ floor. Last year we had to work really hard to get half the number of students – but now that we’ve got a year under our belts, the word is out, and people are coming to us. That’s a very encouraging thing – but I have to say, I’ve already had to turn a couple of guys away, which isn’t fun.
I’ve only started putting our teach-in schedule together for this next year. We had a great experience with our guests last year, and it’ll be hard to top that in terms of quality. With that said, I’m super stoked about getting off to a good start. One of our first guests for the school year ahead will be Todd Hunter. He’s had an incredible impact on my life, and I can’t wait to share that experience with our students. If someone made me choose whether to have Todd or Bono in for a teach-in, I can’t say with confidence who I’d pick – it would be a hard choice. I’ve had some conversations with other folks for teach-ins as well, some of whom will be sure to rock the house – I’m thinking we’re gonna have a good year.
While we do still have a week to go with the UW school year, last night was slated to be our final teach-in for the year, and in a sense, the closing of inter::mission. Our culture project in India is definitely a part of the inter::mission process, but it’s also a somewhat separate thing.
As it turns out, multiple schedules were colliding in multiple ways. At our community meal last night, we had three “new” people with us, and we were missing five of our regulars. So while we had great conversation well into the evening, it was a bit of a different vibe for us.
I had scheduled myself in as the teach-in guide for the evening, and had prepared a year end wrap-up session. A little on the sentimental side, a little on the fun side, a little on the reflective side. But with so many regulars missing, and new folks in their place, I didn’t the context was quite right for it. So, I just talked for a few minutes, asked people to pay attention to the people and experiences they’ve valued over the last several months, and keep an eye out of the sappy, sentimental letter I’d be sending everyone in the next day or two.
So there we have it – year one of the inter::mission dream is mostly in the books. Over the past few weeks, I’ve collaborated with staff, students, myself, Michelle, and hopefully God, over what version 2 of this thing will look like come fall. Lots of adjustments are ahead for us. We’re excited about the opportunity to increasingly integrate our core values, and become even more of a family.
I, like many others, am looking forward to the end of the school year, and the slower pace of summer (at least it’ll be slower around The Purple Door). But I do want to pause and express gratitude to God and the people around me that have made this year a reality. We’ve had so many encouraging words of support from friends and family, so many prayers offered on our behalf, unexpected gifts of service and love (and cash), a group of trusting and experimental students, wonderful staff people to live the dream with, a guest speaker list that I’m really stoked about. It’s been good. Far from perfect, but a gift from God.
The days are blowing by me sooooo fast around here. It seems like just a couple days ago, the inter::mission gang was over at The Mustard Seed house. Alas, that was two weeks ago, which means that last night was time for the next teach-in. As we move toward the end of the school year, this was our last time having an outside guest come in to share with us.
My good buddy, Jeff Greer came to hang out with us last night. Jeff’s a church planting, kilt wearing, bartending, U2 loving, singer-songwriter who I met a couple years back. Good man, with a good, honest heart.
He did some of his songs, so it was part music-in, part teach-in. He didn’t sing pretty songs, though. Not that I don’t like Jeff’s voice or guitar work . . . but as he shared with us, the past couple of years have been quite a roller coaster of life for him, with more downs than ups – so the music he played came out of that place. As he talked about these experiences, it was refreshing, if even in a painful sort of way, to hear someone be real enough to say, “Yeah, life’s hard, and I don’t really need to candy coat it or be fake about it. I’m hurting, searching, and feeling a little hung out to dry right about now.” That connected well with our students.
Jeff also talked about the Celtic lifestyle of integration – everything is worship: work, play, family, love. He brings that into music beautifully and turns everything from Muse to The Cure to Coldplay to Deathcab to Ben Harper into real worship of God, except not in a cheesy, Christian ghetto sort of a way.
‘Twas another good evening for us.
Sorry for the quiet blog of late. It seems that multiple things are converging on me at once, which does happen. Lately I’ve been hunkering down on some school stuff that I just plain need to get out of the way before I plunge headlong into my dissertation writing this summer. I’m reading hundreds of pages per week for school, and adding some “work” stuff on the pile for good measure. I love reading and learning, but I do occasionally hit points where the eyes glaze over and I need a break – otherwise, a large chunk of what I’ve read just goes away, for lack of processing.
Over the past weekend, a few of us did some physical training for our upcoming trip to India. One of the potential activities we’ll be doing in Maharashtra is a 100K solidarity march with the farmers (that’s 62 miles). Saturday, we walked about 18 miles along the Burke-Gilman trail. We clocked in at around 7 hours, which includes a stop for lunch. Sore feet and legs, but I’m pleased that aside from some blisters, we’re feeling pretty good afterwards.
As of one week from today, I’ll spend the better part of two weeks away from home on a couple different trips. I’m looking forward to both of these a lot, as each will reunite me with people I love and respect and don’t get to see as often as I’d like. They are both intended to mix work with pleasure . . . I just hope I can dial down my pressure gauge enough to focus on the pleasure part.
All that, and we’re still rockin’ the inter::mission rhythms, and prepping for version 2.0 in the fall.
Mostly boring updates here. I’m not complaining about being busy – I know plenty of people who have more on their plates than I do. I’m not bragging about being busy either – sadly, I know some folks who wear their workaholism as a badge of honor. This is a season I’m in, and I realize it’s unsustainable over the long haul. Fortunately, I’m not planning a long haul at this pace..