Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Apparently Wednesday is French Dip night in the cafeteria at Fuller. This conclusion is based on my research last week and tonight, so I'm not ready to publish my dissertation yet.

I've been thinking lately about the rhythms that I have in my life. The one I've been thinking about most is at work. Barring emergencies, Monday is a day to be on the phone with prospective clients, Tuesday and Wednesday we interview potential clients, Thursday is a day for checking references and deliberating, on Friday we move in approved clients and introduce them to our program. This regularity allows our staff (and me, in particular) the stability to plan our effort accordingly.

My weekly rhythm is to have a nap and then church on Sunday, life group (since yesterday) on Tuesday, and football on Saturday.

Larger rhythms in my life include the seasons and, in the garden, planting and harvest. Even though my life is not dependent upon these rhythms, they serve as a way to mark the time that has passed between one moment and the next. Children are born (Ethan to the Olara's!) and the temporal life is ended (Brother Joel! Sister Marilyn! Alive in triumph!). Sunrise, sunset.

This regularity gives my time structure and keeps me from floating indiscriminately and then having to react to crises in emergency mode. They allow me to give shape to the myriad of things that happen in my life and assign meaning to events. Taking hold of my life rhythms allow me to plan for the future and give traction to my intentions. I intend to be a good student, diligent worker, loving husband, and faithful follower of Christ-- these things will not happen accidentally but will grow out of my deliberate growth within my rhythms.

For those whose lives are always in a state of crisis or directionless, maybe the rhythms need to be examined.

Knowing how easily my life can slip into following the flow, I have spent the last six weeks deliberately waking up an hour early to have a cup of coffee, read, and pray. I am currently re-reading Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy (and it makes much more sense the second time). I've also worked through Eugene Peterson's Tell it Slant and Thomas Keating's Reawakenings and four pounds of coffee beans so far.

What rhythms give definition to your life?

How can you build upon your rhythms to have regular time to spend in the presence and pursuit of God?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Starting Lifegroup Tonight

Tonight we start lifegroup through our church. That is a small group of people forming an intentional community meeting together once a week for the next few months for spiritual formation. For the last four weeks, I have been attending a launch session designed to introduce people to the ethos of this communities way of doing community. In the process, I have become the leader of our group. Part of the power that comes with being a lifegroup leader is being able to email the entire group and reminding them to bring their curriculum materials tonight (I read somewhere that this is where Joseph Stalin got his start too…). My role is to facilitate the discussion that comes out of the curriculum and provide direction from week to week.

This is the first small group leadership I have been in since college when I had charge of a formation group. From time to time, I have flirted with the idea of a bible study at our house but for whatever reason it never fleshed out.

Anyway, for the next few months we are going to be examining topics of identity, belonging, and mission, so if my posts seem to follow that vein, please know why.

When I think about being involved with a small group for spiritual formation, I think of three distinct times in my life. First would be a bible study that I led while I was in high school (I must have been a junior, since my brother Zaq was there and he is a year older than me) before school at the coffee shop in Cloverdale (for those incredulous readers, yes, we have a coffee shop in Cloverdale. It has pictures from hunting trips on the walls, but they still serve espresso).

Second is the Sunday School class that my dad taught while we were in high school. It was here that I was introduced to Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and the academic pursuit of the historical Jesus as well as Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship. We also took a Sunday School field trip to the library at Northwest Christian University to research and prepare for a youth Sunday. For all practical purposes, my pop was (and continues to be) a badass at stimulating pertinent spiritual conversation and reflection. He also knows how to work a chainsaw, so watch out.

Thirdly was a group of guys who met for a semester to talk about their integration of faith and share communion together. I worked at Panera at the time, so it was really easy to get good bread. This fellowship solidified some relationships that I continue to count among my closest today and led me to do some things that I otherwise would not have done. (One spiritual exercise I remember was to ask forgiveness from three people I have wronged. Took a tremendous amount of humility.)

Do I expect this lifegroup to have the same impact upon my spiritual development? Not necessarily. But it does have that possibility of introducing me to someone who can challenge me to grow and expand my perspective of life in obedience to the teaching of Christ. It solidifies our involvement with a community of faith so we can grow deeper in faithfulness to the unfolding kingdom of God.

I am excited for the next few months in getting to know new people and seeing each other along on the journey of our discipleship. If anyone feels adrift in their spiritual life, I would recommend getting connected with a group like ours in a church where you are comfortable and finding life within those relationships of people looking for authentic community and growth.

(I'm still thinking about the possibility of a bible study at our house in order to go deeper in exegetical work and interpretation. If anyone has any input, give me a call.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cleaning up some old links...

I was surprised to be cleaning up an old blog where I had been posting over the last year by the number of readers blogger told me I had in India, Japan, Lebanon, and Portugal.

I am not going to be posting there anymore, but wanted to provide the links to the materials if anyone is interested and I did not want to lose them into the abyss of the interwebs. I had a lot of fun writing them, maybe you will have some fun reading them?

16th Century Iberian Context for Mission: The Foundation for the Imperial Missionary Encounter in Caribbean America

Christ as Ancestor in the African Perspective: An Illustrative Reading of Colossians 1:15-20

Finding a Place Among the Displaced: An Image of a Vulnerable Jesus

Non-Western Biblical Interpretation for the Western Church

And some book reviews on the emergent church...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Movement of Crooked Branches

I had some extra time today before class started and I was able to take some time to pray. I walked toward the center of the Fuller campus and found a bench to sit down on. Directly in front of me was a tree and I decided as my prayer to meditate on the livelihood of the tree and let it speak to me concerning something of God's work.

I had to calm my mind from its rational process and also block out the people walking around me.

My mind went in several different directions and then settled on one observation.

In this tree, all of the branches spiraled in crooked directions, full of knots, hitches, bends, and scars. There was no beauty of form, symmetry of design, or balance in the branches. But the tree moved in one direction: up. And the branches had one orchestrated movement: directing their leaves toward the sun's light.

I saw this tree as the image of my life in Christ and the journey of discipleship. What is seemingly a life of disorder, imbalance, and knotted crookedness finds its life in its continual journey upward and the conscious decision to pursue the source of light and life relentlessly until it is found.

Jesus said, "I am the world's Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in". (John 8:12)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Tonight we are making dinner with friends. What I like about this is how everyone chips in to contribute. I made bread (more specifically, I made a whole wheat bread with bulgur and crushed oats. I even milled some of the crushed oats to make some flour since we were running low). Audrey brought ghee (a type of clarified butter) and few other ingredients to make velvety pumpkin soup with bleu cheese and bacon. Lynda and Tim brought by spinach and peppers to make salad, and actually Tim gave us the pumpkin a few weeks ago from which we made the soup base.

To me, this is an image of what community looks like. We each bring our parts but what makes it come together is the work that we each put in to make our ingredients something nourishing. We don't have a trough full of ghee or a plate full of spinach, but each part, in conjunction with the others, contributes toward the whole. It is not simply the sum of the individual parts, but the ways in which they interact (yeast rising, soup simmering, bacon frying) that bring the flavors to life.

I have seen meals where each item is prepared and served in isolation from each other. Think of elementary school where each food source has its allocated portion on the static tray. This has all of the trappings of a meal, yet it is really just a collection of foodstuffs. It is the same with people in my life, there are some who I am near out of necessity or geography, yet I do not intend to interact with them in any meaningful way. In fact, I prefer the separation. There is a threshold to my capacity for meaningful relationships so some people will just be left wanting. To see the whole of life as isolation, however, nulls the possibility for community, the same way that green beans will never compliment the half-white/half-wheat grilled cheese sandwich that resides adjacent, it will only make the bread soggy. Ingredients, like people, are not meant for isolation, but meant for interaction and development into something different from what they once were.

To think of people as ingredients in community also takes into consideration the varied paths that bring us to the table together. All of the ingredients had their own road to travel before arriving in the kitchen. Some were grown locally (like the pumpkin from Tim's backyard) and others imported to the United States from abroad (does anyone know any local growers of bulgur wheat?). So too, the five of us sharing dinner are all coming from such drastically different places in our perspective on life, community, and purpose. Yet after the assembling, preparation, simmering, and serving, we become something together (if even for an evening) that we could not have been apart.

It does not surprise me that a considerable number of Jesus' interactions were around a table at a meal. Maybe that was the best way to get his disciples to shut up for a few minutes and listen to him. Or maybe he understood what was essential to our shared need and common response. The human appreciation for taste and the revelry that comes from sharing the elements. In any way, if that was Jesus' method of community-building and ministry, I am all for it.

By the way, it was all delicious. If anyone wants to get in on some community/dinner-making, you'll have to make a reservation...