Thursday, December 27, 2007

People You Should Know

These are some of the people at L'Abri with whom I will be working next term. They are all really wonderful and I'm excited about developing the relationships that began last term as well as starting new ones.

My good friend Valerie, whom you know from a previous post as the master of cream of spinach soup. She and Erin and I will be roommates. Val is super smart and super fun. She challenges me and keeps me in line; she encourages me and comforts me. I enjoy her friendship very much.

This is Jon, or "Jon-boy" as we [Kay] sometimes call[s] him. We have lots of fun together, especially reading, knitting, and watching Firefly with Jasie. (They knit; I read.) Jon and Val and I are partners in crime, ensuring that there's always a healthy amount of mischief about. :) I appreciate Jon in many ways, one of which being his work ethic and his unique ability to serve.

Rhett was on the same bus (and probably train come to think of it) I was on to L'Abri on day one. I remember seeing him and one other person my age and thinking, 'I bet they're both going to L'Abri too -- and sure enough. Rhett and Val and I often play chess and Scrabble together. He is fun to hang out with and talk to; he's pretty darn smart; everyone enjoys his sense of humor and his perspective on things.

Erin will be doing some editing with me as we work to prepare Greg's books for the publisher. She's super fun and very sweet and encouraging. I'm looking forward to rooming with her.

Tim, aka: Timmy Freedom (note the bandanna), is also strutting his stuff at the Really Ridiculously Good-Looking Walk-Off. Tim was a helper last term (with Val): the king of grounds crews and baked goods. (Several women proposed marriage in response to his chocolate desserts.) Tim is accepting of everyone -- really, everyone -- a quality for which I admire him.

This is John. I hope he doesn't mind my stealing this picture from his facebook. :) John was a student during a term prior to my term last fall and is returning this upcoming term as a helper. The workers are excited about him coming back, and word on the street is John is a wiz at media related work and will be doing some of that for L'Abri. I look forward to meeting him in person.

Last but not least and from left to right: Thomas, Jasie, and Kay. These brave souls work and live in Bellevue with the students. They're full-time staff at L'Abri, which means they work like crazy for little pay. Each of them cooks dinner at least once a week. Thomas and Jasie facilitate formal lunch discussions, give lectures, and have weekly tutorials with students. Jasie, as you know is my tutor and friend; I could go on and on about her. I could go on and on about each of them. Kay takes care of us all like Mom away from home. And Thomas is really passionate about, well lots of things -- he's very smart and has studied (and continues to study) much philosophy and theology and is able to relate those ideas well to students during lunches and lectures.
Now you'll know who I'm talking about in stories to come. I'll be there in 6 days, hooray!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Real Adults Send Christmas Cards

Maybe someday I'll get around to that. But until then, merry Christmas from me to anyone who is reading my blog on this chilly, but not too cold Texas night!

I have to confess. Christmas is not my favorite holiday. And it isn't even the materialism, commercialism, blah, blah, blah that bothers me. Odd, right? I know. I have a difficult time -- I'm holding my breath even typing this; like, 'Can I really say what I'm about to say, knowing how absurd it sounds?' -- understanding the point. Yikes. There it is for the whole world to read!

Admitting this causes me to think, 'What is the point?' And thinking about it, I realize I'm simply searching for some ground in between the hullabaloo and the reactionary "Jesus is the reason for the season". I do understand why Christmas is a big deal and why it is worth getting excited, even super-excited about, but I lose sight of it. Or probably more on point, I just haven't really allowed myself to ask the question, and therefore haven't thought through it for myself. I think I've been a little ashamed for feeling dissatisfied with the quick and easy "Jesus answers", so I pushed that dissatisfaction aside and tried not to think about it too much. I could do that in part because I don't like big celebrations... they're not my style. I think that, in part, for this is also the reason Easter has always been my favorite holiday, but that's another blog for another day. I know what you're thinking, 'How can someone who understands Easter not understand Christmas?' When it comes to Christmas, I'm a little desensitized to both sides: both the redundant commercialism and the pat, redundant church talk. That is mostly my fault for not thinking through all this stuff for myself.

So here we go: Why is Christmas meaningful to me personally? It has always been important because of family. I enjoy slowing down to just hang out with people I love. But that's not enough because I know that's not what Christmas is primarily about. I was just with all my family, chilling and playing games and eating, during Thanksgiving, and nothing feels missing when I enjoy Thanksgiving because of spending time with those for whom I'm thankful. But something is missing when Christmas is only about human relationships. Not to say that God has nothing to do with Thanksgiving or that Christmas has nothing to do with family... I think you understand.

What helps me understand Christmas most is the spirit of advent, which is, of course, a big part of what I love about Easter. When I think of the months, years (?) of labor, discipline and scholarship of the Wise Men and the years of discipline of prayer and study of Simeon and Anna, that's exciting. When I think of the Old Testament customs and prophecies being fulfilled, that's exciting. It's motivating and challenging to think of the ministry of Christ on earth and what it means to live as a disciple of his teachings of the Kingdom.

So I think the conclusion I'm coming to as I'm writing this is that Christmas is less about Christ being born to atone for our sin (otherwise, let's just skip it and go straight to Easter), and more about the simultaneous culmination and beginning of God's massive redemptive character and action and all that entails with Christ ushering in the Kingdom ("a time is coming and has now come...") and calling his followers to do the same, to continue praying "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" by being ministers of his reconciliation.

There are other, unrelated reasons why Christmas is slightly difficult, but I think sorting through the theological issues will help a lot with the interpersonal struggles connected to the holidays. So heartily I say agian, merry Christmas. Thank you for allowing me to journey through thoughts about Christmas; I look forward to continuing to journey with you through the new year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Check It Out

I've created a new blog about the books I'm studying while at L'Abri. I'm trying to write mini reviews or at least a few thoughts about each book. I've got a link to it just to the right. So click on Books I'm Reading and check it out. :D

I hope to be able to keep this up while at L'Abri this upcoming term. New Year's resolutions... we'll see.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coming to a Close

Well, the term is ending in less than a week and I’m sad to be leaving. But, good news, I am coming back! I’ve been accepted as a helper, and as a bonus all my friends who applied to be helpers are also returning. Next term there will be an unprecedented seven helpers. Normally L’Abri hires four, but everyone who applied is basically wonderful and the workers are excited about getting to keep each of us on. I am looking forward to working alongside such great people. In fact, as a whole, I’m looking forward to next term, though I must admit, it feels a little surreal though I’m not sure why. I am also looking forward to coming home, being with family and friends, and going to church. Besides people, church is the thing I miss most while here at L’Abri. It will be more difficult next term than this one, because while four months is a long time to be missing church, eight months is longer (naturally) – you see, the once or twice I’ll get to go to church before returning to Switzerland is just going to be a tease. Of course you know we have chapel every Sunday, which I enjoy, but it isn’t the same. I miss singing, I miss age diversity and I miss baptisms and communion and oddly, I miss the messiness, the strange quirks and follies that make church home. Boy howdy, am I ready for some good old-fashioned church when I get home.

Jasie and I are still having wonderful tutorials, right down to the very end of it! This past week we discussed ways in which we desire to be more kingdom-minded and less self-absorbed, more countercultural and less socially permeated. We also talked about good getting in the way of best and the difficulties of walking the line between under achieving at too little a cost or because of fear and over achieving at too great a cost (namely relational), between selling oneself short and obsessing. No, we didn’t figure it out in the hour during my tutorial, but we are dedicated to seeing each other grow in Christ our Lord and I am blessed beyond measure by her guidance and her friendship as I am by many of you who are taking time to read these blogs week to week, who have been and continue to be so instrumental in my development as a disciple. The lovingkindness of the Lord and his bewildering blessings truly are endless.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


We had our first snow of the season this past weekend. There were snowball fights galore, a few snowpersons, snow angels, sledding… You know, all the usual snow activities. It’s supposed to be an especially cold winter this year, so it’s a good thing this Texas girl has a special affinity for coats and hats and scarves! So far I’ve been plenty warm.

With only a few weeks left in the term, I’m getting excited to see my family and friends back home. My cousin has a new baby I’m excited to meet. All the food here has be absolutely wonderful… not a single meal I don’t like. But I am looking forward to a nice big juicy stake when I get home; we don’t get meat here very often. I am sad to think that the term is close to its end but won’t be sad to leave unless I’m unable to return next term. I’ve made some precious friendships here, which some of you know is an answer to prayer, for I was nervous before I left about the loneliness that could have been.

Currently I’m finishing a book called, Slaves, Women, & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis by William Web and will soon be starting, Providence & Prayer: How Does God Work in the World? by Terrance Tiessen. They’re both rather heady and I’m enjoying them, but don’t think I have the mental energy to write about it yet. But I wanted you to know that I was still reading things in the realms of prayer and Bible study. I also started 2 Peter and am enjoying that too. You should also know that everyone here says the same thing you all did about the origin of evil: that not choosing Good is choosing evil by default, that it didn’t exist until first the angels, then we chose self over God.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Now & Later

This past week I spent much of my free time writing a letter to the L’Abri workers (full-time staff) about the possibility of my staying on next term as a helper. If I am accepted, I will stay for free, have one afternoon a week to study and work crews and work projects the rest of the week.

I want to share my letter with you, for it was a great exercise for me personally insomuch as it gave me insight into what is happening here now that I desire to continue for another term.



Dear Friends,

Life at L’Abri has become a thing most precious to me. I enjoy being a part of this community and would like to deepen my involvement, returning next term as a helper. It is satisfying to contribute to the daily livelihood of a community, to know that people are eating because of the bread I made or that the grounds are lovely because of the leaves I raked. But it is much more than this. We share the work and engage in each other’s lives as we labor alongside one another: people are enjoying the meal we made; L’Abri is beautiful because of the work we’ve done collectively. There is a love-induced pride in the work and the fellowship.

I believe in the work of L’Abri and desire to support and contribute to this place that provides a safe haven for people to discuss issues that in other Christian contexts are considered unmentionable, a shelter from the totalizing violence of various Christian subcultures and culture at large, and an alternative to western individualism within the joys and challenges of constant community. My benefit from this is twofold in that I am free to exist in the vulnerable-secure dichotomy of honesty, which in turn frees me to provide a sense of home for others. Already this term my fellow students honor me with regard as a leader and a shepherd, someone they trust, and I hope they also feel encouraged by my love for the work and the diligence and strong work ethic that derives from that love.

I would also like to continue my studies. I have so many varied interests and L’Abri is a great venue for entertaining a myriad of interests through formal lunches and study and tutorials. I really value my tutorial time and desire to continue working with Jasie through my issues and the spiritual disciplines and the current issues of the Christian subculture. I love the church. It hurts me to see it hurting so and I feel overwhelmed when I try to think about what to do. I view my time here as an opportunity to remove myself from the situation so as to see more clearly what’s happening now, where things are going, and what to do. My time here also serves as a stint of consideration for the next step in my personal life. The slower pace of life at L’Abri blesses me in many ways, significantly in the time it affords me to grow in my communal role of neighbor and friend and my individual role of person.

I understand being a helper is difficult. I don’t pretend that it will always be easy regardless of my experience. On the contrary, it is because of my experience that I know it is difficult at times. So I do not wish to communicate naive expectations, but I do earnestly enjoy being at L’Abri and desire to stay and more deeply develop what has begun – both in my personal life as well as in the relationships I have come to cherish.

Thank you for your encouragement throughout this process and throughout my journey as a whole.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Helicopter Seeds

I’m having a week where I’m feeling the pressure of not knowing what I want to do with my life (which I think is a feeling that may never really go away… it just keeps manifesting itself in different ways throughout life, so I’m getting used to it – “the journey is the destination,” blah, blah, blah…). As a result, I’ve also been stressing about silly decisions like what to write for this week’s blog. During yesterday’s prayer meeting, Jasie read from Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, in which he suggests the discipline of silence is useful in soul-searching/goal-setting. Valerie mentioned giving it a whirl briefly at dinner tonight and that got me thinking about it too.

Another blog dilemma I’ve been experiencing over the past few weeks is that the things I’m thinking about here are often so mentally taxing (which is good and I’m enjoying it) that I don’t have the energy to write, and I feel disappointed about that. But tonight, I’m taking the pressure off of myself to write a profound, thought-provoking blog and instead I want to write about one of my little delights here at L’Abri: helicopter seeds.

I have always had a special affinity for helicopter seeds. I still pick them up when I see them on the road just to watch them spin gracefully to the ground. I found one today as I was reading outside the Chapel, which is a special treat because I got to watch it spin down all the way from the second-story balcony. As I leaned over the rail and let the seed fall, I noticed that these helicopter seeds (I’m sure they have a real name…) always freefall first before the helicopter motion kicks in, which, as long as the blade is sound, it always does. It always does because that’s the way it is designed.

Thanks for journeying with me on this blogging saga. Tune in next Tuesday for more L’Abri fun so you all can live vicariously through me as I tromp through the fall leaves and play with helicopter seeds.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ode To Death Hill

There is a very steep climb up the mountain behind where we live which we all affectionately call Death Hill. On Sunday evenings we often have an activity after dinner, and recently we had a talent show at which I gave this poem in loving dedication to the hill we hate.

"Ode To Death Hill"

Jill and Jack set out in black
Death Hill for to conquer.
Jill looked round, espied the mound
and felt her poor heart falter.

Yet sublime they both did climb
and set their minds and faces
up the hill for death to kill
and wine to buy in cases!

Through the shade their path was laid;
the scene was bleak and dreary.
Rocks and roots beneath their boots
made Jill and Jack quite weary.


Before the top they both did stop,
to catch their breath and ponder;
to try to cope and not lose hope,
to keep the path, not wander.


To 'yond bend their hopes they pinned
that round it might come relief.
But steeper still rose the hill
and mocked their hearts belief.


Alas the light, clear and bright
their weak eyes and hearts received.
Jill and Jack threw off their black
and in life through death believed!

For sublime they both did climb
and set their minds and faces
up the hill for death to kill
and wine to buy in cases!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Lest anyone think I’ve taken a permanent break from thinking (because rereading last week’s blog, I realize how absolute my statement sounded), let it be known that I’ve been reading my “entertaining books” on sex and The Simpsons along side of, that is to say, at the same time as a few commentaries on I Peter and Lewis’s Letters to Malcom. And, you’ll also be relieved to know, both of my “break books” are rather thought provoking; there just isn’t as much mind stretching involved, not as many new thoughts. I just finished Real Sex by Lauren Winner and I recommend it to marrieds and singles alike. Winner is engaging and realistic. She does an excellent job of confronting the lies about sex that bombard us both from our Christian subculture and our western culture at large, as well as developing some constructive ways of viewing and practicing chastity within the biblical contexts of Scripture and Church. Some of her most fun thoughts are about working against our cultural bent of extreme individualism where “my sex is none of your business” arguing that “sex is communal rather than private, personal rather than public.” Chew on that for a bit!

Every week Jasie asks, “So, have you thought any more about prayer?” And I reach back into the corners of my mind and reply vaguely with generalities like, “Yeah, it’s been going well…” or with specific happenings such as, “Well, yesterday this and this and this happened.” which is all fine, but not quite the response I want to give. So this past week, I’ve been making a list and today I was able to answer the question before she even asked. Currently number one on my list of thoughts about prayer is: I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to pray when I would normally read or listen to music or hang out and I want to be obedient. (Actually, I want to read or listen to music or hang out; I want to ask the Lord for a rain check. This is why prayer is a discipline. And I really do want the relational fruits of discipline.) Number two: I’m working out a broader perspective on what prayer is. Sometimes I study I Peter in prayer and sometimes I don’t. What do I mean by that? I don’t mean that when I remember to pray, “Holy Spirit, illuminate Thy Word” before opening my Bible that I am studying in prayer and when I forget I’m not. To be sure, that kind of prayer is important and good, but it certainly isn’t prescriptive. It isn’t a guarantee that my study will be productive, effective, or prayerful. So what do I mean? Well, I’m not entirely sure. At some level I think I mean simply acknowledging God; he is there and it is wrong to ignore him. There is nothing “spiritual” in doing this, not the way we sometimes think of spirituality at any rate. It doesn’t make doing dishes didactic; doing dishes can be didactic, as can anything, but that’s not what makes the act spiritual or worshipful. So when I get the inkling to read, listen to music, hang out, and the Sanctifying Spirit prompts me to pray, I need to put down my book, turn off my music, excuse myself from the room. But other times when I get an itch for the things I love, I should do them with the knowledge that God designed me specifically with those desires and he loves to see me enjoy myself; he loves to be with me as I enjoy myself; he loves providing opportunities for me to do the things I enjoy. I do the same for those I love. Sometimes I don’t receive recognition for it, but I’m not being ignored either… I’m in relationship.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sex & TV

I just finished reading Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? The last chapter I had to read twice, and though I’m feeling better about it, I’m still sorting through some new stretches in my way of thinking, primarily, my own postmodern dilemma with my very modern, Cartesian equation of knowledge with certainty. That is to say, modern rationalism equates knowledge with certainty – Prove it! is the motto – and postmodernity has seen the crumbling of much of what we once thought certain, thereby deducing (rightly, I think, of course I can’t be certain) that certainty is unattainable, and therefore, knowledge is unattainable. The irony is that to deduce that knowledge is unattainable, that we can’t know anything, simply because we’ve had the chair of certainty pulled out from under us, is to still hold to a modern epistemology. It isn’t postmodern at all. It’s simply the natural (rational) conclusion of modernism, which is why I like Middleton and Walsh’s term for our current cultural climate, “hypermodernism.” Smith (Who’s Afraid) agrees with this assessment and urges us to become truly postmodern, to abandon “what is worst about modernism,” namely modern epistemology.

All the stretching of my mind was taxing, so today I decided I needed a break from the types of things I’ve been reading of late. (I’m also reading C.S. Lewis’s Letters To Malcom, which are reflections on prayer. It is not easy.) I could think of no better distractions from theology and philosophy than sex and TV, so I picked up a book called, Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity and another one called, The Gospel According to the Simpsons. Both are a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Food For Thought

The following is an excerpt from James K. A. Smith’s, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? I’d love to hear your thoughts as you read Smith’s introduction to his vision for the postmodern church.

Apologetics and Witness in a Postmodern World

[C]lassical apologetics operates with a very modern notion of reason; “presuppositional” apologetics, on the other hand, is postmodern (and Augustinian!) insofar as it recognizes the role of presuppositions in both what counts as truth and what is recognized as true. For this reason, postmodernism can be a catalyst for the church to reclaim its faith not as a system of truth dictated by a neutral reason but rather as a story that requires “eyes to see and ears to hear.” The primary responsibility of the church as witness, then, is not demonstration but rather proclamation – the kerygmatic vocation of proclaiming the Word made flesh rather than the thin realities of theism that a supposedly neutral reason yields.
To put it another way, unless our apologetic proclamation begins from revelation, we have conceded the game to modernity. On this score, I side with an even earlier Parisian philosopher and proto-postmodernist, Blaise Pascal, who adamantly protested that the God revealed in the incarnation and the Scriptures – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus Christ – is to be distinguished from the (modern) god of philosophical theism. But even more importantly, this new apologetic – which is, in fact, ancient – is one that is proclaimed by a community’s way of life.21 As Peter Leithart has remarked, “The first and chief defense of the gospel, the first ‘letter of commendation’ not only for Paul but for Jesus, is not an argument but the life of the church conformed to Christ by the Spirit in service and suffering.”22 The church doesn’t have an apologetic; it is and apologetic.

From Modern Christianity to a Postmodern Church

If I am opposed to the epistemology, or theory of knowledge, that plagues modern Christianity, then I am also opposed to the ecclesiology (or lack thereof) that accompanies this modernist version of faith. Within the matrix of a modern Christianity, the base “ingredient” is the individual; the church, then, is simply a collection of individuals. Conceiving of Christian faith as a private affair between the individual and God – a matter of my asking Jesus to “come into my heart” – modern evangelicalism finds it hard to articulate just how or why the church has any role to play other than providing a place to fellowship with other individuals who have a private relationship with God. With this model in place, what matters is Christianity as a system of truth or ideas, not the church as a living community embodying its head. Modern Christianity tends to think of the church either as a place where individuals come to find answers to their questions or as one more stop where individuals can try to satisfy their consumerist desires. As such, Christianity becomes intellectualized rather than incarnate, commodified rather than the site of genuine community.
In discussing Christian faith emerging from modernity to postmodernity, however, I rarely speak of Christianity, and I resist talking about Christians as individuals; rather, I tend to speak of the church – indeed, with a capital C. I want to advocate a shift from modern Christianity to a postmodern church, one akin to the paradigm shift experienced by Neo [in The Matrix]. My point here is confessional: as attested in the Apostles’ Creed, I believe in the holy catholic church, and I believe that the very notion of the holy catholic church undoes the modern individualism that plagues contemporary evangelicalism.23 Indeed, we would do well to recover a much-maligned formula: “There is no salvation outside the church.” This doesn’t mean that a particular ecclesial body is the dispenser of grace or the arbiter of salvation; rather, there simply is no Christianity apart from the body of Christ, which is the church. The body is the New Testament’s organic model of community that counters the modernist emphasis on the individual.
The church does not exist for me; my salvation is not primarily a matter of intellectual mastery or emotional satisfaction. The church is the site where God renews and transforms us – a place where the practices of being the body of Christ form us into the image of the Son. What I, a sinner saved by grace, need is not so much answers as reformation of my will and heart. What I describe as the practices of the church include the traditional sacramental24 practices of baptism and Eucharist but also the practices of Christian marriage and child-rearing, even the simple but radical practices of friendship and being called to get along with those one doesn’t like! The church, for instance, is a place to learn patience by practice. The fruit of the Spirit emerges in our lives from the seeds planted by the practices of being the Spirit, it becomes a witness to a postmodern world (John 17). Nothing is more countercultural than a community serving the Suffering Servant in a world devoted to consumption and violence. But the church will have this countercultural, prophetic witness only when it jettisons its own modernity; in that respect postmodernism can be another catalyst for the church to be the church.

21. For further discussion of this new apologetic (following Robert Webber), see James K. A. Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-secular Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 179-82.
22. Peter J. Leithart, Against Christianity (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2003), 99.
23. I remain concerned that, despite all of the talk about community in the emerging church, we have not yet explored the radical implications of it. the next task for the emerging church is to articulate an ecclesiology.
24. Here we do well to return to the rich, sacramental theology of John Calvin as opposed to the thin, Zwinglian theologies that seem to have won the day in Reformed evangelical circles.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Intrusive Spiritual Discipline"

Hello again. Cheers for your comments and emails (I’m trying to be cool like my roommate from New Zealand: “cheers!”); I can’t tell you how much I enjoy them. Earlier I said I wanted spiritual discipline in my life that was “intrusive.” The first step Jasie and I have taken towards that adjective is inductive Bible study. This is not new to me, but it is helpful to be doing it with someone else. Working on a book of the Bible with another person helps me get out of my psycho all-or-nothing mentality: because I don’t expect Jasie to be perfect, it’s much less of a temptation to be so hard on myself. (Wow! Next week I promise not to write about my perfectionism. My other flaws are feeling left out.) One aspect of our study that is new to me is that Jasie and I are beginning by writing I Peter BY HAND. Yeah, that’s right; we’re writing it all out by hand… no computers, no photocopies, mere pen and parchment. In my previous experience I found inductive study easiest when the text was typed out like a normal letter (without chapters, verses, or headings) only double-spaced because then there’s plenty of room to circle words, draw symbols, and make arrows. However, I like writing things out by hand because it incorporates more of my senses and I learn it better thereby. Usually I mumble phrases under my breath before I write them, so I’m getting all my senses in but smell. J I chose I Peter for a change of pace because Jasie has done several of the Pauline epistles already. I shied away from Romans because it’s longer than most of the other epistles and a little bit more difficult too, though some of you know how obsessed with it I am sometimes, so who knows how long I’ll let it haunt me before I buck up and tackle it.

I want to give you a little more insight to my weekly schedule: Monday mornings we have a prayer meeting at 8:45 where we are able to pray for one another and for L’Abri. This is done on Mondays at each of the L’Abri satellites all over the world. Wednesday and Friday mornings we have lectures from the staff; so far, there’s a series on “Science and Theology,” “Re-narrating the Imagination,” and “Art (Film) and Theology.” Wednesday night is movie night. It costs two francs and usually the film is something I haven’t seen and is pretty interesting. Thursday is our day off. We have breakfast at nine, a packed lunch, and dinner at seven (all optional, but I always take advantage of each!). I usually go hiking, but this past Thursday I took a little day trip by myself to Sion, a small village in the valley about an hour and a half from here. It was lovely! Sunday we have breakfast at nine and chapel at eleven. Chapel is nice. It’s usually simple exegesis, which of course I love. Sometimes we’ll sing a hymn or two, but usually, it’s just an hour or so of exegesis – a whole hour! Every other week we look at II Corinthians and every other week at Luke. After chapel, we have the afternoon off (and a packed lunch available to us), and I usually… hike. But this weekend was the wine festival, which was tons of fun. I have some great pics of the vineyards we got to walk through, and one fine day (./’./’), I’ll have a chance to upload them for you to see! Sunday after dinner we usually, but not always, do some activity together. This past Sunday was the annual talent show. I wrote a poem about a hike we affectionately call “Death Hill.” It was well received; people seemed to like it and I had fun writing/reading it. (Again, when I’ve a chance to get pics on the web, I’ll post the poem with some photos of one of our hikes up Death Hill.)

And finally, I wanted to keep you all updated on the books I’m reading:
Who’s Afraid of Postmodernity? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church – James K. A. Smith
Eat This Book: The Art of Spiritual Reading – Eugene Peterson
The Benefit of Christ – Juan de Valdes & Don Benedetto

And for fun:
Watership Down – Richard Adams
Books I’ve just finished:
Faith’s Freedom – Luke T. Johnson
Living the Resurrection – Eugene Peterson (finished this one)

That’s the list so far, so get busy reading and try to keep up! ;)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Confronted by Community

Welcome to L’Abri. The floors squeak and the walls are thin. Opening a window is loud. Opening a door is loud. Closing doors and windows is loud. Everything is loud. No action is quiet or discrete or private. If you choose to live here, you have chosen to live in community; there’s no getting around it. “No man is an island.” You may be able to choose at times how much you wish to be immersed (for example, most of the people in the house have gone out for the evening and I am taking advantage of the silence to write out these thoughts), but even so, every action I choose to make affects another and likewise I too am constantly affected by the actions and choices of others.

I was studying yesterday afternoon (we all study in/near the library during the day) and got up to close the window. It creaked and banged. It was loud. The guy sitting next to me was giving me a hard time: ‘Shhh! I’m trying to study.’ I smiled and said, ‘There’s no such thing as being discrete at L’Abri. You’re forced to be in community.’ ‘You’re forced to be honest,’ he replied. As I sat down I thought for a moment and whispered, ‘Same thing.’

I just finished reading a book by Luke Johnson called, Faith’s Freedom, which honestly wasn’t that great; however, he does make some great points about the role of community in the exercising of our faith. He speaks of God as “Other,” the Transcendent One who is other than every created thing. Other people are also “other” and God uses the otherness of both people and himself to invade our lives, causing us to step out of ourselves and our projects/plans/goals and make room for others’ projects/plans/goals. Johnson writes, “… Other breaks the plane of everyday life, shatters the veneer of predictability, and challenges the presumption of human control” (53).

I’ve been confronted by community before and I was forced to learn things about myself and about life, but this time I think I’m ready to be a bit more intentional about how I live my life within the context of community – a bit less scared to be honest, imperfect, ontological, a bit less scared to be. I’m practicing apologizing. I’m working on being OK with learning by trial and error. (How else do you learn? I know…) That is to say, realizing how silly it is to think I ought to be able to do things I’ve never done before perfectly – working so much in the kitchen is helping me here. Cooking is also helping me to expand my creativity, learning to take creative risks and make mistakes.

Believe it or not, I have made (so far) chocolate-chunk cookies, homemade bread (oven-baked, no bread-maker), and cream spinach soup, all from scratch, and people not only ate them, they liked them! Actually, I was only supposed to be stirring the soup when the person who was really creating it said to me, ‘Have a taste and see what needs to be added.’ As I looked over at her with uncertain eyes that said, ‘You obviously don’t know how little exposure to the creative side of cooking I have,’ I replied, ‘I’m pretty good at stirring, but I’d better leave the taste-testing to you.’ She looked right back at me, smiling and completely un-phased by my self-doubt and said, ‘Nope. You’re in charge of the soup right now.’ I just continued looking at her. Not missing a beat, she almost sings, ‘You can do it; just play with it.’ I thought to myself, ‘She’s calling me out of my perfectionistic, non-risk-taking self and into risk and creativity, ontology and play.’ Well, there’s just no arguing with such a call and I wasn’t about to refuse it, so I took the spoon from her hand, took a deep breath, and tasted the soup to, ‘see what needs to be added,’ as if I could even tell the difference between the spices on the counter. Nonetheless, I carefully lifted each spice to my nose and after having another taste decided to add more nutmeg. I stirred in the reddish powder and took another taste – delicious! How ‘bout that.

This experience with the soup reminded me of a discussion we had earlier in the week during lecture. We all had read the first chapter of A Disciplined Heart by Caroline J. Simon. The book pursues the ideas and connections between love, destiny and imagination. The first chapter sets everything up by providing definitions for the language Simon uses for the rest of her book; about love and imagination she writes:

In order to explore the distinction between love and love’s counterfeits, I will call the insight that is central to love imagination, and the illusions projected by love’s counterfeits fiction-making. This is a technical usage, which differs somewhat from the way these terms are ordinarily used. In ordinary usage both terms have to do with “making things up.” What my special use of them is intended to highlight is roughly the contrast between seeing what may not yet wholly exist, but should (imagination), and seeming to see either what should not and will not exist or what does or will exist, but should not (fiction-making). (14, bolding emphasis mine)

And about imagination and destiny: “Imagination is the capacity to see what may not yet appear but should. Imagination, then, when directed toward persons, amounts to insight into someone’s destiny” (16). So what’s my point? Well, I’m not trying to say that I think it’s my destiny to become a fabulous chef and master of the culinary arts (no comments from the peanut gallery, if you please), but I am happy about becoming a bit more familiar with the kitchen because I do hope cooking for my family is a part of my “destiny.” And the workers and helpers and students at L’Abri are, in Simon’s language, using their imaginations to encourage me in friendly love towards becoming who I should be (both in and out of the kitchen). Hooray for fellowship and ontology!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Origin of Evil

OK. The Big Question… The origin of evil? Who cares? For nearly the entire summer I had been loosing interest; the more I thought about it the less I cared to pursue it. Perhaps I’ll revisit it in some form during my studies, for if the question continues to knock on my door, what can I do but answer it (the door not the question)? Instead I’d like to take a crack at some philosophy and see if I like it as much as I think I do as well as focus on implementing a routine of more intrusive spiritual discipline in my life. I’m not sure entirely what I mean my “more intrusive”, but I think it has something to do with God being God and not me. I hope to accomplish several things during my stay here, but of course, “the journey IS the destination!” J The Lord in his great kindness is teaching me to really live out of this process-prospective instead of just saying it because it’s profound (and true).

Something I’ve always been interested in is breaking down the lies of our particular Christian subculture that are so dangerous to the beloved church. These deceptions that shape how we view reality derive (it seems to me, though I’m no expert) from years of merely, perhaps subconsciously absorbing secularist views of reality (that is to say, of the world in which we live, of human existence and experience, of God, who He is and how He works in/relates to the world and humanity…) into our own ways of thinking. So in essence, the lie is the same as that which comes from the world only more dangerous, for the Christian subculture uses biblical language (naturally), causing the distinctions between worldly thinking and Kingdom-mindedness to be quite blurry. OR, we are so horrified and afraid of the current cultural climate that we derive our norms and nuances merely from reactionary thinking. This happens mostly in so-called fundamentalist groups, but look closely and see if it doesn’t slip into “mainstream” Christianity in a more subtle form.

Give me an example, you say. Well, we translate the American dream into christianese and call it “prosperity gospel”. We build and run and advertise our churches like major corporations. Several more come to mind, perhaps some ideologies that are more subtle and hit closer to home, such as views on gender-roles, science, the workplace, the home, confusing agapÄ“ with being nice, confusing Christianity with being good citizen... Much of these skewed views within our subculture stem from platonic dualism. Wow, Plato! How long ago was that? So if Plato’s managed to sew himself so intricately into Christian thought for so long, it seems no one will be able to pull out the thread, but what is impossible for us is possible with God. One day the sweater we wear will unravel and we’ll be naked and free! (Vulnerable, but free; ridiculed, but free, Sunburned, but free!)

My mentor’s name is Jasie and I meet with her at five on Tuesdays (that’s 10am Dallas time). I’m excited about what will come from my relationship with her over the next several months.

More to come next week… I already have some thoughts cooking and I’m looking forward to getting everyone’s response.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Welcome to L’Abri!

I have been at L’Abri Fellowship for exactly a week and I am enjoying myself here. The first few days were hard. I don’t think that before now I’ve ever felt homesick in my life, but I’ve never really had the opportunity either; I’ve never been away so far for so long. I look out my window (or look anywhere) and see before me the beautiful Swiss Alps which are equally both wondrous and strange. They’re a constant reminder of where I am… and where I am not. For the first few days, these mountains were an ever-fixed symbol of the ghastly, insurmountable, unmovable unfamiliarity I must face and cannot avoid. (And even if I could avoid sight of them, there’s the constant clanging of the cowbells which serves as an incessant reminder too.) But I’m feeling more comfortable now and I expect things will continue in this direction.

I’m surprised by some of the dynamics of people here. I was expecting to encounter lots of new perspective, some perhaps even hostile towards Christianity. But, though there is a variety of perspective, each is mostly contained within Western Christian thought. However, leaning on the Holy Spirit for guidance about different persons’ actual, as opposed to proclaimed, relationship with God. I was excited about meeting people from all over the world, but most of the students here are American! I was also thinking a place like this would attract more men than women, but not this term. However, my fears of reliving the past several years of women’s dorm-life have not yet actualized.

One aspect I am especially enjoying is our routine. A typical day for me here at L’Abri consists of breakfast, which is promptly at eight, where we usually have cold milk and cereal and toast (no hotdogs yet!). There is coffee, tea, and hot milk available every morning. After breakfast, dish volunteers are asked for and everyone is preparing for his or her day. This is where it gets fun. At least for me because now that I’ve been up for over an hour, I’m awake and willing to smile and talk to people in actual words and sentences rather than grunts and grimaces. For the next three hours we are all busy either working or studying. Each student is assigned a household chore from laundry to yard-work, cooking, cleaning… The schedule is different each day, so the night before or sometimes after breakfast I look to see when my chore is (morning or afternoon) and what my chore is.

I enjoy chores in part no doubt because of the novelty of being at L’Abri, but also because it is done in community. Even if I am working by myself picking weeds or secluded in the basement doing laundry, I am never completely removed from the reality that others are working around the grounds too. And simply being a part of that dynamic, that is, a community working together, each member contributing to the good of the whole, is gratifying. It’s also neat to think we’re all (potentially) studying unto the same end, the good of the whole. I should add, it is gratifying to the soul only in Christ, when community includes and derives from relationship with Him. Having never really been too far outside of such Christ-centered communities – home, then DBU, now here – I’m not sure how to test such a statement, though I know it to be true regardless. However, I do know how out of joint my contributions have been in aforementioned bodies when I forgot the Head as the Source of Life in the body.

There are tea breaks both in the morning and afternoon (“More hot tea, please.” I really can’t get enough of it, delicious!), but I only go during work and not always then, only when I feel it won’t hinder my progress. Lunch is at one (sharp). We are divided into two groups, each group meets with one or two workers (full-time staff) often for the purpose of a “formal lunch”, though not always. During formal lunches the worker facilitates student-led discussion. Discussions might be about something a student is studying or it can be anything we’ve been wrestling with doctrinally, or philosophically, ect.

Dinner is at 6:30 and then we have the evenings free. We hang out and chat, play games, read “books we brought just for fun” (light reading). The Internet is available for 0.14 Swiss Francs per minute from 7pm-midnight and there’s always a line. For time’s sake they ask we not upload pictures to the computer here… So though I hope to post some pics, I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance. Here’s hoping.

I know you’re all dying to know about my “great question” and what I’m studying, but you’ll just have to wait a little longer. Though she/he has been assigned to me, I don’t know who my mentor is yet, and that dynamic will undoubtedly impact the direction of my studies. So that I can write about my studies more entirely, I will wait until my next opportunity to blog.

Some people have been asking for my address here, and in the spirit of giving and receiving, I am most happy to oblige and give out my address in order to receive gifts from you!

Labri Fellowship
Chalet Bellevue
1884 Huemoz

Sunday, August 5, 2007

New Season

I just finished packing my bags (each of them way exactly 30 lbs -- I'd like to think I'm just that good of a packer!) I'm so used to being able to go to Walmart at my slightest whim that trying to pack and plan for four months has been a completely new experience.

Well, I'm on my way! It's official, though still surreal. I don't think it will be real in the sense that Labri is the reality that defines my current existence until I step through the door, am shown my room, and begin working on making the unfamiliar familiar, and soon afterwards, home for this season.

It's strange going into a commitment like this (I'm a slight commitment-aphobe anyway) knowing so little what to expect. But that's part of the adventure! (I keep telling myself.) And it's true. I am most fortunate to have friends and family to remind me of such and to support me, even in the face of pragmatic pressures to exist merely as a cog in the machine. So thank you. Thank you, each of you for all your love and support, your edification and joy.

Many more posts to come, so keep checking on it. And if I haven't written as quickly as I should have in between posts and you're wondering what I'm up to and how I'm doing... Ask. :)