Category Archives: cultivating theology

this is a place for expressions of my faith journey. things i’m wrestling with, reflections on where i’ve been, and more.

we’re all in this together

this week has served as a profound reminder for me. entering into celebration with friends embarking on a new adventure together, and sitting in pain with friends faced with unexpected grief.

it is no surprise to me that joy and grief are so closely experienced. however, i have been processing this with a new perspective recently. i have learned more about myself, and begun to understand why i am so sensitive to these two emotions in particular.

but moreover, as we enter Holy Week, i am reminded that these two emotions, joy and grief, are at the heart of our faith.

during this week we walk with Jesus through his Passion.

we are faced with the reality of our own brokenness as we betray him with Judas, deny him with Peter, and call for his crucifixion with the masses.

then his body moves to the cross, and we realize our mistake. that the one we have crucified is the One who has so profoundly identified with us, performed our existence in such a way as to invite us to fullness and freedom.

and we must sit here. for a time. this is Good Friday. grief. pain. we must must sit in this space for anything that takes place next to have any significance.

so we sit in a place of grief. we wonder how to move on. we wonder how there could possibly be any hope left. we wonder how God could have forsaken us. this is okay. this is part of the rhythm.

because then, in the midst of our grief, we go to the tomb…only to find the stone rolled away and the funeral clothes unwrapped and empty. we turn back, confused, and there he is. he is alive, he calls us by name, and he tells us there is more. there is hope. there is joy.

it strikes me that this is the essence of the human experience. the invitation of Holy Week is to experience the fullness of what it means to be human, with the One who shows us exactly what that means. we walk the road together, you and me, bound up and together in the life of Jesus.

grief. joy. these are the reality of humanness. they are true of every experience and iteration of what it means to be human. grief and joy are what bind us to each other and what bind us to Christ. because in this one man, the particular and the universal are made one. our differences are at once honored and done away with.

because we are all in this together.

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sexuality and identity

year two can be summed up or categorized by three themes:

creativity
sexuality
formation

nearly every conversation i seem to be having is about one or more of these topics, and often, all three.

that said, i feel very strongly that i have some work to do. perhaps some healing, maybe some confession, certainly some articulating of my own story that helps me to find clarity.

there is going to be a lot of uncertainty on this journey. i will probably say a lot of things that will be in process. i may not want to land on them for a long time, or incorporate them as axiomatic for my life, but they might be where i am at any given moment. i will also be raising and addressing what i think are valid, honest, and important questions. because of these things, and because if i am posting it might keep me accountable to actually do the work, i think that i will be posting this journey here – but with some limitations.

first, i wont be advertising on my facebook. this will most likely severely limit my audience. that’s okay. this means that the people reading it will be people who want to hear it, not just people who stumble upon my post in their newsfeed.

second, i reserve the right to password protect any post i desire. usually it will be because it is intensely vulnerable for me to share, and i am unsure about it. if i decide to password protect a post, my hope is that it doesn’t stay password protected for too long, just long enough to run it by trusted sources to affirm that it is worthwhile to the conversation.

ADDENDUM: third, my hope is to be able to experience some of this process creatively as well. that may mean that you see more poetry (Lord willing), perhaps artwork, etc. know that in sharing those things i am simply trying to articulate my own process, not necessarily contribute to a larger conversation.

so…here it goes.

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“therology”: holding hope

last quarter I took a class in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) on worldviews: what are they, how do they color our interaction with the world, and what are ours? one assignment in this class was to interview a practicing therapist about their worldviews, their practice, and what they see their role as. after the interview, we shared with the class some of the themes or responses we received from the therapist.

while my interview went incredibly well and I learned a lot about what it means to have faith and to be a therapist, the most profound moment that came out of this class for me was during another group’s presentation. they talked about how the therapist they interviewed had said that he viewed his role as a therapist as one who holds hope for their client.

holding hope.

i resonated with this idea, because i have realized that this tends to be something that i do naturally. i have noticed times when i seem to be the one in a group attempting to call out strengths or victories when others are criticizing or feeling defeated.

after some further reflection, i realized that holding hope is not only the task of the therapist, but it is also the task of the theologian.

theological hope

theologically speaking, hope is foundational. as a person of faith, i place my hope in a God who, in God’s fullness, chose to become fully like me so that i may become fully human and be drawn into a deep and abiding communion with that God and with the rest of humanity. i have hope that there is something more, something better, and that it is possible here and now. the theologian lives in this space.

therapeutic hope

generally, a client comes to therapy because there is some indication or recognition that something is wrong. it takes a profound amount of courage on the part of a client to walk into a room with a stranger and admit that there is a problem that they have no idea how to fix. this is the space that the therapist steps into. the therapist answers that courage with hope. the therapist says yes, something is wrong, but it can get better, and i am here to help.

hope binds the therapeutic process to theology. the formative act of “doing theology” and the formative act of “doing therapy” go hand in hand because of the hope the the act of doing will lead to something more and something better.

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love

love is a funny feeling, a heavy word, and a powerful action.

lately i have been wondering if love ever gets old. is there a point at which you can have too much love? do you know how words and phrases, when they are used too much, lose their meaning and power? could that happen with love?

if someone held your face in their hands and looked you in the eyes and said “i love you” every day for the rest of your life, would you ever get tired of hearing it?

alternatively, if you never heard someone tell you they love you for the rest of your life, would you miss it?

has love become one of those words that we say to each other so often that we don’t really hear them or feel the full impact of their meaning?

i am amazed every day that my capacity for love keeps growing. i feel so full of love that sometimes it hurts, like growing pains, as if there is some sort of container inside of me that gets stretched bigger and bigger with each encounter.

there has been enough loss of life and relationship along my journey for me to realize that speaking aloud to another person that they are loved, and allowing that to carry its full weight, is an opportunity that we don’t have forever. people die, people move, friendships end and people change. in light of this, my hope is that others look back on whatever time they spent with me and know that for whatever period of time we had together, i loved them.

i use the word love frequently with my family and friends. and when i say it, i mean it. i hope that it never becomes a word that loses its meaning when people hear it from my mouth. i hope that when i say it, i convey the fullness of its meaning with the way that i live and treat others. i hope that the people who have filled me with so much love know how deeply their love has seeped into my soul, and that i don’t take it for granted.

full.

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Protected: the vulnerability of lament

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summertime goals

I have some big plans for summer. number one is to simply enjoy life with no homework, no assigned reading, and no guided theological reflection. how am I going to embrace this time? by giving myself homework, assigned reading and topics for reflection…like the nerd that I am.

so, I have already posted my reading list (which I reserve the right to add to or subtract from at any time), but here are some of the other things that I hope to accomplish this summer.

create at least one mixed-media artistic piece. for me, this usually means some combination of acrylic, watercolor, charcoal, sketch, magazine cut-outs and mod podge. I haven’t done one of these in about five years, but it has been my most satisfying artistic endeavor to date.

– write a blog post synthesizing my theology of Scripture and why I think it is important to understand the role of Scripture in the life of the worshiping community. this will hopefully serve a dual purpose: as a tool for me to process and organize my thoughts and hopefully as a resource for people at my church that are considering this question in light of some major topics our denomination is considering.

– hike. this one is self-explanatory, right?

– simply be with friends who are family and family who are friends. you may have noticed that I am in grad school. the funny thing about grad school is that it monopolizes a lot of my time, and it will most likely only consume more as I get further into my program. as a result, I have neglected many of the relationships that I have held dear over the last five years, and I hope to spend time wisely this summer rebuilding some of those relationships and continuing to develop the ones that I have been able to maintain this year.

– craft a poem/hymn/song/(whatever it turns into) inspired by Brother Emmanuel’s book Love, Imperfectly Known

– design and get my next tattoo.

I will most likely be adding more to this list, but here is what I have so far.

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the discipline of creativity

i have had a love/hate relationship with the creative aspects of my being for at least the last five years.

as far back as i can remember i have wanted to be a writer. i wrote (and self-published) my first book at the age of 8. i used to dream of being a journalist or an author, seeing my name in newspapers and my face in book jackets. in high school, my senior project was an attempt to get published. i wrote a story about a roll of film that was obtained surreptitiously, and learned of different places that i could try to get it published.

there is also music in my blood. i grew up in a house with a piano, drum set, guitar and bass out at all times. i played clarinet and flute most of my life. in high school i took up guitar. i have even written a few songs and played one or two shows.

somewhere along the line i decided i could paint and draw and i experimented with mixed media.

my room is evidence of this. in my tiny space i have a guitar, ukulele and keyboard accessible. my walls are decorated with my most prized creations.

but

the last five years have been marked by such a profound block that i haven’t created anything that i am proud of or wanted to share with people, save a couple songs i worked on for practicum in the fall. this blog is my only regular creative outlet, and it has been my saving grace in those moments when i just need to put words out there. but it is not the form of creativity that i thrive in.

this troubles me because of what i believe it means to be human. we are created beings, created by a Creative God, to participate in God’s creative action. we are all creative. creativity is not about whether you can paint or play an instrument, creativity is the expression of imagination, it is producing something beautiful, it is generative. you can argue about whether or not you are artistic, but i will stand strongly behind the assertion that we are all creative.

i have felt in the last year as though my creativity has been bursting at the seams. i have such an overwhelming desire to create something beautiful – a song, a poem, a painting – to express what is happening inside of me, but it doesn’t come.

i think i have realized something. creativity is spiritual. and there is some sense in which it has to be cultivated, maintained, developed. how do you do that? perhaps the cultivation of creativity, like spirituality, is based on discipline. we have spiritual disciplines like prayer, worship, confession, service, etc. that help us to grow as disciples and in our knowledge of God. what if there is a discipline to creativity too?

what if creativity is like a life of faith, where at some point it doesn’t just come easy anymore, but it is something that needs work. at some point we need to learn how to sustain it on our own, without those moments of overflowing, of abundance where we don’t really have to try. these are the only kinds of moments that i know how to create from: bursts of inspiration that seem to just flow out of me without much effort. but what if creativity is more than that?

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