Somewhere, across the land . . .

Yeah, I’m in Portland, Oregan right now!  Woohoo!  In a couple days, I’ll be headed on over to Seattle, then up to Vancouver, Canada for a few days.  Just thought you should know.  Lata!

P.S. Of course there will be a big review and pics to boot once I’ve returned.


Memories of love . . . or How UCF changed my life . . .

Last week, I had the WONDERFUL opportunity to catch up with some old friends.  See, back when I first started pharm school (almost 6 years ago!), I didn’t have a church, and didn’t have much Christian fellowship.  The good thing about that was that it was my first real venture outside of my Christian bubble, and I learned quite a bit about real life in the real world – and was humbled to learn some profoundly spiritual lessons from my many unchurched friends.

But what was lacking was a bit of grounding.  My soul was just freely flailing about.  But then I found University Christian Fellowship (UCF was a non-denom, campus-wide Bible study at UMB) – which happened to be run by the Korean church that I was to call home for 3 years. 

And there, I met some really wonderful people who nurtured my soul.  People like Dave, and Maki, and Kim, and Janelle, and Edmund, and Conrad, and Autumn, and several others – most of whom left due to graduation, and residencies, and so forth.  So my second year, UCF got a face lift.  The majority of the fellowship was made up of this unlikely set of diverse, 1st year med students.  And for 2 years, these guys filled my heart with a sense of stability – not to mention a whole lotta laughter!  Mike, Darlene, John, Ray, Mo, Dave, Mary (aka Smiley), and Kerri.  Yeah, a great group of folks. 

After I graduated, I obviously couldn’t be around for UCF much – especially since I started fellowshipping at a new church (a mistake now, I see! lol).  But Tuesday nite, I got to reunite w/ those guys, and it just filled my heart with such peace to reconnect with some folks who were seriously good friends to me.  Special shout-out to Mike, John, and Ray- who were my accountability partners for a few months. (The last guy in the pic is Ray’s old friend, Maarten, who “replaced” me when I couldn’t make our meetings anymore).   Man, that was good stuff.  I remember being SOOOO nervous going to those meetings – afraid that I would be rejected and shunned.  But those guys showed me nothing but love and affection.  Damn, I miss you guys!

So if you old UCFers are reading along, I just wanted to say how much I love you and miss you – you guys hold a very special, sacred place in my heart.  I’ll never forget you.  You better keep in touch!



Weekend Update

The weekend was really great.  Friday nite was a chill time w/ the small group.  Saturday morning, I went to work at Sheppard Pratt, and then headed down to see the fam (including my ADORABLE niece, who is seriously too cute to be real).  It was honestly the first time I’ve been home and didn’t leave with a sense of hating myself.  I’m really learning how to accept being me, and not worry so much about the fact that I seem to be so very different from everyone else in my family.

Today I went to CR.  Matthew started a new serious on doing life together.  He’s got me thinking a lot about community and intimacy – things which I’ve really been shying away from lately because I’ve been burned too many damn times.  Yet, those are things that I’ve always had a passion for.

Got to hang out w/ Jane and Christy and Yohance for lunch an a pretty good Cuban restaurant, came home, took a nap, and then went for a run.  I FINALLY did a 5K in less than 30 minutes (which was my original goal)!!!

OK, OK, I know that doesn’t sound particularly impressive to some of you runners out there (shudup, Canadian John!), but seriously, I’ve been hitting this wall where for some reason, the past couple of weeks, I could not for the life of me do a 5K in less than 35 minutes!  No matter how fast I thought I was running, somehow, it always ended up being a 35 minute run!  But today, out of the friggin’ blue, I did it in 26 minutes!  WTF ???  Strange.  But I’ll take it!  I just hope it’s not a one-time thing.

Anyway, it’s late.  I need sleep.  Good nite, one and all.

Oh, and J-man, I love you too   By the way, you inspired me to watch “Family Guy” tonite for the first time, and I must say, that is a freakin HILARIOUS show!

Good news in Darfur!

So apparently, the Save Darfur rally got some people’s attention, and the government responded with more of the type of urgency that was necessary.  I just got this email from the Save Darfur Coalition:

On May 5, the Sudanese government and Darfur’s largest rebel faction signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, laying out a plan to end three years of violence and raising hopes for a lasting peace in Darfur. There is a much more to do, however, before that hope is realized.

In the next two weeks, the Sudanese government and the two remaining rebel factions must come to terms in order to ensure a strong building block for a lasting peace. With or without additional signers, it is imperative that the parties live up to their commitments to end the genocide and rebuild Darfur.

Another significant step forward was taken just yesterday, as the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution demanding strict observance of the peace agreement, and calling for a quick transition from the current African Union peacekeeping force to a stronger UN force. Prior to the signing of the peace agreement, Sudanese President Bashir opposed a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur by saying that there was no peace to keep. With this peace agreement, however, that argument has been rendered moot.

Soon there will be a joint UN-African Union assessment mission dispatched to Darfur to assess the situation. Following their return, the stage will be set for UN Security Council consideration of a second resolution to actually authorize the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force.

These are real, substantive steps forward, and you helped make them happen.

In fact, just one day after over 50,000 rallied on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and thousands more rallied at events across the country, President Bush dispatched Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick to the peace talks to make sure that an agreement was reached.

Upon his return, Deputy Secretary Zoellick personally called the Save Darfur Coalition to express his thanks for the level of U.S. activism which helped make the peace deal possible. In an interview last week, he said that “of all I’ve dealt with in foreign policy over some 20 years that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen as much broad support from churches, from communities and universities.”

Your collective voices have helped accomplish amazing results thus far!

But much more still remains to be done. Work at the UN is far from over, funding for humanitarian aid and peacekeeping falls short and puts millions of lives at risk. And above all, the people of Darfur still must contend with the dual threats of violence and starvation every day.

As we continue the fight, there will be many more opportunities for you take action and help make a difference.

Best regards,

David Rubenstein
Save Darfur Coalition

I’m beat . . .

For some reason, I feel ultra-busy.  I just can’t seem to keep up with all the changes.  I remember this time last year, I was stressed and worried about everything coming together (graduation, getting a job, finding an apartment, getting a car) . . . and now it seems I’m worried about a whole new list of real-world things (training someone to replace my assistant, training someone to replace me, getting ready for the residency, keeping up w/ an extra job, etc.)

Not to mention that fact that so many of my friends are going through similar types of transitions – which necessarily affects our relationships.  It can all seem just a bit . . . overwhelming.

But I was fortunate enough to have the company of J.D. this weekend.  What an awesome guy!  We had so much friggin’ fun together!  I’ve been alone for so long, that I forgot what it was like to live w/ someone else.  It’s pretty cool

Friday night, we went out for dinner w/ the incomparable JaneYang, and I was able to intro J.D. to my world.  There’s something special about being able to bring a friend into your world.  There’s nothing like being known, ya know?  It was also pretty cool to meet up w/ J-man and the old EPIC crew. 

Saturday we had a blast . . . lunch at the harbor, an O’s game (we STOMPED the Royals!), and good times w/ Christy and some of her friends.  We had a GREAT dinner at some little Italian restaurant in Canton, then we headed out for some hookah.  So this bar was so NOT a hookah bar . . . really it’s just an average sports bar that happens to dish out hookah.  But it was wonderful hookah nonetheless!  The cherry flavor went so well w/ my apply/cranberry martini.  (Is this what Heaven will be like? )

Today we went to church (*ahem*withoutChristy!*ahem*), and then grabbed some lunch and watched like 6 episodes of 24! LOL.  Good times.  We just got back from dinner, and had the most amazing convo about time, existence, and the nature of God.  J.D. is probably the smartest guy I know – and that’s saying a lot considering I’m too prideful to think that most ppl are smarter than me! LOL.  But seriously, he’s way over my head w/ this stuff – but I was pleased to challenge him w/ some thoughtful questions

Anyway, I had a great weekend.  Good friends are invaluable.  J.D. kicks ass.  That is all.


The balanced life . . .

Call it balance, call it yin/yang, call it whatever the hell you wanna call it . . . it’s all around us.

About a year ago, I caught hold of this idea that this “abundant life” Jesus was talking about, really had a lot to do with having a full life – a life that included both bad times and good times, happy times and sad times, raindrops and sunshine.  There really is a peculiar sort of beauty to such a full life. 

I spent the better part of my teens not feeling a thing at all.  It was as if I were in hell, and didn’t even know it – because I couldn’t feel it.  I refused to feel anything.  I was like a frickin’ Vulcan or something.  Honestly, I thought that life really worked for me.  But I was wrong.  Because life always finds a way to haunt you.  And when you don’t allow yourself to feel it, your psyche will find some other way to cope.  It’s the very reason I turned to all sorts of addictions (food, porn, narcissism, etc.)

The last few years have been an exercise in learning how to feel – how to embrace joy and sorrow, grief and mirth.  Um.  It’s like . . . hard as hell.  No really.  When you’ve never done it before, it takes a looooong time to learn!  I really wish I was better at it.  Seriously.  I’ve been at this for years now! But in many ways, I still feel like I’m emotionally still a high schooler or something  It’s maddening.  Yet, every once in awhile, it’s kind of adventurous.

This past week was pretty tough.  I’ve just been all over the place.  Stress at work, loved ones departing, lack of sleep, loss of innocence, friendships decaying, schisms widening, apathy growing.  But somehow, there were some really great things that happened too.  Being with my small group on Friday night was absolutely refreshing.  Getting a good run, and meeting a new friend on Saturday afternoon was just what the doctor ordered to snap me out of a funk.  The Shane & Shane concert on Saturday night was brilliant – their sweet harmonies and sacred words moved me to tears several times.  Church today was eye-opening – reminding me that Jesus came to actually help me with my relational fucked-up-ness.  Lunch and fellowship with dear friends warmed my heart – I’m gonna miss my St. John’s crew   A short talk with Brian gave me warm-fuzzies – the very sparkle in his eye always seems to remind me that everything will be alright.  A long talk with Grace assured me that the world was indeed still turning on its axis quite well, and the sun would most likely be coming up again tomorrow morning.

For someone like me – who’s quite pessimistic – it would be a mistake not to give thanks for the positive, good things that life is offering.  But it would be an even bigger mistake not to acknowledge the negative things, the painful things, the biting things.  No, it’s in no way pleasant to feel that . . . but it’s no secret that our Western society has grown far too reticent to face pain.  It is part of a full, complete life.  And the more I practice such a life, the more I realize it’s all good – even the bad.  Weird, huh?


So I thought the following short article was interesting, because I’ve been questioned more times than I care to count about explaining what it is that “Emergent” or “Pomo Christians” believe.  And my answer every time is “there is no real doctrinal statement.”  As a matter of fact, if Emergent ever came out with one, I think you would then have to call me a “post-Emergent Christian”  (hahahah, yes, I’m being facetious . . . sort of).

From Tony Jones, National Coordinator, Emergent-U.S.

Yes, we have been inundated with requests for our statement of faith in Emergent, but some of us had an inclination that to formulate something would take us down a road that we don’t want to trod. So, imagine our joy when a leading theologian joined our ranks and said that such a statement would be disastrous. That’s what happened when we started talking to LeRon Shults, late of Bethel Seminary and now heading off to a university post in Norway. LeRon is the author of many books, all of which you should read, and now the author a piece to guide us regarding statements of faith and doctrine. Read on…

From LeRon Shults:

The coordinators of Emergent have often been asked (usually by their critics) to proffer a doctrinal statement that lays out clearly what they believe. I am merely a participant in the conversation who delights in the ongoing reformation that occurs as we bring the Gospel into engagement with culture in ever new ways. But I have been asked to respond to this ongoing demand for clarity and closure. I believe there are several reasons why Emergent should not have a “statement of faith” to which its members are asked (or required) to subscribe. Such a move would be unnecessary, inappropriate and disastrous.

Why is such a move unnecessary? Jesus did not have a “statement of faith.” He called others into faithful relation to God through life in the Spirit. As with the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, he was not concerned primarily with whether individuals gave cognitive assent to abstract propositions but with calling persons into trustworthy community through embodied and concrete acts of faithfulness. The writers of the New Testament were not obsessed with finding a final set of propositions the assent to which marks off true believers. Paul, Luke and John all talked much more about the mission to which we should commit ourselves than they did about the propositions to which we should assent. The very idea of a “statement of faith” is mired in modernist assumptions and driven by modernist anxieties – and this brings us to the next point.

Such a move would be inappropriate. Various communities throughout church history have often developed new creeds and confessions in order to express the Gospel in their cultural context, but the early modern use of linguistic formulations as “statements” that allegedly capture the truth about God with certainty for all cultures and contexts is deeply problematic for at least two reasons. First, such an approach presupposes a (Platonic or Cartesian) representationalist view of language, which has been undermined in late modernity by a variety of disciplines across the social and physical sciences (e.g., sociolinguistics and paleo-biology). Why would Emergent want to force the new wine of the Spirit’s powerful transformation of communities into old modernist wineskins? Second, and more importantly from a theological perspective, this fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces all finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

Why would it be disastrous? Emergent aims to facilitate a conversation among persons committed to living out faithfully the call to participate in the reconciling mission of the biblical God. Whether it appears in the by-laws of a congregation or in the catalog of an educational institution, a “statement of faith” tends to stop conversation. Such statements can also easily become tools for manipulating or excluding people from the community. Too often they create an environment in which real conversation is avoided out of fear that critical reflection on one or more of the sacred propositions will lead to excommunication from the community. Emergent seeks to provide a milieu in which others are welcomed to join in the pursuit of life “in” the One who is true (1 John 5:20). Giving into the pressure to petrify the conversation in a “statement” would make Emergent easier to control; its critics could dissect it and then place it in a theological museum alongside other dead conceptual specimens the curators find opprobrious. But living, moving things do not belong in museums. Whatever else Emergent may be, it is a movement committed to encouraging the lively pursuit of God and to inviting others into a delightfully terrifying conversation along the way.

This does not mean, as some critics will assume, that Emergent does not care about belief or that there is no role at all for propositions. Any good conversation includes propositions, but they should serve the process of inquiry rather than shut it down. Emergent is dynamic rather than static, which means that its ongoing intentionality is (and may it ever be) shaped less by an anxiety about finalizing state-ments than it is by an eager attention to the dynamism of the Spirit’s disturbing and comforting presence, which is always reforming us by calling us into an ever-intensifying participation in the Son’s welcoming of others into the faithful embrace of God.


Darfur Revisited . . .

The rally was AMAZING!  I’m so glad I went.  There were, of course, the superficial reasons, like being 10 feet away from the likes of George Clooney, Manut Bol (former NBA player known for his towering 7’7” height), Senator Obama, and Rev. Al Sharpton – not to mention a score of other political leaders.

But far past that, it was just so exhilarating to see SO many young people (the majority of the crowd was less than 30) placing so much emphasis on social justice. 

They came from several states, religions (mostly Jewish and Christian represented, but a contigent of Muslims as well), and political affiliations – all united to declare that this genocide needs to be stopped, and it needs to happen NOW!

On the one hand, the skeptic in me says “so who cares about some pointless rally?”, but there is another side of me that was encouraged by how many postcards have been signed by concerned Americans (over 760,000 thus far!!), and the fact that our government hasn’t completely ignored this issue – as they have in the EU and elsewhere.

But we still need to do more, to stop the genocide, to stop the rapes of innocent women, to send more relief to the region, and ensure this doesn’t happen again. 

The one slightly discouraging thing was that there were so few African-Americans in attendance.  Since when do social justice issues not concern us???  That’s another issue for another day.  I think I need to light some fires in my community!

Anyway, after a highly emotional worship service at CRCC (where I was bawling for half of the service), and thinking about all that carnage in the Sudan, it was great to have some chill time w/ the St. Johns crew, listening to some beautiful music, and chatting w/ some beautiful people.  A great cap to an otherwise highly-charged day.

I’m back at work now, in the regular grind.  The past couple of weeks have been tough.  I think the next couple will be absolute hell.  I’ve got tons to do at work, I’ve gotta start preparing for this residency, I’ve got this trip to Portland/Seattle/Vancouver to plan for, and I’m not even gonna START in on the personal life and all the crazy emotions mixed in with that.  Your prayers will be highly appreciated.  Love and hugs wouldn’t be bad either.

D.J. Free!