Inhabit: Practice. Presence. Place.


Today [and tomorrow], I’m attending the Inhabit Conference [#inhabitconf] at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology [formerly MHGS]. Inhabit’s big idea is to explore what it means and looks like as the church in North America returns to the practice of being locally rooted and how we can be present in the particular places where we are called to live and serve.

I’ll be posting some reflections from this time of teaching, learning and conversation. For tonight, here’s what I’ve got.  How are you re-imagining community where you live and serve?

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Open my eyes, that I may see


We’re trying something new at church today to help our congregation understand one another better, to realize the rich diversity in one another’s stories and to hear the ways God has been working through each one of us. For now, we are calling this time in worship, This is my story.

Today was my turn. I admit I didn’t know what to say. My dad was the guest preacher this morning and he used today’s lectionary from John 9:1-42 about the man who was born blind from birth. As I listened to him expound on the ways that we as a corporate body have sometimes become spiritually blind to the injustices we witness—and like the parents of the blind man, and the neighbors and Pharisees who were not willing to speak up and speak out that it was Jesus who healed this man, we as a community of faith sometimes do not have the courage to proclaim where we see the work of Christ in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

The story I shared went like this: Continue reading

[not] all paths lead to ordination


This piece was written for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the UMC’s newsletter, Channels.

I’m in that sweet demographic that the United Methodist Church, and frankly, other mainline denominations want in their pews (and pulpits?): Under 35. Female. Ethnic minority. You could call me a triple threat, though I can’t take credit that I had anything to do with that.

Unlike many of the young adults who have decided the Church just isn’t relevant, I still go. Regularly. I even chair a committee and am involved in conference level leadership. I feel like I have a place in the church. Gasp. Yes, it may have started because I was the token young person of color, but that’s moot. The point is that I said “yes” to some of these invitations to participate in various committees, events and worship experiences growing up, and though the invitations may not have meant much to me then, the opportunities were formative in preparing me for where I feel God is leading me today, muddy as that path may feel.

I’m in my second quarter of seminary at Seattle Pacific University pursuing my Masters in Business and Applied Theology (grad degree #3)–though I can still be persuaded to go the M.Div. route. Yes, SPU had a graduate program in theology. And it’s solid. Ask me about it sometime. I’ll even buy you coffee to talk about it. Continue reading

redemptive disruption


J. Kameron Carter. This man–the embodiment of intellect and grace and a prophet in our time–calls us to challenge the systems that we are subjected to or continue to hold in place in and outside of the church. In every moment of our everyday existence, Carter says, Jesus encounters us with the call,  ‘follow me.’ As he spoke, I couldn’t help but place myself in this story. In what ways am I being asked to ‘follow?’ Continue reading

Being a Disciple


Guest post from my pops, who is the Director of Philosophy and Religion at Philippine Christian University and English pastor at Central UMC, both in Manila.

Being a Disciple

I want to talk about a very popular subject matter in the New Testament, something almost all Christians have some idea about.  Discipleship. While it is a common word circulated among Christians, it is not uncommon to find misunderstanding about its meaning, its application, and its importance.  This misunderstanding and confusion is evident during prayer meetings, Sunday School sessions, and the way it is perceived and understood by those seating on the pews come Sunday worship.

The NT record in Matthew 10: 1-4 and Mark 3:13-19, tell us Jesus is on a recruiting trip to name people to be part of his team.  Disciples. Eventually, out of large  crowds he talked to, named people familiar to us: Simon Peter, Matthew, Thomas James, etc. The Mattew and Mark records gave us names, told us who were those chosen to perform special and sensitive parts in Jesus’ ministry. Not much.

In Luke 14: 25-33, it is important for us to take note that on the subject matter of discipleship–of who is a disciple–what they do is far more important than who they are.  Whether you are a male or a female, young or older, last name well-known or not, rural or city folk, where you originate from, less schooled or not, what is important is what do you do to qualify as a disciple. Functional, not biographical.

road

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In the scheme of Jesus’ plan of ministry to serve the last and the lost and the least, discipleship is functional.  This is to say those who enlisted, signed up to join God’s army in Jesus, it is what we do to serve God’s spirit that matters.  Not name. Not one’s station in life.  Not one’s connection or ability to bring more resources to the church, although they are all important and crucial to the success of our  organizational operation.

I am not sure if Jesus was challenging or teasing the crowd when he said, “you cannot be my disciple.”  You can’t be my disciple “unless you love me more than your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters…You cannot come with me unless  you love me more than your own life…you cannot be my disciple unlesss you carry your own cross and come with me…you cannot be my disciple unless you give away everything you own.”

After reading this, who do you think in his or her right mind still wants to become a disciple? Honestly, after reading this do you still want to be a disciple?  We have a ritual for accepting new members.  But we don’t really have a ritual or order of service for those signing up to sell their belongings;  to love their parents, siblings or their very own life less so they could become a disciple.

I want to reflect on this very demanding call to discipleship as something to aspire for, something to challenge all would-be followers.  To not think lightly the consequences of what it is to be a learner, a follower, a student of the cross, someone who stand by the side of history and admires the lives of the early disciples, the saints, those who literally denied themselves of huge inheritances, those who left the family they loved to follow Christ for the sake of those without family, to make others rich by their life of simplicity, to spend all their energies, time, talent, to serve those where Christ is most needed.

Given the above harsh and hard definition of what it is to  be a disciple, is it possible for us today to become one?  I hope so.  I believe so.  We are still in the journey of faith. Wesley did mention about us being “living onto “perfection.” Bonhoeffer did use the word “come of age.” We are in the process of becoming, coming to be!  Or, borrow a bumper sticker that says, “God is not finish with me yet.”

Wesley talks about the “means of grace.”  He was telling early Methodists to access themselves to the God who is accessible.  Maybe, just maybe, if we frequently attend learning sessions to know more about God, come to prayer meetings, take communion always as fresh nourishment to our dry spirit, a functional understanding of discipleship could be had.  And then we could truthfully say, “I am a disciple.” Well, not quite but I am getting there.

Pastor Fred

Christians are a bunch of swindlers


The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament. (S. Kierkegaard, “Kill the Commentators,” in PROVOCATIONS)

In what ways have we allowed ourselves to be fully transformed by the message of the gospel? In what ways have we sterilized our call to discipleship to maintain levels of comfort in our lives? How do we rationalize keeping the Bible at arm’s length, far enough out of reach so that it doesn’t disrupt the good thing we have going?