A Short Hot Summer
What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.
What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
This is a long article, but gut it out to the end—I think you’ll be blessed.
Ferris Bueller famously advised his fellow teens, “Life moves pretty fast. If you’re not careful, you could miss it.” Summer, that particular sweet Seattle reward for enduring the long rainstorm we call “winter and spring,” feels that way to me this year.
In truth, the last three years, during which I have been studying part-time for a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Seattle Pacific University, seem to have sped by me like the Blue Angels: loud and awesome, memorable and intense, but with a whoosh. My spiritual ears are still popping.
Thanks to encouragement from so many of you, I graduated this past June 13, culminating nearly 60 academic hours, another 14 hours of peer-group practicum, and about 1000 hours of on-site clinical hours with clients and concomitant paperwork. This rich story included comedy (my being old enough to look like the father of most of my SPU cohort), tragedy (Lynne’s cancer diagnosis and relentless treatments in 2007-8), deep illumination, and the promise of electrifying sequel: counseling programs we can begin in the Seattle church that I am convinced will prove to be a remarkable blessing in our quest for ongoing Maturity.
Here’s a picture of faculty bestowing the “hood” given to Masters’ graduates. One of my professors told me that the hoods evolved from medieval rucksacks used by educators to carry their books (a rare, hand-copied thing) around town:
Speaking of graduations, here’s a nice one from Paige Kelly’s family celebration featuring her and you-know-who:
Here’s one more from grad day at Safeco field:
OK, enough of that.
Five days after graduating, Lynne and I embarked for Berlin, where we have been serving as “Coaches” for the church. The Berlin church has reimbursed the Seattle church for our time in 2010—about a month’s worth, and it has been a delight to partner with the Kohas (Boston) and the Herbsts (Zurich) as fellow coaches.
This last trip lasted longer, and this was deliberate. We wanted to see what we could learn by spending more time with the Berlin committees, leadership groups, and church overall; I feel fortunate to have been there this time almost three weeks. This gave me a more generous assessment of what is happening in the church and I feel God did give me some clear direction that might serve the church there well. Here’s a clip of the Berlin worship:
And here’s the start of one sermon, using the metaphor of the soccer World cup, which was raging at the time:
The Berlin church is searching right now for full time leadership. In the meantime, they use a committee of seasoned commended disciples (basically identical to the “Salt” groups we have in Seattle) to vet and implement decisions. Here’s a picture of a few of them in one meeting:
Here’s one of the campus ministry leaders (with wee Antonia), Basti and Miriam Maas:
In their spare time, Miriam is a human rights lawyer (Doctor Maas if you don’t mind) and Basti is nearly done with his ph.D in Electrical Something. He will soon be a Professor at the Technical University. Despite their training and achievements, they inspire me with their humility and curiosity. There is so much more to tell about Berlin, but I’ll save that for future dispatches, especially ones about Wittenberg and Martin Luther—here’s Lynne and me before the door upon which Luther posted his 95 theses:
After all this, and before stopping in Washington D.C. for my niece’s lovely wedding, Lynne and I spent 5 days in Italy—my post-grad present. Lynne had gone earlier to the town of Cagli—a requirement for her Gonzaga Masters program. I met her there and we unwound, day after day, among the olives and the vineyards.
Two Big Things I learned in Italy: 1) do not go there in the summer; it’s WAY too hot! 2) Europeans have found a work/live balance that Lynne and I are persuaded often evades Americans, including us and us Christians. Summer or winter, Europeans tend to limit their work hours, choosing to invest more in what I clinically call “mindfulness” or staying in the moment. I am wondering if they are happier because of this. Each afternoon, they meet friends at a pub or restaurant for a drink and chat. They linger. Often they don’t dine until 9 or 10pm. In Italy, they congregate around their “piazzas” (pro-nounced “Pee-ott-suzz”)—the town square—and watch the world go by. We tried it and liked it. Yes, it’s a hard balance to find.
I speculate that the earlier chapters in our brief ICOC history were hyper-apocalyptic: we tended to focus, in our youthful zeal, on only the life-that-is-to-come and tended to reject participating in the here-and-now. Believe it or not, this is actually normal for youth; virtually every generation does it. But as we age, like fine olive oil, we see the contradiction in this as we raise children and hone our vocational expertise—is work just a nuisance that we tolerate until we can get home and be about the Lord’s business? Are children a distraction from our building up the church and seeking those who don’t know God? The questions seem ridiculous, but I wonder if it isn’t lodged into our narrative.
As for me and “my” church (I’m being syntactically convenient; we all know it’s Jesus’ church!), I encourage us all to embrace the paradox: yes, we are foreigners and strangers (1 Peter 2:11) in this world (I suggest that this scripture is about different character and not about being Hutterites), yet we are admonished to let our lights shine in everyday, “normal” ways (1 Thess 4:11), and to except that God has richly provided us with “everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). Let’s find a way to keep our eye on the heavenly ball yet actually live the abundant spiritual life God gave us, everyday, in the moment, with thanksgiving. We are free to participate in this life, being stewards of it, all the while taking care to be prepared for what lies beyond the grave.
Lynne and I have found our U District “Piazza” at the new Mama Melinas. Thanks, Ty.
Elder, Seattle church of Christ