A Year of Theology

So, it’s been a year since I began my formal theological studies as a part-time student at TEDS (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). More specifically, it’s been a year of consistent studying of systematic theology (both fall and spring semesters). What did I take away from this past year of studying systematic theology? Was it a good year spent well worth the time, effort, and money that went into it? I’d say in a heartbeat, yes.

As a student of systematic theology, I got to read interesting books and hear engaging lectures (which, absent the formality factor of being enrolled in a program, I certainly could have but probably wouldn’t have). I got to share with many others about my own views of God, sin, man, salvation, church, and even the end times stuff. Hearing from others who came from a very diverse range of backgrounds is always a challenge and a deep joy. And being able to write my first papers on systematic theology has been a blessing and a tough challenge as well.

When all is said and done, though, more than anything else, I think I’ve learned to appreciate the much contemplated, polished, and debated thoughts and arguments that have been compiled over the past two millenniums around God. I am starting to see that thousands of others have probably already wrestled with the thoughts I have as a follower of Christ, to arrive to an answer as to how we, as followers of Christ, might live this life to its fullest, loving God and our neighbors, both where we are and where we are being sent. I appreciate that, as a student of theology, I also had the opportunity to appreciate all of the work that has been already done up to this point in time.

I have read in an Atlantic article that studying theology requires not faith but empathy. I disagree in that I do think it requires faith to believe that God exists, but I agree with the author in that it also requires a great deal of empathy to humble ourselves before one sits down to read and write about theology. Empathy prompts humility, and that humility enables thoughtful review, discovery, and discussion of what those who have gone before us may have once wrestled with.

Am I quite humble enough to continue studying theology (yet)? I would certainly hope so. And I pray that God might bring about more ways to humble my own heart from this day and on.

Why We Fail to See the Beautiful

Watching this video clip broke my heart.

It was like seeing the bare surface of my own heart. It tells the story of how many of us judge, spit out harsh comments at someone we just barely met, and turn our backs on them as soon as we realize there isn’t anything we might benefit from. More than anything else, though, it tells a sad story of how many of us are simply no longer able to see the beauty beyond our skin.

God, have mercy on us and heal our broken hearts.

Doing What Is Important (But May Not Be Urgent)

I came across this insightful posting on time management.

How do effective leaders manage their time? Why is it that so many of us are so tired every day when we feel like we haven’t really done much? Where is all of our time going?

Shardul Mehta provides a good insight on why many of us seem to be getting less and less done over time (but remain equally tired as before):

There’s always a fire to put out, an urgent meeting, a request from up the chain to satisfy, someone stopping by the desk to ask a “quick question”, an email to answer, a phone call to return.

The problem is that while it feels like we’re getting stuff done in the moment, we’re actually not getting anything of real value done. It’s an illusion.

See full posting here.



Why This Man is Leaving the United Nations

What do you do when the organization whose mission and values you deeply believed in once is starting to fail? What do you do when multitudes are looking up to you for the much coveted positions you’ve held at the organization and yet you find yourself disillusioned by the way the organization now functions? Do you stick with the organization because everyone else would see your leaving as a waste of a good opportunity? Do you just put up with what doesn’t quite align with your values because of all the work, energy, effort, and time you’ve put into it so far?

… or, do you leave the system as a whole to express your defiant stance on the issue and let the world know how the system is not the way it used to be (or the way it looks to those who look at it from outside only)?

That’s exactly what Anthony Banbury did after working for the organization of his choice for the last 30 years.

Now, granted this is not the first time where a disillusioned, defiant UN worker has left the organization to make his stance clear, what struck me most powerfully about his statement in the NY Times article is the striking similarity I saw between the problems of the UN that Banbury pointed out in his article and some of the issues I am seeing in the church today globally:

The bureaucracy needs to work for the missions; not the other way around. The starting point should be the overhaul of our personnel system. We need an outside panel to examine the system and recommend changes. Second, all administrative expenses should be capped at a fixed percentage of operations costs. Third, decisions on budget allocations should be removed from the Department of Management and placed in the hands of an independent controller reporting to the secretary general. Finally, we need rigorous performance audits of all parts of headquarters operations.

(See full posting via the NY Times here.)

Is the global Church system of organized Christian religions suffering from not being able to discern which of the two must exist for the other — the missions for the bureaucracy, or the bureaucracy for the missions? I’d say a loud yes in a heartbeat.

In a piece titled “Why Denominations Cannot Complete the Great Commission,” David Watson writes:

The denominational education and indoctrination processes make it impossible to fulfill the Great Commission. We have come a long way from First Century illiterate fishermen entering new people groups, nations, and cities and starting a church within months and then moving on. With the loss of simplicity we lost the ability to replicate leaders quickly and move through people groups efficiently. By over training and over managing new believers we stop the process of replication that could reach a nation and a world.

Now, the Church, let us ask ourselves again and be honest about it:

Is it the bureaucracy (read: denominations) for the missions? Or the missions for the bureaucracy (again read: denominations)?

The Peril of Turning Prayer into a Routine

Prayer is about communication.

Prayer is how we hear from God, and it is also how God speaks to us. And yet, we also are fully aware that Christians who believe in the existence of the almighty God in their very own lives are known to rarely pray. If one genuinely believed in the power of prayer, why wouldn’t he/she pray? Does that mean Christians say one thing and believe something else?

But what if it might be because many of us have turned prayer into a mere routine? Wait, isn’t that good if we habitually, routinely pray? That means regular prayer, right? Like eating, sleeping, brushing teeth, etc. Maybe but maybe not:

I have found the habit of prayer is truly a weapon. It can protect you, but it can also be dangerous. Since I write my prayers down, it is easy for me to fall in love with the words on the page more than the One I’m writing them to. I like the way my pen feels in my hand and finding ways to string my thoughts together until they are beautiful.

Never let the habit of prayer outweigh the holiness of prayer.

See full posting here.

Why UX Isn’t the Next “Everything”

UX is everything.

Is it?

Living in a day and age where the term UX has become such a buzz word, many are mistakenly lured into the journey of pursuing UX as their next career destination. Coding schools have designed programs to help people find jobs in the UX field, and more and more blogs and websites are coming out to write about UX at large, the latest trends in UX, and interviews with some of the best, hottest UX designers.

So, why is UX so hot these days? Is it because of certain perks that come with the job (title) itself? Or is there something about UX that is inherently appealing to those who pursue the art and those who demand the service?

A renowned UX designer writes:

I recently met some people at a hackathon who transitioned into UX Design at an impressive speed. But they weren’t your average joes. They didn’t just wake up one day, decided they wanted to switch careers, and got a UX job a week later.

Instead, these people are good problem solvers; one was a talented product manager, another was on his way to a PhD in ethnographic research, and another was a skilled web designers who’ve been (subconsciously) doing UX for the past 5 years.

These are people who are smart and can solve problems, regardless of their job title.

See full posting here.

Humanitarian Worker Trying to Escape Something but Not Quite Succeeding

I am not a humanitarian worker myself but have aspired to be one for a long time. I don’t think I quite thought about this when I was contemplating the idea of becoming one, but the following excerpt from a humanitarian worker puts it very aptly — the worker’s insatiable urge to want to change everything, which strangely leads to escapism.

They all seemed to be trying to escape something but not quite succeeding. Everything needed to be fixed constantly, no matter if it was work, the home, the friendship or the relationship. No matter where you were or what was improving, the grass was always greener on the other side – hence the constant need to hop to another disaster, another country.

Maybe this has more to do with the all-encompassing lack of patience and all-out commitment to instant gratification prevalent among today’s 20-to-30-somethings. But this is indeed an interesting insight into the field of humanitarian work.

See the full post here.

Advice to a Young (Aspiring) Social Entrepreneur

As I continue to find out more and more about entrepreneurship as a means to address societies’ economic, systematic, and spiritual problems, I also find myself asking “Just how do I then get started with social entrepreneurship?” Working (mostly) 9-5 on a desk job, I often feel like I’ve got to drop what I am doing now and start doing things that are directly relevant to entrepreneurship (think joining startups, coffee dates with local entrepreneurs, etc.). If nothing else, having a sense of purpose in one’s work is just good for one’s well-being anyway. How are entrepreneurs-want-to-be’s then to see their daily grind — which may or may not be seen as more menial and tedious labors than startup-like job titles — as essential pieces to their journey into entrepreneurship? Or are they even essential?

I think today’s young people do have a heart and want to do good, but if you want to succeed that’s not enough. You also need to think through your financial model. So my advice: Before launching yourself into a business, get some experience, do volunteering work. Many youngsters today have been raised on handouts from their parents and they need to build some inner core strength. They can’t take stress, because they’ve never really experienced hardship, they’ve never experienced failure; their parents have always been there to help. To build a muscle you need to train it regularly; it’s the same in business. You will have issues coming your way every day, and that’s something you need to learn to deal with so it doesn’t become stressful.

H/T to Elim Chew. See the full NY Times article here.

Cutting Down on Meat for All’s Sake

Are we consuming too much meat as a society?

Differently asked, do some of us (who are not vegetarian or vegan) feel that a meal should always come with some sort of meat? But why is that so? Since when, has the norm dictated that meat is such an essential part of one’s daily diet?

Instead of trying to cut meat out of our diets completely, how about we try something like this instead:

Though becoming a vegetarian is the obvious way to improve our own contribution to the environment, for some, giving up meat completely may be too big a step. Part-time vegetarianism – eating meat just two or three days a week, for example – has become a popular and useful compromise. Personal carbon footprints are reduced, and if enough people were to do this, it would drastically reduce the need for unsustainable farming practices.

H/T to Amit Singh. See the full posting here.