Obama and me: a common journey

[Official White House Photo: Pete Souza]

Yesterday morning, I tuned in to watch the National Prayer Breakfast online. I managed to catch the end of author Eric Metaxas’ keynote, and then the President’s address. I’ve always resonated with President Obama’s expressions of his faith, even from when he was a Senator, and before he ran for president–from his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention to the passages in Dreams from my Father. Yesterday, he drew upon several verses that form the foundation of my own engagement in politics, advocacy, and public life:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“To those whom much is given, much will be required.”

“Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

He continued:

Treating others as you want to be treated.  Requiring much from those who have been given so much.  Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper.  Caring for the poor and those in need.  These values are old.  They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers.  And they are values that have always made this country great — when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year.  And they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey.

They’re the ones that have defined my faith journey as well, which I shared when I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary. I got to be one of the speakers at Commencement, and shared a little bit of my own journey:

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Meanwhile, over at the Sojourners blog, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, former General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, shares his thoughts in a great response. Notably:

Money controls who gets elected and controls how laws and policies are made, I think, in utterly dangerous ways. More than ever, for those who gathered in prayer Thursday morning, money is power. And it’s the power of money in politics today that must be confronted — by people of faith — as a moral issue.

So I wondered (and prayed), where is the William Wilberforce of today, a leader who will take the message of the Bible to heart, rise up to confront the ways in which money enslaves our modern political life, lead a movement to end it, and then, one day, be celebrated for his or her courage and faithfulness to the gospel at a future prayer breakfast?

Even as we celebrate a common faith and shared values, we need to continue working to see these worked out in the world we inhabit.

Keeping healthy

It’s been awhile since I’ve made time for things that give me life, that aren’t necessarily ‘productive’ but are highly conducive to my spiritual, mental and emotional health–things as simple as reading a book, or going to see a movie, or discovering new music. I realized that I needed to build a little more of that into my schedule, and with the extra time afforded me by my sports injuries (from which I’m recovering), I’ve been able to indulge a little.

Books

Between Two Worlds, John W. Stott. A great and classic resource on preaching; insightful and wise. Stott’s been a spiritual mentor of mine and a favorite theologian, and when I read books of his like this one, I feel his passing all the more keenly.

Kissing Outside the Lines, Diane Farr. A funny, touching and insightful look at inter-racial relationships, sparked by an encounter between a Korean-American named Seung and Farr (a well-known actress). I guess it sort of validated a lot of the thoughts and feelings I’d had about inter-racial relationships, including ones that I’d been in.

LeadershipNext, Eddie Gibbs. Examining what leadership–particularly in the church–looks like as we launch into the 21st century. Gibbs is a professor at Fuller Seminary, and has been involved with a number of emerging church movements. In reading this, I was glad to see that we at The District Church are already living out a lot of the things he said would be needed to thrive.

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin. I’m re-reading this fantastic work of fiction in light of the HBO series whose first season just finished, and also the latest installment, “A Dance with Dragons,” that just came out. When I first read this, years ago, I couldn’t handle it. The bad guys weren’t clear; the good guys weren’t clear; I didn’t know who I was supposed to root for. But reading it again last year, having the benefit of a few years of age, wisdom and maybe a dose of realism, I was able to appreciate that there aren’t easy answers, it isn’t a black-and-white world, and that not everyone you care about lives to see the happy ending. A fantasy-fiction series for a post-modern world.

Movies

Captain America: The First Avenger.

A riproaring adventure, a fun comic book adaptation, an enjoyable ride. Definitely, definitely, definitely had its cheesy, “ra-ra America” moments (a.k.a. Team America moments), but on the whole, I had fun. Chris Evans did a great job as Cap, Tommy Lee Jones was hilarious–as usual when he’s trying to be, e.g. Men in Black–and it set the scene well for next summer’s blockbuster adventure, The Avengers, which you get a preview of at the end of the credits–so exciting!!

Cowboys & Aliens.

Cowboys? Cool. Aliens? Cool. Combined? A boy’s dream. Lots of shooting and explosions, two generations of leading men (Harrison Ford–sorry, dude–and Daniel Craig), and Olivia Wilde? Entertainment. I’m not going to dissect this, or talk about postcolonialism, or even how it could’ve been a better movie. It was a good and fun and entertaining enough for me! Thanks to Jon Favreau, who’s really showing his directing chops–with this, the Iron Man movies, and Elf, the guy’s got some talent.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Definitely one of my favorite movies of the year. In the story of a middle-aged man whose life falls apart around him, Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone light up a fantastic script–at turns heartwarming, gut-wrenching, painful, hilarious, sad, frustrating, and laugh-out-loud funny. Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei provide some stellar support, and welcome to the big screen, Analeigh Tipton! I went on the basis of my friends’ recommendations, and I’m telling you now: go see it.

Music

Zonoscope, Cut Copy. Fun indie, electronic music. Thanks to JY for the recommendation.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver. All my friends (hipster and otherwise) had been raving about this. And it’s warranted. My first taste of Bon Iver’s music, and it’s a good one.

10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman. The latest offering from a Christian music stalwart, Matt continues to write songs that speak for a new generation. Love the guy’s heart.

Strip Me, Natasha Bedingfield. This actually came out last year, but I only got it this summer. Natasha’s always got a way of making me smile with her music. So much love for her.

John Goldingay at Fuller’s Baccalaureate Service 2011

From this past weekend’s Baccalaureate Service at Fuller Seminary, John Goldingay speaks of God, “High and Holy, But Present with the Lowly.” Goldingay was easily one of my favorite professors during my time at Fuller–I took all of my Old Testament classes from him, and I definitely miss being in the presence of this awesome, humble and brilliant man of God. I hope you are blessed by his message:

Baccalaureate Spring 2011 from Fuller Seminary on Vimeo.

Fuller Seminary, Jim Wallis, and me

This week’s SEMI (Fuller’s student publication) features an interview with my boss, Jim Wallis, and an article by me telling some of the story of how I ended up at Sojourners. For those of you at Fuller, pick up a copy and let me know your thoughts! And if you’re not in Pasadena, drop me a comment and I’ll email you an electronic copy.

Also, for Pasadena friends, Jim will be speaking at All Saints Church tomorrow (25th) at 7pm. Go say hey!

Rest in peace, Ruth

Vuong-photo.jpgI got a call this afternoon letting me know that Ruth Vuong, the beloved Dean of Students at Fuller Seminary, passed away unexpectedly and suddenly this morning. I was privileged to have been able to work with Ruth a little last year, and she really was a shining example of God’s grace to all around her. While we only got to work together for a few months, one didn’t need to have spent much time with her to know that she was a real gift from God: wise, humble, gracious, loving.

My prayers go out to her husband, Thuan, and her daughter, Sreymol.

You’ll be missed, Ruth. The world is a better place because of you, and we thank God for the time we were able to know you.