Category Archives: jon

IDK? IDL!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been at Fuller for a long time – over 7 years! And the funny thing is that I will be taking my first ever online class this coming Summer. I’m taking Theology and Film as an elective for the MFT program I’m in. So you can imagine – it’s a little difficult for me to write about what it’s like to take online classes here at Fuller.

I did, however, take an IDL class a few years ago. IDL stands for Individualized Distance Learning, and although these classes aren’t technically “online classes,” they are off campus classes that can be taken in the new MATM and MAICS flexible degrees.

I really enjoyed the IDL I took. It was Early Church History taught by Dr. Nate Feldmeth. The way IDL classes work is that at the beginning of the quarter, Fuller sends you a packet of info including the syllabus and necessary paperwork (like quiz/test forms) and a CD with the audio lectures. It’s up to you to work through the class at your own pace. You listen to the lectures, do the reading, and complete the assignments. You can pack it all into a week or two or stretch it out over the 10 week quarter. It’s up to you!

The best part about IDL classes is that you have the audio files of the lectures forever. I’ve gone back to a few of Dr. Feldmeth’s lectures a few times over the last few years to review some of what he taught. I’m particularly interested in the start of the monastic movement in the second and third century, so I went back to those lectures on more than one occasion. IDLs are the classes that keep on giving!

In short, distance/online learning has come a long way over the last several years. 15 years ago, it was an inferior way to study. Now, not only is it equal to the kind of education you get on a campus in a classroom, but it’s infinitely more flexible!

what to do, what to do…

I love Southern California. I moved out here from Pennsylvania over 7 years ago to attend Fuller, and I fell in love with this region of the US (please don’t tell my mom. She is not happy about this).

I’m an active person, and I love city life, so as you can imagine, Los Angeles is like a big playground for someone like me. There is an endless list of places to go, people to see, food to eat, shows to watch, beaches to visit, mountains to climb, and on and on. Here are 5 of my favorites:

1. Diddy Reise

Two fresh baked cookies and ice cream of your choice made into an ice cream sandwich for $1.75. What more do I need to say? Located just south of UCLA‘s campus, and a few miles from the Getty, Diddy Reise is a must if you’re on the West Side. My last creation was two fresh baked peanut butter cookies with chocolate ice cream. Fairly pedestrian compared to some of my past orders but still oh so good!

2. Sturtevant Falls

The San Gabriel Mountains run east to west and form the north border of the LA basin. There are literally hundreds of hiking trails all through those mountains. Some are short and easy. Some are long and challenging. All of them are incredible. One of my favorite hikes is to Sturtevant Falls. I won’t bore you with my synopsis of the hike. I’ll let this guy do that. For my part, I’ll just ask you to imagine hiking back a tree covered valley dotted with little privately owned cabins until you reach a 50 foot waterfall. It’s like something out of Lord of the Rings.

3. Go to a show taping. Any show taping.

LA is where a lot of live TV is broadcast and taped, and the producers of these shows fill the studio seats with everyday bums like me and you! It’s easy to get free tickets to most shows, and if you’re in LA, you need to take advantage of this. You can go see Leno, Conan, Ellen, Kimmel, The Voice, American Idol, The Price is Right, and on and on. Although I’ve never done this, I hear that you can also go see a taping of a sitcom like The Big Bang Theory (which, incidentally, it set in Pasadena. The characters in that show went to CalTech, work at JPL, and Penny works at the Pasadena Cheesecake Factory).

4. Hermosa Beach

Southern California has a bunch of beaches. Big shocker, I know. There are the scenic beaches like Point Dume, the trendy beaches like Laguna Beach, and the just plain weird beaches like Venice Beach. But everyone seems to have their favorite beaches – their go-to beaches if you will. Mine is Hermosa Beach. Hermosa has a little bit of everything. It’s scenic and relatively clean. It has the closest thing on the west coast to an east coast board walk. Parking isn’t horrendous. There are just enough people to make it fun, but not too many people to make it annoying. It’s kind of a multi-purpose beach. My standard summer Saturday includes a ride on my motorcycle down to Hermosa, a job from the Hermosa pier to the Manhattan Beach pier and back, a dip in the ocean, and then reading on the beach. Wow. I’m suddenly ready for summer!

5. Supersoul Monday

I saved my favorite for last. Supersoul Monday is very hard to describe. It can only be experienced. Every Monday night, several of the top musicians in LA get together at the Hotel Cafe to make music. It’s organic and fluid. It’s soul, pop, and funk. Original music by Jason Joseph and covers by anyone and everyone from Nine Inch Nails to the Jackson 5. Musicians include Justin Timberlake’s current touring bass player and horn section and the Tonight Show drummer with special guests ranging from Natasha Bedingfield’s band to Prince’s band. It’s really something to behold. If you’re ever in LA on a Monday night, I beg you to come out to Supersoul Monday. You will not be disappointed. Oh, and it’s free! No cover! How they managed that in LA, I will never know.

Want more options on what to do in LA? Email me at jon-adm@fuller.edu

your story here

So we’re talking about theory versus practice in our blogs this week – how the perception of seminary is that it is way too theoretical and seminary students rarely learn practical ministry skills. I gotta be honest. I have so many thoughts right now, and I don’t know where to start.

In the spirit of full self-disclosure, I have to tell you that this sentiment really upsets me. I resent the assumption is that the theoretical or academic pursuit of scripture is somehow wrong or unhelpful. As if careful and critical study of scripture somehow deflates God’s Word and saps God’s Spirit out of the whole process.

Let me just answer that directly: It doesn’t.

OK, a little less directly: I doesn’t have to. Sure, the temptation is there to get bogged down in the cognitive experience of theology, and yes, that happens for some people. But for every person who leaves seminary with that experience, there are ten more who have had profound experiences of God’s Spirit through their painstaking study of God’s Word. I’m sure every one of my fellow admissions bloggers would agree.

At the same time, I’ve seen people get bogged down in the practical and experiential expressions of spirituality and connection to God. One can easily focus so wholeheartedly on feeling God and working for God that they lose sight of what it means to sit with God and ponder God’s mystery. This religious busyness is equally as damaging as theoretical rumination, it’s just that there isn’t really an institution (like a seminar) encouraging students toward religious busyness.

Anyway, I’m getting a little bogged down myself. Thank you for indulging my frustration with the notion that seminary is too theoretical.

I once heard Dr. Mouw address this very notion. I asked him what he says to people who say that seminaries focus too much on theory and not enough on practice. His analogy was powerful.

He said, and I paraphrase, “Pick your favorite emergency room drama. You see doctors running around in white coats, shouting commands to nurses and interns. They yell out the names of various medications and instruct certain techniques to be performed on the critical patient. But what you don’t see is the men and women in the lab, years prior, who are developing these medications and practicing these techniques. Without these men and women, the doctors in the ER would have nothing to shout! They couldn’t be much help to the dying patients without the work that the theorists did to create certain interventions. Their practice would not be as effective without the theorists.”

Yes, Christian theorists (theologians) need to put what they learn into practice. They need to be practitioners. And at the same time, the practitioners need the theorists and need to understand theory in order to be truly effective.

I’m forgetting something… Oh right! I’m supposed to write about the most practical class I took at Fuller.

Missional Church Leadership with Dr. Scott Cormode. Since I’ve already gone long, I’ll keep this short. One of Dr. Cormode’s assignments was for us to go to our local church, interview four church members about their lives (he provided us with a number of pointed questions), and then write a first person narrative about a typical day in their lives.

And it was fascinating! I learned so much about the people I thought I already knew, and I was given the opportunity to put myself in their shoes, feel what it’s like to be them for a day, understand their joys, pains, frustrations, and victories. It was hands down the most practical assignment and class I’ve ever had at Fuller, and the lessons learned in that class have stuck with me to today. And so have the relationships I made with the people I interviewed.

So yes, practical things happen here at Fuller. And so do the theoretical things. And they’re both vitally important to the Christian mission.

wait, I’m supposed to read all of this?

I remember my first quarter at Fuller back in 2006. I was just starting the MA in Theology, and after I purchased all of my books for the three classes I was taking, I started to panic. Seeing them all stacked up there on the table was overwhelming. I’m supposed to read all of this in just ten weeks?

You’d think that after 20 some MA in Theology classes, I would be used to the amount of reading you have to do for class, but I’m still not used to it. Last quarter, my first in the Marital and Family Therapy degree, I stacked all of my sixteen books on my desk and started to panic again. This amount of reading is just not physically possible in 10 short weeks!

I can’t say that all of the books I’ve read during the course of my two degrees at Fuller have been wonderful (or that I completely read all of them…), but I can say that several have been truly life changing. Here are five of the many that made an impact on me.

Note: for the sake of space (and to spare you incredible boredom), I’ll only give a few quick thoughts on each book instead of a full blown book review.

1. Hans Schwarz, Creation

Ah the age old theology vs. science debate. The Creationists work hard to make science fit the account of Genesis 1 and 2. Some Christians have leaned more toward the discussion of intelligent design to show that no matter what science discovers, they can’t deny the existence of an intelligent creator. Hans Schwarz knocks them all down with his incredible melding of all things science with a profound understanding of theology and God’s creative and miraculous power. I don’t know how else to explain this book. It’s way over my head, and at the same time, it digs deep into my heart by showing me the great expanse of God’s power and love.

2. Joel Green and Mark Baker, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross

I had the privilege of taking Joel Green’s exegetical class on the book of Acts during the last quarter of my MA in Theology degree at Fuller. To say this man is insightful is an understatement. In this book, he and Mark Baker tackle a complex issue: the atonement. Most of us use one metaphor to explain the way Christ’s sacrifice atoned for our sins: the penal substitution metaphor. God was mad at us and needed to punish us. He punished Jesus instead. Now we are free and justified. Yes, it’s much more complex, but that’s the gist of it. Green and Baker want to show us that this is just one metaphor used in scripture and by theologians throughout the last 2000 years to explain the mysteries of the atonement. To do so, they discuss varying metaphors from the Christus Victor model to thoughts from feminist theologians. Get this book, read it, and it will expand your understanding of the mystery that is Christ’s sacrifice for us.

3. Eric Johnson (editor), Psychology and Christianity: Five Views

This is a must-read for anyone considering a program in psychology from a Christian school. Not only does this book detail the integration approach to Christian psychology (Fuller’s approach), but it details four other approaches from the Levels-of-Explanation to the Biblical Counseling view. Different experts in each approach make their case for that particular approach, and each of the other authors are given a chance to critique the original author’s case. It’s pretty fascinating, and it really opened my eyes to the various approaches to Christian psychology that are out there.

4. Gerald McDermott, Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?

The first and probably most important point McDermott makes with his book is really more of a paradigm shift for classic evangelicals. He wants us to move away from thinking that other religions are evil and from the evil one to thinking that other religions are human responses to the true revelation of God. Yes, these religions may not be responding to the most pure revelation of God through Jesus Christ, but they are all making an attempt to respond to God. This shift in thinking will allow evangelicals to put themselves in a place to learn from other religions. Islam can teach us the importance of submission to God and charity to the poor. Buddhists can remind Christians that God is transcendent. And so on. We can learn a lot from other religions once we stop erroneously believing they are sent from Satan.

5. Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis

Go ahead. Judge me. I’m ok with it. And this is why: I read Velvet Elvis for the first time after completing my MA in Theology at Fuller. I had all these thoughts bouncing around in my head. I even contemplated writing a book full of the insights I learned at Fuller. You know, something easy to read and accessible, but something that really captured what a Fuller education is really like. I had no idea that particular book had already been written by Fuller MDiv grad, Robert Holmes Bell, Jr. He pretty much hit all of the topics I had pondered at Fuller. I was a little mad until I remembered that I am no author, and my attempt at my own Velvet Elvis would have been silliness.

There you have it! Five of the many books I’ve enjoyed through my time at Fuller. Ask me again in a few years what books I like, and you’ll probably see a lot more psych books on this list… and maybe one Peter Rollins book.

Bah!

Confession time. I’m having a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me! Usually, by this point of December, I’m feeling festive, devouring Christmas music, buying gifts for family, planning parties… but for some reason, I’ve been saturated by the spirit of Humbug.

Maybe it’s because last week was finals week, and I had three major final exams in one week (a first for me at Fuller): Legal and Ethical Issues in Family Practice, Child and Family Development, and Family Systems Dynamics. Maybe my brain didn’t want to push out all of the important info for those final exams by forcing in some Christmas Spirit.

But the last day of finals was last Friday, and I’m still in a funk. All of my normal tricks aren’t working. I’ve tried to listen to my favorite Christmas album, A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, but that hasn’t helped. I decorated my apartment, but I haven’t even plugged in my tiny tree yet. I’ve been trying to think about what gifts I want to get my family this year, but I’m drawing a blank.

I will mention one thing that has helped. This week, I remembered one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time – a song that is nearly impossible to find. It’s not on Amazon or iTunes, and there are only some homemade Youtube versions out there. Still, it did cause my Christmas spirit meter to jump a little. If you’re a Zeppelin fan, you should enjoy Fleming and John’s take on “Misty Mountain Hop.”

Having said all that, I’m not too worried about how I feel. I know once I get back to PA and I’m with my family, the Christmas spirit will kick into high gear. And the closer I get to Christmas, the more I remember the beauty of Emmanuel - God with us. Even if I don’t listen to Vince Guaraldi, buy a bunch of Christmas presents, or eat figgy pudding (whatever that is), I will be sure to remember why we celebrate this time of the year – because God reached down to earth to begin the process of our redemption. Now THAT’S some Christmas spirit!

kickoff

Have you ever read a list of events in a church bulletin? Ever notice how sometimes they don’t sound so appealing?

  • Ice Cream Social!
  • Join us for fun and fellowship!
  • There will be refreshments and contemporary music! 
My first thought when I read descriptions like these is “Ick. No thanks.” I think we all probably have the tendency to judge these church events by their terribly cliched church bulletin “covers.” And sometimes, our prejudgment is right, but not always. Occasionally, these “Ice Cream Socials” and “Potlucks” are pretty dang fun!
I’ll be the first to admit that, as a PK who’s been in the church world for 32 years, I’ve developed an unhealthy cynicism toward these church bulletin events – so much so that even when the church bulletin does a pretty great job at describing an event and making it sound appealing, I’m still thinking, “yeah, but will it really be fun?”
What am I trying to say? Well in some strange and twisted way, I’m trying to tell you, if you’re a new student, to go the the Welcome Week Kickoff Party hosted by Fuller Admissions.
You can trust me, as a cynical church kid who’s been to way too many “fellowship gatherings,” that this event is seriously fun. Barker Commons, one of the outdoor courtyards on Fuller’s campus, is decorated with a ton of lights, Christmas style, and the admissions office orders some “refreshments” (read: glorious desserts that are in no way calorie or guilt free). They also hire a primo (is it cool to say primo?) band that lays down the soundtrack for the evening.
And your entertainment for the evening? Why your fellow students of course. Some of these people will become your best friends for the next 2-5 (ok, maybe 10 years) of your life. Why not start these lifelong friendships as soon as possible?
Seriously – if you’re a new student to Fuller this Fall, don’t miss this event. It’s one of the most fun things Welcome Week has to offer, and it’s way better than your grandparents “Potluck fun and fellowship.”

community

Before I moved to California to attend Fuller, I worked for a children’s portrait company selling finished baby portraits to the baby’s family. Yes, you read that right. It was a pretty strange job, but we all do what we have to do to save money for school, right?

But what is still surprising to me is the fact that I learned a lot of powerful life lessons from this strange job. Part of the reason I learned so much from this job is because of this interesting little man who supervised our group of salespeople. His name was Merritt, and to call him a supervisor doesn’t quite capture his role. He was our personal portrait sales Splinter. He would join us for our weekly sales meeting, praise us for our successes, challenge us when we failed, and provide some pithy words of wisdom to help us in our next week of pounding the pavement.

One of his anecdotes that has stuck with me is this: Years ago, he and his wife moved to a new city. To get to know all of his new neighbors, he was asking them what they thought of the area. Was it friendly? Do people get along with each other? Is it a fun place to live? How are the churches? The usual line of questioning. He found that he was getting several divergent opinions. Some people loved the city. It was vibrant, exciting, friendly, and an overall great place to live. Others hated the city. It was dull and sleepy, and the people were generally unfriendly.

Merritt was struck by how different all of his neighbors’ opinions were about the same city. They experienced the same things, and yet felt so differently about them.

So Merritt decided to ask a followup question: Where did you live before, and what did you think of that city? He soon learned that each neighbor had consistent opinions about their old city as they do about their new city. The neighbors who loved where they used to live, love where they live now, and vice versa.

People’s opinions of their community had very little to do with the actual community and much more to do with their own attitudes about that community.

Since then, I’ve become much more aware of how I view things. When I’m extremely frustrated by something new in my life, I think back to a similar experience from my past and evaluate if my new frustrations are part of my situation or are a result of my personality. Am I frustrated because I’m generally frustrated by things like this or because this particular situation is legitimately frustrating?

I hope I’m making sense here.

Here’s where I’m going with this. People often ask me, “How’s the community life at Fuller?” And that’s a valid question. I understand what they’re getting at with this question. Community is so crucial in our lives. We need it. We thrive when our community is strong, and we wither when it’s not.

My answer is always the same, and I know it’s a bit cliche, but I don’t know how else to say it. Community is what you make it. If you want a strong, vibrant community life at Fuller or church or wherever you find yourself, you have to reach out and find it. If you’re finding it hard to get plugged into an already established community, build your own. I guarantee there are dozens of people feeling exactly like you are, and they’re just waiting for someone to reach out and say, “Hey, let’s hang out.”

Community is what you make it. Just like some of Merritt’s neighbors learned to love their new city as much as their old city, so you too can come to a place like Fuller and find deep, meaningful, vibrant community. But at the same time, you could come here and learn that community just doesn’t exist. Because ultimately, community is what you make it.

orientation, six years later

When I first came to Fuller in March of 2006 to begin my MA in Theology, I skipped out on a lot of the new student orientation activities. I pretty much picked the activities that I needed to attend and ignored the rest. So I made sure I got academic advising, registered for my first quarter of classes, and did all the other nuts and bolts of being a student. I skipped the prayer breakfasts, worship times, ice breaker/get to know you type events, etc. And let me be honest: I regret that.

In the Fall, I’m starting a new degree at Fuller – the MSMFT. I’ve been looking through the schedule of events for Welcome Week, and let me tell you this: I’m not missing anything!

You see, I now understand the importance of all those prayer breakfasts, ice breakers, and fun games because in my old age (ok, I’m not that old), I’m learning the value of community and connection. I’m learning that it’s good and beneficial to take the time you need to take to connect with people – especially the people you’ll be spending a lot of time with over the next few years. Six years ago, it felt unimportant. It felt like a waste of time. Just get me to the important things and hold the fluff for someone else.

But fluff is important too! OK, fluff is a bad word. Let me say it this way: those things that aren’t directly connected to classes, financial aid, housing, etc are still very important. These things will also help develop me as a student, minister, therapist, and Christian.

So count me in for all that New Student Orientation has to offer! Sorry I’m six years late…

luke, part two

I’ve taken a lot of classes at Fuller – somewhere around 26 classes total – so it’s tricky to pick a favorite. I enjoyed many of them for different reasons. Greek Reading and Intermediate Greek were probably the most challenging and provided me with the papers I’m most proud of. Exegetical Methods and Practice was a whirlwind of useful exegetical tools. Writings opened my eyes even more to the beauty of the Old Testament.

But I think I have to reserve the title of “Jon’s Favorite Class” for New Testament Exegesis: Acts with Dr. Joel Green. The NT Exegesis classes at Fuller are followups to Beginning Greek and Exegetical Methods and Practice. They’re designed to teach students how to delve deeper into a book of the NT using the tools they learned from the two previous classes. These exegesis classes involve a lot of Greek to English translating, word studies, grammatical evaluation, etc. Continue reading