2 weeks in the OC

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May 312005

I’ve landed in the OC. Orange County, California. Will be here until 6/12 with random family matters and other things. I’ll be at Newsong’s Leadership Conference on 6/10-11. Would love to meetup with you if you can make your way over to Westminster before 6/10. Drop me a line via email or cell 202-494-3449 to coordinate date/time and place, or just to chat.

And, the next 2 weeks, or 2 months, or so, will be quite a ride of changes. My full-time job is amidst yet-to-be-determined transitions, as Dr. Eugene Habecker, American Bible Society’s president, is leaving his post by the end of summer.

May 292005

Conversations are life for me, and had a number of them with people here at The Vine. And, even a few of them are bloggers: Ray Levesque (Salmon House), Kami Rice (The Coffeehouse Journals), Nancy Chan. Ray and his wife Liz are doing a phenomenal work with New Gatherings, connecting those Native Americans (aka those in First Nations cultures) who are following God in the way of Jesus; and for them, it is not helpful to be known as Christians. And I’m told, the Christian label and the Messianic Jew label are also not helpful for that community of Jesus followers.

Hyperlinks are worth a few more brownie points than mention of names, in the commodity of search engine page rankings. So, while I’m somewhat grateful for John Musick (of Bluer) for mentioning my being a part of a podcast with him, and mentioning my URL even, it’d be worth so much more if he would have hyperlinked me.

May 282005

I’m hailing from Vail, Colorado, this Memorial Day weekend, participating in a conversation about faith and culture. It’s called The Vine, a national gathering going on for 6 years now. Something I’d wanted to be a part of for years; this is the first time I’d been able to get it onto my schedule and make the trip. Good conversations, or at least, conversation starters. There’s a wide range of young professionals from many vocations and industries, Christian traditions, and around the country. I’ve had to drink pints of water to slowly get acclimated to the mile-high altitude; and shortness of breath is not conducive to enjoying more conversations.

The Vine has masterfully provided a framework for a variety of voices to be presented and represented in a safe place– every attendee comes as a presenter. The theme this year is Called to Relationships: being the City of God. I’m weighing in with 2 presentations titled, Virtually Incarnational: Relationships over the Internet, and Becoming a Multiracial Church. (These are mere 3 to 5 minutes briefs; manage your expectations accordingly.) The former I’ll type up from my raw notes from my Treo 600; the latter are a re-packaging of my previous blog entries on the multiracial church.

As an aside, I had thought of titling this entry, My Roommate was Andy Crouch. But I refrained, for lacking a creative bent to make it into a compelling read. Fictional fabrication and embellishment is not my forte’. For the record, he is a great roommate and an excellent conversationalist.

bored. busy. alive.

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May 252005

2 of the most popular answers I hear to the question “How are you?” – besides the default “fine” – is “I’m bored.” or “I’m busy.” I’ve used it myself on occasion, tho’ usually I stay away from these trite phrases. I prefer to be more descriptive.

“Bored” was true of the first 30-some years of my life. Growing up in a small town of 20,000 (Winchester, Virginia) my hangout gang of high school buddies lamented sarcastically about life in “Funchester” and what little we had to do when everything closed by 9:00pm, not there was that much more to do before then. And this was in the early 80s, the days before the Internet, before DVDs. Cable and VCR movies was just beginning to get popular. Cruising (driving a car around town) was the popular thing to do, besides the movies or strolling the mall. Now in 2005, I still often get an IM (instant message) from someone saying they’re bored. We’ve got more entertainment options, and people still suffer from boredom. Perhaps it’s a sign of being under-challenged or under-engaged; one’s gifts and interests and capacities are not being used.

“Busy” has characterized my life in the past 6 years or so, working 2 jobs for most of that time, even now, and yet giving pretty good attention to my family. They can attest to how well (or not well) I’m doing in that department. So with a very full daily schedule, I kept active and engaged, and having the 2 jobs breaks up the monotony and rountine of just 1 job. I do better with variety and change. I don’t do well when I have idle time on my hands, occasionally bordering on self-destruction.

Work (career, job) had previously been a means of cash flow and being responsible.
About 2 years ago, I was awakened to the notion that work and career can actually connect with my personal interests, desires, skills, capacities, and values. What I’m doing now does have some connection, but a total connection is still elusive for me. I’ve never been able to connect my abilities with my passions. What I wish I could be was to be a stand up comedian. That’s my one joke, thank you very much, you’ve been a great audience!

With a background in technology and theology, I’ve been skimming a number of business related books, magazines, and blogs during the past year, and it’s been fascinating to learn how things actually work in the real world. I still love theories and ideas, but without a conversational partner, and my lack of desire to be a teacher or professor, what could I do. Most people, in my life experience, don’t care about ideas or philosophy or theology; most are interested in the daily here and now.

People’s opinions aside, I have to decide how to live, coram deo, or to be more theologically correct, how God wants me to live. Or, to become who God created me to be.

I was asked today about my dream or agenda for my life. I can honestly say that I don’t have one. I’m doing a lot of things by most measures, but that doesn’t really matter to me. I just want to have friends and family to enjoy. But I’m not allowed to just have that; pressures around me say that I have to do something or accomplish something. I can’t squander my talents and gifts. And, confidence alludes me too. Sometimes I wonder if that’s really the x-factor about doing life. Kinda funny I’d be having these serious reflections, again, after several career changes already, including a decade long stint in seminary and pastoring. Maybe it’s the age 40 around the corner next summer. I sure don’t want to be “busy” the rest of my life.

A book I’ll be reading soon is Tom Paterson’s out-of-print book, Living The Life You Were Meant To Live. And then by end of June, I’ll be working through a LifePlan consultation with CRM’s Craig Chong.

And with a more focused life, I may be able to answer, not that I’m bored, or that I’m busy, but that I’m alive! Life has never been better, in the face of challenges and opportunties, energized by knowing that God’s been up to something even when I’ve yet to figure it out.

May 222005

I think I need to ask for help more often. I’m shouldering too much by myself. The next 3 weeks will be good for me, to be on the road, changing my routine, putting on my road warrior gear, and lining up meetups with people.

[1] I need help spreading the word for an upcoming event this November — I’m organizing an Asian American Youthworkers Forum, sponsored by L2 Foundation. I need help finding experienced Asian American youth pastors and/or youth directors, who are (or have) ministering to middle school and/or high school students. Please spread the word on this Call for Presenters to someone that you know personally who is (or has) serving in this way, and introduce that person to me via email, if you feel appropriate, so I can follow-up personally. (While I know a number of youth leaders, I don’t know everyone. While I’m finding increasing numbers of Asian Americans ministering in non-Asian contexts, this Forum’s focus is to share experiences for ministering in an Asian American youth context.)
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May 222005

I’m just beginning to listen and watch the podcasts and vlogs, respectively, that Aaron Klinefelter has most ably recorded from ec05. We were looking for each other on that first day in Nashville, to get sync’d up for the a midnight showing of Star Wars 3.

It was really touching to hear him wandering the sessions looking for me, and then I had sent out a few scouts with the message that I’m looking for Aaron. His podcast clip ends without finding me; but where the story ended was that he sat by the wall, waiting for me to finish my 30-minute chair massage, after finally, spotting my custom t-shirt with my URL, rightly deducing that no one else would be wearing a t-shirt with www.djchuang.com on the back except for the djchuang.

Then, later that night, you can hear a portion of our adventure in getting lost, and then found, en route to Star Wars 3. And what I looked like at 3am after seeing the movie and being interviewed (and you get to see a few sound bites of my lovely wife Rachelle).
post movie interview

[update 5/23: temporarily until Thursday, there's some sights and sounds from EC05 at nashvegas.servemp3.com/ec05excerpts/, including brief words from McLaren on where the emergent "conversation" is going]

May 212005

I’m hangin’ out at the electronic cottage of Jay Voorhes, south of Nashville, until my flight departure later this evening, a much better place to hang out than the airport. The last of its kind Emergent Convention has come to a close, and it was enjoyable to be here. I might have attended 2 sessions in its entirety in total, and a handful of others that I picked up sound bites from. And [I] purchased 6 CDs from sessions that I did want to hear, and will, but preferred to spend time with people incarnationally [face to face] — that is something you can’t buy on CD or substitute with virtual communications.

I’ll share a few items and several observations:

The custom t-shirts I wore were made online at zazzle.com. For under $20 each, you can get single order custom t-shirts with text and/or images (you don’t have to order a dozen or more)

Like Brian said during the closing session of the ec05, who also shared a few of his observations, this convention seemed to have less anger than previous iterations, and less up-front presentations, with more conversations among the attendees.

The learning communities were a very good configuration that facilitiated this. The economics of this kind of setup a little challenging, or peculiar, for lack of a better word. Typically, a conference charges a registration fee to cover operating costs in organizing the event, inviting speakers (paying for their expenses), and facilities rental. Now, if the event is mostly about the conversations with attendees, then a configuration like the Emergent Gathering in Glorieta, New Mexico, this October, is much more valuable and conducive and cost-effective for even more conversations.

Over lunch, we explored the notion of what would make the (annual?) Emergent Gathering in Glorieta even more appealing is if we could know who were planning on being there. So if I knew that Jen Lemen or Doug Pagitt or Tim Keel or Dan Kimball or Will Samson or a certain bunch of other people were going to be there, people I already know, and people that I wanted to meet and dialogue with, then that’d help me decide whether to go, or not to go. (now, if there’s people who’d be there that I didn’t care about being there, I can simply carefully avoid eye contact with them and dodge any engagement, no big deal. *grin* Anyone who knows me knows that I peg the FIRO-B charts on inclusion, so I’d never cold-shoulder anyone.)

There also seemed to be more attendees from mainline Protestant traditions, and also more on-rampish attendees, those who were new to the emergent “conversation” (quotes judiciously used by Brian).

And there were many more bloggers (or those who had started blogging since last year) this time around. I didn’t have to keep explaining what blogging was to every other person I met this time. This time it was exchanging URLs, and the irony(?) is that we know one another’s URLs but not their names.

Typical recurring conversation: “My name is so-and-so, and I’ve read your blog.” “Oh, thank you! Thank you for introducing yourself. Do you blog?” “Yes, my blog is at so-and-so URL.” “Oh, you’re [insert blog_alias here]!!” Ragamuffindiva (who got the most uproarious a-ha and applause at the ec05 Bloggers Forum), and we didn’t recognize her real name, Claudia Burney. Not that real names aren’t important, but their voice most certainly is. Didn’t recognize the name, recognized the voice. Jesus said something about hearing his voice.

www.onlywonder.com/DSCN1056_small2.jpg" alt="Bloggers Forum" /
(I’m in the foreground, right side profile; photo credit: Jay Voorhees)

Diversity shows up in several conversations, about leadership in organizations, about emergent’s leadership, about church, about emergent’s core. Diversity beyond the racial or gender or theological categories, even. My take on it is that diversity has to be intentional and relational, and is an open invite to unexpected change. Scary and vulnerable move for any organization, where predictability is highly valued. And done right, that means being done at the board level (or wherever that decision-making responsibility is).

Not only does a position and role have to be opened up, beyond being invited to be a representative token, a genuine friendship has to be cultivated first, along with a posture of learning. It has to be a win-win for both the organization and the individuals from the other context.

Diversity doesn’t have to be the absolute top priority, but it does need to be intentional, and recognized explicitly as an organization’s objective. If it’s not stated, it’s not going to happen. It doesn’t have to be the only thing that the organization does. It’s to say that diversity can and does help an organization do what it’s called to do better.

Another challenge for organizations seeking diversity is holding too tightly to performance metrix or value for excellence in how things are done (or said) in a certain (status quo) way. People from a different culture or sub-culture, thus, different corporate culture, will need to be evaluated in a new kind of way. And the way to evaluate is through relationship. People rise through the leadership ranks in a mentoring and coaching relationship. Where training is needed, that can be provided. This is all new, virgin, pioneer frontier territory. Doing something is better than being paralyzed and doing nothing. [this is too short of a space to elaborate and unpack the ingredients needed for diversity to work in and work for an organization, so this is notably an incomplete thought.]

Live from Rocketown

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May 202005

This entry is getting posted live from Rocketown, a mini-complex for teens to hangout, skatepark, music, and get online, a few blocks away from the Convention commotion. Lots of teens here having a great time. One of the guys behind the counter appreciated my “I’m blogging this” t-shirt, and let me in to take a look without the cover charge. And then I was promptly scanned with a wand to make sure I wasn’t armed. Well, I was armed with a digital camera, but that was okay. I’m not taking photos b/c its too dark, and I don’t want to use flash and draw attention.

Getting to blog at the Emergent Convention is challenging without WiFi. One person suggested that the next Emergent whatever-it-is should be held at a WiFi-enabled city. There’s a few of those coming online, and Nashville isn’t one of them. (Irony is, BlogNashville was held here a few weeks ago. Wasn’t sure if they had live blogging.) Met lots of great people and hangin’ out with them, so much that, well, I didn’t make it to any sessions.

Except for a small excerpt of the Pagitt & Roxborough learning community. Recorded a few video clips (vlogs) of them thinking and speaking on their feet. Will upload later. One of the salient quotes from the Doug: Deconstructing is not tearing something apart [and throwing it away], it’s opening the covers and showing you what’s going on.

May 192005

There’s the semi-official list of bloggers on the Emergent Convention website, weighing in with 21. And then there’s the Bloggers Forum Luncheon list of bloggers, weighing in with 33. Thanks to Willzhead (aka Will Samson) for linking us up!

The big announcement: *drumroll* the alpha phase pre-launch of emerging.forministry.com, a temporary URL and temporary name for a website that will serve to invite conversations around the Scriptures. Your feedback is invited there, so that ForMinistry can better serve the wider church in its life of faith as readers of the Bible, dialoguing with it and around it in community.