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Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

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By Wendy Choy-Chan

I joined a line dancing class recently to get some regular exercise. The instructor is around seventy years old, and some of my classmates are in their eighties already. Needless to say, I don’t know any of the “pop songs” that we dance to. I feel I am being transported to an era before my time, but these ladies and one gentleman feel right at home, dancing like stars, with the rest of the universe as audience. (more…)
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Photo by Marco Verch

By Debbie Gin

While “spontaneous” does not readily characterize me, I have engaged in my share of after-midnight, spur-of-the-moment beach-fishing runs and sleep-outside-on-the-stairs-of-the-college-chemistry-building-just-for-the-heck-of-it episodes. Most of these trysts with fellow rebels took place when I was younger — when I had fewer responsibilities and had less to risk. Now, older and with more to risk, I find it harder to welcome spontaneity.

To be sure, it rubs me the wrong way when the topic I was invited to speak on changes last minute or when the restaurant we’d decided on gets usurped for another, more exciting venue. As a fairly strong Myers-Briggs’ “J”, I like my world ordered. Spontaneity has little room in such a world, where “spontaneous” is a euphemism for “undisciplined” or “lacking in planning.” I also chafe at how society tends to value unshackled “creative vision” above careful “organized management” — with no imagination for a combination of these — in its leaders. So those who do welcome spontaneity by nature may find nothing to gain from this post.

In theological education (and in higher education, more generally), innovation has become a major driver. With post-2008 economic downturn decreases in enrollment and steady increases in operating budgets and tuition (for various reasons), institutions are having to defend their existence or, at least, show the return on students’ investments. In such tumultuous times, theological schools are needing to (learn to) be agile. Being agile (adaptable, nimble, flexible) is not the same as being undisciplined, however. The risk is too high to approach innovation randomly. Most newer schools are tuition-driven, while many older schools are endowment-reliant and finding themselves dipping into the endowments. They’re all finding ways to innovate responsibly. And, if books like New York Times’ bestseller The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses are any indicator, being agile means replacing 10- and 20-year strategic plans with ongoing strategic priorities or principles.

So what does this description of institutional agility have to do with individual spontaneity? Individual spontaneity comes through a strategically principled life — basing decisions on the principles that you have intentionally named for your life and vocation. I believe expressions of spontaneity in the life of the believer are experienced through the movement of the Spirit. The Spontaneous happens in the prompting to care for someone you know very little about. You experience It when a national atrocity occurs, and you rise — perhaps uncharacteristically — to fight the hate and injustice. You receive It when someone outside your community advocates on your behalf.

But spontaneity is not undisciplined; it is not irresponsible. This is good news for women, in particular, because, as typical multi-taskers, they have little room for spontaneity. Many of my women friends have had to make great professional sacrifices because they are taking care of children or elder parents or both. They are also hard-working employees and ministers, contribute to the life of the church, and keep their homes running. Their schedules are packed, so they must be disciplined. Having to don so many roles does mean they have little to no room for the spontaneous get-together with strategic potential partners, and the sacrifices they have to make keep them from benefiting immediately from a quick (i.e., “spontaneous”) decision because they have to find a babysitter, someone to take their parents to the doctor, etc. However, the disciplined life they have cultivated by necessity will hopefully have caused them to live by strategic principle, and the Spirit will ultimately bring expressions of spontaneity into that life of discipline. I encourage you (and myself) to also be disciplined in planning space in your schedules for the Spontaneous to prompt.

Dr. Debbie Gin is Director of Faculty Development and Research at The Association of Theological Schools/Commission on Accrediting, the support and accrediting organization of most seminaries in the US and Canada. She was formerly Associate Professor of Ministry at Azusa Pacific Seminary and Fellow for Faculty Development and Evaluation in the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment at Azusa Pacific University. She and her husband currently live in Pennsylvania.

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Photo by Angela Mueller

By Sharon Lee Song

Traditional Korean family culture is not a culture that is characterized by spontaneity.  I would generalize and say that this is true for other East Asian cultures (Chinese, Japanese).  There are strong familial expectations for each individual, and particularly for children to fulfill their parent’s expectations for life, career, and future family generations.  (more…)

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Photo by Jakob Montrasio

By Tina Teng-Henson

When was the last time you did something kind…for yourself? That was good for your body?

Last week, on a whim, I walked into a little beauty school around the corner from where we live, that I’d never paid attention to before.  I’d often walked right by it over the past 5 years, nestled as it is between our pediatrician’s office and the Rite Aid pharmacy. I checked their hours and wrote down their rates for a haircut. (more…)

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Photo by Christos Loufopoulos

By Jerrica KF Ching

The word spontaneity often brings up a complexity of emotions in me that takes some time sorting through and processing.  In the past, I would not have described myself as a spontaneous person, and viewed it as the antithesis of being an organized person.  (more…)

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By Chloe Sun

It is difficult to imagine if we have no imagination. Imagination carries the idea of picturing the unseen in the future. It involves a creative mind – a mind that defies the constraints of the current circumstances to look beyond, to think the unthinkable. Imagination takes one to a different world, a world that transcends the present reality and turns it into a future possibility. Imagination is necessary to cope with a dull or an uninteresting life. Once, I heard someone say “if you can imagine it, then you can see it happen.” I thought to myself, This statement has a lot of truth in it. (more…)

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By Diana Gee

“This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more mothballs?” she thought, stopping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (more…)

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