The Heart of Worship, No Brains Allowed!

I was nervous, but I didn’t know why. Two of my dear friends were leading worship for the IV Grad Winter Retreat. The one where PhD students from the bay area get together once a year around Valentine’s Day.  So, what does it feel like to worship God with people getting PhD’s? We’ll often it feels like worshipping with people who are passionate about music, sometimes it feels like worshipping with people who just want to sound good for the things that need to happen when Christians gather, and rarely has it ever felt like worshipping with people, passionately in love with God.

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UCSF, One of the Best Medical Schools, Has (also) the Best Model for Leadership I've Ever Seen

My last post was about chillin’ with my Stanford friends, and while we were there, I realized that we have no contact with those at UCSF. I asked the Stanford InterVarsity grad director, Peter, why UCSF never comes to our grad retreat (over the winter). He says that they’re invited every year, but never come. Invitations don’t make things happen though, relationships do, and that’s where this story begins.

Tess was, at the time, looking at going into med school, and well, it makes sense for her to visit UCSF (since it is one of the best). I know, I know, I don’t go to UCSF, and I don’t know anyone at UCSF. I mean, why would it make any sense for me to go hang out with them?… Hahaha,  since when did making sense ever matter to me?

On the internet, I googled for UCSF Christian groups and got a couple leads. I find, what seems to be, a unity group (holler!) which leads me to contact David Young. I spoke with him once on the phone, but from what I could gather, this guy’s got a heart for unity, and from how he’s organized his ministry endeavors, he’s quite (web) technologically savvy. David tells me that Sonrise Fellowship is the way to go and to contact Daphne and Irene.

Now, UCSF is all grad students, so building ties with any of the groups would be appropriate, so I browse their website, and contact Daphne. I then get Tess (from UCSC), and, from Stanford, Ethan, Felix, Ashley, and Kimmy in an email exchange with the UCSF leaders. This whole time I’m thinking, “Who does this? This makes no sense, but I’m going to pretend like they’d be crazy not to go along with it.”

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Screw You, Occam's Razor!

Josh McPaul Encourages PhD Students to have "Confidence in Complexity"

How many of you have been told that “it’s not that deep?” How many times do people tell you that things are simpler than you try to make them out to be? Do you ever wonder what is so wrong with trying to figure it all out? Well, simple might be good enough, but good enough, just isn’t good enough for me.

This past winter, I attended a retreat with graduate students from Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSC. I wrote about the overall experience and promised that I’d write a little bit about the teaching.  I really don’t know who Josh McPaul is or what he does, except that he is a ministry leader at UC Berkeley with ties to First Presbyterian Church (or perhaps he is a ministry leader at First Pres with ties to UC Berkeley). More importantly, his teaching, at the retreat, was intellectually captivating, and, in conversation, this guy is legit.

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime;
therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sense
in any immediate context of history;
therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;
therefore, we are saved by love.
– Reinhold Niebuhr

He hands out, what could be, a research paper on complexity, the Psalms, accompanied by a number of secondary sources. The overall takeaway is that, in addition to being very simple, Christianity is (especially intellectually) very complex. With complexity in mind, peace that “transcends all understanding” arrives, I believe, when we can accept that complexity is ok (when petitioned to God). McPaul takes it a step further to quote Tolkein:

Tolkien stated in a letter: “Actually, I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

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My Weekend with Christian Graduate Students from Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Cruz

Graduate Students listening to a lecture on having "Confidence in Complexity"
Small group discussion

At my age (26), Christian “retreats” seem far less frequent or, maybe, less memorable as they’d been when I was a teenager.  This last weekend, I had one of those “it’s so great to be alive” retreat experiences much like when I was younger.  Those who’ve gone to retreats know what I’m talking about, and if you are a Christian, who’s never gone on a retreat, you should.  For people who aren’t Christian, I really don’t know how I’d explain to you what it’s like.  Maybe I’d say something like this…

Conference Center

Last weekend, we went to a conference-center like location in the Santa Cruz mountains for 3 days with PhD and Masters students from Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSC.  It was a great networking opportunity where we were broken into small groups to discuss issues on faith, spirituality, and our vocation.  All of us, in addition to professing the same faith, are working towards becoming (leading) experts in our respective areas, such as: Computer Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Biology, International Relations… etc.  In addition to lectures and discussion, we had a lot of relaxing, reflection time, and casual conversations.  The main speaker, Josh McPaul, had the challenge of speaking to some of the most analytical students in the world and did it so well (There’s going to be at least one more post just on the important points he made that weekend.)  A more formal version of this would be InterVarsity’s Following Christ Conference.

Instead of telling you about the great discussions and lecture content I’ve left with, I wanted to describe the off-schedule and, perhaps, most valuable times I shared with these fellow researchers: the sharing of research, sharing of books, and sharing of music.

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