Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Myth of Self-Sufficiency

One narrative of our US culture that has stood out to me lately is the idea that anyone could become anything. This principle is deeply rooted in our national consciousness. There are so many inspiring stories of people who have done amazing things. Entrepreneurs, inventors, athletes, and stories of hope are easy to find in the archives of US history. So often, a key thread to this plot of overcoming and success is self-determination. These heroes have achieved due to and their own ability and will power. "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps," is stated equally as an attribute and a judgment if you haven't achieved "success" in your own life.

It's an interesting dichotomy, because I believe self-sufficiency is a myth. No one accomplishes anything alone. Gladwell's book Outliers, he tells the story of how Bill Gates' didn't become the richest man in the world on intellect alone. He was in the right place, at the right time, and with parents who were able to give him the resources to be successful. These amazing athletes in the olympics have sacrificed greatly and shown an amazing amount of determination and resilience. But no one wins gold alone.

Self-sufficiency is not a biblical concept. Everything we learn from theology and scripture shows us that we are dependent on God's work in our lives through the Holy Spirit and Christ's sacrifice for redemption and renewal. The imagery of the body of Christ couldn't be more clear, that we need each other. Pragmatically, storyline of the "self-made" individual is incomplete. There is far more at play than our own will in any of our lives.

I believe that this misinterpretation of success inhibits our willingness to help each other. It inadvertently gives permission to judge those who are struggling and promotes a unhealthy idealization of individualism. I am thankful for the support I received throughout my life. I want to try to be supportive and understanding towards others in recognition that life is not a level playing field and we need to support each other, because no one is self-sufficient.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Fun Day

This was a great weekend and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving out at my Mom's house. It was great to have Carolyn's parents and some friends join in the day of thanks and great food. I am so thankful for our family and I especially love watching my kids play and enjoy their grandparents. Yesterday we made the most of the break from the rain and had multiple trips to the park. It has just been great to not be working and spending time together. I know it isn't over yet, but Sunday is generally a pretty busy day with all our various church activities. So, today we made the most of our relaxation and fun together.


We started today off by heading over to the Children's Museum.  Carolyn usually takes the kids there while I'm at work, so it was nice to be there with them. Elisa loved playing in the clay room and Jonathan loved hitting the piles with the little hammer they had. After lunch, there were naps for everybody. Then we headed downtown.


The kids loved the tree in Pioneer Square.


After playing around the Christmas tree, we met up with our friend Becca and finished the night off with some delicious pizza at the Mellow Mushroom

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Summer Reading List

Unlike some people, I didn't enter the summer with a reading plan. I sort of go with the flow and when the library says things show up from being on reserve, I read it.


Bossypants by Tina Fey

This book was everything I hoped it would be. I'm a huge Tina Fey fan and if you enjoy her style (eg. 30 Rock) you'll love this book.


Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Carolyn read this one a long time ago and one of my old RAs recommended it to me. I did enjoy this book while reading it, but it is so unique that it leaves me a little unsure of whether I really enjoyed it or not. Either way, very well written.


Live From New York by Shales & Miller

I didn't read all 650 pages, but I loved how it was written. The story of SNL's history is told through interviews and is simply a collection of quotes from the stars and writers of the show. It's a fascinating way to tell a history and I really enjoyed learning about the early days as well as history that I was aware of. I think it's hard to find any franchise that has produced so many big names in the entertainment industry.


Those Guys Have All the Fun by Shales & Miller

This recent release by the same guys who wrote about SNL is written in the same way. It was so fascinating. I never intended to read all 780 pages, but each chapter lead me on to the next and I read it all. From very humble beginnings  to now being worth more than the NBA, NHL, and MLB combined, this book explains how a little cable network changed the world of sports into entertainment.



Love Wins by Rob Bell

When Rob Bell speaks, people listen. This book is too huge to ignore. It's really popular among the college students I work with. My favorite seminary prof said many times, you shouldn't talk about who you haven't read. I'm glad I got to read it and there were many things I appreciated about what Bell said.


Erasing Hell by Chan & Sprinkle

I think very highly of Francis Chan and I was frankly surprised he wrote a response book. This would represent the other side of the discussion Bell brought to the forefront. A couple critiques are that I got the distinct impression that this book was written with haste. It's fairly choppy and lacks a logical ark because I think they were just trying to refute things Bell brought forward. There were also a few times that I thought Chan was going too far in trying to dictate what emotion the reader should be having, but overall it was worth the time to read. The thing I most appreciate, whether I agreed with all of his conclusions or not, is that he was trying to find what scripture taught even if it was hard to hear. For more on Chan and his motivation, check out this video.

Although I didn't have a list entering the summer, here are a couple of books that I'm looking forward to:


The Voice of Matthew by Lauren Winner

Lauren Winner is easily one of my favorite authors. I want to read everything she writes and when I realized she wrote this a while ago, I got a copy right away.


The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons

This one's been out for a while and since the NBA is on lock-out, this 750 page beauty might help to ease the sadness of not being able to watch my favorite team during those long winter months.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Great Experience


It was a great two weeks in Seattle and a real pleasure to connect with these 23 amazing students and 10 outstanding staff. I'm so thankful for everyone who supported Carolyn & me to make this happen. Going into the Transition Seminar I knew that I cared a lot about MKs and their "Third Culture" nature. I also have always known that I thoroughly enjoy being with college students. What I didn't realize that this seminar is a great fit for my collective passions.

My impression of how important this seminar is has been blown out of the water. I thought it was super important, now I know it's in a higher echelon of impact. It really was a privilege to invest in the lives of some great people and support the body of Christ in this way.

To all those who prayed and supported financially, thank you. Thank you so much! I wish I could articulate better exactly how strongly I believe in this ministry and how much you've helped, but for now I want you to know I'm grateful.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Week One Highlights


It's been a very busy week here at the transition seminar and it's going very well. The map above is full of post-it tags showing where in the world everyone at the seminar have lived. It's truly amazing how these students have come from so many different cultures, but have been able to connect together so well. Yesterday morning I helped guide the students through their Myers-Briggs personality types. It was a great discussion and they seemed to enjoy understanding themselves better. We've also started our small groups, which gives the students a chance to talk about their own stories with peers and talk through the main issues they'll be facing in the midst of this transition.

There have been many highlights. There has been tradition of having silly challenges each morning and we've done things like making balloon animals, had a dance off, paper airplanes, and everyone even tried learning how to juggle. We've also had some free time each day to play at least one game of basketball, soccer, or ultimate. It's a little hard to believe that we're already half way through our time, but there is a lot more good things we're going to work through and I think next week is going to be great.

Monday, July 11, 2011

It has begun...


Well, we're off an running. The transition seminar is in full speed ahead with 23 students and 10 staff members. The students arrived yesterday afternoon and we've been engaged in a lot of activity today. We headed down to 7-11 for free slurpees this afternoon and we also had  a great game of ultimate during free time. This is a great bunch of people I'm working with. I feel really great about the staff and all the different strengths they bring. I'm really amazed how complimentary our strengths are. The picture above is the whole staff together the night before the seminar began. Thank you all for your support and for praying, this is going to be a great two weeks with some amazing students.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Here's what's happening:

I head up to Seattle on Friday to help out with something I'm pretty excited about. Here is a copy of a letter explaining what I'm going to be doing there for the next two weeks:

Dear Friends,

Happy Summer to you! I hope things are going well in your life. I'm writing this letter not only to briefly catch you up on life in the Brock family, but also to tell you about a ministry opportunity Im participating in this summer.

Carolyn and I have just completed our first year back in Portland. Elisa is now 3 1/2 years old and Jonathan is 20 months. It's amazing how much they've changed in the last year. We're still working with college students and are serving at Warner Pacific College in SE Portland. We live on campus where I work in residence life. We have stepped back into community at First Covenant Church and have really enjoyed connecting with  our home group there. This summer, Carolyn & I celebrated our tenth year of marriage and took time to celebrate and rejuvenate after the busy academic year.

I have recently been asked to be a counseling staff member for a Missionary Kid Transition Seminar this summer from July 10 - 22. This opportunity will allow me to invest in the lives of students who are coming to North America to enter college that have grown up overseas as Missionary Kids (MKs). Many of you may remember how Carolyn and I spent time in Eastern Europe working with MKs several years ago by helping start a summer camp for them. It is amazing that once again I have the opportunity to invest in the lives of students who have grown up in a different culture. The first year of college is difficult for any student and is filled with major transitions. Add onto that the fact that most of these students have never attended school in the states and are coming from a completely different high school experience. The seminar provides tools to prepare students for the transition into college life in the North American context. In addition, students can find a safe place to understand, share, and live out their story as they embrace their past, understand the present, and build toward their future. During the seminar I will serve as a member of the counseling staff, teach, facilitate a small group, and be available to listen.

I would like to invite you to prayerfully consider how you could assist this ministry. There are two meaningful ways you can help:

  • First, you can pray for me before, during, and after the seminar. Please pray for stamina for the long days and nights. Pray for wisdom, discernment, and flexibility as I communicate and form relationships with the other staff and transitioning MKs. If you would like to receive updates from me, check this blog. Also, pray for Carolyn as she will be acting as a single parent for the two weeks while I'm gone.
  • Secondly, you can invest monetarily in this ministry to MKs by contributing to help cover the living expenses of the seminar. I have been asked to raise $1,000 which will cover room & board, and programing expenses. Please email me (brockemail @ gmail . com or through blogger) if you'd like info on how to give a tax-deductible gift.
I hope you are doing well and I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. If you'd like to stay in touch email me above or check for updates on this blog.

In Him,

Greg