This is the second time in a couple of months that two friends and I have talked for hours, listening to each other, wondering aloud together about our lives and our labors. In March we met in Austin, TX, beginning with a very Texas barbecue dinner, watching the sun set over the blue-bonneted hills. This time we met on the Puget Sound, the sun setting over the Olympics last night, enjoying a farm-to-table dinner full of local delights.
We spent the morning talking again, focused on ways that our visions and vocations come together to address common questions. Uli Chi, Mark Roberts and myself— together we are committed to changing the world.
Or at least a little part of it.
Uli has lived in the same place for most of his life, and he hosted us in his hometown. Though born in Taiwan, since his adolescence he has lived on the shores of the Puget Sound, a few miles south of Seattle. After earning a PhD in computer science, he began his work, eventually developing a software that allowed the Herman Miller Corporation to sell its furniture all over the world. Along the way he became the chairman of the board at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, as well as serving on the board of the De Pree Center in Pasadena, CA. Named after Max De Pree, the long CEO of the Herman Miller Corporation, it resides within the larger world of Fuller Theological Seminary, and Mark is now its director. A native of southern California, Mark did his PhD in New Testament studies, and then pastored in Irvine, CA for many years before taking up a position as theologian-in-residence at the Laity Lodge in Texas. This spring he has moved home, stepping into the leadership of the De Pree Center.
The threads of our lives are being woven together, with De Pree’s own deep sense of calling and career at the center of it all. More than twenty years ago I was invited by Robert Banks, the Professor of the Laity at Fuller, a position that preceded the formation of the De Pree Center, to contribute an essay to a book on vocations. Someone in business, someone in farming, someone in the arts, someone in media, and on and on, with me as a teacher, each one asked to theologically reflect on the meaning of our work— and not surprisingly, De Pree wrote the Introduction to the volume.
Today we began planning some projects to work at together. We will do something this fall in southern California, offering our different skills to a group of business leaders who want to deepen their own understanding of the moral meaning of the marketplace. And if that works well, we will offer that in other places. There are other ideas we are working around, and time will tell.
A wise man once wrote about a cord of three strands, arguing that it is hard to break. The three of us want to work together into the foreseeable future, not sure where it will all go– a conversation with consequences, we hope.