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Monday
Sep162019

Every seminary student needs a cheerleader

I have been having push-up problems. Specifically, I'm not getting as strong as I would like. Maybe it's because I grew up with three older brothers and always felt like I had to "keep up." Whatever it is, when I do push-ups on my knees, I hear "this is a girl push-up" resounding in my head. 

I have a fitness accountability group, and when such things happen, we encourage one another. Yesterday, I whined about my situation, and was reminded by the other women that 1) there is no such thing as a "girl" push-up, 2) that we work at our own pace, and ultimately, strength is the goal, and 3) that there are some men can't do push-ups from their toes. One member of the group even pointed out to me that women tend to have stronger lower bodies because we're designed for childbirth, and she comforted me that my squats are probably superior to some men's. That made me laugh a little. The point is, there was encouragement to be found. 

I was thinking of this on the way home from school last week. These first three chapters of Hebrew are the most difficult, and as I was told, this is a steep learning curve. Hebrew vowels are not as friendly as Greek vowels. There are cases where two characters are the same vowel sound, and one wonders why not just get rid of one? Greek seemed so much easier.

There are four women in the class. I sit beside one. We did Greek together, and we can commiserate together. I was thinking how easily  my push-up woes were comforted by the input from my fellow workout ladies. I was thinking how important it is for any seminary student to have support. For the young man who is married and has children, he relies on the support of his wife to help with the balance. Perhaps he has another job, and that requires flexibility. If he's already in pastoral ministry, it may mean relying on the church family for prayer support at the very least. He may need financial support.

I may have more time to study, but learning at my age is not as easy as it once was. My vision, for example, is not always co-operative. My bifocals work wonders for distance and up close, but sometimes, typing on the screen is really blurry. I have to choose my times when I can see best. And because I'm not really working (so they tell me) people think I have a lot of time on my hands. If I want to succeed (and I do; it's really important to me) I need to give it all I have. Sometimes, it can be discouraging, or feel overwhelming. Sometimes, one just needs to be reminded: "You can do this!" I don't always feel like I can. Some days, I feel like I am dumb as a bag of hammers, and I wonder why I'm doing this. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

It may seem like a very small thing, but when I figure out how to pronounce Hebrew word, it's exciting. It's really nice when someone gets it. I'm really thankful for my husband who is very supportive -- although he gets out of too much complimenting by saying, "Oh, I knew you would do well." I am also thankful for some female friends who are always there to cheer me on.

Part of my growth in Christ is happening in seminary. We all need encouragement. Knowing my own need, I do try to encourage others. I understand how it can sometimes feel isolating to be without it. If you know someone who needs encouragement, give it to them. It could make a big difference.

Friday
Sep062019

Is preaching the gold standard of service?

I started my Hebrew class yesterday.* In preparation, I read the first part of the textbook, which included an introduction by John Piper. I have a lot of respect for Piper, but that there are things about which I passionately disagree with him.

In the introduction, toward the end, he addressed the readers: "Brothers." Hmph. Did he not realize when he wrote this introduction for Zondervan that there are women seminary students? Perhaps not in his world. But Zondervan is kind of without excuse. They publish a lot of books that are written by women scholars; even women scholars who do Hebrew!

There was another theme running throughout the introduction by Piper. And again, I'm not surprised. It was his emphasis on the need for the original languages being an indispensible tool for the preacher; the preacher.  I agree with that. But because Piper's skill and passion is for preaching, of course, he emphasized that. Preaching is the most important thing for the church, no?

In the four years I have been in seminary, I have heard that sentiment. All of those young guys who come into the classroom want to take their knowledge and apply it to preaching. Last year, when I took Synoptic Gospels, I regularly overheard conversations between young male seminary students, wondering how they can fit the historical reliability of the gospels into their preaching. I say very little. I'm a woman in a complementarian-leaning school, and I try to keep my opinions to myself. I have the added bias against me in that I'm an older woman. I'm old enough to be their mother; why would they want to hear me say, "Look guys, this isn't about preaching alone; it's about a lifetime of theological learning."

In researching for my paper on women in ministry, of course the issue of women in pastoral ministry will come up. It's the question I'm studying to respond to. Because so much emphasis is on preaching, I am wondering if it is seen as the "gold standard" of ministry. Is that why so many women aspire to it despite the resistance many evangelical groups have to it? I am not saying I think women should be pastors (I haven't got far enough to answer honestly) but is that one reason? It's the goal to aspire to? Because we all want to do the most prestigious thing there is to do?

Over the summer, the pastoral staff at my church gave sermons about spiritual gifts. From what I remember, preaching is one of many gifts. And yet, it seems to be exalted in some circles; to the point that a preacher doesn't include in his introduction to a Hebrew textbook that knowing the original languages is beneficial for simply understanding the Scriptures regardless of how one uses them to serve in ministry.

Pastoring is a gift. Women pastor; we lead, we guide, we shepherd. We use the Scriptures as our foundation to do such a thing. Does it not benefit us to know the original languages? Half of the people in the Church are women; does it not make sense to have women who are smart and well-trained to teach them?

It is a serious, awesome responsibility to stand before a group of people and preach on Sunday morning. But so is sitting before a group of teenagers; six year olds, and yes, our own families. Any time we handle the Word of God is important. And anything I can do to be better equipped to do that, I'll do.

Even if I am assumed in a textbook to be absent from class.

*As an aside, my class was pretty awesome! It's going to be a lot of fun and work, and I know my prof is going to be a great teacher!

Friday
Aug302019

What can we conclude from crabby Christian social media users?

Have you ever followed a Christian on social media who seems to never have anything positive to say? There is a long litany of who is wrong, who is failing, and who is stupid, but no words of praise (unless it to himself/herself). The chief purpose of such users seems to be only to mock or castigate.

Of course you have. That kind of things is the bread and butter of social media.

What can we conclude about such users? What would I conclude about such a person if I was not familiar with Christianity? Perhaps that Christians don't have any joy?

Perhaps the person expresses joy off social media. We have to remember that a social media profile is not the entirety of the person. I would hate to be evaluated entirely on my use of Twitter of Instagram. Perhaps the only reason someon uses Twitter or Facebook is to warn people. They used to call those who blogged in that manner "discernment bloggers." Sometimes, it didn't seem all that discerning. Anyway. It's a possibility. Maybe the person gets off Twitter and gushes love and compliments to everyone and hands out free puppies, but is a crank when logged into Twitter or Facebook. My question is why? Why would you not want to express joy? Doesn't joy overflow from those of us who are Christians? I wish I could say that describes me, but to my shame it doesn't happen that way.

There is a possibility that some Christians don't have any joy. I would like to know why not.

There is a possibility that some Christians prefer castigation and shaming over expressing joy. No comment.

I tend to mute people who never say anything but harsh content. I have distanced myself from those who think every issue is a primary issue; who puts the deity of Christ on par with whether or not it is acceptable for a pastor to go without a tie. I have done so because the constant negativity drags me down. I am easily tempted by negativity. I need to avoid it or I find myself joining in.

Ultimately, we cannot conclude much from what those crabby Christians are doing. It's better to come right and ask rather than draw conclusions. What we can also do is tune them out. One of the best way to silence someone is to not give an audience. There is freedom in ignoring someone.

Perhaps the best rule of thumb is to follow what my mother frequently said to me as I grew up: If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.

Thursday
Aug222019

Sleeping with the enemy and assorted ramblings

I can't believe it: in two weeks, I will have my first lecture in Hebrew I. I'm really looking forward to this. I just hope I'm able to keep doing some Greek, even if it's only a verse a day or so. I translated the entire book of I John over the summer. I'm working in Bill Mounce's Graded of Biblical Greek now, but it won't be every day once school starts.

I'm doing research for my term paper already. Once I got the topic, I wanted to dive right in. En route to my aunt and uncle's, I read from a book by Kevin Giles, who is an egalitarian. He makes some excellent points. Both compelementarians and egalitarians alike will write as if their view is simply taken for granted, but there are good points on both sides. I'm sleeping with the enemy, I guess. Some people I know would not even concede that an egalitarian had any biblical understanding, let alone used it to any good effect. I'm quite sure the feeling is often mutual. I'm not going to make any assumptions right now. I'm just going to keep reading. So far, the most persuasive comments have come from Craig Blomberg, who has been labeled as a "soft complementarian." I have a lot of good resources, and as I read Two Views of Women in Ministry, I'm compiling more.

I'm kind of bored with blogging. Hence, one of these random type posts. I don't know why I'm bored with it. Bored with writing, I am not. Bored with reading, I am not. Those five days at my aunt and uncle's with a very spotty signal were good for me. I'm also tired of people on social media who are petty; people who block others for no reason, who never have a good word to say, whose only tone of voice online is a rant. While at my aunt and uncle's, instead of getting news from Twitter, I did it the old fashioned way, watching it on television. It was a nice change.

When we were visiting my aunt and uncle, we took out an old croquet set. When my cousin arrived for the weekend, we set it up in the back of the house. My aunt has built a lovely little sheltered garden space, complete with patio, table, chairs, and a little cottage. My husband set up the course there, and we had a great time playing. It was wonderful to see my aunt have fun and laugh. She works really hard most of the time. At 72, I think she's in better physical shape than I am.

It's hard to believe summer is coming to a close. I'm already in school mode, and I'm getting back to regular routines. The next thing to look forward to is fall!

Tuesday
Aug132019

Another thing you don't say to someone with anxiety

I listened to a video clip of Shona Murray discussing her burnout and depression. You can listen here. It is a very helpful clip. She is honest, and speaks with a solid biblical understanding.

One of the comments she makes toward the end is the need for us to seek relationships that feed back into ourselves. As we serve in the body of Christ, we are often on the look out for those who need us. That is a good thing. But at the same time, we also need relationships where we aren't doing that. We all need refreshment. Constantly feeding into others can be exhausting, and we need to re-charge.

In listening to Shona, and in thoughts I've had recently, I am coming to see my own bout with anxiety as a burnout situation. It followed closely on the heels of all my children leaving home. I had a busy homeschool mom, then a mom of kids in high school, and also busy serving in church. I felt a great sense of responsibility for those in my sphere of influence. When I found myself in an empty house, it all came crashing down. What I didn't have was enough interaction with others simply as equals. It's not wrong to have relationships where we need someone or someone needs us. But it's also valuable to have relationships with others that are simply mutual edification. 

One of the things I was told by a well-meaning older women when I was at the height of my anxiety was: "You need to look for someone who needs you and serve that person. That will distract you from your worries."

That didn't help. In fact, it made it worse. The thought of anyone "needing" me at that moment was terrifying. I didn't feel competent to help an old lady across the street at that point. I felt more like a failure.

The Church needs to understand mental illness better. We need to understand how the body feeds into the mind. In the video clip Shona says that she learned to see her body not just as a living sacrifice, but as a temple of the Holy Spirit which needed nurture. That was a very significant thought for me to ponder.