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Seminary Notes - 2018/09/21

It was a good week in school, even though I felt very behind because I was away on the weekend. In Synoptic Gospels, we had a quiz, and upon reading something in the book of Mark later, I realized I got (at least!) one wrong. I thought I was a careful reader. Maybe I need to re-evaluate that.

On Tuesday evening, in Synoptics, we talked about how diverse the Jewish community was in the time of Jesus' life. Just like our evangelical churches today have shared distinctives and divergences, so Jewish religious groups had elements of cohesion, but areas of difference. As an exercise, we got into small groups to discuss that. In the course of my group's conversation, we talked about whether or not an egalitarian could be an "evangelical." There were three in my group, and I was the old lady alongside the two younger (and probably smarter) guys. One guy was adamant that an egalitarian could not be an evangelical. The other was not so quick to draw that conclusion. It was fun watching them debate while keeping to myself my own wrestlings. There is benefit in silence.

I bought a book about Greek prepositions. I truly am becoming a Greek nerd. I find prepositional phrases difficult at times, and it can make or break whether or not I understand what I'm reading. It's all fine and good to know what the main verb is, but those phrases are important. I haven't actually read much yet. Today, I will be reviewing 14 different ways the genitive case can be used and wondering if I'm ever going to be able to get them straight. It's one thing to de-code Greek, but to look at it from an exegetical point of view is another. I am trying to remind myself that understanding is the crucial aspect, not whether or not I can keep my grade point average up. That said, I need to be less distracted. By things like this blog, for example . . . 

As I scanned Twitter this morning, I was discouraged by some of the dialogue. Do the pastors out there who go on and on about politics, and just seem to look for things to moan and groan about talk like that in the pulipt? Or is that their "social media" face? Twitter is one of those distractions I was referring to.


Throw the dogs some bones

I just returned from a great visit with my brother in Connecticut. My brother has been living in the U.S. for many years. He's a citizen now and his daughters were born there. He anda his wife are welcoming hosts, and we enjoyed a boat tour around the island of Manhattan (exactly the way I would want to see the city) and then we went to a shipbuilding museum which was like a little community where we could go inside buildings and see artifacts about the life of a community back in the days when people hunted for whale. 

While we were socializing, enjoying food and drink, of course the matter of politics came up. My brother has his own perspective about such matters having been raised in Canada, moving to the U.S., and working in the financial industry. My brother is not a Christian, so many of his views are to be expected, but what really floored me when I had a chance last night to check my email and get re-organized, was the number of Christians who don't sound much different about politics than he does. It got me thinking: how does our position in Christ affect our politics? What makes us different as voters and citizens? That's a big question, and while I'm in the middle of Greek Ex and Synoptic Gospels, it's a question I won't think of much beyond the time it takes to post this. 

This whole social justice matter has produced such virulent dialogue from Christians. While not strictly a political issue, it is definitely related. As I witnessed some discussion last night, I had the image of a cage of about three hungry dogs and someone dropping a meaty bone into the midst, and then standing back and watching the progress. That is what I thought a particular tweet looked like. Why do people do that? Why do Christians gleefully announce how their words have enraged someone? It is a way of relating to an issue that frankly, doesn't seem Christian. It doesn't come across as civil, reasoned, or measured. It looks like there are a lot of Christian pastors out there who use their spare time to post things they know will incite conflict. An all in the name of "I'm proclaiming truth."

I thought about my brother and his views on politics and social justice, and how one of the biggest differences between us is my faith and his lack of it. Would I direct him to Christian social media to learn about Christian views on politics and other matters?

Not on your life. 


Don't think of Herod before bed

I had my first class in Synoptic Gospels last night. I'm really excited about the semester. We have to do a group project and when I heard that, I inwardly cringed. The class is large, and the thought of having to find someone to get together with generally brings back memories of high school rejection. Thankfully, a classmate whom I already know suggested we pair up and add another to form our threesome. And it's not an all-women group. That was my initial angst: having to introduce myself to people. I don't know any of the other women in the class. So, I and two classmates I know already will work together. God is good.

I haven't had a night class since my undergraduate days. Evening is not always the most productive time for me, but I really wanted to take this class. I have an hour drive, so by the time I got home, it was almost 10:30. My husband was away on business, so I arrived home to two excited dogs. The He Beagle generally greets me by barking without taking breath for about 90 seconds. Every time I come home. No matter how long I've been gone. Both proceeded to run around with abandon at my arrival. After an evening full of information, followed by a drive home and ending with hyper Beagles, I was not ready to sleep. This is problematic, because I'm usually in bed by 10:30. Oh yes, I live an exciting life.

My sleep felt interrupted, I had strange dreams. In class we had talked about the Babylonians, Cyrus, Hellenization, Herod, the destruction of the Temple, and the Roman Empire. My prof read a passage about the social conditions in the Roman Empire; the lack of sanitation, the disease, the fact that most people were abjectly poor beyond our ability to imagine. So my dreams were a combination of that and the episode of Grey's Anatomy I watched before bed in the hopes that my mind would slow down. And the He Beagle was not aware that I was still tired when he began his whimpering at 5:17 this morning. Thankfully, he quieted down until the prescribed wake up time of 6:00 a.m., but I didn't really get back to sleep. I foresee a nap this afternoon.

Tomorrow morning, I have Greek Exegesis. We have our first quiz. Today will be vocabulary review time and verb form review time. I am thankful that I have that class first thing in the morning when my mind is well-rested. I wonder if I had Greek at night if I would dream in Greek.


Why I could not be pointedly aloof.

Last week, I saw a person re-tweet something by a woman named Megan Hill. I am not familiar with who she is. Her comment was:

One of the best things my parents ever did for me was to refuse to treat any boyfriend as if he were another member of the family. They were friendly, but pointedly aloof until the day of my wedding. 

The Best of Intentions

I am very familiar with a parents' desires to set boundaries in the relationships between their kids and their friends. I longed for my children to wait to pursue serious relationships until they were older. At the time we homeschooled, courtship was all the rage. I told them that was the goal; they listened. And they did exactly what we did not want them to do.

In light of the fact that our kids would not hop on board with our plans, I felt like the best thing to do was at least be aware of their relationships and befriend their friends, whoever they were. Any of my kids' friends knew that when they came here they would be treated as if they were one of my own. It didn't matter who that friend was. And we had a lot of teens in this house over the years.

It wasn't always like that, however. When the kids were younger, we lived down the street from a family whose mother had some personal struggles and the kids ran wild. I did not do enough to help those kids. I was far too worried about what influence those kids would have on my kids when I should have done more to help them. So when our kids started high school, I made sure things would be different. When my son brought home a skittish young girl in 10th grade, I was anything but aloof. And I have no regrets.

Someone in Need

She came from a troubled home. She was without a father and her mother was mostly disinterested in where her daughter was or what she was doing. In addition to teaching her the gospel, taking her to church, and feeding her, I mothered her. When her mother's poor financial choices impacted her daughter, I made up what was lacking. And I'm not talking about luxuries; I'm talking about basic necessities in a teenage girl's life.  When she had conflict with her mother, and showed up here, we didn't turn her away.

The relationship ended. And it was difficult for everyone involved. And yes, it felt like I was losing a child. Perhaps we were wrong for not stepping in and forbidding our son to spend time with a spiritually immature girl (something you can't actually do once they are in public high school). Perhaps we didn't have enough control over our teenagers. But when you are confronted with someone in need of love, you're not thinking about how you'll feel in 15 years. And when your 16 year old son desperately wants to show compassion to someone in need, you want to affirm that. We gave to her when she was here, we felt sad when she walked away, but we know we did the right thing in loving her and caring for her; in not being aloof, but warm and welcoming. I think I was right for getting up on those winter Saturday mornings so she could be at work by 6:00 am when it was -25°C with a windchill.

The Message We Send

When our children are younger, 8 or 9 years old, we are not hesitant to have them bring friends home and welcome them to the home. Even if our female child brings home a male friend. But when we start putting up walls and changing the way we treat their friends because there could be a romantic entanglement, are we actually contributing to a subtle combative attitude? The opposite sex is one to be guarded against. My own children have said something like that.  One of my sons once commented that in 8th grade a guy is allowed to be friends with a girl but once high school starts, he has to start looking at her like she's a temptress, and she has to be afraid she's going to cause him to stumble. I wonder if as a parent, my aloofness would not simply send a message to the friend: "I think you could be trouble." Is that how I want to be with my kids' friends? No.

It is appealing to think we can shield our children, micromanage their lives, and protect them from everything, and when they are young and foolish we should. But there is also a place for letting them fail when as they are learning to use wisdom. I could not be aloof out of fear of what being too welcoming would do. Over the years, I have become more cautious in all relationships, but aloof is one thing I just can't manage. I've been on the receiving end of aloof more times than I can count. It kinda stings. It's unfortunate that the word choice was used in the tweet. I was also a little disappointed that it received so much support, but I don't really belong to that group, so I guess I should just let it go.

My daughter is engaged. I have no plans to be aloof with her fiance until July 2019, and then minutes after the ceremony turn on the love. What would that say to my daughter?


Ancient Words

Holy words, long preserved
For our walk in this world,
They resound with God's own heart;
Oh, let the ancient words impart.

Words of life, words of hope
Give us strength, help us cope;
In this world, where'er we roam
Ancient words will guide us home.


Ancient words, ever true,
Changing me, changing you;
We have come with open hearts,
Oh, let the ancient words impart.

Holy words of our faith
Handed down to this age,
Came to us through sacrifice;
Oh, heed the faithful words of Christ.

Holy words, long preserved
For our walk in this world,
They resound with God's own heart;
Oh, let the ancient words impart.