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Tuesday
Apr242018

Because we know there is something better

Over the years, I have often found it frustrating that I have allowed the relationships in my life to discourage me. Especially troublesome is the reality that the worst friendship experiences I have had have been with Christian women. When I read articles about the wonderful fellowship I'm supposed to be having with my female friends, my cynicism takes over. That has not been my experience. At times, I have felt that we have turned female friendships into an idol. 

Of course, family friendships have also been discouraging to me. I think most of us would be willing to admit that marriage and parenting comes with a lot of heartbreak at times, regardless of how good those relatioinships are in general. I'm sure I've done my share of heartbreaking as a wife and mother. But why have I always let these things overwhelm me? I am not naturally stoic, and as much as I try to be, I cannot manage it. When I fully understand that everyone is sinful and we must not put high expectations on anyone to be perfect, why is this so difficult?

I wonder if it isn't because we know that something better is waiting. We know that when we are united fully with Christ in the new heavens and earth, we will no longer experience heartache, betrayal, or sin. How does our being made in the image of God, carrying his imprint upon us, our being one with Christ unconsciously affect our expectations?

I remember being a child and wishing things were different. I had a fairly happy childhood, but when things didn't go well, I would always resort to wishing that my family life was different, that my dad would be home more, that there wouldn't be so much strife, that my friends were different. It always boiled down to the people, not necessarily my circumstances. God has made us for relationships, whether we are the type who manage several or those who are content with a few. But however many people we allow into our lives, we want our relationships with them to be good. And I wonder if part of my frustration has been because I know what awaits me, and I am frustrated in my waiting.

God is not encumbered by sin. There is no fear of rejection from him. We need not feel uncertain with him. His word tells us that he loved us while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:6). He loves us though we are often unlovely. He sent his son to die for us, and his Holy Spirit to be with us to prepare us for our eventual reunion with him. We were not destined for this earth; we were destined to be with him.

It brings to mind the opening paragraphs of Augustine's Confessions: "you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

There is never going to be a human relationship which will exactly mirror what I will ultimately have when I am in heaven. When I am tempted to feel discouragement over relationships, instead of mourning, I ought to think of it as a reminder of what is to come.

Sunday
Apr222018

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his,
And he is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul he leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love he sought me,
And on his shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing brought me.

In death's dark vale I will not fear
With thy, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spreadst a table in my sight;
Thine unctious grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never.
Good shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house forever.

Friday
Apr202018

Theological education is not just for pastors

It's all over the crying, as they say. Hopefully, there will be no crying. I have already received my mark for the last three History assignments, including the term paper, and I'm happy. I'll find out soon how I did on my Greek final. I didn't feel overwhelmed by the exam, but it wasn't something I breezed through, either. Of course, leaving the campus was both a happy and sad thing. I will miss my classes.

I continue to enjoy school so very much. I feel like I am right where I should be. I continue to learn lessons that go beyond the courses I am taking. Education interests me, and I've had a lot to think over the past couple of years.

One situation remains much in the front of my thinking. At our seminary chapel a couple of years ago, we had a visiting pastor as the speaker. I don't know what he was told about his intended audience, but it was clear to me that he did not expect women to be in the room. There were only three of us, but we were there. Everything about his message was directed to men, and specifically, for men intending to be pastors. If you were a man there getting theological training for other reasons his message was not for you. It certainly was not for me. I was surprised at this, because even though my school is conservative in the area of women in leadership, it isn't known as a "men only" institution, and I have never felt like as a woman, I'm not welcome. At our last seminary chapel this year, the speaker, the Theology prof, spoke about how to preach, and even in that context, he used words that included everyone by alluding to the reality that the Word is proclaimed in situations other than from the pulpit. 

People in leadership, especially those who teach, can benefit from training. Sunday school teachers can benefit from more than learning about classroom dynamics. We live the Word before others; learning more about it can only be a help to us. Even something like evaluating the large amounts of theological (mis)information online can be made easier if we have some training ourselves. If people can manage that on their own, by self-study, then great. But not all of us are disciplined enough. And having someone guide us whose job it is to educate is very helpful.

There was a day when the opportunity for theological training was not easily available or affordable. That is not the case today. When women tell me they "don't have time" for theological training, but invest in a lot of home renovation projects or have vacations twice a year, I don't say much in response. We will make time for those things which are most important to us. 

My school has certificate programs for general theological studies. It's ten courses long. The timing of the program is flexible; either full time or part time. We also have a certificate program specifically for women. There is a program for pastors already in the ministry to deepen their training. I'm sure my school is not the only one to offer such programs. These are great ways to be trained. And the benefit of this kind of training is accountability. Having someone else evaluate our thought (and someone who isn't our best friend) is helpful. Being exposed to theology we may not agree with is helpful. Theological education isn't about indoctrinating us into a pre-supposition; it's about teaching us to think. 

Quite simply, pursuing education is a wise thing to do:

The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge (Proverbs 18:15).

There is gold, and an abudance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing (Proverbs 20:5).

There are also online programs. I won't go into detail here because there are probably more than I could cover, and those sites are the best place toget information about such programs. Two sources that I am familiar with are Biblical Training and Ligionier. Online learning is great, but if you have the opportunity to be on campus, take it. Face to face accountability is great. And there is as aspect of fellowship which is really encouraging.

Ultimately, one of the best things about getting theological education is that as we grow in the things of God, we see how much there is that we don't know, and that fosters humility. Humility is one of those things we can never have enough of.

Thursday
Apr192018

It's D-Day

Or, shall I say "G-day?" 

I write my Greek exam this afternoon. I'm all studied out. There comes a point when, on the day of the exam, when you start studying and realizing you have forgotten little things, you may start to panic. Panic on the day of an exam is never a good thing. When I am finished writing, I shall treat myself to potato chips. I've been trying to watch what I eat lately, and this will be my treat. I think potato chips ought to be a food group of their own.

There is an "art" to biblical translation. When you start looking at how the language was put together, and how the differences create limitations to translation, it's evident that there are those whose are just better at translating. A good vocabulary in English is a good thing to have if you're translating from any language. Now that I am getting better at reading the Greek New Testament, I can really see how it enhances devotional study. All those little nuances add to the meaning.

I have loved getting back to basics; back to the foundation of the faith by being more in Scripture. In the past, especially through blogging, I know I wasted a lot of time worrying about having something "to say" to the latest hot button issue. Right now, if you're a woman, and you aren't writing about women, whether it's abuse or equality, you may as well not speak. I have spent a lot of time more concerned about "issues" than I have about really knowing who Christ is. I may not have much of a blogging audience anymore, but ultimately, who cares? Blogs come and go and blog readers are a fickle bunch. It's too much energy better spent elsewhere to do what needs to be done to keep people interested. 

So now I look forward to summer. My poor house will get a thorough going over. By September 1st, Lord willing, I will have a new dining room table, and an office upstairs, freshly painted. When I'm writing term papers next November, there will be no writing mess scattered all over the living room. You know things need to be tidier when your dog manages to get a hold of Post-it reading flags and ingests them. And I wonder why I have dogs who barf on my couch when I'm gone from home.

Winter will go away, and the "sockless season" will come. 

The summer maintenance project in Greek is to translate Philippians and parse every verb we encounter. I plan on starting May 1st, doing a verse a day. I also hope to get my camera out again. I've missed that.

Monday
Apr162018

Adventures in Studying

If I thought last week was hectic, this one will be even more so. My Greek final is on Thursday, and thus far, my attempts to really study hard have been thwarted. One reason is my own fault. I have got behind in my Church History reading. I have to submit logs of what I read this semester from the textbook. These readings are not short and not all are equally engaging. German liberalism is mind numbingly boring. I still have two full chapters to read and finish logging by the end of today. I have studied a little for Greek, mostly reviewing verb paradigms. 

We were hit with a very nasty ice storm over the weekend. Thousands in southern Ontario are without power this morning, and there is a risk of flooding now that the ice has stopped. Thankfully, we did not get hit as hard as others. I'm praying we will have power maintained until I get my logs submitted.

The stench in my house, which we thought was the decaying remains of a mouse in the vent has turned out to have another source, courtesy of one of my Beagles. Instead of a rotting corpse, we discovered dog vomit in the folds of the top of our couch. Our dogs love to lay along the top and look out the window. Clearly one of them upchucked while enjoying the couch. I suspect it was my younger dog, Bear, who is not fussy about what he eats, whether it is another dog's waste products (Beagles are famous for it) or leaves and twigs. Thankfully, now that we've cleaned it out, it smells better. The combination of a honey citrus candle and the stinky aroma just about did me in last Friday.

There is now the sound of something alive in my vent. Our furnace is vented on the south side of our house, above the basement window. I suspect something has crawled in to avoid the nasty weather. I think it is probably a chipmunk or something larger than a mouse because of the way it is thrashing about. When the furnace is on, he is quiet. If he is alive when my husband gets home tonight, we'll try to flush him out. In the meantime, as I study, I'm distracted with the critter. I just hope it isn't a bat.

I've been up since 5:00, so now it's time to break from studying and have breakfast.