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Up at 6:00 am and nothing to do

For the past three weeks, I have given most of my thought to two things: Greek and Church History. I wrote my term paper on Hildegard of Bingen, and in preparation for that, I read from her visionary work, Scivias. She has some pretty wacky visions. It makes for strange dreams. There have been times when I was writing my outline the old fashioned way, with pen and paper, that I occasionaly wrote an alpha instead of the letter a. My middle aged mind was in a muddle.

Now, it is all over but the crying. Hopefully, there will be no crying. I wrote my Greek exam yesterday and when I got home, I finished my paper and it was gone by 6:00 p.m. I had big plans to enjoy the Montreal Canadiens finally get a win, but I caved and went to bed at 9:30 and had to check Twitter this morning to find out who won. It's like I just crashed. I can't imagine how those who juggle four or more courses feel at the end of it all.

This semester has been different than previous ones because taking Greek Elements means daily review. I have to think about it and expose myself to it every day. We were given that advice by our prof right from the beginning, and he was correct. It does make a difference. On occasions when I may have been lazy about review for a day or two, I noticed it. In addition, this semester had quite a bit of reading in my Church History class in addition to lectures. I really didn't have much time to think about anything else. I did discover one thing, however: if I do want to take more than two courses in the future, one thing will have to go: Facebook. I made a concerted effort in the last two weeks to limit my time there and online in general. My concentration was much better. 

So, I find myself awake at my usual time with nothing to do. I feel excited to peruse my book shelves and figure out what to read over the holidays. I have a date with some knitting worsted to make some socks, and I have a scarf that must be finished by December 25th, but other than some needed cleaning and baking, I'm wide open. 

Learning Greek has been really enjoyable. I love the whole process. It's challenging, and I'm motivated to understand the grammar and forms because it helps me uncover the meaning when we have translation questions. Call me a kook, but I actually enjoyed writing my exam yesterday. The time just flew by, and I didn't feel tired. I know I probably made a lot of mistakes, but I realized yesterday that I am learning. I took my Greek New Testament to church with me last Sunday to see how much of the Scripture reading I could follow. It was encouraging. One thing I love about Greek is that it forces me to look closely at the little things and it also means I must look at the context as well. 

Learning Greek has also highlighted for me the difficulty in translating from one language (especially an ancient one) to another. To have so many translations and such free access to the Bible really is a gift from God. That there are men and women who are skilled to translate is also a gift. I have been especially thankful for pondering the question of what a "literal meaning" actually means.

Christmas is around the corner and time will fly, but for today, I am going to enjoy my freedom, but look forward to getting back at it in January. I'm so thankful for being able to attend seminary.


Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

Second Sunday in Advent

I can count on one hand how many times I've sung this song in church. It is a difficult song, so maybe that is why people don't sing it often. I really like to hear it sung as a duet or a trio. I like this rendition because the tempo wasn't painfully slow. And the according was an interesting addition. 

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming
As men of old have sung.
It came, a-flow'ring bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half-spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind,
To show God's love a-right
She bore to men a Saviour
When half-spent was the night.


Ten years

I should be out walking my dogs before I go to school, but I'm hoping it will warm up a degree or so in the next thirty minutes.

On the weekend, we had our kids home to decorate our Christmas tree. One of my sons insists on keeping up the tradition of us decorating thw tree together, and I'm happy about that. They love to decorate in as haphazard a manner as possible. I threaten them yearly that if no one comes home to decorate the tree, I will have a "Martha Stewart Tree." No one wants that, so there we were on Saturday evening, decorating. I have a Batman figurine as a tree topper.

That tradition has not changed, but so much has in the past ten years. It was ten years ago that my daughter went away to university; the first one to fly the coop. So much has changed since then. Our two boys followed and left for school as well. It got easier in some ways, but harder in others. Young people with busy lives mean fewer visits. They are in the process of moving away from us, so they have their own schedules and responsibilities. That's the way it's meant to be.

When I look at where we all were ten years ago, I see how we have all changed. I never thought ten years ago that I would be here, on this day, planning to drive to school and write a Greek vocabulary quiz or coming home later to work on a paper about Hildegard. My children are all done school, one is married, and they're on their own. Adult children are wonderful. They bring food when they come, or they bake some while they are here. They dog sit when you want to go away for a night. But parents of adults have to be careful not to interfere, so one thing that has changed is that we must know when to speak and when to listen. We must accept that our children will make decisions we don't like. And we must be okay with that. We must love them no matter how we feel about their decisions.

As I was driving home from school on Tuesday, listening to some of the same Christmas carols I have been listening to since I was a child, I was comforted by the fact that Christmas comes every year. People put up their lights in the neighbourhood, Sunday school classes prepare presentations, and stores are busy with shoppers. For Christians, it is a time of reflection the Incarnation of Christ. I'm so thankful we observe Christmas. As the winter settles in and the cold weather comes upon us, with daylight fading away earlier, it's a warm comfort to remember that God has not changed, that he is sovereign, and that he loved us enough to send his son in the form of a human baby. 

I don't particularly like change. I take comfort in routine and familiarity. Of course, I adapt to change, because what else is there to do? But it takes a while. As I look at our Christmas tree and take pleasure in its familiar ornaments (Batman notwithstanding; he wasn't there last year), I am reminded of the consistency of the seasons, and how they remind us of the never changing nature of God. Christmas may not be what we would like, with all of the effort to take Christ out of it. But God remains unchanging, and whatever changes we face, we know God is with us. 


Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

First Sunday in Advent

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing is His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings,
Yet born of Mary,
As of old earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim, with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to His presence, 
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Lord Most High!


Yet another reason to attend seminary

It's crunch time. In the next two weeks, I will write a vocabulary text and and exam in Greek and, Lord willing, finish my term paper. The latter is not going as well as I would like. My mind is trying to balance the mysterious vision of Hildegard with the mysterious operations of liquid verbs and the future middle tense in Greek. My preference would be to focus entirely on Greek. I confess it is my preferred subject, which is something I didn't entirely expect. I love Church History. But even though I find Hildegard fascinating, it's proving to be a big job to unravel her thought and put something down on paper.

It isn't that I don't like my term paper topic. After all, I did choose it myself. But I really love Greek, and when I can't figure something out, it frustrates me, and I want to sit down and work at it until I do. This past Thursday, for the first time, I did not not know the bonus questions, and I left one of the translation questions blank, while feeling quite certain that I didn't answer the others correctly. It also occurred to me after writing the quiz that I had made an error in the parsing.

When I got home, I wanted to sit down and study Greek, but I have a lot of History reading to finish in addition to getting this term paper finished. I am feeling stressed, especially now that Christmas is coming quickly. Yesterday, I surprised myself by thinking, "Oh, why do I have to take Church History anyway?" I never imagined I'd think that. However, it is a required course, and there is a very good reason why a complete theological education should include Church History.  

There is something very valuable about studying and writing about things we may not be entirely excited about. There is something valuable in being told "You must learn this." It is valuable to have someone else place expectations upon us. It teachs us to be humble and allow someone else to evaluate our work. For example, one of my required courses, which I will take next fall along with Greek Exegesis, is Spiritual Formation. That class doesn't excite me, but I have to take it. 

The blogging envrionment places no expectation of required material. We can write about whatever we want. Being expected to write about something we may find unappealing is not part of this wide open communication medium. Seminary is much more difficult in that there are required courses. This past week, in Church History, I had to read a writing of Bernard of Clairvaux and write a reflection about it. I didn't hate the whole process, but it would have been nice if I hadn't had to do it, and could give more time to something I wanted to do; like reviewing future tense of "to be" in Greek so I could recognize it on this week's quiz (which I didn't).

I think I'm rambling now. Perhaps that's because I've been up since 5:00 reading about Hildegard's visions and a commentator's attempts to interpret them. Hildegard is fascinating, but writing about her isn't nearly as enjoyable as other topics. But I'll forge ahead, and be thankful. If one can writte about something she finds difficult, then writing about the things she likes will be that much more enjoyable.