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Monday
Sep252017

Empty Nesters Love Greek

I love my Greek class. I knew I would, and I hope it stays that way. Even though we are not required to necessarily know why the language works as it does (we are only there to learn how to read it), I want to know the why's. I want to have a better understanding of the language in general. Theory and practice go together.

Not everyone needs to learn Greek. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for it. I recognize that for Bible study students, it isn't necessary. We have good English translations. Yet, having an understanding of the original language, especially if we are teachers, can only be a good thing. No, knowing Koine Greek does not make one more holy or more godly. You can know Koine Greek like a champ and yet be a total boor. But when one is teaching, and especially if one is expecting others to take her seriously, Greek isn't a bad use of her time. And the bonus is that our prof promises that knowing Greek will have an impact on our devotional life.

There are a lot of things that women can do when the nest empties; valuable things and not so valuable things. I want to do the valuable things. We all have our areas of strength. The point is to stay active and productive. I did not have a career to return to when my kids grew up, and for that I am thankful. I am glad my heart was not divided between my kids and a career. Some people may think that makes me "just a housewife," and hopelessly out of touch. Perhaps that is true, but I know that today, I have the time and opportunity to learn Koine Greek, and that's exciting. To know the original languages of the Bible is exciting to me. I'd rather be doing this than hanging around in a board room in a meeting or navigating the dog-eat-dog world of an office environment.

I have met my share of blank stares from others when saying I attend seminary. Saying I'm taking Greek is even more entertaining. There is often suspicion. Why would I need that? Am I involved in a theological coup? Some look at me as if I've just said that I like to kick puppies and kittens. I can't change someone's opinion of a woman learning Greek. I trust that, ultimately, I will be a better student of the Bible and a better teacher.

There are many ways now to learn biblical languages. Many seminaries offer online classes for students who want to learn. Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek is very user friendly, and one can benefit from the online resources he provides at his website. We can all claim we are too busy. But if we look at how we spend our time, there may be way to make time. Cut back on television watching or social media time. Get up a little earlier every day. If you want to be inspired for learning Greek, check out Bill Mounce's Greek for the Rest of Us.

I won't say that having my children leave home and become independent has been easy. It's been five years since our last one left home, and I'm still adjusting. Adult kids have their own lives and are in the process of establishing their independence. They don't need us as much. Empty hours can be a bad thing. Why not fill it with something? For me, seminary is helping fill those hours. And Greek is contributing in a particularly exciting way. 

Sunday
Sep242017

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

It's about an hour and ten minutes for me get to school, and on those drives through the backroads, I love to listen to music. I recently bought Fernando Ortega's newest recording The Crucifixion of Jesus. It is a really great recording, alternating between songs and Scripture reading. I believe this song is one he has recorded previously.

I love Ortega's music. It is so calming and comforting while being full of truth.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See him dying on the tree
Tis' the Christ by man rejected,
yes my soul tis he, tis he
Tis the long Expected Prophet
David's Son yet David's Lord
By His Son, God now has spoken
Tis the True and Faithful Word

Tell me, you who hear him groaning
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends through fear
His cause disowning
Foes insulting his distress
Many hands were raised to wound him
None would interpose to save
But the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that justice gave

Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly
Here its guilt may estimate
Mark the Sacrifice appointed
See who bears the awful load
Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed
Son of Man and Son of God

Here we have a firm Foundation
Here the Refuge of the lost
Christ, the Rock of our salvation
Is the Name on which we boast
Lamb of for God for sinners wounded
Sacrificed to cancel guilt
None shall ever be confounded
Whom, in him their hope is built

Saturday
Sep232017

What's your normal?

My husband and I have an inside joke. Well, we have a few. But this one is the term "generic red drink."

I grew up eating meals accompanied by drinking either milk or water. His mother always had some sort of fruity drink, the kind mixed with crystals and water. He grew up thinking that everyone had such drinks at mealtime, and I grew up thinking one didn't. I felt kind of cheated that my family didn't have such luxuries. And for us, it would have been a luxury. Such beverages are usually not cost effective.

This idea that the way we grew up is everyone's experiences can be carried over in a lot of different directions, and one that is becoming more significant in my thinking is the consequence of growing up in a combative home. I love my parents, and they loved me and my brothers. They took care of us and did the best they could, sacrificing their own pleasures and wishes more often than I probably know. But our home was combative. The home my mother grew up in was combative, too. 

When you grow up in a home full of conflict, challenge, and arguing, you start to live like it's just a part of life. I found out very quickly after getting married that I was very wrong in that belief. That is probably one of the biggest differences between the way he grew up and the way I did. While his house tended to never confront a thing, ours confronted everything. And while his family didn't often say much, mine said everything without reserve.

When you grow up in a combative home, you frequently feel on the defensive, and that contributes to being thin-skinned. You have to learn that not everyone is confronting you. You have to learn not to take offense. I'm still learning that. 

I read a very good tweet from Lydia Brownback today: "Perpetually sniffing around for every doctrinal misstatement and tweeting about it bespeaks a joyless faith."

I appreciated that comment, because sometimes, I do find that social media can be full of people looking around every corner for some theological bogeyman. I cannot help but wonder if there is a connection between people who grew up in a combative environment and the need to look for conflict. After all, if there is no conflict in our lives, no argument to pursue, or point to win, do we go looking for one? Do we get energized by being involved in a debate because that is our normal? I suspect that I have been guilty of looking for conflict. Or at the very least, being too sensitive about things which I perceive as being wrong. Perhaps my character was predisposed to that already, and being in a home full of argument simply nurtured that. 

I am not saying that theological truth is not important. I'm not saying we should always remain silent and never confront. I think just the opposite, actually. It is not healthy to never confront problems whether personal or theological. However, is my default setting to engage others in a dispute? If so, is that a good thing? Is there not a point at which it is better to simply allow someone to say something I believe to be wrong and let it go? What does always demanding the last word say about what is important to me?

I wish I'd asked myself such questions years ago, but as we know, wisdom is not always appreciated when we are younger.

Wednesday
Sep202017

The appeal of Augustine

Augustine said some pretty wonky things, but he said much that I can totally understand and agree with. One of those things is how he confronted his own sin. Even after his conversion, Augustine wrestled with temptations. One of them was the praise of men. As a trained rhetorician, he would have sought the approval of men. After his conversion, he talks about the remaining struggle:

. . . there is a third kind of temptation which, I fear, has not passed from me. Can it ever pass from me in all this life? It is the desire to be feared or loved by other men, simply for the pleasure that it gives me, though in such pleasure there is no true joy. It means only a life of misery and despicable vainglory . . .  This is why the enemy of our true happiness persists in his attacks upon me, for he knows that when men hold certain offices in human society, it is necessasry that they should be loved and feared by other men. He sets his traps about me, baiting them with tributes of applause, in the hope that in my eagerness to listen I may be caught off my guard. He wants me to divorce my joy from the truth and place it in man's duplicity. He wants me to enjoy being loved and feared by others, not for your sake, but in your place. 


But we, O Lord, are your little flock. Keep us as your own. Spread your wings and let us shelter beneath them. Let us glory in you alone. If we are loved or feared by others, let it be for your sake. No man who seeks the praise of other men can be defended by men when you call him to account. Men cannot save him when you condemn. (Confessions, X.36).

The praise of men is something we can all get caught up in without even realizing it. Yet how often do we admit such a temptation? How often do I consider the approval of others a trap? 

I love how Augustine ends this discussion: by throwing himself upon the truth he knows, that we are his flock.

Tuesday
Sep192017

Because he doesn't want me to grow

On my first day of seminary, I woke up and did not want to go. Despite wanting this for a long time, and despite the fact that I had support from my husband and closest friends, I cried, because I did not want to go. Even as I drove that morning, my stomach was in knots. My first seminary class occurred right in the middle of the worst part of my first really bad bout with anxiety.

I've always tended toward being anxious, but this was much worse than what I'd known before. There were many physical symptoms, and it was simply beyond me. I made it through that class and only through God was I able to get the work done. The class was on writing Bible study curriculum, and one of the studies I wrote had to do with what Scripture said about being anxious, so it was therapeutic. 

I don't know if I'm much wiser than I was two years ago, but I am on the other side of that time. I am not a fool, and I know that I cannot be complacent. I must recognize what triggers my anxiety and deal accordingly with it. Interestingly enough, in the past couple of weeks, I have felt the weight of burdens encroaching on my heart; the kinds of things that can trigger anxiety. And it's the beginning of another semester of school.

Two years ago, a very good friend who understands anxiety well, shared with me that she really believed that Satan does not want me in seminary. He does not want me to have a theological education or growing in the things of God. I thought about that recently when I was studying my Greek vocabulary and my mind began to wander to things I cannot change. I have to learn is how to shut the door on things that are simply going to drag me down.

I've always wanted to fix everything. It bothers me to leave things unresolved. I don't like arguments festering. I want resolution now! That isn't always possible. Sitting and waiting is difficult. We feel powerless; or, rather, we confront our powerlessness. Shutting the door on things goes against what I really want to do. That is probably a good thing. As I sat at my desk, allowing myself to be distracted, I had to mentally picture myself shutting a door to the burdens that I can't resolve. I don't pretend they're not there, and I do have to acknowledge them, but not every day, and definitely not when I have other things to do.

I think Satan wants me to open the door to that closet more often, because then I can start to feel hopeless and discouraged. Then I can start to blame others for things that have happened, or I can blame myself, and make it seem as if I'm the centre of everything. Yes, he wants me to do that because that distracts me from simply trusting God. Fortunately, learning Greek is very methodical and demands memorization. Translating sentences, even the small ones we're beginning with this week, is like solving a puzzle, and that re-focuses me. I will stay in seminary if only to keep my mind from wandering to places where it ought not go. If I'm still having trouble concentrating after Greek is done, I'll just take Hebrew.

God's ultimate goal for me is to be conformed to the image of his son. Burdens have a way of making that happen or they can be a way of ensuring that it doesn't. We don't often talk about Satan in the church these days. But he's real, and he likes it when we're weak. I feel like it's no co-incidence that these burdens are plaguing me now. I must remember the truth: greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world.