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Entries in Seminary Notes (105)


How Koine Greek is teaching me to slow down

I am afraid that I have very fast reactions. That can be good when a kid has hurt himself or something needs to be done immediately. It means that even in my ten year old car, I am often the first one away when the red light changes. But it often has bad repercussions. When we react quickly, we may end up being careless.

Most of the errors I make on Greek quizzes are stupid things. Last week, for example, I got 22.5/25. Two of the mistakes were real mistakes; things I just didn't know well. But one arose from acting too quickly. Instead of translating "waters," I said "water." A half a mark because I was careless. I hate losing marks when I know it but reacted too quickly.

And now we meet participles. Our textbook, by Bill Mounce, has us quaking in fear about participles. They are weird things. They are part verb, part noun, part adjective. We have been pouring over verb endings and tense formatives to learn our verbs cold, and now we have to put noun endings on them. It feels strange. It looks like a verb, and it kind of acts like a verb, but it isn't a verb. It means paying attention.

The verb translated "I am loosing," λύω (lu-oh), in the third person singular ("he is loosing") looks like this: λύουσι (lu-oo-see). The dative, masculine, active, plural participle, translated "loosing," looks exactly the same. "Loosing," and "he is loosing" are not the same thing grammatically. This is where context becomes really important, because it will tell me if I'm translating an indicative verb or a participle. It means I have to slow down. And the kicker of course is that there are countless examples where words look the same but only context will differentiate them.

I could not help but think that the whole issue of learning to slow down is not only beneficial for studying Koine Greek, or any other subject for that matter. I still have nightmares about failing algebra tests because of something as small as a forgotten negative sign. We are a society full of distractions and lacking silence. When we start thinking that 500 words is long, it reveals a lot about how we read. We don't like details; we just want the basic facts. That isn't going to work in Greek, and for much of life, it won't work, either. When it comes to listening to others, it can be crucial to avoid miscommunication. Instead of mentally preparing our response while the other person is still speaking, we need to really listen to others. That means slowing down and paying attention. It may mean asking the person to clarify. Learning how to be thoughtful and measured is still a work in progress for me. But I'm thankful that I'm learning, however slowly.

I highly recommend Christians try their hand at Koine Greek. It's a lot of fun even when it's difficult. And the side benefits are an extra bonus.


Nothing comes without a sacrifice

A couple of days ago, it occurred to me that it has been 22 years since I came here to Ontario from Saskatchewan. That was a difficult time. I had no desire to leave behind my parents and come to a community where I didn't have friends. What made it more difficult is that we moved to my husband's home town and home church. People did not seem to understand that while people knew who I was, I didn't know them, and it took me a while to find my feet. People expected things from me, and when I didn't meet those expectations, it was obvious. It was a gradual adjustment, and within a couple of years, I was feeling better about it, but it was about five years before I could say that I was glad we came.

If we had not moved here, I probably wouldn't be in seminary right now. The experiences that God brought me to which inspired me to go to seminary are a product of being here in this place, among these people. And at the same time, as much as I love seminary and as grateful as I have been for all that God has given me, it has never been easy to give up being closer to my parents.

My parents are not Christians. They are getting older. They have health issues. My mother struggled along alone while my father battled depression a number of years ago. While he's hale and hearty today at the age of 80, I was not able to be there for him as I wished I could have been. Every time the weather is cold and snowy in the place where my parents live, I wish I was there to take them to their appointments, or even to just be there in case something happens. When I pray for them, I pray that that they don't fall in the winter months. A fall as a senior citizien can be life altering. My parents live in a big house. I wish I could be there to help my mother with the workload. Over these past 22 years, while we have had times together, there are countless other moments that I have missed. And it saddens me.

As a Christian, I recognize God's sovereignty over my life. I don't always understand why things are happening as they are, but I can do nothing but trust him. If I believe him, I must trust him. The past two years in seminary have contributed a great deal to my spiritual growth. I'm learning to think better. I'm learning to be patient as I think through things. I'm grateful for that. I know that whatever happens after I graduate, God wanted me where I am. When I am at school or doing homework, I know I am right where God wants me to be. But my heart is so frequently pulled back to my parents, and there are days when I wish I could just be with them, soaking up those moments that are only going to get fewer. I dread the day when a call comes with bad news.

Nothing comes without sacrifice, but sacrifice is something even Christians have become loath to give. People with chronic illness know about sacrifice, but for those who are riding high on a life of success, achievements, and mountain top moments, sacrifice may be something they don't avoid, or when it becomes inevitable, resent. We are accustomed to being told we can have it all. And it is not just the world who thinks we can have it all. The lines between how Christains think and how the world thinks are often blurry.

If something happened tomorrow that called me to my parents' sides because they needed help, and it meant giving up seminary, I would do it. There would be no question. It would be hard, but I would do it. Caring for parents as they get older is a privilege, not a burden. It's difficult, but it's something we do for our parents because we love them and because when we needed care, they were there. Friends have shared with me how precious it was for them to be caring for a parent in the final days. They wouldn't give it up even though it was hard. I trust that if something like that happened, I would have the right heart. Christ gave his life for me. Surely, I could give up this dream I'm living if he called me to.


What does the Church value about women?

It isn't fun to fell like you are a square peg in a round hole. I have felt like that much of my life. Within my family outside of it, from the time I was about 10, I felt like I didn't fit anywhere. I didn't fit in with the girls in my school, and though a tomboy, I was excluded from the boys. And if a teenage girl looks like she wants to hang out with the boys, you know what people will say about them. I had people say such things to me. They yelled it at me as they chased me home from school one winter afternoon.

Things didn't change substantially once I was inside the Church. There is love and fellowship within the Church, and I have been the beneficiary of that love and fellowship. But at the same time, to be honest, while I love my sisters in Christ, those occasions where everyone is around the teapot and cookie plate, talking about decorating, fashion, or their vacations, I end up zoning out. I'm not a great decorator. I find it an annoyance, actually, and would love to just have someone come and do it for me. I am, however, not rich, so that rules that out. I like nice clothings, but I'm more of an L.L. Bean kind of girl. I think I probably wear too much plaid flannel. I love to bake and knit and do things like that, but not all day every day.

What I love to do is study. I never knew this about myself until I was twenty years old, and once I realized it, I wanted to do it. I worked on my undergraduate degree while raising small children, and now that they're gone, I am realizing my dream of attending seminary.

In my church tradition, women cannot be pastors. I don't want to be one, anyway. But I do want to teach. And I do want to be taken seriously. I don't want a patronizing pat on the head when I express frustration at feeling excluded because of my gender. I want to do the things that God has wired me to do, but my options are limited. In recent days, the discussion around whether or not women can teach at the seminary level has been a discouragement to me, largely because it is discouraging when people I respect are apparently on the other side of the fence on the issue. There is a reason why women band together on such issues. I try not to complain, though. My husband is a great support, and my closest friends are. But I'm aware that there are some who secretly think what I'm doing is wrong. And I have lost online friends because of my decision to attend seminary. I am no longer womanly in their eyes.

In my most frustrated moments, I wonder to myself, "What is it that the church values about women?" Is it simply childbearing? Or juggling the domestic duties so men can pursue their careers? Is it to provide snacks at church functions? And am I being disobedient to God because I want to pursue this desire to learn? I have no kids at home now; would it be more spiritual if I spent all my time in the nursery or making crafts? I am not a confident person. I freely admit that I am very insecure. Sometimes, I wonder if I shouldn't just give it up and sell Tupperware. And I ask myself, "Why did God give me this ability to learn?"

I love being in school. Every Greek class transports my thoughts to a place where outside distractions can't bother me. Parsing verbs and translating basic sentences puts me in a place where I lose track of time. Researching historical figures or unraveling what election really means makes me feel energized. But does the Church value that? 

Part of me worries that for a woman to pursue any kind of study and not feel like she's trampling all over someone's toes is to pursue education in a secular environment. True, such institutions have their own problems, but would it be better than a church environment where I fear that people would rather that women just sit down and shut up?

I have a 3.9 GPA. I am 52 years old and a mature student. Is this some kind of anomaly? Should I just ignore it and go back to cleaning my toilets? These are questions I ask myself. But I must stop now, because I have a quiz this afternoon, and I want to study more.


Blog? What's a blog?

This was such a good week. I started back to school on Tuesday, and after hearing what lies ahead, I was excited. And determined. Our prof told us that stastistically, most students experience a drop in their grade in the second half of Greek. The content is harder and there is just much more to learn. It's unlikely that I will improve my mark, and I'm good with that. I just want to either maintain or keep the drop small. And above all, I want to understand the material. I want to be successful at readng the New Testament, and grow in my understanding. On the ride home, I took a moment to think seriously about how I'm using my down time. I always find myself looking at how I use my time online.

I barely thought about blogs this week because there were other things to think about. I kept my social media time limited, and that's a start in the right direction. And the thought of listening to podcasts just isn't on my radar at the moment. It's always surprising how our intention to spend "just a few minutes" peeking at things online becomes thirty minutes. I think I fell prey to that last semester. My intentions were good, but I can improve on that. I only read about five or six blogs regularly, and one of them is Daily Dose of Greek. That seems to be enough. It's those blogs with "good stuff I read online this week" that can be the killer, because all of a sudden I find myself spending time on an article that looked good, but when I got into it, it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. The world won't end if I don't read a lot of blogs this semester, and it definitely won't end if I don't write much. Who cares what I think, anyway? I will stay committed to writing at Out of the Ordinary, but I'm afraid that this blog will likely feature only Sunday hymn posts.

Now, good hymns are always words worth reading.


Holiday Reading

I'm looking forward to reading for fun. Not that reading this past semester wasn't fun. It was very interesting. However, reading without having to submit a reflection or use it to complete an assignment is always nice. Once Christmas is done with, I have a  couple of weeks and I hope to get a few things read.

Right now, I'm reading Rethinking Baptism: Some Baptist Reflelctions, which is by Stan Fowler. He was my Systematic Theology and Moral Theology professor. He did his doctoral dissertation about Baptist perspectives on baptism, and this is a more popular level book addressing the subject. I have had it for a while, but just had not got around to it.

I also started John Stackhouse's Canadian Evangelicalism in the 20th Century: An Introduction to Its Character. I've had this for a while, too. It's not too late to fit in another book focusing on Canada in this year of Canada 150.

I also plan to read Road to Renewal, which is by Wayne Baxter, my Greek professor. Prayer is something I've been thinking about a lot over this past year. I suppose I could include this as another book for Canada 150, since Dr. Baxter is Canadian.

Because I can't get enough of Hildegard, I'm looking forward to reading Hildegard of Bingen's Medicine. Some of the weird and wacky ways she treated illnesses made me curious for more about this subject.

For comforting, easy to manage bed time reading. I am planning on reading Monk's Hood (still on that Medieval Monastic theme) by Ellis Peters. I really enjoy the Cadfael series of books as well as the television series.

I don't know how much of it I will get into over the holidays, but because my term paper next semester is going to be on the subject of the influence of Menno Simons on Anabaptism, I decided to start early and begin The Complete Writings of Menno Simons. Last semester, I wish I'd started reading Hildegard's own words earlier so that I would have been able to include a wider variety from her in my term paper. This time, I'll start early. I always say that, and I always start early, but I still always find myself working on the paper right up until the end. There must be something helpful about that working under pressure thing.

I'm not going to neglect my Greek, either, over the holidays. I hope to find time for vocabulary review and parsing practice. I recently discovered a really great tool, Daily Dose of Greek. Two minute videos are featured daily, showing a brief exposition of a Greek passage. It is very helpful. It does include material I haven't yet learned, but so far, it's also cemented things I've already learned.

I still have knitting to accomplish before December 25th, and I've been binge watching Vera, one of my favourite British mystery shows. If I finish her before the knitting, I'll find something else from Acorn, where I get my fix of British t.v.

Happy last week before Christmas!