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Entries in Seminary Notes (97)

Friday
Oct022015

When critique comes from the right source

There is an online discussion forum where my seminary classmates and I post answers to questions and where we can discuss with one another. It kind of reminds me of The Well-Trained Mind Message forum in the good old days.

Our professor also interacts with us, commenting on our responses and then asking us questions to challenge us. This week, as we discussed the book of Judges, I responded to the reflection question by making some observations about Jephthah. I responded to his query about my answer, but he still did not entirely agree with my points. He explained why, and I was able to see his point, and I learned something further in the process.

Responding to critique is not always fun. Whether or not we respond well often depends on the motive. My prof's motive is that I learn to think critically and to support my assertions. His motive is that I learn. It was easy for me to welcome his critique because I know his motive.

What are our motives when we correct others in an online venue? Do our motives have any altruistic purpose? Are we more concerned with proving someone wrong? Putting someone in his place? Is it just to have a meaningful conversation? It's hard to communicate motive online, in words, with total strangers.

I really believe that we can choose to use words that don't send a message that we are trying to put someone in their place. Bombast, sarcasm, and belittling don't communicate positively in an online situation when the are the only methods of communicating utilized. There are many who are condescending when an objection is raised regarding someone's "tone." It is true that being careful about tone can be taken to an extreme, but acting as if it is not even worthy of mention is another extreme. I tend to extremes, and it is something I want to correct.

If we are going to discuss online, we need to think about our words. There is so much missing from dialogue when the participants don't know each other, or are unable to hear and see each other. It calls for caution. I have met my prof. He's my academic advisor. I know what his motives are. When it comes to others, I need not to assume bad motives. When I communicate online, I should use careful, true words. That's the good thing about English; there are lots of words to choose from. 

Saturday
Sep262015

Fall randomness

Fall is here, and I hope to enjoy it. Today, we're going on a trip to the gorge at Niagara Falls. It's a beautiful day for photos. I need some fun time. The course I am taking, which is a survey of the Bible, is a lot more work than the previous class I took. There is a lot of reading. I'm on schedule for next week with the exception of some reading on Esther. In my Bible reading for the course, I'm on Job 13. I like my prof a lot. He challenges us to think hard about the issues.

I'm off soon for a conference in Quebec. The last time I went to a conference with my husband, it was to Whitehorse. La Malbaie has some big shoes to fill. I have two assignments I need to finish before I go. 

I'm scheduled to get my cast off on October 7th, and I will be glad. There is a lot I can't do, and typing is not easy. Part of the way my seminary class discusses things is through an on-line forum. My contributions have been brief. Maybe that's a good thing.

A broken metacarpal has intruded on my knitting projects. I am making some things for Christmas gifts, and while I can knit, it's slow going, and it hurts my thumb, index and middle finger, who are not used to bearing all of the knitting load. Those other two immobilized fingers are missed. I am almost done this one:

 

Last week was full of all kinds of internet angst. I took a little interest in it, but with school, I just don't have the time to ponder those matters. Again, maybe that is a good thing. That said, I do miss some of my blogging friends who are also busy.

Pumpkin season is upon us. Somewhere in the midst of things, I do have to get my pie pumpkins and freeze some. I am the pie-maker for Thanksgiving dinners, and I plan on using fresh puree. Can you believe we are already talking about Thanksgiving?

Things don't have much promise of slowing down. In October, my son's girlfriend is having her graduation recital. She is a pianist, and I'm looking forward to hearing her program. I also have a mid-term the next day, so I'd better study well.

One of my oldest friends has breast cancer. I was so thankful to hear a positive pathology report. Still, it is a scary thing. One in nine women will be affected by breast cancer. I wonder how many of my other friends will confront this.

Reading through the historical books reminds me again of God's mercy. It's also reminded me of the war themes in Scripture. My prof is researching holy war. I'd be interested to hear his thoughts.

My fingers have had enough, and there's still time to get some reading done before we go. Happy Saturday!

Wednesday
Sep232015

Warrior God

This week at school, we looked at the song of Moses in Exodus 15. It follows the spectacular deliverance of the Israelites in Exodus 14. After being successfully delivered from the hand of the Egyptians, the people are thankful for their salvation. In His lovingkindness, God led his people whom he had redeemed (15:13). Yet, God is more than a loving redeemer; he is a warrior.

“The LORD is a warrior,” the narrator says (v.3), and goes on to use warrior-like language. God “shatters” the enemy (v.6); he “overthrows” those who rise up against him (v.7); he sends forth “burning anger (v.7). God is a loving redeemer, but he is also a warrior.

This is often not a popular picture of God. War and violence stir up feelings of discomfort in many. Opponents of Christianity (and even some Christians) are uncomfortable with this picture of God. It seems in such contradiction to a loving God.

Yet God is holy. And holiness is about more than warm fuzzies. Whether we feel comfotable or not, we have to confront these difficult passages. If we believe in the veracity of the passages which speak of our salvation, should we not look at the hard parts in the same way?

The beauty of this song, however, is that God is our warrior. We can be confident in his deliverance, in his presence in our lives. We live in a world of wars and rumours of wars. God is our warrior, and we need not be afraid. 

Monday
Sep212015

Ask hard questions

I went to school on Saturday. It was a long day. From 9-4, we covered quite a lot of material. Much of it focused on the requirements in the syllabus, but after lunch, we talked about the cultural environment of the Old Testament.

One of the interesting things that came up was the account of the Akkadian king, Sargon. Sargon, as an infant, was put in a basket and sent along the river, and eventually adopted by Akki, who raised him as his own son. After reading this account, our prof asked us what this reminded us of, and then emphasized the story of Sagon was before the account of Moses. He asked us what we thought of that, and how we could reconcile this. He opened up the discussion, but it being the first day, I think most of us were a little hesitant. 

This is one of the reasons I wanted to attend seminary: to ponder hard questions. There are times when it is helpful to do so in a community. My prof reminded us that we are in grad school, and that critical thinking skills are required, not just regurgitation of facts. That will challenge me. I tend to answer too quickly, without enough thought. I hope to improve in that area.

Wednesday
Sep092015

This is who I am

I was the kid who got excited about back to school sales in August. I was the kid who looked eagerly at the new textbooks. I was the teenager who, upon finding my dad's old accounting textbooks, decided to teach myself accounting. It didn't last long, though. Math and I, we don't work well together.

I love school. I loved teaching my kids because in addition to watching them learn, I got to learn, too. This is who I am. This is one of the things God gave me: a love of learning. I will be forever grateful to my husband for suggesting I leave a very good job and apply to university.

As a woman in the church, this love is not always seen as totally useful. Now, if I love to learn about nursing, there is an obvious use. The love of theology, however is often viewed as simply another accessory, easily removed. The love of other kinds of study, like literature, is seen as not useful at all. Ask my daughter, who when she shares her plans for a PhD in English with people in our church, is met with confused looks, and occassionally, a "What will you do with that?"

There are many ways to serve in the Church. We can take meals, work in the nursery, sing in a choir, put books on shelves in the library. I have done those. But I love to learn and teach, and I want to do that as well as I can. There are people in my life who think seminary is not the best use of my time. It is seen as a luxury, not something that can help me. It isn't "practical" enough; after all, I'm not going to be a pastor. Last spring, when I was in the midst of some heavy trials, it was suggested to me that going to school was adding to the stress. I could not make this individual understand that stress from school is a good stress for me. That was the least of my worries. 

I don't know where my seminary education will take me. Perhaps in the next few years, I will become a grandmother and want to quit so I can be a helpful grandma. I'll face that when it comes. I just know that learning does one thing for me that helps me the most in my Christian life: it humbles me. This week, as I was reading my textbooks, and seeing how much there is to learn about God, I was amazed. I was reminded how much I need to learn, and I think that is a step in the right direction.

God made women to be many things, and we can serve in the local church in so many ways. This is the way he made me: to learn and teach. It doesn't mean I don't take my turn in other areas, but it means that I will give myself to my studies, and through the Holy Spirit, it will change me.