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Entries in Seminary Notes (118)


Desperate times

Just when I thought I didn't know a thing, I read Karl Barth. Now I know I really don't know anything.

In the midst of having to crank out 3,000 words on Menno Simons by Saturday (with a Greek vocabulary test on Thursday for good measure), I had to read a portion of Dogmatics in Outline to prepare an assignment. I have no idea if the assignment is worth much, but it's finished, and that is what matters. I also had to learn a little bit about Soren Kierkegaard, because he was an influence on Barth. I think Kierkegaard was what my kids used to call "emo." Anyway, Barth was a very compelling read. I'd like to read more, but I don't have time this week. By the time my Greek final is over, I probably won't care.

There was a devastating bus accident on the weekend, involving a junior hockey team from Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Yes, it's likely small potatoes compared to a school shooting or whatever antics Trump is up to, but for that small town in Saskatchewan, this is going to forever mark its history. Even the Queen sent her condolences. Fifteen people died; most of them young men with their lives ahead of them. I have been praying for their families and their community. Such a devastating time.

My daughter and I were having a discussion about perfectionism, control, and being a workaholic. I think I am probably a workaholic in some ways. Which means it's good I was not a working mom when the kids were young. I recognized this tendency in myself this week, working on my term paper. The time for research is long past, but I kept finding resources (which I clearly had no time to look at with any attention) thinking, "Oh, that might be good!" Today, the writing has to start for real. I'm going to have to accept that this paper does not have to read like a peer-reviewed journal article. That was advice from my daughter who ought to know what professors expect from term papers.

I always get tired around 2:30 in the afternoon. I don't want to feel that afternoon lethargy. I plan on drinking coffee, which I don't do often since I was diagnosed with GERD. I'm stricly a tea woman now. But desperate times call for desperate measures.


I'm neither cool nor culturally savvy

I probably don't have a lot of astute views on what's going on in North American Christian culture. I am not cool or hip. Most days when I hear other Christian talk online (mostly the ones under 55) I find myself asking: "You talkin' to me?" I look back fondly at the days when blogging was more social, less serious, and more fun, and I get nostalgic for a bit. 

But man, this year taking New Testament Greek has been so much fun. I'm actually kind of good at it. And that makes me excited and thankful. It's hard work, but I love translating short passages. I like taking out my New Testament in church to see if I can follow along or if I can identify the participles in a passage.

Who cares about all that other stuff? I am going to miss my class over the summer.

That is all.


What a crummy week

This was supposed to be my power study week. My husband has been away since Tuesday at a conference and without having someone to cook for or socialize with, I had visions of accomplishing great things. I have decided to take a little social media break, although in order to get traffic updates and news, I did decide to check Twitter once a day. I have deactivated Facebook altogether for a while so there is no temptation. So, here I am at the end of the week, without having accomplished what I wanted to accomplish and still feeling the sting of yesterday's very bad quiz experience. In a word (or, to be precise, four words) I crashed and burned. I have no idea what happened other than I drew a blank on many things. The first thing I blanked on was the first vocabulary word: απολλυμι. It means to destroy. Once I blanked on that one, and then I suspect got the next one wrong, my confidence was completely shaken and I felt like a puddle of goo. 

Oh well. We all need a little humbling. When I spoke to my husband yesterday and bemoaned my poor performance, I did say to him that even more than the bad score which I will no doubt receive, I am frustrated that I am mixing things up and forgetting vocabulary words this close to the end of the semester. I am not where I wish I was with my Church History term paper, either. 

Seminary is hard work. And for young men and women who attend while raising a family and being married and serving in the church, it is no doubt even harder. My heart goes out to those who juggle seminary, family, and work. It is hard work, but it is good work. And after I handed in my Very Bad Quiz yesterday, my classmate and I commiserated together. That is one of the things I love about being in school: people who are sharing the experience. I am so thankful to be able to do this, crash and burn moments notwithstanding.

And now, I shall get on with this day, and resume my internet silence. Hopefully by the end of it, I will no longer be confusing the second person plural imperative with the second person plural subjunctive.


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.