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December 30, 2012

Urbana '12

Christmas night Marie and I both got really sick with the flu. We were out of commission and took turns in shifts to 'use the bathroom.'  I'm glad our bodies were so cooperative for the circumstances since we only have one bathroom. Anyway, I tell you this to share with you that God brought us out of that pain and misery just intime for Urbana '12.

Urbana is a global missions conference held in St. Louis every three years hosted by InterVarsety Christian Fellowship USA and InterVarsity Canada. Our first Urbana was in '09 when we were both part of InterVarsity at Bradley (though Marie had just graduated).  We both had such a great time, me in the poverty track and her as a steward, that we decided to come back as stewards for Urbana '12.

Only two days remain in the conference, but I know there are still great things in store.  Last night we partnered with World Vision and Caregivers in Africa to build 32,000 Caregiver kits, the buigest Caregiver kit build ever! Each participant wrote a personal note for each kit they built before packing them away and putting them in the shipping containers. Caregivers are local people who are trained by World Vision to care for their neighbors and given the kits they need to do so. Some Caregivers walk 45 minutes from their home to their patients to care for them. Sometimes they bathe them, sometimes they massage them, sometimes they cook for them, sometimes they run errands for them, sometimes they just sit and talk with them, sometimes they pray for them. But no matter what they are doing at the time, they are the hands and feet of Jesus.

God has been laying things on my heart too.  It has been pulled in so many directions it has broken.  My prayer is that he piecies my heart back together with purpose, vision, and direction.  All I know is that I am supposed to finish my seminary training and I don't know from there.  I've never felt a calling in overseas missions, but I'm starting to wonder if that was just our of my own resolve to never be called to overseas missions.  God has been chizzeling the stone off my heart though and I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be anymore. My narrow but uncertian world just got a whole lot wider and a whole lot more uncertian.

December 29, 2012

Day Three at Urbana '12

Today is Day 3 at Urbana '12, a world mission conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Timothy and I are both volunteering at Stewards, which is basically a full day of volunteering some days. I'm working with the dinner team. We fed approximately 16,000 participants last night in 2.5 hours. (THANK YOU CATERING STAFF!!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!!) I'm also going to have the privilege to count all the decision cards tomorrow and see first how all the participants were affected by the conference. Timothy has some special jobs, including a special task for tonight's closing session. I don't want to give it away until after it's happened. We're both thrilled to be helping with the conference that changed us significantly only three years ago.

As you await the new year, please keep Urbana '12 in your prayers. 16,000 additional people have descended upon St. Louis. Let's just say lunch and transportation are interesting daily tasks that now take a significant amount of time. Patience and grace are running freely among most participants but the St. Louis businesses and nearby neighborhoods are feeling the strain. The same 16,000 people are seeking Christ with their whole hearts and weighing major life decisions, especially regarding which mission field God is calling them to. Please pray for clarity for these callings. Not everyone is called to Africa and some people need to know it is okay that Africa is not where God needs them. (Not that God needs any of us anywhere for His mission. He's doing amazing just by Himself.)

December 19, 2012

Bless the Lord, O my soul


"10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)"


[Chorus]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

[Chorus]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

[Chorus]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

[Chorus x2]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

Jesus, I'll worship Your holy name
Lord, I'll worship Your holy name

Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
Jesus, I'll worship Your holy name
I'll worship Your holy

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;"
                                                 -Luke 1:46

I can't help but cry out to the Lord in praise for everything He has done for me.  You never know how God is going to work.  He paid for my tuition, He gave me the opportunity to hang out with three wonderful people at Lutheran Senior Services last night (who also bought me dinner), He moved over men's group when some people shared burdens they have been carrying on their heart and when Travis, our waiter, joined our group last night for celebration and shared with us his story, seeing a friend who invested in me and helped point me in the right direction during college, seeing things God is doing and working in me.  It's been a whirlwind of God's working in my life recently. I am so blessed by Him and so thankful that He has redeemed me and called me Son.  Thank you, Lord!

December 13, 2012

Wednesday Night

Last night Timothy and I were literally brought to our knees by the awesome ways our God works. We have been struggling for about a month about how we were going to afford tuition this Winter term. We had about $1000 that was coming due on December 21. Without a way to pay all of it, we had started speaking with the Accounting Department at the Seminary to see if we could set up a payment plan of sorts to allow us to pay the balance with the Spring term. But Wednesday night that all changed.

In the mail was a donation from the West County Missouri Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for $1000, exactly what we needed to pay the tuition bill. With both of us in tears, we came to our wonderful Provider in prayer. This gift was not expected in any way and is certainly a testiment to the power of prayer. We would both like to say thank you to everyone who has provided for us already on this journey and definitely want to thank all of our prayer partners, or should I say prayer warriors. Thank you.

December 11, 2012

Heaven

Heaven.  What is it?  It's a mystery that we know little about, but that hasn't kept people from theorizing and hypothesizing.  And why not?  It's fun to think about.  I have my own thoughts that I know not everyone will agree with, but I believe is founded on the Bible just as much as any other theory out there.

If you know me, you know that I believe to answer some of the deeper questions about life and the next you must go back to the beginning, before sin corrupted the world.  What was our original purpose?  What did life look like before sin, before death?  This life is what was intended for us.  If we look back at the beginning of Genesis, we see that God placed man on earth to work the land, shaping and forming it as an expression of creativity and love.  Our work was not toilsome, but joyous.  The garden was self watering.  The plants grew themselves and there were no weeds.  The weather was always favorable.  He depended on God for his provision and always trusted God in everything.  Our bodies were sturdy and strong.  Creation was not yet groaning under our sin.  All Adam and Eve had to do was enjoy creation.  We were placed here to interact with creation, each other, and with God.

The serpent tempted Eve with taking matters into her own hands; becoming independent of God; relying on herself for her own provision.  Adam stood by passively and watched it happen, and when Eve offered him the fruit of rebellion, he bit into it and partook of its juices.  What seemed sweet at first, suddenly had a very bitter aftertaste.  They brought death upon themselves for to rebell against God was to rebell against life itself.  Sin entered the world and all of creation was affected.

So, what does this mean for heaven?  The Bible tells us that the earth will be destroyed with fire and a new Jerusalem will descend upon the Old.  You can take "destruction" two different ways.  You can take it to mean, completely annihilated; wiped out of existence, or you can take it to mean everything on the earth is destroyed like the wheat is destroyed in separating the wheat from the chaff.  What is evil will be wiped away, but the creation itself will be resurrected.  Like in the resurrection of the believers: the old self in sin is destroyed but out of its ashes the new man in Christ is resurrected.  So too a new world will come out of the old.

The ground we walk upon will be put through the refiner's fire to be made new.  All of creation will be made new without sin.  The lion and the lamb will lie down together.  God will restore us so we will be able to fully depend and trust in Him again.

Now, this is where my personal selfish desires come into play here.  I would like to imagine that in the restoration of creation, all of God's creation is resurrected.  This includes animals that have since went extinct or are in danger of extinction.  If you know me, then you know my biggest desire is to see tigers thrive under God's new creation.  I desire that I may wrestle and play with tigers, lay beside tigers to rest, and live along side of them in absolute harmony.  Now, will this be true?  I have no idea and I believe this is something we cannot know until we are there.  But none the less it is fun to dream about. And even though we cannot know, it is still pleasing to know that no matter what heaven is like, I know that is where I am going and I know that I will be so filled with joy that it won't matter what is there and what isn't.

Time Flies

When I step back and realize that my first year at the seminary is almost half over, I have to stand back in amazement.  That means I'm almost a quarter of the way to vicarage, and an 8th of the way through seminary.  Those longer time spans don't seem as daunting at first, but the pace at which this feels like it's going by, it will be here before I'm ready.  The future is coming and it both excites and scares me.  So, for now I will content myself with my current classes.  I have two of three papers done for this week.  That leaves one more to write by Thursday.  Then the weekend; then another week and more papers due.  That's manageable.

December 3, 2012

Institutional Module

At the Seminary as part of our fieldwork experience we have what we call "modules."  There is both an institutional module and a cross-culture module.  For the winter quarter I will be doing my institutional module at Lutheran Senior Services.  To be honest, this was my last choice out of all of our options, but being later on in the alphabet I didn't have much choice.  Right now though, I'm thankful for that.

On Sunday, I went for the first time to Meramac Bluffs, my assigned location.  I was only to observe worship so I sat next to a resident and struck up a conversation.  I really enjoyed myself and the worship was good.  After service I talked to my supervisor he told me that it is going to be really relaxed.  My only requirements are to show up on communion Sundays to help with worship and for the rest of my hours I can do whatever I want.  So, after more talking, I decided that on Tuesdays I am going to show up around dinner time to just walk around and have dinner with the residents.

I'm looking forward to all of the stories I will get to hear and the people I will get to know and learn to love.  I know this is something that is going to stretch me and put me in situations that I won't be comfortable in, but I pray that God helps me to love all of his people through this experience.

November 25, 2012

Back from Vacation

Vacation is now over and it's time to start classes again.  I'm looking forward to a new term with new classes, but know it will be a lot of work and a bigger challenge.  At least I had the rest and fun over vacation; hopefully that will last me until Christmas break.  The classes I am taking include Hebrew Readings, Introduction to Historical Theology, Pastoral Ministry, Theology of Missions, and Lutheran Mind.  I'm pretty excited to hit my first M. Div. classes and I pray that God continues to form me and prepare me for the ministry.  I know that there is a lot out there for me to do, I just don't want to screw it up!  That's the good thing about our God though, even if we do screw it up, He has other ways.  I just need to remember that, no pressure.  :)

November 11, 2012

Vacation

Fundamental Greek
     Status: Complete
Greek Readings
     Status: Complete
Fundamental Hebrew
     Status: Complete

My basic language classes are behind me!  I'm done with them.  I still have Hebrew Readings, but I will also have several other classes that I am GREATLY looking forward to.  Like "Lutheran Mind," and "Theology in Missions," and "Introduction to Historical Theology" to name a few.  I am so excited and so ready to be moving on.  20 of the past 22 week have been in a language and now that's over!  But before the new term, I have two weeks to myself, to spend how I want.  And what am I going to do?  Marie and I are picking up tomorrow and heading South!

Marie has a communication conference in Orlando so were driving there and stopping in Atlanta for a night to have dinner with her brother.  When we're in Orlando, we're going to go to Disney one of the  days.  After a couple of days in Orlando, we're going to so spend the rest of break with her parents at their house on the beach.  I'm excited and really looking forward to the relaxation that the Gulf of Mexico brings.  It will be a good break before classes again.  I probably won't post until after we are back as well, so I pray that you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!

November 4, 2012

Confession

So, my last blog post was pretty depressing.  I was very discouraged in the moment, and not completely trusting of God.  The truth is, even though it gets discouraging, we are greatly blessed by so many people who help us out financially, and who pray for us, and who just love us.  Besides the donors who we do not know personally, we have a few close friends and some relatives who give to help us get by and to them I am ever thankful.  I am eternally grateful to have the loving, kind, and gracious Lord that we do.  Especially for the patience that He exibis with it because I know it takes a lot!  Life, although difficult, is good.

October 24, 2012

Who are you?

Who are you? More often this question is posed to us as "What do you do?" Often we answer this question with our occupation or career. But what if we really answered with a description of ourselves instead of a title granted to us at our job?

Monday night in Bible study we were talking about this concept. What if my go-to response for "What do you do?" was "I am a child of the most High Lord and am His servant. I do His work on earth." I bet I would get some pretty strange responses, but I also bet it would cause some people to start thinking.

This brings me to the question: Who is Marie? As some of you may know, I used to define myself as what I spent a majority of my time doing (a.k.a. student, teacher, retail peon, etc.). But my thinking is now shifting. In my mind, I'm not an office staff member or a receptionist or a membership manager (just some of the few hats I wear at work). I'm not defined by my personal relationships either. Although I am a wife, a daughter, an aunt and a pastor's-wife-in-training, I wouldn't consider any of those who I am. I am also a knitter, a violist, and a puzzle solver, but those are not my essence as a human being. I would love to be at the point that I could say that "I am a child of the Lord and His servant." While I believe that to be true, it's not yet how I define myself. I think I need to delve deeper into servant-hood to find what portion of Christ's body I am. I think that will help me make this statement the truth about my soul. I am the hands and feet of God, but what exactly does that mean for me?

Now that I have bared a portion of my soul, consider how you define yourself. Who are you?


Side note: I feel extremely blessed to live close enough to walk to work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A mile is a nice stroll before sitting all day. On my way to work today, no one had raked their leaves yet. It was wonderful not having to leave the sidewalk in order to crunch some leaves. One of the small joys of fall that will never cease to amaze me :)

October 19, 2012

Long Time, No Post

As I always feel, it's been a long time since I've posted.  I don't remember everything I've shared, so some of this may be a repeat from previous posts, but I'll bring you up to date.

I was elected at the beginning of the month to be in the Senate of the Student Association.  I'm excited to really get involved in the ongoings on campus.  As a first year, I don't really have much to do other than observe.  I can bring a report to our monthly meetings if I really wanted to, but right now I'm just trying to get a feel for how Senate is run.  Meetings are organized using Robert's Rules of Order which I had experience with in my fraternity, so that's nothing new.  Since our first meeting in October, I already am on a committee to review our By Laws (I've already read through them and began a list of changes that should/need to be made.)  I am also on another committee to plan for the weekend when the Student Association of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN (our sister seminary) is traveling to our campus to meet with us.  I'm really exited about being in senate.

I also have started writing.  I have submitted an article to our student run and read Monthly Newsletter, Around the Tower, and will continue to do so, but I also have started writing a story.  It's in the fashion of Frank E. Peretti and his spiritual warfare books.  As of right now, I am simply forming ideas for scenes that I will eventually turn into a cohesive plot.  I want to do a bit of research into LCMS doctrine about angels and demons and other things relavent to the story as well.  I know it might not be the most doctrinally accurate to make a good story, but I would still like it to be within the same realm.

Another thing I have spent some time on is Marie's and my Cash Flow Plan.  We're going into week 7 with Financial Peace University.  I really like Dave Ramsey.  He's a pretty solid guy and you can tell he knows what he's talking about.  He's pretty entertaining to watch as well.  Marie and I have started becoming more aware of where our money is going and as Dave says, "Making our money work for us."  We won't be debt free any time soon, but learning how to budget and creating a cash flow plan and starting sinking funds and emergency savings funds and other savings and getting really involved into what our money is going and where it is going gives me a sense of empowerment.  It's really nice, especially since I've spent most of my life worrying about money.

Other than all of that, we just finished our 6th week of school.  We don't have too much longer left in Hebrew.  I'm excited for that!  I can't wait to get started in my other classes.  I have a lot of into classes for the Winter term, but that's okay; it isn't language.  The only thing that stinks is if I go for my Masters of Sacred Theology as well I will have to take Theological German at some point.  But that's okay, I should be recovered from Greek and Hebrew by then.  As far as fieldwork goes, there still isn't much that I can do.  Pastor Foss started having me do the readings which I will do every week that I want/am able to do them.  I am going to start helping with communion too as soon as he gets me trained.  The last thing that I am starting to help out with for now is the Sunday youth meetings.  Their youth program needs some help and I am excited to be able to help them.

My life is busy crazy, but as of right now I wouldn't change a thing!

October 14, 2012

SUCCESS!!!

I ran my first 10k today and finished! Official time was 1:16:44. I finished # 1881 of #2343. I feel pretty good about it. Now only if my left knee would agree with me.

The course was gorgeous! The route winded through downtown and Soulard, as well as went through the Budweiser brewery. I will definitely be participating next year.

October 5, 2012

Fall Has Arrived

Fall is officially here in St. Louis. Yesterday was 80-something and today is 51 and rainy. You know, just some normal St. Louis weather. Another reason I know that fall is here is because of Oktoberfest. The seminary community will be celebrating tonight in true German style. I'm looking forward to it, even with the rain pouring down.

We are 5 weeks into Timothy's quarter of Hebrew & Greek Readings (or as he put it today, "I'm half way done with Hebrew!"). I just finished my third week at Concordia Plan Services (CPS). I've decided that the words "Open Enrollment" mean massive mailing and even more paperwork. In other words, we're slammed and I've lost track of the number of envelopes I stuff each day. I also finally did my audition for the St. Louis Civic Orchestra and will be playing with them for a year. Needless to say, Timothy and I are getting into a rhythm, a fast and somewhat hectic rhythm, but a rhythm nonetheless.

One part of our week has become Tuesday night Community Meals followed by Financial Peace University (FPU). Each Tuesday I race home from CPS, grab my viola and our FPU homework and head to campus for a delicious community meal. (Can you say buffet?) We have an hour to just spend time and unwind with other seminary families. Then we go to class. Financial Peace University is a unique thing. If you've never heard of it, look it up or look up Dave Ramsey. Although we're not really in the right place to be dumping debt (as this last lesson explained), it has changed the way Timothy and I view and manage money. Granted, we aren't finding the tuition payment in our earnings, but we have found how we can manage everything to be able to put some money toward both tuition and student loan payments. Over time, we'll get to be debt free (though it may take numerous years after the seminary). I'm really enjoying the class, even though I have to skirt out early to make it to orchestra rehearsals. Tuesdays are becoming one of my favorite days of the week, despite the hectic schedule.

September 27, 2012

Prayer

Prayer, what is it?  We can all give simple definitions to define this simple word.  In Christian terms, in them most simple sense it is speaking to God.  A lot of people do it many different ways.  They have developed systems for prayer.  They pray silently, out loud, by themselves, with a partner, in a group.  I'm not going to say any of these things are better than any of the others, but I really want to examine how we really pray.

This post is not to call anybody out, but challenge people in general.  We have chapel every day on campus around 11:10 and Wednesdays are usually community prayer.  I noticed something that made me recall something I read in a book recently and made me really start thinking.  How often, especially during corporate prayer, do we simply speak to each other?  After vocalizing a prayer myself, I later thought about what I had said.  "For so and so that they may this and that."  I realized in that moment, that I had not spoken  to God, but I was simply vocalizing a "prayer request" to my peers.  How often do we do this?  We speak prayer requests, instead of actually praying them by taking them to God.

Now, I'm not criticizing structured prayer.  That's not my intent either.  I could have easily turned the vocalized request into a prayer by saying "For so and so that You would this and that."  That way, I would be addressing God instead of those around me.  I wonder if that causes a loss of power to our prayers: the fact that sometimes we don't actually pray.  How closer would I draw to God if through my prayer, I addressed Him instead of listing off my desires?

Lord, I desire to have a more intimate relationship with you.  Help me to speak my heart to you instead of simply making known to others what I desire from you.  Thank you Lord, Amen.

September 19, 2012

Fieldwork

Fieldwork: a practical and hands-on experience for seminarians at a local congregation to be completed while attending classes.

Fieldwork is meant to be beneficial to both the seminarian (and his family) as well as the host congregation. Despite any feelings that Timothy or I expressed about our placement, we have stepped into this environment. To explain this, I need to give you all a profile of our congregation. Keep in mind that this is my impression after two weeks of attendance.

Our Savior Lutheran Church in Fenton MO is a congregation in search of a leader. Pastor Etherton stepped down in May of 2011 and they are in the call process under the leadership of Interim Pastor Foss. The church celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sunday September 9, 2012, which Timothy and I were fortunate enough to take part in all the festivities. The congregation is in desperate need of leadership. This is not a judgment on Pastor Foss' abilities. The congregation simply needs someone to take a vested interest in the them. They need someone who is in ministry with them for the long hall. In the meantime, congregational focus has turned inward. Members are focusing on their relationships with each other. This is not a bad thing. This is necessary for a congregation to pull through a rough time. However, this does pose a problem for visitors (or new fieldworkers) seeking to become integrated in the congregation. The environment does not feel welcoming when all the church members are talking amongst themselves.

In summary, Our Savior is a place in need of growth and change. Now, Timothy and I are by no means equipped to handle this kind of change. And we certainly wouldn't presume that we could be a stimulus for this in the congregation. That has the Lord's work written all over it. But this is the kind of environment I am excited to become a part of: a place that is in need of a change and that will be changed through God's power. A place in turmoil for the time being but will find stability in the Lord.

Returning to my first though (that Our Savior will be a beneficial place for us), Timothy and I know that our ministry will be rough. God has revealed to Timothy that we will not be sent stable places, such as what we found at Mount Calvary. Those places are certainly easy to fall into, with or without an overwhelming welcoming environment. We will be sent to places that will challenge us, places that require hope in the Lord to work in them and change them for the better. Knowing that we are headed for a dynamic (because that term is better than difficult) ministry, I cannot think of a better start than with Our Savior Church. A congregation without a permanent pastor is not something that we will ever experience again, but I'm sure we'll be walking into the aftermath of what being without a pastor can do many times over. This will be a challenging place, but I know that the Lord will bless us richly through it.

Our Savior, you are a unique place that deserves to be uniquely loved. I pray that Timothy and I are able to love you like our Lord does.

September 17, 2012

End of an Age

Saturday I left the Gap. After two years and eight months with the company. It also ended my stretch in retail, about six years minus a few months. I know it is time for me to leave retail for more stable employment but I am sad to see it go. Even after only four months at the Gap here in St. Louis, I have formed friendships that I'm sad to break. Looking back on my time, I learned to be a competence sales person. I've gained self confidence in my abilities to talk with strangers. During my last shift, I felt like I knew the most I've ever known about a job and had the ability to talk through the different fits of eight styles of denim with customers. It may be a small accomplishment in the working world, but it felt really nice to have the answers.

I start tomorrow at Concordia Plan Services doing various special projects for them. I'll be getting an ID badge and be very official. I'll also have my weekends free to be social, which I'm looking forward to the most about this change. I have lacked that for a long time now. So there's my big news and my life's big change.

September 11, 2012

Nervousness and other thoughts

Sunday was our first day of fieldwork at Our Savior in Fenton, which also happened to coincide with the congregation's 50th Anniversary celebration. This meant that several more people were in attendance that day so we sat in the first pew. We were introduced to 307 individuals and it was quite overwhelming. Add the nerves from starting at a new congregation and it's very scary. The anniversary celebration was very nice to be a part of (the newest part as our emcee reminded us throughout the event). We even got to eat lunch with Rev. Dr. Mirly, the Missouri District LCMS President. I was heartbroken to leave behind the family we had found at Mount Calvary. The hurt is still so new that it may take a while to form some lasting relationships at Our Savior. While I will still be attending Bible Study at Mount Calvary, I won't be as part of the church as I once was. I'm very sad about that. I know God is in the tears but that is hard to remember sometimes.

Other nerves: I will be auditioning for the St. Louis Community Orchestra soon. I've received the audition material and contacted the coordinator to set up an audition. This means I have to start practicing again.

Still other nervousness: At my suggestion, Timothy and I signed up for our first 10k, so on October 14 at 8:00 a.m. we will be racing, albeit in Halloween costume. We haven't been training like we should have been which will make this harder. I hope we didn't sign up for more than we can handle.

Mount Calvary revisited: I'm still not sure what to think about this situation. It hurts to know that we will not be with the people we have come to know and love. But at the same time, we will be welcomed into a new congregation. It hurts that we didn't get to say good bye or explain to them why we would no longer be attending church there. Timothy got it right when he said it feels like our hearts were ripped right out of our chest. While I'm no stranger to leaving churches, this has usually come with moving states as well so I was prepared for the change. This is the first time an authority is telling me that I cannot attend my church home while still being in the same location. I know there will be lots of this (as in, following directions) in the seminary (including the call process) but I feel very much on the outside of this decision. I know not everyone can be placed at the church they want to be at and even our wishes are often times not God's plan. I'm still not sure how to process this decision from the seminary and even more uncertain with how to handle it.

September 6, 2012

Disappointments

One week ago, we were signing up for our "modules" that we have to take during our first year at the seminary.  Having a last name that starts with an "R," I've grown used to being one of the last ones to pick.  But that doesn't soften the blow when you don't get what you were hoping for.  By the time it got to me, my first choice for my institutional module was filled.  So was my second.  And my third.  We were only supposed to choose 3, so I decided what I wanted to do 4th on the spot, but that was filled too.  Needless to say, the only module that was still open was the one that I did not want to do.  That was hard to swallow, but I recognized that the reason that I did not want to do it was because it took me out of my comfort zone.  I resolved in my heart to partner with God on this because I know that surrendering to God gives Him the ability to push those comfort zones and form me to make me a better person and a better pastor in the future.

However, today I received another piece of disappointing news.  The church that I really wanted to do my field work at and requested was not the one that I was assigned to.  My friend is the pastor there and I have been attending for the past couple of months.  I even have been leading the 9:00 Bible study there for a couple of months as well.  I've fallen in love with the congregation.  They are so loving and open and it has been a safe place for me to start growing in learning about ministry.  Marie found a place there too.  She attend a small group women's Bible study and has been able to find a great community there.  She helped out with VBS this summer and was planning on joining the hand bell choir which started tonight.  Once I received the news, it felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest.  I was excited to work with my friend because he is a great mentor and I know that working under him I would have learned a lot.  The congregation was a great place to be in to be able to make mistakes and learn as you go.  Marie was getting integrated and had a place there as well.  And now it was gone.  And we don't even get to say goodbye as I am expected to report to my assigned church this Sunday.

I told my friend the pastor, and he said he is going to talk to the person who assigns churches.  I hope and pray that I will be able to switch to Mt. Calvary, but I have the feeling that it will not happen.  I pray that with this biggest disappointment (it was one of the things that comforted me when I didn't get get the module I wanted), if I am not able to switch, that God will give me the grace and strength to partner with Him at this new church.  I pray that no matter what, He gives me contentment with my circumstances so that I will be able to pour myself into wherever I end up so that I will be able to benefit the community as well as benefit from them.  Please pray for both Marie and I in this matter.  We could use the support and prayers right now.  Thank you.

September 3, 2012

6:00 AM

It is currently 6:45 AM and I have been up for 45 minutes.  It's part of a new schedule I am putting myself on to try and better discipline myself with time management.  From 6:00-7:00 I have "Getting up/ready time," which also includes things like checking my e-mail and facebook and all of that other jazz.  It's going to be a challenge, but I am determined to do it because I know that if I can get through the mornings and start off on a good foot, I will most likely be able to stay on a good foot.

The next thing that I have on my schedule is personal devotional time at 7:00 until I would be leaving for class between 7:30-7:40.  I want to start my day off with God.  One of the first things we talked about in orientation was spiritual warfare.  As we were told, if you think that seminary is a spiritual vacation, a retreat from reality, you are as Dr. Hartung put it, "delusional."  More than ever I need to be sure I am suiting up every day in God's spiritual armor.  This is the time that I am going to give at the beginning of the day completely to Him.  That is why this comes after "Getting up/ready" so I can deal with all of that stuff and not be focused on, "What time is it?  I want to check e-mail/facebook."  I'm looking forward to this time.  It will be nice and refreshing.

The rest of today is kind of up in the air since I do not start classes until tomorrow, so we shall see how it goes.  For now, it's time for me to sit down with my Savior and talk.  Until next time!

September 1, 2012

First "Official" Year in Grad School

With orientation finally over, we are looking to start a new term on Tuesday.  I will be in Hebrew and Greek Readings.  I will also be receiving my fieldwork assignment within the next two weeks.  *Praying for Mt. Calvary*  I am also signing up for a representative spot in our Student Association.  There were quite a few others who signed up so there will be an election.  I think it's definitely a plus that I already know a third of the class and I don't think any of them will be running against me.  Anyway, I think Marie and I may also get involved in the Mt. Calvary Choir if we are assigned there.  We'll be busy busy but we'll continue to make more friends and get ourselves more involved in God's community.  I'm so excited for that.

With all the busyness I've made myself a schedule on Google calendar.  I have a bad habit of wasting time, so I am sharing that calendar with Marie and a couple of other people to help keep me accountable to that.  One thing I really want to work on this term is self discipline and push through the frustration/boredom of my homework and studying as well as cleaning and my other responsibilities that I have been severely lacking at around the apartment.  If you could pray for the Spirit to calm me during moments of frustration and motivate and inspire me during moments of boredom I would be grateful.  Here's to a new academic year, and my first "official" year in grad school!

August 28, 2012

Judges

This past Sunday I started my Bible study off on a "Journey Through Judges."  I believe the Old Testament is all too often ignored and by doing so we don't get the most complete picture of God that we can.  Partially because we don't want to... We try to ignore the violence of the Old Testament, the gruesomeness and bloodshed.  We struggle with thinking, "My God, full of mercy and grace, surely cannot be a God of vengeance" and resolve ourselves to just overlook the Old Testament as a whole.  But you have to read the Old Testament in order to figure it out.  We know from the Old Testament that  God promised Abraham a nation of descendants and the promised land.  We also know that by the time Abraham had died, this promise had not yet been fulfilled.  We have the story of his family living in this land, and eventually moving to Egypt because of a drought and the fortune of Joseph having made a name for himself despite his brothers selling him into slavery.  We have the Jewish people eventually becoming slaves in Egypt, then being led out of bondage and into the desert where they wandered.  When they finally reached the promised land, they feared the people more than God, so He made them wander some more so the generation that disobeyed died off and their descendants entered the promised land.

And here comes some of the worst part, the part that people really begin to have trouble with.  The Israelites march in to the promised land and God had commanded them to wipe all of the people out.  How could God command such a thing?  The murder of cities, including the women and children?  That's just not the God we know in the New Testament, is it?  But what happened in the promised land between the time that Abraham was promised it and the time that the Israelites moved in to conquer it?  God tells us in the Bible He did not let them take it over the first time because He was giving them time to repent of their sins.  REPENT.  That's funny.  And guess what, we can tell from the context of the Bible that in all of that time, the people of that land did not repent of their sin, but instead became even more corrupt in their sin.  God gave them more than enough time to repent, yet they turned further away.  So judgement came upon them through the Israelites.  Their cultures were so corrupt, everything had to be destroyed, otherwise it would be like thorns and snares to the Israelites who were to remain pure.  And sure enough, they disobeyed God by NOT destroying everything, and look how that turned out.

This is where the Book of Judges comes in.  The Israelites stir up God's anger by their disobedience in not wiping out everything.  Is this simply because He wanted to murder?  Not at all!  He commanded this because in His wisdom He knew that the Israelites would be corrupted by any remnants of the people and culture, just as they were.  The remnants of immorality corrupted them and they turned away from the Lord to serve other gods.  So God withdrew His had from them so they lost to the nations they had left in the land.  But you also have a perfect image of God's abundant grace and mercy in this book.  Every time they were being attacked and/or persecuted by one of these nations, they cried out to God.  Even though He had every right to forsake them, He heard their cries and took compassion on them.  He rose up judges to deliver them from their oppressors.  Soon as they were back on their feet, they turned away from Him yet again and the cycle happened all over.  And each time God listened to their cries and delivered them.

If you are uncomfortable with the Old Testament, I challenge you to really look into it and start reading it.  I am sure there will be a lot in there that will surprise you.  And the parts that you struggle with, pray that God will open your heart for either understanding or acceptance and that it will come in time.  I'm excited to take this "Journey Through Judges" with my Bible Study and I hope we learn a lot from it!

August 24, 2012

Trusting Him

I've never had much money.  I started working at 16, but most of my money went to gas and food at school.  I wished I had more money to buy the stuff I want, but I never worried about not having enough.  That wasn't until college where I had to be financially responsible for myself.  Since then, I've had to worry about money.

My income always seemed to cover just the bills, with some occasionally left over for food.  There were times that I didn't eat to pay bills.  It's been a struggle and stressful.  But late in college, something happened.  Marie's and my relationship hit bottom.  Ask either of us, and we will tell you that it was a very painful time for us.  But God took that pain and in it He built a foundation for trusting and relying on Him.  Marie and I both healed, and I began trusting God with more of my life.

I was making enough to save some money and buy a ring, and I did just that.  But shortly after Marie and I were married, I lost my job, and money was more of a worry than ever, especially as I was about to head to the seminary.  But, I leaned on that foundation fo trust in God and He has been faithful.  Although money has been tight, we have never missed a payment, and we have enough food to eat.  Every time a bill has come up and we didn't have the money to cover it, the money has come from somewhere.  It's not always easy to trust God, but I know that a life dependent on Him is a life more full of blessing than a life of comfort and ease.

I pray that God ever increases my faith to trust more in Him.  He has shown me He is faithful, and I desire to trust in Him not only with my finances, but my life.  I pray that He helps me be bold and courageous to not fear those that can hurt and harm me in this world as I proclaim His Word.  I also challenge you, what ways in your life can you/do you need to trust God.  He is faithful, and if you give it over to Him, He will take care of you.

Some time off

A week ago Timothy passed Greek and jumped into the fountain on campus. (It's a tradition for all those who pass summer Greek. Why? Because they like to smell like fountain water and chlorine. Or at least that's why I think it is.) He's enjoying some rest for his brain before he enters Hebrew and Greek Readings on September 3. It's been nice not having to worry about his schedule this week.

As for me, I'm now working at Concordia Historical Institute as a part-time membership manager and receptionist. CHI keeps the records for all Missouri Synod churches in America. However, it is not affiliated with Concordia Seminary, the Concordia Universities or the LCMS governing bodies. It's a third party and I spend a lot of my time explaining this. I'm enjoying it there. Today is the last day of my second week and I'm starting to get it all figured out. While I have the basics down, I'm still learning how to handle all the special once-a-year things that come up. I also have yet to figure out the previous membership manager's filing system (in both the file cabinet and the computer). It will take lots of time before I have that worked out. I'm still seeking part-time employment to fill the rest of my days so I can quit the Gap. (I do have a few leads on this and am hopeful that this will happen before too long.) Gap has been long enough for me. I've realized that I'm getting too old to be working in retail. (Yes you can laugh now. 24 is too old for retail.) I've matured beyond what that job has for me.

That brings me to another point. I figured our why I'm unhappy sometimes in St. Louis. I'm not fulfilled in what I'm doing here. For the past two years, I filled my days with teaching, school and working at the Gap Outlet. I had relational, social, intellectual and practical aspects to fill my days. At the end of it, I had two years of college teaching experience and 94-pages of my thesis to show for it. I was clearly doing something with my life. Now, the things I am doing are less clear. Even with CHI, I am a replaceable employee. Many people could do what I am doing. I have less social aspects to my life, since I'm not at school nearly each day Monday through Friday. I have to learn to be fulfilled in new ways.

Last night's Bible study got me thinking on these lines. Mount Calvary's women's group is currently going through Divine Design one day per each week. We're looking at how the Lord wants to give us a spiritual make-over (a la Stacie and Clinton of What Not To Wear). It can be quite cheesy at times but it has got me thinking. I seek fulfillment in my life (of the world, if you will). Rarely, do I look to God as my fulfillment. This is a problem (you can ask Timothy about it, as it's effected our relationship too). Perhaps that is what I need to learn. I always thought that I would graduate and find a full-time job that I adored with very little problems. That has not been that case. Coping with part-time employment and not letting it affect my morale is going to be hard. It's going to be harder still to shift my thinking about what is fulfilling in my life. Yet with God's help, I will make it through.

Thank you all for all your prayers and support in these past summer months. We are truly humbled and very blessed by you all.

August 7, 2012

Elections and other thoughs

Missouri primaries were today and it was Timothy's second time voting! (His first time was a special amendment issue in May.) I also found out today that our district is apparently very EXTREMELY Democratic. All signs near our polling location were for Democratic candidates. The Republicans have written us off. That got me thinking: How often do I write off God? My last post wasn't too hopeful (downright forlorn, just to use a spiffy word). I was discouraged. I'm trying not to be right now. I've had a couple interviews (Commerce Bank, Concordia Historical Institute, and a staffing agency for two full-time positions at HomeWorks! and the American Optometric Association) and I'm trying to let God work through all of that without letting my thoughts rule the outcomes. I'm also being stretched. I may find part-time work instead of full-time.

In the end, it may not matter. Timothy and I have been talking about extending his stay at the seminary through a dual Master's program. He'd stay a year longer, complete a thesis or comprehensive exams, and graduate with a Master's in Sacred Theology and a Master's in Divinity (as an ordained pastor). The program would prepare him for returning for a PhD if he ever wanted to teach. The extra year in St. Louis (as well as no full-time job) gives me the freedom to look into another Master's, this time in Library Science. Mizzou runs an accredited program through UMSL. I still need lots of details before we could figure out if this would be a viable option to have both of us in school at the same time.

In other news, I've joined a women's Bible study through Mount Calvary where we have been attending. We're going through Divine Design by Sharla Fritz. It got me thinking about how (to use Sharla's language) our deceitful desires lead to sin. One of mine (and I think many of ours) is the desire for comfort and stability. This leads to my sin of worry and anxiousness. No where does God promise us that our lives will ever reach a point where we feel secure in our situation, whether this is physically, financially or emotionally. God only promises to be there through everything. In a way, it is a blessing to not be stable. That way we are not tempted into complacence with our situation or pride in the things we have done. Granted, I find it very difficult to view my life as a blessing now, but this fresh perspective was needed.

Life is busy...

It's been a while since I've written. It hasn't been because I have forgotten or I've lost interest, but life has been extremely busy. We're getting in crunch time with Greek, and our school store opened on Wednesday and so I've been busy with that. Now that it's open life should slow down a bit, especially since Erika is about to hire the second student worker. So I promise I will write soon, especially since there are a few things I want to blog about...

July 31, 2012

And so it continues

I know that some people will look down on this post, but that's okay. I want to be honest with all of you about where I am at. I'm discouraged. I'm still underemployed (thanks government for the fancy label) at the Gap where my hours have been dwindling to under 10 hours a week. I did not hear back from Stephen Ministries. After a positive three hour interview and them telling me it would be three weeks before I heard anything, I was expecting at least an email saying that I wasn't approved for a candidacy. But the silence continues. After two awesome interviews with Abstrakt Marketing, I spent an hour and a half waiting in the lobby for my third interview. They had forgotten I was there. So I moved on from that opportunity. It's been almost a week since my second interview with PNC Bank and I've yet to hear anything back. So the cycle continues:

1. Apply for lots of jobs
2. Interview for one
3. Hear nothing back
4. Repeat

The cycle is really wearing me down. I'm discouraged with the whole process. Although I'm trying to take hope in God that He will care for us in the meantime, it's hard.

July 21, 2012

Resting in Jesus

I have been leading a Bible study on Sunday mornings about resting in Jesus. Two weeks ago we read through Ecclessiastes 1 and 2 to talk about the problem of restlessness. Then last week we read part of Genesis 2 to look at the cause of restlessness. This week we are finally looking at the solution of restlessness by looking both at Ecclessiastes 3 and 1 Kings 19.

In Ecclessiastes 3, Solomon is saying to take enjoyment in our life and work, because if we're always pursuing after the next best thing we will always be chaing after the wind, and if we ever do get it we will die and lose it and who knows if the person after us will take care of it or not?  He also tells us to enjoy our lives and work because God gave us this life and work because everything apart from God is futility and is also chasing after the wind.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is fleeing for his life and stops to lay down under a tree and begs God to let him die. But when He falls asleep a massenger comes to Him and brings him bread and water, telling him to eat. He does and falls asleep again. Once more an angel comes, but this time when he tells Elijah to eat, he includes that Elijah cannot continue on his own, but with God's help he will be able to. After than Elijah picks up and goes to a mountian where he encounters God and He promises to Elijah justice and rest.

So, why am I sharing all of this? Because it's something that I really need to listen to myself right now. I was never good at being a student. I've never usually had to work too hard for my grades so I usually didn't. School has always been something that I've done because it's expected or neccessary. When we started Greek I had new energy because I had a long break from school and I was now going to school to persue my calling by God. However, 6 weeks into Greek my tank is running dry. I've been trying to do it on my energy and I'm growing extremely weary of Greek.

Lord, please help me internalize what I've been teaching the Bible study you have given to lead. Please help me to stop relying on my energy to finish out Greek and rely on you to get me through. Let me find rest and rejuvination, taking joy in learning the languages in which you gave us your scriptures. Thank you Lord for always providing and promising that when we seek you, you will answer. Than you Lord. Amen.

July 14, 2012

Friday the 13th

Yesterday was an exhausting day.  It wasn't bad, just exhausting.  There were a range of emotions throughout the day, more than any I've ever had.

The day started with Marie and I waking up and getting ready for my grandmother's funeral.  At church, I was able to see a lot of family.  I also met some family that I didn't know.  I also met family that I did know that I didn't know was family (neither did they).  During the funeral, I heard things about grandma that I didn't know, things that I did know and forgot, and things that I remembered and cherished.  She was such a woman of faith.  I forgot that she was in the women's club at church, but hearing that made me remember going with her when I was younger to help fold the bulletins at church.  I also forgot that she was such a great cook.  That brought back memories of big family thanksgiving dinners and other meals.  I was so eager to forget about my childhood I forgot a lot of the good memories of my grandmother.  It made me happy to have those memories be recalled, and made me regret the time that I didn't spend with her by choice.  It was good to celebrate the life she had on earth.

Being a pallbearer though had an effect on me that I didn't think it would.  I know at the funeral, she was no longer with us, but yet getting to be a part of putting her earthly dwelling at rest was meaningful.  That was only this side though.  I know the moment she passed, grandma left this earth to join Christ in heaven and rejoin those loved ones that have departed before her.  She also probably got to meet many other people that she never knew in this world but is now part of her family, including people like Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, David, Paul, Peter, and other countless people whose stories are told in the Bible, as well as those who are less well known to us but are still part of the Christian family.

My sister Kari read a poem at the funeral that I really liked the imagery of.  It was of a ship sailing from out side out into the ocean.  We watch with sadness as it disappears, yet we know that as soon as it does, it comes into view of a crowd on the other side gathered around to greet it.  It really made me think about how we gather together on this side to say goodbye to her, she's already joining that crowd on the other side.  I'm sure she embraced grandpa as he was waiting next to Christ for her.  She's at home now, finally resting and peaceful, and waiting for us to join her.

After celebrating my grandmother's life and her uniting with Christ in eternity, we moved to a different kind of celebration of life and uniting in Christ.  My cousin Katie was married to a man that obviously made her happy and meant the world to her.  Getting to hear the stories of their first date and the time they spent together was infecting as it made me feel the joy they had together.  At the reception, we joked and laughed and danced.  I know that Grandma would have been more than happy that we celebrated with Katie instead of sitting at home.  It was a great ending to the day.  It may be weird to say, but I can't think of a better way to end a day that started with a funeral than to end it with a wedding.  Christ was present through the whole day and He made evident more than ever that He is with us through every stage of life.  We have an awesome God and I am thankful for the experience I had this Friday the 13th.

A Funeral and a Wedding

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, Timothy and I attended both a funeral and a wedding. Almost seems like something right out of Hollywood. Timothy's grandmother, Irma Roth, was buried beside the love of her life, Hilmer Roth, in the morning. That evening, we celebrated with Timothy's cousin Katie as she married Paul. Throughout the day, we were able to celebrate two of life's emotional moments.

We said our final goodbyes to Irma with heavy hearts, but took comfort in the fact that she has received her heavenly reward. As a woman of strong faith, Irma has been called home to heaven and reunited with her Lord and all the loved ones who went before her, including her husband. It was really a happy moment, despite the tears. She also is free from the pain of cancer that ravaged her body at the end. She is truly at rest, worshiping her Lord. It was truly a triumphant celebration.

Katie and Paul made a commitment to each other and began their lives as husband and wife. It was another joyous celebration of how our Lord works and how He loves. Katie and Paul truly understand what it means to love unconditionally and I'm excited for them as they begin their family.

Overall, it was a very emotional day. We celebrated with joy two life changing moments, both of which were guided by God. I also think that celebrating new life (both new life in Christ and new life in a new family) twice in one day was amazing, albeit exhausting.

July 12, 2012

Rough Year

It was said to me recently that Timothy and I are having a "rough year." Since getting married in January, we have said good-bye to two grandmothers, Grandma Norma in April and Grandma Roth a few days ago, and two dogs, Kona and Pugsey. We've spent the first four months of our marriage living apart. Timothy was dismissed from Old Navy in February and I have not found a full-time job in St. Louis yet. I guess you could say that we have had a "rough year" but that would only be half true.

By focusing on the negative, you miss all the highlights. We celebrated our marriage with family and friends in January. We had the opportunity to spend almost one weekend a month together during our four months apart. Timothy passed his Old and New Testament and Christian Doctrine qualifying exams during his unemployment so he could start summer Greek. I traveled to Cleveland to present three papers at the regional Central States Communication Conference in March. I finished my master's thesis and graduated in May. We finally set up our apartment and began living together in St. Louis. We've had the opportunity to experience several STL cultural events, such as Cardinals games, Muny performances, the zoo and Fourth of July fireworks over the Arch. We've made new friends and (hopefully) found our field work church for our time at the seminary. A version of my thesis was accepted to the National Communication Association conference in November so Timothy and I will be traveling to Orlando for our "honeymoon." Better late than never.

We've truly been blessed this year. It has been very dynamic, with high highs and low lows. But I wouldn't say it's been a rough year. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Communion

I was doing good today up until the time that we took communion in chapel.  I received the sacrament and went back down to my pew to sit and pray.  As I started praying, it hit me.  Something slipped from my head knowledge to my heart knowledge.  As I started praying, I gave thanks that I could commune with God and other believers.....and there it happened.

We say that when we take communion, not only are we communing with God, but we are also communing with all other believers.  By it's very nature, communion is something that transcends the physical, meaning it is not bound by distance.  When we take communion, we are communing with those believers in other parts of the United States, with believers in Europe, Africa, China, and everywhere else too.

But not only does communion transcend distance, it also transcends time.  This is a two part point.  Not only are we communing with those who "have come before us and are yet to come," but with those who have come before us, it's not a passive act as it seems, but an active one.  We are actively communing with them because as they passed, they passed into eternity and are into true communion with Christ.  They are active, not dead but alive, and in communion with Him all the time.  We commune with the church militant, those here still fighting the battle on earth, as well as with the church triumphant, those who have died with Christ and are now with Him waiting for the Resurrection.

And it was in that moment that I thought about how I just communed with my grandma.  Friends in Christ are friends forever.  I don't want to make this sound like my connection with grandma, or our connection with the church triumphant, should be the focus of communion.  By far, the most important part of communion is taking Christ's body and blood which reminds us of His sacrifice and directly connects Him with us.  But it's still joyful to be reminded that the body of Christ really does transcend time and space, and that when we commune, the church militant is getting a taste of what the church triumphant has already gained in full.

July 11, 2012

Shepherd of the Flock

In Greek we talk about a lot of different things, as taking Greek relates to a lot of what we do at the seminary. Through a chain of thought in a particular discussion today, which I'm not going to take the time to lay out, we ended up on the topic of what the role of the pastor is.
This is a topic which is of much interest as I believe today's church has lost sight of the true structure of what the church is. When we look to Corinthians, Paul explains that the church has prophets, apostles, teachers, pastors, and evangelists.  Each have their own role in the church.  The church today, I feel, has tried to combine all, or most, of these into one.  This is not true.
Now onto the role of the pastor and our discussion in class. My professor was giving us some words, as he typically does, and in his speech he told us that as pastors we are the shepherds of the flock has given us. This does not only mean that we are to feed, nourish, and take care of them, but we are also the ones to stand between them and the wolves.
This thought stuck me. It's nothing new to me, but I've never heard it put that way or so forcefully as he put it before. He of course followed this up with the fact that leaders of the church will give an account, not the sheep themselves. Being a pastor is a big responsibility. It's a serious calling that should not be taken lightly. This thought scares me to the end of the earth, but it excites me as well.
I know that I am not able on my own, but as long as I follow Christ in the calling He has given me, I will make a difference in the world.  I live for the day when I give my account, Christ looks at me and says, "Well done, good and faithful servant," as  He turns to my flock with which He has given me. I will not run in fear but stand in the love of God to help take care of and also to defend the sheep He will give me.

July 6, 2012

Another week of Greek come and gone.  It waits for no one.  I know I haven't posted much about anything other than Greek, so I am going to take this moment to take a break and just talk.  While Greek trucks along, so does life.  My grandmother has been fighting a long battle with ovarian cancer.  It is a very painful cancer as it slowly crushes your insides and shuts your organs down.  Thankfully, my grandma has enough pain medication that it is bearable for her.

But her situation has made me reflect a lot.  One of the things I have been reflecting upon my relationship with my grandma.  I know that she loves me, as she loves all of her grandchildren greatly.  Sometimes in families you can tell who the "favorite" kids or grandchildren are, but my grandma really does love all of us.  But it makes me question, have I really loved her as much as I should have?  Have I respected her and looked towards her for wisdom which she undoubtedly carried.  Even in her dementia, she may not remember the conversation you had with her a couple minutes ago, but she can still paint beautiful pictures for you what life was like in her youth.  She can give you facts about where she grew up and fascinating stories of events from her past.  Why did I not ask her more questions.  I question why I did not seek more guidance and information from her?  The Bible teaches us value of our elders, but why do we not appreciate things while we have them?  I wish I would have invested more into our relationship, I know my grandma was willing.  I guess I will have to take peace in knowing that after she passes, I will get to meet her one day again and spend eternity with her.

Another thing it has made me reflect upon is the strange behavior of humans when it comes to illness and death.  One common phrase you always hear is "It's so hard to see him/her like this," when someone is sick or dying.  I know I'm about to pull out a soap box here, but guess what?  It's not about you.  How would you feel if you were sick or dying and people wouldn't come near you?  Especially if they told you it's because it was hard to see you in the state you were.  I think my response to them would be, "Try to see how hard it is to BE in the state that I am."  I've heard that death is a communal event, just as birth is.  I agree with that.  We are brought into this world surrounded by loved ones, we should be taken out of this world surrounded by loved ones.  Yes, it gave me sorrow to see how weak and frail my grandmother was, but that drew me to her, wanting to be there to comfort her.  Let's stop thinking about "us" and be more concerned with the sick and dying.  Who's going to take care of them if they are all "too hard to see like that?"

But enough about that.  My grandmother is seriously a woman with an amazing heart.  She has endured so much, including the loss of her true love over 20 years ago.  But her heart is the biggest I have ever seen.  Her faith to this day is still very strong.  Her life has been blessed with a big family and she was able to see her great grandchildren.  When she gets to heaven, she'll be able to tell grandpa all about them.  I hope that she'll also be able to tell him plenty of good things about me too, since I never was able to meet him.  Please pray for my grandma and my family as she passes from this life into eternal life.  Pray that though we will mourn the loss of her in this world, we will be comforted by not only her legacy, but in the knowledge that she will be with grandpa and God forever and one day we will meet her again.

Water

Today is the tenth day of 100+ degree weather for St. Louis. The heat is set to break next week, but only back to the low 90s. With outside being next to unbearable for a few minutes, we have been driven inside in search of air conditioning and water. That is, after spending the Fourth of July down at the Arch for an airshow, a Heart concert and some fireworks. There's nothing like the heat  to remind us of how delicate our lives really are. Without enough water, we shrivel, get splitting headaches and require intensive medical attention. Physical effects are easy to see. But the same happens with a lack of spiritual water. Timothy and I have been attending chapel on the seminary's campus every weekday for him and when I am able for me. As a very traditional service, I find myself missing out on the relationship with our Lord that I find during my own devotionals. Is the spiritual water we need different for each person? Or is it like the physical water we need to survive that is universal?

July 5, 2012

Finding Light in a Dark Place

I have a stack of vocabulary cards several inches high.  Greek is getting more and more complex.  But all of this frustration and hard work is worth it.  I've already learned how the Jahovah Witnesses use the Greek texts of John 1:1 to defend some of their beliefs, and how in doing so they are manipulating the Greek syntax to try and make it say something it does not.  I've also already learned a lot of nuances in the Greek that do not get carried over to the English, like emphasis and the Middle voice.  I hope that one day my hard work pays off and I will be able to communicate all of this to my congregation

July 3, 2012

Ramblings...

Greek is still frustrating, and a week of 100+ degree weather doesn't help...especially when there is no end in sight.  Anyway, I'm getting to know my brothers better.  When Marie is at work after chapel I go eat lunch with them.  Yesterday I also helped one moved into their house.  They are a pretty cool group of guys. I'm happy that I'm getting the chance to know them and will be spending a lot of time with them.

June 27, 2012

Words

Words are very important.  The written word is a string of characters put together in a certain way to convey meaning.  Spoken word is a string of sounds put together to convey meaning.  This ability to convey meaning through words that we have is unique in creation to the human race.  Words give life to ideas.  They have the power to create and to destroy.  Relationships can be built up by them, or torn apart.  Unfortunately, the ideas expressed by words, and words themselves, can convey different meanings to different people.  With this in mind, we need to be careful and consider the words we express.  When speaking or writing, we need to consider our audience.  We need to consider their demographic features, their culture, their experience.  When we don't, we risk conveying an idea to them that is different than the one we intended.  This is something that I especially need to take extra special care about heading into the ministry.  Not everyone perceives like I do because not everyone has the same experience, thoughts, and beliefs as I do.  This is a hard lesson.  I pray that I will be able to take into consideration my words and how they could be interpreted before I write or speak them so I will never tear down when I intend to build up, destroy when I intended to create, or be misunderstood in any other way.

June 26, 2012

Greek....*sigh*

Greek is finally getting more complex.  A lot of my brothers in my class are sharing the same sentiment: frustration.  If you could pray for my class, that our minds would be open and that God would grant us both patience and knowledge of Greek as we study every day.  Thank you.

June 24, 2012

First Bible Study

I led my first Bible study today at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church.  It was a little rough, but everyone was friendly, just as they have been since I first time I attended.  Except, now people are learning who I am.  I have just entered the line of seminarians who have completed or are doing their field work at Mount Calvary.  What touched me today was how fondly they spoke of their previous seminarians and how much they already are missing them.  This is a community that fully embraces those that they commune with.  It made me happy that not only recently had my beloved friend and pastor Will Hanke accept a call there, but now that I was there too being introduced to the community and have already begun my adventure with them.  I feel blessed to be there, and I know I will be challenged and stretched within a loving and fostering community.  I'm going to try to take in everything I can these next couple years with this congregation and I know I will be better for it.

June 22, 2012

      Critics of the Bible tend to site it's inconsistency in the fact that there are numerous variations between manuscripts.  They preach that this inconsistency shows that the Bible was not written by God, arguing that if it had come from God, a single source, then there would not be these variances and all manuscripts would agree with each other.  What these critics fail to inform their audiences is that Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, is an inflected language.  This means that the meaning of a Greek sentence is not affected by its word order, unlike English.
      In other words, if you flip around the nouns in the sentence "Christ died for us", it would alter the meaning entirely.  Knowing who is doing the act of dyeing and who it is being done for depends solely on word order.  This is not so in Greek.  Greek places endings on words that show it's role in the sentence.  This gives Greek word order flexibility that English does not have.  For example, the sentence, "The disciple proclaims the Gospel." can be translated in many ways.  It can be translated as: ὀ μαθητὴς  κηρύσσει τὸ εὐαγγὲλιον.  But it can also be translated as: τὸ εὐαγγὲλιον ὀ μαθητὴς  κηρύσσει.
      In other words, you can flip around words in a sentence without altering the meaning at all.  This ability of Greek accounts for most of the variations among the manuscripts.  And most of these variations are not an entire alteration of word order.  Usually they are like two words in a sentence that are flipped.  So in reality, an overwhelming majority of the variances in the manuscripts that critics use to discredit the Bible are variances that in no way effect the meaning of the texts.  Thus, despite these variances, there is still coherence between the manuscripts and it in no way discredits the Bible.
      It's just amazing what people will pick out to try to discredit Christianity and the Bible.  Especially when they don't clarify what they are talking about becuase if they did they know that their argument doesn't hold water.  So the next time someone tells you about the variances among the manuscripts among the Bible indicating it isn't coherent, you can ask them if they have any idea what those variances are and if they know Greek at all.  The things you already learn just by learning the language is amazing.  If you ever want to see what I'm talking about, you can get the Novum Testamentum Graece (The Greek new testament we are using for class) and at the bottoms of the page it lists the variances between what they have in the texts and what other manuscripts say and which manuscripts say it.  If you can make it out, you'll see what I'm saying.  I can't wait to learn more myself!

June 19, 2012

Perseverance

Perseverancesteady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.


This is much easier said than done. As I continue to search for work in the St. Louis area, I've heard many reasons of why I cannot be hired at this point in time and met very few people excited about my potential as an employee. I know that God has a career in store for me. The only question I have is when might that be? Patience, as well as perseverance, is becoming difficult.


On a separate note, Timothy and I have partnered in prayer with the YouthWorks site staff in St. Paul, MN (where I served last summer). They have just begun their second week of programming and their first week completely solo. Today marks halfway through their second week. Serving with YouthWorks is extremely rewarding but also very stressful, as you work around 130 hours each week with a little over a day to recharge before repeating the mission week again. As you continue to join us in prayer, keep this mission team (and the 70 other teams throughout the country) in your prayers as they touch the lives of over 400 youth this summer.

Marie

June 17, 2012

Week 1


      My first week of classes is finally over.  It has been one of excitement as I begin to learn the language in which our Lord's testament was written.  There will be many beneficial reasons for learning the Greek, as I already have been shown some in my first week.  There are a lot of nuances in the Greek language that don't quite make it into the English that add depth to the texts.  At the end of the week, we already are able to read out loud from out Greek New Testaments.  We have learned how to conjugate verbs in the present indicative, and have some vocabulary words to memorize over the weekend.
      Aside from class, I have already begun to make friends with my classmates.  I gathered contact information from all of them and compiled a list to share with the class.  Because of that, today we are already having our first class social event.  We are going to Schlafly Bottleworks to tour the brewery and have lunch.  Getting a taste for the rest of the culture at the seminary has also been pretty exciting.  It's a place I know that not only will my faith be challenged, but I will grow immensely and make great friendships, as I already have started doing.
      Please pray that Marie and I continue to meet new people and develop relationships with them.  Also, that through the course of the seminary that our faiths are built up strong as we press into Christ to know Him more.  Finally, that I will be able to persist in learning Greek so that I will be able to open up the New Testament not only for myself but so I can take those around me deeper into the Word of our Lord.  Thank you!

-Timothy