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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!