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April 16, 2013

O Israel, You Stubborn Fools!

I am currently working my way through the book of Judges.  Countless times I want to cry out, "O Israel, how many times must you wander from your Lord in your stubborn and wicked hearts before you learn your lesson and be faithful to the Lord?!?!?!"  But soon as these words enter my mind, my thoughts turn on myself and say, "O Timothy, how many times must you wander from your Lord in your stubborn and wicked heart before you learn your lesson and be faithful to the Lord"

See, we can look back on Israel in judgement and condemnation (And let's face it, what Christian hasn't at one point said, "I would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah if I was there?") now because it's already a thing of the past.  You foolish people, each time you turn from the Lord and worship false idols bad things happen to you!  I can see it plainly because I am reading this in the histories of the Bible.  But "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"  It's easy to condemn Israel for their foolishness, but if we are honest with ourselves and with God, we are just as bad as Israel.  I do not have enough fingers for the amount of sins that I can think of that I have committed this week (and it's Tuesday morning!).  And that does not include the ones that I am ignorant to.  Before we condemn Israel or anyone else for their sinfulness, we must first examine ourselves and he who is without sin be the first to cast the first stone.  In other words, don't worry about condemning others for their sin, instead bring your own heart before the cross to repent of your own sins.  Only after you have done that can you then gently encourage others to do the same.

April 15, 2013

A Month Until the End of My First Year

Wow.

Have I come this far already?  I am almost to the end of my first year at the seminary.  Registration for summer school starts this week.  That will be the start of my last year before vicarage.  I will be taking Homiletics I (Two part class where I learn to preach), Confessions II (Two part class over The Book of Concord), and my first Exegetical after Hermeneutics: Isaiah and the Prophets.  But before we get there I still have plenty of work to do.  Most of my assignments and exams for this term still lay ahead of me, in the last month.  So it's going to be pretty busy and hectic from now until the end of the term.  I am confident that I will be able to wade through it all though.

On a different note, I received word that I was elected as Social Cultural Chair for our student government.  That means that all of our big events on campus like Oktoberfest, Spring Fest, Green and Gold Follies, and Prof 'n Stein falls on my shoulders.  I'm really looking forward to this and I start in the summer.  I also have a few other plans up my sleeve to help make this next year a good one.

April 10, 2013

Cloth Diapers

So Timothy got the easy end of this decision: we will be using cloth diapers with Baby (as long as it is feasible - disposables may wind up at Mrs. Veronica's house so that child care is easier and for traveling so a dirty diaper from MO doesn't end up stinky in FL). Now that the decision is made, it's up to me to research and have a few ideas of what we should have on hand for when Baby comes home from the hospital.

Frankly, I'm overwhelmed. My mom friends have provided some great input but I'm slowly realizing that I will have no idea of what we will like and what will fit Baby until Baby is actually here. (Or even if cloth diapers will fit at all when Baby comes home. Baby might not be big enough for them yet). I'm comfortable having a more "complicated diaper" to assemble, but will that work for Timothy? Snaps or velcro? Cotton or bamboo or hemp? Pre-folds or inserts or all-in-ones? There is so much to a diaper anymore that a disposable seems easier.

So why cloth? For one, I was a cloth diaper baby (back when snaps and velcro didn't exist but safety pins were king). Second, Timothy and I both have super sensitive skin, so Baby is likely to not like all the chemicals in a disposable diaper. (Can you say diaper rash?) Third, the idea of Baby generating thousands of diapers that will sit in a landfill for a hundred years or more is a little unnerving. Plus, we're looking to save some dough and cloth diapers is one way we can do that, especially since the diapers can stick around for siblings Baby might be so lucky to have.

All that said, I just hope that I can wade through the abundance of information about cloth diapers so that Timothy and I can try a few so we can find some that work for Baby. If you have any recommendations, throw them our way!

April 8, 2013

GIving Blood

So, today was the first time I have ever donated blood.  I've never given blood before because honestly it scares me half to death.  Every time I've thought about it before my stomach would knot up and I would start to feel sick.  But the past several opportunities I've felt more and more convicted to donate blood.  After all, if it can help someone who really needs it, what is a little pain and discomfort on my part?  But each time the thought of the needle froze me in my tracks and caused me to run in the other direction.  But not today.  We had the Spring Blood Drive at the seminary.  Marie is unable to donate because she is pregnant, so I forgot that it was even today.  As I walked across the campus this morning though I saw the truck and I felt the immediate pang of conviction mixed and seasoned with a desire to give.

I resolved myself on the way to class that I was going to finally do it, and I was going to surprise Marie at work with my donation shirt. (She has been trying to get me to donate blood for years)  So classes were over and the moment of truth had arrived.  I walked over to the cafeteria, sat down at an open station and began filling out my first questionnaire.  My heart was confused as it was unsure whether it should beat rapidly or not.  I finished the form and sat down in line.  There was a little voice inside me saying, "It's not too late!  Bail now!  Go, go, GO!"  But my determination became stronger and I planted myself in that seat until I was at the front and I heard the assistant call out, "Next."  I walked over to him and he started looking over my form.  My heart was still unsure what it should be doing.  He took my blood pressure which I thought was going to blow off my arm.  Finally, it was time for them to puncture my finger.  This was it!  THUD!  Ouch, that hurt, but at least it was fast.  He gathered my blood and put it in the liquid.  It sank, I was good to go.

He pulled out a clean pouch with five tubes and handed them over to me.  I took them gently still unsure if I was able to go through with it.  I walked over to where the ladies were stationed, ready like vampires to take my blood.  One was just finishing up with someone, so soon as I laid down she was on me to find my vain, clean the spot, and stick me.  I told her it was my first time and that I was nervous and a little scared.  She reassured me that I have big veins so it would be pretty quick and painless.  She readied herself and I looked away.  A sharp inhale.  "That didn't hurt, did it?"  "I sure felt it." I responded, but really wanting to say, "Yes" though I know it could have been much worse than it was.  I HATE the feeling of needles in me.  I was relieved after about 30 seconds I couldn't feel the needle so much in my arm.

I don't know what it is about me, blood doesn't bother me, and seeing someone else give blood or get shots doesn't bother me, but just that thought of the needle piercing my skin and whatever else just freaks me out.  After the needle was in and I couldn't feel it anymore I was pretty relaxed, in fact I was a little too relaxed.  The nurses thought I was going to pass out or puke a couple of times because I gave them enough cause for concern and I started doing things like staring at my blood flowing out on my body or laying my head back with my eyes closed and giving a big sigh.  The sigh was from relief though after a not terrifying and painful experience and I felt relaxed and the staring was just because I was curious.  I filled up the bag pretty fast and it was over before I knew it.  I had given blood!  I was proud of myself; I felt like I had just conquered a giant.  Thank you, Lord, for the strength and the courage to get through the experience.  And now I know that it's not as bad as I've been imagining it all these years.  Now, I'm not saying I am going to give blood every time I am able, but I definitely will be giving occasionally now.  :)

April 5, 2013

An Ultrasound and Call Day

Monday was priceless. Timothy and I went for my mid-pregnancy ultrasound. Baby is very healthy (the tech said Baby was the healthiest she had seen all day and we were in there at 3:30 p.m.) and developing normally. Timothy's first reaction to seeing Baby: "There's a skeleton in your belly!" As if babies only develop bones after birth. Silly Timothy! We both are very thankful that everything is going well and that Baby is very healthy.

April has come and spring is here (perhaps to stay this time?). Life has been busy, between work and school and settling into a new apartment. Timothy is half way done with his spring term and we are only 26 days from Call Day. Call Day is a huge deal at the seminary! Each May 1st all the second year students receive their vicarage assignments and the finishing students receive their first calls. The festivities start at 3:00 p.m. and run late into the evening. Timothy and I are staying a bit away from Call Day this year. As first year students, we won't be receiving a vicarage assignment yet or a first call. We are excited for our friends to learn where they will be going, especially those who have been anxiously awaiting the good news that they are leaving St. Louis for vicarage. (Don't get us wrong. They like St. Louis, but they also want to experience the church as it is in other parts of the USA.) A vicarage assignment is very nerve-wrecking this year. Since it is a National Youth Gathering Year (July 1-5 in San Antonio this year), some assignments will start as early as June 1, leaving only a month to wrap up life in St. Louis and get to a new place.

With Call Day just around the corner, it's got me thinking about how vicarage placements work. I'm sure most arrangements have been made for many months already. Interviews and placement meetings begin when you start your second year and are usually completed before Christmas. I understand letting everyone going on vicarage know their placement at the same time, but holding everyone in suspense until a month (possibly two months) before you start your vicarage does seem a little akin to torture. I'm calm this year, because I am not affected by Call Day. Next year will be a different story. Packing and moving life (with a baby less than a year old) will be a challenge. On the other hand, it's kind of a blessing to not know too far in advance where you will be going for vicarage. Then you might have too long to research your new congregation and home town and already have formed opinions about it before you even pack the first box. I don't know if I really like the whole idea of Call Day but I do understand the purpose of it. Here's to 1 year and 26 days before Timothy and I know where we will spend our vicarage year.

Last side note, Concordia Seminary is currently home to a family of five ducks. I hope we see the ducklings before Call Day and all the snow we had on Palm Sunday didn't hurt the eggs!

Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics (Biblical Interpretation) so far has been a class that I have enjoyed but wasn't anything special.  That was until this week.  In class on Thursday, something just clicked and I began to get really excited.  One of the books we are reading besides our main textbook is called Eat This Book.  It was named for the imagery of Ezekiel and John who during a vision were given a scroll and told to eat it, and when they did it tasted sweet in their mouths.  The idea of eating the Book of Life is one of great significance.  To eat is to nourish your body.  The nutrients permeates your body and fuels you.  Have you ever hear that if you eat too much of a certain food your skin will reflect that, like if you eat too many carrots your skin starts turning orange?  Now think about that in terms of the Bible.

What would happen if we opened the Good Book and instead of reading through a passage once, saying to ourselves, "Okay, I get it," and closing it until the next time we were so inclined to open it again we actually opened it, read through a passage and then really chewed on it by studying the meanings of the words in the passage, scrutinizing the grammar and structure of the sentences, and observing the cultural and textual contexts of the passage.  We would get WAY more out of the passage than just our preconceived understanding of the text, and by doing this we would start letting the Word speak to and define us rather than the other way around.  We would be reading the Bible into our lives instead of our lives into the Bible.  We cheat ourselves by ignoring the fact that the Bible can only pour into us, not the other way around.  When we try to pour ourselves into the Bible we lose so much life giving nourishment that we starve our very souls.

This past class we were talking about "word studies" where you decide on a word in your passage to really scrutinize and study.  You look up all the possible meanings and really work out what the best meaning is in this context.  You look up how the word is used in the surrounding contexts and how else the author uses the word elsewhere in The Bible.  It's something you really wrestle with ad you chew and digest The Word.  At first, this seems like an overwhelming task because the Bible is a very large book.  However, I like what my professor encouraged us: "Find something to be an expert in."  Yes, as a pastor I will have to wrestle with the entire Bible to bring people The Word, but I don't have the time or energy to become an expert on the entire Bible at once.  Instead, I can find something that I want to be an expert in, and scrutinize that text in the time that I am not preparing for my sermons or making visits or counseling or doing other pastoral care things.  I can build up my expertise and when I am asked to speak I can use my knowledge of that specific text to put together a talk.  And once I know that text backwards and forwards I can move on to a new text and start all over again.  Thus I would slowly build up my expertise in the Scriptures to bring the Word more effectively to the people.  It also comforts me that my professors don't even claim to be experts on the whole Bible and talk about it as a "life long journey."

I think this method of Biblical interpretation combined with the relieving of pressure of feeling like I have the next couple of years to become an expert on the whole Bible made me feel like it was possible.  I want to digest the The Sweet Word, let it transform me as it nourishes me one bite at a time, and bring it to the people as I do.  This excites me.  It electrifies my very being.  I can't wait to start really studying, even doing my homework.  I cannot remember the last time I was this excited about my homework.  And then my Exegetical paper due at the end of the term, I cannot wait to get going on that!  I am so excited!

April 3, 2013

Counseling

I am currently in Pastor as Counselor where I am learning tools and tips on how to effectively help counsel people as part of my future pastoral care.  It's not supposed to be an end all be all class, but it's suppose to equip us with basic knowledge in counseling and give us the resources so that we can continue learning on our own.  As part of this class, we are required to attend 5 sessions of counseling ourselves and write up a "Self Discovery" sort of paper at the end.  For my sessions I chose Dr. Hartung on campus because not only is he a professional counselor but I talked with him over the summer a bit when we had to take personality assessments and I trust him and have confidence that he knows his stuff.

Today was my second session with him and a lot of tumblers have already started turning.  First, it's nice knowing that I have a safe place that is just my own that I can go to and just talk about whatever.  All the more that I have a safe place to self explore and look at what makes me tick and motivates me.  Today when we were talking we touched on something that left me feeling very vulnerable.  My stomach muscles quivered because of how exposed I felt.  I may has well of been naked.  I did not like the feeling at all and it was indeed quite painful, but that wasn't the point.  The point was that I let Dr. Hartung into my experience and my views of myself.  He was there with me in my rawness, and in bringing him in he was able to reach his hand out and tell me what he saw and what his views of me were.

Sometimes we forget, me especially, that the world isn't a scary, unkind place.  We are alone not because everyone rejects us but because we shut ourselves off from the world without even realizing it.  I'm glad that I am seeing Dr. Hartung and I look forward to seeing him next week.  I don't know what we will talk about or how it will make me feel, but having that safe space to talk and explore myself can do a lot of good for me if I let it.  I thnik I am going to try to continue seeing Dr. Hartung after this assignment is over and try to keep on with counseling after the seminary.  I think that it's something that could benefit everyone if we all just gave it a chance, even if you don't have "problems."  I thank the Lord for this opportunity and hope that I can keep it up.

In Christ,
Timothy

April 1, 2013

No March Newsletter Yet

Marie and I have not yet been able to complete our March Newsletter.  Marie's faithful laptop, which has served for seven years, has finally started dying.  Taking it to two different stores, we have found that it is considered "vintage" by Apple and they cannot do anything for us and that MacHQ is able to help us, but it would cost us more to fix it than it is worth, kind of like a totaled car.  So we are beginning the search for a new computer.  If you are on our Newsletter list, be expecting a larger March/April combined Newsletter.  Hopefully we will be back in business by then.  Otherwise it will be a more "plain" looking newsletter but we will try our best!