Adjusting to Being a Student Again

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I’ve turned in my research paper and finished my final exam – my first seminary class is done!  Thank you to all of you who have supported me (to the ladies at The River who paid for my books!) and encouraged me not to lose sight of the end (you who take my phone calls when I need to vent, you know who you are!).  A special thank you to Lynn Haven UMC who has been flexible with me studying, travelling for class, and given me a quiet office space.

For Introduction to the New Testament I read 6 books (about 1400 pages) this fall, and listened to some 40 hours of lectures online or in person, wrote a research paper on interpretations of Luke 16 (the Parable of the Dishonest Steward), and took two exams.  I have no idea how people in full-time ministry with families can take more than one class at a time!  (Be nice to pastors you know who are still in school!)

I discovered that I procrastinate by cleaning and doing laundry, so my house is still looking pretty good.  Ha ha.  I really enjoyed the academic work, but that is my nature.  I was overjoyed to discover that my background in sociopolitical systems and other cultures is very relevant to modern Biblical studies.  I found time management challenging – it was difficult to evaluate how much time to give to various projects, since they always expand to fill whatever time is allotted.  I was annoyed to have to give up other activities to make time for studying… (I am coming back to tennis, I promise!)  I struggled to keep things in perspective – when I had 100 pages of reading to do and it was 10pm, but my teenager wants to talk… then I would choose to set the book down and talk.  In the end I keep reminding myself – I have a family, a job, a ministry, and friends – seminary is extra.  Stay with it for the long haul, but keep it in its proper place.

Thanks to all who have asked how I am surviving.  Now, time to celebrate!

Text Book List – Introduction to the New Testament

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My first class at Asbury Theological Seminary this fall is an Introduction to the New Testament.  For those who have asked, this is my required reading list:

The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
The Shadow of the Galilean by Gerd Theissen
Who Chose the Gospels: Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy by CE Hill
Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing, and Telling by Dean Fleming
What Saint Paul Really Said by NT Wright
Honor, Patronage, Kinship, & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture by David deSilva

There must be one hundred different ways to design a syllabus for a class like this, I’ve compared a few and they can be very different!  My professor is a retired missionary from Kenya, and I’m excited for the cultural aspects he appears to be bringing to the class.

There are also many different ways to be a distance-learner.  This class is a full semester (Sept-Dec) with weekly reading assignments, discussions, and video lectures.  We meet in person mid-semester at Asbury’s extension campus in Orlando for 3 days in late October… that makes it a “hybrid” class.  As an extrovert I actually hate having to study by myself and interact online… but that’s just the best I can do for this phase of life!

If you’re a Facebook user, follow this blog here and I promise to at least offer up random bits for discussion as I go along!

A Seminary Adventure

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AsburyLogoI have no idea what I have gotten myself into.  Today I received an acceptance letter from Asbury Theological Seminary to start an M.A. in Biblical Studies this fall, as a long-distance learner.  Last week I asked Dr. Sandy Richter “Are you aware that God has used you to call me, thus disrupting my relatively peaceful sheep-herding existence?!”  Two months ago, seminary was not on my mind.  The call of God is sometimes like that – sudden, clear, unmistakable, and always life-changing.

This January God gave me, “And Abraham obeyed, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8) as my verse for the year.  I raised my eyebrows a bit at that one – my first clue that this could be an interesting year!

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Renewal conference with Dr. Sandy Richter, March 2017

Then in March God called me to seminary,
through a weekend spent with Dr. Richter and the unanimous affirmation of my pastoral colleagues and students.  I will never forget my first discussion with my pastor-friend Rudy Olivo.  He listened to me for a long-time, and then he asked me three times, “Are you called?”  I nodded slowly, “Yes, I know this in my heart to be true.  This is what God is calling me to.”  So, my answer was “yes” even though I didn’t know exactly what I was saying yes to!

When I told my Isaiah class that God was calling me to seminary but I was not sure exactly why, they looked at me like I was crazy.  “To teach, of course!” they exclaimed.  I am passionate about teaching and I thrive in the classroom environment, interacting with students and helping them connect Biblical truth with their daily lives. Over the last two months, He has continued to give me courage and clarify the details of this new call.

And so the adventure begins.  It’s a two-year degree if you go full-time, but I hope to finish it in 4-5 years without leaving my current ministry (which should be about the time my youngest will finish high school).  By doing Biblical Studies I will mostly be dealing with inductive study of the text, some Greek and Hebrew, and some theology,  which fits what I’m really interested in.

Please pray for me, for continued direction and wisdom, for funding, and for my sweet family as I attempt to balance my current commitments and this new project.  I have experienced the emotional roller coaster of excitement and amazement that God would call me, then terror and fear as the task feels beyond me, and slowly I presume I will settle into a place of hard work and dependence on His grace!

Applying for this program really is an act of faith for me.  I am not certain what the outcome will be, but I identify with what Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost For His Highest, “One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question – What do you expect to do?  You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing.” (January 2)