Thursday, December 10, 2009

done, finished, complete.

It's official, I have turned in my final papers, and today I returned the many library books I still had out...I am done with my seminary degree. Now, mind you, I still have to pass my final papers...but I'm not too worried about that.

I'm still not sure how I feel about being done. I'm not sure if I really understand that I'm done. If nothing else, right now I'm grateful to have a lot more time on my plate, not just for my job and those responsibilities, but for the other parts of my life that have been suffering. For instance, I've gone a little crazy decorating for Christmas. The other night, Jon came home and just started laughing at me as I was trying to find space for just about every Christmas-themed decoration, napkin, and dish that we had. Don't worry, I didn't succeed :)

And since I'm done, for the next few weeks most of my extra time and attention is going (or at least, should be going) to commissioning paperwork. In working on some questions, I was looking back at some class notes from my Studies in Wesley course this fall. One thing from the first day stuck out, and I think it's a good summation of how I feel about my time at Perkins. I've heard that some people in my conference aren't a huge fan of Perkins, because they don't teach you how to love Jesus, or that this is the most important thing you can do in ministry. First, I don't think that's true at all. But what my professor said about how Perkins functions I think sums it up real well.

He was talking about how people always ask the question, is this place liberal, or conservative? He said that Perkins provides a liberal arts presentation, whereby you are presented with a variety of material, and it's up to you to decide what to do with it. You decide how the information fits into your theology. You decide if it works into your understanding of ministry, and that understanding is hopefully formed by the academic work you've done throughout your time here. They don't tell you what to think, they encourage you to create your own thoughts, informed by a variety of theologies and information. And I think that's a pretty good way to go.

I don't know if I'm ready to be done, if only for the reason that I think there's still so much I have to learn. But I am oh-so-grateful for my time down here in Dallas, for the people we've met, for the support we've been shown both down here and from friends, family, and churches back home in Iowa. I am grateful that God somehow brought me down this path and enlightened my understanding of God's work in this world in ways I never could have imagined. In many ways, I think I was called to seminary before I was called to ministry, but through my time in seminary and the people here, I have recognized (and responded to more fully) a call to sacramental ordained ministry. And if that's the only thing I got out of seminary (which I know it's not!!) then I guess that's an okay thing :)

So thanks to you (if you're reading this I am assuming you've provided support for me in some way shape or form!), I made it. And thanks to God, it was great. Now, on to the next thing....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm trying...

...REALLY hard to be a better blogger. But this time of my life is just a little busy right now. However, at the request of someone who shall remain nameless (a former roommate of mine, does that help?) here's an update. It's boring, at least I think, but an update nonetheless.

Jon and I decorated our house for Christmas last night. It was wonderful, our first year of marriage we didn't decorate because we weren't even home for Christmas and we were in an apartment so it wouldn't have been all that fun anyway. Once we bought our house, we bought a tree, and have been acquiring decorations every since. I just love the Christmas season, as you can probably tell from my recent album on facebook. Tonight we are going to a Lessons and Carols service at Perkins, which I'm excited about. Sadly, halfway through my fourth year here, this is the first Lessons and Carols I have attended here, which is ridiculous because I'm sure it'll be amazing. Plus, it's getting all kinds of cold here (like, below freezing tonight!) and it even snowed yesterday morning, so it feels even MORE like "that time of year", at least more than it has in Texas since we moved here.

We went home for Thanksgiving, which was "special", it was great to see family and I will just leave it at that. We both had our District Committee Meetings for our ordination process and both received recommendations from the committee for the Board of Ordained ministry, the next step in the process, so now we need to be plowing through that paperwork to turn it in early January. Jon was told that they wished they could clone him, and I was told I was a bad listener, so hopefully those two balance out and we'll be just fine :)

On an unrelated note, I've been thinking about politics a lot lately. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because they usually drive me nuts and I want to enter into heated discussions about them but I feel like I know next to nothing about policy, candidates, etc so I usually keep my mouth shut. Any recommendations for a "U.S. Politics for dummies" type book? I've got plenty of opinions on the matter but I guess grad school has taught me the importance of support for your argument, and that's where I feel I'm lacking.

Anywho, I'm on a self-imposed deadline to finish a paper before the service at 7, so off I go. I turn in my final paper by Monday at 5 so at that point, at least a part of my life will be reclaimed, and perhaps I can think of more interesting things to blog about. I recently found the quote boards from my college roomies, that could provide an interesting topic of conversation...stay tuned!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hasbro=meaningful ministry

So I have had two very blessed bible studies the past two nights. Honestly, I think they've been more of a blessing for me than for the participants.

Last night was our regular youth bible study, which in all actuality is more of a junior high boys bible study because of who our "regulars" are. We've been using curriculum that's taking us through the book of Genesis but I haven't really been feeling it lately. I had one of those *hit head here* days at school and was feeling pretty negative and by the time I got to the church to review the study I just knew this wasn't what I wanted to teach. So I started to think about what I needed to hear, hoping that I could relay that into a message that would speak to my students.

The word that kept popping into my head was joy. I knew that's what I needed to hear. Where I was taken was to Philippians 2:14-15:
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.

Was I ever convicted. This was the total problem with my attitude after class--complaints, arguing, I was 100% focused on and surrounded by negativity.

Our bible study ended up being a really good discussion (with three junior high boys, mind you) about what we complain about, why we argue with our parents, siblings, classmates, etc...then, we played Jenga.

As we took out each block we named something we had been negative about during the day, something we'd complained about, or someone we'd argued with. One of the things we talked about was how we make the decision as to what type of blocks build up our attitudes: blocks of negativity or blocks of good attitudes, which can help us to shine like stars in our world today.

It totally wasn't my intention but that game of Jenga was like a public confession. Who knew? And then we started building crazy towers, and making Jenga was awesome. And totally what I needed.

Tonight was our senior bible study, and we read John 3. We had a good discussion about new birth, baptism, and assurance. Always good to throw in a little Wesley :)

So thanks, God, for leading me where I need to be led. And thanks for putting great students in my path to guide me along the way!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My teacher, let me see again...

I heard a great sermon tonight, from the Rev. Dr. James Bushfield. He preached on Mark 10:46-52:

10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.

10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

10:48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

10:49 Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you."

10:50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

10:51 Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again."

10:52 Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

He likened the blind man to beggars we see today. In fact, he made it a reality for those who were worshiping, as he had one person "play" the part of Bartemaeus, crying out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" as the rest of us tried to silence him. The parallel carried throughout the whole story as Jesus is teaching not only the disciples but calling out to the church today:
  • Those we see on the street have problems and needs. They cry out for help. But many times we pass them by. We silence them by not making eye contact, by not talking with them, by not seeing what their needs are.
  • Jesus did not call Bartemaeus. He called the disciples to call Bartemaeus. This is Jesus' call to the church today: to bring those in need to Him.
  • Bartemaeus left his cloak. He threw it off. This cloak, his livelihood. His home. The cloak that caught the coins and food that people gave to him. The cloak he might have made with his own two hands. Because being with Jesus was more important than the one thing in the world that meant the most to him. What do we keep in our clutches that's more important than running to Jesus for our needs?
  • Then Bartemaeus asked Jesus if he could see, again. [Nota Bene: the NIV leaves out, "again"!!]This means at some point in his life, he could see before. He knew what it meant to see, how beautiful the world was around him. He yearned for the restoration of his sight. Those we encounter in need remember what it was like to be whole, to be healed, and are looking for that restoration. How can we help them to be whole before Christ again?
  • The blind man's faith in Jesus' healing powers opened his eyes so that he could once again see.
Dr. Bushfield then related this to our call as seminarians, as professors, as whoever we were sitting in the chapel at Garrett this evening. At one point, we were called by God to be where we are now. But we need to remember that call, just as Bartemaeus remembered what it was like to see. So we prayed that God would open our eyes once again to the call that God has placed upon our lives to love and serve in His name (at least, that's what I prayed!). To put my whole trust into the God who created me to be who I am today-no matter where I serve, if it's a church of 20 or 200 or 2,000. If it's people who are 8 or 18 or 80. If it's in an open field, on a mountaintop, in a crumbling building, or in a gym. That God has a plan for me and my gifts in ministry, and that I could remain faithful and true in that calling. And that there would be people who support me along the way, and that they would affirm those gifts and this calling.

Thanks be to God, who somehow thought I had something to offer the world by means of a ministry that hopefully will someday bring glory to God's holy name!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting back into it...

Since returning from Ireland, I've been trying to figure out exactly what this blog should be-as in, what role it should play in my life and in sharing my life with others. First of all, I have no idea if anyone even reads it. Which doesn't mean I won't update it, but it does make you wonder...Secondly, I suppose that the role of blogs is to keep people up to date on your life, share things about your life, etc, but I'm not all that sure that my life is very interesting in the first place. We don't have kids, we don't do exciting things all that often (Ireland was the highlight of, well, probably our life together aside from the whole marriage/honeymoon thing).

I think what I've come up with is that I really am feeling the need to share a lot of my thoughts on the upcoming year when a lot of potential changes happen for Jon and I as we complete seminary, (hopefully) receive our Master's, graduate, move back to Iowa, become commissioned, and start work in full time ministry in the United Methodist Church. All of this especially in light of the physical distance between many of our friends and all of our families seems to me to highlight the importance of keeping people up to date on the process and our thoughts along the way.

So with that being said, I'm sorry if you find this blog boring :). But to us it's interesting, because it's life.

And now, my recent thoughts...

I am taking a class this semester that I absolutely positively love. It's called Studies in Wesley and it's with the professor who led our trip to Northern Ireland. Basically each class period we read 5 or 6 of Wesley's sermons, someone presents a paper on their analysis of them, and then we talk. It has been a great way to solidify not just my foundations but the reasons why I belong to and desire to uphold the practices of the UMC. And I think it's great timing to take this class when I am because by the end of this year (December 2009) I will be well into the paperwork required to apply for ordination, in which I have to defend, describe, define, etc all aspects of my work in ministry--why I want to do it, the traditions behind it, etc. So as I go through this course I feel like these questions are always on my mind-which makes me wonder, am I ready for this? I am one month in to my final semester of seminary and in a lot of ways I feel like I need to start over again.

So while I'm super stressed about this, I guess all this is to say that I just have been doing a lot of praying lately-for peace, that I am on the right path. For strength-that I can be firm in what I believe and not let institutions cause that to waver. For clarity-both in my call and how I communicate it.

All this on top of everyday life :) So stay posted, because more thoughts and reflection are to come-some positive, a lot of questioning, some negative...and if you've been there before, I gladly welcome feedback. That's all for now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Last week: FAIL!

So, I pretty much haven't posted anything during our final week here, and here it is, my last night in Belfast. BUT, it's not entirely my fault-I didn't have internet access for the first three days and this entire week we've been running everywhere (sometimes literally, running). I've got a few pictures but we fried our camera battery on Wednesday (yay international outlets) so no pictures of Dublin or Newcastle save what's on my iPhone and I haven't figured out how to get them from point a to point b here's some other ones.

On Sunday morning we went to worship at St. Anne's, the mainstay Anglican congregation in Belfast. It has been a long time since I've enjoyed a service this "high-church" but I really did enjoy it. A great Dean gave a wonderful message and we met lots of friendly people who shared the history of their church. It also spoke very highly of the attitude towards church in this community-a beautifully ornate church which could easily seat 4-500 only had about 45 attenders.

This is a shot from behind the altar looking down through the sanctuary. The reflection in the cross is the stained glass window that was original to the original parish.

A shot of the outside of St. Anne's.

After church we had an amazing lunch and then went to Crumlin Road Gaol (Jail). While this was a major place during the 30 years of troubles, almost nothing was mentioned about this-they are working on restoring it to its "victorian" days when the Prison began. I didn't get any shots that were all that interesting so I won't post any, but it was an interesting experience knowing what we did about the place and basically having this important part of history be intentionally left out. We were told that persons who spent time in prison during the troubles (both from the IRA and the UDA) will come back and do tours with their families bragging about the "glory days".

That evening we went to one of the many bonfires around the city. I need to make very clear that my posting of these pictures is not a political statement either way. I'm fairly confident that the majority of persons attending these celebrations aren't die-hard Unionists or anything-a lot of people use it as an excuse to get drunk and light things on fire-but there was still a very strong anti-nationalist (Catholic side of things) air about the whole thing-flags, graffiti, and these crazy unionist songs. In any case, this is the one time of year that security is beefed up across the board and in my opinion, if something's going to be insighted, it will be around the 12th of July... anyhow, here's a smattering of pictures.
It was dark and so this isn't a great picture, but hopefully this'll give you an idea of scale. The structure itself was easily 50 feet tall and was covered with anti-IRA signs, Sinn Fein poliltical posters, and tri-colors which would all be burned. Many of the structures (though not this one) also include tires but some areas (like Derry) don't allow tires to be burned.

A picture of the tower on fire. It was insanely hot. We were standing probably 50 yards away from the tower and had to move because of the heat. Once again, not making any type of political statement through the posting of these pictures, simply trying to document the experience...

It was a really interesting night, to say the least. The next morning we got up early to head towards our professor's neck of the woods-Enniskillen. We had breakfast at an Orange Order lodge (something we were told most Protestants wouldn't choose to do-and yes this group is protestant) and saw a July 12th parade in the town of Lisbellaw. This parade was a flagrant example of civil religion-the Orange Order, a "protestant" group, marches every year in rememberance of the Battle of Boyne. So each lodge marches with their particular band-either a flute band, percussion, silver (brass), or pipes (bagpipes). They each carry a banner with their lodge's information on it and most have a picture of either William of Orange or the Bible with the queen's crown on top of it. We did hear some great music, though!

The one-room school house where our professor (Dr. William Abraham) got his beginnings! Starting at the age of 3, if I remember?

One of the Orange Lodges marching.
I've got one more round of pictures to post...but honestly not sure if I'll get to it tonight, seeing as I have to pack :) We shall see, though! Thanks for following along on our trip! It has been great and hopefully some more reflection will follow-I certainly have a lot of processing (and required journaling!) to do!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday and Saturday

We have had a ridiculously busy, but extremely fun, two days. Friday morning was our last day in the classroom and before we started we got a tour of the Wesley Historical Society which is housed in the basement of Edgehill Theological Seminary.

To all my nerdy Methodist friends: guess who's hair this is? That's right, Charles Wesley. One thing I guess Bridwell DOESN'T have...

In the afternoon we went to the Saint Patrick Centre which details the life of St. Patrick. It is also very close to the church where he is supposedly buried.

The stone placed over his grave. It simply says, "Patrick".

We ended the day at "The Old Inn". A lot of great history to this place but also a very renowned restaurant and hotel-one of only two hotel/restaurants in Northern Ireland to receive the "double rosette" rating, and they've done so for the past 10 years. We had a wonderful meal here-the second-best I've ever had in my life (although the absolutely best soup ever!).

It's hard to tell because it was dark, but they have a thatched roof! While many great writers have stayed here, the one I absolutely remember is C.S. Lewis who enjoyed a honeymoon here with his wife Joy.

On Saturday we left in the morning and visited three sites. The first was a waterfall (called "Waterfoot) next to a great little cafe/hotel where we had tea and scones. The pictures don't do it justice but here's one anyway:

Then we headed to the Giant's Causeway. I have a ridiculous amount of pictures from there but it is an amazing geographical feature. There is also a great legend about how it was formed.

They think that this is all the result of a volcanic eruption though aren't sure why everything has settled into these hexagonal shapes and columns. It really is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

From there we headed to Derry (Londonderry, depending on who you ask and their political affiliation!). There seemed to be a LOT more tension here surrounding the sectarian issues-and a stronger IRA presence (this is a much more Catholic area). We saw another peace wall and walked the walls of Derry (look it up on wikipedia or something-I don't have enough time to explain the historical significance but it is an amazing city with an amazing history).

Here is a shot of a section of the walled city with Derry in the background.

An example of graffiti that was all over. This was on a garbage can on the walls-don't know if you can tell or not but there is a crest on the other side of the city-very British. Hence the tension.

This morning we are headed to services at St. Anne's, an Anglican (Church of Ireland) church. Afterwards, we are having a Sunday Feast and headed to tour Crumlin Road prison. then this evening, the festivities begin for the 12th of July (a Protestant celebration, celebrated heavily by the Orange Order). we'll see what we can safely observe!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Days 3 and 4, and maybe 5...

The last few days have really been spent in the classroom but we've taken a few outings on the side and seen some great stuff. I will probably post more "thoughtful" stuff later on our discussions-some really thought provoking stuff-but for now, here's the "lighter" side of Northern Ireland!

We are staying across the street from the Botanic Gardens. I have too many pictures of all the flowers but here's a fun one from the "jungle house". Ginormous leaf!

These are the rose gardens. They were so colorful and beautiful and the landscaping was wonderful-almost labrynth-like.

This is Edgehill Theological College (Queens University), the local Methodist "training institute" for those entering the parish in Ireland. This is where our classes have been held.

The City Hall in Belfast. I don't know if you can tell in this picture or not, but there's a statue of the Queen of England out front and the Union Jack flying at the top-a sure sign of British rule.

A random huge ceramic fish at the waterfront (the same bay where the Titanic was buillt!) so we decided to treat it like Texans....
Lots more fun pictures, may have to wait for facebook for those...but all in all things have been going "swimmingly". Tomorrow we head to Derry (or Londonderry, depending on who you ask!) and to see the Giant's Causeway. Loads more pictures, I'm sure! Tata for now, peace to you all!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ireland, days 1 and 2

Alright, so we've already experienced a lot. I will try to condense it as much as possible (I have already taken close to 200 pictures...) and my mind is absolutely swimming with not just the culture I am being immersed into but the discussions we've been having in the academic setting, as well. I'll start with a few pics from our first day, which included a tour of the area of Belfast we are staying in (south side, on Queens University campus).

Queens University-it is Graduation week (that's right, week, one to two ceremonies a day). So things are a little crazy around here but it means the food in the dining hall is extra good I suppose!

We visited Clonard Monastery (Catholic) which is working very strongly on reconciliation issues between Protestants and Catholics. The monastery is located right in the middle between a large Catholic community and a large Protestant community. The wall that you see above (complete with barbed wire) is part of a 27-mile system of "peace line" dividing the two communities.

This is a memorial on Bombay Street which was the site of a major riot. This is in a Catholic neighborhood (they are fighting for independence from Britain). Notice the wall in the background-another section of "peace line".

This is the site of a terrorist bombing in 1993. The man who set off the bomb spent 7-9 years in jail (can't remember exactly) but was released as part of an amnesty agreement and now once again walks the streets of this neighborhood.

This is one of many huge bonfires that will be lit the night before the 12th of July, a major celebration around here for Protestants (specifically commemorative for the Orange Order). Youth spend all year collecting pallets (and many include tires) and the government gives out prizes for fires that are well kept. This battle commemorates the decisive battle in 1690 between William Orange and King James-which determined that the monarchy ultimately remained Protestant, and that the Queen now represented the Church of England in this. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pics of these bonfires after the 11th!

This is an example of the types of murals that are all over the city. Both the Protestants and Catholics have murals which commemorate fallen comrades, depict certain battles or struggles, or show support for important individuals in the history of their cause. It's really a very honest and blatant expression throughout the city of the history of these strugggles. This one, in the Falls Rd (Catholic) area, depicts a history of events. To understand how polarized this struggle is, the bottom right panel reads "Eire, War; United Kingdom, Peace" (Eire-Ireland).

My first Guinness-Enough said! Except that, I am proud to say that my first Guinness was "from the source".

I will try to post as often as possible-perhaps I will try to do some actual "blogging" with thoughts and things on my mind from our discussions with people here (tomorrow we meet with an ex-paramilitary) but I wanted a way to share some of our journey so far! Jon and I are having a great time!

The Beginning!

I decided to start a blog as I've been wanting to for awhile now and I decided that would be the easiest way to share my experiences and pictures from Ireland over the next two weeks. Unfortunately I woke up too late to do much this morning but hopefully by this evening I will be able to post some pictures and explanations about all we have been learning in the two days we have been here!!