Friday, November 26, 2010

the good bishop himself

I saw and spoke with many outstanding scholars during my time at the ETS and SBL annual meetings in Georgia, but the highlight was Sunday afternoon.  Marianne Meye Thompson and I were headed to have lunch together.  (Dr. Thompson is a professor of NT at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.  She is quite well known herself in the 'Biblical Studies' crowd as an expert on John's gospel and has published many books.  We were meeting so that I could learn more about Fuller's PhD program.)  She turned aside for a moment to shake hands with a good friend.  It was none other than N.T. Wright. 

"Tom" Wright is the former Bishop of Durham for the Anglican Church, now a research professor at St. Andrews University in Scotland.  He is the author of 64 books and has spoken innumerable times to large crowds of people, both in person and on T.V.  He was the main speaker for both ETS (where 2500 were gathered) and the Institute of Biblical Research, which met Friday evening between the conferences.  Though IBR only has 400 members, 1000 people filled the room to hear Bishop Wright speak on "The Kingdom and the Cross."  You may remember my trip to Wheaton College back in April where N.T. Wright's work was the focus of discussion for the over 1000 people who had gathered.  In addition to all of these honors, N.T. Wright also has the distinction of being the only non-fiction author whose books appear on both of our bedside tables.  I told him so.

I had rehearsed a few short lines in case I had the pleasure of meeting him (and since I was just 3 feet away I was not going to let the opportunity slip by!).  His work has made a profound impact on my thinking about the Bible and about Jesus.  I've read at sections of Jesus and the Victory of God, Following Jesus: Reflections on Biblical Discipleship, Paul in Fresh Perspective, and Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. Danny's men's group has also benefitted from his work, reading both Simply Christian and Following Jesus together.  It is a rare author who can significantly impact the world of biblical scholarship and at the same time speak deeply to the hearts of the average Christian.  For his academic audience he is known as "N.T.", while he publishes at a popular level as "Tom."  Bishop Wright, more than any other author, has nurtured both of us in our spiritual journey and enlivened our conversations about God, the Bible, and theology.  It was an honor to be able to thank him personally for the way he has brought fresh insight to our study of God's Word.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

mental marathon

I reached the finish line Monday just before midnight, following 6 long days of meetings in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) had their annual meetings back-to-back at adjacent hotels downtown.  I spent about 12 hours each day listening to scholars present papers reflecting their latest research, meeting with potential PhD supervisors from the five schools to which I've applied, and meeting friends new and old.  My roommates and I stayed up late into the night talking and woke up early each morning to get ready for a new day.  It was mentally intense, but emotionally exhilarating.

Imagine you are visiting the baseball hall of fame and you discover, much to your surprise, that all of the baseball greats who are still alive are gathered there.   As you walk the halls your jaw drops when you see the name tags of all your favorite players, just inches away.  You have complete freedom to mingle with them, and if you're brave enough you can strike up a conversation.  That's what ETS and SBL are like for a young biblical scholar.  I was surrounded by the men and women who had shaped my thinking in so many ways, and had shaped the thinking of my professors, and now I was seeing them face to face.  James Kugel. Karen Jobes. Daniel Block. Richard Hays. Frank Theilman. Alan Culpepper. Joel Green. Patrick Miller. Thomas Schreiner. Marianne Meye Thompson. Seyoon Kim. Peter Martens. John Goldingay. Eugene Merrill. Erhard Gerstenberger. J. Ross Wagner. Andreas Kostenberger. Rikk Watts. Craig Keener. Grant Osborne. Walt Kaiser. Paul House. Jeff Tigay. Sandra Richter. Bernard Levinson. David Pao. John Oswalt. (Eliana is watching me type and she says you get the idea...)  It felt like a living bibliography.

There's no way to capture even just an overview of what I learned in my blog, but I'm hoping to tell you about a few of the things that stood out to me during my six days.  So stay tuned...!

profoundly grateful

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of them all. Not because of the event it commemorates, but because it's the least commercialized and the one most conducive to reflecting on God's goodness to us. Every year we sit together as a family and read Deuteronomy 8 and Psalm 100. Then we make a list of all the things for which we are thankful. It's always easy to fill a page. This year as the candlelight flickered, I wrote these blessings at the top of my list:
  • three precious children who are learning so quickly and growing up so nicely
  • a whole team of professors, mentors, parents, and friends who have encouraged me on my journey
  • a wonderful husband who has given me wings to fly and supported me all the way
I never imagined that I would have the blessing of being a mom and a student at the same time.  It's been such a gift!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

peace in the storm

The pace of life is rather dizzying these days. Between school schedules for 3 kids, housework, schoolwork, PhD applications, and preparations to attend the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society for Biblical Literature in a couple weeks, I hardly know whether I'm coming or going. Your plate may be full of other things, but I'm guessing you know the feeling.

It hit me this morning that finding peace in the midst of a crazy schedule is a lot like childbirth. During labor the goal is to breathe deeply, relax completely, and stay focused ... precisely when the pain and pressure are so great that you know you can't keep going for another minute and you think you might die. It's a very real challenge to keep our eyes on Jesus when life is hectic, but it's the most important battle we fight. Allowing stress to build and panic to set in only adds to the burden.

We serve a God who is fully in control, even when we feel out of control. He is never overwhelmed, never stressed, and never worried.

"Happy is the one who fears Yahweh,
who finds great delight in His commands...
Surely he (or she!) will never be shaken ...
He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in Yahweh...
His heart is secure, he will have no fear." - Psalm 112

Take a deep breath. Relax. God is on the throne.