Wednesday, December 11, 2013

40,000 reasons ... and counting

Why blog if blogging takes time and life is so full as it is?

It's simple, really. I have two reasons.

1. Life is too rich to keep it to myself (and writing usually helps me see just how rich it is).

2. YOU. Here you are, reading what I wrote, even though I'm sure you have plenty of other things to do.

Whenever I have my doubts about whether blogging is worth my time, I check the "pageviews" in the bottom right of the blog. That always inspires me to keep writing. Today I crested 40,000 pageviews. Even if 10% of those are me (a high estimate), and 50% are some spam search engine somewhere, that's still an awful lot of reasons to keep blogging.

Whether you've been tracking with me all 4 years or popped by today for the first time, you've given me an awful lot of reasons to keep writing. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

worth sharing

A friend from seminary posted this earlier today, and I couldn't help but notice how we're on the same wavelength. If life is not all tinsel and lights for you this Christmas, do take a minute to read her post -- What I really want for Christmas. I hope you'll be as challenged and encouraged as I was.

Here's a gem: "Maybe the absence of hurt is not what we really need. Maybe the presence of God in our hurt is the best gift we could receive this Christmas."

Amen to that.

Thanks, Lindsay!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

naming the gifts


We would rather not receive them. We’d rather mark them “return to sender” and move on with things as they are. But we don’t get to choose our gifts. The Wise Gift Giver chooses for us. At first it looks like a mistake, or at least a white elephant. This? For me? Never! It must be some kind of joke. This doesn’t belong in my life! But in fact God sees far ahead, and he knows just what we’ll need to make it through the seasons to come. So he starts working well ahead of time to get us ready.

I don’t mean to say that God is the author of suffering. He’s not. But he treasures the opportunity that suffering affords to meet us in a special way and to refine us.

As I look back over my life these ugly gifts are some of the most vivid, and (in time) most precious.
The gift wrapped in rejection was confidence in who I am in Christ.
The gift wrapped in the blackness of sin was a profound appreciation for God’s holiness.
The gifts wrapped in poverty were dependence on God and resourcefulness.
The gifts wrapped in illness were dependence on others and sensitivity.
The gift wrapped in the ache of homesickness and culture shock was a thirst for more of God.

2013 has been a year rich in gifts—
The gift wrapped in pressure is productivity.
The gift wrapped in spiritual conflict is heightened discernment.
The gift wrapped in mismanagement is wisdom (for next time).
The gifts wrapped in waiting are perseverance and trust.
The gift wrapped in failure is grace for others and myself.
The gift wrapped in confrontation is humility and grace.
The gift wrapped in injustice is identification with Christ.
The gift wrapped in isolation is the sweetness of His presence.
The gift wrapped in correction is growth.
The gift wrapped in suffering is empathy.
The gift wrapped in layer after layer of disappointment is a well-worn path of prayer to the throne (a path that gets easier and easier to find).
These are gifts I wouldn’t wish on anybody. They are miserable to receive. On the other hand, once we receive them with thanks we become stronger, richer, deeper, and softer. At some point we see ourselves in the mirror and realize that we are not who we once were. These gifts we didn’t want have transformed us. Most importantly, we are profoundly aware that we cannot do life on our own. We need Him. Desperately. And that’s the best place to be.
What gifts has God given you this year?
[note: If you clicked on any of the links in this post, you probably noticed that God started preparing me for 2013 a long time ago. As hard as it was, 2004 cleared out the underbrush so that I could find a path to God through suffering—a path I have trod repeatedly this year. He is a good God, and His gifts are unmatched.]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

full of thanks

I've said before that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Along with millions of Americans, I'm counting my blessings today. Right at the very top of my list this year is a man who has invested the past 43 years of his life ministering to students like me. As we gather around his table to give thanks my heart will be full to bursting. You can be sure of that.

I arrived in Baltimore last week Wednesday for 6 days of annual meetings for the various academic societies of which I am a member -- ETS, IBR, and SBL. I presented papers at each conference, reunited with friends, interacted with scholars from around the world, and stayed up late talking with roommates night after night. But the highlight was undoubtedly the ETS session on Thursday afternoon. A world class cadre of scholars gathered in the Baltimore Convention Center for a session entitled “Deuteronomy as Good News: A Conversation with Daniel I. Block.” The event was billed as a response to Dr. Block’s work on Deuteronomy following the publication of his NIV Application Commentary and two spin-off volumes of essays on the book. It was that, but it was also the unveiling of a surprise Festschrift in his honor. In commemoration of his 70th birthday earlier this year, Dr. Block’s friends, colleagues, and former doctoral students contributed 597 pages of essays relating to the message of Deuteronomy, published by Eisenbrauns. In the academic world, a Festschrift is probably the highest honor one can receive. It's a symbolic induction into the scholarly hall of fame, the Oscar award of academia, the proverbial "well done, thou good and faithful servant."  

For Our Good Always: Studies on the Message and Influence of Deuteronomy in Honor of Daniel I. Block is a treasure-trove of reflections on the biblical book that has become Dr. Block’s favorite. The entire work is edited by three of his former doctoral students, a labor of love for their mentor (Jason DeRouchie, Jason Gile, and Kenneth Turner). A Festschrift doesn't make anybody rich (least of all the publisher), but it celebrates the riches of a lifetime of scholarship and teaching ministry.

By the time I arrived at Wheaton in the fall of 2011, the Festschrift was already planned and the essays were in production. However, I was in the right place at the right time to help with reconnaissance and arrange for a celebration dinner with all the contributors. At the dinner I had the privilege of listening to tribute after tribute to Dr. Block's scholarship and character. I count myself among those whose lives have been forever changed because of this man. He has shaped my writing and thinking, trained and modeled faithful study and teaching, and most of all, he has opened his heart wide and welcomed me in as his own daughter.

It's not difficult to figure out why Dr. Block's students love him so much. His enthusiasm for God's Word is contagious, his scholarly output formidable, and his love for his students knows no bounds. Outside the classroom, he and Ellen have walked with students time and again through unspeakable pain and exhilarating joy, and those ups and downs have forged an unbreakable bond. I'm profoundly grateful that God saw fit to weave our stories together, and that this year we can join hands around the table and give thanks together.

Monday, November 25, 2013

lessons from the school of hard knocks

When life's journey takes you into the desert, it can seem like "real life" is on hold, waiting for problems to be resolved, waiting for questions to be answered, waiting for momentum to return. But desert seasons are where some of God's most important work gets done—inside us. This morning I read reflection #171 from Charles Ringma's profound devotional, Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen. Time after time, this book has spoken life to my soul. Today I simply must share the whole reflection with you, because it captures so well the idea that the desert is God's classroom:

   "Much of life is spent preparing for and gaining knowledge for future roles and tasks. And many of our educational strategies are based on the premise of learning first in order that we may do later. For some, this has resulted in much learning but little doing. For others, it has meant quite a deal of unlearning once they have experienced the real world."
   "Yet it should be obvious that many things are learned by doing. One learns to pray by praying, to serve by serving, and to love by loving...."
   "Nouwen hints at this. He writes, 'The great illusion of leadership is to think that a person can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.' No only can we not look to spiritual guides who lack life's difficult experiences or who have failed to make sense of them or acknowledge them, but we also need to walk our own desert experiences and learn from them."
   "Because spirituality does not embrace only an aspect of life, but all of it, all of life's experiences become the testing ground for linking faith and practice. Thus, in being, living, doing, praying, serving, risking, loving, and participating, we are weaving a pattern for understanding our spirituality."
The school of hard knocks may not be your choice of a classroom. It's not mine, either. But the lessons we learn in the desert classroom cannot be gained anywhere else.

Show me your ways, LORD; Teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

silver linings

Some seasons of life we'd rather not endure. Heavy black clouds dampen everything and choke out joy. We long to turn the corner, to pack up and move on. But there are graces even on the darkest day, graces we cannot see in the sunshine. If we have the courage to stare into the blackness with our eyes wide open, looking for Him, we'll discover untold riches.

When trials are more than we can bear alone, we discover that we are not alone. Hugs are longer. Prayers are deeper. And the Scriptures come alive in fresh ways. We realize anew that He knows what we're going through, and He made provision for us long before we entered this valley. What's more, our eyes are opened to the sufferings of others. We recognize the burdens they carry, because we've carried them, too.

When things look bleak, we discover the power of gratitude. Each hour not saturated in trouble becomes a gift. Each good night's sleep a blessing. Each friend who knows and cares a boon to the soul. Each part of life not touched by trouble carries a new sparkle that we once missed. When our appetite returns and our stomach behaves normally, we receive it with thanks.

When perspective is hard to gain and harder to keep, we discover the urgency of spiritual disciplines. We no longer read the Scriptures because we should, but because we must just to make it through the day.  Confession and forgiveness have immediate bearing on our ability to cope. It no longer seems like a stretch to pray without ceasing.

Spiritual hunger is one of the gifts God grants us when life is hard. So are gratitude and deeper community.
Though I don't suggest that we wish for suffering, when it comes (and it will) we can open our arms to receive what God has to give us in that season. The black clouds of suffering always come with the silver linings of his grace. We can't necessarily discern it right away, but if we keep staring, we'll learn to see what's there.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dr. Daniel Block: the gospel according to Deuteronomy

Dr. Block's love for Deuteronomy is legendary on Wheaton's campus. He can find a way to bring Deuteronomy into just about every conversation, every lecture, and every dissertation defense. He's convinced that he could show you gospel on any page of the book. (Speaking of pages, you should see the pages of Deuteronomy in his Bible . . . they're falling to pieces!) That's what prompted him to title his recent collection of essays on Deuteronomy The Gospel according to Moses. And his gospel-saturated vision is contagious. It inspired Clayton Keenon to plan a whole grad chapel series devoted to this topic. So it should come as no surprise that Dr. Block was asked to give the final message in the series, highlighting gospel in his favorite book of the Bible—Deuteronomy.

As you probably know by now, Dr. Block is my dissertation advisor and beloved mentor. This message will give you a great taste of my Wheaton experience!

Here are links to the whole series:

Dr. John Walton - Genesis
Dr. Philip Ryken - Exodus
Clayton Keenon - Leviticus
Carmen Imes - Numbers
Dr. Daniel Block - Deuteronomy

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

eschatology when it matters most

In the classroom it may seem like eschatology (the study of the "last things")  is a frivolous topic. Why speculate about how things will play out in the future? Don't we have enough to worry about today? It will all unfold the way God planned it, whether or not we understand what, when, or how.

But actually, eschatology does its most important work in the mess of everyday life, with its worries and fears, trials and struggles.

For the family stunned by a terminal diagnosis ...
For the one falsely accused and misunderstood ...
For the couple whose marriage is falling to pieces ...
For the addict who can't get free ...
For those whose loss is more than they can bear ...
For the one struggling to cope with mental illness ...

Eschatology is a lifeline.

There are a whole host of views about the end times, and each view has practical consequences. That's a topic for another day. The most important truth that all Christians hold in common is this: God wins in the end. Evil will be finally and decisively defeated. Truth will prevail. Hurts will be healed. Everything will be restored to its created design. In the words of the Old Testament, "each of us will sit under our own vine and our own fig tree, with no one to make us afraid" (cf. Micah 4:4). In other words, we'll be able to truly rest, to enjoy the fruits of our labor with no fear of what's to come.

For the family stunned by a terminal diagnosis ... it's ok to be angry. Cancer is not God's intention. And it's not the final word.
For the one falsely accused and misunderstood ... God will bring ultimate vindication.
For the couple whose marriage is falling to pieces ... He offers healing and full reconciliation.
For the addict who can't get free ... He will release the captive.
For those whose loss is more than they can bear ... there will be unbounded joy.
For the one struggling to cope with mental illness ... true peace, inside and out, is guaranteed.

Eschatology speaks to our brokenness, pain, and strife with the precious promise that this is not all there is. God is not finished yet with what he is doing. From our vantage point it may look like a losing battle, but he will prevail. We can bet our lives on it.

And as we cling to that truth -- that God will win in the end -- we find strength to face today.

"The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing." (Isaiah 51:3)

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,
'Your God reigns!' . . .
The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." (Isaiah 52:7, 10)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Carmen Imes: the gospel according to Numbers

Gospel? In Numbers? I admit I was a bit taken aback by this assignment. (The only disease worse than Numbers is Leviticus!) I quickly remembered, though, that the priestly blessing is found in Numbers 6:24–27. That was my ticket. Surely a blessing counts as gospel. So I said, 'yes.' And then I got back to work on my dissertation. That was July.

August and September were quickly swallowed up by dissertation work, TA work, getting kids back to school, etc. When I turned the page to October (yes, I still use a paper calendar), I knew it was time to nail down my chapel message. By that time I had heard Dr. Walton speak on Genesis and Dr. Ryken on Exodus. Both of them did such a great job of setting up the whole book as gospel. That's when I realized that the priestly blessing was a cop out. If I didn't read the whole book, I would never know what gospel I was missing. And so I did. Starting with chapter 1, I read clear through to the end.

Wow. Was I in for a surprise! Not only did I find more gospel, but in the most unlikely place. I would tell you where, but that would spoil it. You'll just have to watch for yourself and see. So grab a Sharpie (you'll need one), sit back, and enjoy!

The gospel according to Numbers is that we're counted as his.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Clayton Keenon: the gospel according to Leviticus

Clayton Keenon delivered the third message in Wheaton's grad chapel series, "The Gospel according to Moses," offering an up-close look at one of our least favorite books of the Bible: Leviticus. If you have been bored, baffled, or grossed out by Leviticus, this message is for you! Clayton explained the big idea of Leviticus this way: Here's what needs to happen when God moves into the neighborhood.

I can just about guarantee this will be the most enlightening and refreshing 25 minutes of your week!

So far the series has included messages by Dr. John Walton on Genesis and Dr. Philip Ryken on Exodus. Next week I'll post my own chapel message on Numbers, followed by Dr. Daniel Block on Deuteronomy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dr. Philip Ryken: the gospel according to Exodus

Following an excellent message by Dr. Walton on "the gospel according to Genesis," Wheaton's President delivered an equally captivating sermon on Exodus. Dr. Ryken calls the book of Exodus "a geography of the soul." No matter where we are on our spiritual journey, we can find ourselves somewhere on the pages of Exodus—enslaved, hardened, set free, celebrating, wandering, complaining, committed, sinning. Leaders can identify with Moses' pilgrimage as a leader—overly zealous, reluctant, bold, rejected, celebrated, interceding, angry, overwhelmed, and radiant. As President Ryken said, "It's all here in Exodus!"

His big idea: We are saved for the glory of God.

If you have 18 minutes to watch this message, you won't be sorry you did!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dr. John Walton: the gospel according to Genesis

Wheaton College Graduate School is in the midst of a 5-week chapel series entitled, "The Gospel according to Moses." The first three installments of the series have been outstanding, and I wanted to share them with you here (let's hope the next two are equally captivating!). I'll introduce one message each week on my blog so you can experience it for yourself. When you see the lineup you'll be able to figure out why I'm especially keyed in to this series.

Dr. John Walton - Genesis
Dr. Philip Ryken - Exodus
Clayton Keenon - Leviticus
Carmen Imes - Numbers
Dr. Daniel Block - Deuteronomy

Each speaker has been charged with the task of showing how the gospel is evident in that book. I can hardly wait to share what I've been seeing in Numbers. What a book!

Dr. John Walton spoke to us about the "Gospel according to Genesis." You can watch his message by clicking here and you can read about what I've learned in his classes by clicking here. (Note: for some reason I was unable to get the video to work using Chrome, but it worked in Firefox. If it doesn't work for you, try another browser and cut and paste the link.)

His retelling of Genesis and Exodus is masterful. Especially take note of his interpretation of the Tower of Babel incident.

His big idea is this: God's intention has always been to establish his presence among his people. 
Now that's good news!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

things we never knew we never knew

Wheaton College (along with just about every other school on the continent) is taking serious steps towards enhancing the diversity of the student body. President Ryken considers it one of his top "strategic priorities." A new Office for Multicultural Development is open in the heart of the campus. Programs that send students overseas for 6 months of learning in their Senior year are expanding. This year's roster of chapel speakers includes women and men from a whole range of cultural backgrounds.

But why?

Cross-cultural engagement is hard work, with a lot of potential for offenses given and received. Hurtful comments and (more often) well-intentioned but ignorant remarks make community living awkward. So why bother?

The answer is simple, really. When we only hang out with people who are just like us we fail to realize how limited we are by our own narrow perspective and experience. Those of us who are white remain oblivious to the way our race grants us privileges that others must work much harder to achieve—privileges like trust, understanding, and "fitting in." Global engagement is important because it broadens our horizons, enriches our appreciation for others, and forces us to think more deeply about how to approach the world's most vexing problems.


In the wisdom of Disney's Pocahantas, "when you follow in the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew." We're blind to our own ignorance until we take the time to view the world from someone else's vantage point.

Even more importantly, global engagement matters because the kingdom of God transcends geographic, political, and ethnic boundaries. We have the honor of partnering together with our sisters and brothers around the world to bear God's Name among the nations. Working together offers a more complete picture of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Having torn down "the dividing wall of hostility" between Jews and Gentiles, Jesus invited his followers to bring this good news of reconciliation to the ends of the earth.

The trend in missions is for missionaries from anywhere to go to anywhere, often under non-Western leadership (glory!). The trend in higher education is to "encourage women and minorities to apply" for jobs and to actively recruit students from a wide range of backgrounds. The trend in our own interpersonal relationships is often woefully behind these organizational trends. Are you ready to learn things you never knew you never knew?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

solve world poverty in one simple step

Eliana and I attended a screening Friday night of a documentary produced by a team of researchers who set out to discover how to end global poverty. What they found surprised them. In every country they visited, poverty's grip could be relaxed in one generation by doing just one simple thing: sending girls to school.

Girls who go to school are healthier,
     less likely to be married before the age of 15,
          less likely to be sold into bonded labor or sex slavery,
                 and more likely to contribute to their family's earnings.
Girls who are educated grow up to become moms who make sure their sons and daughters go to school.
Children of literate moms are 50% more likely to survive past age 5!
And an extra year of education increases a girl's earning potential by 20%.

But in many countries, girls do not go to school because families cannot afford to send them or because they don't see the point. If there is money to send just one child, her brother gets to go. Far too often educating a girl is seen as a "waste of time" because her place in life is working at home (where knowing how to read and how to think are apparently unnecessary). 66 million school-aged girls are not in school today. That's fully twice as many girls as boys who are not in school.

In some heartbreaking contexts, a girl is actually forbidden to learn to read.

In a country where it's illegal not to send girls to school, this is hard for us to imagine. Women in the US not only attend school, but a great many go on to college, grad school, and beyond. Believe me, after watching this film, I do not take this privilege for granted!

If you want to be both inspired and challenged, I highly recommend Girl Rising. You can learn more at www.girlrising.com. According to a study reported by Christianity Today earlier this year, child sponsorship is the single most effective long-term development strategy. If we pair these two studies, the solution is simple. To sponsor a young girl makes schooling possible and sends a message to her family that she's worth educating. Child sponsorship can be the first step to break the cycle of poverty. So what are you waiting for? Start here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

saying grace

Outside rain is pouring down, making a symphony of car and house and ground and tree. As each drop splashes I feel myself calm, relax, and let go. It's been a long day, a long week, a long month, really. And wouldn't it be honest to say it's been a long 10 years? A long string of transitions, a sharp set of learning curves? Unrelenting pressure (self-imposed, no doubt) and a mountain of hard work.

I am tired.

The rumble of distant thunder reminds me of the graces that have brought joy today. An affirming email. A knock on my carrel door. Two knocks. Dear friends just checking in. A kind student asking about my work. A high five from someone who has stood in my shoes and knows. Being greeted by name. Belonging, in this place.

The rain slows. I hear the downspouts trickle. There is more, so much more.

Old friends, come to see us. Shared memories. A love note from Easton. Emma's joy in walking me to the corner. Ana's hugs, so frequent these days. Danny's strength, holding me steady when pressure mounts and making space for me to win, for us to win. Morning dew crowning each vibrant blade of grass, erect and glittering as the sun's rays angle through branches still heavy with leaves.

"Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand."*

And so I hold open my empty, empty hand, ready to receive. Ready to name the gifts, to say the graces.

A dissertation breakthrough. A conversation full of hope. A place at the table. A window into someone's heart. Children who love to snuggle and read, who delight in my silly accents. Students eager to grow. Empathy. The still small voice that says, "Well done," when I've given all I possibly can and there's so much more to do.

Grace.

"Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks."**

Thanks.

*quote from Ann Voskamp, one thousand gifts, 177.
** quote from Ann Voskamp, one thousand gifts, 178-79.

---------------------

Postscript: I awake in the wee hours of the morning to another downpour. My sleepy ears make out the rhythm—grace, grace, grace. And—soul wide open—I receive it with thanks.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

divine appointment

We had no idea. Slipping outside and starting up the hill together, hand in hand, Mom and Daughter, we were thinking of ice cream. We chatted as we walked, swinging our arms. We laughed. At the stop sign we waited, and then crossed the street and stepped onto campus. The lawn's expanse and massive trees always inspire me. But today . . .

I can't recall who noticed it first, the smooth white icing clouds in the East, fading up into lovely pink and lavender haze. Still walking, we looked up, drawn into the beauty, and then slowly turned and stopped, awestruck. Behind us the sky was a stunning turquoise, laced with puffy white trails. The blue's intensity held us, transfixed. We kept staring as celestial winds hastened north, pulling wisps of white in their wake. Down below, beyond the trees, the horizon shone molten yellow, like liquid, brilliant gold. We soaked it in, speechless.

What if we had missed this! We moved uphill together, hoping to catch more of the Artist's painting. In those brief moments everything changed again—from turquoise to resonant blue, from honey gold to flaming fuchsia. Far above us the winds kept coaxing, drawing airy strings across the firmament. At last we surrendered, hearts bursting at the seams. We entered the student center and bought our ice cream, but the memory of that sky pulled us back outdoors, expectant.

Less than 5 minutes had elapsed, but the grand exhibition was over. Some cosmic hole had opened up and all the vibrant color had drained away, leaving only a pale and tired blue in its wake. The horizon was quenched. Our hearts, too, were silent—awed by the display of His majesty.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words  to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1–4

Monday, September 16, 2013

the house of my soul: learning from St. Augustine

For the Freshman class in which I am a discussion leader, we're reading Augustine's Confessions, an autobiographical account of his life written as a prayer and told with unflinching honesty. Given that Augustine died in the year 430 C.E. his wisdom is surprisingly poignant. Here are some gems worth reading:

"You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you." (Book I: 1,1)

"The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord?" (Book I:6)

"Everything I need for health and salvation flows from my God." (Book I: 6, 7)

"Allow me to say something, my God, about the intelligence which was your gift to me, and the crazy employments in which I frittered it away." (Book I: 17, 27)

"I will try now to give a coherent account of my disintegrated self, for when I turned away from you, the one God, and pursued a multitude of things, I went to pieces." (Book II: 1,1)

"But I was quite reckless; I rushed on headlong in such blindness that when I heard other youths of my own age bragging about their immoralities I was ashamed to be less depraved than they." (Book II:3, 7)

"Human beings live on earth for a brief span only, and they lack the discernment to bring the conditions of earlier ages, of which they have no experience, into the same frame of reference with those they know well." (Book III: 7, 13)

When we take time to read classic works such as this one, we begin to develop the discernment to do just that. May it be so!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

rite of passage

A lot of big stuff happened at our house this week.

Easton (age 5) learned to skip.

Eliana (age 12) got a part in the school play.

Both girls started piano lessons for the first time (not counting lessons at home with us).

And Emma (age 8) made a very big decision. She was running away. Things just weren't going her way. To be honest, I can't even remember what set her off. Generally it's the really grievous things like when someone smiles at her and tells her she looks pretty, or when I refuse to help her with a really challenging homework assignment (such as basic addition) because I'm busy reading to Easton. Enough is enough, really.

She demanded a suitcase. I calmly suggested that if she was running away she would need to learn to fend for herself. She stomped off and found one without my help and started packing. The only problem was that we were headed out to eat for dinner to celebrate her 8th birthday. She certainly didn't want to miss that, so she informed us all that she would be leaving in the middle of the night . . . after her special dinner.

As I tucked her in that evening, I let her know that I would really miss her, and that I hoped she packed a toothbrush (she hadn't). She burst into tears, gave me a big hug, and said she didn't want to run away from home after all. (Phew!) We had a good talk about asking God to help us manage our anger, and she went to sleep peacefully. In case you're having deja vu, yes, this has happened before in the Imes household. That story, too, had a happy ending. Running away must be an 8-year-old rite of passage.

A few days later we were getting the house ready for dinner guests when I noticed Emma's suitcase, still packed and ready in the corner. I suggested we unpack it since she had decided to stay. Imagine my delight to discover that not only had she packed a jacket and a pair of pajamas, she had packed her Bible as well. I might be a horrible Mom sometimes, hard to live with and terribly unfair, but I must be doing something right! In any case, it was a good sign. If that's all she takes with her when she leaves home, she'll be well prepared for anything that comes her way.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday Tidbit: the wounds of a "friend"

Mark Noll is something of a legend at Wheaton College. Not too many years ago his office was 2 floors below the spot where I am sitting right now as I type this. From that basement room he wrote a book that dropped like a bomb on campus and sent tremors throughout the Evangelical world. The book was as shocking as it was painfully true.

Here's the opening line: "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." Ouch.
He continues, "American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations" (3). Noll includes the text of a dedicatory speech given by Charles Malik for the Billy Graham Center in 1980 (the building in which most of my classes have been held on campus). Malik minced no words: "The greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. . . . People are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the Gospel. They have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure in conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, and thereby ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative thinking is abdicated and vacated to the enemy." Malik challenged his listeners, "Evangelicals cannot afford to keep on living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence" (26). Noll says it took him years to fully absorb and process the truth of Malik's words. Evangelicals are known for their activism, but not for their minds.

Noll now teaches at Notre Dame, the premier Catholic liberal arts institution less than 3 hours from here. When I took a class there last summer I lost count of the number of conversations I had that went something like this.

ND student/faculty/person: Where are you studying?
Me: I'm working on a PhD at Wheaton College in Illinois.
ND student/faculty/person (cheerfully): Oh! Do you know Mark Noll? He teaches here.
Me: I've never met him, but I've heard him speak.
ND student/faculty/person: He's great!

Each of those I spoke with gave me two impressions. (1) Mark Noll embodies evangelicalism. And (2) Mark Noll is a prized member of ND's facultyI gather that he is carving out a space for intellectually rigorous dialogue and changing the way Evangelicals are perceived, little by little. And none too soon. Let's hope that by the time my kids go to college Noll's prophetic critique of Evangelicalism will sound downright strange because it's no longer true.

Monday, September 2, 2013

a peek at what God is doing . . .

As you may already know, my husband, Danny, and I have been privileged to work as missionaries with SIM for almost 11 years now. Since 2006 we've been on staff with Sports Friends, a ministry of SIM that seeks to transform lives and strengthen communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I just had to share this 4-minute window into at how God is using this ministry in Zambia. What a blessing to witness the transformative power of Jesus!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

way back when

'friend' used to be a noun
   someone tangible and here
'like' used to be a verb
a 'chat' took place in shared time
   and space
a 'post' was something solid
   driven in the ground
   unmoving
words were reliable,
   predictable,
   stable
   ink on paper,
   book on shelf
a phone was how we called home

but now
friends are virtual
   and transitory
we stare at flat screens
   instead of faces, 'liking' but not talking
and watch words fly up
   as we scroll down (like you just did)
   a moment is all they have
   to make their big impression
posts last one day
   maybe two
   before fading into forgotten history
a phone is a way to leave home
   traveling into other people's lives
hoping they are less empty
than our own

Friday, August 23, 2013

the latest publication by Daniel Block

The latest entry in Daniel Block's growing bibliography is now in print! Dr. Block has long been known for his fine 2-volume commentary on Ezekiel in the NICOT series.  It is widely used in both seminaries and university classrooms (The University of Wisconsin - Madison, for example) and still recognized 15 years after publication as the most thoroughly exegetical commentary available. It's no wonder Tremper Longman gave it 5 stars in his Old Testament Commentary Survey. More recently he helped bring the late Jacob Milgrom's commentary on the latter part of Ezekiel to press.

While for the past 10 years Dr. Block's attention has centered on the book of Deuteronomy, his 3 decades of involvement in the SBL seminar on Ezekiel continues to draw him back to that book. Over the years he has presented and published dozens of essays on Ezekiel, covering aspects of the book that even a 2-volume commentary did not allow him adequate space to discuss. Now, for the first time, nearly all of Dr. Block's additional work on Ezekiel is available in two handy volumes (akin to his 2-volume collection of essays on Deuteronomy). The first volume is hot off the press and the second should be released within the next month.

By the River Chebar: Historical Literary, and Theological Studies in the Book of Ezekiel includes the following 9 essays:

Preaching Ezekiel
The Theology of Ezekiel
The God Ezekiel Wants Us to Meet
Divine Abandonment: Ezekiel's Adaptation of an ANE Motif
   Excursus A: The Prophetic Speech of Marduk
Chasing a Phantom: The Search for the Historical Marduk
The Prophet of the Spirit: The Use of ruach in the Book of Ezekiel
Beyond the Grave: Ezekiel's Vision of Death and Afterlife
Text and Emotion: A Study in the "Corruptions" in Ezekiel's Inaugural Vision (Ezek 1:4–28)
   Excursus B: Ezekiel 1:6, 8–10, 15–21, and 10:9–22 in Parallel
Ezekiel's Boiling Cauldron: A Form-Critical Solution to Ezekiel 24:1–14
   Appendix: In Praise of Moshe: A Tribute to Moshe Greenberg

These essays appeared in academic journals and edited volumes between 1988 and 2010, with at least three entries that are not yet in print elsewhere. But now you can have them all at your fingertips, complete with subject, author, and Scripture indices as well as a full bibliography. The bibliography alone is a testimony to the rich conversation in which Dr. Block has been engaged over the course of these years. For those involved in detailed study of the book of Ezekiel, Ian Duguid calls these books an "essential resource."

Congratulations, Dr. Block!


Monday, August 19, 2013

on deck this semester

Now that I'm finished taking classes, what will the school year look like?

1. Dissertation Writing - Once my core chapters are finished (soon, I hope!), I'll need to put them all together, make revisions, and write an introduction and conclusion. The entire draft is due Dec 15.
2. Precepting - In exchange for my stipend, I'll be facilitating weekly Freshman discussion groups for a required course called "Gospel, Church, and Culture." The job also includes grading assignments, meeting with students, and attending the class. I'm really looking forward to engaging with undergraduate students!
3. PhD Representative - I'll be representing the PhD student body this year at faculty meetings and grad council meetings. This role also involves facilitation of study carrel assignments, overall communication, problem-solving, and the Christmas party. It will give me a taste of what academic administration is like.
4. Speaking Engagements - I'll be speaking in Grad Chapel on October 16. My talk is titled "Counted as His: The Gospel according to Numbers 6:24–27." It will be posted online afterwards. Dr. Block asked me to give two lectures for his Ezekiel class as well.
5. Teaching Sunday School - I'm teaching a 3-week course on the Ten Commandments for several of our church's Adult Bible Fellowship groups this year. I'm scheduled for September, October, and January. This will be a great opportunity to take what I'm learning and pass it on to others in our church community.
6. Conference Presentations - I'll be presenting papers at 3 back-to-back conferences in Baltimore this November: ETS, IBR, and SBL. The papers are already written, so the rest should be fun!
7. Comprehensive Reading - In my spare time, I'll be finishing up my comprehensive reading list. The end is in sight!

I'm so grateful for the privilege of studying at Wheaton. Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday Tidbit: something worth having

Getting a PhD is hard work. But on my hardest days I remind myself that if it was easy, it wouldn't be worth much.

Today I found a verse in the Apocrypha that says it so well:

"The person who has what is hard to get rejoices more than the person who has what is plentiful." (2 Esdras 7:59b)

This is a helpful way of looking at lots of hard things in life. The most difficult seasons enable God to do the deepest work in us, if we let him. And jobs that are hardest to do bring the greatest rewards.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

remembering Dr. Reeve

Dr. Pamela Reeve, age 96
A giant of a lady entered into glory last Saturday.

Dr. Pamela Reeve couldn't have been more than 5 feet tall, but she exuded strength and compassion more than twice her size. She had the special gift of making people feel completely at ease. Nothing you said could shock or dismay her. With Dr. Reeve you felt safe to share anything. She treated everything you said as a treasure — something truly precious.

Danny and I had the privilege of taking Dr. Reeve's "Intro to Counseling" class during the semester we were engaged to be married. What better time to work on interpersonal relationships! Dr. Reeve supplied us with the perspective and the tools we needed to build a healthy foundation for our marriage. Fifteen years later, we're still thinking about the lessons we learned in that class—lessons about brokenness, suffering, faith, respect and caring.

Dr. Reeve pioneered the first ever women's ministry program in the nation and mentored generations of  men and women during her 49 years of service at our alma mater, Multnomah University. I count it a privilege to have been one of them. All praise to our God for Dr. Reeve's lifetime of ministry!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

this summer by the numbers

I realize the irony of writing this post after the last one, but rest assured that none of these numbers define who I am. They just give you a picture of what I've been up to this summer!

0 - landlords on the planet who are better than ours
1 - core dissertation chapter left to write
2 - new cousins our kids gained this summer (wahoo!)
3 - VBS programs our kids participated in this year
4 - total number of core chapters in my dissertation
5 - years since Easton was born
5 - live paintings I did on stage during VBS
6 - hour drive to Honey Rock to pick up Eliana
10 - days Emma and Easton had swimming lessons
12 - total days Eliana will spend at Honey Rock
15 - years Danny and I have been married
16 - years old our oldest neice is - old enough to come visit us!
17 - days' notice we had before Danny's brother got married
18 - days until school starts
27 - number of camp scholarships raised by VBS kids
32 - books left on my comprehensive reading list
36 - years since I was born (as of today)
43 - days until my next chapter is due
45 - weeks until our lease is up in Wheaton
48 - months this blog has been running
91 - pages in my latest dissertation chapter
125 - kids in our church's VBS program
188 - books I have finished on my comps list
189 - approximate gallons of latex seal coating Danny applied to driveways with our landlord
207 - days until my defense draft is due
235 - total pages I have written so far
273 - pictures I took at Danny's brother's wedding
280 - days until graduation
315 - total number of blog posts I have published
1,349 - dollars the kids brought during VBS to help fund camp scholarships through Sports Friends
2,589 - pages left to read carefully for comps
15,232 - total pages to read carefully for comps
26,171 - words in the chapter I turned in yesterday
34,182 - pageviews on my blog to date
73,080 - words I have written for my dissertation
100,000 - dissertation words I am allowed to write
limitless - grace of God that has carried us through another season!









Wednesday, July 17, 2013

note to self

who i am
cannot be measured
by pages read
words written
or posts published

i am not
quantifiable
defined by success

who i am
cannot be rated
by peer approval
or faculty accolades

i am not
qualitatively
subject to opinion

who i am
is only visible in mercy's light
undeserved redemption

i am not
what i do

i am not
who they think

i am
His

a story he's writing
his treasured possession
designed
equipped
freed
and released
...to magnify His goodness
and celebrate His grace
i am His

Monday, July 1, 2013

shedding our (theological) skin

Summer spells more time to read with my kids, which I love. We're so spoiled to live across the street from one of the best children's libraries in the country! (But you would think we lived an hour away if you saw the stacks of books we lug home every time we go.)

As it turns out, children's books are a great source for theological reflection. While reading The Butterfly Story by Anca Hariton, I learned something new about caterpillars. And that new thing came in handy in a recent conversation with another student.

She came to me for help on a paper, but after that we chatted for a bit. She expressed that being in grad school has been confusing for her. She feels like the God she learned about as a child is different than the God she's learning about at Wheaton. Now when she prays she's not sure who she's praying to. And that's disconcerting.

We didn't go into detail about the particular differences between her childhood theology and what she's hearing in class. But I've felt that tension before, too. You don't want to turn your back on your childhood faith and the people who instilled it in you. But you trust that your professors know what they're talking about, at least most of the time. The choice between them is sometimes awkward and painful!

Everything seemed so simple before seminary. Your job was to read your Bible, pray, and tell other people about Jesus. You were supposed to tell them that he died on the cross for their sins and that if they ask him into their hearts they can go to heaven to live with him forever.

But then you discover that reading the Bible is not that simple. The Bible never talks about "asking Jesus into your heart." And "Jesus" doesn't make any sense without the Old Testament background. Furthermore, you're told that Westerners tend to over-emphasize individuality and miss the corporateness of the Bible. It's not about "me and Jesus" but about identifying with the believing community. And then your professor points out  "heaven" is not forever. It's only temporary. The real forever is in the new creation. All that makes sense, but it's crippling, because you're not sure how to talk about the gospel anymore. How can I encourage people to read the Bible without getting stuck in hermeneutics? What is the gospel if it's not "me asking Jesus in my heart so I can live in heaven forever"? What do I tell them?

Here's where the Butterfly Story can be helpful. Everyone knows that a caterpillar turns into a butterfly while it's in the chrysalis (a.k.a. cocoon). But did you know that while it's a caterpillar it outgrows its skin several times? It starts out small, but as it eats and grows larger its skin gets tighter and tighter until it splits open, allowing the caterpillar to wriggle out, fill up with air, and keep eating and growing.

The first skin was not defective. It was right for beginning. It did the job. But it's not big enough to accommodate all the growth the caterpillar needs to experience so that it can become what it was designed to be.

Faith is like that. Our simple ideas about God work for a season. By God's grace they get us where we need to be to learn more. But they can't accommodate everything. We must keep eating and keep growing and not be afraid to shed our skin when things get tight. God hasn't changed. But sometimes our picture of who he is and how he works needs filling out. And that's ok. It's all part of growing up.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

five . . . and loving him all the way

Our baby is 5 today. Incredible.

Easton's first ride on the tag-a-long bike with Dad!
It's hard to imagine a more delightful kid than Easton. He's so utterly adorable, so funny and eager to learn. He's a joy to parent and so full of love.

He's been thinking long and hard about what he wants for his birthday. After much consideration, he settled on a BIG HUG. :) We've been practicing all week so we can get it right.

A friend of mine from seminary is embarking on a journey as a foster parent. She blogged this week about the challenges of learning to love and let go. Her words are priceless. And she reminded me that none of us know how many days we'll have with our children. They are on loan to us from God. We have to chose between holding back
and loving them "all the way," no matter what the future holds.

One of Emma's classmates underwent a 3-hour surgery on her skull yesterday afternoon. On Tuesday the girls were playing softball together. No issues. Today Addy is hospitalized and recovering from major surgery. We just never know what will come our way. We just have to love them while we can.

Easton started out in a sleeping bag on the floor,
but this is where he ended up.
As I wrote this last night Easton was upstairs, giggling with Emma in her room, where he had a "sleepover." I don't think they talked long. The last thing I heard was ...

Easton: I need my "birthday sleep"!
Emma: I need my "beauty sleep." Goodnight, birthday boy!
Easton: Goodnight, beauty girl!




Happy Birthday, Easton! I'm so thankful I get to be your mom!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Tidbit: Goldingay's Gospel

I'm halfway through John Goldingay's 3-volume Old Testament Theology (this is no small feat, considering that it totals some 2600 pages). Volume 1, Israel's Gospel, is especially captivating. I wasn't actually required to read it carefully, just skim it, but I couldn't put it down. Goldingay takes readers through the narratives of the Old Testament, weaving them together in his winsome way and punctuating his prose with profound insights into the ways of God. It was well worth my time, and would be well worth yours -- whether you are a student or not. Goldingay is known for his refreshing honesty, his refusal to flatten the Bible to make it all say what we expect it to say. He acknowledges the tough stuff, muses over apparent contradictions, and then invites us to look at it--and at our great God--with new eyes. For this scholar, the Old Testament is a treasure trove of grace, a place to encounter the gospel again and again. It's no wonder that Israel's Gospel won the 2004 ECPA Gold Medallion award.

Volume 2, entitled Israel's Faith, explores the prophets and poetry of the Old Testament, where faith in Yahweh is expressed most directly. It is arranged topically, but engages closely with the text. It is not as gripping as volume 1, but once again Goldingay's insights into the text make it worth the read. I'm really grateful for the Scripture Index so I can find these insights once again when I need them for my own research and teaching. Here's a taste of what this book has to offer:  In a section on Israel as Yahweh's "Home," Goldingay describes Zion as a place with no "inherent beauty," but a place that has "become beautiful because God resides there" (see Psalm 50:1-3). He goes on to say,
"The city of God is not a place in heaven or even a place on earth insulated from its pressures, but a place within history and its conflicts where God is at work putting down opposition. The challenge to the people of God is to believe that this is so and to live in history with confidence, yet without thinking that we are responsible for fixing the world's destiny or for bringing in the kingdom of God" (Israel's Faith, 242).
Sometimes in the messy day-to-day of life we lose sight of this. We forget that God is at work here, bringing about his master plan by fighting for us. His kingdom is advancing. A battle is being fought and won. Though we participate, we are not responsible to make sure it happens. Instead we are invited to "believe that this is so" -- that Yahweh is the true king and that he will win in the end -- and to announce that his kingdom is here. Now that's good news!

Monday, June 3, 2013

the memory we (almost) missed

Danny often takes the kids camping without me so that I can have an entire weekend of uninterrupted study time while they make memories together. He's a hero! But over Memorial Day weekend, we had planned to go as a whole family. We all love camping. We love the fresh air. We love the trees. We love hiking and biking, resting and reading, playing games and sitting around the campfire. And when we get to do it all together, we're delighted.

But three days before our trip, Danny hurt his shoulder playing basketball. He collided with another guy, heard a "pop", and groaned in pain. By morning the pain was still pretty intense, and Danny's right arm was basically useless. He got on the internet to see if we could cancel our reservation. Sigh. It's hard to find a long weekend that works for all 5 of us and even harder to find a decent camping spot on a holiday weekend. What should we do?

We decided to take the plunge. If we left the bikes at home, we could still camp without so much heavy lifting. So we went. And, boy, were we glad we did. The weather was ideal, the scenery beautiful, and the kids cheerful. We played round after round of our current favorite: Monopoly Deal. We spent hours around the campfire, watching the flames. We went for a short hike, during which Easton spontaneously launched a frisbee off the cliff into the river, prompting a daring rescue by yours truly.

On Sunday morning, Danny checked the forecast and then broke the news. "We're supposed to get a major thunderstorm tonight," he told me. "Starting at 3:00 there is a 30% chance of rain, and that goes up to 60% by 6:00. It's supposed to rain all morning tomorrow, too, right when we're packing up. Should we pack up early and go home?"

I was bummed. Nobody likes to pack up in the rain. Everything would have to be set back up to dry when we got home. But I wasn't done yet. I wanted more games. More campfire. More hiking. More downtime. We decided it made the most sense to go home.

But then, a couple of hours later, about the time we'd need to start packing up, I had a thought. All the best camping memories I have from childhood are when something dramatic happened. Like the time when Dad's truck slid off the highway, or when it got stuck in the middle of a river, or when it got hung up on a rock, or when it barely fit on the narrow
mountain road with a steep cliff on one side. Or the time when it was so windy that Dad was afraid the trailer would blow off the mountain so we packed up and drove home in the middle of the night. If we avoid the rain, will we be missing a memory?


And so we stayed. It rained a little, but then it stopped and the sun came out and the air was fresh and clear. We decided to take a hike while we had the chance. Partway through the hike the clouds moved in again and it started to sprinkle. We picked up the pace, but kept going farther down the trail because we hadn't seen the waterfall yet. Just after we got there, it started to pour. We trudged back through wet grass and muddy trails for about a mile in the pouring rain. By the time we got back to the van we were all soaked to the skin. Our shoes squished and squeaked. Our clothes clung to our bodies. And everyone was happy.

It rained again the next morning, precisely when we were packing up our pop-up camper. The kids stayed dry in the van, but Danny and I were soaked again. As we pulled away from our camping spot, I saw some other campers wearing rain ponchos. "Now there's a good idea!" I said out loud. We had forgotten our umbrellas, but ponchos seemed even more practical. And then it dawned on me. We have ponchos, too . . . safe and dry in our camper! So we laughed and made a mental note for next time.

When we asked the kids later what the highlight of the weekend was, it was unanimous: The "rain hike." We did the same hike a year ago and the kids complained the whole way. This year they giggled and splashed and spurred each other on. Memories are funny things. We can be so intent on trying to make them "just right" that we miss them altogether. In this case, I'm glad that a busy schedule, an injured shoulder, and a dismal forecast didn't stand in the way.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Find the BEST Old Testament Commentaries

Last week Baker Academic sent me a free copy of this really useful book. (Thanks, Baker!) I've already fulfilled my obligation to them by blogging about it here, at the Wheaton Blog, but it's such a nifty book that I just had to tell you about it as well. (For my full review, check out the other site).

If you've ever had trouble knowing which commentaries will be worth owning, or even where to start research for a sermon or paper or Bible Study, this is the book for you. It's one book that will save you both time and money. At under $12, you actually can't afford not to own it. Longman is a well-respected Evangelical scholar with decades of experience teaching and writing commentaries. Consider him your own personal tutor when it comes to choosing commentaries.

So how does this book work? Longman lists at least a dozen commentaries on each book of the Old Testament, grouped by book. He evaluates each one in a few sentences, telling you what's unique, what's done well, and what's not. Each entry is coded to show the intended audience (L=laypeople; M=ministers and seminary students; S=scholars). Then he gives it a rating between one and five stars to help you find the best commentaries at a glance.

This book came at a good time. For my current dissertation chapter I needed to quickly check the best commentaries on Psalms to see what they said about a tricky passage. I flipped to the section on Psalms in Longman's book and within about 2 minutes I knew which commentaries to grab from the reference section and which to avoid. My only regret is that I didn't know about this book years ago. It will stay within arm's reach at my desk from here on out. And later this fall, when the New Testament counterpart by D. A. Carson is released, it will be in good company.








Monday, May 20, 2013

TGIM

I do love weekends. I love family time. I love eating popcorn and watching the Waltons together. I love accomplishing things around the house. I love going to church.  And I love quiet Sunday afternoons when everyone is "napping."

But, still, I can probably count on one hand the number of Fridays when I could honestly say "TGIF!" I love the library. I love my study carrel. I love my dissertation topic, and I love having concentrated time to work on it. So when Friday afternoon rolls around, I'm usually sad that another week is gone and I have to wait until Monday to get back at it.

My research is progressing slowly-but-steadily. I've made some cool discoveries, but I'm still not sure how to wrestle 8 word studies into something anyone will want to read. As usual I wish I could say everything at once, so my readers will be able to see all the compelling evidence I've seen and be as convinced as I am about my thesis. Since that's impossible I'll have to choose just one winding path through the mass of data. Do engineers feel this way when they are deciding where to pave a road through a state park? It's a daunting task, but the more I walk the trails, the more I can imagine what I want to show people, and when.

So Thanks, God, for Monday. Thanks for a whole week to hike deeper into the forest, deliberate longer, retrace my steps, and begin to write.

Friday, May 17, 2013

goodbye, preschool!

Easton's Last Day of Preschool,
posing with Mrs. Cline and Mrs. Binkerd
In honor of Easton's last week of preschool, my Mom came up with a new tagline.

It used to read
reflections from Seminary Avenue (on anything from preschool to PhD)
Before that it was
reflections from Seminary Avenue (on anything from diapers to dissertation)
Now you can see it says
reflections from Seminary Avenue (on anything from ABC's to ABD)

No more diapers.
No more thumb-sucking.
No more bibs.
No more sippy cups.
No more training wheels.
No more stroller.
No more preschool.
Our little man is really growing up!

ABC's are a big part of Easton's world right now. When he first started learning to read he would climb down from his bunk bed in the morning, book in hand, eyes barely open, and ask if he could read to us. The book traveled with him all day long. He was obsessed.

Now he's back to drawing and playing and listening to music -- but he still loves to read. He's eager to learn about the world around him, and he's full of questions.


"Mom, why is the 'g' silent in this word?"

"Mom, why does every kid come with a grown up?" (He later decided that kids need grown-ups to remind them to do their chores before dinner and to make sure they don't fight with their sisters. I'm glad we're good for something!)

"Mom, why did God make bugs?"

"Mom, are you almost done with your dissertation?" (He's not impatient, just wondering.)

Tonight at dinner he prayed, "Dear God, please help Emma's knee to feel better. Please help Ana to have fun at Gwyn's house. And please help Mom as she writes her dissertation."

There may be a big gap between learning ABC's and being ABD, but at our house the two go hand in hand.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

uncharted territory

"You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? 
How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right . . .
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind."

From Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Now that I'm ABD, I'm facing my next dissertation chapter head on. And it's all new territory.

I have a pile of pages to read two inches thick that I've photocopied from theological lexicons.
I have a to-do list at least 5 pages long.
I have a whole shelf of books quietly waiting to be read.
And I have nagging questions about the best way to frame my research.
But the clock keeps ticking, which means I can't stand around too long procrastinating.
I just need to make up my mind and get started.

The biggest challenges in life don't come with instruction manuals. But whether your uncharted territory relates to breastfeeding or sleep training, educating your kids, dealing with teenagers, applying to grad school, resolving conflict, writing a dissertation, embarking on a new career, beginning a dating relationship, settling in to a new culture, navigating doctrinal questions, or responding to the needs of aging parents, the good news is you are not alone. We have a shepherd-king who will guide us each step of the way, even when the streets are "darked."

"Yahweh is my shepherd. I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, 
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the paths of the righteous
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not fear evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
Psalm 23:1–4*

*my translation, adapted from the NIV 2011


Thursday, May 2, 2013

singing my ABD's...

Photo Credit: Easton
This week marks a significant milestone in my academic career. I am now considered "ABD"! In the strange world of academia, with its insider vocabulary, that means I have fulfilled all the required coursework for my doctorate. All that remains is to finish comprehensive reading and write the rest of my dissertation, hence the acronym, "All But Dissertation."

Most significantly, I'm done taking classes for credit.

Forever.

What this doesn't mean is that I'm no longer a student. I will always be a student, even when I'm standing on the other side of the podium. If I've learned anything at Wheaton, it's that I have so much more to learn. Don't we all? Singing the alphabet is only the first of many stages in a lifetime of discovery.

But it's still cause for celebration. So for now I'm singin' my ABD's . . . next time won't you sing with me?
Our Celebration Dinner—A Family Affair!
Emma proudly displays Mom's progress chart.
Everybody has worked hard for this!