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


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.


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!