WHY: I need to start using that calendar again

alternative title:

WHY: I’m not doing a good Why Wednesday

 

because I just discovered a paper that is due by noon on Friday for which I have neither read the book or done the accompanying assigned spiritual practices. (say that ten times fast)

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mundane mondays

today I get to run errands for my job as a personal assistant. I drop of tax papers to bookkeepers and pick up dry cleaning. Then I nanny. Then I make calls at the Seminary for donations. It’s a mundane sort of day.

it’s also a day for apologies. I suppose in a sense, that makes it a more exciting and meaningful kind of day. It’s not bad to start a week out by apologizing and making up. It can be a good start, a way to be refreshed and in a right position before the week starts.

today, with it’s work load and homework load, with the expectation of a late night and the knowledge of a forgotten lunch, well–today is pretty typical of every day.

Somewhere behind me, Nickel Creek is singing about  being a Doubting Thomas. The song wrenches at my heart. It always has. I can remember singing it in the falling autumn leaves of Seattle. But today, it sort of strikes again, in a different place.

You see, in the midst of  my busy-ness, with forgotten lunches and papers, with theological arguments and several jobs to perform for, in the midst of all that, I’ve sort of forgotten some things. I’ve been so stressed lately, in a rather subversive kind of way.

What I mean by subversive is just that I’m not willing to admit it. I sweep things under the rug quite neatly and go merrily on my way! Another late night at the Old Mill? When I haven’t slept in two days? Why not! Aha! You want to argue the divinity and co-eternality of Jesus? Perfect! I’ve been looking for such an argument! That paper can be worked on later!

It’s perfectly lovely, all these things going on.

Except when I get a bit snappy with those who try to love me. Wait, you want me to sit with you? To be quiet and restful? But no! I have things to do, people to see, places to fly to and school work to procrastinate on! I’m the great Sara B— I can do this! I’ve got it under control! You’ll see.

Which is a rather unfortunate view of my finitude. God’s grace and my dependence on his strength.

Ah me, little human, won’t you learn?

So today, in the midst of errands and school work and laughing with new friends, I am starting Advent by apologizing to friends who know me well and have tried so very hard to care for me but simply didn’t know how.

I think that’s a pretty fantastic way to start Advent, honestly. It isn’t fun, no. But it’s a good reminder about the anticipation and need for Advent.

I need Jesus to come and save me from myself.

O Come Thou Rod of Jesse, Free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell, Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to Thee, O Israel. 

Aquinas

I’m writing this paper on Aquinas.

It’s brutal.

Mostly  because there isn’t enough space and I’m really frustrated I don’t get to write about Aristotelian Causes. Instead, I’m covering Revelation and Tradition. Which is okay. I managed to sneak telos into the paper once so far. Not to mention the Shorter Westminster Catechism.

While sitting in a coffee shop doing homework and surfing the web with friends, I said I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over. “God exists! Aristotle! Law! The end!”

to which someone responded: “I think that’s a good paper. How long does it have to be? Four to six pages? Yeah, just use sixty point font.”

thanks seminary. heart ya. (and you too Saint Thomas. Even if you are a pain to write about somedays)

WHY: I’m Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving. That means, we usually sit around the table, gorge ourselves on too much fattening food, complain about Turkey comas, create new reasons for family drama and feuds (who really won at Hearts? or Monte Carlo?), and strategize for Friday’s shopping venture when Evangelicals demand all compulsory buying be done only in Jesus’ name. After all, the Pilgrims are Thursday’s reason for gluttony, and Jesus is the reason for the advent season (do we even know what advent means?).

I will be in the mountains for a good portion of this. Tomorrow, after I work the Thanksgiving Eve service at church I’ll be headed up I70 to a cabin. I am pretty stoked for the next few days. I’ll come home on Friday, not for Black Friday sales but rather for time with other seminarians as we hang out Friday night, play poker and air hockey and probably argue about theological points that have little or no salvific importance.

I think back on various Thanksgivings that I’ve been too and some have been rather meaningful. Others have been a sort of painful experience in dysfunctional American frivolity. It almost seems blasphemous sometimes: the ways we celebrate this holiday and how we only have to say one thing around the table that we’re thankful for in that obligatory game we play before saying “grace.”

I think, perhaps because of a crazy schedule, some incredible stretching in my walk with God, amazing friends and my continual concern for finances, I’m struck with how many things I have to be thankful for this year.

On Sunday night, I designed a curriculum for the kids in my three classes. I sent home Thank You cards with them and a note to their parents. We encouraged families to hang those thank you cards on the fridge, to write letters to God and to draw pictures to thank Him for his good gifts.

So, in an abbreviated sense, the following is my thank you letter to Abba for his many gifts this year.

The London Fog on the desk beside me, wrapped in a cheerful golden sleeve that reminds me of fall time trees as it retains warmth on the cardboard cup. Thank you for reminding me of the sweet things in life, the little pleasures.

The sunshine with a cloudy blanket. Beauty. Thank you.

That beautiful Muslim woman who walked by with her little boy, wearing a gorgeous red hijab that matched the flannel red shirt of the skipping three or four year old. Thank you for reminding me of your heart for all people.

Our charming little apartment, complete with a new shelf and a slightly decreased roach population.

My little white Hyundai. I know I complain about him a lot. But I actually do appreciate him. Honest. He’s got such a good amount of pickup for only being a 4banger.

Scarves.

Money. Or perhaps, better put, work, and money that provides my needs.

My incredibly awesome friends. One just built me a shelf! Another had us over to watch Harry Potter and bake squash! Another has recently offered to pray for me.

Seminary. Papers to write! Books to read! Things to think about! Huzzah for intellect and academia!

My super duper ridiculous awesome family. And the new one who is coming to join in December! Come on Elias! We’re waiting so anxiously!

And mostly, I’m thankful for Jesus. For his love, his grace, his mercy, his strength, his justice and impossible redemption. You are my beautiful Boaz, as Spurgeon once said.

 

so my friends, my readers near and far, what are you thankful for?

Why: I don’t watch R rated movies

I watched a movie over the weekend that was rated “R.” I thought it would probably be for some foul language mixed with violence. They also mentioned a bit of partial nudity which usually means a woman’s backside. Since I have one of those, I wasn’t too worried.

But the movie turned out to be a bit gory. I shut my eyes for a good portion of it. I wanted to quit, but I have this desperate need for closure, and since the movie ended up being a bit scary, I really needed the closure so I knew those bad guys weren’t out wandering the streets.

But the movie started with a home invasion, and after that scene, I knew it was going to be several days before I was truly okay. You see, I was housesitting that same weekend, in a place where the wind howls all night around the homes and the dogs have a fight at least once a day and the heater makes this awful metallic whining noise that is a bit creepy in the middle of the night.

So, each night, I had to make a friend come over and walk through the house with me, to ensure that I was alone and safe. I’m twenty-three. I shouldn’t be so easily frightened.

But that scene keeps replaying in my mind. Not only that one, but others from the movie as well. And it disturbs me, not because I’m afraid of someone invading the house I’m watching or the apartment I live in. Right now, the sun is out, I can see neighbors doing yard work, the dogs are mostly getting along, and I’m more concerned about lunch than about someone entering the front door and stabbing me.

What disturbs me is that there are people out there who are socio paths and do these things. And it disturbs me to have those images in my mind. It also unnerves me that people can write these scripts, and act the parts and then they walk away as though it’s no big deal. Not only that but we watch these movies, and we think it’s okay to watch a man and his wife be attacked for no reason, to watch their little girl be killed by two druggies. We find it somehow enjoyable to watch such things. In fact, we almost cheer the father on when he exacts vengeance on those who took his family from him! We cheer him on, despite the gruesome nature of the killings he performs in the memory of his loved ones.

This is gross.

How can we do that, how can our culture celebrate such things?

As a Christian, there’s a whole other dimension to it. How can I say that I’m thinking on what is pure and holy if I’m watching such atrocities while enjoying my Ben and Jerry’s and attempting a relaxing night after a long afternoon spent in the book of Ephesians and lexical studies? It’s ironic and it seems contradictory.

I’m always frustrated after a movie that’s rated R. There are only three in my memory that haven’t completely freaked me out. (Gladiator, The Patriot and Braveheart) Even those three were painful to watch at certain moments and they aren’t movies that I own. I can’t watch movies like the one this weekend because they actually frighten me, they don’t help me to meditate on good things and they actually take away my hope for humanity because there was nothing redemptive in the story. There was only blood and violence and destruction.

Those aren’t things I think a Christian (or any person) should spend their free time focusing on.

What do you think? Write off all movies that are R? Or try to sift through the ones with gratuitous violence and sex for the ones that do have meaning and weighty significance to their stories?

music

I went to a concert last night with two boys from seminary and a recent acquaintance who thinks she might like to attend the seminary. The place was a dive but it was still good fun. The music, blue grass-folksey-sort, was well done and I enjoyed the friends I was with.

You can look up Mosey West on iTunes and I would highly recommend it. But since I don’t have any music of theirs to lend you via the internet, here’s another band that I really enjoy and this is perhaps one of my favourite songs by them:

Avett Brothers, Talk on Indolence

Enjoy your weekend!

Why: I’m attending seminary

I first started thinking about graduate school as a freshman in college. I sat in the bleachers of our little gym on campus during the Convocation that very first week. I sat near the back, because I always sit near the back. As the music began, I watched a retinue of professors stride through the doors dressed in regal robes and wearing a variety of colors, hats and mantles. I think it began in that moment. I didn’t even have a friend on campus to whisper to, but I thought to myself: Someday I’ll wear one of those.

Kelsie and I used to joke that we would pick graduate schools based on colors and that PhD programs would have to match. After all, some of those outfits were atrocious. For three years I dreamed of programs. I put those dreams away when I dated Anthony, it didn’t seem the right time and plan. But when things didn’t work out and I found myself bored at work, I began dreaming again.

I waffled for a short time in my head. Politics? Theology? Both? In the end, I opted for Theology. I feel more at home in the church than I do in the halls of the legislature. Calvin, Saint Bernard and Hildegard, these are my friends even more so than Locke, Hobbes and Tocqueville (though these I love as well).

And there was more to it than just being bored at work. When I was bored at work, I just quit my job. I could have found another–perhaps even one that would have used my degree or at least interested me. And when Pakistan didn’t work out for a short visit, I needed some other new direction.

I had spoken over several months with a variety of “Christian” friends. So many of them were burnouts. And some of that burnout was from a lack of education. This became a pet peeve of mine regarding the church. I began to see that the body of faith promised things that were not given us in Scripture. We advertised the happiness, the joy, but we ignored what Bonhoffer would call the cost of discipleship. We forgot the sacrifice, not only of the cross, but of the apostles and the early fathers.

And so my friends were burned out. I saw a church stumbling to figure out how it could educate its youth, and wondering if the future was as grim a prospect as some predicted. I looked at education (more widely than just in the church) and saw a system that taught to exams. We didn’t teach people to think or engage. We taught them to regurgitate.

That seemed wrong.

God gave us these minds, these brilliant things that help to define our purpose and identity as “image bearers.” Having a mind, as well as as a soul, is one of the things which makes us created in His likeness.

We ought to engage. We ought to think. We ought to be educated.

Dr. Davis always said I had a teacher’s soul.

I’m in seminary for these reasons:

the outfit I’ll someday get to wear. The hooding ceremony.
the chance to learn and be challenged intellectually.
the privilege to teach and educate the next generation.

We ought to know theology. I think we should have it ground into us from the day we’re born. Almost every day I ask the little girls I nanny: do you know who loves you the most, the most, the most? Sierra scrunches her nose and looks confused. Lily giggles because I usually do it while bopping her nose with mine or tipping her upside down. I also have to tell Lils that she may not throw a fit when I tell her no. I know she doesn’t understand this at barley 15months. But I also know she will someday. Because though Abba loves her, she has to know that disappointment is part of life, this side of the Fall.

The Fall! Even that is a theological term.

So you see, we have to have it taught to us. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus the Christ? How does it play out to be image-bearers and peacemakers? Should we have churches and what does the liturgy signify?

If we want a future to the church, we should know.

And so, someday, I plan to don–not only the mantle of this seminary–but the robe of a PhD program and shake my little tassel with pride, and then I will interview for a job where I’ll teach. And I will never myself cease to learn.

scribblings (when I should be studying)

I started rambling in an email to a friend recently. I was sitting in a favorite coffee shop admiring the mountains and drinking a London Fog I’d made at home. I’d just paid bills and was rather glad that I had money left over afterwards! God is so very very good to me. In the relief of a weekend soon to come, this came out:

I am almost done reading the homework for NT. I just discovered a new paper I have due and am scrambling to do everything else so I can work on that.So I am sitting in a coffee shop inside a church with terrible Christian music. But it has this inredible view of the mountains. And for that I am grateful. It helps me rest, being able to look at those great figures breathing softly  beneath their winter blanket. THe clouds are sparse against the blue, the thin kind that look like cotton in fields not yet ready for picking. Or perhaps, better put, like the cotton that’s been stretched and brushed. It has gaps and holes but it clings together …and now I’m just rambling.

But the mountains did look to breath easy  under the light blanket of snow. And those stretched thin clouds that drifted lazily across the bright blue sky…it was a perfect winter day.

God is so very good to me.

death

It’s winter-time. Sierra and I painted pictures of trees. We talked about how leaves fall off of trees during the winter, because things die. But I also reminded her of the summer time and how the leaves will come back, because things will return to life after a long sleep through snowy winter months.

A few friends have had grandparents struggling with health lately. This is not foreign to me, but I think I have been more distant from the deaths of the elderly in my family because of physical space and we always had a forward view of death.

This was something spoken of in a recent class. We were discussing the Last Supper and the implications of an eschatological meal when the culture in which Jesus was born was sort of obsessed with mealtimes.

And this was said:

when we face death, we must remember the meal, the fellowship, and the party.

It’s the party with the best wine, the best food, the best people around–the ones you’re close to and the ones you’ve always wanted to meet. This, my professor reminded us, is how we must view death.

It doesn’t do away with the sorrow and the lament. We weren’t supposed to die. By all means, lament and mourn and wail. Grief is normal and natural, it is important. But we have to remember that just like the trees which die during wintertime, death is necessary to bring on the next life.

Why: I’m considering skipping class

I haven’t done laundry in almost three weeks. I could really use some clean clothes. But that takes time–and at someone else’s house since it’s expensive at my apartment to pay for laundry. Clearly, clean clothes take precedent over learning.

I just discovered a 10-12 page paper due in two weeks. I didn’t know this one existed until I ran into a classmate at the Old Mill and he asked if I had started it. Perfect. What an excuse to sit at the coffee shop and just study! I need to block out some serious time to do this.

I could really use a nap. I’ve been pulling 5 hour nights lately between homework and social life. I think my body would appreciate some extra sleep today.

I don’t feel like it. It’s a short class. I haven’t skipped any other classes. I think it’d be nice to skip my afternoon class. Besides, a ton of other schools in the area are closed, why not mine?

Which leads to the most important reason: the other schools are closed due to a nice little snow storm last night! I want to sit in a coffee shop, sip my chai or London Fog, work on homework, be cozy warm, and admire the snow! Come on world! It’s the first legitimate storm this year! I shouldn’t have to go to school!

 

seriously.

 

but we all know I’m a goody-to-shoes (whatever that means). So I’ll see you after TM Intro. Dang.