Gordon-Conwell Blog

Gratitude and Miracle | Seminary Student Blogger

November 25, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

It took me about a year to read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and as I read it I started a gratitude list. The premise of this book is one of searching for little acts of grace that God gives us that we often overlook. Voskamp found that she drew nearer to God as she made it a point to write these things down, to acknowledge them and thank him for giving them.

I started clumsily at first, knowing that I couldn’t just make a list of things I loved, but rather I had to capture moments. It started to grow into habit over time until I bought a little brown book in which I write out those things that spark a sense of gratitude, little whisperings of the Savior’s provision.

106. The raspy shouting of a child trying to whisper in church.
114. Friends returning from long trips.
139. The crowd that lingers after a polo match, wandering in the light of dusk.
166. Walking the Brooklyn Bridge.
194. Pressing record for a living.
246. Rumors of Advent.

Thanksgiving used to be the kind of holiday that I almost overlooked. It didn’t have the pizzazz of Christmas and it was almost impossible to go all the way home for the holiday, so it fell to the back of my mind until mid-November.

This year’s Thanksgiving feels new. After a year of writing down the things that make my world powerfully and pointedly and almost unbearably beautiful, Thanksgiving is a holiday that I am greatly looking forward to.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on the first night of Hanukkah. As a Messianic Jew, I am Christian by faith, but Jewish by tradition and lineage. Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication, is characterized by a focus on the miracles of life, the faithfulness of God and the dedication with which we must honor the LORD in our own lives. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah in John 10 (which also was when Jesus announced that he was One with the Father).

The Jewish calendar is not the same as the Roman one, and so sometimes Hanukkah is early December and sometimes it’s later. This year, since Thanksgiving is so late and Hanukkah is so early, they coincide, and I could not be more pleased.

Today I was talking to a dear friend about the ways that God moves in our lives through the smallest details to bring us to a better understanding of who he is. Just nine months ago, she and I were strangers and now here we were overwhelmed by his faithfulness as good friends. Gratitude and Miracle.

We are fallen and yet he loves us. Gratitude and Miracle.

I get to be a student of theology for this season. Gratitude and Miracle.

These holidays might have more in common than I realized.

Each year, we recite prayers as we light candles on Hanukkah. The flame glimmers in the window, shining out to the community around us, as if to proclaim the light of God himself. We say in Hebrew, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”

As the sun sets, and Hanukkah arrives Thanksgiving night, I will pull out that little brown book and a pen, writing by the light of a menorah, soul full of family and friends, and I will pour ink onto the page and it will simply read, “Gratitude and Miracle.”

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah. May he continue to grant us life, sustain us and enable us to reach new seasons. And may the gratitude for the miracles he gifts us be ever on our lips.

Melissa Zaldivar is an MATH student from California. She loves golf, theology, Jewish holidays, people falling in love, Jonathan Edwards, chocolate chip cookies, her adorable niece and telling stories. When she's not filming and photographing weddings, you can find her reading news articles, watching Parks and Recreation or playing Super Smash Bros.
 

 

 

Tags: Author: Melissa Zaldivar , spiritually vital , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Three Ways the Internet May be Stunting Your Christian Growth | Seminary Guest Blogger

November 19, 2013

Josh Kluth

The Internet is an incredible example of technological innovation. The resources at our fingertips are countless. The way social media mimics real life keeps us “refreshing” our updates and “connecting” with people. Our behavior often mimics our technology—quickly downloading information and outputting data. Our digital interactions make communication almost too easy with all of the posting, commenting, linking, liking, sharing, etc. As people made in the image of God, we can forget that our hearts and minds are much more, well, human. How does our use of the Internet affect our Christian growth? Are their inherent dangers? I’d like to suggest three ways the Internet can stunt our growth as Christians.

1. The Internet can short-circuit your Christian development. Online resources can give the impression that difficult questions have simplistic answers. Christian development does not occur via mouse click. We are meant to wrestle through issues in the Bible. Sometimes, though, the only struggle today is how long it takes us to find thoughts from our favorite online pastor or blogger. No real need to think, wait, fast, struggle, ponder, trust or meditate. Just a steady diet of regurgitation. Alan Jacobs alerts us to this when he remarks that the internet is “the friend of information and the enemy of thought.”

2. The internet can demonstrate your idolatry. Have you ever met someone whose personality changed depending on who they spent time with? This can happen among well-meaning Christians impressed by an influential speaker or writer. The internet allows us access to endless hours of podcasts and blog posts. If we’re not carefully, we begin to mimic the vocabulary, tone and style of someone else as if they are our own. G.K. Beale says, “We resemble what we revere.” It’s almost as if we want to be perceived in the same way we perceive those who have tremendous influence over us. It may be the case of misplaced worship when we become image-bearers of those with whom we spend the most time.

3. Social media can short-circuit your friend’s Christian development. It’s amazing how fast social media allows us to share and respond to others, especially if there is an opportunity to offer advice, answers, counsel or issue a challenge. But simple answers often numb our hearts. Our tone, concern and thoughtfulness often touch hearts deeper than words typed out. The Internet may not be the best place to post deeply personal questions and thoughts, but it certainly isn’t the best place to offer care and concern. Pixels on your computer are a poor transmitter of grace. Sometimes it’s best to get offline and talk in person. I sometimes fear our desire to look smart eclipses our desire to actually demonstrate care.

The Internet is not bad. It is a gift. However you use it, I pray that you would find yourself more satisfied with God, not less; more excited to spend time in prayer, not less; more influenced in our study of Scripture, not less; more physical time spent with people, not less. After all, our goal is to be conformed more to his image. May all of our online activity (reading, posting, sharing, listening, commenting, liking, following, quoting etc.) be a means for making much of our Lord. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36).

Josh and his wife, Tara, are from Washington State. Josh is pursuing an MAR and MATH while Tara works as a hairdresser in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Together, they are most captivated by the story in which God has placed them in this fascinatingly bizarre world that spins across this universe. In the midst of it all, they are stabilized by what Sally Lloyd-Jones describes as “God’s 'Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love' in Jesus" (Jesus Storybook Bible).

Tags: Author: Josh Kluth , guest post

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

The Push and Pull of Grace | Seminary Student Blogger

November 19, 2013

Amy Gannett

Grace is a wonton commodity in our economy of checks and balances. It is a strange creature; a peculiar beast of unknown proportions. We are a people of rush and do-to, and we hurry past grace noting the way she sits awkwardly in the midst of our busy.

Grace—the thing of gifting and giving and forgiveness. And just her posture provokes craving and yet makes us shift in our seats. If we’re honest, grace makes us just a bit uncomfortable. We like knowing our debts are paid from our own pockets, our time is managed by our own multi-tasking, and our memories are maintained by our own control. We would rather not have to handle grace or call upon her services. We are a self-propelled people, hastening on and on not taking unless we can repay:

We’d love to come to dinner, but what can we bring?
Oh no, please let me pay; really, I prefer it.
Sure you can take my kids this afternoon, but we’d like to have Tommy our way next week.

And yet, when the sun sets and the schedule calms, when the bustle runs out and the dust of the day settles, we cannot escape the reality that we are a people for whom grace must be prescribed. At the end of the day, at the end of ourselves, we are all too well aware that all our efforts will not suffice.

When we are late, those minutes will not return to our watches. When we forget a birthday, no length of words will satisfy. When the money runs out or the credit card is maxed, there simply are no more pennies to throw to the gatherers. And in the midst of our lost minutes and money, grace speaks a language we do not understand. Falling foreign on our ears are words of nothing owed and abundant pardon. And while they are strange to our hearing, they come like balm on our failures nonetheless. Well aware of our shortcomings, we turn ourselves at last to grace.

Grace, the stuff that wedges itself in the cracks of our lives, between the lacking and the wanting, holding all together and whispering, All is pardoned, all is covered. Let’s try again tomorrow. And surrendered to her presence we wrap ourselves up and finally let our eyelids rest. 

Hi, friend. I'm Amy. Mostly, I’m just another twenty-something trying to figure out the stuff of life. I am a nerdy seminary student who loves the smell of old books and early mornings in the library. I am an artist wanabee, a liberal to the conservative and conservative to the liberal, guilty social justice groupie, and a recovering Bible know-it-all with the unreal ability to put my foot in my mouth an astonishing number of times each day. I am a sister to eight of the most hysterical creatures ever created. Good theology, used book stores, and autumn make me giddy. I preach passionately, think deeply, and ask too many questions. I write prayers, poetry and prose. I write about preaching bad and good, gender roles in the Church, the sacraments, stupid things we do on Sunday, politics, and almost everything else that you are not supposed to discuss in polite company. I also blog at oneyellowbird.blogspot.com. Welcome to the journey.

 

Tags: Author: Amy Gilbaugh , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Confessions of a Selfish, People-Pleasing Pastor | Seminary Student Blogger

November 14, 2013

Joelinda Coichy

I have been a people-pleaser most of my life. Actually—I think I made it through high school and college in the shape that I did because I knew that being a good student and Christian would very much please my ambitious, emigrant, Haitian family.

I should have known then that I would probably end up working in the church, because it turns out people-pleasing is an area in which many of us pastor-types excel.

To a certain degree, this makes sense. Our call is to care for people and help them find wholeness in Christ. Generally, whole people are “pleased” with God and with us by extension. And we do our best to “give all the praise to God,” but c’mon, we love the goodwill that we receive because of God’s awesomeness (at least I know that I do). And this is not necessarily bad…

But when there are more people than we have the resources to care for and we get tired, our call degenerates. For me—generally into pandering, appeasing and thoughts along the lines of: “If I just show up and smile, I can make it through and they will be happy.”

But, if despite your people-pleasing tendencies you have genuine concern for your flock, here is the BIG, sad catch: people don’t want to be pleased and appeased; they want to be genuinely loved.

I have learned the HARD way that every time I show up to “serve” someone who needs (nags) me without explicit marching orders from the Holy Spirit, my “service” blows up in my face.

Generally, I show up tired, and despite my best acting Needy-Person-X can sense that I am not all there. Needy-Person-X doesn’t get what he/she wants/needs. Needy-Person-X is hurt. And I leave exhausted and—worse—discouraged about myself, Needy-Person-X, and about God’s ability to heal, in general…

Yeah, not ideal!

Genuine love is hard. Really, it can only come from God’s Holy Spirit making me aware of how much, despite my own brokenness, I am adored and provided for. And really, it can only happen within boundaries.

Boundaries that tell me that I am not God. Boundaries that remind me that I only can give what has been first been given to me by the Holy Spirit. Boundaries of rest, quiet and Sabbath that prove to my heart that God is the one at work, not me. And boundaries that prevent me from showing up, tired and needy myself, to “serve” what ends up being nothing more than my own ego and pride.

Joelinda is a second year M.Div. candidate. She currently serves as the Student Ministries Director at Grace Chapel’s Watertown campus. She is a lover of all things beautiful including theater, fall days in New England, chick flicks and the mountains. She counts bargain-hunting her sport and enjoys singing loudly while driving. Above all, Joelinda’s passion is to build relationships that help others understand the transformative power of the gospel.

 

Tags: Author: Joelinda Coichy , spiritually vital , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Grace Abounding | Seminary Student Blogger

November 12, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

I’ve been a runner for about five years now, and usually go just a few miles here and there. So when a friend wanted to do a half-marathon, I asked her if I could join. It was, in my mind, going to be great. As a film director, I had my idea of what the next month would look like. I would train on fall afternoons and pound out mile after mile. I would get in distance shape, and the day of the race I would cross the finish line having persevered. The music would swell and everything would come together like the end of a movie.

But a week before the race, I injured my knee and my running advisor told me that I should stay off of it. I started feeling in my heart that something was shifting. The race day was not going to be the way that I thought it would be.

My friend got a really nasty cold and had to pull out of the half and so I coordinated a ride and went to Newburyport for the big day. It was cold and I was nervous and undertrained and had no idea what I was doing. And I wish I could tell you that I ran through the rolling backroads and felt nothing but pure adrenaline and broke all kinds of records and raced well. But I hit a wall at mile seven that turned into a battlefield until mile nine, at which point I met a woman who was running at about the same pace. Her name was Alysha and she was about 10 years old than me. So, we talked about family and kids and marriage and started exhausting the basic details of everyday life. And around mile 11, she told me about her mother-in-law who has pancreatic cancer. Alysha has been taking care of her, quitting her job and exhausting herself to do so.

Life is full of a lot of little details that don’t make any sense, and it sometimes feels like nothing is ever going to change. Like I’ll be single forever and my vocation will never really take off and I’ll never understand Hebrew paradigms and instead of breaking records and finishing well I’m breaking bones and trying to finish. Period.

As we approached mile 12.5, I started to feel that shift in my heart again. I was running toward the finish line feeling like I hadn’t really accomplished anything. I hadn’t had some big, transformative breakthrough. Instead, I was running beside a woman who was struggling just to take care of others (let alone herself) and I almost wanted to just stop because I felt like I was going nowhere anyway. And out of that rush of disappointment and pain and underwhelming feelings, instead of saying something profound, all I could muster was this sentence about a dear family at the seminary who has been struggling the last few weeks with difficult news.

I took a breath and said, “My friend and her husband are going to Philadelphia to talk to doctors about whether or not their daughter will ever walk or even survive the next few months.”

We were silent for a second and I looked at Alysha and I said, “In case no one is telling you this, can I just say: Thank you for everything that you are doing.”

The next few minutes were a blur. We listened to Katy Perry and crossed the finish line and a teenager gave me a medal and I felt, oddly, nothing.
Sometimes, we make plans. And we see life taking one turn when we wanted it to turn another direction. This half-marathon was a case of me trying to make it turn the other way. It was my way of accomplishing something on my own, and in the end, it left me empty. Sure, I did what I set out to do. I ran a half-marathon. But running doesn’t solve anything. The same way that straight A’s or understanding Hebrew or getting married doesn’t solve anything. In the end, it’s not about finishing well. Maybe it’s not even about the finish. Maybe it’s about hitting that wall and still putting one foot in front of the other.

We serve a sovereign God who loves us greatly. Who has planned out route for this race and desires for us to trust in that. While it will always be a struggle for this heart of mine, I have to remember that I’m not really the director here. Life is rarely cinematic. Just because the music doesn’t swell and I’m not being carried on anyone’s shoulders at the end of a half-marathon doesn’t mean He is any less good. If anything, I think that our weakness proves His strength all the more.

So, my friends, may you find yourself racing well. When your legs are strong and your lungs breathe easy, may you thank Him for grace. And when you hit that wall and nothing seems to be going according to plan, may you remember to just put one foot in front of the other. And may you thank Him for grace abounding.

Melissa Zaldivar is an MATH student from California. She loves golf, theology, Jewish holidays, people falling in love, Jonathan Edwards, chocolate chip cookies, her adorable niece and telling stories. When she's not filming and photographing weddings, you can find her reading news articles, watching Parks and Recreation or playing Super Smash Bros.
 

 

 

Tags: Author: Melissa Zaldivar , spiritually vital , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

Add comment

COMMENTS

A really interesting post that should make us think about what we can do and what we do, what our path of life as we live it, I liked it and gave me strength to keep walking. Best wishes.
Tot dental 11:17AM 11/13/13

Your Voice | Seminary Student Blogger

November 07, 2013

Kate Hightower

Struck hard
Lost
In the pitch of night
No room
For a breath
Too close
For fright

Just constant
Motion
To no where in sight
Alone and angry
My purposes run dry

A confession, a surrender
A gasp, a sigh

Stars blister the night
Making dazzled way
For beaming moonlight
The grip to relent

Strength surge to my limbs
Curl into a dance
A symphony calls further
Shatters my trance

And
Then
Your
Voice

“Arise,” say Your eyes.
“Come forth here and stay.”

A gasp, a surrender,
A declaration of tearful reply:

“You are the God who sees.”
And I bathe free in Your delight.

Kate Hightower is writing to you from the middle of her Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Thought pursuit at Gordon-Conwell—Jacksonville, where she is also a Byington Scholar. She’s an avid Bob Dylan fan, and can always be counted upon for decadent French cooking. And she’s madly in love with her giant, brilliant golden retriever, Stella.

Tags: Author: Kate Hightower , spiritually vital , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

On Church and Military Hospitals | Seminary Student Blogger

November 05, 2013

Tim Norton

I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the Church lately. What is the Church’s role in society today? What is its primary posture towards culture? I think we all know that there are some hot topics floating around that tend to spark debate in this conversation. As I ponder these types of questions, one image keeps running through my brain: The Church should be like a military hospital.

A hospital is known for caring for sick and wounded people. Now, imagine a hospital located near a battlefield. It will service a lot of sick and wounded people. Now, a solider who is wounded in battle does everything in his power to protect his wound from exposure. The battlefield is no place to be wounded. Soldiers have to cover and hide wounds in order to survive, so they wrap, superglue, cover and patch every wound they incur. Only until a solder comes into the hospital is it acceptable to uncover his wounds. It is the job of the doctors and nurses to gain enough of a soldier’s trust to expose his wounds in complete vulnerability. Then, it is the job of the doctors and nurses heal that solider. And so, doctors and nurses expect to see wounds. They aren’t surprised by them. Imagine a solider coming in with a gunshot to the leg and the ER nurse first lectures the kid for allowing himself to get shot. Is that going to happen? No. Step one is heal the wound, not shame the soldier. Then, after he’s healed, step two is tell the kid not to get shot again.

I think the Church, the Body of Christ, is designed to be a hospital for hurts, wounds, sin, habits, etc. We are designed to administer grace. Too often I send a mixed message because I’ve fallen into the false teaching of moving beyond my own need for grace. Theologically I still believe in it, but I switch my focus from my constant need for grace. I want to improve to the point that I don’t need grace and so I hold others to that standard as well. I’m like a doctor who wants to move beyond the need to use medicine. That’s just not right. To be sure, I don’t think the Church should condone sin any more than a hospital endorses battle-wounds; however, we shouldn’t be surprised when faced with sinners. After all, Scripture presents the overabundance of grace through Christ. God’s grace is poured on us like Niagara Falls would fill a paper cup.

The question is, then, how do we become a place known for grace? How do we become a place that doesn’t endorse sin but also isn’t so repulsed by it that we don’t offer grace through Christ. After all, healing and transformation come after and through grace, not before. A military hospital should expect hurt soldiers to walk through their doors. Churches should expect sinners to do the same. How do we change the current perception of the Church? I don’t know. But I know I want to be in a Church that is like a military hospital. It’s the kind of Church I need. It’s the kind of Church the world needs.

Tim Norton is a born-and-raised, small-town Southerner with the sweet tea addiction to prove it. He comes to Gordon-Conwell as a Kern Pastor-Scholar and plans to pursue pastoral ministry in the U.S. after graduation. Tim is a big personality with a strange affinity for the color orange. Currently, he attends GENESIS Church, an Acts 29 church plant in Woburn, MA.
 

 

 

Tags: Author: Tim Norton , biblically-grounded , equipping leaders for the church and society , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

The Folly of Forgetfulness, the Joy of Remembrance: A Prayer, Day 6 | Seminary Student Blogger

November 02, 2013

Amy Gannett

Amy is contributing a week-long series on reflection and remembrance. You can read her introduction here; day 1 here; day 2 here; day 3 here; day 4 here; day 5 here.

You Have Always Remembered Us

We remember the childhood trek through the store,
when mommy and daddy faded from sight.
We scurried and scrambled and shook just a bit
and they found us again down the next isle.

We remember the more serious journeys of youth,
the ones that led down dark paths.
We scurried and scrambled and shook a bit more,
and the way out was found after a while.

Now we a grown, big, and mature,
and our seasons of loss are the same.
And we do not see the way out.

But the theme of our past
stings brutally with the truth:
Your eyes have not left us, not once.

In each flight of fear,
In each journey of darkness
In each season of pain,
Your eyes have not left us, not once.

Though we have forgotten,
You never have.

And so we ask,
limply,
humbly,
and undeservingly,
that You might make us among the remembering ones,
even as You have always remembered us.

Would you punctuate the dialogue of our lives
with pause and reflection
that we might, in every season,
recall Your goodness that carried us there. 

Hi, friend. I'm Amy. Mostly, I’m just another twenty-something trying to figure out the stuff of life. I am a nerdy seminary student who loves the smell of old books and early mornings in the library. I am an artist wanabee, a liberal to the conservative and conservative to the liberal, guilty social justice groupie, and a recovering Bible know-it-all with the unreal ability to put my foot in my mouth an astonishing number of times each day. I am a sister to eight of the most hysterical creatures ever created. Good theology, used book stores, and autumn make me giddy. I preach passionately, think deeply, and ask too many questions. I write prayers, poetry and prose. I write about preaching bad and good, gender roles in the Church, the sacraments, stupid things we do on Sunday, politics, and almost everything else that you are not supposed to discuss in polite company. I also blog at oneyellowbird.blogspot.com. Welcome to the journey.

 

Tags: Author: Amy Gilbaugh , equipping leaders for the church and society , spiritually vital , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

The Folly of Forgetfulness, the Joy of Remembrance: A Prayer, Day 5 | Seminary Student Blogger

November 01, 2013

Amy Gannett

Amy is contributing a week-long series on reflection and remembrance. You can read her introduction here; day 1 here; day 2 here; day 3 here; day 4 here.

That Wonted Place

The mornings roll together in sleepy familiarity.

The routine is consistent, the rhythm the same.

But this morning I heard a bird trill a familiar tune,

and suddenly I was back in that wonted place dear to my heart.

Swept up in the music, I sat on my old back porch with Your Words in hand.

I climbed up the apple tree just to check the nest.

I hid between the berry bushes and listened to a searching sister's voice.

And here, on this big brown couch, I remember -

Your eyes upon me are the same eyes,

Your voice within me the same voice,

Your goodness toward me to same goodness.

Two worlds apart, and many journeys between,

You are my constant custom.

And I am grateful. 

Hi, friend. I'm Amy. Mostly, I’m just another twenty-something trying to figure out the stuff of life. I am a nerdy seminary student who loves the smell of old books and early mornings in the library. I am an artist wanabee, a liberal to the conservative and conservative to the liberal, guilty social justice groupie, and a recovering Bible know-it-all with the unreal ability to put my foot in my mouth an astonishing number of times each day. I am a sister to eight of the most hysterical creatures ever created. Good theology, used book stores, and autumn make me giddy. I preach passionately, think deeply, and ask too many questions. I write prayers, poetry and prose. I write about preaching bad and good, gender roles in the Church, the sacraments, stupid things we do on Sunday, politics, and almost everything else that you are not supposed to discuss in polite company. I also blog at oneyellowbird.blogspot.com. Welcome to the journey.

 

Tags: Author: Amy Gilbaugh , equipping leaders for the church and society , spiritually vital , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Gordon-Conwell Voices