Gordon-Conwell Blog

Fragile | Seminary Student Blogger

March 27, 2014

Melissa Zaldivar

In his short-but-mighty book, Weakness is the Way, J. I. Packer writes, “…if people who at present have no sense of weakness were more careful and restrained in the way they talk of others and to others, the world might be a less painful place.”

I underlined those words when I got a copy of that little book a number of months ago and I had no idea that my then-present state of “no sense of weakness” was about to come crashing down.

As I write this, I am in bed, recovering from an over-the-weekend bout with a virus that completely destroyed me. Up all night and struggling with fevers all day, I felt, in a word, weak. My friend Anne came to sit with me yesterday and as I struggled to be comfortable with an aching body, I winced and said into my pillow, “I just want to be done.”

I have been feeling that way a lot lately. I’m ready to be okay again. I’m ready to be healed. I’m ready to get back into normal life—whatever that means—as soon as possible.

You see, this weekend was a 48-hour manifestation of how my spirit has stumbled its way through the past six weeks. I’ll write now what I’ve been avoiding talking about for a month and a half because I’m learning that it’s necessary to be honest about weakness. 47 days ago, I had a panic attack. The kind where you lose your hope and your vision of the future and everything feels like too much. The kind where you wonder if perhaps you’ve gone mad, because nothing feels right.

It took me days to recover from the adrenaline surge that left my muscles weak and my heart exhausted. It launched me into twice-a-week counseling. But it also sent me into a place where all my worst fears would have to be faced.

I’m a controller by nature. I like to have a say in my day-to-day activities as much as possible. For a living, I edit things—words, photographs, films—because I love to have a creative vision and see it realized. And while it make my clients very happy and it gives me a sense of purpose, it also tricks me into thinking that I can edit my own life. Sure, we have the ability to make choices that are key in our development, but we truly control very little about our lives. I guess this is one of the things that we forget—and that makes us forget how great the grace of God is (and how strong the gospel really is.)

I’ll be honest: sometimes I sit in front of my counselor and I tell her, “I’m ready to be done. I’m ready to be fine. I’m ready to be finished with this process.” She smiles and nods. She knows that we’re headed somewhere better, even when I’m frustrated with my own weakness.

I told my friend Anna a few weeks ago that I understood why I was in pain. I said, “I know that I’m a sinner and I live in a sinful world and that’s why I have to figure out all of this. So that I can get better.”

She looked at me with an honest shaking of her head and said to me, “Melissa, you keep telling me about how you’re broken, but what you are forgetting is that Christ died to heal you. And you are not, first and foremost, a broken, lost sinner. You are redeemed. And it may be that you never overcome anxiety and you lose all hope, but that does not mean you are outside of the reach of the gospel. You cannot break the gospel.”

One thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is how much of my life I’ve ignored anxiety. I’ve ignored fears and insecurities and damage that I’ve encountered in the last 24 years to the point of, well, panic. I’ve fooled myself into thinking that I can control enough of my life to not actually have to deal with the true heart of my weakness: trust. The reason that I don’t trust God to come through is because I tend to think that I control the gospel. If I can be put together, the gospel will hold together. If I fall apart, the gospel must have broken.

This is a flawed way of thinking, but I think it’s something we fall into quite often. There is no glamour in weakness. There is no glory in saying, “I can’t.” And, as a dear friend said to me recently about her own struggles with anxiety and ministry, “It feels like failure.”

Perhaps that’s what I’m getting at. Perhaps that is what this hard, hard season of processing through my own fears and anxiety is about: failing. But knowing that by the grace of God, I am not first-and-foremost a failure. No—I am redeemed. I am not broken. I am not losing it. I am not a mess. I am in the “now” of the “now but not yet” and it’s terribly messy, but the gospel is not ruined by it.

People tell me to just stop being anxious. To just let go and be fine again. To steer clear of medication. To just not think about panic. But what has spoken to me the most has been the truth. It has been the friends that sit with me in my pain, not unlike Job’s friends. It has been the words of support and the sensitivity of others. J. I. Packer is right: we must be more careful.

For we are, in Christ, fragile, but we are not broken. 

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 , current students , equipping leaders for the church and society , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

Melissa, I don't even know you but just wanted you to know how encouraged I am because of this! I'm a photographer too, and was just talking with my best friend yesterday about control being an idol of mine. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for your honesty in weakness and for the reminder that Jesus is my only real savior...
Audra 8:30AM 03/28/14

Gravity | Seminary Student Blogger

March 04, 2014

Melissa Zaldivar

Shauna Niequest says, “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

So there I was. Three weeks after the release date. Watching the blockbuster of great acclaim that would go on to win 7 Oscars (including Best Director). I expected to meet entertainment. But what I encountered was theology. Of course, these days, theology is bleeding into everything in unexpected, sometimes difficult ways.

I’ve been thanking God lately for things that are hard.
For people that have hurt me being happy.
For learning Hebrew slowly but surely.
For injuring my knee a week before a half-marathon.
He’s been reminding me of gratitude again.
Even when things aren’t going the way I’d like.
Even when I can hardly see what’s in front of me.

Sometimes, I take off my glasses just to remind myself that I’m blind. And I did that a few times tonight as I sat in a movie theater watching Gravity.
What do we do when faced with the idea that we might not make it? What to we cling to when out of our grasp means floating out in space alone?

At a few points in the film, Sandra Bullock’s character loses it. She gives up. At one point, she is shouting and thrashing about and the camera shifts to a view from the silent void of space where you can see her through the window but you can’t hear her. I know that feeling. The keen sting of death. The pacing. The need to do something—anything—to get it out. But instead, it just keeps closing in.

“Nobody will mourn for me,” she whispers into the frigid cold. “Nobody will pray for my soul.” She is in tears. “I’ve never said a prayer in my life. No one taught me how to pray.”

And then it comes. In her last moment of desperation, or so it seems, when she has given up hope and oxygen is depleting and she closes her eyes, ready to fade into that permanent sleep, he comes to her. She sees a vision. And he speaks hope into her life and she wakes up with the will to survive a little longer.

And as she plummets, catching fire as she falls, she starts to pray. She talks to the vision.

Whatever saves us, we love. Whatever gives us hope, we cling to. Whatever meets us in our need, we pray to.

I resonate deeply with her desperation. As I plummet, catching fire as I fall, I start to pray. I talk to the Redeemer.

And like the woman on the screen, muscles too weak to easily stand, hope comes. Sand in her fists, she lets out a slight laugh and mumbles into the mud against her wounded cheek those two words.

“Thank You.”

The music swells. She fights to her feet. The word, “G R A V I T Y” comes across the screen.

I begin to weep.

For I’m not very different. I’m constantly fighting to my feet. Constantly clinging to His robe. Hoping for just a bit of miracle to rub off on me. Hoping that redemption comes swiftly to this broken, sad world. A world where people talk behind one another’s backs. Where marriages dissolve. Where children kill adults and adults murder children. Where, when we are being honest, we aren’t sure we want to be.

And then comes the Grace. With all the force of the Divine, it comes and gives us meaning and hope. The other day, I scribbled it down:

“I search for my purpose and the only thing I know is this: My purpose is to get to the bottom of it. To plunge my hands in and find myself up to my elbows in grace. To be consumed by Christ, Him in every step and each conversation. To let the gospel seep into my bones and find traces under my fingernails and tracked in like muddy boots whenever I journey. My purpose is union with Christ. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

May you, as you fight to your feet, feel the earth below and the sky above. May you survive to another heartbeat and not even be able to wait for the next before you utter those two words over and over and over again.

Thank You.
Thank You.
Thank You. 

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 , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

The Weight of Grace | Seminary Student Blogger

February 06, 2014

Melissa Zaldivar

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” –Revelation 21:4

Every once in a while, I wonder why I’m still broken. I wonder why it is that I’m always about 5 minutes late for meetings and I’m not quite nailing the height of fashion trends and I’m not bringing people to Jesus with every grocery store encounter or visit to the bank. I start to get critical of myself, and the lack of put-togetherness I often feel. If I am honest, I wonder why it is that I haven’t “arrived” completely, entirely, and wholly at that glamorous, leadership-savvy, all-knowing state that all seminary grads feel like they need to arrive at.

Right about this point in my seminary career, I’m starting to feel the weight. I’m a year away from walking across the stage and being handed a piece of paper that represents all of the education that I’m currently receiving. I know that it’s not really time to panic, and that I still have 11 months or so to “get my act together,” but lately I’ve been noticing that I’m keeping myself from something vital to my spiritual well-being: grace.

Our salvation is a process. Romans 8:21 reminds us that one day we will find ourselves in a place of glorification and we will be complete. But we also have to remember that we are in the phase before that: the phase of sanctification, by which we are being made holy.

I am in desperate need of grace. I need to remind myself that it’s okay that I don’t have it all figured out. It’s okay that I’m not going into the “real world” of ministry totally prepared to lead the masses. It’s okay that I’m in the process of, well, sanctification.

Let me say it again: sanctification is a process.

I was reading through Genesis in January and I started to get a little antsy because I was biting off tiny little chunks, diving into them and loving it, but I soon found myself in that struggle of genealogies, trying to squeeze deep meanings out of them, one generation at a time. Finally, in a self-centered act of let-me-get-to-the-good-part Bible reading, I turned to Revelation 21. It’s the part where all of the mistakes and sins that I’d been reading about for those January days finally were redeemed.

No more tears, no more pain, no more sinners.

Wait, what?

That’s right: there are no sinners in heaven. This was immediately alarming to me, as I often find myself whispering prayers of “have mercy on me—a sinner.” And we all love the fact that Jesus ate with tax collectors and…sinners. And now, after all of this, they aren’t allowed in heaven?

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I will no longer be a sinner.

What we feel now and what we fight through now and what we are overwhelmed by and blinded by now are the realities of our fallen world. We are drenched in sin. We have never known a world without death or tears or pain. And yet, it seems to me that one of the greatest, most profound parts of our salvation is one that I do not think about that often.

One day, our sanctification will be complete and glorification will take its place. So why is it, then, that I am living without grace for the process? Why is it that I am trying so hard to be glorified? Why is it that I am overlooking the reality of the process?

And so, right about this point in my seminary career, I’m starting to feel the weight. The weight of my sin and the weight of his mercy. The weight of my studies and the weight of a powerful understanding of who He is. The weight of sanctification. The weight of grace.

May you find yourself remembering that this season is one for sanctifying. It’s one for being made holy. May you deeply understand the fact that He is changing you and that it is okay to not really have everything figured out. And may you rejoice in the process—as painful as it can be—for when we lose our sense of self-righteous striving, we can finally surrender to the grace that will one day lead to glorification.

Thank You, Jesus.

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 , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Comparison, Christmas and Crimson | Seminary Student Blogger

December 12, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

It’s Christmastime—which means that we get to spend time celebrating Advent, attending church services and singing carols. It also means that we dress up in wintery colors and make our way from the chilly weather into warm homes to trim trees and eat together. We don our Christmas sweaters and drink eggnog and Instagram things too much.

There is something spectacular that happens when we enjoy one another’s company over food. We are fed physically, but also relationally. I’ve always adored the idea of dinner parties and the chance to spend the season of Advent with people that I care for.

I arrived in Cambridge right on time, which meant that I was the first one there (fashionably late would have, perhaps, served me better socially in this scenario) and made my way inside. Beautifully and festively decorated, I found it to be something very familiar to me. The house of a host at Christmas.

What was different about this house was that it was the house of my professor who serves as the Minister at The Memorial Church at Harvard University. It was a gathering for the students in the class that I took this semester called, “Peasants and Proletarians: Black Religions and the Social Sciences in the 20th Century.”

As a part of the Boston Theological Institute, Gordon-Conwell students have the opportunity to take classes through other grad schools and seminaries in the Boston area. My friend from Gordon-Conwell and I decided to take one at Harvard Divinity School. While I will admit that much of the allure was the promise of Ivy League education, I soon found that the education I had the chance of experiencing was something new that would change the way that I learn completely.

When other people (especially outside the Gordon-Conwell community) hear that I’m taking a class at Harvard, they assume a few things. First, that I’m unrealistically brilliant; second, that I’m somehow more intellectually worth something for gaining a “legitimate academic experience.”

This view of BTI is harmful because it degrades the seminary and it glorifies one college experience (based, I’m sure, on movies like “Legally Blonde” and “The Social Network”) over another. It divides us into groups of “them” and “us.”

I had that mindset going into this class. I was intimidated and overwhelmed by something different and during the break on my very first day, I called my brother-in-law. A seminary graduate himself, he reassured me as I blurted out, “These people are brilliant! And I don’t know what on earth I am doing here. I know nothing about black sociology and I feel like I can’t do it.”

He lovingly said, “If you are in this class, you can do it.”

He was right. These students, while more well-versed in the topic of the class, were still fellow students. They were still learning and eager to do so. I swallowed my pride and continued on with my class.

It became clear to me that what was keeping me from fully pouring into the BTI experience was a division between academia and humanity. These were students with more intellectual experience than I, but they have parents and histories and passions and dreams and personalities. As weeks went on, we learned to understand one another better and from a different perspective than that of Gordon-Conwell and I believe that it made me a better person. And isn’t that the point of education?

C.S. Lewis once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I realized that I was robbing myself of truly connecting with other pilgrims by acting like I was a Gordon-Conwell student who was sitting in on a class at Harvard Divinity School. Instead, I needed to fully invest myself into being a part of that class as a peer and fellow traveler.

More guests arrived at the house and I felt myself relax a little more with every familiar face that entered into conversation. I asked if I could capture a few images and felt a little mom-ish asking everyone to get together for one group photo, but I am so glad that I did. It reminds me that the people we once knew nothing about can become peers, daresay friends. It reminds me that there is a great deal of unnecessary pressure that we can put on ourselves when we see things through a lens of stereotypes and ignorance. And it reminds me that one a cold night in December, I celebrated the holidays and the pursuit of knowledge in true holiday fashion.

We laughed and we engaged in good conversation and we ate food. We took pictures and we trimmed the tree. And while some of these souls are the most brilliant I may have encountered, the great honor of knowing them does not come from their GPA’s or their aspirations. The honor comes from the realization that we learn best when we learn from one another.

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 , biblically-grounded , current students , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

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!

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

The Foxes and The Hunt | Seminary Student Blogger

October 17, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

I was listening to Audrey Assad’s latest album recently when I heard the words that sparked a hunt in my heart:

“And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy.”

While Audrey is one of the most profound lyricists of our generation, I was haunted by that line, the way that poetry of the Old Testament hangs in the air and I am often left in awe of its beauty. I knew that this line had to be Scripture.

I opened up my Bible and sure enough, there are a number of times that our furry little foes pop up in the entire breadth of the canon. Most of them are in the Old Testament, which is where Audrey’s reference comes from. It’s in Song of Solomon, where the writer admonishes, “Catch the little foxes that spoil the vineyards” (2:15).

Catching foxes is a curious turn of phrase. And one that resonates with me because I work in Hamilton, Massachusetts, just a few miles from campus at a historic Hunt Club. Now, being from California, where being a fox might even be a good thing, the New England culture has been mostly new for me. I’ve never seen a lacrosse game, I’ve never known anyone on a rowing team. And until I started working at the Club, I’d never seen polo played before unless it involved Marco in the swimming pool.

The logo at the Club is a simple, yet profound one. It’s the image of a fox with a horn above it. It’s on the Club flag that flies over the clubhouse and on the divot repair tools on the golf course, and it’s embroidered on every staff shirt just above the heart. Because of how long I’ve worked at the club and because we get new shirts every year, I’ve got more shirts and jackets and hats and even belts with that logo than most people I know.

We wear the logo of the huntsman. This history dates back to the late 1800s when fox hunting was all the rage, and while we do not actually hunt foxes today (but rather the more humane fox scent), it is a tradition. I walk up the hill to work in the little golf shop at the Club as up to a dozen gigantic horses and nearly 40 hunting hounds weave along the bridle paths.

In an effort to understand Audrey and to get a better feel for the historical sport, I did a little research into the origins of fox hunting. Originally, it was a form of pest-control. Foxes have been known in literature and society for hundreds of years as sneaky, thieving creatures. Because they used to come to farms and kill chickens or steal food, farmers started to hunt them. Now, years later, we still honor the tradition of the hunt.

Gordon-Conwell is situated on a hill that was once owned by a member of the Club and is a part of the historic route that the hunters used to take. Every year, they take a ride with the hounds through our Hamilton campus. Children who live here come to see them go by as the riders wave. As they passed through this year, I couldn’t help but take notice of the incredible spiritual implications.

Foxes come to thieve and destroy. Jesus called Herod a fox, knowing that he was deceptive. And in Song of Solomon, chasing away the foxes was an active form of defending the vineyard. How fitting it is that our campus, where we defend the faith and fight against heresy and deception, is on the grounds of the historic hunt. How interesting it is that nearly every day, I put on the logo of the huntsman over my heart.

As we go about our studies, we not only increase in knowledge of the truth, but we are given the task of seeking out and chasing away the foxes—those things that get a foothold and ruin our lives, our marriages, our friendships, our trust in God. We are not simply students. We are the huntsman, still defending ourselves and chasing away foxes on this traditional plot of hunting ground.

For they will not steal our joy.

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 , biblically-grounded , spiritually vital , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Introducing Melissa Zaldivar: Seminary Student Blogger

September 19, 2013

Introducing Melissa Zaldivar, our newest student blogger! Melissa contributed a guest series on the intersection of etiquette and the gospel this summer (view her first post here, second here, third here, fourth here, fifth here and sixth here), and we're excited to officially welcome her to the Gordon-Conwell Voices team!

Name: Melissa Zaldivar

Degree: Master of Arts in Theology

Hometown: Atascadero, CA

Where were you before seminary? Prior to seminary, I was at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I did my undergrad there and graduated with a degree in Electronic Media in May 2012. I then moved back to California for the summer, working at a golf course and running around the country filming and photographing weddings before diving into seminary in the fall of 2012.

Favorite hobbies? Aside from the obvious love I have of the written word, I am a big fan of creativity. My hobbies include travel, photography, film and baking bread. I’ve been an avid golfer for about 11 years and I love all things about the culture of golf courses. I follow most sports and my allegiances are all over the map, depending on the sport. This time of year I’m following my Chicago Blackhawks & Cubs, the Green Bay Packers, Anaheim Angels and Auburn Tigers (for college football). I love watching major events (inaugurations, the Royal Wedding, the Super Bowl, etc.) and being outside.

Favorite food? Chicago was a great place for food. So I can get behind good deep-dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs and pie. Other than that, the possibilities are endless. I believe that God gave us food and community for very specific reasons, and I love exploring both.

Favorite hero of the Christian faith? I know that this may seem strange, but I really love the story of Leah, Jacob’s first wife. She was neglected and not at all favored, but she gave birth to several of the heads of the tribes of Israel, including the tribe of Judah, into which Jesus was born. The powerful thing about her story is that God not only saw but blessed her in ways that she never lived to know. I love the fact that our stories echo beyond the grave and the here-and-now is not all there is to life.

Favorite book? I’m a big fan of Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God. It has been helpful as I learn to navigate culture and Christianity.

Interesting fact about yourself? I once met an astronaut.

Issues you are passionate about? I am passionate about theology, music, film, stories, campfires, oxford shirts, typography, humor, NASA, American History, random facts, learning, loving, creating community, and a firm conviction that I have the cutest niece on earth.

Tags: Author: Melissa Zaldivar , student blogger

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Post & Paul: Uniting Tradition in Love | Seminary Student Blogger

September 06, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

Melissa is contributing a series on the intersection of etiquette and the gospel. You can view her first post here, her second here, her third here, her fourth here and her fifth here. This post is the last in her series.

As I traveled to Minnesota, I was reading what Emily Post had to say about travel etiquette (I took a car, a train and a few planes to get here for a wedding), which, ironically, was the last section in Etiquette. And as the commuter rail brought me from Minneapolis to the suburbs, I finished the book. Dusk was settling in (and if you’ve never gotten to experience the vesper light of the Midwest, you may not have truly lived) and I had arrived, quite literally, at the end of a journey.

The last 300 pages are about celebrations, giving gifts and weddings. These are all traditions that have been passed down. (I’m not the first person to come up with bringing flowers to dinner.)

The essence of tradition is the fact that it is passed down from generation to generation. Someone said to me, “I think it’s good to know the rules of etiquette, but it just doesn’t exist anymore. People pass on fewer and fewer parts of etiquette until it is just gone.”

At the start of this series, I mentioned that our generation has a skewed view of etiquette, believing that one can be pretentious by abiding by rules of conduct. But the last five weeks have proven to me over and over again that it only betters my ability to love others.

So why is it that I had a skeptical view going into this? Why is it that others have had reservations about this project as a whole? The root of our pessimism may very well be self-preservation. It’s simpler to do my own thing. Putting forth effort to write notes and extend hospitality is something that feels forced at times, but I’ve not been able to shake the feeling that when I do those things, I am carrying on a great tradition. I’m writing notes because my mother did and because her mother did.

And there lies our problem: Letting go of etiquette means losing our connection with past generations. And what we think is making our own lives better is actually distancing ourselves from those who have gone before. Those who neglect history are doomed to repeat it. Those who disconnect will be isolated.

And therein lies the solution that Paul puts forth. If theology is the great tradition, and so much of Israel’s honoring of the Lord involved remembrance, perhaps there is a trace of the gospel in every act we undertake to love others that has been passed down to us.

The Jewish New Year was this week. The year 5774 is upon us. And while I’m one of the only Jewish people on campus, I knew that I needed to celebrate it with others. Because it’s been passed down and if I neglect it, making some excuse like “I don’t have time,” it will be forgotten.

So, in the 10 minutes before I left to catch my train to Boston and get on a plane to Minneapolis, I invited some friends to join me in welcoming the New Year. And we dipped apples into honey and I asked the Lord to let this New Year be a sweet one. And I stumbled awkwardly through Hebrew prayers, and in that moment I understood why I love etiquette. Because when you start living a life under these traditions, it does feel awkward. And it’s like slowly reading Hebrew. And just when I think that it might not be worth it, I finish the act and breathe deeply, knowing that thousands in years past and even in that moment whispered the same prayers. And asked God for a sweet New Year. And I am united to them.

Paul reminds us about our unity through conduct when he writes, “And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything to in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Phil. 2:14-16a, 2:17).

Emily Post wrote in 1922, “Good taste or bad is revealed in everything we are, do or have.” Friends, we have been given the gospel and we are called to pass it down to future generations. Let us teach them what good conduct is. Let us remind them what proper etiquette looks like. And may they know because of our actions that they are loved by the One Greater than us.

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , etiquette and the gospel , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Post & Paul: We Are Not The First Generation | Seminary Student Blogger

August 30, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

Melissa is contributing a series on the intersection of etiquette and the gospel. You can view her first post here, her second here, her third here, and her fourth here.

Summer is that time of year when your plans of endless fun come crashing down and you realize that you are no longer a kid. Long gone are the days of the beach and In-N-Out burger almost every day (I grew up in sunny California, where we do summer right.) Now we live in a world in which we don’t have class, but we have work. And work and also a little bit of work. Dinners have been a kind of lifeline for me because they’ve allowed for some much needed catching-up with friends.

So there I sat, across from my dear friend Ashton, catching up. We talked about work and family and Miley Cyrus and how the world that we know is a really sad, broken place and finally I said, “Emily Post is changing my life.”

And she is. Sure, I had my doubts at first. I thought it might just be a time machine read, a look into the past of how things used to be. But when I started to get deeper into this book, I realized that the reason Post labors over every little detail (example: If bacon is crispy, eat it with your fingers. If it is limp, eat it with a fork.) is that the heart of etiquette remains that same.

True etiquette is an action that is fueled by a care for others.

The way that we live our lives as believers should be no different. We hold the door for one another. We offer to help someone move. We volunteer in the nursery. Why? Because as believers, our conduct is greatly fueled by a care for others. Why? Because our Redeemer laid down his literal life for us.

Lately I’ve been watching a separation between the generations. There is a feeling of “us” and “them” when it comes to my generation, the “kids-these-days,” and those who are old enough to be our parents. We even splinter off our own lives in terms of how old we are. A friend recently remarked, “So many people I know (sometimes including myself) envision their future as a radical break from their past/present, but it seems to me that healthy futures always reckon with the formative nature of the past.”

The previous generations were greatly influenced by Post. She’s spoken into countless conversations, relationships and business deals. It’s because of her that you get thank-you notes promptly and shake hands when you meet someone new. And yet, there’s a lot of dislike for Post. When I first mentioned to a friend that I was reading this book, he quickly responded, “I’ll stick to my own etiquette, thanks.”

One of the most profound realities of the Church is that it is because of previous generations that we are here. Open up to Hebrews 11 and you’ll see the list of those who have gone before. We are not at this point in the history of the Church because of anything that we have done. In fact, millennials are kind of notorious right now for our rebellious distaste of the church of our parents and grandparents.

But oh, how mistaken we are if we go on believing that our generation is the solution to any imperfections in the church. And how sad it is to me when we continue splintering ourselves off from the past.

You do not get to create your own conduct or etiquette, because disciples died proclaiming that we are not our own. We are not millennials, or Generation X-ers. We are believers that come from a great legacy and a long line of preachers and parents and peasants and pilgrims. Our past is not an accident. It’s a narrative that the Lord is telling using the likes of us as those who pass on the torch.

Emily Post is reminding me that every action is a direct reflection of the heart. And Paul is preaching to me that our conduct is a window to the gospel. What a tremendous responsibility. Please don’t silence the past in an effort to fabricate a root-less future.

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , etiquette and the gospel , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Post & Paul: Extending Grace in a Fallen World | Seminary Student Blogger

August 22, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

Melissa is contributing a series on the intersection of etiquette and the gospel. You can view her first post here, her second here, and her third here.

I’ve made it past business attire, invitations and how to secure a job. But as I started reading Emily Post’s Etiquette on interrelationships, things started to get a little bit sad. There is etiquette in place for the things that are common issues. Things like chewing gum loudly and how to respond to letters. But these days, relationships are changing and the standards for them are starting to change as well. This chapter gave me insight into the most common relational issues, and as someone who thinks a great deal about the community in which I find myself, I couldn’t help but let it sink in: This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

We shouldn’t have to have so many chapters on how to end a marriage well or how to explain to your children that, “Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other anymore.” We shouldn’t have to navigate the areas of broken relationships. But the reality is: We live in a fallen world in which our relationships with one another unravel.

As I found the section on singleness, it only really covered one topic: How to live with a significant other. I once asked a friend when it was that they would consider dating for the sake of finding a future spouse and he said, “Maybe 29 or 30 years old.” The idea of committing to relationships in a biblical way is something that is harder and harder to do when the world just keeps telling us that dating in your 20’s is about having fun.

So how do we navigate the life that we’ve found ourselves in? Whether we are single or married, our lives ought to reflect the gospel and our relationships with one another need to be patterned after Scripture—not society.

In the same way that Post writes about addressing various relationships, we as the church need to be careful to do the same. The reality of the situation is that there are divorced people that we will do ministry to. There are wounded, broken families that we will come into contact with. There are single people in our communities that need to be affirmed in their singleness.

We live in a world that values our own comfort more than sacrificing for the sake of saving our relationships. Society says that at the end of the day, it’s all about compromise. It’s about just doing what is easier. And when we start to give into that mentality, we end up with a whole culture of people who are broken because no one is there to serve the church anymore. We come to serve ourselves.

Post wants to make the best out of a bad situation, but Paul reminds us that our perspectives must change in the here-and-now to avoid those bad situations. “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).

When we view one another as family, our treatment of each other changes. When I see someone not as married, divorced, single or otherwise, I’m not seeing them through the right lens. But when I see a sister in Christ who is struggling with feeling like God has left her out of marriage because she’s somehow less valuable, or when I see a brother aching because of the break-up that he’s gone through, I can minister to him better.

Post shouldn’t be the only one who tells us how to react to harder realities. Instead, we should be learning to respond in love, extending grace and carrying out the gospel in whatever marital status, past brokenness or current struggle we find ourselves in. We live in a broken world, but our God redeems.

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , etiquette and the gospel , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Post & Paul: The Danger of Social Selectivity | Seminary Student Blogger

August 16, 2013

Melissa Zaldivar

Melissa is contributing a series on the intersection of etiquette and the gospel. You can view her first post here and her second here.

Etiquette has five whole sections on how we are to interact with others personally. Of the eight-section book, most of it is about how to treat others in a very personal way. These aren’t ways to tie ties or how to pick stationary or what to put on your resume. No, these are 462 distinct, intentional pages of how to consider others and their feelings.

As Christians, we should not be so unfamiliar with this. We are called by Paul to belong to one another. We are not our own, which we know, purchased by Christ. But we are also called to submit to one another (Eph. 5:21) and to remember that we, through love, must serve one another (Gal. 5:13).

So then, why is it that we find ourselves living very selective lives? Around the seminary, plans are made and broken often. And it’s alright some of the time. You get a cold. The baby gets a cold. Your computer crashes. But sometimes, something better just comes up. What is it in our hearts that desires to plan around our own wants? How often have you turned down an invitation (or worse, put off answering) until you find one that sounds more amazing? We are all guilty of this. But what does it say about where our priorities are?

Emily Post reminds us that we should always be honest. If you don’t want to go on a date with that guy, say so. Do it nicely, but don’t lead him on. If you ever have to answer any kind of invitation at a later time, always give a reason. When you say, “I might be able to. I’ll let you know.” It can come across as not really wanting to spend time with the person inviting you. This is rude, according to Post. Instead, she urges you to say, “I’ll let you know tomorrow—I’ve got to talk to my roommate.” Or something that communicates the truth and lets them know that they are not just getting the brush off.

Ah, the brush-off. The I-am-going-to-be-vague-because-I-don’t-want-to-be-mean-and-I’m-hoping-something-better-comes-up brush-off. You know the one.

Our social relationships at the seminary, at church or even where we live is not something that is supposed to tailor to our own desires. If someone invites you to dinner and you later get offered tickets to a Red Sox game, don’t cancel. If someone asks to study with you but you find out that a group of other students is studying somewhere different (like a favorite coffee shop,) don’t deter your plans. Living in community means that we have to give a little and not simply take. The real world isn’t Facebook or Instagram. Your life doesn’t always have to the best possible option that’s been presented. Rather, it should be the kind, considerate, respectful option.

Honor your commitments, friends. For in doing so, you honor one another and you honor Christ.

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 , equipping leaders for the church and society , etiquette and the gospel , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical

Add comment

COMMENTS

No comments yet. Be the first!

Gordon-Conwell Voices