September 25, 2012
The leaves are beginning to fall; they twist and turn and delicately glide to crunch under my oxfords. The sun was peeking at me through the trees and the breeze is a tease for the hairs on my neck. The air smells like fall and has cooled to match, but carries the weight of a summer only half-gone. I had in my arms seven new books that came in the mail; I was on my way to the library, and I was already certain the seven and I would soon be friends.
The top of the hill and the end of the path came far too early, and I turned to take in the view: my building at the bottom, trees all around, books in hand. And suddenly I was aware of how very much You must love me to call me to a place like this.
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.
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August 23, 2012
Just a few short miles from the campus of Gordon-Conwell lies a veritable oasis. Its golden arches welcome all visitors into the land of full stomachs and empty calories, of french fries and burgers, of happy meals and one seriously creepy clown. America may run on Dunkin but it needs to run because of…you guessed it…McDonald’s. Oh yes. Mickie-D’s my friends. I’m hungry just thinking about it. Now at this point, you probably have reacted in one of two ways:
To those of you in group 1, I ask you to indulge me for just a few minutes. Group 2 people…Hi, I’m Tim…let’s be best friends. Now, while I would love to discuss the finer points of McDonald’s cuisine, I am actually here in promotion of McDonald’s as an educational facility.
McDonald’s has been an institution of learning for me from an early age. At my 2nd birthday party (which took place at McDonald’s) I learned the value of being assertive after demanding that the employees change the rules of their scheduled game for me and my party guests. It worked and my mom blames this incident for my stubbornness. By middle school, I had learned the need for clear communication and healthy conflict management through various incorrect orders. In high school, I learned the simple truth of the importance of breath mints while failing to convince a high school teacher I did not, in fact, skip out on the cafeteria lunch to grab a double quarter-pounder off campus. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned through McDonald’s, though, is in regards to relationships.
Meet my roommate Dave. Dave is definitely a fellow McDonald’s enthusiast. His favorite combo is a number 1, but he saves it for special occasions to save money. As his roommate, I have the privilege of knowing and communicating with Dave on a deeper level than your average student at Gordon-Conwell. We definitely share moments of deep conversation. But ya know what? Those moments aren’t manufactured; they are rarely planned. They usually stem from the random moments of life we share together. They are a byproduct of the car rides to church, the “how was your day?” conversations, and the trips to McDonald’s. Think about it. If I came in from class and said to Dave, “Hi Dave. I just got back from class. Please tell me your life story, hurts, hang-ups, desires, dreams, struggles, and secrets so that we can be close friends and share godly man-time/intimacy.” I would be a class-5 Creeper! But if I said “Hey Dave, let’s go grab some McDonald’s…” who knows what conversations would take place. We plan the time to spend together and let the rest stem from it. Our deep conversations branch off from “normal” conversations. Our moments of bonding grow from moments at McDonald’s. We plan for moments of quality time; however, we do not force artificial moments of deeper connection. I call this the McDonald’s Principle of Relational Interaction.
Earlier this summer, I realized I needed to apply the McDonald’s Principle to my relationship with God. I noticed I would get a little frustrated when I spent a few minutes praying and didn’t have a grand emotional catharsis of divine experience. I would be disappointed that I didn’t have anything exciting to discuss in my prayer time. I didn’t have a big crisis. I didn’t have a giant revelation. I heard other people talking about their incredible moments of intimacy with God and I wanted them too. I felt like my quiet time was a little bland, so I tried to force those moments of exceptional intimacy. I focused my mind and attempted to force my emotions into overdrive in hopes of creating what I wanted out of quiet time. I would try to manufacture these epic times of awesome prayer when all I really needed to do was honestly communicate with God and remain open to the intimacy. Ever answer the question, “How was your day?” when talking to God? Don’t you think a loving father would be interested in talking with you about just that? It might not be the most heart-pounding, awe-filled prayer you’ve ever prayed, but it just might lead to more honest communication and the intimacy you desired in the first place.
Relational interactions can’t be uniformly intense gut-wrenching, soul-piercing experiences. Those interactions are incredible and necessary and we must remain open to them, but for me at least, they aren’t the norm. I’ve found that those moments will come over time if I set aside consistent and honest quality time with the Lord. Not every prayer will be earth shattering. Some days are the equivalent to a trip to McDonald’s. And ya know what? I’ve come to love and cherish both types of interactions with my Lord and Heavenly Father.
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.
May 10, 2012
Author's Note: My husband and I are in our final semester of seminary. In some ways it feels like a race to the finish; in others, we are slowly passing through in search of what might be next for us. With this “Finishing Well” series, I invite you to join us in the final months of seminary. I encourage you to consider your own calling and the place in your journey with the Lord where you find yourself. I look forward to hearing where our story might resonate with yours!
You know you’re graduating seminary when:
All these things actually happened in one day. So I guess it is time to settle into the idea that my husband and I are graduating seminary in just a few days, which means we probably should already have applied to a ton of jobs and know what we are doing next. But we haven’t, and we don’t know. Well, we don’t know exactly.
See this journey that we are on originated for me in a rejection from a choice college that then became a pursuit of Spanish and a passion for Spain. Then we went on to pursue missions which led to seminary (see Part 1 and Part 2 if those appear as the tremendous jumps they are). We are fueled with a passionate desire to see people love Jesus and to live as followers of Jesus their whole life. We believe this means living as individual members of the body of Christ, the Church. We are passionate about serving the Body as a whole and its individual members. So really, that could lead us anywhere on this planet.
But that doesn’t necessarily make the job search any easier. So we are thankful for alumni who have gone before us and are married couples serving the church together. We have begun to meet with them in hopes of gaining a language and a vision for living out this passion in a way that can be articulated in job interviews. We plan to apply to EPC churches all over the United States to serve as pastors. We keep our hearts and ears open for unconventional opportunities to serve that might not yet be known to us.
We had an experience in April that led us to both this step-by-step pursuit as well as this open-handedness. We were in our favorite getaway of New England, the Adirondacks of New York. We had planned to climb a nice, short mountain. We knew how long it was (.5 miles), we knew what skill level was involved (a nice junior hike, said the book), and we knew it would have a “nice” view from the top (said a friend). And it was all those things, and it was nice. We prayed and read Scripture and enjoyed the view:
Then we ventured to the next trailhead. We knew the name. We didn’t bother to look at the trail guide, so we didn’t know how long it was (way more than .5) or the skill required (steep gradients, as it turns out). We didn’t even know if the summit would be worth it all. But oh my, was it ever:
It was a hard hike. I dealt with significant fear involving ice slides, encroaching darkness, and physical pain. But Jesus met me in the fear and taught me a lot about the fears I have about the next steps of life. I was overwhelmed with God’s abundant creation glory at the top of the mountain. This was no “sit and enjoy the view” kind of mountaintop. It was a “come-to-Jesus, awe-struck, laugh and cry at the same time” kind of view.
So should I anticipate Plan A, the Owls Head mountains of life with predictable, relative ease and nice views? Maybe. Those are really nice sometimes! But I long for the come-to-Jesus, awe-struck, laugh and cry, Cascade-style ventures.
So to find the “End of the Story” at this point, we are in the application process, preparing for ordination, and finishing our final 2 classes. We have our eyes peeled for those trailheads. We anticipate meeting God both in the struggle of climbing the mountain and in the glory to come on the top.
January 27, 2012
Our Master of Arts - Workplace Theology, Ethics and Leadership is a cohort-based degree for those with workplace experience who desire to live out their Christian faith in the secular marketplace. This past week, they spent the week in New York City discussing money, finance, profit, debt, marketing, sales, and consumerism – in the perspective of biblical stewardship, honesty, truthfulness, and diligence. Below are a few pictures from their time in NYC.
January 24, 2012
Studying Colossians this week has reawakened my thoughts on Sabbath, which we started discussing in December. Colossians 2:16-17 reads, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” After studying this passage through the week, I spent Sabbath on Sunday considering whether or not the practice of Sabbath for me has become an embrace of shadow or substance.
The shadows Paul is discussing were all good, Old Testament instructions for the people of God. They involved dietary laws, festival guidelines, and Sabbath keeping. They cast an outline of beautiful promises given in the direct presence of God, including rest (Gen 2:3), provision (Ex 16:5), and remembrance (Ex 20:8; Deut 5:15). The unfolding of this promise of Sabbath rest continues straight through Jesus’ proclamation of healing (Lk 13:16) and provision on the Sabbath day (Lk 6:3-5). Finally, it will find its fulfillment in eternity when we enter the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God (Heb 4:9-10).
So my struggle this weekend centered on recognizing how much of the past two years I have spent enveloped and actually pursuing the promises of the shadow of Sabbath. By practicing Sabbath on Sundays, I actively sought rest and rhythm. These shadows are certainly provided by merely ceasing to work for one day. The promises of Sabbath shadows are good things, but we are able to walk in fellowship with Christ himself (Heb 4:16)! We no longer settle for mere shadows.
So what of the substance of Sabbath? I think it’s possible that in my headlong pursuit of the shadows, I have at times missed the substance of Christ.
Sunday was a regeneration of the pursuit of Christ for me in the practice of Sabbath. I have been asked to expand upon what it means to “tune into the bass line,” as discussed weeks ago. For me, to look upon the substance of Christ and to enter his presence requires stillness, confession, and prayer. Often I will follow that by meditating upon a particular verse. Sometimes I find walking slowly through the woods helps me to converse more naturally with my Creator. I suggest Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook if you are looking for some creative ways to hear God’s bass line call in your life.
My aim is to not just embrace the outline of God’s promises, but to embrace He who casts the shadows directly. I am inhibited from doing that the more I emphasize the pursuit of physical rest. Instead, when I envision the Lamb in the throne room or the man walking along the road of Emmaus, I can begin to dialogue with and expose myself to my God for transformation that satisfies the need for both physical and spiritual rest and that continues throughout the week.
That designated, full-day intimacy is worth the pursuit of Sabbath. It helps me embrace of the very substance of Christ in the rest of the week.
December 14, 2011
Sabbath changed my seminary experience. Our first year as full-time students and part-time workers completely drained both my husband and me of every bit of energy we had. So when we were first introduced to Sabbath, it was like introducing a desert wanderer to a natural spring. We dove right in.
Initially, Sabbath was about rest. Physical rest. Like all I could do was sleep from the moment we got home from church until the sun went down. That’s not metaphorical. I literally needed a three to four hour nap every Sunday. But it didn’t take me long to realize that Sabbath was about much more.
This summer, I had the opportunity to teach on Sabbath using Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God (I highly recommend it). Getting a group of women who are all moms, teachers, social workers, security guards, and caregivers to buy into an Old Testament law to rest for a day I assumed would take some explanation. So the first night, this was the illustration I used (I apologize for the lack of audio. Please queue your imagination).
I start playing a song. Think, perhaps, of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Something with a complicated melody line and plenty of instruments. Maybe go ahead and turn up the volume on your Pandora station. What line of the music are you paying attention to? Do you hear the trumpet? Harmony? Melody? Drums? Keyboard?
Then I played a stripped down version of the song, leaving only the bass guitar. It was a simple strummed melody. Can you hear it? Bumm…bum bum… bummmmmm. After several measures, I slowly added in one line at a time. The acoustic guitar. The keyboard. There’s the drums. Ah, the voices. Alto. Soprano. The full choir swells into the chorus of the piece.
Now what do you hear?
If I ask you to, can you hear the bass line?
This, I suggest, is the clarity of voice that Sabbath provides. It’s the opportunity to listen directly to what God has for you in your life. It’s the opportunity to “tune into the bass line.” The rest of the week will certainly bring on a full symphony of interruptions and priority lines. But when you’ve spent time just listening to the bass line in isolation, you easily queue into the rhythm and the direction of the piece as a whole. You also can easily be called back to that simple bass line even in the midst of a full orchestra of sounds. In fact, the soprano’s line now sounds more full when heard in harmony with the bass line.
So, too, when you practice weekly Sabbath. You can more distinctly hear how God is calling you even when the doctor lands a tough diagnosis, the kids need to be bussed to an impromptu make-up game, your parents suddenly need assistance, work and school are battling for your attention, and oh yeah, the laundry needs to be done. You can still tune into the places where God is calling you. You can hear the themes he is calling your attention to. For me, I have found that hearing once a week from God about where he’s asking for my surrender or is calling for my transformation suddenly turns every paper, reading assignment, house chore, and coffee date into an encounter with the living God.
What practices have you used to focus to and listen for God’s voice in your life?
December 05, 2011
What does a typical day look like for a seminary student? Follow a day in the life of M.Div. student, Daniel Triller, as he lives life at Gordon-Conwell.
November 28, 2011
Photography loves the rule of thirds, which sets up shots like the picture on the right.
You're encouraged to photograph the object of your focus either at an intersection point or along one of the lines (as illustrated with the skyline, above). The rest of the grid provides the space to help your eye focus on the object of interest, because the human eye naturally is drawn to focus along this one-thirds gridline.
A mentor suggested that we might live focusing unnecessarily on a narrow grid of thirds. We (and especially seminarians, I would argue) spend life focusing one-at-a-time on one of three activities: the first third of life studying for work; the second third working; and the third resting from all that time we spent working.
What if we lived life focusing less on the division of the thirds and more on the intersection points? That is, what if we did not spend 30 years in school, 30 years at work, and 30 years resting? What if we lived with work and study and rest all in one mixed life? What if we let the boundaries cross between work and play and rest? What if we lived life a bit more looking for these intersection points week-to-week and less on the anticipation of a major switch in activity every 30 years?
I’m getting a taste of this by using a similar grid to analyze my life for one of my classes. Every week, I look at a 7 (for the days) x 3 (morning, afternoon, night) grid. I’m looking to include periods of work, study, and rest, all side-by-side with plenty of times where they intersect in order to allow for analysis of study, creativity in work, and depth in rest. I allow a greater focus on rest than I have allowed myself formerly, as I’ve been introduced to Sabbath rest in seminary, which I will return to in the next post.
For now, I encourage you to consider… Are you living in an isolated stratum of study, work, or rest? Where might you find an intersection point? Can you offer any encouragement as to where you’ve found benefit in the times where rest, study, and work meet?
November 02, 2011
Gordon-Conwell alumni are one of the biggest reasons why students attend Gordon-Conwell. Enjoy this glimpse of student life on campus. Thank you, alumni, for helping students find their way here.
Music courtesy of Matt Scott (M.Div. '11) @ http://musicmattscott.com/
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