Saturday, September 29, 2012

did your Sunday School teacher get it right?

Emerging adults have a special talent for critique. At 35, I'm probably not a "young adult" any more, but I well remember those heady days in college where I measured everything against my new-found knowledge of the Bible. Pity the chapel speaker who dared to use Scripture in a less-than-exegetically-sound manner! I even wrote a paper once cataloging the misuses of Scripture I had heard in our very own chapel.

I was not alone in my negative attitude. It seems such moods are contagious. (This is why the use of words like "boring" and "pathetic" incur maximum penalties at our house.) It got so bad that my best friend and I had to make a pact not to sit together in chapel because we simply couldn't control our negativity when we were together.

Wheaton is apparently not exempt from this deadly disease. One professor notes that it's all too easy to elicit a critique from students, but much more difficult to coax them to come up with a constructive alternative to the ideas they've so quickly dismantled. He calls for a return to childlike faith, suggesting that the title of this post is the wrong question to be asking. His online article is well-worth the read.

Sunday school teachers may be more savvy than we remember, and (I might add) the penetrating messages of chapel speakers are all too easily deflected from transforming us when we insist on a certain (narrow) mode of delivery or method of interpretation. As I enter into my 11th year of higher education, the day draws ever closer when I'll stand on the other side of the podium. It's daunting to think about facing a room full of precocious young adults, many of whom will be able to see a loophole in everything I say. (Why was it again I wanted to do this with my life?) On the other hand, the privilege of walking beside them as they discover new ways of thinking outweighs the risk of being thought wrong or — worse still — "boring." I've seen with my own two eyes that excitement about Scripture is also contagious. Hopefully I can model not just careful critique but also humility and a deep love of the Word.

Because in the end, our Sunday School teachers gave freely of their time and themselves. They did their very best to take the profound riches of Scripture and make them understandable to kids who need things to be concrete and fun, and who have a very hard time sitting still. That, my friends, is no small task. And until we're willing to try it ourselves, we have no right to criticize.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

hot off the press

Just a few moments ago, I left my study carrel and took a momentous walk across the campus to the Billy Graham Center, where I ascended 5 stories and hand-delivered my first complete dissertation chapter to Dr. Block.
In 63 pages I explore the entire history of interpretation of Exod 20:7 and Deut 5:11, categorizing, listening, and finally critiquing each view. It's been a fun chapter to research and write, but I'm glad it's over (for now).

[Big Satisfied Sigh]

Dr. Block returned the favor by handing me my very own copy of Jacob Milgrom's commentary on the final chapters of Ezekiel. It's so hot-off-the-press that even Amazon doesn't have it yet!

It was a tremendous privilege to be part of bringing this book to press. This volume represents the last 5 years of Milgrom's scholarly work before his untimely death in 2010.

Dr. Milgrom, eminent Jewish scholar known for his work on Leviticus in the Anchor Bible series, was asked to write the final volume on Ezekiel for the same series, completing the work begun by Moshe Greenberg. Of all the commentaries available to him, Professor Milgrom found Daniel Block's Ezekiel commentary in the NICOT series to be most helpful. Block became his prime conversation partner. Since the evolving "conversation" no longer fit the parameters for the Anchor Bible series, Milgrom asked Block if they could pursue co-publication of the volume. Shortly thereafter Milgrom died, leaving the work to Dr. Block to finish. After a year of wrestling with fonts and footnotes, indices and italics, transliteration and bibliography, the book is finished. And isn't it beautiful! Wipf & Stock did a tremendous job with the cover and proved themselves once again to be the fastest and friendliest publisher on the planet.

To Dr. Block, and to the Milgrom family, with whom I've had an indirect connection all these months, Congratulations! Thanks to all of you for your persistence in publishing Dr. Milgrom's work. Students of Scripture will reap the benefits for many years to come.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

a woman called "blessed"

Somewhere in Colorado a very dear woman is watching the sun set on her special day.

To the one who began as my mother and became my friend . . .

Happy Birthday! 

On this your 60th birthday, I am thankful 60 times over for you.

60. THANKS for a happy childhood
59. filled with books
58. and games
57. and camping trips
56. and family work days
55. snow ice cream and green pizza
54. and long hours to play outside.
53. THANKS for sewing me dresses
52. and teaching me to sew.
51. Thanks for doing my hair hundreds of times
50. for cutting it
49. for teaching me how
48. and for lending your talents for special hair-dos ... like for my wedding and high school plays.
47. Thanks for cleaning the house
46. and not just physically,
45. for feeding my body
44. and also my soul,
43. for teaching me how to cook
42. and teaching me to pray
41. and for praying. A lot.
40. Thanks for cheering me on
39. and for telling me I was wrong
38. for letting me go (overseas at 14 years old!)
37. and for coming to see me (overseas some 14 years later!).
36. Thanks for your financial support
35. and for hosting open houses.
34. Thanks for modeling frugality
33. and resourcefulness
32. for being content and making do.
31. Thanks for making sure I had piano lessons
30. and a Christian education.
29. And thanks for being there when I got home.
28. Thanks for making birthdays special,
27. for being a friend to my friends,
26. for back rubs
25. and phone calls
24. for memories saved from childhood.
23. Thanks for your creativity,
22. for crafts with me
21. and teaching me art
20. and scrapbooking.
19. Thanks for eating healthy
18. for giving cheerfully
17. and selflessly
16. for working hard and giving me chores.
15. Thanks for the example of your faith in God
14. and faithfulness to Dad.
13. Thanks for bearing me for 9 months
12. bringing me into the world
11. for knowing me
10. and loving me warts and all.
  9. Thanks for loving my husband
  8. and making our wedding such a special day.
  7. Thanks for loving our kids
  6. and for supporting us as parents.
  5. Thanks for your encouragement in hard times
  4. and your example in suffering.
  3. Thanks for being available
  2. and for listening.
  1. Thanks for being my friend.

Thanks for being the kind of Mom who makes it easy to make a list this long.
What a gift you are to me!
I love you, Mom!

Monday, September 17, 2012

who IS here?

Some time ago I asked the question Who's Not Here? It's time to rephrase the question.

SIM, the mission agency we joined 10 years ago now, has been working in Africa for more than a century, and has since expanded into South America and Asia through mergers with other mission agencies. The original founders of SIM wanted to break ground in new territory, so they headed to the interior of Africa, then know as "the Soudan," to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since no agency was willing to send them to such a remote location, they started their own and called it "Soudan Interior Mission." Beginning in what is now known as Nigeria, these three brave men attempted to go where no (white) man had gone before. Only one of them survived the first expedition, but dozens and then hundreds of missionaries answered the call and have been following in their footsteps ever since. Today nearly 2000 SIM missionaries are serving around the world.

SIM has accomplished amazing things in its history, but nothing is more exciting (to me!) than what is happening right now. For the first time in SIM's history, we will be led by an African. Who better to help us think strategically about reaching non-Westerners than a non-Westerner? Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko has been unanimously nominated to take over as International Director of SIM next summer. He is well-educated, with years of experience in mission work and mission leadership, and he is Nigerian. But most importantly, he is a humble man of God.

We had the blessing of an hour of fellowship with Joshua last week in our home. When we asked him his "agenda" or "goal" for SIM, we were struck by his desire to listen. His wisdom and experience will serve our mission well, but he is no bulldozer. Joshua exudes humility and gratitude.

His appointment to this role is evidence of a deep transformation in the way SIM missionaries think about missions. It's not US and THEM, but WE. We're moving from PATRON to PARTNER, and from SUPERIOR to SERVANT. No doubt parochial attitudes persist in all of us, but we're watching with joy as Howie Brant's vision for SIM to send missionaries "from anywhere to anywhere" is becoming a reality. We now have Latinos serving in India, Ethiopians in Sudan, Filipinos in Mongolia . . . and Nigerians in the USA. Glory!

While we're counting noses, I have to say I was delighted this week with the first meeting of the Global Theological Education Discussion Group at Wheaton. I'm part of the leadership team for this informal group this year, where we invite knowledgeable speakers to help us think more deeply about the task of theological education around the world. In the past most of the attendees have been (white!) PhD students, but yesterday we had 6 new (non-PhD) faces around the table, and only one of them was white. Students from Indonesia, India, Korea, and Brazil enriched our conversation as we considered the place of spiritual warfare in a theological curriculum. Wheaton is making a concerted effort towards greater diversity, and it shows.

Globalization is something of a fad right now, but I must say it's one of the best fads I have ever seen. Long may it live, and transform the way we think, talk, and live.

After all, this is a small world, and we're in this together.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

friendships—ancient and modern

After a very intense first year of doctoral study, it feels like we're coming out of a tunnel and into the sunlight. We're ready for friendships, ready to invest in conversations, ready to show hospitality, and so glad to be out of "survival" mode. It's good timing. Eliana is in middle school, now. With Emma in 2nd grade, Easton in preschool, and me at Wheaton, we have 4 different school schedules to keep track of and lots of potential connections with other families.

In the week preceding the start of school, I was asked to read Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. The title is more intimidating than the book itself. It was surprisingly easy to read. He has two whole chapters on the nature of true friendship and the factors that must be in place in order for friendships to thrive. I found his words strikingly relevant to our context. Most of what he says about friendship is still true today.

For example, he says,
  • "Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue" (page 196 in the edition pictured)
  • "those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends" (196)
  • "a wish for friendship may arise quickly, but friendship does not" (197)

Meanwhile, Eliana and I were working through another book together: The Smart Girl's Guide to Starting Middle Schoola practical and helpful publication by American Girl. When we came to the chapter on friendship, I almost laughed. Their advice sounded exactly like Aristotle. Who would have thought?

Check this out:
"Another question that arises is whether friendships should or should not be broken off when the other party does not remain the same" (Aristotle, 225)

"It's pretty clear by now that you'll be be going through a lot of changes in middle school—both physical and emotional. And the same will go for your friends, too. Since friendships are often based on having the same likes and activities, you may find your relationships strengthening or souring ..." (Smart Girl's Guide, 66)

So take your pick on what to read—Aristotle or American Girl. But do yourself a favor and find a friend.

Friendships are such an important part of life. It can feel like life is too busy for friends, but a friendless life is not sustainable. And that's why I'm delighted that Eliana has had such a great time getting to know a new friend. She and her best friend Gwyn have connected with another new student. Caasi is from the Philippines, and her dad is a new PhD student at Wheaton. Since we lived in the Philippines for 2 1/2 years when Eliana was little, it's been really fun for all of us to have a new connection with a Filipino family.

"In the end, your middle school friends will likely be a blend of old and new friends" (Smart Girl's Guide, 63). So, go out and make a new friend today!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

deep in conversation

I've had very little time to blog for the past month, because I've been busy listening in on ancient conversations. What a joy it's been to dig around in the library and unearth treasures old and new! After two months of a rather intense schedule of research and writing, I've produced a draft of my first full-length dissertation chapter. Though I'm still waiting to fill a few holes (once books arrive from other libraries) and edit the final project, it feels so good to have the bulk of the work done.

Here's a glimpse of what it takes to write a dissertation chapter (now that I know!):

Step One: Listen to Lots of Voices (and take good notes)

Step Two: Get Organized

Step Three: Choose Conversation Partners

Step Four: Write and Write until the Conversation is Finished

Step Five: Revise and Submit

Ironically, when I attended Curriculum Night at Eliana's Middle School this past week, her Music teacher was describing the five steps of the Creative Process. I frantically wrote them down, delighted to find that I had intuitively been following these steps in order to write this chapter: Input, Finding Potential, Reorganization, Production, and Evaluation. First, I had input from hundreds of sources. In my case I switched steps two and three because I had to organize my sources into categories before I could choose conversation partners (i.e. 'find potential') to represent each point of view. I'm happy to report that I found LOTS of potential this summer, tucked away in obscure places like the Shepherd of Hermas, the writings of St. Bonaventure, and the Pesikta Rabbati. It was fun to discover friends all across history! The writing process sent me back to the stacks many times in search of clarification of various points of view. But I'm now nearing the end of the process, and I have 60 pages written, and lots of new friends. What a privilege to join the conversation!