I have fallen so deeply in love with God by studying this weird collection of books called the Bible. I’m not talking about romantic love, but a love that is so, so much better.
Today in class, we finished the Old Testament.
*Pause for applause*
One of our fearless leaders, Scott Frase ended class by playing a slideshow he had made of the 65 books we’ve journeyed through in the last (almost) nine months (they begin the last book this Friday). Each slide was a book title, the main characteristic of God found in that book and then one or two key verses from said book which expressed this characteristic. Most of us were devouring each slide and responding with tears to see what an epic story we have been immersed in for so long. (Maybe I was the only one crying?)
It was as moving as I’m sure the picture slideshows will be when we finally graduate these beloved students in two weeks.
When any of our teachers finish their last lecture, it is SBS tradition to shower them with encouragement and prayer. For guest speakers, this happens soon after we meet them, but for those of us on staff with this school, we finish our last teaching near the end of a very long time together.
I was really struck today by a comment one of the students made to Scott as she expressed her appreciation and love for him. She talked about how, before coming to the school she’d had such a close relationship with God and she had feared that studying the Bible academically would suck the life right out of that relationship. It was a real battle for her and for several other students, but to Scott she said, “I thought I had to choose between knowledge of God or intimacy with God, but every time you teach, you show me I can have both.” … Continue reading “Library of Love”
Lately I have been a real mess. Not a quirky, things-will-come-out-right-in-the-end kind of mess, either. A gross and ugly mess that you’re sure will yield rotting surprises. I have seriously questioned my mental health and the wisdom of even interacting with other humans. My heart and mind have been dark and confusing. Even just last night, all of the worst lies came out to taunt me as I tried to go to sleep.
When I woke up (after very little sleep) I felt that same raw and twisty anxiety, but as I sat down to spend some time with God, he came quickly in just the way I needed. He didn’t soothe me with “No, everyone really loves you, it’s okay,” but instead pointed me to how incredibly faithful he is, has been and will continue to be. I think it’s only after I recognize how big and good he is that I am able to feel comforted by what he then says about who I am.
Then, at the end of class today I had a good dose of “hindsight” as I finished up my last teaching in the School of Biblical Studies.
What I got to see at the end of my teaching is how all the things that God spoke about this season before it happened (this season being my involvement with SBS since the beginning of 2012) have taken place… Continue reading “A Plan to Lose it All”
Studying to teach is a beautiful and frustrating process for me. If I spend too much time on details, I am immediately lost. What happens instead, is I spend a few weeks just thinking about the book I’m supposed to teach. Clearly, I have read through it and I will often gather bits of big picture information to chew on.
At some point, in the pondering (and attempting to study), I Get It. This usually happens much closer to the time I’m to teach than is really comfortable, but that also somehow suites me. I take the stress and I plunge head first into papers and my teaching outline. What I want to give my students is the Big Idea- the perspective they will not have time to discover for themselves in the two days they will get to study the book I’ve been studying for 4 weeks. But it takes me most of that four weeks to see the big idea clearly enough to teach it to them.
Something else happens while I’m studying to teach a particular book- God allows me to somehow experience or feel this Big Idea in a personal way in my own life. You can imagine because of this factor I was a bit nervous before I started studying to teach the book of Job!
Now I am currently working on the prophetic book of Hosea… Continue reading “The Big Idea”
When I was young I had a pretty bad temper. “Seeing red” was a figure of speech that I understood completely.
Back then, we also did our family fighting with really loud voices. When it went on between others and myself, it was cathartic, when it was other members of my family with each other, it tipped over into stressful. I remember one time going into my room, slamming the door and plugging my ears so tightly that I hurt myself, all because of an argument in which I was not involved.
It was for that reason that I began looking for “fixes,” or, more appropriately termed, “diffusers.” Jokes are my favorite- ones that make me the fool usually work out the best because there’s no possibility for things to be taken wrong. Every once in a while I found actual wisdom that calmed things. Not so much like Solomon, but more like the time I encouraged my sister to not stay stubbornly in the car at McDonalds because she’d be hungry later when her anger had cooled.
As an adult there is really never any yelling. I still sometimes get the urge to slam doors, but if I notice the urge in time, I can diffuse it by calling myself out as passive aggressive… Continue reading “Let’s Fight”
Does being awesome have to be such hard work?
I’m coming to believe that as much as I want to live my life on purpose, show as much love as possible and, above all, help people know God better- as much as I want that, I don’t usually want the difficulties that go with those things.
This isn’t where I give you some moral lesson about how I’ve really just learned to buckle down and do the hard work. This is where I admit openly that I don’t want to.
It’s stressful. It’s exhausting, and I’m pretty sure I’m going a little bit crazy… Continue reading “Send Someone Else”
I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a rough week.
Sometimes I get really stuck in the dark and I cannot see the way ahead. There are a lot of lies that whisper to me when the lights go out. It makes my head much like a haunted house and a heavy rock of grief, stress and fear sits on my chest and it actually feels harder to breath.
This morning during corporate worship I was desperate to get away from myself and see God. I picked up my Bible and opened to Isaiah because I remembered some good stuff in there where God says who he is in a very direct way.
Isaiah 43 has been an important chapter to me for the past ten years. Before doing the School of Biblical Studies, I had a hard time reading the Bible at all. Except for Isaiah 43. My struggle was that I couldn’t see how any of the words were really for me… people talked about “claiming the promises of God,” but I couldn’t see how any of those promises were for me… Continue reading “Reading in the Dark”
During discussion group last night we went around in a circle talking about what we have learned from studying the New Testament. The students finished Revelation this week and will begin with Genesis on Monday.
It was so encouraging to hear the answers from the students because they are the reason that we, as staff, are here. I know that my part is a small one, but I’m grateful to have a part.
The staff shared, as well and I was glad to be last in the circle because I had no idea to say. I had some words floating around in my head and was also trying to listen to what others were sharing. It wasn’t until the person before me wrapped up that I grabbed ahold of the bones of a thought. Then the most unfortunate/wonderful thing happened. The truth I was trying to convey hit me as it was coming out of my mouth. Which, of course, means I cried.
Here is what I learned this last quarter:
Early on I was wrestling with the Apostle Paul… Continue reading “Paul’s Secret”
I’ve been mentally digesting two important thoughts today that seem to oppose each other.
Thought number 1 came this morning from the Twitter world. It struck me so soundly, that I typed it into a sticky note on my computer. It’s been staring at me all day.
“Hyper-individualism leads to spiritual homelessness.” -Bevin Ginder
This makes so much sense. I have walked that particular road, although I have also seen God pushing me ever toward interdependence with other believers.
Thought number 2 came this afternoon in class. Ron Smith, the founder of SBS is here teaching the Gospel of John to us. Today, in the first four chapters, he touched on several great things about Jesus, but one that got stuck right in my throat. In John chapter 1 Jesus is baptized. John the baptist (who dunked the Lord himself), says that he saw heaven open and the Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove. He saw the Spirit, and it was like a dove.
Ron pointed out something that makes the dove particularly unique among birds; their flight pattern is unpredictable…. Continue reading “Mental Digestion”
Last Monday I taught the book of Philippians to the students in our School of Biblical Studies. I get nervous before teaching- not because I have stage fright and not because I’m afraid of what they will think of me. I get nervous because I really want to do a good job- I don’t want to waste people’s time, but I also want desperately to convey something of who God is when I teach.
I know, I know- this is really only something God can do. At the same time, I am responsible to invest time in studying the books I teach so that I do have a foundation. God can speak through any donkey, but I don’t actually want to be an ass.
Teaching Philippians was a really good time. A few hours before the teaching started I had this wave of gratitude for the fact that I get to do the thing I’ve dreamed of doing! It’s ridiculous, people. I have no degrees and very little experience. But I get to spend serious time in God’s word and then I get to lead this awesome group discussion. This is what teaching mostly is to me. I love asking the students, “What do you see?” because even after studying for weeks and weeks they still see things I have not seen. It’s an honor and a joy. We laughed and we cried. Together we had a clearer picture, a fresh reminder of who Jesus really is and who God is really calling us to be together….
Continue reading “Don’t Freak Out”
This weekend I was really wrestling with the feeling that I am not up for the job I’m doing. I had all kinds of questions about how much stress is healthy and leads to growth and how much is unhealthy and leads to deterioration. It’s not as straight forward as setting boundaries for when I work and when I rest because sometimes when it’s time for me to study my brain won’t engage… and sometimes when I feel like I need rest I do actually have to be at that meeting.
Often people will say that if God calls you to do something he will give you the strength to accomplish the job. Thinking along these lines, if I look back at the last school I staffed, I see that it took a while to get the swing of things and until I
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“got it,” I was really wrestling – similarly to how I am wrestling right now.
On one hand it gives me hope that there will be a tipping point when it stops feeling like there’s an ogre sitting on my chest. On the other hand because there is a lot more work with this school, it feels like maybe it’s just more than I would ever be able to handle… Continue reading “Let Down Your Nets”
I just received a beautiful email from a friend. It read much more like a hand written letter and I’m tempted to copy and paste it into a document and print it on paper.
Besides sharing her struggles and joys, she ends her letter with a very simple statement which left me stunned for a moment while salty liquid rushed into my eyes.
“I pray for you, Peggy, that your faith would not fail.”
I sat up late last night trying to write a different blog post and then trying to write something for just myself to make sense of life right now. One metaphor that seemed fitting was that of being out in choppy water on a small pontoon. Just as I think I’m grasping what it means to be still inside, the scenery changes and I’m sliding toward a metal railing with pinwheel arms. Three things I forgot to do and seven things that need to be done right now, and several questions I’m not completely sure how to answer slam into me at the opposite end of the boat…. Continue reading “Be Still My Soul”
Life is moving quickly. Quite quicker than I know how to document. I have actually written several other posts that I didn’t publish because I couldn’t sit still within myself long enough to decide whether they contained true and real things.
I often think that it is in these moments that it’s best for me to stay silent.
But I do want to share, even if the words are few.
After spending 6 weeks preparing, the students have finally arrived. There are twelve of them, 10 women and 2 men. They are a very social group, on the whole. Listening to them share how they got here and why they have come has brought tears to my eyes several times.
Why is that?… Continue reading “Staying to Go”
If I could create a drawing that described this year, it would probably be a comic strip. The whole thing would be a roller coaster ride.
After sitting here thinking for a while, I realize that describing the pictures I would draw is probably less effective than just describing the year itself.
January: This was a month of great elation. I had just completed the School of Biblical Studies, which is a marathon of studying for 9 months. I had puffy, bluish skin under my eyes and a great big smile on my face.
February: I went home for 6 weeks to “raise support.” I put it in quotes because that is not as concrete an activity as some might make it out to be. Basically I hung out with my friends, made new friends, and spoke to a few groups of people about the work I feel called to do as a Missionary…. Continue reading “Holler”
The School of Biblical Studies was both the most difficult and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Because I had not had a positive experience with school in the past, I had never wanted to do the SBS, afraid it would just be another opportunity to fail. And so when I felt like God might be calling me to do the school
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(just about 3 weeks before the school started) I wrestled hard to be totally sure I was hearing him correctly. To be honest, when it came down to it, I made the decision based on who God is and not upon what I feel I’m capable of accomplishing successfully. I took a dive because I would rather fall on my face in pursuit of God than be “safe” and miss what he has for me.
What I discovered during the SBS, was God himself… Continue reading “God In My Homework”
This weekend our School of Biblical Studies staff took a retreat to the charming vacation town of Pagosa Springs. Our training goes for 6 weeks before the students arrive and so far it is a lot more fun than I usually picture myself having at “work.”
We ate together, prayed together, hung out, made plans, held the baby… There’s one thing we did in particular that I would like to share. Each of us took a turn giving a “devotion.” The general instruction for the devotional time was to share something that God has been teaching you recently. Something I love about God is his willingness and his patience to teach us on an ongoing basis. I loved that each of us had something different to share.
What I shared with them I want to share with you now. This is something I began learning at the beginning of the last school I staffed and I feel like it’s a good thing to revisit.
…Expectations… Continue reading “Terrifically Specific”