Starting Seminary

I have now spoken with my academic adviser and registered for two classes in the Fall Term at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Classes officially start next Tuesday, but I’m trying to get a little bit of a head start by getting things set up and starting my readings early.

One class is Introduction to Old Testament, which is taught by my advisor and required for Masters of Divinity students. I’m currently in the Certificate of Theological Studies program, so it isn’t required, but I might become an M.Div or Master of Theological Studies student at some point.

I took Biblical Hebrew back in my undergraduate days as well as a few Old Testament classes, but that was years ago, and I’ve forgotten much of my Hebrew and I’m especially interested in looking at the Old Testament from perspectives other than the Old White European Male perspective that is so dominant.

The second class I’ve signed up for is News and Religion, offered by the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum. I am taking it via Starr King which is another theological school in the Graduate Theological Union. I’m very interested in how journalism and religion have influenced one another in America.

I expect I’ll be writing a bit for both courses and hope my writing will improve. Some of my writing will be only for the classes, but some of it, I hope to share publicly, either here, or on other sites.

I also received an email about the Virtual Daily Office at CDSP. I switch around the daily offices I use and recently have been using a Celtic daily office. Currently, I plan on saying the Virtual Daily Office at CDSP as I become more active in their online community.

I also expect that I’ll be spending a lot of time reading. I’m trying to get a jump start on my readings, but I expect most of my free time will be spent reading and writing for seminary and I’ll probably be doing less other reading and writing, at least for the next few months.

Prayers for my studies and my journey are greatly appreciated.

Liminal

Last week, we were on vacation in Tennessee to watch the total eclipse of the sun. During that time, I had very limited internet connectivity and a lot of time when writing just wasn’t possible, so I set aside my Daily Examen blog posts. I had thought about writing up one giant post, a sort of vacation examen, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, I’m trying to dig out of everything that needs to be done.

Next week, classes start. I am getting my accounts set up in various learning management systems, student information systems, and so on. I am trying to get all the emails sorted out with permissions to take this course or that. I am reading syllabi and thinking out what my schedule will be for the next four months. This includes thinking about what I will be posting online, and where I will be posting it.

At work, I am digging out from being on vacation during a very busy period. In the larger scheme of things, there is the flooding in Houston. There is political discord in our country. There are tensions globally.

I try to focus, and get back into my daily schedule, feeling that on so many levels, I am standing at a threshold.

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Make America Great Again, the Top Hog BBQ way

When we came to Tennessee to watch the total solar eclipse, which was a wonderful event., we had decided to stay in Tennessee for a few extra days, hoping to soak up a little bit of the local culture. Yet it seemed like every restaurant recommendation we found was to some polished place in a mall somewhere, a mall that could have been anywhere in America.

On Wednesday, we headed towards a state park to see some of Tennessee’s great waterfalls. We drove through Franklin, where a statue of “Chip”, a confederate soldier was surrounded by green ribbons and private property flags. We didn’t know the details but guessed it had to do with the struggle over what we choose to honor and remember about our history.

As I prepare for seminary, I’ve been reading Radical Welcome by the Rev. Stephanie Spellers and been wondering how we welcome those who want to hang on to statues of Confederate soldiers and how we welcome those who want such statues removed. I’ve been wondering what sort of southern culture people are seeking to defend and what it really takes to make America great again.

In the evening, we headed out to dinner. A course that I’ve signed up for this fall is “Religion and News Media” at the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum. There was a video conference orientation session that I needed to join. I had some difficulties joining in and ended up participating from the backseat of the car as we drove to dinner.

How can we have meaningful and respectful dialog about religion in America? This is one of the topics we will be struggling with and talked a little bit about on the video conference.

My wife and daughter headed into the restaurant while I finished the end of the call. I had not seen the roads my wife took to get to the restaurant, but this was not in a mall. Walking into the restaurant, it was clear that Top Hog BBQ was different. On the walls were old advertisements for nickel bottles of Mountain Due, pictures of Barney Fife and the cast of The Wizard of Oz. There were big wooden tables, and no small plastic sign saying, “Please wait to be seated”. I looked around and saw my wife and daughter sitting at a table sipping fruit tea.

I’m not a big fan of sweet tea, so I thought I would skip the fruit tea, but when I looked at the other choices which were mostly soft drinks, I decided to give the fruit tea a try. It was great.

This was the experience we had been searching for. From the first sip of the fruit tea, to the last bite of BBQ, it was clear that this place is the real deal. Good solid tasty food. My wife loved the spicy turnip greens and my daughter who went with a simple cheeseburger declared it the best she had had in ages.

As we finished up, we got into talking with Patty, who owns the place. We talked about the eclipse, our families, our interests, and good food. It seemed that she personified the sort of southern culture that we need to be preserving and what it really takes to make America great again: attention to quality and detail, the kindness and friendliness.

So, if you’re serious about preserving southern culture and making America great again, I have one recommendation: Eat at Top Hog BBQ. I you can't make it to Gallatin, find someplace like Top Hog BBQ. Go in, have a great meal, talk with the staff and the other customers. Appreciate good food and good company and spread the word.

Eclipse Reflections

Today, there were lots of discussions on social media about the eclipse. One religious friend posted that he didn’t see what the big deal about the eclipse was. I responded, “I like anything that gets people to stop and look at God's creation differently and to share with one another a sense of awe”

Another friend posted about lost productivity. I responded,

“My wife and I took vacation to watch the eclipse. The productivity would have been lost whether we were watching the eclipse or doing something else.

Yet thinking about the beauty of the eclipse, it seems like we need to ask, is productivity really the ultimate aim of our lives?”

Friends that saw totality have been posting about how wonderful and magical it was. It was my fourth total eclipse and I look forward to many more. Two years from now in Argentina? Seven years from now in the United States again? We’ll see which ones we manage to make it to.

On one friends reflections, I commented:

“We had a wonderful impromptu eclipse party down in Castalian Springs. People from Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Russia, and I'm not sure where all else, sharing stories, eclipse glasses, peaks through telescopes, Prosecco, ad contact information to stay in touch.

It has been a wonderful day, and I too, love that so many of us from various different backgrounds could stop, even briefly, to enjoy one another and some of the beauty of creation.”

So my hope remains. However you think about creation, the creator, the source of beauty, the source of kindness, the source of love, I hope that you managed to stop and appreciate a little of the beauty of the created world, and share some joy and love from that experience to those around you.

Daily Examen, August 14-16, 2017

Daily Examen, Monday, August 14, 2017

A busy week begins with a blur
and offering comfort.
The day ends, not much different than it started
with a rush from one thing to the next
with the underlying reminder
God alone is enough

Daily Examen, Tuesday, August 15, 2017

As I sit in the dental chair
I think of those
who cannot afford
a visit to the dentist.
Then the day rushes forward
ending with a reminder
by three deer
looking over their shoulders
at me.

Daily Examen, Wednesday, August 16, 2017

And on the third day
of the work week
the pace does not slow down
but neither do the reminders
of God’s love
and I settle in
to read a book
give as a gift.

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