Friday, January 13, 2017

Watching the Branches Move

Having lived in the Pacific Northwest during winter, I am used to seeing trees maintain their pines all year round, creating a green curtain that covers up the trees that lost their seasonal leaves. Now living on the East Coast, I am astounded at how much further I can see when the trees lose their leaves. Today as I was working on an assignment in front of a tall window in the library I watched the tree branches sway in the wind. In the next few months, the leaves will reappear and I will be glad to see green hills again instead of brown, but this is a season of examining the core movements.

In my January class, the professor discussed the idea that one of the main opponents of Chalcedon (declaring Jesus Christ as having two natures (perfect humanity and perfect divinity) in one person) was arguing for the same ideas Chalcedon supported. Their disagreement was based on two different uses of the same Greek word. Now that scholars are in a different season, one which features the distinguishable English terms 'nature' and 'person', they are able to look back and examine the core arguments and see that the opponents were actually in agreement, though they didn't realize it at the time.

Do we sometimes cling to leaves that sometimes need to fall in order for us to watch the core movements? Such leaves may include different forms of technology and social media, busy schedules, relationships, etc. (In the time surround Chalcedon, the leaves included various definitions of particular terms and the assumption that one's interpretation of it matched others and the stress of needing to come up with a clear view of who Jesus Christ was in order to confront heresies that were spreading.)

Are there regular seasons in life when leaves change, or do we find ourselves clinging too long in one season when there is more to be seen?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Punctuated by Worship

A year ago tonight I joined the group of others who had gathered together in the university's chapel to praise God as was the weekly rhythm. It was the eve of my trip to Greece. In many ways, it symbolized the beginning of the trip, particularly as it was a visual reminder that over the next three weeks as I and others would be journeying through Greece, others would still be at the university, regularly gathering together to praise God.

The group I traveled through Greece had a particular love for singing the Doxology together. We sang it together on the bus, in monasteries, in a tomb, and while circled together in evening reflections on hotel rooms and roofs. It served to draw our attention back to praising God and as a reminder of the global nature of the Church.

I am thankful that on New Year's Eve my brother sounds in the New Year with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne followed by the Doxology on the bagpipes. May this new year be one frequently punctuated by the sound and sight of the Church gathering together to offer praise to God.

Psalm 150 (ESV)

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Local Adventure

Three years ago around this time, I was preparing to spend three weeks at an isolated camp in the Cascade Mountains. It would have been my first extended experience with snow, however for the first time in decades, there was a lack of snow (though thick and slick ice was present throughout the whole time). Two years ago, I was preparing to go to the same camp for a different class, this time with snow on the ground. A year ago at this time, I was preparing for a three-week trip to Greece. All three experiences were wonderful adventures.
Now, instead of figuring out how to fit three weeks worth of traveling gear into a carry on bag, I am leisurely packing my check bag to return to my room at seminary, wondering whether or not I could fit a giant Costco-size pillow pet into my bag (closest thing I can have to a real pet living on-campus). There is a part of me that wishes I was preparing for another new adventure, yet maybe this is the new adventure, to have these four weeks in January to continue becoming more rooted in the community at seminary as I take a class entitled 'Early Eastern Christianity Beyond Byzantium.' Perhaps there may even be the adventure of being in my first blizzard, though I would be just as happy avoiding that particular adventure.
This morning as I walked to breakfast with my dad, I was visually reminded that wonder can occur even in places where I have spent significant amounts of time. I will likely not have my camera out this next month as much as I did in Greece, but I fully intend to be a tourist in my own town, or rather, a woman in the process of becoming a local who maintains a sense of wonder and curiosity.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Home for Christmas 2016

During the final week of school, I watched a young family pull into my dorm's parking lot, unload their sleds and excited kids, and head towards the hill to enjoy an afternoon in the first snow of the year conducive to sledding. I put on my coat, and hiked up the hill to the library (pictured is my finals week seminary student version of playing in the snow.

Thankful for the opportunity to be home for a few days to enjoy time with family, have significant time to process this past semester, and prepare for the upcoming Jan-term (1,600 pages to read and write reflections on by Jan. 14th). Most of all, though, I'm thankful for the time during this season to ponder the coming of Christ and how that has impacted my life and ought to continue influencing every moment thereof (including moments of sliding down a hill gleefully on a sled and writing in a library).

What influence does Christmas have on the days leading up to and following our celebrations on December 25th?

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Exegesis Camera

As I continue working through the many steps of Greek exegesis, I'm finding the process to resemble the time earlier this week when I moved my camera around to find the spot where light shined through the interwoven design.

Take text criticism for example.

Text criticism is the process by which one tries to determine what the original Greek reading of a passage was from examining the multitude of manuscripts that have been discovered. Through analyzing the external evidence (age/date/location of manuscripts) and internal evidence (how one particular reading may have led to another through various scribal errors) an argument may emerge for preferring one reading over another.* It takes a bit of time and patient tinkering to see how the external evidence (threads) interplay with one another and may be connected together (style of knot).
I'm enjoying being behind the exegesis camera again as I wrap up my last assignment of the semester.

Do we take time to observe designs? Do we see them as blocking our view, or as providing a framework that draws us to the center?

*The variant readings of the Greek do not significantly alter the general message of the passage. For example, as I'm working on Matthew 14:22-33, one of most contested variants is whether there is a definite article for Peter (a definite article normally accompanies proper nouns in Greek). Whether the article is included or not, it is clear that the passage is referring to Peter the disciple of Jesus and does not influence the English translation.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Preparing for Snow

Moving from the Seattle area to the Boston area, people told me to be prepared for snow and cold winters. Thus far, the city I went to college in has regularly had colder temperatures than Boston and yesterday my hometown officially received more snow than I have here (more is expected there as well). 

Do we encourage others to prepare for something while neglecting caring for ourselves thinking that it will not happen to us? This may be something physical, like snow, or could apply spiritually as well.

Note: The picture above is from a trip last January to Greece. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Enjoying the Process

With less than twenty days until the end of the semester, there is much work still to be done, yet the work is enjoyable. One of my habits during these past few weeks was allowing myself to study in a coffee shop once during the week for a change in environment. This morning as I packed up my assignment (comparing Paul's view of marriage with a position put forward around the same time by the Cynic philosopher Epictetus) and prepared to return to campus, I noticed there was still a bit of coffee in my cup. Looking at the remaining coffee as a task to be completed, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I had initially when I viewed it just a few moments before as a special treat. It is such a unique opportunity to have the next few weeks to dedicate myself to studying God's word in-depth through Greek exegesis. It is a privilege to be able to read the works of figures in church history and attempt to grasp their method of spirituality. With my eye on the calendar counting the days till I go home, I fear that I may begin to view these tasks as something to be finished, when really there may be so much joy in the process. Hopefully, when I finish these assignments, I may be able to look back and say, 'that was a delightful cup of coffee.'

What factors change our view of the activity before us? Are there ways in which we can counteract negative view-changes?