Tag Archives: school

Every man does his best.

For every man in the world functions to the best of his ability, and no one does less than his best, no matter what he may think about it.  — John Steinbeck, The Pearl

These words got me thinking, though I don’t know if I’m interpreting them correctly.  This school year has been one of tensions, and among those tensions perhaps the strongest was the tension between what I thought I was capable of doing and what I ended up doing. I’m not talking about grades, because I couldn’t have asked for better grades. Instead, I’m thinking of my own evaluation of my work.

I think I’ve mentioned before that going into seminary I did not want papers to become just a product that would please the professor or meet assignment requirements, but I wanted them to be something I did just as much for my own benefit. This was, of course, a bit of an idealist picture of what the school year would look like. Between the 4 or 5 classes in a semester, assignments, family responsibilities and rest there is really only so much a person can do. Especially as the end of a semester approaches and deadlines loom, the balance almost by necessity has to shift to making a product. Assignments simply need to be completed on time.

For some reason Steinbeck’s line got me thinking about this tension.

…no one does less than his best…

Is it even possible for me to reasonably accurately evaluate my own work? When I think this paper could be better, is that a fact or do I simply think too little of my work (or too much of my potential)? I often think that if I had a couple more days a paper could be much better than it is the day I hand it in. All else being equal (e.g. being well rested), would a couple of days really make a difference?

…no matter what he may think about it.

What if my best is just what it is I’m doing? What if my best includes not only how I write, but the influence of my personality, work habits, etc.? In this way, my best is simply what I am able to at this moment–including my faults and shortcomings–rather than what I could do given any number of factors (i.e. my potential).

I’m still thinking this through. It has an effect on how I feel about assignments. I can live in regret about what could have been, or can accept what simply is or even had to be under the circumstances.

Stuff

My body is tired today.  It’s amazing how much difference it makes going to bed a half hour later than normal and being woken up in the middle of the night by a child who had a nightmare.  I lack energy.

I generally lack energy, as a matter of fact. According to Madeline’s new Littlest Pet Shop Mood Book I should eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates in order to keep up my energy.  Also less sugar and caffeine.  Alas, carbohydrates, sugar and tea are my three favourite food groups.

My semester:

» It feels like I have an unreasonable amount of reading and weekly assignments to do this semester.  I already feel behind.  I’m hoping that after Wednesday I can catch up again.

» I’m enjoying all my classes so far.  Hermeneutics is fascinating. Theological Foundations is fascinating. Hebrew is fascinating, but I’m not being diligent enough with my vocabulary and translating takes too much time (though I enjoy it very much).  Theology and Practice of Christian Spirituality and Formation looks like it will be an interesting challenge–we have been assigned “spiritual companions” with whom we are to meet 8 times for an hour each time over the course of the semester.  I had never met my assigned spiritual companion until today. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

» I had planned over Christmas to read ahead for my theology class, but I made the wrong decision based on certain elements in the syllabus and started reading Girl Meets God.  I should have started reading The Mediation of Christ, which is due (with an assignment) before Girl Meets God, and it’s a much heavier, meatier…more difficult book.  It scares me a little, in fact.  I have to write a 6-page review for Wednesday and I’m afraid that I don’t understand the book.  I’m hoping to read it one more time before then, but…

» I’m speaking at our church on Sunday.  I’ve got a loose idea of how I will approach the text (John 6:1-15–the feeding of the 5,000), but I haven’t written anything out.  I’m strangely not panicked about it (It’ll all work out.  That, or my subconscious is sabotaging the possibility of future speaking requests). But I am a bit frustrated with my current lack of inspiration and insight into the text.  Plus I’m overcome again with the feeling of Who am I to talk to these people about scripture? And then the question of whether I’m making the text say something it isn’t saying or wasn’t meant to say.  Pray for me, if you’re the praying kind.

» The more I know, the less I feel I know.

Friday Miscellany

I handed in my last major assignment on Wednesday. What a relief. Now I just have some reading to do for Monday and then a Hebrew final exam next Friday.  Lessons learned this semester:

1. I am unable to measure the quality of my own work. (Incidentally, I got my major Patristic Fathers paper back from Briercrest and I did very well!)

2. After all these years of post-secondary education, I still cannot write a decent introduction or conclusion.

3. I am too concerned about pleasing/impressing my professors.

4. Christ the centre (there were more theological lessons to be learned, but this point was driven home very strongly, particularly in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics)

* * *

We’ve watched a number of our Annual Christmas Movies.  A new addition to the lineup this year is The Family Stone. We must have played it six times already, each time in the background while doing something else.  Yesterday we finally payed attention to it.  I could watch it again tonight.  I’m not sure why this is–there is nothing particularly remarkable about the story–it’s not even a Christmas story, technically–and I can’t stand Diane Keaton’s character (too smug in her progressiveness). But it’s warm and funny, and Luke Wilson’s character is great.  I want to be him.

Also watched Love Actually.  I have a love-hate relationship with this film.  The Liam Neeson storyline is just a bit over the top for me, and I’m frustrated with the lack of satisfying resolution to the Alan Rickman/Emma Thompson storyline–it may be realistic, but if everything else in the movie resolves nicely (and sometimes over-the-top-ly), then why shouldn’t theirs? It doesn’t help that Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson are both such likeable actors.

Emma Thompson’s performance is stellar, I think, particularly in the scene in which she discovers that her husband might be having an affair, but because it’s Christmas Eve, she has to put on a brave face for her children.

On the other hand, the Hugh Grant-as-prime-minister-of-England storyline is fun.  And the relationship of the pron film stand-ins is brilliant.  That may sound awful if you haven’t seen the movie, but it’s really quite moving: it’s a story of innocent love in an over-sexed industry. I never noticed this before, but near the end of the movie it is revealed that the two get married, and the guy is all excited about actually sleeping together for the first time.

Next up: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

* * *

Ran some errands alone in Winnipeg today and had to do a wide loop around to get home, because I needed to pick something up in Steinbach. I drove east on the TransCanada highway–the farthest east I have ever driven (other than with my parents). I had this strange sensation of nervousness for some reason, wondering if I had taken a wrong turn and ended up an hour out of the way in the middle of nowhere.  I knew I was on the right road, but I was in unfamiliar territory. I started thinking about how much of our fear is motivated not by actual danger but simply the unknown.

A couple of weeks ago I went to downtown Winnipeg at night to listen to someone speak. I had to find my way around dark and unfamiliar one-way streets, find a parking spot, find the location. I was quite nervous, actually. Again: no danger, just unfamiliar territory.

Anyway…eventually driving east on the TransCanada, the light fading, CBC Radio Drive playing softly, snow drifting across the highway, I started to feel like I was on a road trip–maybe to Christmas across the border in Ontario’s Canadian Shield, to a log cabin in the woods somewhere, bear-rug glowing in the light of the fire blazing in the hearth.

I was actually going to Steinbach.  But it was a nice daydream anyway.

* * *

On my way home after doing some shopping I wondered if internet shopping has increased retail sales and consumerism. If other people are at all like me, when I’m in a store I’m less likely to buy something than when I shop online.  In-store I get overwhelmed with “stuff” and consumerism and can quite easily tell myself I don’t need whatever it is I’m thinking of buying.  Shopping online at, say, Amazon, I find it quite easy to simply click “add to shopping cart” and “proceed to checkout”.  Not sure what the difference is. Perhaps there’s something to tactile reasoning–if there’s no product to handle and no credit card/cash to hand over, it’s easier to imagine that you’re not accumulating more stuff and spending more money.

Suprised by report-card induced tears

Since getting married I’ve become more emotionally free, which is a less _______ way of saying that I cry much more quickly and easily. Then having kids made it even more so.  Don’t get me wrong–I don’t spend my days choking back tears, but there’s something in the intimacy of relationship and family that loosens the ol’ tear ducts, allowing salty water rise to my eyes much more freely.

I’m never quite sure when to expect it.  No, that’s not true–I usually expect it in really sappy moments, like the family episodes on Survivor; or when pets are reunited with their owners, like in Homeward Bound; or when broken relationships are restored, like in Uncle Buck (yes, Uncle Buck. What of it?); or when a crowd of thousands sings along at a concert (like Coldplay’s “Fix You”).  In short: I’m a sap.

But sometimes an onslaught of tears comes unexpectedly. I am surprised and delighted by the release, but also more than a little embarrassed. It happened recently with Madeline’s first report card from her new school.  There is much to commend in the report card, but two phrases in the comments sections really hit me.

She respects others and follows the classroom rules and routines. She sets a wonderful example of citizenship for the other students.

and

Madeline always hands in her best work.

I was the first to look at the comments in Madeline’s report card. I tried reading them to Dixie, but I couldn’t–I was choking back tears.

I’m not sure why I responded this way. It could be because the child the teacher sees is not often the child we get at home–so I might have been saddened by the “injustice” of this. It could have been because I was in the middle of a stressful week of due-dates and I often am not satisfied with the work I hand in. It might be that I was simply overcome with pride for my eldest. Those comments mean more to me than good grades.

Who knows. But I was surprised.

UPDATE: Just back from parent-teacher interview.  Beaming even more.  Dixie and I both almost broke down–it’s just such a relief and delight to hear positive comments from her teacher.  Madeline isn’t a terrible kid at home, although she does have quite the attitude and can be very rude, so naturally we worry about her attitude in school.  Apparently it’s not the same there.

The teacher also provides a different point of view.  She mentioned a couple of things that Madeline does, things which at home we often think are rude. In describing these things, her teacher referred to her as “full of life”.  Sometimes it’s good to see things from a different angle.

Registration, etc.

Not much to say these days, I’ll be honest.  The semester is winding down, which is reflected in my Busy-ness to Inspiration ratio.  I have two short papers left to write, as well as one final exam, and I’m done.  Hard to believe, actually. I’m already gearing up mentally for next semester.  I’m hoping to read a book or two for next semester’s over Christmas.

I registered for next semester’s classes today.  I’m registered for four, but I might bring it down to three.  We shall see.  My course lineup was pre-set for the most part, partly because two of the courses I’m in right now are actually year-long courses.  Also, my program doesn’t have many electives and there are two courses I need to take in my first year, one of which is offered in the winter semester.  Right now I’m registered for:

  • Theological Foundations II (I’m currently in TF I)
  • Introductory Hebrew II (I’m currently in Hebrew I)
  • Hermeneutics
  • Theology and Practice of Christian Spirituality and Formation

I’m not fully convinced of my winter line-up.  It will be my Theological Foundations professor’s last semester at the seminary before moving to New Zealand to take up a new academic post there.  I’ve enjoyed his classes immensely and hoped to take an extra class from him.  But given my program requirements, it looks like I’ll just have to go with the one.  I could take it instead of Hermeneutics, but I’ve been advised that Hermeneutics would be a useful class to have under my belt for more advanced courses.

I had a look at the Hermeneutics syllabus. It’s a bit confusing, but from what I can make out, it looks a little scary. One of the textbooks is this 600-page tome: The Hermeneutical Spiral. It looks interesting, but I’m a little nervous about reading the whole book in one semester (if that’s required). The text is pretty small. And it’s a big book.

Two of the texts for Theological Foundations II are Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God.  I know we own both of these books already, but I can’t find them.  Of course not.

That is all.

The Doors of the Sea

Some of you might have noticed the question I posted on Twitter and Facebook yesterday: how do you reconcile the existence of a good God with suffering? Some of you even responded.

I asked this question out of sheer frustration with my multiple failed attempts at expressing my thoughts in response to David Bentley Hart’s The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? The assignment was to articulate whether or not I thought that Hart provided a satisfactory answer to the question of how we reconcile the existence of a loving God with the existence of evil and suffering.

Much of the first half of the book is spent undermining the various theodocies articulated by both Christians and atheists shortly after the tsunami which occurred on New Year’s Eve 2004. I won’t go into more detail than simply saying that Hart dismisses them (with arguments, mind you).  According to Hart, the only real challenge to the Christian understanding of God is provided by the character Ivan in Dostoyevski’s The Brothers Karamazov.

He willingly grants, he says, that all wounds will at the last be healed, all scars will disappear, all discord will vanish like a mirage…and that such will be the splendor of the finale of all things, when that universal harmony is established, that every heart will be satisfied, all anger soothed, the debt for every crime discharged, and everyone made capable of forgiving every offense and even of finding justification for everything that has ever happened to mankind; and still rejects the world that God has made, and that final harmony with it…[because] the terms of the final happiness God intends for his creatures are greater than his conscience can bear” (38-9)

And then Ivan presents his interlocutor (Alyosha) with “a grim, unremitting, remorseless recitation of stories about the torture and murder of (principally) children — true stories, as it happens, that Dostoyevski had collected from the press and from other sources” (39). Ivan’s examples are truly heartbreaking and I could not–indeed still cannot–remove them from my mind as I tried to write my response.

He tells of Turks in Bulgaria tearing babies from their mothers’ wombs with daggers, or flinging infants into the air to catch them on bayonets before their mothers’ eyes, or playing with babies held in their mothers’ arms — making them laugh, enticing them with the bright metal barrels of pistols — only then to fire the pistols into the babies’ faces. He tells the story of two parents regularly savagely flogging their seven-year-old daughter, only to be acquitted in court of any wrongdoing. He tells the story of a…couple who tortured  their five-year-old daughter with constant beatings, and who — to punish her, allegedly, for fouling her bed — filled her mouth with excrement and locker her on freezing nights in an outhouse. (39)

And then, perhaps the most heartbreaking part of all:

…he invites Alyosha to imagine that child, in the bitter chill and darkness and stench of that place, striking her breast with her tiny fist, weeping her supplications to “gentle Jesus,” begging God to release her from her misery, and then to say whether anything…could possibly be worth the brutal absurdity of that little girl’s torments (39-40).

Indeed.  Indeed.

This is the only real challenge to Christian thinking because it is a complaint that is deeply rooted in Christian thought (Dostoyevski was a man of intense faith). Hart’s final answer seems to be no answer–at least, no rational answer.  I’m fine with that.  That’s my response, too.

But before he gets there he argues for the distinction between what God wills and what God permits and how that relates to created human freedom.  God is not culpable, ultimately, in Hart’s view, and he then points us to God’s final victory–the thing Ivan believes in but ultimately rejects.

I don’t believe God is culpable either, and I, too, believe in the victory of God.

And yet, and yet, and yet…there is still that girl beating her tiny fists against her breast.  How can any response be made in the face of that image?  How can we do anything but be silent in the face of such suffering, as Hart, ironically, suggests would have been the most appropriate response to the 2004 tsunami?  My beef with Hart’s response–so far as it is one–is that no matter how you cut it, there is still that suffering little girl.

I struggled intensely with articulating my thoughts in this paper, and I think now it was because the theological and philosophical and ontological tension inherent in the question of evil had made its way into not only my head but also my heart.  While his belief that death and suffering and evil have no meaning or function in God’s economy (i.e. they are an anomaly), I was not ultimately not satisfied with Hart’s attempt at theodicy (reconciling a loving God with the existence of evil) because ever and again the image of that little girl crying and pounding her fists come to mind.  And yet I still share the same belief and hope as Hart: that God will one day make all things new.  But how to I reconcile that?

If there’s one thing I don’t have a solid grasp on in terms of faith, it’s the Christian notion of the victory of God now, rather than just at some point in the future. When Christ said on the cross, “It is finished,” he wasn’t talking about his life, but about the victory of God.  And yet evil appears to carry on apace. Again, how do we reconcile the two?  I asked this question in class today and my prof quoted Karl Barth (I think–it may have been Martin Luther), who said, “The old Adam is drowned, but the bastard keeps swimming” (that was what he said to me in private–in class he said, “the bugger”, which, depending on where you come from, is no less vulgar).  I approached him after class and asked if Barth’s statement (“the one about the swimming bugger”) wasn’t a contradiction–if he’s drowned, the bastard most certainly shouldn’t be swimming.  In response, my prof made another comparison: a chicken with its head cut off will still run around for a couple of minutes–it’s dead, but in a way it doesn’t realize it yet (or it’s in denial), so it tries to keep on with what ever it has been doing.

This made sense to me, but still isn’t satisfying. I guess I just want all suffering to stop–what sane person doesn’t?–and the fact that it hasn’t yet drives me nuts.  I don’t like that tension. But I realized that I’m a typical modern(ist?) evangelical, and my prof concurred, who likes to have everything neatly packaged and arranged and explained and spelled out.  We want answers and explanations. We want an apology (in the sense of apologetics).  There is not much place for mystery in the evangelical mind.

I was going to link to a .pdf of my paper, but it occurred to me that it won’t make much sense to anyone who hasn’t read the book and there’s no need to trouble people with out-of-context ideas.  I can’t say I haven’t marvelled at not falling into total despair, perhaps even rejecting God the way Ivan does.  But I don’t think this is the obvious or natural answer to the question.  Somehow–by the grace of God, I guess–I still believe that all shall be well, while at the same time recognizing that suffering is real and that there is no appropriate response to suffering in the moment of suffering other than silence or weeping.

I guess I’ll have to learn to live with that tension for now.

Fun with report cards

I was sorting through some of my old papers tonight and came across all of my old report cards.  I had some good laughs.

1. In my second semester of Grade 12 I got the following comments from teachers of 4 of my 5 classes:

  • “Well done!”
  • “Appreciate participation in class”
  • “Putting forth a good effort”
  • “Good progress”
  • “Positive contribution to class spirit”
  • “Cooperative and willing student”
  • “Lab work excellent”

I don’t mention those comments to gloat, but as a juxtaposition against the following comments from my French teacher for the same report period:

  • “Progress satisfactory”
  • “Disturbs others occasionally”
  • “Does not respect teacher’s authority”

Hilarious.  Some of these comments are not like the others.

I remember this French teacher.  He started when we were in Grade 10, I think, which was the last year that we were required to take the class.  As I recall he was a bit of an eccentric man as well as quite stern and strict.  He did not endear himself to his students, resulting in many students not continuing in French in the following years who might have done so with a different teacher.  I was tempted to opt out of French as well, but there was something in his eccentricity that kept me interested. He had a dry wit that every now and then would make an appearance, so I stuck it out.  For some reason, however, he did not care much for me.

2. From the same year, but in the first semester: I had a 90% in Chemistry 30 at mid-term.  My teacher’s comments:

  • “does excellent work consistently”
  • “Well behaved”
  • “It’s not too late to improve this mark”

Wait–what?  Improve this mark? I was sitting at 90%.  Hilarious.

3. Grade 5 teacher’s comments:

Marc does well with math, but could do better if he gave a little more effort and consentration.

Our parents were supposed to sign our report cards and then we would return them to our teachers.  You’ll notice that the teacher spelled “concentration” incorrectly.  My mom evidently underlined the “s” in concentration before sending the report card back with me.

My teacher replied to this underlining: “Thanx, I’m only a teacher.”

Also hilarious.

4.  Finally, a progress letter from my Grade 3 teacher, which said, “Marc needs to work harder at not talking out of turn.”  That’s funny only because I still have to work hard at not talking out of turn.  If seminary professors gave report cards, it’d probably say something similar.

Pity Party

I handed in anther paper today.  I was editing it until 5 minutes before class started and had to run to get to class in time.  I have no sense of how I will do on this paper.  I was certainly not happy with it–I think it was a rather rambling affair.  The difficulty is being able to discern between handing in a Inferior Paper On Time or handing in a Better Paper Late and get docked marks for lateness.  I usually go with the Inferior Paper On Time, mostly because I know that if the ideas are not clear in my mind by the time the paper is due, another 24 hours is not going to make much difference–certainly not enough difference to make up the marks lost for lateness.

I thought I would feel a sense of relief when I was finished this paper, but today is turning into a discouraging day.  I’m already a little behind in some reading and Hebrew vocabulary, and I am now faced with 700 pages of reading and an 8-page reflective paper, all due by Monday morning.  (I guess it’s only Wednesday, so that’s good).  Monday I start 3 days of all-day classes, each day concluded with evenings spent trying desperately to fulfill all my course requirements for my Briercrest distance learning course (due Thanksgiving Monday), followed by a trip to Prince Albert for Thanksgiving weekend. All in the next week-and-a-half.

I’m somehow going to have to learn to balance all of these things–papers and assignments and reading and throughout all of this, keeping up with Hebrew vocabulary and all the rules and regulations relating to Hebrew grammar.  It’s frustrating, though, because…well…here are some messages I have been hearing in school and some of my responsibilities:

1. You must watch your health–particularly: get enough rest. (Also, if you think you have symptoms of H1N1, stay home.  You will have a miserable week recovering, but it’ll be over then.  That is, except for the time spent about recovering from all those classes you missed that week.)

2.  We’ve been taught that theology begins with prayer.  I love this idea. It’s fantastic. It’s beautiful.

3.  We’ve also been told that we will probably need to read the texts for a couple of classes a couple of times each in order to fully understand them.  Fair enough–much is lost in the first reading.  (Although odd, because someone else said a prof said to them, “Don’t you know that you have to skim the books?”)

4.  Papers.

5. Hebrew.

6.  I have family and friendship responsibilities (thankfully our only responsibilities to church at this point are simply showing up!).

Now, in light of #1, my response to #s 2-5 is: WHEN?!

Thankfully, I’ve been told by a number of people in the know that marks aren’t everything. Fair enough.  But for a variety of reasons, I want to get good marks. I’m tired of mediocrity, which has been one of the hallmarks of my life. I’m not in seminary just to get a degree–a piece of paper to wave around at the world.  I am here to learn, and to learn to think and read deeply.  But at the rate time appears to move, and the speeds at which assignment deadlines are approaching, I’m beginning to wonder how anybody comes out of seminary or any institution of higher education successfully while also retaining much more than an intellectual hill of beans.

I can always fall back on the “it will be a transforming experience” mindset.

It’s additionally frustrating because I’d like to make some new friends as well, maybe sit down after class with someone and have a fruitful debate about what was just discussed.  But I’ve been feeling that I simply don’t have time for that, which is a shame. I’m hoping that will change somewhat if I live to see October 13.

BLAH BLAH BLAH.

It’ll all turn out in the end. I just need to find some people who empathize–or better yet, someone locally who shares my plight, so that we can sit around and encourage each other by moaning about how it all seems impossible.

Serenity now.

Keener Guy

I’ve been to 2 out of my 3 regular classes so far (1 class will be a week long affair in October, and the other class is distance learning) and so far so good.

Theological Foundations 1 looks like it will be an engaging course with lots of discussion.  I raised my hand often enough in class to get a “We’ll get to your question in a bit” from the professor (we didn’t get to it).  After class I jokingly asked him if I could lose marks for talking too much in class.  He said I wouldn’t, but that other students need to be given a chance (he didn’t say it rudely–his answer was just fair and direct).  I immediately regretted asking the question, as the joke probably didn’t come across as intended and, instead, sounded more like a sarcastic remark.  Ah, the travails of meeting professors for the first time–feeling nervous, wanting to impress them, the inevitable and immediate regret at having said what you just said.  Good times.

I also suggested that the author of a letter to the editor published in the Winnipeg Free Press, which we discussed in class and to which the professor had written a response, had, in fact, filched the letter verbatim from Richard Dawkins.  I’m not sure if this was helpful or interesting at all to the professor, especially given the fact that he had already submitted his response for publication.

Introductory Hebrew 1 looks like it will be a good class, too, and perhaps not as intense as I had imagined.  The subject matter will take a lot of work to master, but at this stage at least learning a new language is fun.  It turns out that all the work I did yesterday–memorizing the Hebrew alphabet (consonants), the final forms, the gutturals, the begadkephat letters and completing lesson 1 in the workbook–was unnecessary, as we were introduced to that material in today’s class and the assignment (workbook) is not due until the next class.  (I guess it can’t hurt to learn the material before class and then use the class as a review and question time.)

The problem is that all of this–the talking, the bad joke-making, the cross-referencing to Richard Dawkins, the over-preparedness for class–is that it makes me seem like a keener.  Keener Guy.  I don’t want to be that guy.  I want to do well and I want to be prepared for class, but I don’t want to be the annoying know-it-all who won’t shut up.

Christian Ethics‘ first class is on Monday and it is taught by the same professor as Theological Foundations 1, so I’ll have another crack at a more reserved, quietly intelligent approach.

It remains to be seen whether the 4-class plus the Briercrest course schedule will be too much.  Hebrew has the potential, if I let it, to consume all of my time, but the other classes aren’t too bad.  I have no major research papers, other than the one for the Briercrest course.  Unusually, September and early October seem to be the big hurdle to overcome:  I have a critical book review on William Placher’s Narratives of a Vulnerable God due on September 28; a critical book review of John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus due on September 30; three other books, plus a paper and assignment must be completed by October 5 for the week-long intensive; and then, almost immediately following the week-long intensive, my Briercrest course is to be completed, which means I have a 15-page research paper, plus a Greek terminology assignment to do before then.  This is all interspersed with Hebrew quizzes.

Now, I’m looking forward to all of these readings and studies.  But will I survive?

If I get to October 13 (a month from Sunday) successfully the rest of the semester will feel like a breeze (pray for me).

Orientation Day

It was orientation day for the college and seminary today.  Mostly introductions, devotionals, advice and some ice-breaking, get-to-know-you games.  One of the get-to-know-you games was picking a couple of Smarties from a box and, following the colour code, share you favourite food or movie or vacation spot (etc.)  A couple of people went and listed movies or sports they like to play–pretty ordinary things.  Then someone listed Christian films and praying and fasting as their hobbies (and he was totally sincere).  Suddenly I felt horribly unspiritual.  I wondered how anyone could follow that with anything “secular”.  It was quite funny, actually.

But I do sometimes wonder if I’m “spiritual” enough for this–I don’t read the Bible as much as would be good for me to do; I’m not a good prayer; I’m pretty loose with my choices in films and books and music; I drink and occasionally smoke and cuss (not necessarily at the same time); and so on and so forth.  Some of the people here appear to be pretty intense people, spiritually.  But maybe it’s just a front.  I know being hyper-spiritual isn’t requisite for seminary (and possibly not a good thing in the first place), and I know that “spirituality” isn’t really about what you drink or which words you use, but I sometimes worry that we won’t fit in very well.

But it’s an institution of higher learning, so I’m confident that a variety of theological and spiritual outlooks are a good thing–the spice of education, if you will.  And there is certainly an interesting theological cross-secti0n of people that I’ve seen so far: lots of Mennonites, of course, and an Anglican minister, to name a couple.  One of the professors is working on his ordination for the Anglican Church of Canada.  So this isn’t necessarily a theologicallly homogenous group.

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Every time I start something new–university, graduate studies after university, technical college, and now seminary–I’m the guy watching everyone else, wondering if I am as capable as everyone else clearly is.  I look for that person or persons who will work at my level, or–and I feel slightly guilty for this–someone who will do worse than me so that I won’t be on the bottom.  Perhaps this sounds horribly judgmental, but it’s not–it’s simply the need to feel that you won’t be the worst student.  If you’re going to fail, it’s easier if there’s someone to fail along with you.

That sounds horribly pessimistic, doesn’t it?  Actually, today I feel quite confident in my abilities.  Dixie and I had an argument about school the other day.  She’s getting preemptively annoyed at my work habits–she’s afraid that my mind will always be occupied with school and that the rest of the family won’t see much of me and she doesn’t know how it’s possibly going to work for her to take a class or two starting next semester.

Her concern is not unfounded.  Bible college and university were a breeze for me in a sense: I managed a low-80s average without a great deal of effort.  Lots of last minute paper-writing, etc.  But I can’t do that anymore–it’s not just me now, I have a family and the standards in seminary are higher and I don’t want to just pass–but I want to gain from this: learn, grow.  And all that.

But I think we’ve settled down about it.  It’s going to be a good year.  September is really the month to survive, it seems, between reading and assignments and finishing up the Briercrest course.

My first class is tomorrow afternoon – Theological Foundations.  Madeline starts school tomorrow morning–the school bus picks her up at 8:00a.m.–an hour before school starts and the school is a 5-10 minute drive away.  This is one of the reasons we did not have Madeline take the bus to school last year in Prince Albert.  Oh well.  She’s excited about it.