My orientation at PTS wrapped up with an opening convocation and classes started this morning. It's a little hard to write about this journey, to be honest. The words just don't seem to want to come.
How can I describe how it feels to sit at the feet of both the Cross and amazing human professors .... all at the same time?
What words can I use to accurately capture the deep and meaningful conversations I've already had with my peers .... before classes have even begun?
I call myself a writer. And yet, I have no words.
The irony isn't lost on me, but it does humble me.
Since I can't seem to find the phrases to describe the experience, I'll just touch briefly on how it feels.
... incredible to know that I get to spend the next three years intentionally getting to know God on a deeper level.
... inspiring to realize I won't be alone in this process. I'll have 200+ new friends on this journey with me.
... intense to comprehend the sheer amount of work it's going to take to get to take the graduation walk in May 2018. (side note: massive party that day. You're invited. For realz.)
I'm going to do my best to journal-write about-share this experience with you, my dear friend. I know getting to go to seminary is a tremendous privilege and my heart aches for those of you whose hearts burn with the desire to go, but haven't yet received confirmation that God has this path for you. I was there in that place too, not so long ago and I know how it feels to sit and wait. So I will do what I can to pay this experience forward - by writing from time to time (even when the perfect words won't come), by posting my book lists and by sharing resources on Facebook and Instagram.
And the sharing starts. NOW :)
We started our studies this summer with just a bit of reading:
ESV Study Bible (the assignment was to read the Old Testament - but I went ahead and finished the whole Bible in a #Biblein90 challenge group - I was also supposed to read in the HCSB version, but I read that in my first #Biblein90 challenge last Fall, so decided to mix it up and read the ESV this summer)
A Knock At Midnight
The Pastor as Minor Poet
Pray Without Ceasing
Faith Seeking Understanding
It was a little tough to fit all the reading in - mostly because I majorly procrastinated and waited until the end of May to really get started! I finished though - the week before Orientation!
My goal going forward is to pick a "if you only have time to read one book, read this one" book each semester, but for summer reading, I have two picks because they compliment each other so nicely:
The Pastor as Minor Poet, written by PTS President Dr. M. Craig Barnes, "calls pastors to search for a deeper understanding of what they see - both in the text of Scripture and in the text of their parishioners' lives," according to the description on the back cover. But, I feel like this book is an amazing read for anyone currently in (or considering) active ministry ... and aren't we all? The book offers both deep spiritual insight into how we, as the body of Christ, can be more effective ministers to the people God puts in our lives, as well as practical advice on how to develop the minor poetry that allows us to present the "good news," the Gospel, in a way that others can easily understand as relevant to their lives.
My three favorite quotes:
"God has good self-esteem and can handle as much anger as we can dish out, as the psalmists apparently believed, but it's clear that nothing infuriates God more than being left out of the conversation." (p. 39, "Poetry for the Angry")
"God alone is whole and complete, lacking in nothing. So it only makes sense that those who have devoted their lives to talking about God would have at least a 'small matter' that is missing, imperfect, or habitually humbling. The purpose of this unwanted - but divine - gift is to nurture even more gravitas in the pastor's soul. Such gravity is strangely attractive to a society that has tried too long to lack nothing." (p. 52, "Gravitas")
"The contagious excitement of preachers, the thing that keeps them awake Saturday night with all of the anticipation of a child on the night before Christmas, is that they cannot wait for the gift of getting to proclaim what they have discovered. This is why the Gospel is called good news." (p. 115, "The Second Voice")
This book's subtitle is "Revitalizing Pastoral Care" and is also intended for pastors, current and future. And I'm sure it's a remarkable book for folks going into that line of work, but again, I found the insights touching and extremely relevant for anyone seeking a deeper prayer relationship with God. I just loved it and found myself reading and re-reading several chapters - something I rarely do.
My favorite quotes:
"Just as Scripture is the means by which God speaks to the church, so prayer is the means by which we respond. Through Scripture God draws near to us. Through prayer, we draw near to God." (p. 28, "Listening to God")
"Intercession focuses on God. Intercession does not worry about saying the right thing or about being eloquent or wise. It merely brings a request to God. It is not a conversation with the other about God but a conversation with God in the other's hearing. Intercession knows that 'prayer is not prayer if addressed to anyone but God.' It does not try to affect it's human listeners. The prayer itself is not an attempt to help, edify or instruct the other. Still less is it an opportunity for camouflaged preaching. It is a request for grace, not a tool of manipulation." (p. 122, "Prayers of Intercession")
"While God alone can save us from sin and death, we are called to be companions to one another in this life. Though our suffering cannot redeem others, as Christ's suffering does, we can accompany one another in love, offering the comfort that we ourselves have received. As members of Christ's body, we walk alongside one another, gladly bearing other's burdens and sharing our own. As mutual caregivers, we offer each other the word of forgiveness, witness one another's lament, intercede in prayer for each other, and offer our thanksgivings together for the blessings of this life." (p. 191, "Conclusion)
By the way, narrowing down my "favorites" list for this one was hard. Seriously hard. I don't think I've marked, highlighted and overall destroyed a book like I did this one. Obviously, I highly recommend it.
That was Summer, now onto Fall.
Here's the lineup:
A More Profound Alleluia (not pictured, could only access the Kindle edition!)
Plus a whole bunch more "e-reserve" articles that are literally too numerous to list - so you all will have to settle for the books for now!
I won't post another big recap with my Fall reviews until after Christmas - when Finals are over and the holidays are behind us, but I will post my usual highlights and underlines, along with hashtags for each book over on Instagram. I'd love to connect with you over there too!
I hope my book lists and reviews inspire you to take on some reading of your own - my prayer is that God will use these pics, quotes and imperfect reviews to light a spark of interest in your soul. A desire to get to know your Creator more intimately - through study of His eternal Word and the thoughts of the mere mortals who take it upon themselves to devote their lives to pursuing Him.