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4 Years of Seminary: The Struggle is Real – Ministry Calling

We now depart the fields of gloom that were the previous 2 posts in this series for sunnier pastures…although be sure to check them out: Part 1, Part 2.

There were a lot of factors that influenced me to attend seminary, but I ultimately decided to go because I felt that was where God was telling me to go. However God didn’t call me here just so I could learn a bunch of things and inflate my ego. He called me here to form me for ministry.

However discerning specifically where He is calling me has been quite difficult, particularly with my health issues of the last 2 years.

When I moved out here I didn’t really have a clear sense of what I wanted to do ministry wise, and 4 years later I’m still essentially in the same place. I’m an academically gifted and inclined person; I don’t struggle to learn new things and I love to do so. So in keeping with this trait I was initially inclined towards academic ministry. However I don’t really want to do the work of a scholar which involves “increasing knowledge” because then learning just seems like an end in itself to me. I like learning things because I believe the deeper and broader your knowledge the better you can guide people spiritually, which inclines me towards pastoral ministry. However pastoral ministry involves working closely with people which is an area that I personally do not have a lot of experience and confidence in. 

Gifting and inclinations however are only part of the equation when it comes to discerning ministry calling; you also need to discover what you are passionate about. Really what this means is to discover what it is that excites you, keeps you up at night, makes you jump out of bed in the morning, and what you will suffer and endure trials and hardships in the pursuit of. This doesn’t have to be in traditional areas of ministry such as missions, pastoring, teaching, etc, it could also be in the marketplace. So if you are passionate about business for example, running one in a Christlike manner (e.g. sustainable workloads so you don’t burn your employees out, investing in and developing people, etc) is just as much a ministry as preaching from the pulpit on Sunday morning, and just as needed, if you have the passion for it. Or if you’re just an employee at a company doing your job with integrity and treating people fairly and respectfully is also ministry.

At this point I don’t really have an answer to the second part of this equation. On the one hand the reason I have an IT undergrad degree is because I actually do like computers and all the related technologies; I haven’t lost interest in the IT field. On the other hand though the reason I am pursuing a theology degree is because my faith is actually so important to me that I consider it worth it to invest thousands of dollars in learning to understand it better and to use that better understanding for the spiritual benefit of others.  I believe that I have the skills to do either one (though at this point I would need retraining to do IT work again) and could be happy doing either one (mainly because they’re not mutually exclusive options).

I suppose though if you feel burned out like I do (yes my condition has improved from depressed to burned out) it’s hard to be passionate about anything. Many of the people I’ve talked to who did enter full time ministry did so because they couldn’t see themselves being happy doing anything else, and this point I can’t say that in regards to anything.

So I’ve decided to prioritize recovering from my burnout and then seeing where I’m at once I’m back to normal and being honest and okay with where I’m at then. I did come to seminary after all to be formed for ministry, and that happens both inside and outside the classroom. I believe that the struggles of the past 2 years are certainly playing a role in that formation, but what role and the effects of it remain to be seen.

If you know me personally and have any comments or feedback on this feel free to e-mail me, Facebook me, or leave a comment. If you don’t have an e-mail for me you can use tom@srqtom.com

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The Chaos of English

When you study other languages you inevitably learn a thing or two about your own native language. One of the things that has come to light this semester is just how irregular English is in its pronunciation. So I share the following poem with you to highlight just that:

Gerard Nolst Trenité – The Chaos (1922) 

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
   I will teach you in my verse
   Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
   Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
   Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
   Just compare heart, hear and heard,
   Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).
   Made has not the sound of bade,
   Saysaid, paypaid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
   But be careful how you speak,
   Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak ,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
   Woven, oven, how and low,
   Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
   Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
   Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
   Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
   Solar, mica, war and far.

From “desire”: desirableadmirable from “admire”,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
   Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
   Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
   Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
   Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
   This phonetic labyrinth
   Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
   Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
   Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
   Blood and flood are not like food,
   Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
   Discount, viscount, load and broad,
   Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
   Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
   Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your r correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
   Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
   Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
   Would it tally with my rhyme
   If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
   Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
   Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
   You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
   In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
   To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
   Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
   We say hallowed, but allowed,
   People, leopard, towed but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
   Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
   Chalice, but police and lice,

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
   Petal, penal, and canal,
   Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,
   But it is not hard to tell
   Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
   Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
   Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the a of drachm and hammer.
   Pussy, hussy and possess,
   Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
   Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
   Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker“,
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor“,
   Making, it is sad but true,
   In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
   Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
   Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
   Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
   Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
   Mind! Meandering but mean,
   Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
   Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
   Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
   Prison, bison, treasure trove,
   Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
   Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
   Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
   Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
   Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
   Evil, devil, mezzotint,
   Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
   Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
   Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
   Funny rhymes to unicorn,
   Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
   No. Yet Froude compared with proud
   Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
   Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
   Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
   But you’re not supposed to say
   Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
   How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
   When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
   Episodes, antipodes,
   Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
   Rather say in accents pure:
   Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
   Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
   Wan, sedan and artisan.

The th will surely trouble you
More than r, ch or w.
   Say then these phonetic gems:
   Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em
   Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
   Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight-you see it;
   With and forthwith, one has voice,
   One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does *. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
   Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
   Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry fury, bury,
   Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
   Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
   Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
   Puisne, truism, use, to use?

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
   Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
   Put, nut, granite, and unite.

Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
   Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
   Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
   Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
   Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
   Bona fide, alibi
   Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
   Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
   Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
   Rally with ally; yea, ye,
   Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
   Never guess-it is not safe,
   We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
   Face, but preface, then grimace,
   Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
   Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
   Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the o of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
   With the sound of saw and sauce;
   Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
   Respite, spite, consent, resent.
   Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
   Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
   Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
   G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
   I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
   Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
   Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

Pronunciation-think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
   Won’t it make you lose your wits
   Writing groats and saying “grits”?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
   Islington, and Isle of Wight,
   Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
   Finally, which rhymes with enough,
   Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

Source

Weekly Picks 7/28/15

Technology

I’m a gamer. In fact games were one of the main things that got me interested in computers in the first place. The games ran on computers, and the better and faster my computer ran the better my gaming experience was. So I learned about computers and how they work so that I could make my system run better. And while I’ve departed from this career path [long story] I’m still a gamer at heart and think I always will be. So I was excited when I came across this ‘Gamer Motivation Survey’ somewhat based on the MBTI. Below are my results.

chart

The two biggest are Action and Social. Action means a tendency to enjoy games that are fast paced and let me blow things up and just cause general mayhem and destruction. Social means games that let you play either against or with other players. I usually don’t pay much attention to story lines or character back stories. My full profile is here.

This seems to be quite accurate to me based on my experience with games. The two games I have enjoyed the most are World of Warcraft [WoW] and Halo. Halo is a shooter and the action is fast paced and the later titles in the series allowed for online play either with or against other players. WoW is slower paced when compared with Halo, but when playing against other players the pace is quite fast and requires quick reaction times to succeed. Perhaps not surprisingly I greatly enjoyed playing a scorch mage during my trek to High Warlord in vanilla WoW, a spec which allowed me to blow people up very quickly and required quick reactions to play well.

You can take the survey here.

Music

The idea in this song I think is pretty obvious so I won’t elaborate on it much. Basically it’s the idea that as a society we have become slaves to whatever corporations and various media outlets tell us is right. We have bought into their ideas as to what constitutes a fulfilled and do what they tell us to do in order to be happy. Lyrics are below the video.

Free drugs, Cheap sex
Fake tans, Big breasts
High times, Pimped rides
Lost days to blackout nights

I need this, I need that
I’m not complete with what I have
If I do this, If I buy that
I’ll get mine, I’ll get mine

I want, I want, I want…

Empty me, empty nation
Emptied us of inspiration
Bastard sons and broken daughters
All bow down to our corporate father

In my iLife, In my iWorld
On my iPhone, With my iGirl
Just one bite to understand
Even Eve couldn’t live without the iPlan

I NEED IT

Do this, Buy that
Get my drugs and sex
More drugs, Want sex, Need sex

MTV, MTnation
MTus of inspiration
Bastard sons and broken daughters
All bow down to our corporate father

Theology is taking a break this week, so that it’s for now.

Sorry for the absence

Sorry for my absence of late. The semester has started and has kept me busy and left me with no time to write any posts. I am getting caught up though and will hopefully have time to write a new one for the beginning of next week.

Experience: The Forgotten Tool of Mind Renewal

In my search for a church home one of the branches of Christianity that I have explored is the Eastern Orthodox. One of the benefits of my exploration of this tradition is that it has given me some much needed perspective on my own approach to Christianity as a Western Christian. In the West the basic approach to Christianity seems to be:

  1. Define doctrinal and theological positions.
  2. Live the Christian life (prayer, fasting, Bible reading, other spiritual disciplines, missions, etc…) with those whose doctrinal and theological positions are compatible with yours.

In the East the basic approach seems to be:

  1. Live the Christian life (prayer, fasting, Bible reading, other spiritual disciplines, missions, etc…).
  2. Define doctrinal and theological positions if necessary for living the Christian life, otherwise don’t bother.

Note these are just intended to be rough outlines, not exhaustive definitions.

Each approach has drawbacks and each approach also has benefits. For the West we are generally adept and defining and defending the doctrines of the Christian faith, but sometimes these definitions lead to us to break fellowship with our fellow Christians over non-essential doctrinal issues (e.g. the order of end time events); some doctrinal issues though are essential enough to break fellowship over (e.g. the Trinity, or the full deity and humanity of Jesus to name a few). However the Western approach doesn’t necessarily lead to the breaking of fellowship over non-essential issues.

The Eastern approach has the advantage of creating an atmosphere in which one can live and experience the Christian life with other Christians without being divided over non-essential doctrinal issues. However this approach can leave someone unable to clearly define and defend the Christian faith in the pluralistic religious culture of our day. The Eastern approach does not necessarily lead to this however as there are certainly Eastern Christians capable of adeptly defending the Christian faith in the modern world.

A favorite verse of Western Christians to justify our academic approach to Christianity is Romans 12:2,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Romans 12:2 ESV)

However, if we are going to truly renew our minds and be transformed we must also make sure that we pull ourselves away from our books and live the Christian life. We need to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer and fasting. We need to put into practice and live the doctrine and theology that we devote so much of our energy and time to defining, defending, and articulating. Unless we actually live and practice the faith that we are so zealous to intellectually defend we will soon find ourselves no longer defending it. This is because Christianity demands to be lived, not defined. It is necessary for us to live a life of prayer and fellowship with the Holy Spirit because what we are defending is not a philosophical system, but a way of life.

Academic study is certainly an important ingredient for mind renewal, but the key ingredient to mind renewal is the daily experience of prayer, of fellowship (with other Christians and the Holy Spirit), of experiencing the daily provision and care of God in our lives, of the Christian life. If either of these ingredients is not given enough attention transformation will not happen. Either Christianity will become an academic exercise devoid of any saving (referring to either justification or sanctification) benefit, or it will become so ill defined that one will not be able to discern between what is of God and what is from man or demons.

As a Western Christian I believe that I am guilty of neglecting the experiential ingredient of transformation. I have devoted too much of my time and resources to the intellectual defense of the faith (and this defense is certainly necessary) and not enough to living the faith I am defending. I believe that ideally the academic and experiential aspects of Christianity should be equal in emphasis. If the balance shifts to either side problems arise. This balance must be maintained in order for my mind to truly be renewed and for transformation to happen.