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Showing posts from December, 2011

studying inside

Yesterday I was tidying up the mounds of paper from my last semester and came across a forgotten note I had scribbled over a month ago.  It was a reminder to check out an article by C.S. Lewis that one of my professors had  mentioned.  I googled the key phrase and Lewis' name, and came across a lucid piece of writing that addressed the issue I run into all the time when studying theology:  is it better to study something from the inside (which makes one prone to bias and narrow thinking) or to look at it critically from the outside (which is more objective but lacks immediacy)? 

This is an especially pertinent question for me right now because I will be teaching a course this term on Christian Spirituality.  I want to invite students to investigate the people we are studying and to become invested in their lives to some extent.  Yet I need them to engage in critical analysis and good research practices.  Lewis, in his signature accessible and analogical manner, insists that we w…

'twas the night before...

It is the night before Christmas.
I have the jitters.
Mid-torso butterflies,
spurts of adrenaline that make my heart beat faster.
I hold my breath without meaning to.  1......2.....3......4 (exhale)

I am 10.
I have hand-picked a small brown doll with eyes that shut when she sleeps
and wrapped it carefully in newspaper for my sister.
My fingertips are still inky from the exercise -
hiding the gift in smudged paper
in order to more splendidly reveal my timid, thoughtful attempt at generosity.
Will she love it as much as I want her to?
Will I have brought her joy
not only for a few moments
but for days and weeks to come?
I wait for her to pull open the grimy paper and get a peek inside.  1......2......3......4 (exhale)

Anticipation.
The knowledge that something is about to happen.
Something exciting
and definitely good
but unpredictable and maybe a teensy bit messy
because somehow it will change my world
in ways I can't quite imagine.
To become better than it was before, yes always…

things I want to learn...

In the past few weeks, a few situations have arisen that have caused me to feel frustrated, to be annoyed, to be torn about which way to go.  What this signals to me is that I have something to learn in these areas and the lessons are starting NOW!  The wonderful part of all these hard lessons is that in the middle of them, some understanding, some teaching, and some helpful insights always come along.  Kind of serendipitous how that always seems to happen when you need it.  In case you are taking the same life lessons that I am in the middle of, let me share some of them with you.

1.  WHEN TO SPEAK OR WRITE:  I thought I knew how to write a paper, but I found myself in a bit of a rush with the last paper I had due this past term and made one big error:  I started to write having only finished half of my research.  The result was a messy conglomeration of 10 pages that wandered here and there, saying a bit of this and a bit of that, but not really saying anything coherently.  Ugh.  I…

done!

I finished writing the last of my essays for the term this afternoon at 1:30 pm.  Somehow, it all got done.  Yes, there were quite a few 12+ hour days of writing and research in the last week, days when my eyes were so tired that they stung.  Perhaps I was forgetting to blink.  Whatever the case, I am "off" for a few weeks.  "Off" means that I read fiction instead of theology (except for 2 books I need to get a head start on for my next reading course), annoy Dean by hanging out with him ALL the time instead of hardly at all, go to some movies (I don't remember the last one we saw??), and stare out the window just because I can.

In case you are interested (but mostly because they are still really fresh in my mind), the two papers I just finished were called:  "The Task of Theology after Modernity: John D. Caputo on Reclaiming the Madness" and "A Perspective on Narrative Theology: Its Purpose, Particularity, and Centrality."  I know!  Very e…

the little

It is nearing the end of the term and I have finally finished all my classes and completed all my teaching assistant obligations.  Phew!  However, I still have two major papers to hand in and due to early vacation dates this year, I only have 9 days left to complete them.  At this point, one of them is about half done and the other one is still in the embryo stage.  These are 20-page research papers that need to reflect a doctoral level of knowledge of and engagement with the topics I have chosen.  I am not a fast writer in the first place (it usually takes me at least an hour to write one of these blogs because the initial ideas are rough and require thoughtful editing and expansion), but the extra care with which I am writing these essays means that an already slow process is even slower.  And around this time there are a lot of activities going on (parties), meetings that I have to plan and attend, not to mention Christmas preparations, and - oh yes - random house guests that cont…

book review: The Silent Years

The Silent Years: Jesus from Birth to Beatitude by Alan Green.  154 pages.  ebook version.

This book is advertised as a "progressive Christmas novel" and heralded by some learned readers (academics) as an "imaginative reconstruction" of the first thirty years of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  The author has concocted a tale told by Yeshua's uncle, Benaiah, by incorporating knowledge of the historical Mediterranean world (Green has a Ph.D. in History) and fusing this with loose interpretations of biblical passages.

I wanted to like the book.  I really did.  Having read Anne Rice's inspiring, fictionalized accounts of the early life of Jesus (Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana), I was expecting more of the same:  meticulous research, historical authenticity, believable narratives, insightful portrayal of biblical characters, and an invitation to lose oneself in a cohesive world imaginatively created by the author.  It was not…