Starting Out

•July 23, 2009 • 3 Comments

Well it is starting to get real.

I now have my book list and have purchased them. I have glanced through them to get a general feel for their character and demensions. Handling a book, for me, is like seeing a new place for the first time. There are new sights and smells that conjure up images and memories. Exotic flavors erupt into new sensations of excitment and possibilities. Even textbooks!

Hebrew Scriptures I – I have two texts for this class. The first is Understanding the Old Testament, by Bernhard W. Anderson (5th edition) and the second is Beginning Old Testament Study, by Rogerson, Barton, Clines & Joyce.

I have heard that this course (and Hebrew Scriptures II) will focus less on the theology of the Old Testament and more on it’s history, ethics, worldview, etc. Methods for studying will also be prevalent. I think I will appreciate this approach.

I have two primary interests as I begin this coursework for a degree in religion. One is that I hope to get a clearer picture of the message and context of Jesus of Nazareth. All I have is a gut feeling, though it is based in some personal study, that what we tend to talk about when interpreting and articulating the gospels is not even close to what Jesus said and meant. I want to get as close to the real Jesus as I can. My second interest has to do with clarifying my own personal spiritual construct. Quite frankly, my personal spirituality is evolving in a way that surprises me and scares me. It surprises me because I am becoming aware of God in ways that are less about Jesus and more about God. It scares me because I am becoming aware of God in ways that are less about Jesus and more about God.

Does that make sense?

I am NOT saying that I am becoming something other than a Christian. What I am saying is that I think that I am becoming more conscious of the God Jesus was talking about. And that’s what I am trying to say about what I want out of this study I am about to embark on.

So – I hope this blog isn’t so boring that you won’t follow along with me as I explore a bit. Hey – why don’t you purchase the books and study along with me as I share from week to week as the class goes along?! Too much ‘ay? OK, well I tried. Hang in there with me though won’t you? I’ll need some support along the way I’m sure.

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God, Pigeons & Twitter

•April 20, 2009 • 1 Comment

Well – I’ve gone and done something I hope I won’t regret. All the excitement over Ashton Kutcher becoming the first person to have a million followers on twitter got me interested in finding out more. As I’ve said in a previous post, I am not new to computer technology but I’m getting further and further behind. However, by creating this blog, I have thrown down a challenge to myself to use these technologies rather than ignoring are shying away from them. So this evening I created my own twitter account.

I’m really not sure why. twitter

Why would anyone be interested in me? What could I possible have to say in 140 characters that would create a followership among the millions of twitterers (hereafter referred to as twits)? I’m not really sure but I guess I might as well wade into the 21st century deeps and find out.

It’s not that I’m afraid. I think it’s more that I’m at that point in my life that I want to slow down. Not in the sense that I want to relax and take it easy. It’s more that the speed of life is too fast for nourishing human beings. Being in touch with each other at the push of a cell phone button or quick e-mail hasn’t really made communicating any better, only easier. Are we really saying anything of substance is my question.

So while I am hesitant, I am pushing forward. I have joined the rank of the twits. Maybe I will pause in my work from time to time to answer that intriguing inquiry – What are you doing? Perhaps sharing a quick, simple response to that question as I grapple with the questions of life, the issues of pastoring, and reflecting on god, pigeons and seminary will actually be a way to invite others into better, more meaningful conversations and to say to the world – I’m not finished yet!

God Thinking & Pigeon Watching

•April 10, 2009 • 3 Comments

OK – so what does this mean? One of the great joys in my life has been those times when I have been able to have pigeons in my care. Yes – pigeons. When I was a little boy in Lansing, Michigan in the mid-sixties, a neighbor had racing pigeons. Though I never spoke with him I did observe his birds flying ‘round and ‘round the neighborhood as he trained them. Thus began my love affair with this fascinating and beautiful bird.

I read all I could about pigeons. I sent off for a sample issue of various pigeon magazines. I quickly learned there were many different breeds of pigeon with a wide variety of features. But the racing pigeon was the breed that most interested me. They were, as the magazines attested, the race horse of the skies. They were larger than the average pigeon and you could tell just by looking at them that they were athletes, slender but muscular. For a young boy, they were magnificent creatures.

Over the years I have been able to keep, breed and fly pigeons. What a joy! Along the way what I learned about pigeons was woven into the fabric of my life. They had personalities like my friends – some were nice and friendly, others were mean tempered. Gregarious, shy, aggressive. Simply put, pigeons are very much like people. In some ways though, I liked being around them better than people. I would go into the coop and watch them for hours.

I was baptized like many people when I was a child, 8 years old, into church membership. In my life I have found that people, including members of my church, are like pigeons. Each was different, unique in personality. I began thinking about the existence of God early on as well. Along the way pigeons and God have held great fascination and joy for me. Even now, even though I have no pigeons, they are still in my thoughts. I think about them, having them, raising babies, flying them. I watch them wherever I see them. And I think a lot about God too.

God thinking.

Pigeon watching.

It’s who I am.

New beginnings

•April 10, 2009 • 1 Comment

With this blog I come to a crossroads in my life. I am not an inexperienced computer user nor a stick-in-the-mud ‘old guy’ who doesn’t appreciate the constant, fast-paced change in technology. However, the faster technology changes the more behind I get and over time it gets harder to pick it up. So I tremblingly begin this new experience, commingling technology with the ageless use of the mind to ponder the blessings and meanings of life.

Let me be clear – I am not doing this for anyone but me. It will provide a motivation to articulate my thoughts and feelings as I begin another new thing. I’m going back to school.  After graduating from Park University in December of 1987, I began a graduate program in Human Resource Development that I did not finish due to a change in jobs. Now I have the opportunity to start again, except this time I move from the ‘human’ to spiritual development. In August I will begin a two year odyssey by attending the Community of Christ Seminary to earn a masters degree in religion. It has been a long and hard decision to make.

There is much to say against it, I will be 54 years old when my first course begins. I don’t look forward to getting grades for my work again. I could (and have) done much study on my own in many of the areas I will be doing coursework in that makes the cost and effort of seminary almost prohibitive. The pressure and stress of time limits and deadlines will probably cause the rest of my hair to finally fall out! Yet there is also much to say in favor of seminary. The greatest impetus for doing this has been to be a part of deeper, more intellectual conversations about the life of faith. It isn’t that I’m the best thinker or the smartest guy around. It is more about being engaged in conversations that ask the hard questions about God, faith and the meaning of life. Too often, these conversations are conducted at the surface, without depth or real content. Many people of faith are fearful of asking questions about the existence and purpose of God because they fear losing their faith. The contrary has been true for me. The more I ask these tough questions, coming face-to-face with my fears, the greater my faith becomes – even in the midst of greater and greater uncertainty. I believe that faith is what exists in uncertainty.

I believe that’s the true calling of all disciples and particularly for me as a pastor – to affirm faith. People, even people of faith are basically uncertain. And that’s OK. Discipleship, and ministry, is about calling ourselves and others to change. Change is something that is ever-present in our lives anyway. The life of faith is a life of struggle but also a life of joy. It is about walking the path, engaging in relationships and embracing community.

I am hopeful that being in seminary will help me better articulate my own faith and beliefs. I am hopeful that seminary will help prepare me for continuing my life-long study of theology, spirituality, religion and community building. The purpose of this blog will be to share this with others who may be walking the same path of discipleship. I’m not interested in debates or dogma or arguing doctrine. Share your thoughts in response if you wish and be welcome. We’re in this together.