Freed for thankfulness

Photo; courtesy of the Food Network

This is a personal reflection and one that I hope is encouraging to those whose Thanksgiving, but moreover, life circumstances don’t look as we wish.

This was another year of wrestling with meat for Thanksgiving. I’m not a big fan of turkey, especially white meat and find other kinds of meats more palatable. In year’s past, I’ve done Cornish hens for Thanksgiving but there is something about have some leftover bird for days that suits the spirit of the season. Last year, I finally broke down and brought a turkey as I was motivated to attempt brining and bringing some cajun flavoring to lift the bird out of it’s flavorless doldrums. Fortunately, I was able to find one small enough for this experiment as it was for just the two of us: myself and my son.

I’ve spent Thanksgivings all kinds of ways, including one year in Jamaica with my grandparents, uncles and aunt. I’ve spent Thanksgivings with big family gatherings with my step-mother’s family for many years. I’ve spent Thanksgivings with my dad and his friends, I’ve spent Thanksgivings with my husband’s family when he was alive.

This brings me to the struggles I’ve had with Thanksgivings especially since I’ve been in Dallas these past nine years. When I moved here in 2008 to attend Dallas Theological Seminary, though I came with the intense desire to for theological training in order to help people and encourage faithful discipleship, another desire descended upon me something fierce. Having been a widow since 2004 and uttering a simple prayer a few months after my husband’s death that though I had not known “good” in the relationship/marriage department, that God would grant me this wish and prayer. Continue reading

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Hearing God Speak

Last week was a bit of a milestone. I picked up the bound copy of my master’s thesis. The following is a modified version of an article I wrote for my church’s newsletter recently explaining my thesis topic:

Deere and SamraIf you’ve been following this blog for some time, you know that I recently graduated from Dallas Seminary with a ThM Degree. However, graduation was delayed due to delays in my thesis completion and approval. Despite the struggles, it was worth the endeavor because I wrote on a topic that I believe deserves addressing in our contemporary evangelical environment. The title of the thesis is “God Already Spoke: A Response to Extra-Scriptural Divine Speech.” I interact with three books that encourage hearing the voice of God outside of Scripture. These books are Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere, God Told Me by Jim Samra and Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  I refute the premise these authors promote that God needs to tell us more about himself or his requirements for us than what has already been communicated through Scripture.

I have been immersed in this topic for some time. Having spent much of my earlier Christian life in Charismatic type churches, there was always the expectation that God needed to provide additional information through some kind of direct speech, rather through a “prophet” or a voice we hear in our heads. The underlying presumption is that Scripture is insufficient to hear the voice of God and we need something more.

My journey towards discovering God’s voice through Scripture and its sufficiency began in 2006 when a friend challenged me on how I was reading the Bible. Like many today, I read it in a very fragmented fashion, which served as a springboard to hear the voice of God outside of Scripture. But this way also subjects divine speech to inconsistent methodology. I was re-oriented with a framework of how the 66 books should be taken as a whole.  Over time, I discovered the beauty and sufficiency of the redemptive-historical narrative of Scripture that provides a wonderful picture of God’s communication to us. Continue reading

TheoThoughts 2014 in review: top 5 posts and a few random thoughts

2014-2015-calendar-flipWell, I guess I wouldn’t be fulfilling my “obligation” as a blogger if I didn’t cite the top 5 posts of 2014. Thanks to WordPress for doing the legwork because otherwise, I don’t think I would make the effort to figure out the most popular posts. Honestly, a couple of these surprised me and here they are;

5. When Scripture is not Enough: a topic so dear to my heart, I addressed it in my master’s thesis. I think it sounds really spiritual and intimate to “hear” God speak directly to us but leaves us reliant on questionable, subjective methods instead of the reliable witness of Scripture. God spoke through his Word (see Heb. 1:1-2) and continues to speak, if we’ll be willing to listen.

4. Have you heard of my pastor? Why its good that you probably haven’t: The Mark Driscoll scandal provided an opportunity to reflect on the whole personality cult thing that has become endemic in contemporary evangelicalism. We seem to like celebrity and generally equate popularity with pastoral effectiveness. I actually think that the more effective pastors are those without the public recognition because they are focused on the main thing, as I pointed out in Dear Obscure Pastor.

3. 50 thoughts from turn 50: nothing more than me waxing philosophical at the half century mark. When you’ve messed up as much as I have, there’s a deep pool to draw from. It was a time to really reflect on how far the Lord has brought be from so much foolishness. Now that I’m 51, I’ll consider myself a year wiser. Ha!

2. 8 Bible Interpretations that make me Scream: self-explanatory. One of my goals in life – to teach as many as I can how to approach Scripture. Context people!

1. Does Jesus Really Take Away my Shame? We Christians, in general, like to float on air and pretend that being in Christ means being untouched by anything. I don’t play that game. Stuff affects us. Bad and wrong stuff affects us more. Acknowledging this has been one of the most liberating things in my Christian walk because it has freed me to run to Christ when those nagging voices of insufficiency and failure nip in my ear. Continue reading

Refreshment for the Soul: What I Love about the Reformed Church

happy-woman in fieldIf you were to tell me 10 years ago that I would be a member of a Presbyterian church and love it, I would have told you that you were nuts. Especially back in my Charismatic days, I drew the typical caricature of the “frozen chosen” as Presbyterians were commonly called – dry, non-spiritual, deadpan, etc.  Even my transition into the baptistic/Bible church circle in 2006, I still carried some of that unfortunate mischaracterization in my mind.

It was not until I started seminary in 2008 that my perspective began to change. One of the main questions I started asking early on is what is the church and what is her purpose. The more I dove into Scripture and historical theology to formulate an answer, the more I learned of the Reformed church and the more attractive it became. In the context of Jesus command to make disciples, I began to see how what we do internally is just as important, if not more important than what we do externally. What we do internally must forge our identity in Christ, provoke worship to him and remind us of our covenantal relationship to one another, as the body of Christ.  But most importantly, what we do corporately must remind us of our need for Him.

Carl Trueman has written a rather lengthy piece on First Things, A Church for Exiles. He indicates that Reformed worship is a good place to get grounded in Christ in recognition of the fact that Christians are sojourners and exiles in the world. While I disagree with him on some points related to the Reformed church having no engagement with the public square, I do agree with him on his main point. Much of what he writes related to church itself that resonates with me on why I find the Reformed church so refreshing. Continue reading

When You’re Graduating from Seminary…and have no idea what’s next

Graduated_next pathIn just a few short weeks I’ll be donning the graduation regalia and walking across the stage. My diploma will come later in the summer since I needed an extension on my thesis. But the thought of having all my classes done is a refreshing one indeed.

A common question that gets asked of me, as I’m sure it does other seminary students and near graduates, is ‘what’s next’? I wrote about this a couple of years ago, in What’s After Seminary? Not a Job but an Adventure. What the question really refers to is what fantastic ministry will you NOW be a part of, where you will be on staff and serving God’s people? I mean after all, why ELSE would you have gone to seminary if you aren’t doing that? In fact, there’s such a strong emphasis on church ministry that not obtaining that can make a seminary grad feel like they failed or wasted their time.

Despite my insistence in my article from 2 years ago that its all about the ministry adventure and not the actual position, I still find myself quite unsettled and a bit anxious these days. I was fortunate enough to land a good part-time position in the field that I had been working for many years and the job was secured even before moving to Dallas. Unfortunately, that position was eliminated and I took another position that didn’t work out. For the past few months, I have been engaged in an intensive job search and recognizing that I may have to continue what I was doing prior to seminary or at least leveraging that experience. In fact, during the drafting of this post I did indeed accept a position and it’s not in a church. Continue reading