The Practice of Rest

The following is adapted from a paper I gave at a colloquium last spring entitled: Towards a Theology of Rest: Using the Language of Sacrament and Ordinance to Understand the Christian Practice of Rest. See also my earlier post: Enforcing Rest?

 

sabbath british

We live in a culture of busyness. Sometimes this busyness is constructed by the program-oriented ministries of the church, with families having some sort of church activity and obligation (kid’s club, Bible study, worship practice, not to mention Sunday worship) three or more days a week. Sometimes this busyness is constructed by life outside of church, and pastors have to recognize that very often families are too busy with work, extra-curricular activities and family obligations to participate in all (or even just one) of the activities in the life of the church. Congregations, eager to keep people plugged into the life of the church, have adjusted to the reality that Sunday morning services are competing with Sunday morning soccer practices in the summer and Sunday morning hockey games in the winter, and have begun to offer mid-week church services for those who are too busy on the weekend to spend an hour or two in corporate worship.

How does rest fit into this life of busyness? More specifically, why do we practice rest? Often, the primary answer is the pragmatic answer: because it is good for us. Rest is often framed within an individualistic context in the Christian literature; though couched in Scripture proof-texts, the thesis is still the same: practising rest is good for me, therefore I will rest. And of course, there are plenty of resources for Christians on how to practice rest, with suggestions and strategies for even the busiest of people.

But what if, in trying to address the necessity of practicing rest, and in exploring the reason why we rest, the theological answer is not framed around us and how it benefits us, but around God and how rest is his work, into which he invites us to participate?

I want to suggest that rest is more than a commandment or ordinance to follow; rest is sacramental. The activity of rest becomes an outward sign of inward grace that points us not only to our present rest that we find in Christ, but also forward to the future rest that is promised in the eschaton. It is the tension between the present reality of rest and the eschatological one, between the “now and not yet,” that Christians testify to, participate in, and give thanks for, in their regular practice of rest. Rest is a practice that pulls back the curtain of the heavens and reveals the reality of how and why God is at work in the world.

“Sacraments are material things that point beyond themselves to their creator. They are windows into divine reality.”[1] All of creation can be sacramental, as the material world points to and gives hints to the mystery that is behind it. To think sacramentally is to understand that creation, created things, and physical practices (like the Lord’s Supper or Baptism), point to something larger than themselves. To think sacramentally is to acknowledge that God’s working in creation is mysterious and that humanity “cannot fathom how [sacraments] work or trace the lines form physical element to spiritual power and action.”[2]

The physical practice of rest, in which Christians participate, points to the mystery behind the practical: that God created rest, not as negation of work, but rather as the fulfillment of work. Just as God resting on the seventh day of creation was a sign that God was satisfied with His creation,[3] so too the Christian practice of rest is a sign that we acknowledge that Christ’s work was and is sufficient. God’s salvific work of sending Jesus is more than sufficient, it is also good, and there is nothing that we, as humans, can do, through working or striving, to improve it.

The practice of rest, the visible action of spending time in ceasing to work, points to the promises found in Scripture. In God’s instituting Sabbath at the creation of the nation of Israel, the practice of rest became a visible sign to remind the people that God had indeed delivered them from bondage in Egypt.[4] Entering the Promised Land became a powerful promise and image of rest that God would bestow on Israel, historically, soteriologically and eschatologically.[5] This rest was not an abstract, impersonal reality, instead, it is His rest,[6] given by and owned entirely by God Himself.

It is also important to note that just as sacraments not only have a vertical dimension, but also horizontal dimension,[8] so to the practice of rest is not solely about reconnecting the believer with God, but also about the reconnection of the believer with other humans. The day of rest has built into it a chance not only for Christians to gather in worship, but also for families to spend time together in a way that does not happen during the busyness of the rest of the week. In the Old Testament, Sabbath days, Sabbath years (e.g., the Year of Jubilee) and Sabbath feasts were communal practices, drawing the nation of Israel together to celebrate the goodness of God, and to practice hospitality, to acknowledge and allow the land to lay fallow, and for debts (and indentured persons) to be forgiven (Leviticus 25).

[1] Leonard Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Recovering the Sacraments for Evangelical Worship (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 17.

[2] Vander Zee, 54.

[3] Pipa, 121.

[4] Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

[5] Kaiser, 138.

[6] Psalm 95:11; Hebrews 4:3.

[7] Hebrews 4:11.

[8] White notes that sacraments are inherently communal in nature, and “overcome corrosive individualism,” James White, The Sacraments in Protestant Practice and Faith (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 28.

 

Adventures in Thesis Writing

phd100802s

 

I’m halfway through a two-week intensive thesis writing spree. Here are some of the things that I have observed about the thesis-writing process:

The EBSCO e-book reader sucks. I’ll say it again: The EBSCO e-book reader sucks. Sure it’s okay if you only need to pull a plum quote or two, thumb but if you want to read an entire chapter, or, heaven forbid, the entire book, the EBSCO reader is clunky, ugly and very user unfriendly. Yes, it does have a function where you can export sections to a PDF for convenient reading, but this usually only covers 15-25 pages. So you’re stuck reading the book on your laptop and the interface is so ugly that you usually get a headache from reading the book on the computer screen. And when you’re in the e-book reading and the system decides that you’re taking too long to read, if another person decides to read the e-book, you get booted from the system. It would be like if you had taken a book from the shelf and started to read it, and someone comes along and takes it right from your hands. What makes it worse, most libraries will not allow a patron to fill out an inter-library loan request to get a physical copy of the book if it is available as an EBSCO e-book.  After a day of complete frustration, I finally caved and ordered a copy of the book I was needing on Amazon. It should arrive in a week or so.

 

I’ve come up with the next episode of Castle: death by library stacks. The BR-BT section of the McMaster library (basically the Bible-Biblical Studies-Theology section) is on these moveable library shelves that all squish together when not in use. So what you do is you find the row that you need, press a button, and the shelves move so that you can walk down the row to find your book. Each time I walked down the row, I kept thinking that at any minute the system was going to reset itself, and I’d get squished between Christology and Hermeneutics. Death by stacks. Yup, definitely a good opening for an episode of Castle.

 

“Just one more source” becomes a great way to procrastinate from writing. Oh, I should look up just one more source before I start writing. Okay, now I should look up just one more source. Six hours and twelve “just one more sources” later means that not a single sentence was written. Are those “just one more sources” helpful? Sometimes. But those six hours could have been spent writing a page or two with the material already collected.

 

The writing chopping block looms over my shoulder constantly. My greatest fear is that when I submit this chapter to my supervisor he’ll say that I’ll have to reduce all that beautiful hard work, that took hours and hours, to one single footnote and then start again.

 

The more highlighters you have the better. I think I now own every single colour of highlighter ever created. They can turn the most boring source into a beautiful rainbow of whimsy. Trust me, this is important, because, oh my, some (most?) of these academic tomes are so dull they make normal dull look sharp and sparkly.

 

For all the hard work and stress that it is, I’m actually really enjoying the thesis writing process. Oh no! I’m doomed!

 

 

 

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On Writing a Thesis

thesis prayer

Your thesis proposal has been approved. You are now officially writing a thesis. You sit at your desk and the worries and doubts begin to overwhelm. All of the emotions and frustrations that you laughed at when reading PhD comics are suddenly no longer funny. How are you going to survive the next year of thesis writing?

1. Find some accountability. Maybe it’s about setting specific due dates and deadlines for yourself. But more useful is finding someone to sit down with once every couple of weeks, health who will ask you straight out “what you have done this week?” This person will most likely not be your supervisor. It could be another student who is also in thesis mode, cialis or someone who has previously written a thesis.

2. Just write something. The most paralyzing thing is a blank computer screen. The idea does not have to be fully developed before you put it on the screen. Even if it’s a half-formed thought, putting it on the screen (or on paper) will help get you started. Remember there is plenty of time to edit, re-write and rearrange (especially when your supervisor takes a red pen to your submitted chapter and slashes it to smithereens).

3. Stop researching. Sometimes research stops being useful and instead becomes a procrastination tool. Do you really need to track down one more book? Probably. But not right now. Get out of the stacks and start working with what you’ve already researched. You can, and will, get back to that “one more source” and you’ll have no problem incorporating it into what you’ve already written.

4. Print off and read what you’ve written. This is especially helpful if, like many people, you only have a few days a week devoted to thesis writing. By printing off what you wrote the session before, it is easier to pick up your train of thought and start jotting down notes of where you want to take your argument. It also can serve as an encouragement, “hey, what I wrote last week isn’t half bad.” And, there is something about reading your work on the printed page rather than off the computer screen that changes how you understand and respond to your writing.

5. Go for a walk. Sitting down with your thesis for eight hours at a time isn’t as productive as it sounds. Your body will need a break from sitting at the desk, and your brain will need a distraction. Break up your day by going for a mid-morning walk or by spending an hour at the gym. The exercise will clear your head allowing your afternoon writing session to be more productive.

6. Keep a notebook. It will be inevitable that on the days that you’re not working on your thesis, your brain will spin out the most brilliant argument that you just have to include in your chapter, usually at the most inopportune time like in the middle of family dinner, in the middle of a good night’s sleep, or while you’re at work. By keeping a notebook handy, you can jot down the idea so your brain doesn’t have to try to desperately remember the idea until your next writing day. Trust me, the brilliant thought you had on Monday will most definitely be forgotten by the time you sit down to write on Wednesday unless you write it down.

7. Turn off the Internet. A quick “I’ll just take two minutes to check my email, Twitter, news feed” inevitably becomes an hour…or two…or three.

The Role of the Church in Postliberal Thought — The Problem of Antirealism

Welcome to the second post in the series on postliberal ecclesiology. The first post can be found here.

 

One of the main charges leveled against postliberalism is that, viagra at a philosophical level, buy cialis it is inherently antirealist.  That is, it has been suggested that the cultural-linguistic approach needs no external referent.  Part of this is because Lindbeck is reacting against the cognitive-propositionalist approach that “stresses the ways in which church doctrines function as informative propositions or truth claims about objective realities.”[1]  Lindbeck does not deny that cognitive aspects of doctrine can be important, but he argues that they are not the primary purpose of doctrine.[2]  The criticism is that, in making doctrine to be rules rather than first-order propositional truth claims, postliberalism is antirealist.[3]

Alister McGrath, for example, argues that Lindbeck “seems to suggest that conceiving theology as the grammar of the Christian language entails the abandonment of any talk about God as an independent reality…”[4]  Jeffrey Hensley, on the other hand, argues that Lindbeck is “metaphysically neutral” and therefore it is possible for postliberals to be realists.  He suggests that Lindbeck makes a distinction between meaning and existence, and that it is meaning that is “conceptually relative.”[5]  Thus, what Lindbeck is doing is not necessarily offering an antirealist metaphysic, but is instead “simply pointing out that the frameworks through which we view the world deeply influences the way in which we understand its nature and existence.”[6]  Stanley Hauerwas, in interacting with the works of Hans Frei, likewise argues that postliberalism is not antirealist because it is impossible to isolate the biblical narratives from reality, just as it impossible to consider statements of “truth and falsity [apart] from the context of their utterance.”[7]

This becomes important in the discussion of the role of the Church, because it too does not have an external referent.  It is antirealist in that it does not need a propositional reality, and the community ultimately fails to “be accountable to something beyond itself.”[8]  In other words, if the community determines doctrine, what determines the community?  For evangelicals, cognitive-propositionalists and postconservatives, that external referent is Scripture.  The problem, as identified by critics of postliberalism, is that by making the community the final authority, doctrine becomes relativized or dependant on the whims of the community.  Vanhoozer suggests that this postliberal emphasis of the community being the final authority has been picked up in evangelical churches, resulting in churches that have adopted cultural practices “that owe more to managerial, therapeutic, consumerist, and entertainment cultures…”[9]  Ultimately, by making the community the centre, it increases the likelihood of deformed practices and corrupted traditions.[10]  In this way, the cultural-linguistic approach is closer to the experiential-expressive approach.  Where the classic liberal position of the experiential-expressive grounds truth in the ‘common human experience’, the postliberal approach grounds truth in the ‘common community experience.’

Next up: Definition of Church


 

[1] Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age, 2.

[2] Ibid., 21.

[3] Donald Bloesch, Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration & Interpretation (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 211–212; Jeffrey Hensley, “Are Postliberals Necessarily Antirealists? Reexamining the Metaphysics of Lindbeck’s Postliberal Theology” in Phillips and Okholm, Nature of Confession, 73–74.

[4] Alister McGrath, The Genesis of Doctrine: A Study in the Foundations of Doctrinal Criticisms (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 29.

[5] Jeffrey Hensley, “Are Postliberals Necessarily Antirealists? Reexamining the Metaphysics of Lindbeck’s Postliberal Theology” in Phillips and Okholm, Nature of Confession, 76.

[6] Ibid, 76.

[7] Stanley Hauerwas, “The Church As God’s New Language,” in Christian Existence Today: Essays on Church, World, and Living in Between (Durham: The Labyrinth Press, 1988), 59.

[8] Fackre, 129.

[9] Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, 26.

[10] Ibid., 22.

The Role of the Church in Postliberal Thought — Introduction

Welcome to the first post in a series on postliberalism and Ecclesiology.

What is Postliberalism?

            Postliberalism is a twentieth-century theology founded on the narrative theology of Hans Frei, cialis and George Lindbeck’s theory of doctrine.  It attempts to offer a corrective to the relativistic bent of liberalism by affirming the importance of Scripture in the life of Christianity, recipe bringing liberal theology in closer relationship to more conservative strands of Protestantism (such as evangelicalism).  Meaning and truth are “determined by the intratextual subject matter of Scripture.”[1]  Becoming an adherent of a religion is a process similar to learning a language or learning to adopt a new culture.

In postliberalism, shop the authority resides in the community, and in how the community uses and interprets Scripture to formulate doctrine.  While there is much to be appreciated in adopting a postliberal ecclesiology, the placement of authority within the Church, rather than in Scripture, can become a stumbling block for conservative Protestants.  I would suggest that the benefits of postliberal ecclesiology can be adopted by evangelicals, so long as the authority remains with Scripture rather than the community.

Limitations

            In approaching this topic, a few limitations need to be addressed.  First, while George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine was foundational for postliberalism, Lindbeck was not a systematic theologian.  Added to this, while there is much commonality between his work and the work of fellow Yale professor, Hans Frei, Frei died shortly after the publication of Lindbeck’s book, which means that, while scholars pair the two together as the founders of postliberalism, there was in actuality “a lack of substantive methodological followup.”[2]

Second, there seems to be disagreement about who is actually a postliberal scholar.  Postliberalism is also known as “Yale Theology” but this does not necessarily mean that students of Frei and Lindbeck are necessarily postliberals.   As George Hunsinger has noted, there seems to be a randomness to who is considered postliberal and who is not.  Indeed, scholars like Stanley Hauerwas are considered postliberal even though he did not belong to the Yale tradition.[3]  As well, the “Yale Theology” is significantly less “Yale-y” given that the major scholars associated with current postliberal thought are working at schools other than Yale.  As William Placher notes, “Yale itself is no longer clearly a centre of postliberal theology.”[4]  Also, there is a question as to how postliberal Lindbeck actually was, with Hunsinger suggesting instead that Frei was postliberal, while Lindbeck was more precisely ‘neoliberal.’[5]

Recognizing that there is debate about what constitutes postliberal theology, I am assuming a standard broad understanding of postliberalism and its major contributors as found in most dictionaries on 20th century theology.[6]  For the purpose of this series, the focus will be primarily on two of Lindbeck’s writings: The Nature of Doctrine,[7] and his essay “The Church,”[8] as well as the various interactions and critiques that have been offered by scholars.

 

Cultural-Linguistic Approach

            Lindbeck proposes an alternative to what he sees as the two dominant ways of understanding doctrine.  In contrast to the cognitive-propositional approach, and the experiential-expressive approach, Lindbeck offers the cultural-linguistic approach.  This approach is influenced by modern cultural anthropology, as well as the theory of language as presented by Ludwig Wittengenstein.

In a cognitive-propositional approach, the truth of a doctrine is found in concrete propositions grounded in reality, while in the experiential-expressive model the truth is found in a common human experience or feeling.  In the cultural-linguistic model, truth resides in the community.  To become a Christian is to learn and adopt the language and practices of the Christian community.  It is not enough to know the ‘facts’ about Christianity, for there are many non-Christians who know what Christianity is.  Instead, it is about learning the language and grammar of the Christian faith.  More specifically, “to become a Christian involves learning the story of Israel and of Jesus well enough to interpret and experience oneself and one’s world in its terms.”[9]

Scripture plays a key role here, as it is the framework within which Christians experience and affirm the faith.[10]  And while the surrounding culture will influence the life of a Christian, ultimately “what is important is that Christians allow their cultural conditions and highly diverse affections to be molded by the set of biblical stories that stretches from creation to the eschaton and culminates in Jesus’ passion and resurrection.”[11]  In the cultural-linguistic model, Scripture “absorbs the universe” and provides the interpretative framework by which Christians understand all reality.[12]

And yet, despite the heavy emphasis on the role of Scripture in formulating doctrine and shaping the community, one of the main critiques of the cultural-linguistic model, and postliberalism in general, is that ultimately, it is the community that has the final authority without being answerable to anything else.  Salvation is found in the community.  The community teaches the language that characterizes the Christian faith, and the community interprets the Scriptures to define the doctrines of the community.  Thus, within postliberalism the answer to the question, “how is Scripture authoritative?” is “according to socialization in the community’s conventions, which are subject to revision with continuing community engagement.”[13]

Next up: The problem of anti-realism.


 

[1] George Hunsinger, “Postliberal Theology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, ed. Kevin Vanhoozer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 44.

[2] Paul DeHart, The Trial of Witnesses: The Rise and Decline of Postliberal Theology (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2006), xiii.

[3] Hunsinger, “Postliberal Theology,” 42.

[4] William Placher, “Postliberal Theology,” in The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology in the 20th Century, ed. David Ford (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), 354.

[5] Hunsinger, “Postliberal Theology,” 44.

[6] e.g., Alister McGrath, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1995); Placher, “Postliberal Theology.”

[7] George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).

[8] George Lindbeck, “The Church,” in Keeping the Faith: Essays to Mark the Centenary of Lex Mundi, ed. Geoffrey Wainwright (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).

[9] Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age, 20.

[10] Ibid., 66.

[11] Ibid., 70.

[12] Ibid., 103. For an in-depth philosophical analysis of Lindbeck’s use of “absorb the universe,” see Bruce Marshall, “Absorbing the World: Christianity and The Universe of Truths,” in Theology and Dialogue: Essays in Conversation with George Lindbeck (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990), 69-102.

[13] Gabriel Fackre, “Narrative: Evangelical, Postliberal, Ecumenical” in Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm, eds., Nature of Confession: Evangelicals and Postliberals in Conversation (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 129.

Factors that Facilitate or Hinder The Completion of a Thesis/Dissertation

What is it about a dissertation or a thesis that makes or breaks a student? Great students who are eager to learn, prostate who excel at their classes and desire to work in the world of academics are motivated and goal-oriented. And then comes the thesis (or dissertation) and everything stops. I have friends who have been ABD for 10 years. I have friends who get to the thesis component of their MA and flip out of the thesis track and replace it with extra courses. Is there a way to better prepare students so that they not only survive the thesis/dissertation component of their degree but actually enjoy it and flourish from the experience?

 

Jane Ho, with Lilian and Paul Wong, did a study, Helps and Hinderances to Thesis Completion, looking at what helps and hinders a student in completing their thesis.

Ho’s list of helps and hindrances should be required reading for every student before they enter the thesis/dissertation of their program, as is the list of suggestions for both the student and the supervisor. I summarize them below.

 

Factors that Hinder Completion of a Thesis:

  • student employment
  • difficulty balancing personal and academic obligations
  • insufficient training for thesis research
  • problems within the thesis committee (including lack of prompt feedback, conflicting and inconsistent feedback, and unhelpful advice.)
  • problems with administrative bureaucracy
  • complexity of the thesis process
  • the time-consuming nature of the research process
  • procrastination
  • Thesis blocking — “a situation wherein the interviewees had (a) finished their graduate coursework; (b) found the experience of working on the thesis more negative than rewarding; (c) according to their own estimates, spent an inordinate amount of time working on the thesis; and (d) considered themselves to have experienced thesis blocking.”

 

Factors that Help Completion of a Thesis:

  • good working relationship with the supervisor
  • a structured supervisory system which included a written task specification, weekly deadlines, weekly monitoring, weekly feedback, and added incentives.
  • Support from family, friends and fellow students

 

Suggestions for Students:

1. Set deadlines and stick to planned schedule

2. Manage your time and priority

3. Set goals for and after the program

4. Find support from peers, family and friends

5. Take advantage of available resources

6. Know your learning styles

7. Get to know your professors/supervisors

8. Find meaning in your thesis work

9. Do not procrastinate

10. Read, write and be prepared

11. Resolve conflicts quickly

12. Be organized

13. Exercise self-care

14. Be your own project/thesis manager

 

Suggestions for Supervisors:

1. Set Goals and timeline with the supervisees

2. Collaborate with other professors

3. Increase research-related courses; decrease irrelevant courses

4. Set up thesis proposal and writing as a course

5. Make resources more accessible online

6. Provide more explanations on ethics approval process

7. Enforce the program guidelines and deadlines

8. Provide opportunity for students to get to know their potential supervisors

9. Provide realistic time frame for the program

10. Minimize the number of supervised students for each supervisor

11. Provide more opportunities to learn from others

12. Provide more accessible resources and better equipment

See: Jane Ho, Lilian and Paul Wong, WHAT HELPS AND WHAT HINDERS THESIS COMPLETION:A CRITICAL INCIDENT STUDY. International Journal of Existential Psychology & Psychotherapy vol. 3 (2010): 117-131.

 

Seminary as a Cemetery

One of the nicknames college students have for the seminary is “cemetery.”

“It’s always so quiet in the seminary wing.”

“Seminary is where passion and fire for Jesus get extinguished.”

cemetery

I’ve come to realize that these college students are right: seminary is a cemetery, cialis just not in the way they think it is.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is a place where pride goes to die and be buried. Attitudes of “I’m going to change the church single-handily” quickly disappear as the student learns that pastoral ministry is hard work that very often has little earthly payoff. The reality is that the pastor-celebrity who has podcasts, drugstore books, patient and 10,000 followers is the exception and not the norm.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is where we learn to die to ourselves. This calling, this mission, this following-Jesus is hard work. It requires sacrifice of time and money and desire. Even just being in seminary for two or three years often means taking a pay-cut and living lean while attending school. For some it means moving hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from family and friends.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is a place of stillness and quiet. Away from the traffic and business of “regular life”, of “ministry obligations”, of “the rat race”, pastors come and whether it’s only for a week-long mod, a semester or a couple of years, they find rest and quiet and stillness.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is marked with the gravestones and memorials of those who have gone before. It is where we sit and listen to those now long dead and gone. We read deeply of the heroes and martyrs, of saints and sinners. Their lives are testimonies to the awesome power of the risen Saviour. Their books, their letters and their lives are the grave markers, row upon row, that stretch upon the horizon. Some of the tombstones are shiny and new. Some are so old that they are crumbling and the inscriptions can barely be read. Some are in English. Most are in other languages. And some have no markings other than a crudely etched cross or fish.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is a place that points to the future. Death is not the end. Those who are laid to rest will not stay in the ground. One day there will be resurrection. One day Christians who are living and those who have died will be gathered together before the great throne of the Lamb. Everything we do at seminary, whether it’s writing papers, labouring through Greek Exegesis, doing a counseling practicum, or learning about pastoral care, points to and contains glimpses of the future, perfect, white-robed reality of the New Jerusalem.

An Exercise in Self-Control

snoopyAfter my semester of chaos I was ready for a break. My plan was to take January off.

No working on my final thesis proposal.

Lots of time to read for fun.

Even some time to play a bit of World of Warcraft (which I actually found to be very, sovaldi very boring. How weird is that?)

Other than my internship, I didn’t do a lick of school work. While it wasn’t in the original plan, even my blogging took a bit of a sabbatical. A few “hot topics” were buzzing in the blogosphere, and I didn’t blog about them even though I had ideas for posts.

Nope. I rested.

And yet, about halfway through my sabbatical, I was tempted more than once to pick up my thesis proposal.

I have ideas! I am refreshed! I should start this!

No Amanda, you said you were taking the month off, I would tell myself, as I put the thesis notes back on the shelf.

I made it through the sabbatical and kept the original boundaries the entire time and for a student-aholic that is a huge exercise in self-control.

I’m glad that I didn’t pick up my thesis proposal early. I enjoyed the quiet. And now that the quiet is over, I know that the next year will be anything but quiet. Between my internship, thesi,s and life in general, this year will be busy-busy. But when things get chaotic I can look back at my sabbatical and remember how restful it was, and that whether I’m in a season of busyness or rest I have so much to be thankful for.

It helped that I wrote a paper last semester on the theology of rest. It allowed me to think through why we rest, and because of that, I was able to enjoy my rest deeply. On Valentines’ Day I will be giving a lecture in a college class on the practice of rest. I hope to share with them this idea: Rest can and should be seen sacramentally – we rest not primarily because we are commanded to rest, or because it is good for us; instead we rest because God rested first and he invites us to join with Him in the rest that only He can offer.

There’s lots of exciting stuff coming up on the blog this month: stay tuned for a post on theological reflections on the move towards MOOCs in online education, a review of a book by NT Wright, some thoughts on the difference between guilt and shame, and a essay on Paul’s embrace of OT Law for the Church regarding sexual ethics.

And the Winner is….

Game show host: “Congratulations Amanda! You’ve completed all of your post-course work for your last seminary class. You’ll be starting your thesis in February. What are you going to do now?”

Amanda: “Well, store honestly, remedy what I’d like to do….”

Game show host: “What you’d like to do is open this Grand Prize Package. All of these prizes are yours! Are you ready to see what you’ve won?”

Amanda: “um, sildenafil sure. I guess. But what I’d really like to do…”

Game show host: “Here we go! First, you get to clean the house from top to bottom. A semester of neglect means your house looks like a tornado ran through it. Time to take care of that. And part of that includes finally taking the Christmas tree down! Next, you get to start making real suppers again. No more sandwiches and salads for your family, and no more relying on the crock pot, no ma’am. And, you get a one-month subscription to World of Warcraft! A lot has changed in the game since you played the WotLK expansion. Here’s hoping that you actually remember how to play, and that you’re account hasn’t been hacked! So there you have it, your grand prize. Won’t January be a great month? So how do you feel?”

Amanda: “Well, actually, what I’d really like to do is sleep!”

Game show host: “I’m sorry but sleep is not part of the grand prize package. Sleep is the grand prize package for the Game show “Your kids have grown and gone off to college and now you finally have the house to yourselves.” You have a long time to wait before you’re even eligible to play that game. But in the mean time, thank you for playing our game today!”