Because life is a series of edits

Archive for May, 2006|Monthly archive page

File This

In Thought on May 24, 2006 at 4:11 pm

Learner and the family are back in town after a week-long trip to see Mrs. Learner’s family. Learner says it most definitely was a “trip” and not a “vacation,” as a vacation is a trip that does not involve relatives, and this one did. The family arrived back in town yesterday, and have plans to make the most of the next week before summer Hebrew begins in June (more on that to come, I’m sure).

Last night and most of today, Learner merged all his class notes, handouts, syllabi, and papers with his existing (and extensive) paper filing system, revamping it along the way. His goal in all this is to begin creating an easy-to-use, accessible new system that incorporates all his past studies, messages, research, etc., with the plenteous material harvested over the course of this past year.

After spending a good eight hours on the project, Learner says he’s liking the results – as of this afternoon, he had culled through all documents (past and present), identified what might be useful and actually used in the future, and pitched a good amount of pages that were, well, lacking in the depth department (some of his stuff goes back as much as 15 years ago when he was still learning how to study the Bible, and a few of his ideas then were, he said, a bit humorous). Thankfully, he’s a good systematizer and has the spiritual gift of throwing things away, so that helps.

Having heard about his efforts, I thought I’d drop by to see his files and detail some of his categories for my purposes here. What follows (in no particular order) is a condensed version of said list:

Basic Study Helps
General Theology
Systematic Theology
Covenant Theology
OT/NT Relationship
New Age
Union with Christ
Sufficiency of Scripture
Open Theism
Individual files for various Bible study topics
Individual files for various books of the Bible

All in all, a good amount of studied material that, with additions each semester and a little general maintenance each year, will hopefully serve Learner (as well as those he serves) in better learning, understanding, and helping others with the things of God.

On the Oral Exam

In Thought on May 15, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Learner and I are sitting in the student center, as he has just finished his last exam (Gospels – somewhat tough, but fair, and certainly not as difficult as the mid-term). It’s as hard to believe for him as it is for me – as of this morning, he has completed (successfully, no less) his first year of seminary. It’s a nice moment.

While the Gospels exam this morning was the more traditional written kind, one of the more novel experiences Learner has had in his first year of seminary is preparing for and “taking” oral exams, which the remainder two finals this past week were.

The routine goes something like this: two weeks before exam time, the professor(s) hand out a sheet of paper of approximately 15 questions, the topic of each could easily be made into a book or commentary series. With so much material to cover, students typically organize (reluctantly, at least for Learner) themselves into study groups, in which the questions are researched, answered (in theory), and then shared with the rest of the group.

For each test, Learner has been fortunate to have been included in study groups that have numbered 15 different students; thus, the labor of arriving at answers is significantly diffused. However, if the members of the group slack off (or worse, enjoy listening to themselves write, which is both annoying and immature), the model breaks down fairly quickly, people get frustrated, and a lot more work is required before one can begin cramming answers and anagrams into one’s head.

Once the complete study guide is assembled (usually numbering anywhere from 25-50 pages, depending on the thoroughness of the group), Learner’s process is to then read through it all and highlight what might seem pertinent (which, depending on if someone did a “data dump” cut and paste, can be a lot of work). He then makes his own handwritten outlines and notes to try to consolidate even more that which he has determined is important, and in so doing (as well as by way of random readings and re-readings preferably more than the night before) tries to remember some of what he wrote down.

His process seems to work well as the results seem to evidence: 94 on his Apologetics & Outreach exam; 93 on his Covenant Theology exam (the other nice thing about oral exams is you find out your grade on the spot). With major papers still out in both classes, his final grade is unknown, but with any kind of comparable score to his tests, he should walk away with A’s in both, which would be great (and different from his Gospels grade, which most certainly will be in the B range). His other two classes – Elementary Homiletics and God & Humanity – are both borderline A/B, depending how the percentages (which he never understands) work out, so all in all, he’s pleased.

Of Much Study and Weariness

In Thought on May 10, 2006 at 7:45 am

The official end-of-the-semester Word, as recorded in Ecclesiastes:

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Three exams to go. Learner has little motivation, but he’s trying.

What the Cell?

In Thought on May 4, 2006 at 9:32 am

Of all the things that bother Learner (and there are many), perhaps the most annoying is when people unabashedly talk on their cell phones in the library. Somehow, these folks have mistaken a place to study for their own personal call center.

Learner says he really, really hates that.

The Weight of Seminary

In Thought on May 1, 2006 at 7:55 am

Learner enjoys exercising about as much as he enjoys getting a paper cut…then having lemon juice poured on it…then soaking it in turpentine. From his perspective, “good” and “workout” have no business being in the same sentence, let alone the same language.

And yet, when he stepped on the scales a week ago and registered the highest weight (granted, by only ten pounds) he’s ever been at in his life, he says he realized that he’s finally going to have to come to grips with the fact that his 35-year-old body is just not capable anymore of absorbing his 15-year-old eating habits. In addition, he recognized that it’s probably time to get serious about some kind of intentional physical exercise that involved more effort than doing remote control curls on the couch.

As grateful as he is to be alive, he says he must be honest that the fact that he’s going to have to start working at being alive and caring for what once simply took care of itself frustrates him. It’s work to try to eat better (let alone right); it’s work to wake up earlier in the morning (let alone exercise for forty-five minutes each day); it’s work to have to think about taking care of his body (as well as the five other bodies – his family – he’s responsible to take care of on a daily basis).

But it’s work that, because he’s alive, he says he’s called to do. As anybody trying to take better care of his or her body knows, there are no quick and final fixes to good health, nor does going it alone tend to work, at least for the long haul. He’s had to ask Mrs. Learner to help him watch what he eats, as well as ask God to help him to do the things – eat less, exercise – that he doesn’t always want to do.

Good thing tomorrow is an official day of fasting here at the seminary. For physical reasons, Learner could use a week…