Saturday, June 16, 2007

Update

Well, the spring semester ended for me about a month ago, and the intervening time of freedom has been welcome indeed. I’m still working at my part-time job in the seminary library, but most of my free time toward the end of May was consumed in finishing a revised draft of my first fantasy novel, Freedom Cry. It was a story I began writing while I was in North Africa in 2004 (where I was devoid of any resources with which to write historical fiction, my genre of choice), and it was mostly written for pleasure. But it turned out better than I expected, so the past few years have been spent in fine-tuning it, writing a prequel, and developing a plot for the third installment of the trilogy (which I’m now beginning). I’ll try to get it printed by a good publisher, but the market isn’t great for Christian fantasy (unless your name is C.S. Lewis). It’s understandable, though—for the greater part of the Christian reading audience, fantasy doesn’t have much appeal. Chances are high that reputable publishers won’t even bother to glance at my manuscript, so I’ll probably be publishing it with a print-on-demand house sometime in 2009. (But if any of you who know me are interested in reading an ‘advance copy’, I’d be happy to email the files your way; just ask me for them).

Two of my dear friends from Houghton College (and now, happily, my relatives!), Jason and Naomi, came out to visit us and we spent all of last week together, including an adventuresome trip to cold, windy Rocky Mountain National Park. You never would have known that it was June. If felt more like January, but I think we all enjoyed it.

Rachel is in the middle of the first leg of a summer school program for autistic teens, and so far it’s been going well. She’s also gearing up to start taking classes toward a master’s degree in education, which is exciting. Her classes start at the beginning of July, just about the time when I dive back into a seminary course.

It should be a good course, but I know I’ll begrudge it the loss of all my glorious free time. Denver Seminary is a great institution, but my background in most of the areas we study is already fairly deep. I’ve tested out of a few classes and hope to test out of a few more, but some of the introductory courses these past two semesters have seemed inordinately dull. Part of the reason, I suppose, is that I do have a solid background in the Bible and theology, and the amount of time spent in class and reading doesn’t compare favorably with the amount of new material I’m learning. I feel like I could have learned far more on my own program of study within the same period of time.

The benefit of the coursework, though, is that it focuses my attention more fully on areas that I probably wouldn’t engage directly if I was given free rein. I do learn more on my own, but it’s a scattered affair that focuses mainly on history. During my month off, for example, when I wasn’t finishing my book, I was studying the early history of Mormonism, the history and culture of New England’s Native Americans, and the history and sociology of ‘ecstatic religion’, both within Christianity and outside of it. I’ve also taken time to brush up on my French, started learning some classic chess openings, and read most of a collection of the early Apostolic Fathers. Further, I feel like I have more time and freedom to pray when on my own schedule (and it should be noted that all of this is while working nearly full-time at the library, but the job does afford significant reading-time). So while I do learn a fair deal of new things in seminary, it’s not in the volume I’d like, nor in the areas that most interest me. They are, however, areas helpful to the teaching of the Word, so, as a prospective pastor, I just have to give up my complaints and study hard. There certainly are times, though, when I wonder (hopefully) if God might be calling me to study history, or for us to enter foreign missions, instead of pursuing pastoral work. But preaching is my great love, and it remains the strongest reason that I continue on this course. There is nowhere that I feel more alive and more used of God than behind a pulpit. And I truly love the church, and believe that it is the shape of Christ to the world. I would gladly study hard on an arduous track in order to bind myself to the ministry of God’s church. So, it would seem that seminary is my lot for now, and hopefully, now that the introductory classes are largely behind me, I’ll begin to appreciate it more. My discontent probably reflects more poorly on me than on the process of seminary education.

In any case, I’m really enjoying life at the moment, and my hope and prayer is that I can direct some of my current learning-energy into my formal studies. You can certainly be praying for me in this area, friends. I find it’s a lot easier to feel hungry for solid biblical study when I’m actively involved in a teaching or preaching ministry (I felt almost insatiable in my personal study of theology in Angola), but unfortunately I have no such regular ministry here. I do get to preach every now and then at our home church, though, and I always appreciate the experience. You can pray, too, for Rachel, as she begins her studies—it’s an exciting time for us, but we’ll probably be even busier this coming year. On the bright side, it’ll give me someone with whom to commiserate about classwork.

Well, I’ve stolen too much of your time writing about myself. This was just a quick update; next time I’ll have something substantial for us to think about. But for now, thank you for your prayers, friends, and for your interest and support.

Blessings in Christ.

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