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I'm alive… I think…

Ryan Burns —  April 14, 2008

Just a quick line to let you know I haven’t fallen off a cliff or anything.

This week I have 2 papers to write, 2 tests to take, 1 Hebrew quiz, 1 Hebrew workbook, and 1 class presentation… so, yeah…

If anyone else has less on their plate and wants to write a guest post, shoot me an email… if not, it might be a quiet week on


I did my taxes online last night using TurboTax. Honestly, it wasn’t too bad. In the past I’ve always gone to a CPA since I had my own business, was a minister, and other crazy tax issues… however, this year with the move I decided to just do it myself since I didn’t have a CPA in our new town. The decision worked out quite well. TurboTax had a great interface and guided me step by step… best news of all… REFUND!!! I really didn’t see that one coming.

If you haven’t filed yet, remember you only have 4 more days!!!

So, one thing that all seminarians should know is that you have some GREAT tax breaks available to you. Here is the IRS publication (always fun to read) on how you can get a deduction from your education expenses. Essentially, you can deduct up to $4000 of “Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance at an eligible postsecondary educational institution, but not including personal, living, or family expenses, such as room and board.”

Besides that deduction there is also a Lifetime Learning Credit available. Now, I’m not a CPA so I don’t really understand the relationship between the two options you have, however, I know that you can’t take both of them… That is why it is really great to use a CPA or a program like TurboTax. You simply plug in the information and it determines what is best for your situation.

So, if you haven’t done your taxes, get on it! And remember to take advantage of the tax breaks your education provides you.

It might just be me, but while attending seminary I’ve noticed that money is tight. For this reason I’ve decided that I’m going to try and start a new weekly section for called Thrifty Thursday. Every Thursday I’ll try and post links and items that will (in theory) help us save a buck or two.

Today’s Thrifty Thursday item is coupons! I read somewhere that a common trait among millionaires is that they use coupons. Now, most of us seminarians aren’t millionaires but I think we can take a cue here and apply this easy lesson. One resource for tons of coupons is the Entertainment book. Now, while yes, it does cost $15 it is really worth the investment. You literally get hundreds of great deals from restaurants and businesses in your local area. Typically, if you use just 1 or 2 coupons then the book pays for itself.

If you are interested in checking this out, the website even has a place where you can plug in your zip code and find out what type of coupons are available for you. With the price being $15 and FREE SHIPPING, this is a Thrifty deal worth looking into.

Along with the Entertainment book there are numerous online coupon sites. Here are just a few to check out:

*Disclaimer – Yes, if you buy an entertainment book I get a few bucks from them as an affiliate. Not only will you be helping yourself, but helping me too… isn’t that nice!

Well, it is about that time in the semester where I’m beginning to realize that I don’t have a lot of time left to get these term papers written. This semester I have two to write: one for Exposition of Hebrews class and one for Hermeneutics class. Thankfully (bitter-sweet) Just a Gal and the kids will be heading out this Thursday for a week with her parents. I plan to move into the Library for those 7 days and crank it out. Both papers are due in about two weeks.

So, what about you? Are you one of those good students who works on his or her paper from day one or are you one who waits till the very last minute?

Also, if there is anyone who thinks they have a really good system for approaching term papers, feel free to shoot me a message with the gist of your system. I think I might take everyone’s advice and write a post that shows different approaches you all use to writing term papers.


Seminary Meme Competition

Ryan Burns —  April 4, 2008

Update: For some reason Technorati and WordPress are not picking up all the links from everyone’s site who is participating in the meme. For this reason, please drop a comment on this post after you’ve filled out the meme so we can ensure that you are entered into the comp.

This month’s competition at Going to Seminary is a good (and easy) one. The best part though is that one of our site sponsors, Eisenbrauns, has offered to supply this month’s prize… a $100 gift certificate to their online bookstore!

So, how can you win the $100 gift certificate? Easy:

This Seminary Meme is part of a competition sponsored by Going to Seminary and Eisenbrauns. If you’d like to be entered, simply answer the 7 questions below and tag 5 other people. You’ll also need to post this paragraph (links included) with your answers as the links will be tracked back to your blog and will count as your “entry” into the competition. On April 30th, 2008, one blogger will be selected at random to win a $100 gift certificate to the Eisenbrauns online bookstore.

Please feel free to modify the question so as to make it appropriate to your situation as a pre-seminarian, seminarian, or seminary graduate (example given on first question).

  1. Where do (will/did) you attend seminary?
  2. What class do you think has most impacted your spiritual life?
  3. What seminary professor has been the most influential while in seminary?
  4. What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced in seminary?
  5. What has been the greatest reward you’ve experienced in seminary?
  6. What are your plans after seminary?
  7. How many times have you been asked question #6?

Tagged (almost everyone who has ever left a comment on Going to Seminary): Jeff, Tyler, Shaun, Chad, Jon, tlange, Sovann, Julie, Chris, Jake, Paul, Jason, Terry, Anthony, Mark, Ryan, Jeremiah, Chris, Ben, Nick, Paul, Eric, RC, Raymond, Deb, Shari, and Andy

Seminary Comparison Matrix

Ryan Burns —  April 3, 2008

I got an message via the contact form this morning that is certainly worth sharing. A web developer, John, from Dallas Theological Seminary sent me a link to a cool little program they wrote that will compare a number of seminaries across various criteria. While it doesn’t have every seminary or every category of information you might want, it is a really cool tool for those in the process of trying to select a seminary.

Also, I really appreciated that John said,

Of course, one can never choose a seminary based on these factors alone, but we thought it would helpfully summarize a lot of data that future seminarians are trying to wade through.

Remember, choosing a seminary isn’t as simple as clicking some checkboxes and waiting for a computer to tell you where to go to school. However, a tool like this can certainly help provide some good information, and better yet, let you see that information compared to other schools.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the local church in the life of the seminarian and plan, God willing, to write some posts on it in the near future. Until then, I’d love to hear about your involvement in a local church. I’ll go ahead and show my cards, in that I believe that serving in a local church is important for all believers, especially seminarians… but more on that later.

Till then, where are you?



Ok, enough slacking off… Spring Break is over and it is back to the grind. I hope everyone enjoyed the guest bloggers this past week. I know I enjoyed having the time off. But, now it is back to work.

I’d have to say it is a bitter-sweet return. For one, vacation was great. I actually read NOTHING and did NO work the whole time. It was such a blast to just hang out with Just a Gal, Little Man, and Sweet Pea. Of course, I took almost all my books, but soon realized this just needed to be a vacation. So, that is the sweet part… And it is also the bitter part because I really could have used the time to catch up on some reading. But, nothing I can do now.

Well, just wanted to say “I’m back” and, again, thanks to all those who filled in while I was gone.

Seminary Schedule

This post was written by Jake of cafe de soiree. Jake attends Reformed Theological Seminary and, among other claims to fame, made this Going to Seminary commercial!

I took a year off after college before I started seminary, and so I thought I was ready for it. Within two weeks, I was wondering what I had gotten myself in to. Seminary consisted of the same sorts of assignments as college—papers tests, reading—but I was not at all prepared for just how much of it there would be.

I soon realized that I needed a system or a routine to make it all work. It takes a careful juggling act to get it all right. A friend of mine shared his system with me, which I implemented with good results. Here’s what I do. I try to get up between 5-5:30am each morning, and first spend some time reading my Bible and beginning the day with prayer (this is essential). My earliest class is at 8am, and so I know I can get in about a solid hour of reading or studying before I need to get ready to go. My wife usually sleeps until 7:30 or 8 anyway, and so I get some very quiet, undisturbed, and productive time.

What I do throughout each day varies depending on when classes are, but the key is to not waste time. In college I majored in wasting time, and I always had to cram for things at the last minute, which meant 4am nights fueled by the strongest coffee I could get my hands on. Unfortunately I’ve had to fall back on those methods once or twice here in seminary, but I try hard to avoid them. There is plenty of time for me to get things done during the day. My wife works a steady day job, so I am home alone. I turn on some quiet classical music, and set out a pile of books in front of me. If I need a change of scenery, I opt for going to Panera Bread (free coffee refills!) or the seminary library.

Properly using your time should allow you to free up your evenings, for the most part. If you are married, this is key. You need time with your spouse. If I make full use of the schedule I have developed, I am able to quit working at dinner time, and keep the evening free for spending time with my wife. We are usually in bed by 10, and as a result, getting up at 5 or 5:30 is not an issue. That gives me plenty of sleep.

Full time seminary studies require discipline. It is not just something you can coast through. The demands are much higher. But a working schedule can help you keep it all in check. Prioritizing and developing a solid routine are important. Make sure you buy yourself a day planner of some sort, and map things out. There will be a learning curve, but you will start to figure out how long it takes to read certain things, how much time you should allot for papers, and when you should schedule the most intense things.

And I put it in parentheses above, but here I mention it explicitly: rooting your day in prayer is essential. No schedule will work properly or be effective unless it is hemmed in by prayer.

seminary car

This post was written by Jeff of deTheos. Jeff is married to Kari and they have a son, Dutch. Jeff is currently attending Multnomah Biblical Seminary.

This year marks five years of marriage for my wife Kari and I; and three years in seminary, as students together. We have enjoyed every season of it, yet at times the various schedules of work and seminary life have collided to create a holy anticipation of rest.

Last summer we moved closer to school and family (in with Kari’s parents for a season), while I commuted 90 minutes each way to work. The plan was to leave my career in construction management in mid-August, allowing for a week or two of rest before Fall semester. But after giving five months notice at my job, we entered August without a replacement and no plan for a transition. Wanting to serve my boss and friend well to the very end, I stayed on part-time after Fall classes commenced. Sixteen graduate credits, added to 20-30 hours a week of work, added to being an intern with our church, and oh yeah, being a husband (of a seminary student too) and father. Something had to give. Praise God my part-time duties at my former job only stretched into the semester two months, and we were able to breath a little bit. While I was exhausted, it was probably hardest on Kari and our young son Dutch.

I had been using up every one of the 5,400 seconds during my commute home each night returning calls, processing the stress and strain of the day’s projects, and often listening to part of an audio sermon and worship music. Each night I arrived home emotional spent, and was ready to simply check out for the evening. But Kari and Dutch deserved so much more! He was growing up while I was away each day; Kari was clamoring to hear any news from the outside world (as we lived then and now with her parents). I simply gave her my mental left-overs.

In the middle of this season I read a quote from a book by pastor C.J. Mahaney. In Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God (pp. 49-50), he writes about transitioning one’s soul during the commute home from work. It struck me as powerful, practical, and very effective for being essentially a small thing. Seeking to do this has had great impact on our home life, and it is easy to tell when I haven’t paused and calmed my soul to be “all there” at home after a long day in class or at work. Let’s strive to be better husbands and fathers. Here is Mahaney’s story (emphasis added):

“When our first two children were still quite young, I realized that my commute home in the evening was functioning as little more than a review of my day. As far as I was concerned, by the time I got in that car, my responsibilities were pretty much over until the next morning. I saw my home as a refuge, a place where the emphasis, for me, was on being served rather than on leading and serving with Christlike love.”In God’s mercy, he showed me the selfish motivation I was bringing home each evening. I saw that my commute could be best utilized as a time of transition, so that I might be prepared to finish the day by loving and serving my family well.

“So I made a practice of pulling the car over a few blocks from home so I could take a couple of minutes to make an effective transition in my soul. There on the side of the road, I meditated on Ephesians 5 as well as on some other passages. I confessed to God my sinful tendency to be selfish and sought to prepare my heart to serve my wife and children when I arrived home. In this way I learned to see my home as the context where I have my greatest privilege and opportunity to serve. This practice had a transforming effect, allowing me to walk through the front door with the mind and heart of a loving servant-leader. By God’s grace, I found it an excellent help in building a loving marriage, enjoying my family, and minimizing regret.”

There I find a practical, everyday example of being a selfless husband, rooted in the theology of Christ. Even now when my commute can vary from 10-60 minutes, the last part is best served to calm and transition my soul. That way I am better able to walk in the Spirit home and give Kari and Dutch much more than the left-overs of the day. Praise the Triune God for His patience with us.