Archives For Tips and Advice

Writing in your Bible

Chad Brooks —  August 31, 2008

I remember my grandmother thought it was a disastrous thing to write in a Bible. I also remember seeing other kids write in hymnals and thinking they were going to Hell. Between a rabid fascination with the Bible and classical music training I have gotten both of these ideas out of my system.

Last night I opened up an old study Bible that I carried for a few years. It was during a huge spiritual time for me. I noticed many passage throughout the Bible that had been highlighted or underlined. Some of these were dated, especially psalms and 1 and 2nd Corinthians. It was great to look back and remember why these passages had meant so much to me. I could place myself in my old desk at college up late at night reading these passages over and over. I could see myself in prayer repeating memorized sections from the Psalms. It was great to look back and see where I had been. I have a few other bibles that I can remember when and why I underlined things.

As seminarians and potential ministers, one of the important things that we can’t forget is our own spiritual history. I keep up with friends that help to remind me what I have been saved from, and I love to read my old journals and bible notes to see what I found useful at certain times in life.

So last night, I decided to always date my underlineings. That way I can always remember why things were important to me. I also started a habit last year that I want to share with you, one that benefits me so much in regard to separating study and personal devotion.

When I first started seminary I carried the bible I had used for the last several years. I quickly filled it with more and more notes. At points (especially in an Inductive Bible Study class in Mark) I couldn’t figure out what notes were from 2004 and 2007. What I started doing was carry a “class” bible. This is a bible that I just use for school. I sometimes go to it when I am in personal study or sermon prep, but I make sure it is the bible I carry on a daily basis to class.

The reason I did this was to separate devotional thoughts from textual/form/redaction/historical-critical notes from class. When I am reading Philippians 2, I don’t want to see my notes on the textual variance of the Christ hymn, but instead focus on the mind of Christ and how His descent/ascent is a lifestyle pattern. Their is certainly a cross-over between academic and devotional, but this is a way for me to stay concentrated when I am simply reading my Bible.

I love finding my old notes in various Bibles. When at seminary, it is hard to loose focus about why we are really here. Sadly enough, there are many people that graduate knowing alot about Jesus, but don’t really know him. We have to find practices that will allow us to continually focus on the Triune God and defend them in ways that others don’t understand (like my carrying a “just a class bible”). Don’t loose focus on this, because it could be the worst mistake you could ever make.

Starting Strong

Terry Delaney —  August 29, 2008

Another semester is upon us. For most students in general, and seminarians in particular, we all try to start the semester strong. Many, like myself, have learned from semesters past that at some point before final exams, we will fall behind in some aspect of our studies. In order to counteract this, many try to get a head start on reading and writing for their classes. This is all fine and good, but, if you are like me, you still find that you fall behind at some point in the semester. This is usually due to a myriad of problems which can include work, family, health, and, as is often my case, sheer laziness. How do you prolong the strong start to a strong finish? Better yet, how do you sustain a decent level of study throughout the entire semester?

Tips

What follows is a simple list of things I have found helpful to keep my moving along at a decent pace getting everything done on time and in a timely manner. Some semesters I do not do so well as others, but I strive to keep to the basics.

  1. Prayer – It may seem to simple, but it is truly refreshing and helps to keep everything in perspective. I have found that 15 “spontaneous” minutes alone with God is often times better than a 15 minute nap. Now, if you should fall asleep during your alone time with God, then great. However, that is never the goal. What I mean by spontaneous that it is unplanned in your day. We are spontaneous about so many other things, why not be so with the One who matters?
  2. Planned Time Off from School Work – I wish I could do this weekly (I am sure my wife does, too!), but most times I am not able to do this but every other week at the most. There are times where I actually block off an evening or even a weekend where I will not allow myself to do homework. I have discovered that this, too, is very refreshing.
  3. Play with your Kids (if you have any) – I have begun to play with my kids while doing my Greek homework or memorizing something for a class. The Greek is really fun because we have a resource here at SBTS where a former student had put things to song. Now, I sing the alphabet to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and a not quite chart topping rendition of Amazing Greek that includes the noun case endings. Whenever I am memorizing a passage or something I will act as if I am doing a dramatic rendition of it with the kids. I have found that their natural tendency to distract me enables me to concentrate more on what I am doing. The kids love it, I get to spend time with them and I memorize quicker and better.
  4. Use your Spouse – By this I mean allow her to tell you when you need a break. Even more, listen to her or him! They usually know better than you do what you need!
  5. It will get done - Seriously, if you have a deadline to meet, you know the assignment will get done. This applies for school, ministry and work. Don’t be lazy about it, but you know that whatever it is, it will get done. The flip side to this is that when it is done, it will be finished.

These are just my thougths on how to stay start, and stay strong, during the semester. What thoughts do you have? We would love to hear how you stay strong throughout.

Another semester is approching quickly, and that means it won’t be long before books will have to be read, papers written, and tests will have to be taken. If you are like me, you cannot just study anytime, anywhere. You need the atmosphere and the environment to be right. To be sure, every environment will not work for everyone. You need to find your own. But it is important that you do, because that is key to being productive. And if you’re one of those who can study anywhere, anytime, you are lucky and I am jealous of you. Nonetheless, here is what I need.

First, I don’t work well in silence. I need music. But not just any music. I can’t study with Van Halen crankin’ in the background. Classical music is my choice for studying. I have quite a bit of classical on my iPod, but it got to the point where I had heard the same stuff over and over again and I would begin to notice that. So after some searching, I finally came across Radio Swiss Classic, which is a radio station broadcasting from Bern, Switzerland with an internet stream available for free. The station is fantastic. It plays a great variety of stuff, and only occasionally has a brief verbal interjection to mention the title and composer of a piece (in German and French). I highly recommend it to you. Set the volume low, and let it play all day.

Second, location is important to me. When I still lived in Ontario, I had a very specific spot in the Mills Library at McMaster University that I loved to be at. I also liked the library at Redeemer University College, where I got my degree from. But I do not like the library at here at RTS at all. I find it far too small and confining. One of the best places I work here is at the local Panera Bread. It’s relatively comfortable, plays classical music, and has free refills on their coffee.

Finally, I work much better on a cloudy, rainy, and cool day. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen much in Florida, and I can’t control the weather.

But the point of this post is not to tell you what I need. It’s to encourage you to find an environment where you study well. This is important because seminary comes with a lot of work, and you need to be able to put yourself in a situation where you can work, concentrate, and be productive. Find the place that works for you, and find it soon. If you have already got something that works well for you, let us know. What are your ideal study environments?

There are plenty of resources on the net about how to write good papers, take the right classes…you know that sort of thing. Here are is my Top 5 “secret” tips (in no particular order) that will help you out in your first semester.

1. Get a job on campus.
If you live on campus, you may be trying to do this already because it means you don’t have to commute to work. But this is a great option for any student. I have two (sometimes 3) jobs on campus and it has allowed me many opportunities that the average student would never have. I work in the office of Community Life and I lead the Worship Design team, a group of students that is responsible for planning the three chapel services a week. Through my jobs I have worked with all of the Vice-Presidents of Asbury, had lunch with our President, interacted with our Board, had countless individual interactions with some of the professors that most students would love to have, and many other cool things.

I would not be as involved with so many things around campus if I didn’t work on campus. I would say that as much of my learning has taken place in meetings and planning sessions as has in the classroom.

2. Go to chapel.
At Asbury chapel isn’t required. This surprises many of our prospective and incoming students (I know many Christian colleges require chapel, but do any other seminaries?), and just that barrier being down makes chapel more meaningful to some people. It is possible to just go through the motions at seminary and not involve yourself at a spiritual level, but this is the biggest mistake that you can make. When you become a part of the worshiping body at your school, you instantly have a time to let the “minister” in you take a back seat to your primary role as a worshiper.

Different school’s chapel services look different, but no matter what, becoming involved in yours will make a big difference in your life at seminary.

3. Find a hidden place in the Library.
I go to the library at least 4 times a week to study. I have joked with friends that work at the library (let’s make that a sub-tip, make friends with the library workers) about how full the library gets before mid-terms and finals. We all know why it gets so full, but it is wild to see how many people don’t utilize the library except for the computers. I know of several “hidden” places in our library where I can go and be completely uninterrupted. Your school may allow you to check out a carrel for the entire semester (I wish Asbury did). I don’t know how my friends claim to get work done at home. I can do it for an hour or so, but spending 8 hours writing a paper is impossible at home. I can do it easily in the library.

When you go to the same place session after session, your mind gets into “study mode” when you sit down. This allows you to concentrate on your work and fully pour yourself into it. Our time here at school is an act or worship, so why not try to offer God your best.

4. Make friends with the students about to graduate.
Within a month at Asbury I met my friend Isaac. Isaac and I worked together for two years until he graduated and it is one of the best relationships I have had while here. There are several reasons why our relationship was so important to me.

1. The academic level: Isaac and I came from the same situation, preachers kids who didn’t have religon degree’s from undergrad. We were also both under-achievers in college. Isaac had already navigated through some rough waters in seminary and passed down so much to me. When I was thinking about asking a professor for a grade change, Isaac walked me through it. I used Isaac to figure out what teachers to take, because we both were interested in similar developments in theology and biblical studies.
2. The personal level: Isaac and his wife were just a few years older than Meredith and I. There have been so many pieces of advice he has given me that have proven to be golden. Seminary can be hard to navigate for the first year or so, and having a friend that had done it successfully was a huge help.
3. The Spiritual level: I had accountability in Isaac. Asbury tends to be an immersive academic environment with the professors sometimes turning a five minute pre-class devotion into the full blown lesson for the day. Learning how to connect personal devotion to academic excellence is a common discussion. When I was struggling through rough theological decisions, Isaac had been there before. When Meredith and I were trying to make decisions regarding our denomination, Isaac had been there before.

Why not have a friend that is farther along the journey than you. This will prove to be one of the best moves you can make at Seminary.

5. Make friends with a lesser-known professor.

Your school probably has at least one teacher who is known at a large scale. We have several at Asbury and their classes always fill up quick. Everyone tries to get office time with them, and crowd around them after they speak at chapel. I don’t want to encourage you to never take their classes, but you should investigate other professors. More often than not, the professors that don’t publish yearly aren’t sub-grade scholars, but are more active in their church communities and other areas. I have two professors that I enjoy spending time with that have mentored me along my seminary journey. Both of them are brilliant and have taught me tons. I have learned about what a pastor-scholar looks like through both of them. When I need help with something, I can go to them.

Building a relationship with a professor or two who has more time under girds you and better prepares you for the ministry. While you can try to do this with the most popular professor, it will be more profitable if you are able to be mentored by someone who has more time for you.

These are just a few tips that have greatly bettered my time at seminary. I hope that they are helpful to you too.

Many ministers-to-be decide to attend seminary because they feel they need the education, experience and wisdom that comes with a degree from seminary. While these are not necessarily bad reasons to attend seminary, they cannot replace the education and wisdom that comes from God’s Word. Yes, experiences must be lived, but even those can be found in the Holy Scriptures.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” I know many who simply ask for wisdom “in faith” (vs. 6), and never actually seek wisdom. God, through the Holy Spirit, gave us the Bible, and found in the Bible is a wonderful book of wisdom (actually, a few books) called Proverbs.

A Schedule

It turns out that there are 31 Proverbs and no more than 31 days in a month. Coincidence maybe, but I believe at the very least it offers a schedule of sorts to drink in God’s wisdom. No matter what day of the month it is, you can have a place to turn in your Bible already selected for you based on what day it is. For example, I am writing this post on the 5th and therefore turned to Proverbs 5 before I started my day.

Benefits

The first benefit is that, like the “Psalms of the Day,” you do not waste your time seeking a passage to read and meditate upon. All you have to do is know what day it is and where the book of Proverbs is located in your Bible (just right of the middle) and you are ready to meditate on God’s wisdom.

A second benefit I have found to reading a Proverb a day is that the devil has a much harder time getting at me. Personally, the first 23 years of my life were extremely worldly and Satan knows this and uses it against me. However, since I starting reading a Proverb each day before I get going, I have discovered that my “sword” (Eph. 6) is more able to deflect any blows. Also, the hedge of protection that I pray for seems to be getting stronger and stronger.

Proverbs and the Seminary

While I do believe a seminary education is of importance and is extremely beneficial to those who are able to attend, I do not think it alone will suffice in the daily spiritual war in which we are engaged. The Word of God is the best education we can ever receive. The best part is that it can be absolutely free depending on how you go about acquiring a Bible.

Never think that you are supplementing the Bible with your seminary education. Rather, we should view our Bible being supplemented with the education you are receiving in seminary. It is one thing to read about the Bible. It is something completely different to read, and wrestle, with the Bible-especially, in the context of this article, the book of Proverbs. In viewing your education in this manner, you will soon discover that the wisdom you crave has been at your finger tips all this time. May God bless you as you drink from His well.

In his last post Chad gave some good pointers on what to bring to seminary, and then concluded on the note: “Navigating seminary is different from college, it is an immersive experience that should be taken full advantage of.”

I totally agree. There were times a decade ago when I would (ahem) doze off during my civil engineering classes as an undergrad. But now? No chance of dozing off. In fact, when a prof lets us out early I usually get a little ticked. (I’m paying for this … for another decade on student loans!)

Chad’s list is good (a system for notes, a good bag, an organizational method, and a Bible) – see the comments too. To add, let me offer three others, two abstract and one practical.

A mind to work

Seminary is flat out hard work. Many never finish, and hardly anyone is there to just skate by. (Besides, in church history it seems God doesn’t use lazy people. It doesn’t all depend upon us, by we get to participate fully, carried along by grace.)

Be ready to be challenged and stretched, and to love every moment of it (even worshiping late into the night pining away on a research paper).

A heart to grow

We’ve all heard the classic stereotype … seminary = cemetary. With all my heart I can truly say the exact opposite has been our experience at Multnomah. The more I know about God, the more I love Him. The mind and heart are so interconnected that Jesus said He was here to usher in the new area of “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) — the heart and the mind fully engaged with God. We cannot genuinely love God with our hearts and not think of Him rightly in our minds, and vice versa.

Still, somehow there are students who go through the motions and get the “A” and miss the whole point of knowing, loving and enjoying God above all else, especially in our studies. As a side note, immersing one’s self in the local church is key as well. Making ourselves at home’ is essential to allowing God to form our character.

A budget to follow

(Here’s the practical one.) Your budget will ebb and flow, and often simply dry up. (Things won’t go as planned.) If you are married the tensions on your soul to be the provider will grate on your soul. You will learn faith and dependence. (That is good for us!) This is the ‘class’ that’s not in the syllabus.

But by all means be intentional about being frugal. You probably don’t need a bunch of tricked out technology, and developing a contented heart is a sign of treasuring Christ (Phil. 4:8-13).

Does anyone remember little league baseball (or youth soccer) and the kids who had all the super expensive gear? You know the one with matching batting gloves and flip sunglasses and a neat-o bat bag and cool warmup? Yeah, that kid was almost always the worst in the actual game. Not saying you should show up with no ‘gear,’ but the name of the game is more than having the toys to play.

You will be looking around and seeing everyone else’s ‘gear’ and be tempted to grab the same for yourself. (That’s called coveting (Colossians 3:5), and I wrestle with it every day.)A good tip for considering a large purchase is to wait one day for every $100 of the price. That will help lessen impulse buying, and effectively stretch your budget.

What’s missing?

Some might add a laptop to this list. Good point. But there are students on campus who don’t have a laptop. A computer at home, and access in the lab can often suffice thanks to USB thumb drives. There are a few reasons to need a laptop in class (see comments from Chad’s post), but I dare say there are far fewer distractions sticking to the “vintage” style of note taking. At least some of your classes should be old school, no computer, and I’ll leave it up to you to sort out which ones. (Okay, full disclosure: I sometimes use mine in class, and soon into this adventure Kari and I realized that one computer at home was not enough for two students, so we have two, um, laptops.)

Anyone else have anything to add?

I remember when I was anxiously awaiting my first day of classes at Asbury. I had bought all of my books beforehand and had even started reading. I was really hoping that I would be able to find a Seminary 101 list of a few things that would come in handy but I never did. I am starting my third year this fall and I want to offer up a few suggestions to things that will help the new student (or the continuing).

System for Notes

Find a good way to take notes. Learning to use a certain piece of software or going ‘Vintage” notes are two options. Whatever you do, stick with it because it is a pain to switch mid-semester. I did that in one of the most intensive classes I have ever had and it was painful.

A Good Bag

Get a good bag. Unlike college, where just making it to class was an accomplishment, in seminary I find myself having to juggle three different roles every day. The student side of me has to have the course materials needed for the day. This could be as simple as a notebook/laptop or it could mean several books. For one of my jobs, I have to keep several up with paperwork and my “idea” notebook, so there is two more items. Lastly, I am always working on a few side-projects so I have a few extra books and materials with me. This means that I sometime carry a full load. Since I try to go into school in the morning and leave around 5 or 6, I have to have a step up from the Hannah Montana backpack I could have bought at Wal-mart for 10 dollars. You will be using this bag for several years, find a good one and invest the money.

Organization Method

If you are lucky enough to only have the responsibility of going to school you are a lucky person. Most students juggle at least one side job, if not multiple. At any given moment, I am working 4 jobs and maybe some freelance stuff. I would die if I didn’t have a good method of organization. Wess Daniels is a Phd student at Fuller and has a great post about his method here, it is pretty much the same thing that I use.

Bible

Get a good, simple Bible and stick with it. When I came to school I had a bible I had been using for several years and it was already marked up. I found it to be distracting when I was in class and my thoughts went to the notes I had made in previous study. Having a “class” bible allows me to keep things a little better organized. Find out what translation your school recommends the most and grab a simple one, with no study notes and wide margins if you can find one. In a future post I will show you how I made my “tricked out” class bible.

Navigating seminary is different from college, it is an immersive experience that should be taken full advantage of. I know others have some great tips and tricks out there, so please post them in the comments.

When I began seminary, I thought I was one of the more unique students. I was Canadian, of Dutch heritage, and wanting to pursue and academic career instead of pastoral ministry. It turns out that I am the only Canadian, one of two people of Dutch heritage, but only one of a significant number of people wanting to pursue an academic career or postgraduate studies. Since I found out how many people are actually interested in doing doctoral work, I thought this would be the perfect venue to share some of the information I have received that will offer some pointers if you are interested in going that route.

These pointers will help you get a feel of what you might need to be thinking about if you want to do a doctorate, but I encourage you to talk with professors at your seminary to get their advice as well. Different fields of study might require different steps to be taken. With that, here are some things you need to think through.

Are you ready for this?

First, you need to be serious about this. The academic environment is very challenging and demanding, and if you are not willing to work very hard, this is not the path you should follow. At this point, you need to beworking hard to make sure your grades are excellent. You need to be sure that you are writing top-level research papers, and that you are beginning to work on getting your name out there and making contacts in the field you would like to work in.

Know what you want to know.

Second, you should have a field of study already. That is not something you can wait to figure out. You need to have that in place now, and you have to be reading and writing on that subject. Find any opportunity you can to be reading about it, and if you are given the opportunity in any of your classes to do a paper based on that subject, take it. Also, if your seminary has opportunities for doing independent or directed studies, take advantage of them as much as possible. This will give you the opportunity to learn what it is like to do independent research and will also give you the chance to write papers that could be used later on to help you gain admission to a Ph.D. program or even help your research further on down the line. You cannot do enough of this. If you have free time, take advantage of it. You will only be helping yourself.

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Third, learning your languages is key, and the earlier you can get started on this, the better. If you are planning on studying Old Testament, know your Hebrew. If you want to do New Testament, know Greek. If you’re like me, and are thinking about historical theology, Latin is going to be the language you need to learn. Also, most doctoral programs require a second reading language, and while there will be opportunities to learn French and German while you are working on your Ph.D., the sooner you can get started on it, the better. The best scholars are the ones who can work with primary sources in their original languages.

Get Connected

Fourth, find people with similar interests and talk with them. Discuss your ideas, discuss things you’ve read. Find people who are in doctoral programs right now and what they did to get where they are. Establish whatever links you can that might help you out. Explore your options. I also recently found a website which can help you connect with people who are of similar interests. Graduate Junction was started some time ago by some students from the UK with, I would presume, similar ambitions to what Ryan had in mind when he started this site–to connect with other people going down the same road and offer advice and other resources to fellow students. It is small at this point (if you search for students with an interest in the Reformation, you only get a couple of profiles), but is growing quickly. Also, become a member of different societies, such as ETS, SBL, or the 16th-Century Society. Their conferences are the places to make friends andestablish roots. They usually offergood student discounts for memberships.

Evaluate Your Current Studies

Fifth, determine whether or not your degree is sufficient for propelling you into doctoral work. One of the harsh realities is that most schools do not give much credit to seminary degrees. While they are Masters’ degrees, they are usually not very academic and almost never have a significant research portion to it. This is where the independent/directed studies are so crucial. If you do some outstanding work there, you might be able to transfer from seminary to a Ph.D. program. If not, you will likely need to be looking at getting a “credible” Masters’ degree from a big-name school like Duke or Princeton, for example. The good news here, though, is that a lot of the work you do can easily transfer over to your doctoral work.

Let The Hunt Begin

Sixth, start setting your sights on schools and/or supervisors you would like to work under. What school you look at will depend on how serious you are about pursuing a doctorate. If you want to be taken seriously, and have any opportunity at getting a position in such an oversaturated market as North America, you have a very select list of schools you must pick from. We’re talking Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Notre Dame, Yale, Harvard, Toronto–the big names. For what it’s worth, here is a link to the top 100 humanities departments around the world in 2007. If you’re not as concerned about a position and want to do a doctorate more for interest’s sake, there are a lot more schools that you can comfortably include on your radar. But another positive factor for going to a bigger school is the funding that will be available to you.

I haven’t done a lot of research on distance learning, though I have heard some positive things about it. Some of the big UK schools offer that option, and it might be something worth considering if it is far too impractical for you to relocate somewhere for a number of years.

…Then What?

Seventh, consider where you want to teach. No matter what you do, obtaining a teaching position is not going to be a walk in the park, as I said, due to the oversaturation of the North American market. In addition , it is difficult for a confessing Christian to get a position in a public or state-run school. On the other hand, if you have a faith commitment and a degree from a top-level school, your opportunities for getting a position at a Christian college are much greater. With that, I also encourage you to think about theological education in a more international setting. Mission teams all over the world require theological educators as they seek to train lay leaders to lead churches. An academic calling is not just a job, it is ministry as well. Even if your gifts are not so desired in North America, know that they are coveted in many areasaround the world. Consider your options and how you can serve the Lord.

Take a Break if You Need it

Finally, do not be afraid to take a year off in between the end of your seminary studies and whatever your next step will be. If could be a very productive year for you if you need to get your proposals in order, do some reading and writing, fine-tune your language skills, and what not. Taking a breather is always helpful, as well.

Some More Help

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of suggestions, and if you are looking for more information still, I encourage you to read a recent blog entry by John Stackhouse, professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. His article also offers an extensivelist of suggestions if you are considering the doctoral route. Also, if you have any other tips of advice or suggestions that you’ve received, please share them here! I may have left out some important things that should be considered. In any case, I hope this is helpful for those of you who are thinking about postgraduate studies.

Make Yourself at Home

Jake Belder —  June 27, 2008

In an earlier post, Ryan discussed how seminary can sometimes come to be viewed more as a means to an end or as a stepping stone than a time of formation and growth. Asking questions such as what plans we have after we are done with seminary only fuel this kind of perspective.

One of the problems with having this mentality is that you will not properly establish yourself in whatever area you move to in order to attend seminary. Understanding seminary as a stepping stone to something else will only lead you to view your whole life at that particular time and place as a stepping stone. You will never fully unpack the boxes, so to speak. Your apartment will be more like a hotel room than a home.

As a result, a few things might happen. First, you will likely not develop many solid and authentic friendships. Perhaps you are thinking about returning to wherever you came from, and so you focus your energy on maintaining those friendships and those ties. While there is not anything inherently wrong with this, it will keep you from building bonds between the people around you for the next several years. Those friendships are essential for getting through seminary. Your close friends will challenge you, encourage you, strengthen you, rebuke you, and just be there for you like your friends back home cannot practically do. If you do not establish those sorts of friendships, your time in seminary will be very lonely. If you are married, this will likely be an even greater struggle for your spouse.

Second, if you do not make that place authentically “home” for the time you are living there, it is likely that you will not develop the type of relationship with the church you choose to attend that you need to. You will certainly be a part of a church, especially as you are required to serve a certain number of hours as an intern at a church in order to get your degree, but you will not really become part of that church. You will do your duties, but you will miss out on the type of communal fellowship that belongs to the local body of Christ. Again, to miss out on this will make for a very lonely experience–not to mention the fact that this will seriously impede your spiritual growth and development.

These are only a couple of things that may happen if you take this perspective, but they are significant things. And while maybe you have plans to return to where you came from or to move somewhere else once you are completed seminary and serve in ministry there–and these plans are good–do not let them be your sole focus while you are in seminary. Cherish this opportunity with all your heart, and seek to immerse yourself in the blessings that come with being in this situation. Make it home for you (and your family) for the next few years, with all the connotations which that word conveys.

For some people this will be easier than others. If you have moved around a lot, making a new place home is maybe not that difficult. If you have lived in the same place your whole life, this will be more of a struggle. If you are newly married and this new place is where you are starting your lives together, the transition will be a lot easier. If you have friendships going back to your childhood, it will be tougher. But this is where God has placed you and has called you to for this point in your life, and you will mine all the riches of this experience if you allow yourself to. It may only be three years. But a lot can happen in three years. Grab hold of it.

Remember the “Freshman Fifteen”? What about the “Seminary Several”? Perhaps you escaped the undergrad weight gain only to find that now seminary hits you with the one-two punch of entering your *ahem* shall we say, less than prime years, coupled with devoting an inordinate amount of time to sitting, studying, and consuming large quantities of coffee and Snickers bars. Jeff and I thankfully haven’t added the Seminary Several, but we have discovered that Seminary equals Sedentary, and after a life of sports and activity, these past three years of seminary have taken their toll on our fitness to say the least. So, this past month Jeff and I took a weeklong summer intensive course. Even though I committed to staying alert, focused, and purposeful in gleaning as much as I could from class, by 11am on the first day I was drowsy and guiltily clicking through Facebook to keep myself alert. By the time lunch rolled around I was ready to ditch my healthy brown bag in favor of French fries and a Caramel Macchiato.

The Lunch Run

But (!) I was fiercely determined that I was going to take the opportunity to get some exercise during this summer class. So, I decided that during the lunch hour each day I would go running. Fortunately the weather cooperated, and I had just enough time to go to the gym, change into shorts, run for thirty minutes, then splash some ice cold water under my arms, and get back to class a little red in the face but energized beyond what any Starbucks would ever be capable of achieving.

I was amazed at the results. I found it so much easier to focus during the afternoons (and I’m a morning person so I can’t blame it on that!). I found myself energized, positive, enthusiastic, and feeling motivated to eat my healthy lunch rather than ditch it in favor of the McLunch I would later regret. On the last day of class it started to rain, and since I’m a wimp, I forewent a run in the drizzle, and instead chose to explore the weight room of our campus’s gym. I was amazed! While not the most state-of-the-art fitness center, they had great equipment and free weights. And I practically had the place to myself. I realized that I’d been through three years of seminary without ever taking advantage of the free fitness facilities (Perhaps free is not the word considering the size of our school loans). How many days did I shuffle through my classes, unable to keep myself alert without shocking doses of caffeine, when I could have been taking time to exercise my body, relax my mind, and recharge for the studies ahead?!

Read, Ride, and Run

So it made me think, I want to tell Seminarians to take advantage of the free (“included with tuition”) fitness facilities available to us as students. Play “Noon Ball”, go for a quick run or walk, lift a few weights, sit on the recumbent bike while reading that theology textbook. Don’t neglect to exercise the body God’s given you in your quest for exercising your mind. Both are important in our service for Christ. And you might just be surprised how much easier it is to focus on Greek after running around the block for Jesus. Don’t let Sedentary Seminary lull to sleep. Instead, stay one step ahead of the Seminary Several.