Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Live Blogging...the Masters Course

Day 0.5  Arrived to the University last night to begin my two week module for a Masters.  Got to my room around 10:30 and met a couple fellow students.  Discovered from conversation there was another set of books and assignments of which I was completely unaware.  Note to future self - don't reply to emails without actually reading them first.  Fired up laptop, found email from August, read, despaired.  Up 'til 2 a.m. reading textbook loaned by fellow student who apparently reads his emails and their attachments.

I used yesterday.  I'm not proud of it but I did.  2 cups of coffee.  Not even good coffee.  I'm a whore.

Will report of first of day actual class later where I will be heard to say in front of the class, "No, you didn't get an email from me with my assignment for today that was due a week ago, your records are correct."

Working on plan to check off item from university bucket list.  Friday night I'm sneaking a girl into my room.

Class starts in 2 hours...

First session is behind me.  This was the class I didn't read the email for and so didn't have read the textbook or do the paper that was due before the start and worth 20% of my grade.  I probably wouldn't be happy if I wasn't starting from some kind of hole.

Introductions all around this a.m.: ourselves, our program, our profs.  We're a diverse bunch and thankfully I'm not the oldest student in the room.  But I'm also definitely not the youngest.  I confessed my fear of being found out to be a poser and being sent back to undergrad school.

It's mostly a room full of introverts with some of us who enjoy occasional moments of extroversion.  This will make getting to know each other very interesting.  And really, really slow.

Class #1 was all about the Story and coming back to the Text as it was written, or maybe better to say, as it was read and heard.  The prof is someone I really respect.  I didn't even know he was going to be here (remember that email i never read?) but I've read one of his books and was very impressed.  This morning he's introduced some big ideas and started this process of recovering the Story or the Text rather than the texts.  Seeing the big picture rather than all the little pieces we've broken it down into over the last few hundred years. This perspective raises a lot of big questions for me, good questions, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.  Now I just have to finish a couple more books, write a few papers and type up my notes within the next 24 hours.

to be continued...

Pen.  Check.
Paper. Check.
Everyone else taking notes on their Mac books.  ...
Essay to turn in.  Check.
Prof doesn't ask for it.  Check.
Forget book that class is discussing.  Check.
Forget book that everyone is sharing a quote from and discussing.  Check.
Sit in warm sunshine and listen to people discuss interesting and important ideas and know this feels good.  Check!

Just finished a book tonight and the follow up 3 page report on the book.  I'm so tired I'm afraid to look at the paper again in the light of morning to find out that nothing I said made even remote sense.  I could be wrong but I think I can feel my brain cutting some new channels and forming some new pathways.

Or it could be a stroke.

Good night.
Posted by Brian

This morning's session was our "Modern Basket Weaving 101" or whatever course you've taken that required no books, no prep and therefore would be so easy you could sleep through and get an "A".  I went to "Spiritual Direction" prepared to hear some lovely sounding words about prayer and growing deeper with God thru prayer.

3 hours later I'm left shattered.

Lorna, the prof, led us in a simple Ignatian exercise on gratitude followed by a little Lectio Divina.

Basically silence punctuated by the slow reading of a piece of Scripture, in this case a Psalm.  We listen to the Pslam and then we listen for God to speak to our hearts through a part of that reading.  Silence.  Then it is slowly read again and we listen some more.  Silence.  Then we share what we feel like we've been hearing or we pass.

I'll be honest and admit I went into the exercise with extremely LOW expectations.  Through the exercise it seems that God has chosen to finally talk to me about something I've been yelling at him about, whining to him about, pleading with him about, giving him the 'silent treatment' about and generally pestering him about with no result.  Suddenly God whispers to my heart convicting words, strong words but words full of a love so hot that it melts my stony heart.

I could spend the rest of the day pondering what happened to me this morning.  Instead I'm off to an afternoon of Narrative Theology and getting my mind blown while my heart is exposed.

Live Blogging...Masters Day 2 pt. 2

This afternoon's class reminded me of the time someone explained to me that boys and girls had some fundamental differences.  I didn't understand everything that I'd just taken in but I knew for sure that from then on my whole life was going to be affected by that knowledge.

I broke down and had another cup of real coffee at the break time.  Paying for it now as my body tries to figure out what to do with all this caffeine.  But currently awake and getting ready for one more session today.  This one on Church History.  Next decision: Take the books or Don't take the books?  Second decision: If I take the books should I get a hand truck to carry them?

Live Blogging...Masters Day 2 pt. 3

Thoughts from tonight's class...anyone know a way for me to come up with $8000 quick.  Does not necessarily have to be legal.  Inbox me.

My head and heart have never felt both so full at the same time.  Need to write some more papers before bed to empty my head at least!

Live Blogging....Masters Day 3 it begins...
Here's a prayer we were given yesterday that resonates deeply with my life in this season.  I'm making it my daily prayer for the conceivable future: (and even for the future of which I cannot conceive!)

Lord, I will trust You, help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, can I trust You
to be stronger than each storm in me?

I determine amidst all uncertainty always to trust.

I choose to live beyond regret, and let You recreate my life.

I believe You will make a way for me
and provide for me,
if only I trust You
and obey.

I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times are still in Your hand.

I will believe You for my future,
chapter by chapter,
until all the story is written.

Strengthen me with Your blessing
and appoint to me the task.

Teach me to live with eternity in view.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven.

Feed me,
and, somehow,
make my obedience count for You.

(excerpts from, "A Call to Risky Living")
The Prayer of St. Brendan the Navigator, 486-575 AD
Celtic Daily Prayer: From the Northumbria Community,
Harper Collins Publishers, 2000, pp. 191-193

Live Blogging...Masters Day 3 pt. 2

Morning class is over and so is lunch.  We were rambling around the 16th and 17th century this morning.  Part of our conversation had to do with the arts and the ability for "verse to arrest what the sermon may not".  What have we lost in the Church by elevating lecture over the other arts?  We looked at Teresa of Avila, George Herbert and got stuck with George on our way to Blaise Pascal.

I came here expecting information, instead I'm encountering transformation.  I spent most of the morning feeling weepy and nearly burst into tears during our reading of some of Herbert's poetry.  I would blame it on being over-tired but I have slept well the last two nights.

Here's a taste and one of the bits that nearly did me in.

by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
        Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
        If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
        Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
        "Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
        "My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
        So I did sit and eat.

Live Blogging...Masters Day 3 pt. 3

This afternoon we were back to the Old Testament Story.  I decided to show I was a cool as the rest of the kids so I brought my laptop over with me.  I couldn't plug in where I was sitting so the battery ran out in 3, 2, 1... So I end up sitting there with a laptop I'm not using with my pen and paper on top of it.  I'm becoming that old guy we had in class when I was back in my college days.  No one has called me sir or mr. yet, no pat on the head or offers to help down the steps but I can feel it coming.

I over-shared in class this afternoon.  Another sign I'm becoming that guy.  I'm so charged up by what I'm studying, the things we're reading, the insights others are sharing and the thoughts all of this is provoking that it's hard not to over-share.

Here's a taster of some stuff that's coming out of this process for me:

God, perfect and full, made us for his good pleasure.  He/she found expression for the joy he has in being himself/herself in the act of creating image bearers - beings who would be the exact reflection of himself - Male and Female.  The Story says they were created with purpose - “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”  This is important, this matters.  The end of the story is revealed from the very beginning.  We were not made to pass through life and get a heaven bonus when we die.  We were made for Eden, heaven on earth, to reflect the glory of God.  It begins with people and place and the Story is that we are finishing the work that God started by extending paradise and filling it with more Image Bearers.

Mankind opts for a different Story.  Love requires a choice and when faced with the opportunity to choose love, mankind chose fear, shame and disconnection.  Don't be harsh, we keep making the same choice over and over again with God, each other and nature.  God had given Man his word and Man did not trust God and take him at his word.  But God refuses to give up on the Story and even in the face of this betrayal he calls them out of hiding, covers up their shame and promises them hope.  A child would be born that would crush the deceiver in the garden but would himself be wounded in the process. Crushing the deceiver would restore the image that has been broken and continues to be broken from DNA strand to DNA strand.  The Story hasn't changed, its ending is certain but at present we are in the middle of the Story and we're invited to be part of the restoration of eden project that God has under way.

God tries again with Noah.  Noah does the same thing Adam did.  God tries again with Abram/Abraham who does the same thing as Adam.  God tries again with Moses & Israel who over and over again do exactly the same thing Adam did, exchange the true image they were created with for the lie.  God tries again with David and this time it looks promising until David looks down and sees bathing Bathsheba and trades in Eden building for Viagra, adultery and murder.  God keeps calling us back to the Story and we keep wanting to write our own ending.  So now God interjects himself into the Story to be the progenitor of a people who will have a new DNA.  He comes to solve the unsolvable problem as Jesus. 

So he lives as the exact representation of the Image of God - Adam again - but this time he doesn't choose against God - even though it costs him his life.  Now the Eden project actually stands a chance because the sin problem is eradicated, the serpent's head is crushed though it wounds Jesus, the promised child who all those genealogies were looking for.  It cost him everything but provides us the fresh beginning that cannot be stopped.  It makes time run backwards now so we feel like we're living forward but we are really all growing younger and bit by bit the damage is being reversed and the Story is getting back on track.
We don't obey God to avoid a fiery end, that's the wrong story.  We obey God because he's written the music that we want to play.  Obedience isn't a burden, it's playing the melodies and harmonies of Eden, it's keeping  in time with the Rhythm of God.  It's making sweet music together.

Now Jesus produces his own offspring - the followers of Jesus, pregnant with the very blessing of God, his Holy Spirit, the pure expression of God's love and delight in Himself - empowering and transforming us into the same image bearers that Jesus himself is.  So Jesus plays Adam and the Church plays Eve and we are fruitful and we multiply, not by force or coercion, that's another story, but by love.  We continue the story and sometimes it costs us our very lives as well but little by little we recreate Eden, the Kingdom of God, the land where no one goes hungry, where everyone can find a home, where no one lies to you and no one feels the need to lie about themselves.  A place where sick are healed, poor feel rich, broken are mended and old are made new. 

This is the Story and every man, woman and child on earth has been invited to be part of this Story that will have the happy ending that God always intended it to have, where the lion lays down with the lamb, where peace reigns, where there is no fear and nothing to fear, where locks are meaningless and gold has lost all value other than it's colour.  This is where we are going and nothing can stop this Story.  We who follow Jesus, who are born of God, invite everyone, everywhere around us to join this Story that they are already in by being the restored image of God on earth, cracked to be sure but just as surely being restored day by day.

This is our story, this is our hope, this is our invitation.

Live Blogging...Masters Day 4

Today started last night for me.  We'd brought Blaise Pascal up yesterday and many people in the class had a positive reaction to the reading we'd done in his book, Pensees.  I didn't.  I found it boring, disjointed and bland.  I was thinking about this last night since we were due to discuss him this morning.  I decided to check the online translation against my printed Penguin Classic.

Turns out the Penguin did me in.  The sections I was supposed to read were completely different online than in my printed copy.  The online version fit in to our course.  Turns out I had been reading, in my printed version, the scraps of incomplete ideas collected at the back and what was almost a bibliography at the end of the book.  So last night I did some power reading and came away with an entirely different experience of Pascal.

Favourite quote: "The knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him."  And this from a man arguing for reason.
Take-aways from this morning:

Someone in class can strongly disagree with my take on things and say exactly the opposite of what I've said or even say I'm wrong and we're still friends when we get up from the table.  Even if they think my idea sucks it doesn't mean they think I do.  This is bliss.

Pastoring is more art than science.

People in New Zealand wrestle in heart and head with some of the very same things we wrestle with on P.E.I.

Story, story everywhere - how did I not see this so clearly before?

People from California and Arizona, Australia and New Zealand all freeze before Canadians do.

And one more poem from Herbert.  For all, but especially pastors:

The Pulley

   When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
   Contract into a span.”

   So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
   Rest in the bottom lay.

   “For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
   So both should losers be.

   “Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
   May toss him to my breast.”

Live Blogging...Masters Day 4 pt. 2

Pensees from today...

There seem to be two kinds of people in the world now, those who whiten their teeth and those who don't.

My head feels like ground that has sat under a 4 day rain.
Nowhere left for the water to go, it just stands on my head.

This afternoon was rich.  Lights go on like old school camera bulbs around the room.  Flashes of brilliance making me blink in wonder.

A very old story comes to life.  No longer Other.  I discover that I am in this Story, this is our Story and it always has been.  It not only changes my view forward but it re-frames everything that has ever happened in my past and it makes sense of my now.

The forest.  The trees.  It is possible to take one in without missing the other.

If you know caffeine makes you blurt things out and feel anxious, one cup is probably bad, the second is just plain stupid.

Live Blogging...Masters Day 5

Title for today: When You Learn a Heresy

It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that this morning's session was my Luther moment.  As Luther sat translating the text of the book of Romans as a Roman Catholic, this self-abusing German monk has an "aha!" moment.  (no connection to Alan Partridge) He didn't leap up and start the Reformation but the dramatic changes that would come into his life could be traced back to that solitary moment of discovery.

This morning was like that for me.  A visiting lecturer from the U.K. taught us on the Image of God language that informs Genesis 1 and is repeated through the rest of the Bible.  As I sat listening, dots were connecting, things began to both fall into place and fall away from my system of belief.  And like Luther, there is something present in me and something developing that I know full well will sound like heresy to my generation.  But more than that, will dramatically change the trajectory of my life.  (and yes, this scares me)

So, what do you do when you learn a heresy that you know is true?

I'm packing up today.  This will be my last post until Monday probably.  I've revised my plan to sneak a girl into my room for the night.  Instead I'm getting picked up after my last class today and this elusive girl is taking me home to her place for the weekend!!! Now that's University life baby!!!

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