Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bible Study Class

I did say I was going to write about my bible study class. Since it actually occurred over halloween weekend 3 months ago, I should probably get this done.

In order to maintain my lay speaking certification, I need to take an approved lay speaking class at least once every three years. 2009 was my last year to take a class or I would lose my certification. I have put a lot of time and effort into getting my certification and  it’s important to me to keep it current.

I also really enjoy the classes. I’ve taken four classes now and each one has been better than the last. This year I signed up for “Lay Speakers Lead Bible Study”. The textbook used was called, “Introducing the Bible,” by William Barclay, and revised by John W. Rogerson. It was very good, it answered questions I’ve had about the bible for many years. I still have a lot of questions, but it was nice to get a few answers.

The classes generally start on a Friday evening, break around 9:00-9:30 for the night and resume Saturday morning ending about 4PM. As this class was in Jamestown, ND, it involved an overnight stay.

Total class time was 10-12 hours and covered the entire bible, both Old and New Testaments. By the time I was done, my head felt like a sponge that had soaked up as much as it possibly could. The bible is an awfully big book to cover in that space of time.

One of the first items of interest to me was learning the huge time period during which the biblical events occurred. There are roughly 2,000 years of information recorded in the events between Abraham and the birth of Christ. It was interesting to note that almost the same amount of time has occurred from Jesus’ birth until now. It’s kind of overwhelming to think about how much the world has changed since Abraham made his covenant with God.

By the end of the first evening we had barely scratched the surface of the Old Testament and I went back to the motel room with doubts we would get through the whole bible. But I have come to realize that sometimes it’s necessary to spend time laying the groundwork so that the rest of the class progresses more smoothly. We spent a lot time talking about different translations and establishing a timeline.

The evening concluded, I went back to my motel room sleepy but excited about the learning that would take place the next day. I had my work laptop with me so I turned it on and tried to get some work done before going to bed. It had been a long day and I was struggling to keep my eyes open as I read through several email messages. The ringing of the phone jolted me back into wakefulness. It was my wife, home alone with the kids. Someone had just pounded on our front door and she didn’t know what to do. I groaned. Weird stuff never happens when I’m home. No, it has to wait until I’m gone.

Dee was understandably a little freaked out. We tried to figure out who it might have been. She said she was carrying around our son’s tennis racket in case she needed a weapon. I told her she’d do better to go get one of my golf clubs. A 5-iron smashed against an intruder’s head may slow them down a bit. My wife thinks a little differently. She doesn’t want a golf club because that would hurt her too much if the intruder would happen to grab it away and use it against her.

I felt rather hopeless 100 miles away. Even if I were to go home I certainly wouldn’t get there in time to prevent anything that might happen. I was struck with a sudden inspiration, “they knocked right, they didn’t use the doorbell?” Dee said yes. I told her the Schwan’s man was supposed to come that night. “This late?” she said in disbelief. “Yes,” I said. We live in a rural area and our Schwan’s service had been sporadic. They had been going through several driver changes. “Sometimes they do come that late.” It was around 10:00. “Did they leave a sticker on the door?'”

Dee rushed to our door to look, she couldn’t see anything, but noticed something wedged in the outside door handle. It turned out to be the latest Schwan’s catalog. So that was that mystery solved. We talked a bit and said good night. My productivity was dissipating rapidly so I shut the computer down and went to bed.

The next day was filled with yet more bible study. One thing that stands out from that session is the importance of trying to put yourself, as much as possible, in the time period during which the particular scripture passage was written. You have to be somewhat careful reading scripture that was written when mankind’s understanding of the world and the culture of that particular time and place were drastically different than they are today. Too often the meaning of a passage is misinterpreted or not fully understood because we try to place it into today’s context. Scripture is best understood, and really all writing for that matter, when you put yourself into the shoes of the writer.

During the break I wandered around the building. I’m fascinated with the architecture of old church buildings, you often find several narrow hallways that lead to various, almost hidden, areas. This church was no different, there were all kinds of places to explore. At one point I came out into the foyer and was looking at some of the items they had out on display. I was drawn to a stand of coffee that was being sold as a fund raiser.

People that know me understand my addiction to coffee is almost legendary. I get teased at work that my 16 oz. thermal mug is just an extension of my hand, that is when I’m not leaving it in some obscure place as I meander around solving various co-worker’s computer problems.

I saw one bag that was labeled, “Love Buzz.” Now that was a title I just couldn’t pass up. Listen to this description, “Sweet, sultry and smooth with an unexpected bite from small farmer co-ops in Latin America.” Equal exchange, fairly traded, and organic. How could you not buy something like that? It was on the honor system, so I dutifully deposited the money in the bag and helped myself to a bag of “love buzz.” It is quite tasty too, as far as coffee goes, really flavorful and full-bodied. I really detest watery coffee. My coffee needs to taste like coffee.

Lunch was provided by the host church as well as snacks on both days. United Methodists, as a general rule, know their way around a kitchen. There was never a food shortage. There were meats and cheeses, chips and salsa, and an extremely delicious knoephla soup and choice of ham or turkey sandwiches for lunch.

The classes concluded with the passing out of certificates and a worship service. It was definitely a learning experience.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Gift Of Life

One of the most meaningful gifts I received at Christmas was not even a gift that was presented to me. My two children, as well as my niece and nephews received a gift from their grandpa which I hope they, as well as their children and grandchildren will cherish long after my dad and I have passed away.

My dad, in his infinite wisdom, recorded a CD for each of his grandkids. On the CD are 17 bible verses which he reads, along with a devotion about each verse, followed by dad singing a song tying the devotion and scripture together. The title of the disc is, “God’s Word Through Music.”

I can’t tell you how touched I was that dad would do this. I truly hope my children understand and appreciate the timeless value the CD holds if not now, maybe when they are adults. I know I do. I appreciate the time and effort dad put it into as well as his love for his family that led him to make the recording. I must also thank his friends in Arizona who helped him with the recording.

To say thank you seems to fall far short in expressing the depth of my appreciation. But I say it anyway. Thanks dad, this CD means more than could ever know.

I’d like to share with you the words he inserted into the cover. Hopefully dad won’t mind. Click on the image below to view the words on your screen.