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I’d forgotten about this little phenomena of what I call the “spiritual voice.”  Other names might include “prayer voice,” but that is misleading because it is not restricted to only moments of prayer.

When people around you start talking about God or their relationship with God or are praying, take notice.  Does their voice become softer?  Is it suddenly quieter?  Does it sound like the mist in the early morning?  Is there an ethereal quality about their voice that was never there before?

If so, they have fallen into the trap of the spiritual voice.  It’s when well-meaning people think they will be considered more spiritual (by those around them? by God?) if they adopt a different sounding voice, more reverent sounding perhaps, than their normal, every day voice.  I have never understood why people with perfectly normal sounding voices will out of nowhere adopt a very unnatural voice in order to talk about God or to God.  Maybe this is learned from tele-evangelists–I seem to remember the lady with the pink hair talking in a very special sort of voice.  Maybe the thought is that if you sound as if you are on the verge of an emotional breakthrough of some sort, God listens to you more. 

This is a mystery to me.

Can any of you explain it?

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When I graduated from highschool and began my collegiate career, I told God I wouldn’t do homework on Sundays.  It would be my day each week where I would rest, where I could see friends, where I could just not have to worry.  I kept that up during my entire undergrad, all 7.5 years of it.  One month into seminary and I have decided that while it is a nice idea, it’s not panning out anymore.

I feel okay about my decision, and here’s why:  The sheer amount of work I have to do overwhelms me to the point where I cannot rest on Sundays anyway.  Most of my homework is Bible based, also.  So for me right now, it is more restful to know I am working toward getting homework done than to know it is not being done and it is due in a day or two.  Plus, it’s really mostly spending time in the Word, which can’t be seen as bad.  There is nothing against studying Scripture on a Sabbath.

I admit, it is strange for me, and I almost feel like I am compromising, but if I believe in the principle of Sabbath more than the legality of it, I am okay.  I get rest; I take it when I need it.  And perhaps this is God telling me I can’t rely on my own institutions anymore.  I’ve gone for years telling people I always take Sabbath and that it’s never backfired, but maybe I took too much on my own abilities and not enough on God’s blessing.  Regardless, this is how it is and homework will be done.  And let me tell you, I feel rested today.

After working on learning new Greek vocabulary for an hour and a half straight, I can honestly say my brain is complete mush.  Also, I now own two different Greek New Testaments.  This should say something about me, but I’m not sure what.

I woke up today feeling completely overwhelmed by school and life.  Everything just seemed to flood over me: the fact I have two 18-20 page papers to work on that I’ve barely even begun researching, that every week we get what seems like an alarming amount of Greek to learn, that I’m afraid my ethics are sub-par, that I don’t have anyone here to give me hugs on a regular basis, that I don’t have a job and don’t know how I will manage a job and schoolwork at the same time anyway, and I could go on. 

I immediately started in on homework, even forgoing breakfast (however, not coffee), but I am only feeling partially better now that the day is nearing evening.  Whatever made me think that I could handle grad level work with any amount of confidence?  I clearly thought more of myself than is realistic, so let this be a lesson to me.

The panic that rises within me cannot be from God, however.  While I don’t subscribe to the view that He won’t give us more than we can handle (as I believe He will give us more than we can handle to teach us to rely on Him), I know that God is not designing my life for failure.  So this experience, regardless of the end outcome, will not be one of failure, but of growth and formation.

Where’s a Pensieve when you need one?

I tell you the truth, I do not appreciate creepy men flirting with me.  Yesterday at the grocery, a middle-aged man kept telling me he liked my smile, that I had a beautiful smile, that he loved that I was smiling.  I ran away (nearly ran, moved quickly and found my shopping buddy who I stuck much closer to after that).  Today while driving (driving, no less), a construction worker made kissing gestures at me.  I refused to make eye contact and was glad I was able to keep driving past.  I do not understand what it is with men.  It is not as if I am one of those stunning women who is used to attention.  I am fairly average and glad for it.  When things like this happen, I feel like the balance of life is out of whack.

But onto better things.

Last night was one of those nights that I couldn’t stay inside, that I had to be outside.  The moon was full, the sky a deep indigo, the clouds a smoky charcoal.  I convinced one of my friends to walk to the graveyard with me, where we read headstones for a while.  Then we sat in a nearby church parking lot, watching the clouds pass in front of the moon, and talked about life and faith and theology.  By the time we left, I was frozen from sitting outside on the ground, but it was worth it.  There can’t be much better than enjoying God’s creation, on such a beautiful, clear night, with a friend.

It has only been three weeks of seminary, and already I am sure that I know nothing about my faith and nothing about the Bible.  But as Michael Pahl, my former New Testament professor, told me in an email, “If seminary doesn’t make you feel inadequate for life, then you’re probably not at a good seminary. Or you’re not a good student. So the fact that you feel so underqualified for everything is a good sign.  Trust me.”

I must be on the right track.

God has blessed me with some really amazing friends in my life.  They support me, they love me, they care for me, they are the encouragement I need.  These past few days I’ve been extraordinary appreciative for the friends I have.  So, friends, thank you.  You are the peanut butter to my jam, the frame to my picture, the broom to my dustpan. 

I saw some  Prairie people today.  We went to a pub, but I brought along a few friends from school, so I had to leave earlier than I would have liked.  However, in line with my unfortunate propensity for doing embarrassing things, I spilled my drink all over my lap right before we were starting to head out.  I laughed it off, but do wonder if I will ever learn to be graceful.  Ah, well.

I hear there is good climbing  in Portland.  Perhaps, in lieu of good swing dancing, I can get back into climbing on a regular basis.  That would be wonderful.  If I can find time, places and a partner, I might have it made.  I hear there is a place really close to where I live, so I must look into that.

That is all for now.

It’s interesting to me that there is always a demographic of people who feel it is their very purpose in life to make other people feel bad.  Now, they disguise this with good intentions (but the path to hell is paved with good intentions, as we all know), but the result is so vicious, that it is hard to imagine a different purpose.  And a majority of the time, these people are Christians.  So they get a double whammy of being able to approach you with “good intentions” and also the backing of God.  But I do not believe that God intends for His followers to tear people down.  To point out every conceived fault and flaw, regardless of accuracy, and to claim that it is so the other person can be more like Christ.

It’s bull.

Most of us have people in our lives that we allow to speak into us.  These tend to be trusted and true friends, those who have been around long enough to know us, those who actually do speak their words in love and kindness.  These friends speak with the intention of building up, not with the intention of tearing down.  And never is there the self-righteous attitude that many of the above mentioned folk bring to the table.  There’s not a “holier than thou” attitude; they are instead clothed in humility and truth.

If we should ever wonder why the world doesn’t like Christians, I should like to join in and say I don’t, either, and I’m a Christian.

Apparently the part of the city my school is located in (and therefore that I reside in) is one of the worst in the city.  Prostitution, drugs, violent crime, the works.  There was even a shooting just down the block the other night and the suspect ended up running around the seminary apartments, chased by police (I slept through the entire event). 

I wonder what sort of impression we make on those around us.  Are we transforming the culture in which we live or are we merely living next door to it, happy to be in our manufactured (and fragile) bubble?  The school has been here for quite some time, yet the neighborhoods around us do not seem to be affected by it.  Maybe that is how it works in the real world.

I grew up reading and hearing missionary biographies, stories of people who went out and did extraordinary things, who were unafraid, who changed the bit of world they lived in.  These stories fascinated me: why would people leave their creature comforts, their safety, their chance for a normal, happy life to go and experience danger and likely death, just to tell people, who didn’t want to know, about Jesus?

In the Prairie yearbook from 1958, I came across the following ad:

“Opportunity for Young Women!

There are still some areas where refrigerators and washing machines are
scarce, where the food becomes monotonous, where tough trekking through
mosquito-infested jungles and bridgeless rivers is common, where people do
not want the Gospel and think they do God a service if they kill you.

It is still possible to endure loneliness and apparent frustration amid
heat, filth and stench. Probably you will not marry, as the percentage of
men going to the mission fields is very small.

But, if you have given your life to Jesus and can trust Him to supply your
needs (or give you grace to die joyfully), we will be glad to consider your
application as one of the four hundred urgently needed on the W.E.C. fields.

This is an opportunity to prove the Omnipotent God!

If there are still some old-fashioned young men who feel called to serve the
Lord in hard places, with no earthly security, they too may apply.”

Not exactly encouraging, is it?  I laughed when I first read it because it described almost exactly my thoughts, for a long time, about missionary work.  Not that you have to be in a foreign country, facing death alone, to be a missionary; I think (hope) we all understand that by now.  The idea is to go out and tell others the Euangelion (good news), out from your place of comfort, out from your predictable place of safety.  Depending on who you are, this could mean several different things.  It could mean the above advertisement.  Or it could mean your next door neighbor.

I don’t do this very well.  And yet Matthew 28:18-20 records Jesus saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  There’s not a lot of wiggle room there.  It doesn’t say if we feel like it or if it’s convenient or if the people are friendly.

Are we being conformed, or are we transforming those around us?