Friday, February 25, 2011

Life@Luther has MOVED!

by Jenni

We're really excited to announce that our Life@Luther blog has moved to Luther Seminary's website! We'll have the same awesome content from some amazing students, we're just going to be in a new home at

Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and dig in to what life is like for students at Luther Seminary!


by Jenny

I’ve had a couple of experiences lately that have made me reflect on where our credibility as church leaders comes from.

On Tuesday I had my first teaching experience at my church as part of the class for new believers. When my supervising pastor prepped me for this experience, he encouraged me to share something about myself so that people could get to know me, but not to focus on the fact that I’m a seminary student. As he put it, I would not gain credibility with people because of a degree but because of my experiences in the life of faith.

At first this seemed odd to me, since studying in seminary seems very relevant to teaching a theology class. Yet his explanation made sense, especially considering our context. First, we are in a church where pastors do not necessarily need to be ordained or have a seminary degree. Second, we are dealing with new believers or people who have been disillusioned by church, so emphasizing a seminary education or being a “professional” church person might put a distance between them and me.

Depending on the context, being in seminary might gain for us a certain degree of credibility. I have visited churches where people ask me all sorts of theological questions, assuming I have an answer. My voice was given a place of authority because of my education, whether this was deserved or not.

Then in my church history class yesterday the professor touched on this point, claiming that the office of pastor should not carry an inherent authority, but rather the authority or respect must be earned. One student responded that the reality is often that people automatically give respect because of the office, whether it should be that way or not.

I think there is a balance here somewhere. A seminary education is very important in preparing us for our ministries. In the class on Tuesday, I was able to answer many of the questions people had precisely because I have studied these issues at Luther. I think people are more likely to trust a teacher who demonstrates some knowledge about the subject at hand.

Yet my education or the degree I will some day have cannot substitute for relationships with people or showing that I understand questions of the faith on a personal level as well as an academic one. Eating dinner with the students is just as important as teaching a class, and in these moments there is no distinction between who has a theological degree or not, there is just being together.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My mom's garden

by Jenni

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death. Her death was a unexpectedly fast and devastatingly slow battle with breast cancer. She was much too young but sometimes it feels like forever ago that she died. But it’s only been one year.

Yesterday my family (husband and three kids) were joined by my father to have dinner and remember my mother. I wanted to do something special to remember the day but to not sit in our grief. I suggested we make paving stones for my mom’s garden. Well, I guess it’s our garden now since live in my parents’ house, but it will always be my mom’s garden. She loved the garden. It started out as just a rose garden but expanded to include whatever flower or plant my mom had a whim for each year. It is just beautiful and with my husband’s blessing (he likes to garden, I don’t), we are going to keep much of the garden the same. Come spring, we’re going to put these paving stones in my mom’s garden in her honor.

Christmas was also very important to my mom so we took some of her less favorite and least meaningful ornaments and placed pieces in the cement. (See the picture.) They probably won’t last very long, but we’ll know they’re part of the stones. It was wonderful to be part of a ritual where we all joked around and the kids thought very deliberately about what “grandma would love” as we all decorated.

It was important to have this moment with my family totally unrelated to the seminary and my ministry setting. It was important to see God at work in my own life.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A fine, fine evening.

by Eric

Internship is pretty great. I’ve been blessed with a lot of freedom and flexibility from my supervising pastor. Towards the beginning of the year, I brainstormed ideas for my internship project, which is a requirement from the seminary. After narrowing it down, little by little, I settled on a great opportunity to both serve the congregation and learn a lot.

This post isn’t about that project.

This post is about one of the ideas that were pushed to the side during the process. As you may now, I love to cook. I love communion. And I love people. I thought it would be great to begin a ministry of visiting our homebound members, cooking for (or with) them, enjoying a meal and conversation with them, and sharing the Sacrament with them. So, even though it’s not my official project, I still decided to give it a try.

This past Thursday evening, around 5:30, my wife dropped me off at the Landt residence. She hurried off to tutor a 1st grader in reading, and I walked up to the Landt’s wooden front door, and rang the illuminated doorbell. From the moment they opened the door, it was a whirlwind of chopping, boiling, frying, tasting, sharing, talking, and laughing. A lot of laughing.

The only moment that escaped the whirlwind of fun and fellowship was Communion. After I had cooked, and before we began to eat, we sat down and shared in the bread and the wine. We heard the Lord’s promises and prayed the Lord’s Prayer, then ate the Lord’s body and drank the Lord’s bread. Without question, our small group of three added a fourth in the Lord. And there was peace.

Then, the night continued in just the same way it began. Thankfully, my wife was able to join us for dessert and more conversation--and wine.

It was a fine, fine evening.

I already have another couple lined up to visit in a similar fashion, and hope to involve more families in the cooking and visiting, too.

I think there’s something to this fellowship, to this sharing a meal, and to this breaking of bread and drinking of wine. I could get used to this.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snow Day!

by Jenny

I don’t remember the last time I’ve experienced an official “snow day,” when school gets cancelled. I especially didn’t expect a snow day at Luther, considering all the snow we got in December without classes ever being cancelled. It was a pleasant surprise to learn this morning that I have the day off. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Sometimes (ok, often) I forget to take a day of rest. Ironically, I have all but stopped celebrating the Sabbath since I started seminary! Last year, when I attended the Spanish-speaking congregation, I was usually at church from 9am until 2:30pm on Sundays. By the time I came home and ate lunch, it was time to start my reading for Monday classes. Not much actual "down time."

This year I’m at a different church, where the services are exactly 1 hour and 15 minutes. I have mostly been going to the Saturday evening service, so as to have all of Sunday free. But instead of actually resting on Sundays, I tend to work ahead on my homework for the week, do laundry, make food, etc. I’m not good at resting.

This weekend I realized how exhausted I am. Besides the normal life of being a student, for the past two Saturdays I taught my “Greek for church people” class. It was a wonderful experience that went very well, but it did take some energy out of me. Four hours is a long class, both for teacher and students. Plus, I put a lot of preparation in figuring out how to teach Greek in 8 hours through Spanish.

All that being said and done, by the time Sunday rolled around I was really tired, but decided to work ahead on my assignments for the week. When I went to bed last night, I dreaded the thought of getting up at 5:45am to shovel my car out of the snow and leave enough time to get to Luther for my 8am class.

Early this morning I checked the Luther website, just in case, and found out that classes had in fact been cancelled. And I finally understood the message that sometimes I just need to take a break.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ministry Moments

by Scott Dalen

You never know when an experience that happens in ministry is going to come back and smack you right between the eyes.

This evening, as I've been sitting at the table working on homework, my wife was watching a tv documentary called "The Man That Lost His Face." It's about a man from Portugal that had an extremely rare tumor that, over the course of this lifetime, engulfed most of his face in an extreme growth. The documentary followed him as he underwent surgeries that removed the tumor and began to reconstruct his face. One particular moment caught my attention.

Following the first surgery, the man was recovering and it was going well. After about two weeks, his surgeon walked into the room. He recognized the doctor and reached out to shake his hand.

Enter in my own personal experience last fall. In going to a routine home visit, I found a congregation member post heart attack. He was alive, but clearly in trouble. I phoned in the emergency, and then spent the rest of the day at the hospital with his daughter. Now in the end, the man died, but he lasted for a couple weeks before God called him home. It allowed time for him to connect with his children which meant a lot to them.

I got the call when he started going downhill, and went to the nursing home to visit with him and his family. When I arrived, I was told that he was in and out of conciousness, mostly out. However, when I walked in, his son whispered in his ear "this is Scott that found you." He woke up, reached up and shook my hand as he looked me square in the eye.

That was it. As soon as he did this, he lost conciousness again, and that was the last I saw him.

Watching this particular image on the documentary brought that whole situation back to me and I broke down.

Sometimes we experience some situations that are truly amazing. They are amazing in ways that don't necessarily mean wonderful, but yet they are amazing none the less. I feel incredibly blessed to be invited into these moments, and yet incredibly humbled at the same time.

Return of the Snow!

by Carl Mattias

The weather in the US is strange indeed. This week the snow had begun to melt and we had about 30 degrees outside. It would seem like the spring was coming to Minnesota. That would turn out to be false.
I just learned that Luther Seminary will be closed tomorrow (Monday, February 21) due to a snowstorm. This was no surprise to some, since we had a snowstorm raging on the whole day. So much, in fact, that I have been unable to go anywhere today which was a little sad since I had to cancel some plans I had with a couple of friends this evening.
In all honesty though, I kinda like the fact that I get to experience a real winter in the US. Our "snowstorms" back in Sweden seems small in comparison!

Otherwise it's been a pretty rough week, papers and books to read all over the place... and then there was the issue with taxes... Apparently we who are "aliens"/international students also have to pay tax and file tax papers. But instead of explaining (you who live here in the US probably know this better than me) let me sum it up with the following excerpt from my tax papers:

"part time residents or nonresidents: from schedule M1NR, enter the tax from line 27 on line 14, from line 23 on line 14a, and from line 24 on line 14b."

This is one of those things that makes me miss my native country...
Back in Sweden we declare and pay our taxes in the following way:
1. We receive a letter with our tax information.
2. We sign it.
3. We send it back. (We can do it online as well. If we do, we can skip this step).

Luckily there are a some nice people at Luther that have promised to help a poor and confused Scandinavian!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Deepest Fear

by Jenni

This week I had my first Monday night class of the semester. This half semester class—Women in Ministry—is going to be interesting for a number of reasons. First, it is the largest class I have experienced at Luther. With over 40 students, small-group discussions will be a must. Second, it is my first opportunity to take a class from Professor Karoline Lewis. I'm rather excited about this. I've heard she is an excellent professor but as I am an MA who does not have to take the preaching classes that are her bread-and-butter, I didn't expect the opportunity to learn from her. Third, the topic is going to be very interesting. When we discussed why we were taking this class, I couldn't think of a reason. Then it hit me: I'm a mother. I'm a wife. I have two jobs. I'm a student. What I never address, though, is that I am also a woman who is pursing her call into world of ministry. A world that has not (and sadly is not) always welcoming to women in leadership positions. I think I’m going to look at this class as an opportunity to explore what that call looks like for me and what challenges I may face.

Professor Lewis began class with a reading. I think I’m going to post this reading on the wall over my desk (maybe I’ll make copies so I can post it at all of my desks). I might just have to read the whole book. I get chills just reading this, because it's true.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” —Marianne Williamson, “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles”

Practical "Test"

by Jenny

Last night I had an interesting time at my Teaching Congregation. It was the second week of the Discover Jesus class, but the first week we had small group discussions after the teaching. This class consists largely of new believers or seekers, which made for a very raw and honest conversation.

I was asked to co-lead a group this time. When I sat down to the dinner table where we connect with our small groups before the teaching, there was just one other young woman there. Within minutes she opened up about her life and quest for faith, which she admitted she hadn’t found yet. A co-worker had encouraged her to try Jesus for a year and see what happens, so this class is part of her “trial period.”

Speaking with this woman, as well as our small group discussion, was like a practical test of everything we supposedly learn in seminary. All the big apologetic questions arose, like “if God is powerful, why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do I pray and nothing happens? Why does God seem so distant? What’s the deal with the Trinity? Am I really supposed to believe in a resurrection?”

It’s one thing to discuss these questions at a deep academic level with people at Luther who already assent to the Christian faith, but entirely another to discuss them with people who have never been part of the church, or had been turned off of it at some point. This is not the place to discuss the social versus classical views of the Trinity, but rather to enter into people’s very personal struggles with faith.

As a seminary student, my tendency is to jump to giving solid Biblical answers to people’s questions (which of course assumes I must know them!). That is useful in this setting at times, and part of our call as church leaders (and as Christians) is to speak truth. Yet I also remember my pastoral care class, and how my role is not to have all the answers, but to facilitate a discussion, and above all, to listen. I learned a lot from my co-leader, who has led groups before and is good at drawing people’s own reflections out and opening the conversation to the group.

So, I look forward to the next 12 weeks of this class. I am thankful for the challenge of speaking about God in ways people can relate to—especially “non-church” people—which unfortunately seems to get lost at times when I am immersed in the academic study of the faith.

A Couple of Observations

by Scott Dalen

Two things occurred to me today. One of them is related to the transition from DL student to on-campus, and the other one...well...isn't.

First things first...the transitional one...and keep in mind that what I am about to share with you is completely observational based on my personal experience yesterday and is by no means statistically accurate or even plausible.

Okay...disclaimer we go.

It seems like the general trend of age groups on campus is younger than what I'm used to in the DL program. In a way, this makes sense. The DL program is really aimed at individuals that would have a harder time relocating due to constraints of family, employment, etc. In general terms, this applies to people that are older and more firmly entrenched in a particular location. That being said, people of the younger persuasion would likely have an easier time with the relocation required for becoming residential.

I bring this all up because yesterday I started to really interact with several different classmates that are in some of the same classes that I am this semester. Discussion that occurred included internship placement interviews, which of course are going on right now. I have on in about an hour as a matter of fact.

While I was having these various discussions with new classmates, it occurred to me. I'm older than these people.

I'm used to being one of the younger ones. I'm 31 and as of J-term (my last hurrah as a DL student) I was the 2nd youngest member of my cohort and I was okay with that. After 2.5 years, it seemed pretty normal. Now I seem to be interacting with a lot of classmates that are mid 20's (give or take a couple years). Granted, this isn't that much younger than me, but I do recognize the small gap. Conversations that show glimpses of what they are experiencing in life happened to me 5-10 years ago.

Is this what its like to officially realize that you're getting old?

Now, the second observation. Before coming over to campus today, I was reading for tomorrow's session of Reform of the Church (aka History 2). The section that I was reading was essentially "History of Luther" (the guy as opposed to the school). As I was reading it, I realized "Hey, I know this stuff. I've taught this stuff." Background, at my teaching parish back in Iowa, I taught Lutheran history as a part of our confirmation program.

Now, here comes the nugget of wisdom. I don't remember where I heard this, but I know I've heard it within the last 6 months or so. It could have been my supervising pastor, it could have been my CPE supervisor, it could have been a seminary prof, or it could have been one of countless other people.

Brace yourself...this is going to rock your world...

If you really want to learn something...teach it.

My realization this morning shed so much light on just how utterly and completely true this statement is that I had to stop (at least metaphorically as I was driving down the interstate when the light bulb went off) and laugh. Every once in awhile, we realize that the wisdom shared with us from the generations that come before us, is valid.

This is not to say that the wisdom that they share isn't valid all the time, but rather to say that every once in awhile, we actually believe it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Signs of Spring

by Jenny

For all the complaining I tend to do about winter, I must not miss this opportunity to rejoice over the recent signs of spring in Minnesota.

We have had several days in the 40s, which is a much welcome change from the sub-zero temperatures of just over a week ago. On Saturday I took my first outdoor walk since about October. Snow was melting into puddles all around me, and once again I saw people with their babies and dogs also enjoying the thaw. I had almost forgotten how refreshing and soothing it is to breath fresh air and feel the sun. Running indoors on a treadmill just isn’t the same!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Minnesota early thaw if there were not at least one person outside in shorts the minute the temperature rises above 35 degrees. I saw at least one of these this weekend, which confirms that spring is near!

In the midst of being busy with school and other activities, I’ve been learning to enjoy the “little things.” To avoid the chaos of morning traffic on the way to school, I’ve started taking the side streets to get to the freeway. With the gain in minutes of daylight, this puts me driving past Lake Calhoun just about sunrise. It’s beautiful, and reminds me that soon I will once again enjoy Minnesota spring/summer activities like walking around the lakes.

Everything seems easier in spring, especially parking on campus. With the snow melting, many more spaces in the parking lot have appeared out of nowhere, and two cars can actually drive down the side streets at the same time. And I can now see over the smaller snow banks as I look for oncoming traffic while making a turn (tall people don’t appreciate this “little” thing).

While no one knows how long our early “spring” will last, I plan on enjoying every minute of it!

Starting to pick it up

by Scott Dalen

Here we are in week 2. Although with starting Week 1 on Tuesday, I didn't have all of my classes until yesterday. A fact that is strong in my mind as one of my Monday classes is Foundations of Biblical Preaching with Karoline Lewis, who is currently across the open space in Northwest talking on her cell phone...side note...remember that post I made last week of being surrounded by academics? This situation applies to that too.

But I diguress.

On Monday's I don't need to be on campus till 12:30, and I took advantage of that yesterday to hammer out a bunch of work for my single online class. However, I wrap up right at 4:30, which is not a fun time to attempt to drive across the metro. Behold the power of rush hour.

That being said, I've discovered a handy website that will show a map of the main driving routes and the current driving conditions traffic-wise. Its a good thing to have in the back pocket. I glanced at it right before packing up the computer and noticed that the stretch of 35W between 280 and 694 was moving really slowly. In my experience, this has been the worst stretch of the evening commute.

A fellow commuter that goes to my new church keyed me in to a tip a week or so over to Snelling and go north. With the traffic report as it was, I decided to give that a shot yesterday. Now, I wish I could say that it worked perfectly and there were no delays at all, but driving any road at that time of day is going to be slow. That being said, I reached the intersection between 35W and 694 within about 15 minutes and as I looked down 35, I could see that it was backed up t the extreme. Probably would have been 30 minutes or more had I gone that way.

So it would seem that I had made a good choice. That being said, I also realized that instead of taking Como over to Snelling (which does curve ever so slightly to the south) I should have gone over on Larpenter. I'll remember that next time.

You know, I think I'm starting to get the hang of this.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A new way of thinking...

by Carl Mattias

I now have one less week at Luther Seminary...
I'm enjoying my spring semester so far, even though I might have my strangest schedule so far. Somehow I have all my courses on Tuesdays, all five of them, meaning I go from 9 am to 9 pm. And that's it. Well, almost anyway, since I have a few classes on Thursdays as well, giving me 3 solid reading days every week as long as I can survive my Tuesdays. Something that shouldn't be a problem since I'm very happy with my courses so far. I also got reminded of something important this week. While attending class, I'm not just obtaining new information to cram into my head and then trying to apply it, I also to this a get to meet and be under the tutelage of many of the great minds at Luther Seminary. Sometimes I find professors who think in a way similar to my way of thinking, which is encouraging and makes them easy to follow and understand and sometimes I find professors who don't, which makes them a bit harder to understand. This time though I've found a professor who doesn't think like me, but somehow is easier to understand. In other words I'm being introduced to a new way of thinking, this is not the first time however (I've been studying at seminary for 3.5 years after all). But this time around it is different since the professor is actually challenging me to think in a completely new way.
Challenge accepted!

Greek, Part I

by Jenny

I gave the first part of my Greek for “church people” class yesterday. There were just four students, but they were enthusiastic, which makes all the difference. It turns out that they are each from a different country and at some point have had to operate in a second language, so explaining the importance of language was very easy. It also helped provide examples of the difficulty of translating a word from one language so that it has meaning in another.

Being my first time teaching a class of this sort, I had no idea what would grab people’s interest and what would be easier or harder to learn. So I put in a little of everything—history, the alphabet, pronunciation, grammar, formation of the New Testament—with the goal of reading some of John 1 and pointing out key words and their meanings. The students seemed very interested in all of it, and asked some very insightful questions I was not anticipating.

One man would ask really good questions that I could only guess at, then later in the class he would come up with a great answer on his own. It made me realize that the person teaching has a lot to learn from the students, and the role of a teacher is to provide a space for everyone to learn from each other. This became more clear to me as one student laid out in detail the grammatical rules in Spanish for accenting, syllables, etc., then asked me if Greek does the same thing. At times I could just smile and nod and say, “Yes, you’ve got the right idea.” (Spanish class was many years ago!)

So, four hours of Greek went surprisingly fast, leaving me now to think about next week’s class (the last class). I want to introduce some key grammatical concepts we didn’t cover yesterday, but that the students were asking about. One student told me he is interested in studying more on his own, so I think I will explain more about the tools for Bible study using Greek, and give resources so that they can keep learning.

The impression I’m left with is how there are people in the churches that are hungry to know things we are learning in seminary, but don’t have the same opportunity to study in-depth, as we do. I think the teaching ministry in churches is crucial, especially when there is so much that leaders learn from interacting intellectually with the congregation. Yet at least in many churches I’ve been in, it’s underdeveloped. This is something I hope to change.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Keeping up with the Joneses. And Andersons. And all of Luther Seminary--including the Noncord.

by Eric

Whilst on internship, I struggle to keep in touch with my fellow seminarians, as well as the general happenings at Luther. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are vital in keeping touch with people. I also love the Luther Seminary website, namely the Inside Luther page.

One way to keep up on all that's going on at the seminary, including views on issues, general news, and what people have on their hearts and minds is the Concord Newspaper--read online. Being the lover of comedy that I am (even if I'm not actually funny), I adore when the editors of the Concord release the Noncord issue (an issue just came out!) . It's hilarious, though very contextualized. Knowing of the professors and students at whom the writers are poking fun is essential to work your belly-laughing muscles. You can still read it and chuckle at the cleverness, though.

I didn't figure I would miss the community at the seminary quite as badly as I do--and I am very thankful for the internet for keeping me connected and in the loop!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spring Semester

by Jenny

As I mentioned previously, the line between my J-term and Spring semester was rather blurry. I turned in my final J-term paper last Friday, and started Spring classes on Tuesday. Despite not having a break, I really enjoyed my J-term experience and was glad to get a full credit done in a month. Now it’s time to focus on the new semester.

What’s new for me? For one, I have class every day of the week. I have been spoiled all my other semesters by having at least one day per week with no classes, typically Fridays. On the plus side, having class everyday means I see people more often and am more likely to participate in activities on campus, like discipleship group.

Another new thing for me is having an 8 a.m. class—3 days per week. I am a morning person, but even for me this seems early, mostly because I never know how long the drive to school will take at that time. On Wednesday I left an hour early and it only took me 20 minutes to get to school. Yet if I try to leave tomorrow at 7:30am I might be stuck in traffic for 45 minutes. I’ll probably get the timing just right by week 6, when this class ends.

Maybe I’ve gotten used to seminary, or maybe my classes have gotten easier, but looking at my schedule for spring, I do not feel at all overwhelmed (as I have before). I haven’t had my preaching class yet, but that seems to be more practical than intensely academic. I’d say the same for my church music class. And after the first day of my History of the Reform class, I feel very relieved to only be covering about 400 years of church history in one class, as opposed to the 1500 years we covered in the Early Church History class. Things are looking good.

My most exciting class is Greek Readings. I’ve spent the past semester and summer as a TA for the basic Greek class, getting a good grasp on the basics. Now I'm excited to apply what I’ve learned (or hope I’ve learned!) to actually reading the New Testament, which is why we learn all that grammar in the first place. I’m enjoying taking a class that is not an introductory level course, going deeper into what I love most about seminary—God’s Word and of course, ancient languages!

Week 1

by Scott Dalen

Its Thursday of week one, and the last day I'll be on campus this week (of only 2 times this week, admittedly pretty minor). I just walked out of Chapel, and two things occurred to me. One was exciting, the other a little sad.

First, the exciting thing. I arrived on campus right at 11am this morning, and so chapel had just started when I walked into OCC. I walked in and sat in the back pew right next to the door, so as not to disturb anyone as I entered. A moment after I took my place, both President RichardBliese and Dean Kennedy walked in and sat close by me...not with me, but in close proximity. I looked around a little more and saw Professor Chris Scharen (who is co-teaching one of my classes this spring and also wrote a fascinating article that I just read and greatly appreciated). Professor Paul Westermeyer shared the scripture and commentary in worship.

In short, I realized that I am surrounded by "academia." I've been excited about the opportunity to study on campus for the duration of my seminary education, because at heart, I am an academic. I enjoyed college, and I've greatly enjoyed the chances to be on campus over the past 2.5 years for the DL intensives. Don't get me wrong, I've learned a ton during my online classes, and am even still taking one this spring. They are wonderful as well, but I've always been excited to be in the presence of some of the academic minds that wrote down some of the stuff I'm reading.

I've written several times about the up and downs of making the transition from DL student over to on campus (albeit it commuter) but this one was a good feeling. This one is exciting.

Now, the second thing that happened actually occurred as I was walking out of the chapel. Due to it being a wonderfully bright sunny day, light was streaming in from some of the second story windows and promptly blinded me. I waxed nostalgic for a moment because the same thing happened every single week when I would walk out of the sanctuary in my home church back in Iowa. Every single week. It made me miss home and it made me miss my church.

Granted, things like this are going to happen. Its common with any relocation regardless of whether or not it is for seminary or taking a call or simply moving on. But it is my prayer that they start to occur less and less. Minnesota is home now and will be for at least a couple years until I finish up school. Maybe longer depending on where I receive a call.

God has placed me here and with God's placement comes both joy and sorrow as I experienced this morning. But you know what...that's okay.

Monday, February 07, 2011

And Here We Go

by Scott Dalen

Last day before the start of my first full time on campus semester. I find myself a little nervous, but at the same time excited and ready to get going.

A couple of thoughts that strike me as questionable yet funny at the same time. First off a question. Why does class start on Tuesday on not today. Wouldn't it make more sense to start on a Monday? That's the beauty of an online class. You can really start any day you want to, provided the week's assignment is posted. But with on campus classes, it doesn't quite work that way.

I first realized that we would not have class today a couple weeks back during the j-term intensive. I was in ethics class and a couple of fellow on campus students tried to explain the reasoning to me. I kinda got it, but mostly I just shook my head and accepted that I won't really understand it.

However, the paranoid part of my brain wouldn't stop there and I've continued to wonder about it. By wondering, I've also managed to place the question of whether or not it was in fact true in my head. Therefore, I emailed my Monday class professors last week.

One of my professors, who will remain nameless, responded back that, in fact, classes do not start until tomorrow. Said professor also mentioned that the reasoning behind it was a big mystery for them as well.

That made me feel a lot better. If faculty doesn't quite get it, as a brand new (kinda anyway) student, I shouldn't sweat it either.

My next thought as I prepare to head to campus tomorrow is a bit of a repeat from J-term. What time do I need to leave taking into account traffic. J-term I had an 8am class. After the first day fiasco (thanks in part to snow over night as well as traffic), I started leaving the house at 6:30. Traffic was still moving and I was on campus by 7. I would head to the caf and hang out with classmates as they had breakfast before heading to class. Now I have class at 9. There's no way I'm leaving the house 2.5 hours early in order to beat rush hour traffic. I'm just not going to do it. But the question is in my head...well then, what time?

I'm considering 7am, but that still seems a touch early. If the drive is about an hour (which is what I expect if the weather cooperates) then I'm still an hour early with nothing to do (provided I finish up the reading for tomorrow before calling it a day today). I'm also thinking 7:30 but then if things are really nuts about that time (which I fear it will be) then I may be pushing it to make it by 9.

I'm so confused. Seriously, I just need to get week 1 done with so I can start to find my groove. But before I can finish it, I've got to start it.

And now to use a token quote that I use at the beginning of every semester (though usually on Facebook)...And Here...We...Go

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Last term...

by Carl Mattias

The other day when I was thinking about my the spring term and all the courses I'll be taking, I suddenly realized that it is my last term at Luther Seminary! It's hard to think that I'm already past half my time here and in 4 months I'll be gone from the US...

The most recent 2 terms (Fall term and J-term), however, have been a very good time and I've learned incredibly much! Both from the excellent professors here at Luther Seminary (knowledge and experience I'll be happy to bring with me to my future ministry in Sweden!) and from my dear friends here in the US, helping me to experience and learn about the American culture (such as the Super Bowl), helping me to reflect on my own life and the culture back in Sweden.

As I mentioned in my previous post I'm happy that I've begun working out, especially since 3 of my 4 classes are in the same classroom, a classroom that happens to be in Bockman Hall, where I'm currently residing! But this is the beginning of my last term here at Luther Seminary, not the end of it. There are still things to learn, professors to listen to, books to read, people to get to know and papers to write!

Friday, February 04, 2011


by Jenni

Convo is over. The amazing crew from the Center for Faith, Life and Leadership are quietly sitting at their desks, recovering from all of the work needed to put this amazing event on. As a student worker in the Communications Office, I was asked to work at the registration desk on Wednesday. I love the registration desk. Aside from checking in people who attend the event, I was able to do a lot of people watching.

Convo seems like the unofficial homecoming of Luther Seminary. Students return from their own congregations to learn and to socialize with friends and colleagues they only see once a year. From the registration desk, I see people shaking hands, hugging and catching up. This year was the added opportunity of seeing the shell-shocked faces of those from warm-weather climates as they had to walk from their car to Olson Campus Center. (As every year, the Norwegian sweaters made their appearance though I think their numbers were down. I really believe Norwegian sweaters are the unofficial uniform of off-duty Lutheran pastors.)

For the first time, I experienced Convo as a homecoming. A friend who has moved to her first congregation across the country from here attended Convo this week. I have eaten out more than I should and laughed so much my cheeks hurt. It was an amazing opportunity to become closer friends and not just spend our time catching up (that’s what Facebook is for) but to talk about things we care about and the share story after story about our lives.

I was able to catch some of the keynotes and they were fantastic (I did have to miss the workshops, much to my dismay) But it was the homecoming aspect of Convo which truly came alive for me this year.

Mid-Winter Convocation

by Jenny

I made it to Convocation yesterday! I had some stuff to do in the Library, so I made a point to go to chapel while I was on campus. It was great to see the chapel full, although I felt a little out of place at first because I hardly saw any current Luther students there (but plenty of Norwegian sweaters, as promised!).

Then I ran into one of my friends that I have not seen since the end of fall semester. It was fun to see her, and hear of her adventures in Georgia for a J-term trip she went on. Slowly the pew I was sitting in filled up with students, and I felt a little bit better about being surrounded by life-long Lutherans!

Before the service started, three Faithfulness in Ministry awards were given to Luther graduates who are making a difference in the world by fulfilling their calls. The common thread in all their stories was working with or starting new congregations, in the US or overseas. This was encouraging to hear, since there is a great need in many communities for a church that meets the needs of the people there.

Then came the service, and a sermon by President Bliese. He addressed the general topic of “Engaging Scripture as Communities of Moral Deliberation” by speaking of some of his own humorous and trying experiences with difficult issues in the church. He reminded us that throughout history, God’s people have often resolved serious challenges in their lives of faith only through hindsight. Recognition and repentance can lead to communal discussions of what needs to change, and this also gives space for communities to retell their stories with a new perspective of faith.

It was a great sermon, and reminded me that for as much preparation as we get at Luther, life with a congregation involves a lot of trial and error and working things out together. I am sure we will all feel unprepared at some point to deal with some issue that comes up in ministry, but remembering that the process can be as important as the specific outcome is helpful. Communities grow together, and “failures” can be opportunities to reflect and start in a new direction.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Convo-A Little Different

by Scott Dalen

I've experienced Convocation twice before. Both times it was happening during the MDiv DL intensives and so I was staying in Stub while it was happening. Its been my experience (in the past two years) that campus gets very busy, chapel is loaded, and parking is nearly impossible (translation-don't plan on leaving campus with your car during the day or you won't have a spot when you get back).

This year Convo is a little different from two standpoints. First, its 2 weeks later, which means that J-Term is pretty much wrapped and the cohorts aren't here anymore. Second, I'm still around and am driving over to campus.

I had stuff going on yesterday morning, so I didn't head over towards campus until about lunch time. So I missed the morning speaker, though I hear he was pretty good.

I knew one of my good friends was planning on being there for the day yesterday, but she had followed protocol and kept her phone on silent, so she missed the texts that I sent her once I arrived on campus. So I milled around in Olson for a little bit, discovered that there were free lunch wraps from the Caf (YAY!!! FREE FOOD), and then headed over to the library for some odd reason. All I did there was surf the web.

Then I headed back over to the chapel to listen to Professor Matt Skinner give his lecture. I've never really interacted with Dr. Skinner, but since I'm taking a class with him this spring, I thought it might be a fun way to start to get to know him. His lecture was about learning how a community (specifically a faith community) can learn to exist in the face of issues of opposition. I really appreciated what he had to say considering the division of my old congregation that happened last summer. Its hind-sight of course, but I wish they could have heard his lecture prior to the split.

After the lecture, I jabbered with my friend for a little bit, and then headed out.

A couple of thoughts:
There don't seem to be as many recent graduates of Luther at Convo...aka I didn't see past students that I recognize from my time.
Free food is awesome.
The chapel can be a tough place to hear a lecture when you are really crammed in (my legs and feet fell asleep...though fortunately I stayed engaged and did not fall asleep).
Seeing people that wrote some of my text books in person is amazing...for example, I get a charge out of seeing Terrance Fretheim sitting in the pews.

I'm not expecting to make it to campus today as I have a lot of errands to run with my wife today. Tomorrow morning is a possibility though, but we'll have to wait and see. The commuter status strikes again. Being on the other side of the Twin Cities can be detrimental to just "dropping in" on campus activities.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Almost There

by Jenny

Despite my good intentions, I also missed mid-winter convocation today. Not because I’m out of town or on internship, but because I locked myself away all day trying to get my final J-term paper done. As much as I like coming home from campus at the end of the day, sometimes I think it would be nice to live near Luther and be able to drop in on the stuff that goes on there. There’s always tomorrow.

The good news is that I’m almost done with my final paper, which really needs to be done so that I can focus on other things. The Greek textbook written in Spanish that I ordered arrived, reminding me that the Greek class I will be teaching is less than 2 weeks away. I realized that of everything I’m doing, this class is what I’m most excited about. Besides really enjoying Biblical Greek, I look forward to putting into practice all that I’ve learned to teach others. And I’m also learning new things in the process, such as the fact that the Greek breathing marks are called “spirits” in Spanish (perhaps that’s exciting only to me).

I’m also starting back at my teaching congregation this Sunday, meeting with the teaching team to talk about the new believer’s class that starts soon. I’m very glad to be getting more involved at church this semester. Being such a big place, I’ve felt a little disconnected by just going to services on the weekends. I typically run into one or two people I know, but it’s not the same as actually being part of the ministry. Sometimes I miss being at a small church where everyone knows you and is happy to see you on Sunday morning. Other times I appreciate how nice it is to enjoy worship without being pulled out to unlock the church office or make photocopies or do some other random task that comes with being on staff at a small church. There is a season for everything.

Speaking of my former church, I realized the other day that I still have my keys. I did not mean to steal them, but I haven’t seen my former pastor since a few weeks before I resigned. And since he is a recent Luther graduate, he has many of the textbooks I need and has generously been loaning them to me. He said I could keep borrowing what I need even though I don’t work for him anymore, which is quite nice, and another reason I’ve been reluctant to give back my keys! We decided that I’d turn them in when I’m done teaching this Greek class. In the meantime, I think I’ll stop by and “shop” for my spring semester books before I go back to the Luther bookstore. I guess leaving the “nest” of my former home church has not been as easy as I thought!

Missing things.

by Eric

I love being on internship.

It's tough to beat the combination of whetting my appetite for parish ministry and learning a ridiculous amount of stuff and getting to know a wonderful community of people.

There are, of course, several things that are less than fantastic about internship. One of them is missing things. Yes, I badly miss my family and friends--but I mean missing things like events in Minneapolis/St. Paul and, more specifically, at Luther Seminary.

I miss the rhythm of walking to and from classes. I miss the impromptu conversations that sprout streams of inspiration and interest. I miss daily chapel (even if I didn't go every day). I miss grabbing a beer at Manning's or another local bar. I miss the familiar surroundings of the Twin Cities--and discovering new pockets of awesomeness that I hadn't yet found in my 20 years there.

Today, especially, I'm missing the Mid-Winter Convocation. I'm missing the gathering of thoughtful, passionate colleagues and friends. I'm missing the interplay of lectures and workshops. I'm missing meals where ideas and information are consumed just as much as food. And I'm missing hearing Will Willimon speak (that guy is great).

The official topic is "Engaging Scripture as Communities of Moral Deliberation." Maybe it's my Lutheranism running amok, but I often dismiss--or maybe ignore--Scripture as a moral guide. It is true, though, that as communities of faith, we deliberate over morals and seek our identity as a people. This convocation is a great opportunity to explore how Scripture speaks to--and, along with prayer, is central to that process. [Now I'm missing it even more...great.]

I look forward to reading blog posts and having conversations with some of my fellow Luther Seminary students about the convocation. I am on Twitter (@ericedward), and definitely plan on following the convocation conversation (clever sounding, eh?) at the hashtag #convo2011. But still, I wish I could be there.

I'm loving internship so far. I feel truly blessed. But I still miss things. Today (and tomorrow and Friday), I'm especially missing the Mid-Winter Convocation at Luther Seminary. But I'm not missing what can only be scarce parking--or the frigid weather.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Filling my time

by Scott Dalen

So during this time off between J-term and starting spring semester next week, I've been concerned that I would get bored and go stir crazy. Admittedly, it did happen just a touch yesterday, but only a touch.

Today I had some more time on my hands and thought it more likely that I would get bored. However, after dropping off the kids and hitting the bank...side note, every time I go into the bank up here they try to saddle me with something new...annoying.

But anyway, I sat down and did my go-to time killer, which is of course facebook. I wasn't on there very long when one of my cohort classmates reminded me that internship sites were posted today. Considering that I'm up for internship this fall I figured that I best check them out.

What I didn't plan on was how long it would take to review them. I figured that it would be a quick scan through, but admittedly I was mistaken. It should be noted that I only read through the sites in the Twin Cities, completely disregarding the other sites listed.

It took me over 5 hours to work my way through them and line up my interviews with the supervisors.

No one was as shocked as I was. Well, maybe not. I guess anyone else that has done the same thing probably isn't surprised, but I sure was.

Next on the agenda, going through the interviews.

Monday, January 31, 2011

One Class, Two Finals

by Jenny

I took my final exam for my J-term class this morning. It was not bad for a “blue book” test, since the professor only wanted 300-word responses (he said he actually stops reading after 300, so it was kind of funny to see us all nervously counting our words as we wrote them!).

I think just getting to school this morning was more stressful than the test. I normally can make the drive to Luther in the mornings in 30 minutes or less, but with the snow it took an hour today. I made it just in time for the test, and finished in less time than it took me to get to school!

So I decided to get my books for Spring semester, since I was already on campus. The bookstore couldn’t find one of them, which is for the only class I already have a syllabus for and know I will need next week. In the meantime, I still have a final paper to write for my J-term class. I saw a classmate while I was in the bookstore and he asked me how my “break” is going, referring to the month of January. I had forgotten that for some people J-term is done—either they had shorter intensive classes or they did their cross-cultural experience—and now they have some time off before spring term starts. My final paper is due by Saturday morning, so until then I am not officially done with J-term, but am trying to get a head start on spring as well.

On a bright note, my favorite aunt is visiting from Colorado, so we went to my favorite Greek restaurant for lunch to celebrate me finishing my final test. Seeing the huge photos on the walls of the warm, sunny, Mediterranean world made me think once again about escaping from the Minnesota winter. If they still spoke Biblical Greek in Greece today, maybe I could use that as an academic excuse to spend some time in Crete, brushing up on my language skills. Maybe someday…

In the meantime, I will keep working on my final paper—actually, a doctrinal sermon. I’ve never had to footnote a sermon before, or think about preaching to an academic audience, which is what this assignment is about. So it’s really half research paper, half sermon. It should be fun to write, and might help me get prepared for the preaching class I’m taking this spring semester, which starts next Monday. I guess I will have to wait until Easter to actually have a “break.”

More Transistions

by Scott Dalen

As I continue this transition from part time DL student into full time status, I continue to experience more and more things that are new...or in this case, experiences that I haven't had since my college days.

In this case, my new experience is idle time between semesters. I wrapped up J-term stuff last Wednesday. Thursday my daughter was home with me and I was preparing stuff for a trip back to Iowa to celebrate my mother in law's birthday. We were there most of the weekend, which broke up the monotony of the school break.

But now we are back home in Plymouth again. The kids are at school and my wife is at work.

For the most part, I have nothing to do. Granted, there are some errands that need doing. Some of them got accomplished this morning and some are pending for this afternoon, but I consider that a minor detail.

This week, I'm in what I like to call "bump on a log" mode. I don't have class. I don't have homework. And as I'm still dragging my feet on the whole employment situation (more on that in a bit), I don't have a job.

I literally have nothing to do and its already driving me a little batty. Good thing this is only lasting a week this go round. Otherwise I might go a little crazy.

Backing up to the whole work thing. Since moving up to the Twin Cities a month ago, I've been holding off on trying to find a job until I get into the full time semester. The main reason is that I have no idea what the time input is going to be in terms of homework for 5 classes. I'm used to 2, 5 is a whole new realm.

I don't want to start a part time job and then end up having to quit in a couple weeks if I discover that there aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. I also held off because it would not have worked to have a job around the 2 week intensive during J-term.

So now I find myself without a job, and beyond cleaning the house, doing the dishes and the laundry, I don't have much going on today.

That being said, I did venture out this morning and accomplish a couple things. First I went to the bank. In one of the last steps of moving (the actual last will be getting our house in Iowa sold...still not accomplished that yet) we closed out our old bank accounts last Friday, so I needed to get the deposits placed into our new bank up here.

So I headed to the bank and did said deposits. I also managed to procure the only open safety deposit box in this particular branch. Bonus points on that one. My next goal was to head across town to the school enrollment center to get my daughter's paperwork turned in for Kindergarten for this fall.

I thought I had the correct address in the gps to take me there, but I quickly realized my error. Fortunately, I was about to go past the school, so I pulled in there to get the correct address. While there, I was pleased to learn that I could turn in the paperwork there and they would forward it to the enrollment center for me. Bonus...saved me a trip across town in lousy snowy weather.

Then I headed to Target as there were a few essentials that I needed to pick up and then since I was in the vicinity of the church, I swung by to say hi to my wife and then pick the brain of the associate pastor that is my wife's boss. She is a recent (within the past couple of years) graduate of Luther and I wanted to gain her perspective of the whole process.

We had a good chat and then I headed home. It was only as I was about to step out of the truck that I caught a glimps of myself in the mirror. I then realized that I have not yet showered or shaved today, and I went out in public like that.

I must be getting a little more used to this whole "full time student" thing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Working out (and in)!

by Carl Mattias

When I was preparing for my studies abroad at Luther Seminary I knew the studies would take its toll on my body (at least more than it does for a student in Sweden). Because of this I made a promise to myself to move my body every now and then (other than moving from classroom to classroom). It initially went very well since I managed to get a key to the gym at Luther (called God's Gym). Then there was the issue with getting some training clothes... and then the issue with actually working out from time to time..

This week, however, I successfully doubled my visits to God's gym! The secret? A workout friend! We both realized that we should be working out, but had a hard time finding the motivation to do so on our own. I must say it feels good to feel fatigue in something else than my mind for once!

When I think about working out I can cannot help but also think about a sermon from the pastor in my home congregation many years ago. I do not remember the whole sermon, but I remember the part when he spoke about him going to the gym, seeing many different persons working out, many of them being very fit, and asking himself the question "What if these people were training to keep themselves spiritually fit? Putting all that effort and all those hours in prayer and in reading the bible?"

The point was not that we should do a "spiritual workout" instead of just "workout", but the fact that we sometimes(or most of the time) tend to only doing one of them. "Spiritual workout" or working with our inside (working in) does not have to be the opposite of training your body (working out). Or as the saying goes "a sound mind in a sound body" or "a healthy mind in a healthy body" something that I as a student of theology forget every now and then.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


by Jenny

I had an experience yesterday that reminded me that as a non-Lutheran student, I am part of the “diversity” at Luther. I ran into one of my former professors who loves to joke about my being “Baptist” (my nuanced self-description of “working with a church that is affiliated with a Baptist group but consider myself more non-denominational” doesn’t go very far with some people!). Of course, this professor makes fun of me in a respectful, non-offensive way that actually makes room for talking about our theological differences, which is a good thing.

So besides this encounter making me laugh at myself, it also took me a little off guard—I’ve been at Luther long enough now that I don’t always remember that I’m of a different denomination than most of the students. Of course, there are times in classes when I become aware that I have a different perspective than the majority, but overall I’ve encountered openness to hearing people’s diverse ideas and beliefs. This makes it so that students not only of different denominations, but also from different countries, different life experiences, etc., can feel at home here.

Thinking about my J-term class, amongst the six students, one TA, and the professor, we represent four denominations and three different countries that we call home. This is pretty amazing for a small class. And after reading different liberation theologies, which are largely based on experience, I realize how much each person/community’s experiences influence their faith and approach to theology.

So really, each student at Luther creates the diversity that makes it such a great place to be. The common faith and goals we share seem to unite us in such a way that we can respectfully talk about differences. And not that we should minimize our differing viewpoints, but I think being able to laugh at ourselves once in awhile is healthy.

A new experience on campus

by Scott Dalen

Wow...Juniors are really starting young these days aren't they?

So this morning I needed to head over to campus, but today was a little bit different. Thursday's my daughter does not go to school, and as I didn't have class either, she was staying home with me today...or more so, she tagged along with me to campus.

After my son hopped on the bus to head to school, the two of us headed on out for a little daddy-daughter time.

The cause for the trip to campus was two-fold. First I needed to drop off some books at the library, seeing as I finished up the research paper that I was utilizing them for yesterday. So that was our first stop. We dropped the books and then I showed her around the library, even going back into the stacks...she was ready to check out every single level (all 8 of them) in the stacks, but I refrained from that. After our adventure in the library, we walked through the tunnel into Bockman, only for the purpose that she can now say that she's done it.

Side note, we also checked out the ping pong table in the basement...if you are bored on a break from class, I highly recommend it.

After that we headed over to Northwest to drop off my CPE materials in the contextual office. It took longer to walk there than it did to drop off the stuff, but that's okay. It was somewhat warm and we enjoyed the walk. We also each got a piece of chocolate in the contextual ed office. That made it all worthwhile.

At this point, I had accomplished everything that I needed to accomplish, but she wanted to stick around for chapel, which was starting about 45 minutes later. How can you say no to that. So we headed over into the Caf where she kept busy playing computer games on the laptop, and I dove into the paper to catch up on the news.

We went to chapel, which was also fun with her in tow. I especially got a charge out of seeing her stand up when all of the students stood up. The thought of juniors being pretty small jumped through my head again at this point.

Then after chapel was done, we headed into the caf for a lunch date. Luther Seminary Cafeteria big sandwiches. Mmm mmm good.

So all in all, it was a fun new experience to be accomplishing things on campus with one of my kids in tow. this time worked out fine, though I don't think I want to attempt to take class with one of them tagging along.

I think I'll let them wait and attend seminary themselves before I subject them to one of these classes. Sound like a plan?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


by Scott Dalen

So its been a big couple of days.

Over the weekend I was back down in Iowa, making the rounds, seeing a bunch of different people. I stayed at my brothers house and my parents house, culminting in my parents watching the kids while I road tripped for my last meeting of CPE. It being the last meeting, I received my certificate as well as my supervisors evaluation.

The good news...I passed. Credit for CPE. Now I just need to get my information turned into the sem. I intended to do that yesterday as I was on campus, but I kept walking into Northwest when the office was closed for various reasons. So that hasn't happened yet, but it will.

So obviously I was on campus again yesterday...for a very important reason. My endorsement interview happened yesterday. I got over to campus early, and took advantage by making some various copies and starting to work on going through my sources for my ethics paper that I still need to get written.

I was walking across campus about 30 minutes before my interview, and happened to notice the two synod reps sitting in OCC. So I sat and jabbered with them until it was time for the interview itself.

At 11, we headed over to Dr. Padgett's office, (my advisor). After introductions, they kicked me out to "talk about me behind my back," which I actually got a kick out of. After about 10 minutes, I headed back into the office and we talked for awhile. It was mostly conversational, which I really appriciated.

After that, they kicked me out again for a few minutes. Upon my return, they informed me that they were recommending me for endorsement...roughly translated, I passed, but they need to make their recommendation to the rest of the synod candidacy committee, who will then give the "official" thumbs up. But long story short, I'm unofficially endorsed and that's a good feeling.

Friday, January 21, 2011

End of an Intense Week

by Jenny

Even though I didn’t have class until Wednesday this week (we had Monday off for the MLK holiday), the week flew by. I had a paper due Tuesday morning, and an oral presentation for class today, plus many, many pages of theology to read. I kind of like the intensity of J-term, but there’s not much opportunity to catch your breath without getting behind.

I did, however, escape campus for a short while over my lunch break on Wednesday. The same friend who insisted that I try to enjoy winter suggested that we go to the Como Conservatory, so we did. I had forgotten that there is a place just a few minutes from campus where I can walk around without a jacket and breath deeply without my lungs freezing in the middle of winter. The sun actually came out that day, which was an added bonus. That and the polar bear “enrichment session” (they have to keep the bears mentally stimulated—I guess seminary students aren’t the only ones!) we happened to catch on our short trip to the zoo. I definitely recommend the Conservatory for anyone who needs a break from the Minnesota winter.

So, perhaps this helped the rest of a busy week seem not so overwhelming. And thinking about the remaining ten days of my J-term class, I realize that the majority of the assignments are behind us. Just a final test and paper, which do comprise more than half of our grade, but are spread out so that we have four days after the class officially ends to turn in the paper. By that time I will also be reading ahead for Spring semester classes, and preparing for the teaching events I have in February.

Actually, for as intense as J-term is, it is probably more relaxing than life will be after it ends, when I have to juggle many different things once again. Hopefully by then I will have thawed out a little bit to make moving around easier. In the meantime, there’s always the Conservatory, and my found memories of warmer days (see photo from a previous trip to the Conservatory).

Reflections of the big switch

by Scott Dalen

Friday...cohort 2's classes wrapped up yesterday. Pretty much everyone has already headed home by way of Plains Trains and Automobiles..

Side note...that's a really great movie with Steve Martin and the late great John Candy...check it out.

I came over to campus this morning because I really needed to hit the library and get a couple of hard copy sources (aka books) for my Ethics paper that has yet to be written. That way I'll have it in hand over the course of the weekend if I get bored enough to start writting it.

Just for reference...its not due until next Friday.

My wife is gone for the weekend to a conference in Kansas City and since the kids are both in school, I thought I'd buzz on over. A couple of my fellow cohorters (though admittedly I should say that I'm now a former cohorter) are still around, though, as I mentioned most of them have flown the coop now.

I came into my friend Rick's room (as he is one of the few remainders). He's working on research and I spent a few minutes looking up sources for the library before I actually headed over to the library.

Here is my main observation.

The library was dead. There were a couple of people there...and by a couple I literally mean a couple. Like 2. One of them is a fellow student that I actually know that lives here on campus. Ironically she was in my Mission class this term, but that's neither here nor there. I jabbered with her very briefly as I was heading into the stacks and she was heading out.

After spending about an hour at the library finding said sources I headed back across campus to Stub hall. Once again, it was dead.

At this point it occured to me.

This is my reality now. When the cohort leaves, I'm still here. When campus is dead because everyone is "on break," I'm still around.

I have a new reality to get used to as a full time student.

But before I settle into that new reality...there was one intensive experience that I had yet to partake in...Mannings. I have been there each and every intensive since I've started. Up until today, I had not made it yet.

Knowing that Rick hadn't been there either, I sent him a message this morning asking if he was up for Mannings for lunch.

In the words that I've heard in a movie...though admittedly am totally blanking on right now...Its on like donkey kong.

So after doing my research in the library...Rick and I headed to Mannings for a burger and a beer.

Needless to say, I'm much less interested in working on homework now.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Short circuit!

by Carl Mattias

Being an Exchange student can be tough at some times. You leave your country, your language, your culture and your friends behind to go in order to travel to a new country, learn a new foreign language, meet a different culture and make new friends. It also fun, for me it's mostly fun!

One of the funny things are all the presumptions people tend to have towards your country (and of course all those presumptions you have about theirs as well).
The most frequent question I have gotten this week is as question about how could it is in Sweden now, the question is generally asked with the assumption that it is colder in Sweden than in Minnesota, and rightly so! Sweden is north of Minnesota after all, and is together with Norway, Finland and Denmark called "The Cold North" in Europe. E.g right now it is 5 Fahrenheit (-15 Celsius) in Saint Paul and 28 Fahrenheit (around -2 Celsius) in Uppsala (my hometown in Sweden).

This week I have also finished my final paper in my J-term course (Genesis to Revelation) at Luther Seminary. The remaining time time of the J-term I will take the opportunity to work with a course for one of my professors at Johannelund (my theological seminary in Sweden). Fortunately all of my books are in English (not unusual when you take a course in Sweden) and my professor has agreed to let me write in English!

The reason I want to write in English instead of practicing my Swedish (which will hopefully not have been forgotten when I return to Sweden) is because I am sometimes struck with what I would describe as a linguistic short circuit. It didn't take my mind a very long time to adjust to the English language, nowadays I both speak, think (and occasionally write) in English. The short circuit happens when I learn something particularly interesting I want to be able to share when I become a pastor in Sweden. I begin to take mental notes (in English) on how I should say it, only to suddenly realize that English is not the native language in Sweden! The problem that then arises is when I try to change languages in my head only to realize that I, in my mind, can't tell the difference. Leaving me unable to speak or write English and Swedish properly for a while.
That's one of the problems with being multilingual I guess!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Starting to get used to it

by Scott Dalen

So I've noticed something over the course of my tenure as an intensive student. Things start off crazy but then by the end we start to get used to it. I'm in that mode now.

It occurred to me this morning that the schedule seems to be evening out just a little bit. Here's a normal day.

Roll out of bed at 6am. Yes, this is as drastically early as it sounds.
Get ready for the day and head out at 6:30.
Say a little prayer that traffic hasn't kicked in yet and head on over to campus.
All things normal, arrive about 7am...walk over to the caf.
Pull out the computer and briefly live in the myth that I'm going to accomplish someting before class.
Greet the fellow classmates as they trickle in and fill the table.
Head off to class at 8...2 breaks are welcome between 8 and 11.
Head off to chapel.
Eat some lunch and then actually accomplish a little bit of homework till class at 1:30.
Sit through afternoon class...once again, breaks are welcome.
Class gets done...the cohort members breathe a sigh of relief...I tense up because its time to fight rush hour going home.

Side note...I actually made it home in 40 minutes last night.

So that's the norm. There's only one hitch. By this point of the intensive...namely half way through week 2...we tend to be hitting the wall. What was once a priority has slide down the "to-do" list.

This is an unfortunate thing because there's a very fine line between being used to the hectic pace and being at the point where you just don't really care anymore. I'm sitting right on that line.

As I ponder on that, I'm wondering about the upcoming semester. How long will it take for me to get used to the schedule again? We'll have to wait and see I guess.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FUNDRAISING. [dundundun....]

by Eric

First, did the dramatic and scary (and written) sound effect joke land? No? Okay then

Second, one of my areas of focus on my internship has been the youth of the church. They have expressed a desire to continue a tradition of a summer trip, and I have taken on that challenge/opportunity. I'll post details about the trip some other time, but right now, we're dreaming up some ways to offset the cost of the trip. Yes, I'm talkin' 'bout fundraising [shut your mouth!]

As of now, we're doing a scaled-down version of "144 envelopes" and a brunch/silent auction. My pastor father-in-law has been a great help, as have a few other colleagues. We had a little session during our internship retreat on fundraising, but I wonder--what do you think (that is, if people read this)? How do you approach fundraising, especially regarding the youth of the church? And...any specific ideas?

“Don’t Forget Your Friends”

by Jenny

To continue my theme from yesterday about focusing on the positive…the sun came out today! That made reading some very thick theology from Moltmann all the more pleasant.

On another note, I got an unexpected phone call today from an unknown number. I usually don’t answer these calls, but something told me I should. It was Howard, a 70-something-year-old man from the Lutheran church that shares its building with the Hispanic church I used to attend. He wanted to know what happened to me—he hadn’t seen me at church in awhile, and felt like I had “dropped off the face of the earth.”

When I left that church last September, I didn’t realize that people like Howard would notice that I was gone. I got to know him several years ago by attending the Bible study the pastor of St. Paul’s (the Lutheran church) holds for his leaders, and a few random people like me. I never spent any real “quality time” with Howard outside of Bible study, but saw him in passing as his church service ended and mine was about to begin on Sunday mornings. He always called out to me in a boisterous voice, “how’s my friend Jenny?” and often pulled out huge Hershey dark chocolate bars to give to me from his bag of goodies that he always had on hand for his “friends.”

I guess I can consider Howard like the grandpa I never had (both of mine died before I was born), and I feel very blessed that there are people that care about me even though I didn’t realize how much—before hanging up, Howard said that he prays for me every night and that if I ever need anything, he’s here for me.

This reminded me of what the pastor of St. Paul’s told me as I was considering changing churches—that it would be good for me to get experience in a different setting, but that I should never forget about my friends. As seminary students, we pass through several churches in a short amount of time—our home church, teaching congregations, internships sites—but this was a good reminder to not lose touch with the people who have been a part of our journey, and will continue to support us no matter where we go next.

Knit and purl

by Jenni

I’m not taking any classes this month. As a part-time student paying as I go, I have to watch what’s offered and when I can take it. Nothing fit my needs during J-Term so I have taken a break. Because it would be boring for me to tell you that I just work all the time (which I mostly don’t), I thought I’d give you an insight into one of my big break activities: knitting.

I started knitting many years ago. I’m not a fantastic knitter, but I’m not bad. My specialty is mittens and felted items (felted is where you knit something really big out of wool and then force it to shrink. Felting hides a lot of mistakes). Over the last two years I have been stretching my wings and trying more complicated patterns. Right now I am making a prayer scarf for a friend (I don’t have enough of a specific yarn for a prayer shawl. The pattern easily adjusts).

My mom started knitting at the same time as I did (though she had being doing croch

et work for a long time). My mom had a natural affinity for the yarn arts. She was knitting intricate shawls, afghans and her own specialty, socks. My mom created a beautiful shawl and submitted it to the Minnesota State Fair (it didn’t do

well enough to place but it was good enough to display… a big deal). She was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early summer of 2009 and died last February.

My inheritance from my mom was her yarn, knitting supplies and unfinished projects. Some of the projects I handed out to her two best friends to finish (a couple pair of socks and an afghan) but some of her projects have been special for me to finish. A hat for my youngest nephew (it turned out great) and hats for my daughters (they loved them). Before she died, my mom had each grandchild pick out an afghan pattern and yarn for a special blanket from her. She finished three, but only began work on the final two. Those are two projects I could not pass to anyone else. This weekend I pulled out one blanket (the easier pattern). It’s a little intimidating (that is a lot of knitting and pattern following…and wow, that is a lot of yarn…see the picture), but I think these both will be beautiful when they’re finished. I would have never attempted more complicated patterns without this project and for that I am grateful. Thanks, mom.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blue Monday?

by Jenny

I had no idea that the third Monday of January has been dubbed “Blue Monday” until I just saw an article about it on the internet. Apparently a British psychologist came up with a theory that calculates today as the most depressing day of the year. This seems ironic to me today, a day I decided to start being a little bit more hopeful about the gray Minnesota winter that lasts nearly half the year!

Actually, it was last week that a friend of mine encouraged me that if I tried to enjoy winter, it might not seem so unbearable. So after a second day with no sight of the sun, I’m trying to focus on the positive. One sign of hope is what you see in the photograph—I woke up this morning to find two blooms on the hibiscus plant that has been almost entirely brown and leafless since October. They seemed to have come out of nowhere, and with some warm lighting thrown on them I can almost feel a little bit of springtime. There is hope that winter will not in fact last forever.

What else can I be positive about? Well, J-term is halfway over for me now, and it’s not nearly as overwhelming as I expected. I’m finding that I like theology more than I thought, and appreciate the variety in the assignments we have to do for class. I just finished a “hymns and liturgy” paper in which I examined how my Christological doctrine is evident in our Christian music and worship services. This is a more practical use of theology, which I am finding to be refreshing and applicable to ministry.

Having an intensive class does make January go by faster, and the snow and cold actually might help me get more done, since I am not tempted to drop everything to go outside and enjoy the warm weather. I also spend more time studying in the library as opposed to going for walks on my breaks from class (which could be seen as a positive), and I’ve made it to chapel more times this month than during all of Fall semester.

So, even though I resorted to checking out airfare yesterday to warm destinations, I am trying to appreciate each season for what it is. And if my friends at Luther who come from warmer climates complain about the cold less than me, I guess I should try to be a better Minnesotan and just deal with it! Anyway, I am grateful for the little reminders that spring is not that far away.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Different Schedule

by Scott Dalen

After reading Jenni's last post, I have come to realize that our schedules don't quite match up. She's done with the second week of J-term, and while that is true, we here in the DL cohort are only through week 1. A few of cohort one aren't even showing up until this weekend so they haven't even started "week 1" yet.

Weird wild stuff.

Speaking of wrapping up our first week, things are going well and so far, we are all surviving it. One interesting thing did happen though. The majority of my cohort are taking Ethics 1 and Mission 2 during this intensive. Our first paper was due yesterday via upload in MyLuthernet for Ethics.

I had a goal of getting it done and uploaded by Thursday, as there were other things that I wanted to accomplish yesterday. The paper did get done, though admittedly, I don't think I've ever had to think so hard for 350 words. I guess it was a good assignment right?

Following the completion of my paper, I went ahead and uploaded. However, there was an issue. When I was browsing for the paper, I ended up in the wrong class folder and promptly uploaded a reflection paper from Mission.

This is a slight problem.

However, I did not realize my mistake until yesterday morning when I got an email from Professor Marga. While she praised an interesting read, it was clearly not the paper she was expecting.

So I emailed off the correct paper right away.

Later on at lunch time, the members of the various cohorts gathered to have lunch with their respective advisors. My advisor had another engagement and wasn't there, so I ended up sitting a table with Dr. Marga. We jabbered briefly about my mistake, but she was laughing and informed me that it happens all the time.

That made me feel better. But rest assured when I uploaded paper number 2, I double checked that it was the right one.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Things are coming together…

by Jenny

It’s the second week of J-term for me now, and I’m getting used to the rhythm of things. By the time I’m comfortably enjoying my new routine, it will abruptly change again!

Seeing as how I like to know what to expect, I was very happy to get a call today from my supervising pastor at church. We talked about the Discover Jesus class that’s coming up in February, and what my participation in it will look like. Two of the pastors will teach some of the classes, and another member of the church and I will teach the others. One thing I really like about my church is that all the ministries seem to run on team leadership, so I’m excited not only to have the opportunity to teach, but also to be involved in the planning and visioning of this ministry.

So, the first topic they gave me to teach on Week 3 is “What’s wrong with the world?” Whoops! Don’t get me started. Actually, that’s their clever way of introducing the topic of the “fall,” or sin entering the world. I will get a chance to introduce myself on the first night of class, so talking about sin won’t be my first interaction with the participants. That would be kind of a downer. But whatever the topic, I am very excited to teach—something I love doing but haven’t done in the church for a while.

Speaking of teaching, yesterday the pastor from the church I was at previously offered me a teaching opportunity that we first talked about last summer. Besides being a church-planter for the Hispanic Ministry of the denomination, he also started a ministry training program for leaders of Hispanic churches who may not have the opportunity to go to a formal seminary. So to kick off the new block of classes, he invited me to give a basic Greek class over two Saturdays in February. This is a great opportunity not just to introduce Biblical Greek to church leaders, but also its implications for understanding Scripture and how we teach it. At first I felt overwhelmed by the challenge of teaching anything useful about Greek in such a short amount of time (8 hours total), but thanks to some pointers from a couple of Greek professors I think I can do it and make it fun.

So, I have a lot to look forward to. It’s amazing how recently I’ve been itching for the opportunity to be more active in teaching and ministry again, and within 24 hours I’ve received two great opportunities. I knew God would surprise me!

Getting used to It Again

by Scott Dalen

After two full years in the DL program, which has consisted of four...let's see now, is it four? Let me count...yep four on campus intensives, you'd think that I'd be pretty well used to it by now.

You'd think that wouldn't you?

However, after said years in the program, I have learned that intensives are anything but predictable. This is true enough when I'm doing an intensive in the normal fashion. That being said, things are certainly different now as I'm adjusting to living in the Cities and commuting to campus.

In the "normal" scenario, I arrive on campus sometime on Sunday before class starts and other than little trips around the area, I don't really leave campus. I stay in the dorms and so I'm always right in the vicinity when its time for class to start.

Its different now.

Monday was the first day of class but cohort two didn't have morning class. Therefore, I hung around the house over on the west side of town till it was time for my son to go to school. Once I dropped him off I headed over to campus. However, it was late enough that rush hour was over. So I got to campus without much trouble. Likewise at the end of the day, I stuck around for a cohort welcome meal and so didn't leave campus until a little after 6. Rush hour was pretty well wrapped up by that time.

Long story short. Rush hour didn't effect me Monday.

Yesterday was a different story. Now for starters, we got about an inch of snow over night and if there is one thing that I learned yesterday, it is that snow seems to make commuters loose their minds and all ability to drive.

I thought that I would leave the house at 7am because an hour would be more than enough time to make the trip (its normally about 25 minutes). However, this was not the case. After averaging approximately 17 miles an hour for about 75 minutes, I ran into class huffing and puffing and 20 minutes late.

Fortunately, my professor was good natured and I hadn't missed much other than discussion of the syllabus. After class, it was about the same. I hit rush hour going home as well, though it only took me an hour that time.

Things have changed.

This morning I tried to adapt. I left the house at 6:15am...yes that's in the morning. Rush hour hadn't really kicked in yet. Plus the roads were cleared off...I arrived on campus at 6:45. It would seem that I still need to tweak things just a touch.

The one good part, other than not being late for class today, was that I discovered the Caf is a really great place to finish up the reading that I decided not to finish last night.

This is gonna take some getting used to.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

They're Here

by Scott Dalen

Note...the title of this posting should be read in a way that emulates the little girl from Poltergeist. If it helps, turn on your tv to a channel that has no cable reception...aka will add to the effect.

Over the course of today, plus admittedly some of tomorrow...DL cohorts are making their way to campus. For some like cohort 1 (there are a couple of them here already) this is way old-hat. For others like cohort 4 (seriously, how the heck are we at cohort 4 already?) this is their first time being here.

For me, being cohort 2 and pretty old hat myself, its both a joy and a sadness. I headed over to campus early this evening, getting there about 6pm or so. I had been invited to speak at the welcome supper for cohort 4 and offer the newbies some of the "old-hat" perspective along with two other members of my group.

Free food!!! Can't go wrong there.

It was an enjoyable experience and one that I hope was helpful for the new group. I remember back to my first time descending on campus in January of 2009. We were fresh off a semester of Greek and everyone was limited to a tiny picture and a bunch of postings on Luthernet. They quickly became my Luther family, a source of great support both during those two week periods, but also at home (behold the power of facebook, email, and phone calls). Cohort 4 is about to experience all this...but I'll leave that to them.

Following supper and discussion time, we walked back into Stub and found a gathering of everyone that has made it to campus so far. Admittedly, with our first class not starting until afternoon tomorrow, many haven't made it yet. However, about half of our group was there, some of which I haven't seen for a year and it was great to see them again.

The sad part is that tonight was my last "first night together" with the cohort. They all know that I'm "jumping ship" to go residential (yes, I heard that phrase several times tonight." I'm going to do my best to enjoy this intensive, but admittedly it is already different. When they all gathered for evening prayer, I took my leave and trekked the 25 minutes west to come home. I sit here wondering how much I'll be able to interact with the group outside of class. That is an incredibly important part of the intensives and the cohort system.

So this one is going to be different. I know that and accept that. I'm not the first to leave the cohort to go residential and speed up the process, but honestly, I never thought that I was going to be one to do it.

But for the time being, I'm going to enjoy them as best I can. Class starts tomorrow.

I quote the Joker in The Dark Knight when I say (admittedly not for the first time)...AND HERE...WE...GO.