Friday, January 23, 2009

New year, new life

So much to catch up on, as usual. We had busy holidays in Atlanta--3 and a half weeks of living out of a suitcase back and forth at our two parents' houses. It was full and lovely, but we found it so refreshing to be back in our cozy apartment with just the three of us. As much as we love our families, being with people continuously for that long is tough, and we realized how much we enjoy having our own space and our quiet routines, even though there are still people popping in and out of it all day every day. At the Regent retreat in September, one of our professor couples talked on hospitality and I loved their line that "our homes need a hinge and a lock." A hinge to swing wide open to others, but a lock to close in on the family for space and rest and recuperation. We love people, but we also love quiet and just being with each other.

Only a few days after we returned, we started up our classes. David is taking "Advanced Exegesis on Mark" with a favorite, but as far as workload goes, notoriously evil, professor--Rikk Watts. Also, "Pastoral Care" and "Ministry and Spirituality." Plus, Supervised Ministry at the church continues. I'm taking "Christian Thought and Culture II." It's not overly demanding, and even with a new baby, it'll be nice to have a break to get out of the house a couple times a week for the lectures. Last semester was particularly arduous for both of us with our classload, certainly the most intense so far (although amazingly, shockingly, we somehow both finished strong and with perfect grades.) So, this semester is situated to be a bit more stress-free, if graduate school can ever be called that. The baby will of course fill up any slack in stress, however.

This past weekend we enjoyed the annual church retreat at a beautiful camp in the mountains. We were taught by the Scottish Bruce Milne out of Philippians, ate fantastic food, and laughed over the ridiculous skits and talent show. The highlight though was David's baptism. Being an intern at a Baptist church, it was decidedly time for him to have his adult baptism. But, being David, he thought it'd be fun to do it a little different. Plus, he says the Didache, a 2nd century document about discipleship, says if possible baptism should be done in "living water". So, he along with two other brave souls, endured the freezing waters of a mountain lake for their immersion. It was definitely analogous to a death and new life: he certainly felt invigorated and fully alive when he came up out of that water!

Here's his written testimony, although his spoken testimony that he gave (in the warmth of the chapel) that morning was a bit more detailed and beautifully spoken.

"Having grown up in the church, I have always been among the family of God, but not always in it. I always assumed I was a Christian because I went to church, but whenever I tried to understand the Kingdom of God, it seemed like a mystery I could not grasp. After my wife, Megan, and I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland for her to pursue her Master's degree, everything changed as God grabbed a hold of both our hearts. Megan and I began developing relationships within an amazing church body in the heart of Edinburgh, and Megan said something about memorizing the Sermon on the Mount, which I took as a challenge. As I hammered verse by verse into my head, there were certain passages that struck me. First I hit upon, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14). This did not match up with my life experience in the southeastern United States. Among the people I knew, it was rare for people not to label themselves as “Christian.” Second, what really caught my attention was in 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

I had never even prophesied, cast out demons, or done mighty works in his name – where did I fit in this statement?

I believe memorizing this verse was the impetus that caused my religious foundation built on the sand to finally collapse beyond repair. I had been working hard for many years at my Christian faith, and I was not able to do to wondrous miracles, yet even if I could do these miraculous deeds, they were not even good enough to get me into heaven! “Who then can be saved?”

My next journey was on the road of grace. Phillip Yancy’s What’s So Amazing About Grace began to open my eyes to the “scandal of the cross,” and Christianity’s distinction from all other works-based religions. Once I embraced grace, it was only natural to embrace the one who gives His grace unconditionally.

Though I was baptized as a child, I have discovered on my journey that the Bible testifies to special gifts for those who are baptized as believers. Primarily, I look to Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:20-21. Jesus was fully God before he was baptized, yet when he is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends on him as a dove, and it is only after this event that Jesus begins his ministry. Furthermore, in this act, God the Father speaks and says, "This is my son, whom I love. In him I am well pleased." Although I have been a Christian for many years, I am anticipating my baptism, and whatever fruit may arise from it. My prayer is that in our baptisms, the Father will say to each one of us, "This is my daughter and son. In them I am well pleased.""

Did I mention there was snow on the ground. Yeah. It was cold.

Speaking of the weather, this was the first day since we arrived home that the sun came out! We have had not rain, but a tremendous amount of fog and gloom, and drifts of snow piled up on the sides of the roads. I think it's cool. But today as Cora and I drove to a friend's to pick up a bassinet we're borrowing for the baby and we crested a hill and looked out over a sparkling bay and white-capped mountains and the glimmering city buildings, I was struck anew by how beautiful this city is. Problem is we only can see it half the year!

Better go. Dave and I are in the middle of a Scrabble game, and he finally just took his turn.