Thursday, October 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie

Late Sunday afternoon, I stopped by a local grocery store to pick up a few things. I was dutifully placing my items on the conveyer belt. A young man at the cash register, Mansur, asked me how my experience had been in Kroger and if I had found everything I had been looking for in the store. I commented that I was a little disappointed because they seemed to be out of the Oreo cookie pie crust; but I did manage to locate a graham cracker pie crust that I could use instead.
The young man at the cash register looked at me quizzically, slowly repeating what I had said out loud. I nodded, saying that was correct. Our conversation was interrupted by another young man, Sheldon, who was putting my groceries into bags at the end of the counter. Sheldon asked what I wanted with an Oreo cookie pie crust. I said that I was going to make a pie. Sheldon asked what kind of a pie I was going to make. I said that I thought that I would make a peanut butter pie. Sheldon said that he really liked pie, especially peanut butter pie.
Listening intently to the dialogue, Mansur politely asked, “What is pie?” I asked Mansur where he was from and if he had ever had pie before. He said he was from Africa, and shook his head no. I asked Mansur and Sheldon if they would like a piece of peanut butter pie. Mansur, still uncertain of what we were talking about, looked at Sheldon, who was nodding his head enthusiastically. Mansur said yes, and I asked them both when they were working again. Mansur said he would be working on Tuesday evening. I promised that I would be back with pie.
Mansur said to look for him when I came back to the store with pie. He said that he was easy to spot because he was the only guy in the store with a Mohawk, and he was black. He grinned. I thanked him for pointing that out, adding that I hadn’t noticed that he was black. He laughed. I looked at Sheldon and asked if he would be in the store on Tuesday evening as well. He pointed to Mansur and said, “I’m with him.” As I was walking away, I could hear Sheldon singing, repeatedly, “I’m going to get some pie…”
I stopped at the grocery store on Tuesday evening, during the designated time frame. Mansur was so excited to see me that he hugged me and said “You came back.” Sheldon was not at work that evening, but Mansur promised that he would get Sheldon’s piece of pie to him. I told Mansur that I would check back with him later to see what he thought of pie.
What a privilege it was to introduce Mansur to pie, and to remind Sheldon of how much he enjoyed pie. Mansur’s excited surprise at my return also was a sad reminder that we live in a culture where promises are plenty, but follow through is often lacking. Clearly, I don’t have any idea where this story will go. God has yet to set the stage for the next scene.
So, what about you and your life? What new friends have you encountered in recent days? How are you engaging the culture with expressions of love and care? How has God used you to bring surprise and joy into the lives of those around you? What promises do you need to keep?
You know, we are reminded in Psalm 34:8 to “…taste and see that the Lord is good…” How grateful I am to know a God who always keeps His promises.
Mary L.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remembering Dr. Keefer

Notes from Home is intended to send you verbal snapshots of life from the various centers of Ashland Seminary.  In some ways this post is a departure from that intent, but in another way it's right on track.  Dr. Luke Keefer was a treasured part of the Seminary community and touched many lives, so please - read on:

As you may know, the seminary community lost an exceptional teacher, spiritual mentor, and devoted friend last December when Dr. Luke Keefer died.  Dr. Dale Stoffer, Academic Dean, has been asked to write an article about Dr. Keefer in his role as a teacher.  The best way to capture Dr. Keefer's gift of teaching is to have his former students share their stories of how he impacted their lives in the classroom.  If you were a student in one of Dr. Keefer's classes and have a special memory of him in this role, please post a memory or tribute to Dr. Keefer here on the blog where others can enjoy it (and it will be forwarded to Dr. Stoffer) or email your tribute to Dr. Stoffer directly (  Thank you for sharing your memories and for your assistance in presenting an accurate picture of  Dr. Keefer as a teacher.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Let's get this school year going!

With another great year of seminary about to start, I have been going over the syllabi for my classes and have started working on my senior portfolio, and I think I am about ready to go to class. There are a couple of very important things I need to accomplish this weekend before class starts. Among these are completing putting a new gloss finish on my dining room table (a project I started two summers ago), mowing the grass (once classes start the lawn turns back into something out of Jurassic Park), and finally take a nice long nap (because it will be the last nap I take until thanksgiving). I have already stocked up on coffee, Red Bull, and frozen pizza, so let's get this school year going!

David , class of 2012

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September Term and Spiritual Disciplines

I just left my first Summer/September session-type class, and see now just how draining those can be.  I'm happy to say, however, that they are draining in a good way.  The class is Spiritual Disciplines, with Dr. Watson, so how could it be anything short of amazing.  Today we talked about formative reading of scripture, and the Spiritual Masters (which is a pretty awesome title huh?), and meditation.  I often conflate prayer and meditation and I think this is reasonable.  Prayer means so many different things, that we do it a disservice to say almost anything isn't prayer.  My definition of prayer is essentially a conversation with God.  As with conversations on earth, sometimes we speak more and listen less, sometimes the opposite is true, sometimes we simply sit in a room with our spouse and say nothing; we simply look at them and marvel at how they love us so much.
If we understand prayer this way, then certainly meditating on God's promises, trying to discern His will for us in the moment, or hear His wise counsel on how to serve the annoying neighbor is prayer.  I feel like this is what meditation is.  Foster says, "Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God's voice and obey his word."  (intentionally not citing because i'm not getting graded). 

I am often exhausted, by trying to think about what God wants me to do, and remembering every little thing I need to pray for.  The purpose of the spiritual disciplines, both at large and for the purposes of this post regarding meditation, is to pause, and simply listen.  Thinking often gets us into trouble, but when we find the right counsel of the Holy Spirit, and when we know that we know what he is saying, there is a peace and confidence that is built into that moment.  The attached link represents me far too often.  If not in my prayer, then in the hurried pace of thoughts coming and going in my mind as I struggle to decide God's will, rather than discern it.  Give the link a watch. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's The (2nd) Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I’m coming up on my second most favorite time of year.  For some folks, they just love Christmas.  They can’t get enough of the decorations, food, family and spirit of celebrating God incarnate.  I do like Christmas…a lot.  Just ask my wife about my OCD practice of matching my wrapping paper to the tree decorations.  Getting a gift that is wrapped outside of my chosen color scheme means that gift stays in a closet until it is time to open it.  No place under the tree for an inappropriately dressed gift!
Some folks live for summer!  Namely students and faculty, though we administrators, pastors, counselors and non-classroom professionals just think of summer as a season where the office is a little hotter than it was in the spring.  For those who love summer best it means pool time, vacations, sunshine and back yard BBQs.  You may be thinking of your own “favorite time of year” as you read my rant.  That time which, when it’s over, brings a brief sigh of relief because you have given all your energy to it, but that you soon begin to dream of again - how it might be a little different or a little better when it next arrives.
I’m already looking forward to my #1 favorite day of the year.  This year, it falls on June 2, 2012.  Graduation Day and Commencement at Ashland Theological Seminary is my day.  When I first came on staff at ATS as an Enrollment Counselor, I recall speaking with my boss about how my job of getting students in the door wasn’t always particularly fulfilling.  I often got to know a prospect just enough to get them enrolled when my work took me to a new crew of men and women exploring the possibility of a call to seminary.  He looked at me and said, “Just wait until your first graduation where you see someone you recruited cross the stage.”  And he was right!  Every June, as each name is read, my mind is transported to first encounters on a college campus or a meeting in my office when a future student wrestled with the question “How am I going to do this?”  Following God’s call is always an adventure worth taking and graduation is a testimony to His faithfulness (and sometimes His sense of humor).
Now you’re probably wondering what my second most favorite time of year is and why that is the point of this blog...  As I write this, I am three days away from our first Orientation Day for incoming students.  It’s the day when my office, Enrollment Management, puts faces with names of people with whom we’ve emailed and talked for many months.  It’s the day we see new friends who have toured campus with us on past visits- all the time sharing their excitement and/or fear about this next adventure.  Lastly, it’s the day my team of counselors introduces these men and women who are new to Ashland to the team of folks at ATS who will continue walking this journey with them: faculty, advisors, staff members and prayer warriors. 
I recently participated in a round of interviews for a new hire here at the Seminary.  During our conversation with the candidate, she asked President Shultz what he liked best about working here.  His thoughtful response has stuck with me as a mantra of why I also love the work and ministry at Ashland.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that as a pastor and counselor he could have an impact on the lives of the folks with whom he came in contact, but at the Seminary, he knew he was having an impact on people who are each called in their own way to have an impact on hundreds and even thousands of others.  This exponential impact is why Ashland strives every year to be better at fulfilling our mission than we were the year before.  The call to integrate theological education with Christ-centered transformation to equip men and women for ministry in the church and the world is too important to not approach it with humility, diligence, prayer and celebration. 
So my season of welcoming a new class of learners to Ashland will end in early October when I will begin to put my eyes upon next June 2: the day when once more smiles and tears will testify to the beauty of fulfilling our mission one life at a time so that the lives of thousands may know the wonder of a transformed life.
Glenn, 2007

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hot Fun in the Summertime, Part 2

Julie M. was a participant on the Tel Gezer dig mentioned in the previous post.  Her thoughts about the trip arrived too late to make the Table, but I thought you might enjoy reading her piece here - :
            While I could write volumes on the personal impact of my experiences during the five weeks at Tel Gezer, two experiences stand at the forefront of all the others: the amount of information offered to us and our opportunity to contribute to a much larger endeavor.  The depth and breadth of the knowledge we were given in five weeks was breath taking:  we learned about the stages of the Bronze Age and the Iron Ages, the geo-political status of each of these eras and the movements and migrations that formed each period.  We learned the geography and much of the early history of Israel, the major role water sources played in war, peace and everyday life, the ebbs and flows of Canaanite, Philistine and Jewish settlements, and how each of these elements impacted the various cultures.  Through travel, we touched on pre-Israelite times, walked paths of the Old Testament and travelled extensively through the land of Jesus’ ministry.  Through the actual excavation, we learned the basic skills of archeology at the opening, through the actual excavation, and at the close of the operation.  All of this was in addition to what we learned personally about ourselves and about all of our team members with whom we formed timeless and unique relationships.  At the same time, through our work on the excavation we had the privilege of contributing a small part to the on-going story of Tel-Gezer and the insight it lends to the area’s history.  It is humbling to think that our work has added to work that has been conducted over the last 100 years; that we have helped in part in an endeavor that some have worked on for 30 years of their life.  The incremental knowledge uncovered in this short 5-week season may aid in dating this site as well as others with similar characteristics, may shed light on the culture that existed 3,000 years ago, or it may simply help lay the foundation for further research.  In any case, our labor and learning afforded us the opportunity to touch history and to become a part of that history in a way no other experience could have offered.
Julie M.

Hot Fun in the Summertime

One of the really "cool" things students at ATS have access to is the opportunity to spend part of their summer break in sweltering temps digging in the dirt of Israel.  Dr. John Byron, an Associate Professor of NT, was joined by 8 such adventurous souls this summer.  They returned to Ashland on July 15th after spending five weeks excavating at Tel-Gezer in Israel.  Why did they do it? Well, the technical answer is to reexamine results from previous excavations in the context of newly excavated and published material with emphasis on ancient Gezer during the Iron Age. The less technical answer is it's an incredible opportunity to peek back in time and uncover things that have been buried for centuries.  The ongoing project is sponsored by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Israel Antiquities Authority.  Besides the dig (archaeological field school), participants were treated to on site lectures by staff and guest scholars and regional study tours on the weekends.  Check out the soon-to-be-in-your-hands issue of the Table magazine to read stories from three of the student participants. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shark Week

It is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  I sometimes think that my high school guidance counselor must have neglected an entire section of jobs when I see shark wranglers, adventure photographers and the like.  What struck me most about the episode I watched last night is the exhilaration demonstrated by those that sink down into the ocean with “nature’s perfect killing machine.”   It is not that they are insane, lacking any self-protective instinct.  It is that they push right into their fear and experience what most only imagine. 

It is easy to justify avoiding the razor-sharp teeth of a Great White.  Far too often, though, fear keeps me from dipping my toe into waters of all sorts.   Specifically, I don’t risk saying the words that I think.  Of course, there are words better left unsaid.  But, I know I have thought many more compliments than I have ever spoken.  Who knows what those little word-gifts could have accomplished in the lives of the hearer?

When my daughter was very young, I got into a habit of calling her a “problem-solver”.   She was very industrious.   In one particular interaction with her Nana H, I heard her reply to an offer of assistance with, “No, I can do it.  I am a problem-solver.”   Now, a few days from fifteen, she finds pleasure in Algebra (sick, I know).   It took a lot of hard work and discipline on her part, but I really think my words mattered. 

Fears of being misunderstood, mistaken, and misquoted have silenced me countless times, but the exhilaration that comes from really touching someone’s heart far outweighs the risk.  That said, I am going to say more of the good things I think.  Maybe you should too.  After all, it is not like swimming with sharks.

Will, class of 2000

What's a good thing you'd like to say? Share it with us here!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer at ATS

Summer - after 40+ days of rain and gray skies this spring, the sunshine has arrived!  Graduation day was glorious - picture perfect, I'd say.  Over 175 graduates joined excited family members for a ceremony that culminated years of study and preparation.  Dr. Renita Weems, this year's graduation speaker, was articulate, challenging, and funny.  "It seemed like a good idea at the time..." was a phrase oft repeated throughout her message, with the audience quickly joining in the chorus. (Click here to listen for yourself: ATS 2011 Commencement) What was graduation day like for you?  Share your memories by clicking "comment" below.

The busyness of the school year is replaced with a different busyness in the summer.  Recruitment and Admissions are working hard to process applicants for the coming school year; the Institute of Formational Counseling just concluded another seminar; Pastors of Excellence has a retreat week coming up, and offices across campus are using the slightly less hectic schedule to refresh and prep for another exciting school year that will be upon us much sooner than expected.  While you enjoy these summer days we invite you to come by and peruse the Bible in English museum in the Gerber Academic Building.  While you're here, take advantage of the time to wander the campus, meander thru the Prayer Garden, and explore campus once again.  We'd love to see you!

Dawn W.