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

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