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Constructive Seminariology
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Below are the 50 most recent journal entries recorded in Sarah J. Blake's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, April 26th, 2009
12:41 pm
finishing the semester and getting started with job applications

Yesterday, I turned in my last book review. So now I just have one more Hebrew chapter to translate, and I have to show up for two more weeks of class discussions. Well, I do have chapters to read and quizzes to take for my leadership class and some field hours left to do. I might actually be able to get it done meaningfully... Then I will move into the summer rouitne of internship and Greek, which I suspect will be more manageable. And somehow, I have a clean house on top of all this! Ideally, I would like to maintain that. It makes me feel good, and I could have guests in...

About my resume...Collapse )

Current Mood: good


Friday, April 3rd, 2009
11:18 am
He has borne our griefs...

Today in Hebrew, we read in Gen. 50 where Joseph's brothers tell him that God commands him to "lift up the transgression of your brothers." I mistranslated it; and this led my professor and me into a discussion of the fact that sacrifices could be offered for sins but not for transgressions (rebellions). The only way for the rebellion to be cleared was for the person who had been wronged to "lift up" the transgression and carry it on his back. The wording for this is also used in Isaiah 53, which is a text that is often interpreted as prefiguring Christ. Christ, then, takes the place of the person who is wronged, carrying ourtransgressions... I will be studying this deeply in the future--in the Hebrew and Greek. It has great significance for how I think and act in faith. There is so much that is lost in our Anglicized readings of the Bible!

Current Mood: thinking deeply


Friday, March 20th, 2009
1:27 pm

I applied for a writing fellowship... I had applied for it last year and someone else got it. It occurred to me this year to be a bit more bold and propose a specific project instead of thinking that they had something in mind to assign me. It worked. I was accepted and will be writing about the historical, cultural, theological, and philosophical issues that have shaped and continue to shape the way that education is delivered at Church of God-sponsored colleges. The monograph will be published online this summer, and I will also present my research at our national convention in June. It is a very exciting opportunity.

Current Mood: encouraged


Monday, March 16th, 2009
10:05 am
thoughts on my career path

As I think about what might be a mission of sorts in my work with theological education, it boils down to making theological study possible for people with a variety of limiting situations. For some people, the limiting situation might be a disability. Blindness is a prime example; and my work with Hebrew and Greek addresses this directly. For other people, the need is less obvious: they don’t have the advanced vocabulary needed to read theological works or the understanding of theological concepts needed to connect effectively in the church.

This is part of the reason why I have had difficulty narrowing down an interest in a particular subject area. I am a generalist at heart—not because I am not good enough but because I recognize that these problems affect student performance in all areas. I also believe that the content in all of these areas cannot function alone. It is bound up together; and part of what I care about is helping people to make connections between subject areas. I know that everyone does this to some extent; but the connection is something so deep in my soul that I feel that I could do damage to my faith and my teaching if I devoted too much study to one area, if I failed to dialogue with others and understand how that one area participates in the fabric of what the Church is and does.

Current Mood: thinking


Monday, February 23rd, 2009
10:30 am
first teaching experience

So far my technology is serving me well. In the past I have suffered major breakdowns at the worst times. I am faithfully backing up every couple of days, so we will see what happens. I had my first classroom presentation on February 17: a 30 minute presentation on suffering and loss. I thought that I would use hardcopy and generate handouts for the students as well. I have known technology to fail the sighted professors as well, and I thought that for my first teaching experience it might be wise to eliminate one source of potential anxiety.

Things didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped. I got my handouts made, but the printers at the school weren't working. The person I spoke with suggested I go to Kingco's. I don't get paid for this, and I'm not spending $10 on handouts unless they are crucial. They weren't. So I talked with the professor, and we decided to project the handout. This went fairly well. He let me know how uch was showing on the screen, and I had a hard copy in front of me and was able to tell him when to advance it.

I had planned to use some Internet content in the presentation; but the Net connection on the classroom computer was down. So I scrapped that aspect of the presentation and improvised something in its place. I had planned informally for this kind of problem; so it was not a deal breaker.

I got a few very nice comments from students who said that I appeared poised, kept them engaged, and had obviously put a lot of work into the presentation. My volume was low, though one person said she could hear me better than she can hear the professor. Projecting has always been a weakness for me, partially because of breathing problems and partially because I am afraid of screaming at people. I need to remember that what might seem like screaming to me is probably just right for a classroom. It is significant that the professors with mild hearing impairments lean closer to hear me, sometimes even in a quiet setting.

Current Mood: good


Thursday, February 12th, 2009
10:14 pm
teaching assistantship update

I've been taking a lot of notes in class about who is contributing and what they are saying. After four class sessions, I am recognizing most of the regular speakers. Considering the fact that we did not do anything about asking them to identify themselves when they speak, this is not a bad rate of recognition. I think that if I was in a more active teaching situation, I would either ask students to self-identify for the first two or three weeks or else schedule initial meetings simply so that I could become acquainted with each student. I like the second option better; but if my classes were too large and my time too limited, this would not work well.

Paper grading is uneventful. I treat them like my own papers that need proofreading--but a much more careful proofreading than I tend to do on my own papers. There are no significant disability-related problems here.

Current Mood: busy


Monday, February 2nd, 2009
4:26 pm
class descriptions

I appear to be disappearing again. So... I'm going to start documenting very small things to help me track my memory loss. Academically I seem to be holding my own--I am scoring 9/10 on quizzes so far. This is good. But I am forgetting strange things, like why I missed class last Thursday. It was a class I was looking forward to... I really enjoyed the chapter readings and thought we would have extremely lively discussion. Oh, hmm... I remember now. I emailed the professor about it. My peak flows were 250 to 300, and I was in extreme pain. Ok, that is worth noting. I also missed teaching a good Sunday school lesson yesterday because of pain and chills that never did develop into fever. Last Tuesday I was stuck here waiting on a delivery of antibiotics instead of attending my afternoon class. The good news is that I am not in so much sinus pain. The bad news is this doesn't make my attendance streak look good so far.

I am taking five classes this semester. It is an extremely heavy load. This is how it looks.

Ethics for the vocation of ministry: This is the practical side of ethics. I took the theoretical side last semester. I had no idea what to expect in this class. We have very lively discussions, and I am keeping up well.

Leadership: This is basically a course in group dynamics. There are only six people in the class. The book is a very basic group psychology text, and most of the material is derivative of stuff that is very second nature to me. A lot of it is redundant fromn early psych courses. My undergraduate degree is in psychology, and I really have to work to stay motivated to do the exercises. The one aspect of the course which I will enjoy is that I get to work with a local food pantry (actually the one where I had difficulties a couple of years ago) doing some grant research and writing. The idea is for me to develop skills that I have not yet had an opportunity to develop. I am hoping that grant writing might serve me in some very practical ways.

Hebrew: This is technically 4th semester, but I am behind in some respects. We are still working through the first-year grammar which I never finished because of technical issues during my first year. During last semester, we spent part of the time doing an inductive study of Jonah. I enjoyed this a lot more than what I'm doing in the grammar book. I could probably learn a lot more from pure inductive study. I'm working on not being discouraged with myself. It's not really my fault that I had to teach myself how to use technology in addition to doing Hebrew.

Christian witness in a pluralistic world: This is not what it sounds like (and we have been reminded of this repeatedly). It is not a course in how to evangelize people of other faiths. It is a course in how to work alongside them. I like it. A lot. But it is really a drop in the bucket--we're learning about Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. There is a lot more to being pluralistic than this!

Foundations of pastoral care: This is the course in which I am a TA. My credit is three hours of internship credit. I am doing a variety of things. I will be presenting/leading three class discussions and grading some papers. I am doing writing workshops this month for new students. I am also helping to facilitate discussion on the online forums. (This also gives me a chance to observe writing styles.)

I am hanging on the edge wwith church choir. I'd really like to get off the edge and back into the groove. I need a lot of energy and time that I don't seem to have.

Current Mood: tired


Monday, January 26th, 2009
9:55 am
experimenting with seating and hearing

Quiz went well this morning: I scored 19/20. This is encouraging. Of course, the questions were easy. I don't know whether they will always be easy.

Either I'm having a very bad hearing day, or where I sit in the room matters. I moved to a different corner. I think I will move during the break and see how much difference it makes. Right now I have my aids in and up most of the way, and what I am hearing sounds "normal." Before I put them in, I was missing about 30 percent of what was being said. It is impossible to take notes that way, and I really do not have time to go back and listen to hours and hours of lectures plus read 500 pages/week. So I am working on braille output only, and I am accustomed to using the braille output only as a secondary medium. This is not because of my discomfort with braille but because I spent 16 years as a speech-only user before getting my braille display. This is truly challenging. I cannot wear my aids and earbuds at the same time.

It is worth noting that I have a low-grade migraine this morning. I didn't consider it worth treating--they are so frequent lately that I don't have enough Imitrex to cover them. Must remember to track hearing loss and migraine relationship...

Current Mood: curious


Thursday, January 15th, 2009
2:13 pm
first class day

I made it to my first class today--in the sub-zero temps. Loretta wore her booties and pranced around like she was entertaining the world. She was a big hit!

I have a feeling this semester is going to be quite emotionally draining for me, though it has the potential to be a good growth experience spiritually. I was totally unprepared for what we did in class this morning. Teaching on Tuesdays may be the least of my worries if this kind of intensity continues!

I will write about it at some poine. I am rather sleep-deprived at the moment. There were snow plows going through here at 4:30 in the morning, and Inca was quite distressed by them. It sounded like so much thunder! I'm going back to sleep for now.

Current Mood: tired


Monday, January 5th, 2009
6:50 pm
ssetting goals

General goals for the semester:<

I need to establish and maintain healthy eating patterns. This is the first thing to go down the tubes when I am busy.

I need to keep up with housework so that it doesn't become overwhelming. This is less of an area of concern than nutrition; but the busier I am the more important it is.

I need to maintain a reasonable study schedule so that I can stay ahead and have time for other things. This means also keeping a calendar of things going on.

I would like to establish one or two more local friendships. This means finding a way to eat on campus occasionally or do something else that involves getting together with people. Ideally, I would like to have company a few times, even just for a study session.

Track medical progress: what I'm taking, illnesses and severity of symptoms, and how I feel I'm responding to treatment.

Teaching goals:

I would like to have enough classroom experiences so that I am able to identify potential difficulties and evaluate solutions. Feedback from students would be extremely helpful in this process. Some of my concerns: how much material to present, how much to rely on technology during presentation, making sure that use of technology isn't slowing me down, getting visual helps to students if appropriate, managing classroom discussions effectively. Somewhat related is the issue of how I present myself emotionally to the group, particularly concerning nonverbal communication.

Grading papers seems to be a crucial experience, though I am less concerned about it than I am about classroom experience. The primary challenge seems to be getting comments available in a manner that works for students. I think this can easily be done with Word. I just need to work with the process.

I need to keep close track of how I am changing emotionally through this experience. I want to write a reflective journal by the end of day following each teaching experience. This is challenging because often I am tempted to put it off due to being tired. I'd really like to do it while it is fresh. There is a point to being respectful of my body's needs at times; but I need to maintain the discipline as much as I can.

I would like to start building my resume. I would also like to look for some publication opportunities so that I can work toward achieving a publication goal.

Current Mood: busy


12:42 am
church notes

I made it to church. My brain was not too functional after having a bunch of apneas during the night, but I did attend and I did participate to the best of my ability. In the haziness of what eventually became a migraine, a few things stood out as important.

A lot of people were away, sick, including about half of the worship team. My voice is not quite up to choral singing yet, and I sat out. The choir was clearly missing some singers.

During the greeting time, someone came up and exclaimed, "Sarah!" It was Katya, a seminary student who is from Russia. I had made some efforts to acquaint myself with her last semester. Things didn't go as well as I hoped--it went down into the single digits and I didn't go to campus, so we didn't have lunch. It was meaningful to me that Katya approached me and seemed genuinely excited about seeing me. Perhaps I will manage to form another local friendship this semester. I need to write more about this; but it will happen tomorrow.

Dr. Brewer filled in for the pastor today. His theme was, "You are God's beloved." I have heard him speak on this before. I always enjoy hearing this. He told some great stories today. But the thing that really stood out to me was the point that God pronounced Jesus his beloved before Jesus had done anything. His love wasn't based on accomplishments. It just was. This has tremendous implications for the way we live. Somehow, it is one of the most difficult things to connect with in the spiritual life. How much effort is spent trying to please God and make Him love us when He already does!

Current Mood: good


Monday, December 29th, 2008
12:58 am
Did I do that?

I have written some 300 pages worth of papers in the last 2-1/2 years. This does not include journal-keeping, notes taken, or little miscellaneous exercises due every week.

I am not done yet. I anticipate writing at least two or three significant papers next semester, and possibly four. It will not surprise me if I top 400 pages by the time I am done with this degree.

I'm sort of amazed that I wrote this much stuff. I should bind it and pass it around for people to read in one week as a sample of my typical week--except that I don't use big words like my textbook authors do.

Current Mood: amazed and amused


Friday, November 28th, 2008
6:41 pm
update on the semester

It's been a while since I posted a real update on this journal. Since it also gets posted to my Facebook, here goes...

This has not been a very easy semester practically for me. In late September, my Lenovo ThinkPad crashed and I had it in the hands of a computer man for a week. For someone who is technology dependent, this is a very difficult situation. My desktop is still not fixed from its troubles last spring--I think it needs a Windows reinstall. It was still able to boot from the Windows CD until the last day. So I continued working as well as I could and was permitted to take some exams at home since that was where I could do my writing.

I got the laptop back, and life returned to normal, complete with me catching a respiratory infection which morphed into bronchitis and probably a sinus infection. I spent a week or so just sleeping. Almost as soon as I got well, my memory card corrupted, meaning that I lost an entire month's worth of work. I re-scanned thousands of pages of books for research papers, asked professors to return papers I had submitted so that I could re-file my work, and backed everything up in three places. By mid-November, I was badk on track--more or less. However, my work would have been more thourough if I had not needed to spend so much time re-scanning things!

This week, I am dealing with yet another bout of bronchitis. I'm unfortunately seeing what all these immunosuppressive medications I need for arthritis and asthma are doing to my infection resistance. Fortunately, the lung specialist was very proactive with my treatment, and I seem to be weathering this one better than I did the last one. I'm still getting some work done; and I didn't lose my voice.

I have two huge papers to write this week. I think coffee may become a staple--I've been trying to moderate my consumption of caffeine and skip days here and there. Needless to say, I will be glad to get hold of some free time for reflection and creativity. I have quite a lot on my mind but very little time to do anything with it.

Current Mood: scrambling


Thursday, November 27th, 2008
12:11 am
God with us
I am often disturbed when in church we pray things like, "God, please be with us," or "please be with so-and-so." This kind of prayer implies to me that we either think that God might not be with us some of the time or that we don't really know how to communicate with Him about whatever it is we're trying to pray about. Perhaps the problem is a bit of both... Or perhaps we try to address our inability to feel His presence emotionally by requesting Him to be with us...</p>

My church choir is doing a cantata on December 14 entitled "Emmanuel." We have been instructed to pronounce this name "Immanuel." Well, why not? If I pronounced the Hebrew phrase meaning "God with us," that is how it would be spoken. Where did that e come from? Immanuel is not a name in the way that Sarah is my name. It is a description. Various places in the Hebrew Bible suggest that God could and sometimes did withdraw from a person or group of people. Other places indicate that He was "with them" in particular situations. "God with us," God in Christ giving the Spirit so that we might never be left or foresaken, is a precious thing. Even when we have felt that God has been absent, He never was! It is a concept that is truly too deep for little words. Music helps... It is impossible to describe verbally some of the things that happen when music makes its way into the heart, takes what is in there, and brings it out for sharing with the world!

Current Mood: peaceful


Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
6:46 am
review of tiny laptop

Since tiny laptops seem to be quite catching in my circle for those who can handle the little screens, I put up a page with my full review and a link to purchase. If you know anyone who is laptop-shopping, please share. You will be feeding the starving seminary student in the process.

Read the review of the Acer Aspire One.

Current Mood: awake


Monday, September 29th, 2008
3:54 pm
Computers can wreck your life!

Occasionally I am hit squarely in the face with the reality of how much of my life depends on my having access to a computer. Not just any old computer. A computer with a program on it that reads text from the screen out loud. I don't need to talk to the computer instead of type. I memorized the keys just like other people who took typing and had to learn to type without looking at the keys. But I do need to know what is on that screen. If Windows starts misbehaving, my screen reader program doesn't work; and since the screen reader is installed on and licensed to one computer, I can't just move to a different computer and keep working.

This affects almost all of my work for seminary. I can take notes in braille; but all of my reading and all of my papers are done on the computer. My tests are often essay tests and are also done on the computer. So... No computer, no homework. And that is what happened to me last night.

I have been working on a Lenovo ThinkPad for the last six months. I didn't realize until now how much configuring I had done to it in that time. I realized because I am now updating the configurations on an older machine that is partially functioning. It boots from a Windows CD; and when I get the ThinkPad back, I'll have to finish whatever needs to be done to fix this one. I am the kind of person who needs two identically configured systems in the house. Why? Because of what happened last night. When you are responsible for reading 500 pages a week plus research for two major papers during a semester, you really cannot afford to be dead in the water because your computer died.

Screen reader, check. Antivirus, check. Language configurations for screen reader? Oh goodness! I'm very glad I invested the time to put all those things up on my web site. Why? Because otherwise those configurations might have been too recent to make it to back-up. I am now benefitting from my own language web site. Those configurations represent hundreds of hours of research and work, and they really need to be backed up in a few places.

We have a guest lecturer on campus this week. There are six hours of lectures... My plan had been to go to the lectures with my laptop and sit on campus and study for the remainder of the day obetween lecture and class tomorrow and between lecture and church on Wednesday. That time is now dead time, and I will either get behind or lose sleep because I stay awake studying at night. Or else I miss the lectures. This is not an ideal situation at all. But it is, as I say, life when you're blind. I'd like to say I hate life when you're blind, but I really should take it with grace. I'll work on that.

Current Mood: thinking


Thursday, September 18th, 2008
11:21 am
thoughts prompted by a piece of music

When I saw what lay before me, “Lord,” I cried, “what will I do?”
I thought He would just remove it, but He gently led me through.
Without fire there’s no refining; without pain, no relief.
Without flood there’s no rescue; without testing, no belief.
--Gloria Gaither, "Through"

This song always tears me up when we sing it in choir. (So I will be a mess onstage this week.) It describes the difference between what I experienced in the Pentecostal church and what I experience now. Then, I could supposedly just "pray it away," whatever it was. If my prayer wasn't answered, it was because I didn't have enough faith, didn't shout loud enough, or didn't something else that the nearest person came up with. But sometimes the truth is just that God is with me through the water and the fire... Sometimes I need to know the meaning of the words "crying out." We don't like crying out very much in America. We seem to think there is a point when people have done that enough to "deserve" God's intervention. But perhaps the point isn't anything about deserving His intervention at all. It is about learning that His intervention comes because of His love, because He is moved by our crying. After all these years of "being a Christian," I still do not understand that love very well. I still think that surely there is something I could do to make Him answer, to control my own pain.

Current Mood: thinking


Wednesday, September 10th, 2008
12:21 am
reflections on a movie

In my evangelism class, we watched the movie The Apostle. The idea was to analyze the evangelism methods of the main character. There were plenty of other things I found worth analyzing as well.

Read more...Collapse )

Current Mood: thinking


Monday, September 1st, 2008
8:29 am
thoughts about Hebrew and Greek and the language learning process

Since I'll be taking second year Hebrew this year, I've been reviewing my notes from last year and some additional resources that I have access to now that I have gotten the computer to display properly--or mostly so. I'm still working out a few kinks; but they are minor.

Read my thoughts about learning Hebrew and Greek...Collapse )

Just some thoughts as I review and make the transition from Greek back to Hebrew. I'm not finding it as hard as I thought it would be. Now if I can occasionally keep reading in Greek, that will be something to write about. The challenge in this for me, of course, is that I am swapping out the same braille symbols for new meanings. It can be disorienting. I'd like to refresh Spanish and French and eventually pick up German and Latin; but I think that I need to become adept at swapping between Hebrew and Greek before I start adding in more languages.

Current Mood: busy

(4 theological ideas |Theologize)

Thursday, August 28th, 2008
9:48 pm
Greek grade

My Greek grade is in. A for both sessions.

Current Mood: satisfied


1:25 am
language page update

The language page is beginning to take more shape. Today I added info on keyboards: download links, installation instructions, layout charts. I started on charts to make JAWS speak the characters in typing and read-by-letter mode. Hebrew is done. Greek will be more tedious--there are dome two hundred symbols to include. I won't get it done until Friday.

Tomorrow I will do the last of the Greek chapters. This weekend I really need to finish a lot of scanning for fall classes.

Current Mood: tired


Monday, August 25th, 2008
10:56 pm
language study information

I have posted a page with resources for those interested in blindness and the study of biblical languages on my web site.


Information includes my paper about Hebrew study, a page with information about how to set up a computer for braille display of Greek and Hebrew, and links to useful resources. If you know someone who would benefit from this information, please pass it around.

Current Mood: awake


Saturday, August 23rd, 2008
11:44 pm
Must everything change?

My Sunday school class is studying Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change this fall. As I've prepared this week's lesson, I've done a lot of reflecting. I don't always share my own reflections with the class... I think it is more important for them to do their own discussing and reflecting than for me to spend excessive time spouting off. But I do need to do something constructive with my thoughts.

In chapter 2, McLaren says that he found himself asking two questions: What is the biggest problem in the world? And what would Jesus do about it? While McLaren's attempt is obviously to prod people to wander outside their comfort zone and think more globally, his big questions did not have this effect on me. I am not accustomed to thinking in such a grand sweep; and I'm really not convinced that Jesus would expect it of me. Furthermore, I think that putting aside the small areas where we can make change and trying to define one "big question" that we must answer collectively is as dangerous as ignoring the big picture altogether.

I will keep an open mind while reading this book. However, at the moment, I am inclined to believe that we touch each other by sharing our experiences and appreciating the different areas of need and strength we bring to the table. Jesus did not live according to one global problem. He interacted with people based on their situations. Preaching the good news was the only global mission he ever had.

Current Mood: tired

(2 theological ideas |Theologize)

9:51 pm
general update

Today has been mostly productive considering a little snafu that occurred. I discovered that a book I had scanned did not save properly; so I had to re-scan it. I did it in two parts just to make sure it worked; and when I pasted the second half in at the end of the first, the rest of the book appeared in 43 point font! It made the book turn into a 500-pager instead of a 350-pager! I did a select-to-end and fixed the font size. But wow! What a mess! I ended up getting four books scanned and three loads of laundry done as well as some non-dishwasher-safe dishes. I still need to run the dishwasher, and tomorrow I'll try to get a few other miscellaneous housework things done. Greek is winding down, and the fall semester starts on September 2.

Current Mood: good


Tuesday, August 12th, 2008
8:49 am
why I wanted to learn biblical languages

I am home feeling very sick today, so the Greek book and I have a personal appointment. I thought that since I have time, I would write about why I wanted so much to learn biblical languages. I've become able to put this in words in a way that I could not do in the past.

When I first spoke to another blind person about learning Greek, he asked me why. I said something about wanting to be able to read the New Testament in Greek. He said, "That's not reason enough. You'll be a busy pastor, and you'll forget most of it." He pointed out that there are tools to use if I want the background of a term, etc. But that wasn't enough for me, and I knew that he was wrong about me. I couldn't explain why, but I knew.

I didn't want the meanings of terms. I wanted the conceptual understanding that comes from thinking in the original language and actually going through the translation process myself. There are things that really can't be expressed in English the way they are expressed in Hebrew or Greek; and I wanted to get at those things because I think they are important to spiritual growth. How I will use that in my teaching I don't know; but that should have been my first clue that I was meant to teach biblical studies.

Current Mood: enthused


Monday, August 11th, 2008
9:43 am
Greek update

Greek has commenced for the week. It turns out that what I spent hours translating and re-translating on Friday was a quiz, not the text! *gulps* There's got to be a better way. To advocate or not to advocate?

The rest of the class has the answer key to the exercises in the book. I have it--in print. That obviously does not help me unless I have a reader. I don't have a reader. So I proposed that my homework get graded in lieu of testing. It was an acceptable solution. I feel a hundred pounds lighter. I can spend today actually catching up on my notes and doing a few homework exercises to get up to speed.

This means I won't be doing exactly the same work as the rest of the class; but I'm learning the same material, and as the professor said the point is for me to understand it.


Current Mood: relieved


Friday, August 8th, 2008
4:00 pm
Greek update

I'm taking a break from Greek, but Greek will likely continue all day.

I am working on the Greek quizzes and test that he could not send to me earlier this week. In my present frame of mind this is a daunting task. For one thing, I have a hard enough time still with the accented letters. Remember I just recently got them all to display, which was really an act of matching Unicode numbers to braille dot numbers and had nothing to do with letters at all so did not give me any practice in reading or memorizing letters. I've never experienced problems with reversals in braille, even with my other languages. I am experiencing problems with reversals in braille in Greek. Alpha grave and eta circumflex are mirror images in braille. Regular eta and alpha grave are upside down images of each other. Confused yet? I am.

Now about these tests.... His font doesn't match mine. So all I see is his key presses. On a Greek keyboard, you use various keys to make accents. Since there is no v in the Greek alphabet, the v might be mapped to an accent character. But what I see, for instance, instead of the word δου?λοω, is the English characters douvlos. So when I test, I retype everything, assuming I can interpret it correctly, and then do the test. That is why it took me four hours to test last week. And I get so caught up in figuring out what these letters are supposed to be that I lose my ability to do the translations. My frustration tolerance is very low, especially today.

My professor asked me this morning if it would be better to have someone read the test to me. I thought about it. But that poses other problems. I've been doing Greek by looking at it, not by listening to it. It would still take me hours because I would have to type everything out and not have the benefit of the accents; and in the Greek language, accents can alter the way a word is read. This doesn't even cover the issue of not having a person on hand to read a Greek test. I am thankful for the nice professor who understands this is a tremendous challenge way beyond just doing Greek. My goal in taking this course is to be able to read in Greek, not just to pass the course. I appreciate that he understands that.


Current Mood: overwhelmed


Tuesday, August 5th, 2008
9:26 am
when blindness is a pain

Today being blind is a pain. I walked out and left my flash card at home, which means all of my notes are sitting on my desk at home and my cats are probably making great use of my Greek notes and working on my independent study for me. We now have a very long break... But not long enough for me to go home and get it without paying $11 in taxi fare! I will survive, but I could make much better use of this break! If I could sleep in this environment and make up the time later, this would not be a problem... Maybe I'll go fill out that financial aid application that I did not work on last night... So much of my life is wasted time!!!


Current Mood: irritable


Sunday, August 3rd, 2008
5:13 pm
the sermon

Preaching went very well considering the one thing that threw me off. A certain yellow Lab/golden retriever cross decided to have a little fun. It was my fault for thinking that she would be a good girl and sleep through my sermon. I know better now! She decided to quietly get up and wander. I learned later that she went to visit an elderly lady in a wheel chair. Incidentally, her puppyhood included daily visits to a 92-year-old lady in a wheelchair. I guess Loretta has fond puppyhood memories!

Loretta's fun made for a great illustration. It also gave me a nice chance to practice improvising--and losing my place, and forgetting to go back to an important point. I'm not terribly disappointed considering this was my first real sermon outside homiletics class. The people at the church were very gracious with their feedback, and that makes me happy.

Dad told me on the way that he had been prepared to fill in for me in case I was ill. He didn't know what my topic was yet. When I told him, he did a double take. He had chosen the same passage!

Right click to download "Who Touched Me?"

Current Mood: good


Saturday, August 2nd, 2008
11:06 am
Feeling the call to the ministry?

I have wrestled since starting seminary with defining my "call to the ministry." It is something that everyone is asked to do when entering seminary, and it is often very difficult. Like everyone else, I tried to identify some mold that I fit into, some place where I was "called" to serve.

I'm not sure that was the point. Certainly there is a point to finding my area of giftedness and things that are practical issues in limiting what I can and cannot do. Someone who is tone deaf is likely not called to music ministry. It won't likely do for me to try to work in missions since I am dependent on American insurance and 15 medications. But there are a number of things I CAN do; and limiting myself based on what I had done in the past or what I knew I enjoyed wasn't working.

I've had a sort of revolution in my thinking. I wrote it out in answer to someone's question on the Church of God email list.

I think it is very normal for a young person to feel that call and then find that the details are "hashed out" over time and even can change. Personally, I don't believe that God calls a person to be "a youth minister," "a music minister," etc. If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have said differently. But I've had some personal experiences that have forced me to come to terms with this.

When I first felt that little tug, I was a teenager and thought that my primary "calling" involved doing something with singing and songwriting. There was no reason to think otherwise: this is something I was doing in the church as well as at other churches regionally, and I was cranking out songs like a machine and showed an aptitude for music production. My parents, solely, questioned my ability to have stage presence due to my lack of use of gestures, etc.

During my 20s, I did a little work with a tiny youth choir for a couple of years. Later I spent several years working in children's ministries with infants and very young children. So all of my early experiences were with youth, music, and children. But what I know now is that my primary gift is not youth or children's ministry. My personality would not suit these types of positions on an ongoing basis, and I don't have the physical stamina necessary to play games and cope with high-energy settings like IYC.

One reason I'm not still doing nursery ministry is that I developed rheumatoid-type arthritis and can no longer hold a baby for more than a few minutes. So I tried something new: teaching adult Sunday school. I found that at this point in my life, teaching seems to be a good niche for me. And what happened to all that music? It is becoming part of my teaching ministry at times; but I'm not going to be a traditional music minister and probably won't be doing any "normal" itinerant music ministry. If I do anything itinerant that involves music, it will certainly have its own flavor. I like to talk, and I've always felt that my music is part of something else I'm doing, but I couldn't put that in words until now.

So I think that often if the church is willing to "experiment" a bit with a person who is feeling the call to ministry and help them discover what they are gifted in--and sometimes how their gifts change over time--the "minister" is discovered. The real question is does that person say yes to the call, whatever it is, and is that person willing to be molded in accordance with the way that call plays out? When God calls, it means giving up your own career aspirations and letting Him set the aagenda. Often we seem to think, "Oh, God called. I'll become a minister." And we still keep the agenda in our hands. A lot of troubled ministers are born that way, I think.

Incidentally, concerning my "stage presence," the overwhelming feedback I have received everywhere I go is that the lack of gestures seems to free people to connect with me in other ways. Perhaps I am connecting with segments of the population who are not reached by others onstage in the same ways... Just something worth thinking about.


Current Mood: thinking


Friday, August 1st, 2008
8:46 am
Greek notes and troubleshooting concentration difficulty

Executive decision no. 1: Nebulizer treatment is going to have to move to nighttime. It's nice to breathe in the morning, but the jitteriness seriously interferes with my concentration and I think it is hampering my work in class. It may be worth noting whether Brovana can cause issues with pain control; but maybe I could sleep it off...

Now about Greek... I have managed to get JAWS to display all of my writing adequately, and I'm happy about this. There are still some minor issues with Word, but they are very minor things and won't affect me badly in the long run. If I can solve the general concentration issue, I'll be on the ball for real.

I am doing all right so far with vocabulary. Greek words often form the roots of English words, even if remotely. I can form some odd connections in my head for remembering things and that is helping me. This is one stressful thing off my mind for the moment--vocabulary is often my weakness when learning languages. It's nice not to have to worry about it this time<,/p>

My difficulty this time is with the number of extra braille symbols due to lots of accented letters. I don't remember having quite this much difficulty with Hebrew; but I've turned off my Hebrew brain at the moment and perhaps I'm just not thinking about it much. I'll get the hang of it with practice. It's just going to take time and lots of practice. This is the point where having an audio version of the Greek New Testament (not modern Greek) would be helpful because I could hear the pronunciation and get used to what these symbols are supposed to be. In print, you are at least getting the letter and the accents are consistent. This is a disadvantage of braille: the symbols really are not intuitive sometimes as far as I can tell. Then again, I haven't paid that much attention.

Ha! I'm in class... The professor just said, "Don't just lay your Greek book aside on Saturday and Sunday..." If he only knew....

Current Mood: jittery and painful


Thursday, July 31st, 2008
9:22 pm
what slows me down in Greek

I have spent the entire afternoon trying to make JAWS read *ALL* of the Greek characters. When I looked at the braille table, I thought this would be a piece of cake because there were characters showing for all of the signs.

It wasn't a piece of cake at all.

I wrote the other day about precomposed characters in Unicode. Well, there are a ton of them. I really had no idea how many! There are characters that have three or four accents on top of each other! These may or may not display as one or two Unicode characters in Word. So I have been filling in lots and lots of Unicode entries in the table with their corresponding dot numbers. It's a very tedious process. The result is that at least I can read my own notes taken from lessons, and I can tell whether I am typing the correct letters now! This is dramatic improvement! It took me about half of the first term in Hebrew to make this much progress. Considering the fact that we're going much faster in Greek, I would not be so frustrated if I was taking a standard-length course. On the other hand, I might not be getting any other coursework done, just like I'm not getting much real Greek done!

Perhaps this weekend I can fly through a few exercises and do some work on my summer project. That would be nice. For now, I need some sleep. My head is killing me.

Current Mood: tired


Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
10:07 am
life as a juggler of medical conditions

This has been a challenging morning for me. I woke up in a lot of pain and in need of my asthma meds. However, I have still not adjusted to adding 30 minutes to my morning routine in order to do a breathing treatment with the nebulizer. I took the taxi in so that I could use two hours to get ready; and I still barely had enough time. I think that being in pain really slows down everything I do.

I sat at the doctor's office yesterday for an hour and a half. Most of that time was spend waiting for a room to open up. Some of it was spent waiting for the doctor. I have been to the doctor four times in the last month! So much of my life is spent waiting! I wish I could have taken my book with me and studied! But I am at a point where I need to be making charts... If I was sighted, I would be highlighting. I'm not sighted, and I accept the need to make charts. I just wish that I had more time. I want to stop the never-ending doctor visits, bloodwork, X-rays, etc, just for a little while, and get some real work done! Alas, it isn't going to happen. Next week I go and get more bloodwork done--to see if I have a bacteria that causes ulcers. Sometime toward the end of August, I go back again for a check of whatever they check when you're on Methotrexate. In September, I get my cholesterol checked again (because it's mildly high and I'm dieting). Speaking of the diet, today I will eat my last muffin until late September. *mourns*

On a more positive note, Loretta did not tour the campus this morning while going from the cafe to class! Good girl!!! That made me very happy. I learned something on the way as well: the reason why we got lost in the first place. It is really not such a straight shot between the two buildings--at least not the way I've been starting out. I may get brave and do some experimenting in the future. for now, I'm just glad to be getting to class!,/p>

Current Mood: frustrated


Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
9:29 am
language learning, blind students, and technology

This entry will not make sense to some readers... I'm posting it in order to keep record of my Greek study process and things that need to be attended to when a blind student studies Greek with sighted peers. I will use it as reference material someday...

When studying a language in the classroom, the challenge of taking quizzes always arises. Since I can display Greek on the braille display, the professor and I can exchange files and I can take the quizzes right in class. This has worked for all of my quizzes in seminary so far, language or otherwise. With language courses, there are technical difficulties to resolve in order for me to take the quiz easily. The font we use must match in order for the text to display correctly. Some fonts use two characters to display letters with accents, points, or other special markings. (These letters are called diacritics). When two computer characters are used to display these, they may not display correctly in braille. Often braille represents diacritics with one character; so the computer program needs a single character to interpret for the braille display. It is possible for the screen reader to turn one computer character into two braille characters; but it will not turn two computer characters into one braille character--at least not in the context of foreign language fonts. I'm giving some slightly incorrect information... It does this when translating into contracted braille in English; but that is another story, and some of the translations are incorrect at times. The function of the translator is to ease reading on the braille display. JAWS is not meant to serve as a braille translator. It's primary function is to render text in accessible format. Confronted with text, it will generally give an exact interpretation. In Hebrew, if it sees a bet followed by a daghesh, it will show me exactly that. In braille Hebrew, it is possible to render this even though there is a more efficient way (because there is a sign for a bet with a dahesh). In Greek, for example, there is not a sign for an acute accent. So if JAWS sees an alpha and a separate character representing the acute accent, it will either not show me the accent or will show me a garbage character. (Last night when my professor sent me a sample, all the accents were showing up as v.)

The answer to this is to locate a Unicode font that supports precompiled diacritics. This is what we are working on now. There are other characteristics of fonts that are important to sighted readers; so we need a font that satisfied both the needs of the sighted reader and meets my needs in working with JAWS.

Edit: I have learned from my professor that he uses a program to prepare his quizzes... There is one for Greek and one for Hebrew. These programs are rather costly and apparently do everything for you: set your keyboard up and take care of your font, etc. He was not familiar with Unicode at all--and probably is not familiar with fonts. So if I write on this, I also need to explain what a font is and what Unicode is. (It tells every computer in the world exactly how to display this piece of text, blah blah blah.)

I still want to find a way to learn the Hebrew and Greek writing systems tactually. If I'm going to teach languages someday, I think it matters that I am familiar with how they are written. And I am very curious. There is plenty of technology that I can use for projecting things onto a screen, etc, and I can require students to learn to type in languages. I still think it is important for me to understand what they are looking at.

Current Mood: thinking


Monday, July 28th, 2008
5:48 pm
today's doings

I have conquered the Greek keyboard! Now to memorize it...

The rehab meeting went very well. It now just says "college professor" for my career goal. That will work just fine. This year I'll concentrate on finishing up my required academic work. CPE will remain at the end, and then I will spend the following year working on the GRE and Ph.D. apps. I'm also hoping to do the ordination thing while all this is going on. That could take longer than two years, but we will deal with extra time when we get there. I can get started now, and that is also on the plate this month.

For the rest of the evening... Looking over the Greek assignment that is due on Wednesday and scanning a little bitty book over which we have a quiz tomorrow. A little sermon work possibly, though I may do that tomorrow when I am not thinking about so much fresh Greek and meeting stuff...

Current Mood: good


10:53 am
first day in Greek

Loretta took a tour of campus during our break. I know what she did and I need to fix it tomorrow. Also need to troubleshoot all the people wanting to greet her and say it's ok when she greets them back. It may be fine with them, but it isn't fine with me. I need her attention on her work very seriously, and she is very "people happy." It's sort of like having a person working a reception job who loves to chit chat about fashion. If someone comes in wearing a gorgeous dress and the phone is ringing, the receptionist still has to answer the phone regardless of how badly she wants to know where the person got that dress. It's not ok for her to slack off, even if it is "her nature."

So the result of the detour is that I was several minutes late to class after the break. My professor was nice, and I had warned him about this ahead of time. But I really don't like this, and it isn't the kind of standard I want to hold myself to. Things can be a lot better.

I managed to write the Greek alphabet for the most part. There are some minor challenges, as there were with Hebrew. Dr. Shively is not familiar with the Logos Biblical Keyboard; so I am going to have to do some work before I can display this stuff and test this out. Again he is being very patient with me. We will have a learning curve, and that is fine. I'm not too worried about it since I've been through the process with Hebrew. It will just be a bit tedious.

Current Mood: determined


Sunday, July 27th, 2008
5:16 pm
thinking about many things

This morning I went and taught my Sunday school class... It went better than I expected, and we had a guest. I stayed for the service even though I wasn't very inclined to. I ended up being glad I went.

After church, Dad came and met me, and we did new routes on campus. I am now set to go to Greek in a new building in the morning--and to go buy a muffin if I feel the urge. I'm trying hard to lose weight so don't know that this will be a daily occurrence; but I just can't see depriving myself on a regular basis, especially when the weather is so nice!

Since getting home, I've been setting this computer up for Hebrew and doing a bit of brush up. I also loaded up an Aramaic introduction in Libronix just to see what JAWS would do with it on the braille display. It looks like I could, in fact, use such a thing if I chose to. This is sort of encouraging, and there is a method to my madness. Some of my professors have been encouraging me to consider doing work in biblical studies. I have balked at it; but I am wondering if perhaps I should reconsider. It would allow me to utilize my knowledge of biblical languages; and clearly I am excelling in that area. It would be a shame to study and excel in an area just for the sake of personal enrichment, especially when I am so passionate about it. I appreciate the issues facing people who go into counseling; but maybe my role is to continue doing exactly what I have been doing all along: providing quality systems of support that empower people to work with counselors and health care professionals rather than trying to provide care directly to a few people at a time. Perhaps my true ministry gifts really are in preaching and teaching.

Obviously, I have been brainstorming in preparation for my meeting tomorrow. I'm still working on it. I am still looking at doctoral programs. I have strong interest in two programs. We will see what transpires.

Current Mood: thinking


Thursday, July 24th, 2008
1:46 am
misc notes

I've been attempting to clean house--and feeling rather disorganized in the process. If anyone reading this has taken Methotrexate, I would like to know if this disorganized feeling is a possible side effect. It is a difficult thing to describe. I just feel "scattered" and can't hold my attention on one thing for very long. This is not normal for me.

I turned off the AC units today and ran the embosser for a few hours. I got four out of five volumes of my Greek book embossed. I'll do volume 5 early in the morning before it gets too hot. It feels good to have the book ready for use. I skimmed through it and see that it appears extremely well formatted and has a handy special symbols list in the front of each volume--something my Hebrew book did not have. This may be an easier time compared to Hebrew, assuming I can concentrate. (Must fill vitamin boxes tomorrow and maybe even get some more this weekend. I really need to be able to get through this class without lapsing on the vitamins.)

Speaking of Hebrew, I found a site (http://www.hebrewworld.com) that has audio Hebrew tutorials and an audio Hebrew Bible. I ordered, and my order is already here after only two days! Tomorrow I'll be checking out the haul!

I have a meeting with my rehab counselor on Monday. I really don't know what to expect. I am progressing well in school and could continue on toward my stated career goal, though I think I underestimated the time necessary to complete the Ph.d. I anticipate wanting a year off to prepare application materials, take the GRE, etc. Perhaps it would be better to simply meet again next year when I know what is happening about CPE... If I end up having to do CPE during the academic year in 2009-10, I could do GRE prep in the summer before and that would solve the problem. There is just a lot that I don't know at this point in my life, and I'm not very inclined to try to figure the next 20 years out when the next five weeks is challenge enough. One step at a time is very important to me. I have a good awareness of the fact that there are things in the distance that need to get done; but my mind does not work well when I try to put it on both short and long-term things, some of which I can't do right now. So I do what I can do and tackle the rest later, when I can do that. Life is much less stressful that way!

Current Mood: busy and scattered


Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
3:48 am
Nothing compares...

I have been trying to think of ways to put this in words for a week. I'm including a link to the recording I made from the audience. These services are recorded live and are available for archive; and of you want to hear the whole sermon I will post a link to the archive since my battery died near the end. I want people to be able to hear the singing from the audience in this. Before I get to the link, though, I will note that there is a point in the file when the sound system was not working properly and one speaker was delayed. The music during that portion sounds very chaotic, and if you have neurologic disorder you should know this ahead of time. The difficulty begins in the second chorus of the first official song and continues through until the second set of songs is mostly over. The song I refer to in this post is safe to listen to if you are sensitive to chaotic echoing.

June 23 service (Windows media format--MP3 to follow later

The most amazing moment for me at NAC this year, something to ponder... Singing the last line of "Shout to the Lord" on Monday night... Some things become rather overdone if sung too many times. But I needed it overdone that night, and I wonder who else did... Or did I just think it became emotional because it was emotionally done...?

"Nothing compares to the promise I have in You."

I could sing right over it if I didn't sing it again and pay attention, really pay attention.

Do we really understand the promise we have in Jesus?

In my first semester at SOT, we read Henri Nouwen's Life of the Beloved. At our orientation session, Dr. Brewer said to us, "I give you your four-word commission: you are God's beloved." I thought it ought to be an obvious thing. Shouldn't we know that we are God's beloved?

Then I read the book. I cried every time I read anything out of it. I really had never encountered my own belovedness. The experience I had the other night was similar. I had never encountered my own promise. I had never encountered the reality of what God could redeem and use in my life, what becomes good

Current Mood: deeply touched


Wednesday, June 25th, 2008
11:20 pm
a woo hoo kind of day

Woo hoo!!! This makes my day! I just got an email offering me a free update of FineReader 9--to a new one that now supports Hebrew! Oh am I ever gonna have some fun now!

Current Mood: ecstatic


Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
5:08 pm
changes at Willow Creek

I've been hearing rumblings about this lately and finally found an article. Here is the article from Christianity Today about Willow Creek's abandonment of seeker-sensitive services. It seems they are now attempting to target those with spiritual maturity and teach sound theology (my interpretation). The article discusses findings from surveys indicating that seekers were not responding and mature believers were "stalling" and contemplating leaving the church. (It doesn't specify whether that refers to Willow Creek or to the church in general.) There is a blog post with more links and info.

I may have to buy the book referenced in the article. I am now very curious. Of course, you cannot make people grow spiritually. But what does it take to create a climate where spiritual growth can happen? The minister's dilemma seems to be how to make people welcome and even draw them in without sacrificing something important or doing things that just make the church more like the rest of the world until there is no genuine church left.

If you have ever been a "seeker," what is it that has drawn you into a church? What makes you want to go back? What makes you feel safe enough to risk spiritual growth in the church community? What turns you off?

This is a public post. It is public on purpose--I'm hoping to generate some dialogue. If you need private dialogue, please know that you're welcome to use my email address--it's in my profile, and I'm very happy to dialogue with you alone if you need it.

Current Mood: curious


4:48 am
blindness and images of God

I haven't taught Sunday school in about eight weeks due to the impact of my sinus issues and recovery from surgery. The class has been very gracious and covered for me. I am getting back into the swing of things now. We started discussing The Shack this week. I am having to get used to timing my own contributions again... My mind tends to race 90 miles a minute, and this is very much a group of laid-back thinkers who take their time in putting their thoughts in words. (I can learn a lot from them.)

Someone asked me about my image of God, whether I thought of God as male and white. This is an intriguing question for me. (I'd be curious to hear from some of you now that I'm talking about mine.) When I was growing up, I experienced audible voices when I had my own thoughts and also when I prayed and heard from God. The voice of God to me was always female until a certain point in my life. In fact, it bore certain qualities that were similar but not identical to my mother's voice. At some point, it lost its female characteristic, and I would call it a nondescript voice now. That was the point at which I let go of my overdependence as an adult on my mother's authority and began to allow myself to make decisions based on my own values instead of my past.

In spite of this feminine vocal quality, it never occurred to me to call "God" anything but Father. It was like being blind and saying, "See you tomorrow." When I meet a person tomorrow, I don't see anything but their height and general body size. On a good day, I might see the color of their shirt. But these aren't the things that matter when we meet. When I say, "See you tomorrow," I mean, "Interact with you tomorrow." "See you tomorrow" is just the thing to say, and it would feel very uncomfortable for me to say anything else. It feels uncomfortable for me to say that I heard a movie even though I'm very aware that other people watch the screen and I listen to the dialogue. I need the dignity of being a part of the society that watches movies; so I allow myself the freedom to "watch movies" with my ears. And in the same way, my "Father God" had a female voice. "Father God" was the language of the church; and i never gave it a second thought. God, in reality, is gender neuter; but "Father God" originated in a culture where father was the symbol of the authority that "Father God" represents.

There are movements in theology to do away with this father imagery. Some people feel wounded by it. Some feel it is associated too much with patriarchy. I am personally hesitant to do away with it until I know what I'm replacing it with and what the implications of that replacement are. Language is very powerful. I pointed out in class that growing up, my dad was my "pastor," but my mother was most often my guide morally and my disciplinarian. When I look at biblical images of Father God, part of what I note is the role of disciplinarian in addition to that of creator and establisher. Having experienced the positive aspect of discipline, I don't see any of this as negative.

My thoughts here are running in two streams. One is about the fact that I separated the use of terminology from what I experienced physically at obviously a very young age. I heard this feminine voice, but if anyone had suggested to me that God was male or female I would have called them silly and said that God is God. In the same way, I have always used visual language, and I have always gotten irritable when people corrected me. From the time I was a little girl, if someone tried to use the term, "listen to TV," I would say very adamantly, "I watch TV just like you!" Of course, I always knew better. It is the sighted person, not me, who is uncomfortable with this language that seems to not fit the situation. At the same time, I'm aware that some blind people take exception to the use of blindness as metaphor. I don't. If I can watch TV, I can be spiritually blind or otherwise blind--and I can have my eyes opened, too! I don't have a problem singing "Was blind but now I see" in "Amazing Grace."

My other thought stream is about the Trinity and the language we use... I told someone the other day that I am very comfortable with the traditional language. It isn't just because I grew up with it, though that certainly helps. It's because of what it conveys to me and the importance I place on living in community with the past as well as the present. There are other terms with which I am also comfortable, but I am very selective about these. At the time of that conversation, I of course had no idea that we would talk about any of this in class.

I have a lot more writing to do about this, and I'm getting tired. I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave this one on a cliffhanger.

Current Mood: thoughtful


Sunday, June 8th, 2008
3:41 pm
choir happenings

I had set up a ride with Vivian this morning, but I slept through my alarm and woke up to her calling to see if I was all right since I didn't answer my door. I jumped out of bed and wondered how I would get there in time to get any benefit from the rehearsal. The taxi would have taken forever to get here. I ended up asking my dad to drive me over, and he didn't mind. I was afraid that I would make a scene: going in and having to walk onto the stage among a bunch of strangers and find my place. I thought I would just have to do it regardless of how I felt.

I got a little divine intervention. I walked in at the end of the rehearsal, and they were practicing the benediction and were standing around the aisles. My prayer had been answered, and Leta and i were positioned on my preferred side of the sanctuary. So as I walked in, I didn't have far to go--I was on the end so was the last person toward the outside doors. "You're just in time," Leta whispered just as the song was starting. I huffed and puffed my way through the song, and then we practices the processional that was going to be at the beginning of the service before going to the fellowship hall downstairs for muffins and fruit and coffee.

The processional went more smoothly than I expected. Leta led the way in so that I could follow her. We were standing on the second row; and when we got to the front, we changed places so that I could lead down the row to my seat. The ladies behind me told me when to stop, and for the first time in my life I felt like I was getting myself to my seat somewhat independently--and gracefully. Going out for the benediction, I was able to lead the way with a little cuing from Leta for speed and when to stop.

After church, my mom thanked Leta for helping me out. Leta said to my mom, "I like hanging out with Sarah." All I could feel at that moment was that the memory of the girl with the ulcer was getting farther and farther behind me.

A group from our church just returned from a short-term mission trip to Uganda. A few people talked about their experiences this morning. Everything was very powerful; but the most touching thing was the story someone told of witnessing a couple resolve some marital differences. He said that as the man was wiping up his tears, the woman said, "Wait. I will wipe away your tears, and you will wipe away mine."

What a beautiful picture of what marriage should be! And what a beautiful picture of the community we need from the church! I will wipe away your tears, and you will wipe away mine. We spend far too much time just being in the room with each other and calling it empathy. But to wipe away each other's tears... What a display of community that would be!


Current Mood: healing


2:07 am
thoughts on healing from emotional wounds

One of the difficulties in coping with and healing from wounds like those I discussed in my last entry is that they are unintentionally created. People really don't mean to exclude me most of the time. They don't mean to treat me like a child. In fact, they are usually very willing to help. The problem is that they are so willing to help that they cannot see the need to be a friend. When I spoke to a group of children recently about service dogs, I asked them what they should do if they met a person with a service dog. At age eight to twelve, they were already conditioned to react first by trying to help the person, even when I had not suggested that the person needed any help. I explained that the best first response is to say hello. This seemed challenging for some of the children to think about.

So I have often been faced with the task of forgiving those who do not know what they do--and I must do this when the likelihood is that most of my encounters will be like the one I just had. I must forgive in the face of near certainty that the same wound will be reopened again and again and again throughout my lifetime; and I must face this certainty without allowing my heart to become hard. That is true maturity. And it requires reliance on the strength of God. I don't have that kind of strength inside myself. Left to my own devices, I would become a person locked in a hard shell and would strike out every time I got hurt. In fact, even relying on that strength, I still sometimes catch myself reaching for that shell...

That is why the gift of the Park Place choir is so precious to me. Oh, they will disappoint me--they are human, and humans do disappoint each other. But the fact that I have experienced grace through them will help me to bear the disappointment. One of the people who became a trusted friend to me when I was very young responded to a very fearful email I sent to her by saying, "I pray I never hurt that trust. But if I do, you stay brave and tell me, ok?" Those words changed my life. I didn't have the opportunity to tell her--the only thing she ever did that wounded me was committing suicide, and that is a difficult thing to heal from. But her words stayed with me and changed the way that I approached relationships. I could never again play subtlety games. If I was upset, I needed to be brave and talk about it. I've had to learn to temper my expressions over the years; but I've never regretted talking anything out.

Current Mood: thinking


Saturday, June 7th, 2008
11:57 pm
the choir as community

When I wrote about the choir becoming my church community earlier this week, it really did not occur to me that I would re-experience it when I went back on Wednesday or that the Park Place choir becoming my church community means that very old memories would be healed in the process. But this is precisely what happens when community becomes reality. Isolated people made this possible for me at seminary from time to time, though it has been something I've had more difficulty noticing because the ones closest to me have graduated or dropped out and I've had only spotty exposure to others. Singing in the choir at Park Place gives me very consistent exposure to the same people week after week, and these are often people who are older and have deep roots in the Park Place community. In that respect, community in the church is very different from any community that could ever develop at seminary.

When I started attending Park Place, my two friends there told me that community took time. I didn't really believe them. I had a lot of old wounds standing in the way of belief, and I was struggling at the time with severe medication-induced depression. (I nearly withdrew from school and hospitalized myself in the fall, but only one professor got the benefit of being told how emotionally ill I was. I persevered, and it all turned out ok.) One of those two friends suggested that I get involved with music as a way to help people get past the dog and find some additional way to break the ice with me. I dragged my feet for a while, mostly because I wanted people to learn to relate to me on principle. Not all people with disabilities are musical, and I didn't want to resort to using my talents to get attention off my dog. But ultimately I made the choice to join the choir as well as to become active as a part of the worship team and special music pools. The real lesson in this is that while everyone may not be musically inclined, there is a place for everyone in the church and it can be found. When the effort is there (from both the person and supportive members of the church), it is possible to find something to get involved in that provides some common ground with some segment of the church community.

I knew a handful of people in the choir, though I didn't realize they were in the choir until I went into the choir room and they started talking to me. Sitting out in the congregation and not being able to see the choir has that effect on me. (That is meant to be humorous.) Two people from my Sunday school class, Sandra and Janet, are in the choir. Sandra had become a new friend and somewhat of a mentor/accountability partner. Her husband had been a pastor in the past and is now a professor at AU. They often give me a ride to church, and Sandra has been trying to help facilitate me meeting some new people (not always successfully, unfortunately, due to some people's overfascination with my dog and willingness to ignore me completely when she introduces me). My Old Testament professor is also in the choir and made a point to welcome me and tell me it was good to have me there. Another professor (who would turn out to be the one who will be teaching me Greek) is also there and sits two rows behind me. He remembered me from undergrad and welcomed me very enthusiastically. Phyllis Kinley, one of the seminary chaplains who had invited me and my former roommate into her home for lunch, is also there, and the lady two seats down from me works in the Church of God archives which is downstairs from the seminary. She and her husband have also given me rides to church, and she speaks to me often in the halls at AU. So I had a good start in terms of acquaintances without even knowing it.

On the Sunday before I decided to sit in on a rehearsal "just to see if I really wanted to do it," I sang a song I had written in Sunday morning service. Sandra was on the worship team, and so was Leta (referred to in previous entries as L). There are places where the worship team sits up on the platform; and I was the first to be seated. Sandra was away getting her children settled, music, etc. Leta came up and introduced herself like I was a normal human being. Our youth pastor, Andrew, came up and chatted with us--he was also in seminary and often spoke to me. By the time Sandra showed up, Leta and I had been talking for a little while. I recognized her name because her parents had been interim pastors at my church when I was a little girl during a time when the church was looking for a new pastor. She didn't remember me, but she remembered the church and other members of my family. I don't even think Loretta was mentioned until we were leaving after the church service. If I remember right, I corrected Loretta and got embarrassed, thinking Leta might think it was mean; but she said she understood and she had just gotten a new puppy and really wished she could pet Loretta. That was my first amazement about her: she obviously loved dogs and admired mine, but I didn't know about it all this time.

On Wednesday night, I made the rather impulsive decision to go and check out the choir. I was noncommittal about it, telling myself I might not have the time or energy. The truth was that I was afraid. I was afraid of going and just singing, not really being part of the group.

I went in and sat on the very end of the front row--the typical seat for the add-on person. Vivian came in and sat two seats down. And Leta came and sat next to me. Wow! What a cool surprise. But I wasn't going to get too hopeful about that. I learned a long time ago about being too clingy and dependent.

Leta noticed I had nothing to sing from and made a joke about sharing her music. I learned later that she was terrified she was doing the wrong things--Sandra encouraged me to let her know how much I appreciated her friendliness. The choir went upstairs to work on music for the upcoming Sunday, and I asked if I could use Leta's arm since I had no idea where we were going. She didn't seem to mind at all; and that is where the healing of memories begins.

I have sung in choirs of one kind or another since I was 11 years old--that is 25 years. When I was in junior high school, my classmates were not at all comfortable with me. Instead of proper guide technique, they would haul me by my shirt sleeve--if they remembered me at all. I was too embarrassed to correct this even though the teacher who taught me orientation and mobility (how to get around safely as a blind person) lectured me often about the dangers of this behavior. My mom received a phone call one evening from another girl's mom in which the other mom proceeded to explain that the girl was so emotionally involved in wanting to help me that it gave her an ulcer. The girl was seated next to me in choir, and I didn't know what to do. I wanted to be her friend. I certainly hadn't wanted to give her an ulcer! I couldn't help it that I needed help getting on and off the stage or going through the lunch line!

One year, the choir from my school participated in a district-wide event with other choirs. We either car pooled or took a bus--I don't remember. I was left standing in the parking lot as the rest of the group drove away! Fortunately, my parents had not left yet. They drove me to the event separately.

Things got better as I grew older. My needs were accommodated. But I was never part of the group. I never understood the inside jokes or went out to socialize with anyone. Even at the church I attended before Park Place, in the several years I spent as a member of the choir, people knew my name and were always willing to help if I needed it; but no one developed a friendship with me and I did not experience community or feel comfortable trusting anyone.

So when I showed up on Wednesday night, I didn't really know what to expect. Sandra had told them I was having surgery; but I didn't expect any big fanfare over my return. Vivian welcomed me back. Jean, the lady who had been so sweet in telling me about Dr. Stafford's death before we went into the Sunday morning service, came in and hugged me and said, "I had to have surgery, too." And she sounded glad to see me. I began to understand how much ice was broken on the day when Leta was gone and Jean stood beside me and became my community during my grief. She had never been around a blind person at all, and she didn't know if I needed some special help to know what the director was doing. At first I thought she was going to be overly helpful; but I was brave and honest and told her I didn't need anything except cuing when we were standing and sitting or coming and going, and she really has relaxed and become able to talk easily.

I remember that first night, when I was so noncommittal... It didn't last. When the singing swelled around me, my heart melted and I knew that I had to join it. I couldn't not sing. And the need to sing overcomes the fear.

Tomorrow we are singing with another church choir. When I found this out, I almost decided to sit out. It sounded chaotic, especially when Joani told us that we would stand alternating: one of us next to one of them. Not only this, but we are processing in through the sanctuary and then moving out around the aisles at the end for the benediction. Leta turned to me and said emphatically, "That's not going to work for us. We'll talk to her." And she did. As we were discussing the process of getting from here to there, she piped up and said, "Is it all right if Sarah and I are not separated?" And it was fine.

Mom is so excited about Leta... She was nervous at first--she has always been afraid that my needs would overwhelm people, and I wonder if she, too, remembers the girl with the ulcer. But the more that happens with Leta, the more it heals my mom. Leta's parents were friends of my grandparents, and that also touches my mom. I said to Mom this evening, "Leta wouldn't leave me in the parking lot."

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with Leta about going out to eat, and I offered to treat her. She asked that I not do it every time, and I agreed but explained that it was meaningful for me to do it sometimes. After we got off the phone, I realized that for her, it was important to pay for herself. It made the difference between us being friends and me using her and paying for transportation. I might not even realize that was what I was doing, but it would have been an easy line to cross. In that moment, I realized that the friendship is important to her, and protecting it matters to her just as it does to me. Whether she knew it or not, on that day she protected me from the damage that my own fear and pride could do to that friendship.

I've always thought that some memories just can't heal, that they just have to be accepted as part of the past and I just have to move on. But God really has strange ways of healing memories. I'll probably never get to mend anything with that girl from junior high. But my heart can be healed regarding my own dependencies. I didn't cause that girl's ulcer. Her own overdeveloped sense of responsibility did. And how sad that no one helped her to understand that I could be a friend who just happened to need an arm sometimes--and that I could even give back to her in time!

Thank you, Leta, for being an agent of healing and for teaching me so much!


Current Mood: thankful


Wednesday, June 4th, 2008
11:04 pm
choir experience

I got myself back into choir tonight. I have missed singing! And I have missed the community!

Toward the end of the rehearsal, the director took prayer requests, and I decided to talk about what happened at the eye doctor on Monday. The group knows that I just had sinus surgery... I made a crack about having "so much drama," and they all laughed. I explained that I don't necessarily want people thinking that every time I want prayer it's because of my eyes, but that I need the place to grieve and I do want prayer about this because I really don't want to lose what I have left. Leta was sitting next to me and squeezed my hand really good. This was emotionally significant in several ways: because of her friendship and also because her parents were my preschool Sunday school teachers and organized the fund-raiser that resulted in my first surgery evaluation in Miami when I was four years old.

After the prayer requests were over, Joani decided that instead of praying, we would sing the remaining song and let it be our prayer. The song, like Leta's presence, was significant in multiple ways. The lyrics were written by Charles Naylor, a Church of God writer who was later disabled with a spinal cord injury and spent the remaining 40 years of his life ministering from bed. He was carried onto the platform when he spoke in public, but most of his work was done via writing. He prayed for a lot of people's healing, and the prayers were often answered; but he himself was never healed. I have been intrigued by his story for a long time. I did not learn the background of this song until recently. How odd it must have felt to live out the message of his own lyrics!

Whether I live or die, whether I wake or sleep,
Whether upon the land, or on the stormy deep,
When 'tis serene and calm, or when the wild winds blow,,br> I shall not be afraid. I am the Lord's, I know.

Nothing shall separate from his unbounded love,,br> Neither in depths below, nor in the heights above.
And in the years to come, he will abide with me.
I am the Lord's, I know for all eternity.

That song was an appropriate thing to pray at that moment. And at this point in my life, I am able to ask for what I want but accept what I don't want. Not receiving what I want doesn't change God, and it doesn't have to change me. I am still the Lord's, and I will still accomplish the things that matter most.

Current Mood: misty


Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
11:49 am

I've been going through my old recordings from Park Place... I joined the choir in February, and many of the people in the choir have made me feel more at home than I remember feeling during my initial months there. I just came upon the recording that was made the day when Alexis and I were introduced with our dogs. I sent pictures to Kristen to show up on the screen: one of me and Loretta, one of Alexis and Julia, and one of Loretta with my gray cat, Sierra. Kristen did a great job of explaining the difference between puppies in socialization (since we have raisers in the church) and working dogs who are there to help us socialize. I'm realizing now how many people really were not there--in a church that size, there really is a margin for absenteeism.

My digital recorder was sitting on the pew two rows back on the side where we were standing. Kristen invited people to come and pray with us and welcome us to the community, and while they were coming down a song was sung, "Near to the Heart of God." I love listening to these recordings with headphones on... I didn't realize that the movement of people can be heard... Not really as they move, but from one verse to another it is apparent that the location of singers has changed. I remember standing there and being totally enveloped by singing people. I knew some of them: mostly professors and retired people from AU. I realize now that many of the rest must have come down from the choir! No wonder the choir became my community!

Current Mood: touched


12:50 am
on baptisms

About a month ago, two young children were baptized at church. The event was intriguing to me for a number of reasons. One reason was the manner in which it was done to involve other children in the worship process. The other reason is the spiritual impact it had on me.

Baptism is often something people seem to think of in individual terms. It is seen as something a person does in response to a conversion decision. Sometimes it is seen as a stepping stone in the spiritual life or a prerequisite to something else. But baptism is really an event that involves the person being baptized and the worshiping community. It is the person's public confession of faith, and it is the community's opportunity to covenant their support and nurturance. It is also the community's opportunity to affirm their faith anew. In that respect, the baptism event needs to include not only an element of testimony but also an element of connectedness between the person and the community.

Since the two people in this particular event were children, they were baptized by the children's minister. He was very creative in the whole thing. He invited all the children to come up and be near and share in "the pool party." (I at first had a problem with this terminology; but when I thought about it, I realized that he was getting on their level emotionally and using it to draw them into the experience.) He went on to explain that their friends were being baptized and why. Our baptismal font is level with the floor of the platform; and he invited the children to touch the water before he baptized the first child. I thought this was a truly creative thing to do. It sent a nonverbal message: you are welcome here, this water is not off limits, and God is not off limits to you. Later, he invited the rest of the congregation to come and touch the water if they wanted to after the service was over. In addition to the subtle message, there was a "remember your baptism" theme in the service for the rest of us.

When the children were ready to be baptized, he asked them to look around at their families and friends and then said that even people they didn't know in the congregation cared about them. One of the children was too little to see out, so he asked us to applaud the child so he could hear us. I suspect this was a more defining moment for the rest of us than for the children, but perhaps I am wrong.

Remembering baptism... Last fall, my Sunday school class studied Jim Wallace's book, The Call to Conversion. During the discussions, the question was raised about how the topic of salvation and conversion is discussed with children at this church. Most of us adults grew up with the typical conservative view of conversion: the altar call experience. The public confession of faith was present; but often the sense of community was lacking and so was the ongoing turning from a previous life to a new life. It is one thing to blame that on being raised in the church. But faith ought to result in fruit in our lives where it did not in the past.

In my own case, there was a certain need and desire to turn. I was a fairly young child: 12 years old. But already I had begun to feel the impact of disordered moods and the tendency to lash out emotionally at my family when I could not express myself well, participate in something, or control a situation which really did need my control (e.g. defining my personal space). I needed an experience of repentence and salvation, and I knew it then. It is unfortunate that I did not trust anyone in that community enough to allow them to help with my discipling process so that I could have experienced God's grace in some of those areas much sooner in my life! The result was that I grew in some areas but not others. Later I would come to speak of having a "deficient foundation." I did not know how to allow Christ to be Lord of my moods, no matter how much I wanted to.

But the remembering of the baptism experience is powerful. Every time a person is baptized, I remember my own baptism. In churches where I have experienced community and solid teaching, I have been able to take advantage of this experience to inwardly renew my covenant with God and with the community. God is able to redeem the time that I did not always use well!

All of this is to say that it was beautiful to see the intentional effort to connect the congregation and the children a few weeks ago at such a crucial moment in the children's lives!

Current Mood: reflective


Monday, June 2nd, 2008
11:38 am
news at the doctor

For 36 years I have been getting treatment every time a complication comes up with my eyes, doing the best to preserve and make the most of the vision I have. Last October, the cornea specialist removed a membrane that had grown behind my artificial cornea. Within a month, it was back.

This morning, he said words I have known I would hear someday but have hoped to not hear for some time still. "There is nothing more we can do for you. You haven't noticed any changes, and it would just be putting you through more unnecessary pain. You had a lot of bleeding last time. We'll see you back in a year."

He didn't even try to check my pressure. He said it is impossible to get an accurate reading. That means we leave my glaucoma meds alone and hope I'm ok. I am debating whether to call and talk with Dr. Trese in Detroit, but I have a sinking feeling that he, too, knows we are nearing the end of the road with my good eye. Dr. Price asked if anyone had evaluated my left eye, which tells me he was grasping at straw for me. I've already gone through that process. Nothing can be done there--it's too fragile.

I had thought in January that I probably would not accept any more surgeries. My vision was extremely poor. But after the sinus surgery, it improved significantly. The same thing happened in 2006. So I now have something usable, and there is nothing they can do for me. This means that I must somehow grieve something. I don't even know what I'm grieving. I went through a lot of grief in 1998, and since then I've gone through the restoration and loss process several times. It has become almost normal to lose and regain. So now I must get used to the idea that the next loss will be the final one.

Current Mood: confused


Sunday, May 25th, 2008
5:06 pm
update and thoughts from church today

I experienced a recurrence of polyps in my sinuses and was scheduled for surgery on May 9. This surgery was much harder for me than the one I had two years ago, though I think the polyps were perhaps not as extensive. They were deeper in the sinuses--they could only be seen on CT scan. I slept a lot during the first week and experienced excruciating pain into the second week. At my second appointment, I had a creative idea. I asked the doctor to demonstrate on my face where the sinuses are since he normally uses a diagram to show this to a sighted person. This was very educational to me. He explained about the relationship of the sinuses to facial nerves and how this influences pain. He also explained that getting "cleaned out" after surgery takes about six to eight weeks. No wonder I'm uncomfortable!

I am up and around now, though, and the pain is lessening. I went to church today and even sang during the worship. I will return to choir for the last few weeks, and this will be good for my soul.

My experience at church was amazing this morning in a number of ways. I really need to try to preserve something about it, to remember what made it worth remembering.

In the bulletins, there are little readings to bring us into worship. They are just there for people to read as they are getting settled in their seats; and I would miss out on them if the bulletin wasn't emailed to me. I need to remember to email the church and let them know how much this means to me. Today they announcec that there were personal listening devices available, and I thought this was good progress. It is always in the bulletin, but I think it is good that they said it too. I would like to encourage them to mention that they can email the bulletin to people who can't read it--dyslexics can benefit from this, too.

Today's reading was not written by a member of the congregation or staff as the readings often are. It comes from a theologian named Marva Dawn. I love her books, and this makes me want to buy another one.

Dedicated to all the people who need the Sabbath--
the busiest, who need to work from a cohesive, unfragmented self;
social activists, who need a cycle of worship and action;
those who chase after fulfillment and need to understand their deepest yearnings and to hear the silence;
those who have lost their ability to play because of the materialism and technologization of our society, who need beauty and gaiety and delight;
those who have lost their passion and need to get in touch with feelings;
those who are alone and need emotional nourishment;
those who live in community and need solitude;
those who cannot find their life’s priorities and need a new perspective;
those who long for deeper family life and want to nurture certain values;
the poor and the oppressed, who need to mourn and to dance in the prison camp;
the rich and the oppressors, who need to learn nonviolence, stewardship, and God’s purposes in the world;
those who suffer, who need to learn how suffering can be redemptive;
professional theologians, who need to bring the heart back into theology;
those who don’t know how religion fits into the modern world, who need a relationship with God;
those who are disgusted with dry, empty, formalistic worship and want to love and adore God;
those who want to be God’s instruments, enabled and empowered by the Spirit to be world changers and Sabbath healers.

Reading this was like refreshment to my spirit. It's one thing to talk about what the Sabbath is. It's another thing to break down how it applies to different groups of people... Learning to enjoy time alone was one of the hardest things I have ever done because I spend so much time alone by default, unable to voluntarily go out due to financial hardship and lack of transportation. Reading this passage prompted me to think about creative meanings of sabbath that might serve in my situation.

Two of our associate pastors are husband and wife. They work part-time as pastor of children's ministry and pastor of adult education. They will soon be leaving because one of them has obtained a full-time position at another church. Their nine-month-old baby was dedicated this morning, and the congregation shared in a covenant to support them in prayer and friendship during their transition. Joel brought the baby around so that people in the congregation could be close to her while Carma, our pastor of worship arts, read something about baby dedication. I had a chance to touch her. This was very emotional for me for a couple of reasons. It made the whole experience real to me. Usually, baby dedications are very abstract for me because I have often never met the parents or the baby. I cannot see them, and often I cannot hear the parents speak their commitments. So it is all abstract. But in addition to this, I have held Anna, and the experience helped me to have some closure on their moving. It also reminded me of Anna's family's trust in me. Sometimes people are nervous about me holding their babies, as if I might drop the baby because I am blind. Kristin never seemed uncomfortable at all. We went to lunch when Anna was a couple of months old, and she just put her in my arms as if we were old friends. It was a very precious thing to me, and I felt that I was gaining a friend in Kristin. Touching Anna today helped me to know that I didn't have to say goodbye from the pew.

I am doing an independent study this summer, examining the impact of disability on the church community and how people with and without disabilities experience life in the community and interactions with each other. It's hard to describe the project in a sentence or two... I am interviewing people from a couple of local churches and a handful of additional communities around the country, and I'm hoping to put together something that raises some topics worth thinking about. It will be a really neat learning process for me as I talk with people whose experiences are both different from and similar to mine, and I hope it will help other people in the long run. This has the potential to be my favorite part of seminary.

Current Mood: recovering


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