Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On your mark, get set...

DR: And we're about to go! We had our first day of seminary orientation today, which included lunch with the faculty and talks from various professors and advisers who will shepherd us along the way.

One thing I found out today that will make our next couple of weeks somewhat full with anticipatory excitement: on Friday, September 7, I will found out which church will become my "Resident Field Education" (RFE) church. What this is is the church somewhere in the greater St. Louis area that will become our "church home" as a family, and where I will serve approximately 8 hours per week during my first, second, and fourth years at seminary. The goal is to provide me with some practical exposure to "real church work" while taking classes. I will work under the supervision and direction of a pastor at that church, doing potentially everything from teaching bible studies, doing visitations, or whatever else they need me and want me to do; I've heard the field work experience can vary greatly depending on the church and the nature of the supervising pastor. We will keep you posted!

More news to come soon, as we just got back from Texas visiting our good friends for their twin boys sons' baptisms...check back soon!

Thanks so very much for your ongoing loving and prayerful support--you are indeed a blessing to us!

Love and blessings,
DER on behalf of our family

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Warehouse and The Butterfly House

DR: We continued this week with our weekly excursion to St. John Lutheran Church (Ellisville, MO), which we've elected to make our temporary church "home" until I am assigned to a field work church (which may or may not be St. John Ellisville...we will find out in early-mid September).

As we've written in an earlier post, St. John Ellisville is one of the largest LCMS churches in the country, worshipping about 2,500 souls each weekend (as a point of reference, St. John's in Bakersfield worships 650-750 souls a weekend). Among other things, the worship experiences at St. John Ellisville are dynamic, the teaching is edifying and encouraging, the church appears to be well-lead and well-administered, and they place a very high priority on ministry to children and youth.

On the way in to the main sanctuary today, we unexpectedly ran in Dr. Utech, a seminary professor in the practical theology department here, who also serves as the Director of the Field Education program. That means he is the one who works with congregations in the area to place guys like me into field work churches, so we can gain more practical church experience while we're going to school. He suggested we try the Warehouse service and meet Pete Mueller, one of the pastors on staff.

So we took him up on the suggestion. The Warehouse worship was a new and different experience for us. We enjoyed it. Very contemporary worship style in a relaxed setting.

The service was packed (about 200 souls in the small-to-medium space), literally standing room only. They have round tables in the back where you can sit with your family, munch on a bagel, and sip a cup of coffee while you worship. Lots of contemporary music (contemporary praise songs, Third Day covers, etc) lead by a worship team whose lively songs book-end a biblically-sound and devotional-feeling sermon on prayer. Exposed ceilings and air conditioning ducts, stamped concrete floors, stackable chairs, and not a necktie in the house! Pastor Pete sat on a stool for most of the service and wore loose fitting pants and shirt with Birkenstocks. The gentleman who served us communion wore khaki shorts and flip-flops.

Needless to say, the Warehouse ain't your mama's church! Translated, God and His everlasting truth does not change, but each generation may desire a different style and need a different conversation starter about spiritual matters. Indeed, it was a new and enjoyable experience for us that promises to launch St. John Ellisville and Jesus Christ into the hearts and minds of the next generation. Praise the Lord!


SJR: Surprise, surprise! The weather here yesterday was really nice (!) so we decided to go to Faust Park. It's about 25 minutes away and they have a great kids' playground, a carousel, a historic village, and of course, the Butterfly House (the main attraction, I think).

Hannah had fun feeding the ducks and playing on the playground before our picnic lunch. Then we walked around the historic village. It's rather small, but has some neat houses. The oldest structures are 150 years old! Then we went to the Butterfly House. We started inside with a 17-minute movie about butterflies. Then we went into the conservatory where they have about 1500 butterflies. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was just shocked at how many butterflies were flying around. They're absolutely everywhere - flying right next to you and landing on you (sometimes). My favorite was the Blue Morpho. I was going to tell you how darn hard it was to get a picture of one, but I found this photo and the explanation says it all. There is a glimpse of one in the slide show below. Enjoy the pictures!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Back home from Tennessee

We arrived home from Tennessee yesterday. We had a great visit with Grammies (Don's mom). This was our fourth visit since she moved there in '02 and it was so weird driving our own car instead of flying on an airplane. Hannah enjoyed herself - she was mystified by the "upstairs" - she doesn't remember ever being in a 2-story house before! This was also our first time not visiting in December so we got to see the trees in her one-acre backyard filled with leaves - it was very pretty.

One of the days we were there we went into Nashville and did the "touristy" thing. First stop was Opry Mills, a huge outlet mall, to look for new tennis shoes for Don. But oh-so-important (much more important than shoes, don't ya know!) was a ride on the carousel - there are pix in the slide show below. True to outlet mall lore, we did find a bargain: shoes for Don and new tennies for Hannah (light-up blinkie Dora shoes, of course, for only $12.50). Throw in a Dora hat and socks (thanks Grammies!) and our girl was a happy camper.

Next stop was the Opryland Hotel - one of my favorite spots in Nashville (though I've only been to about 3 places in Nashville...). The hotel is huge and beautiful. It has three huge atriums (atria?) that house restaurants/bars, waterfalls, rivers (including a river boat ride), fountains, tons of plants and trees, and various levels of walking paths and skywalks to explore. We've been before at Christmas and the decorations are spectacular. It was fun to go this time since Hannah is old enough to run around, find fountains, throw in pennies, and just enjoy herself. If you have a minute, go here and check out some of the photos. Here are photos from the trip:

After wandering around the hotel for about three hours, we headed out to dinner at the Blackhorse Pub and Brewery. We've been there several times before and always enjoy it. By then we were all exhausted and looking forward to heading home. Once we got home, Stacye taught Grammies how to do Sudoku puzzles, and then it was finally (!) bedtime.

We had an uneventful drive home and are resting up before we have to start packing for our first airplane flight with both girls. We head to Texas to see the Marmolejos and meet the new twins on Wednesday. Keep us in your prayers for safe travels. Thanks for reading and y'all have a good weekend!

With lots of love,
The Travelin' Rays

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Don and I celebrated two anniversaries this week. August 9 was the 11-year anniversary of our first date and August 11 was our 6-year wedding anniversary. Yesterday (8/11) we went to a new student reception for my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College. It was hosted by another alum, Jake Zimmerman. Jake was a Senior when I was a Freshman and he is now a lawyer and Missouri State Representative. We went to a restaurant called Soda Fountain Square in downtown St. Louis to meet incoming students, their parents, current students, and other alumni. It was really fun to have a new connection to my beloved CMC - I loved college and look back on my 4 years with the fondest of memories.

After the reception we went to P.F. Chang's for dinner. Friends from home gave us a gift certificate which we have been saving. Our anniversary seemed like the perfect time to use it! We had a delicious dinner - only the second time we have "eaten out" since Grammies (Don's mom) left over a month ago.

Then we came home and collected Hannah from the downstairs neighbor who babysat for us. We put the girls to bed and waited for our overnight guest. Amber H., the daughter of friends from church in Bakersfield, is engaged to one of Don's classmates. She's in town for the weekend for a wedding and is staying the night with us last night and tonight. It was great to see a familiar face from home and the four of us were up until almost midnight talking.

Finally, as promised, here are photos of our trips to The Magic House. We had a great time - we've been twice so far and still haven't seen the 2nd or 3rd floors. Hannah loves it there and since it's all inside, we'll probably go there quite a bit when it's hot, rainy, or too cold to go outdoors. The first day we went it was just the girls and me. The next weekend we took Daddy back and saw an artist blowing glass. He planned to blow 1,000 glass balls that will be suspended from the ceiling of the Magic House's new addition next year. Hannah got to choose the colors for one ball and the artist's assistant carved her name into it. How cool that a little piece of Hannah will be a part of the Magic House for years to come!

Thanks for reading our blog - it's great to feel a connection with our loved ones back in California (and scattered elsewhere in the US). We love you and praise God for you. Your prayers and support help keep us going. Keep in touch and God bless,
--Stacye, Don, & the girls

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bethie has a....


She cut her first tooth on Friday, one day before her 4-month birthday. Her second one will be coming soon and she's having a much harder time than Hannah did. She's got drool, a fever, drool, fussiness, drool, a runny nose, drool, a cough, drool, diarrhea, and oh yeah, drool. We had a rough night last night - I was up with her from 2:30 until about 5:30 (she dozed a little, I didn't). She's sleeping quietly now, but I'm holding my breath to see how the rest of tonight goes. So keep her (and mom!) in your prayers that this phase will pass quickly. Thanks!

Sleepless in St. Louis

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Questions and (hopefully the right!) answers...

DR: Praise God, I passed my New Testament class yesterday afternoon with an A- overall. Our final exam was rather difficult, as I myself and many friends in my class can attest. To give you a taste of the level of detail we were tested on: we were required to know which cities Paul traveled to on which of his missionary journeys (in what order), covering which chapters of the Book of Acts, and knowing what he did (and said!) on each of those journeys, and who he was with on each one...and that was just the Book of Acts, not to mention each of the four Gospels and the 22 other books and letters of the New Testament!

Internal dialogue at about 2:35pm Central Standard Time yesterday afternoon, in the midst of the test (loosely based on a true story, names withheld to protect the innocent): "(reading the test question to self) 'Question 15: Choose the best answer--oh, great, that's means there's more than one that's right...I hate these kinds of questions--the Apostle Paul enjoyed long, moonlit walks on the beach at: a) Ephesus, b) Jerusalem, c) Miletus--he went to Miletus? Where's that? I don't even know how to pronounce the city!--d) Malta, or e) a) and c) only.' Hey, that wasn't in the study guide! And who is Paul? And why do I need to know this, anyway?! Come, Lord Jesus, quickly! And bring Excedrin! And the answers to questions 3, 26, 12, 48, 23, 96, 14, 7, and 39 would be helpful, too."

OK, so they didn't ask us about Paul's moonlit walks, I must admit. And yes, I do know who Paul is, thankfully. But if there ever were such a question, I'd guess it would be d) Malta...because it's an island in the Mediterranean, presumably with lots of beaches...and it's where Paul, Luke, (and 274 other men--see Acts 27:37) were shipwrecked on the way to Rome...and where they stayed for three months (Acts 28:11)...and where Paul got bitten by a snake (on his left hand, some scholars suggest--see Acts 28:3 and footnote on 12.1b, subset 3, pg. 1245 in the Concordia Study Bible)...OK, OK, I'm a little tense. Still "downloading" all of my newly-acquired NT knowledge. Deep breath. The test is over. You passed. (end of positive self-talk)

I described this level of intense study to Stacye the other night--using our recent cross-country trip as an analogy--I said, "We just drove 2,100 miles, from California to St. Louis...just like I've read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation before. I knew that we stopped for gas and food occasionally along the way, just like I "knew about" Jesus' ministry in the four Gospels. But taking this New Testament class was like driving all the way to St. Louis and then having someone ask me, 'At what time, on what days, and at what gas stations did you stop? And other than 'needing gas,' what additional extenuating circumstances, if any, influenced your decision to stop each time (choose the best answer): was it a) your bladder suddenly threatened to exceed the size of the Grand Canyon, b) you had to get out, stretch, and wake up your be-hind (and in the process of doing so, the only thing you woke up was your daughter), c) the Holy Spirit moved you to do so, d) you couldn't resist taking a picture of the world's largest thermometer in Barstow, or e) all of the above.'"

Needless to say, there was a lot of detail on the New Testament final exam. [And by the way--for the record--we did not stop to take a picture of the world's largest thermometer in Barstow. Though a) and b) and--Lord only knows--perhaps c) were indeed reasons we stopped along the way.]

So, do I "know it all" now? Heavens no! But I do have a much richer and deeper understanding and appreciation of God's Word, after having spent an intense 4 weeks going through it, literally from Genesis to Revelation. (We covered all of Revelation in one hour, by the way. Can you say, "Deer in the headlights!?") My faithful classmates and I are all glad to have acquired so much new knowledge...and we're equally (if not more, if I am to tell the truth) pleased to have finished the classes!

We now move on to Greek. Truth be told, I am really looking forward to it, though I know it will be a lot of hard, intense, sweat-it-out kind of work. Starting in early September, I will be taking Greek full-time (the seminary doesn't let us take anything else concurrently, because they know it so intense and demanding on its own). I've been told we will have 2-3 hours in-class, Monday-Friday, and another 4-5 hours of intense homework each night for 10 weeks. Then starting just after Thanksgiving, we will take Hebrew--also full-time--for 15 weeks consecutively.

You're welcome to come visit me in the asylum afterwards. I'll be in the room with the padded walls.

These classes and exams may be difficult. But thank God for faith in Jesus Christ. We don't always have to know the answers in life, we just have to trust that He does. I just wish tests at the seminary were the same way.

Thanks for visiting our blog and for your continued support. We pray God's love and richest blessings for you and your family. Remember: God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. Why? Because He loves us, and by believing in Him, we can have eternal life in Heaven.

And in the end, that's the only answer that matters.