For Such A Time As This

Dear Dr. Fledderjohann,

You were my 8:30, my first class, my first professor. You were my introduction to what Moody would be like. And you, with your stern-faced, soft-soul-ed, no-nonsense demeanor, said teaching the Bible had to be interesting. With punctuation. And so we learned, and I took a final in the fireplace room and was proud of my work, and I took criticism in my projects and learned that I deserved it. Thank you.

Dr. Profe,

I took you because I was afraid. Of failing, mostly. At some point in class, you said that learning a language involved being willing to make mistakes, and that when that mistake-making happened, to learn to have fun with it. You said that learning a language involved the sort of failure I was afraid of. I learned to be good at it, and even if I didn’t learn how to have fun at the parts I wasn’t good at, I could at least look at you and realize it could be fun. On another note, you were the first professor whose patience I couldn’t comprehend. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Baurain,

Did I still set the record for most writing done in those minute essays? I’ve always loved to write, but I didn’t know how much I’d need those early crucial tools you gave. Your knowledge of Lewis intimidated me, your essay questions captivated me, your enthusiasm for Nebraska delighted me, and your willingness to engage in conversation taught me that professors could and should be approachable. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Park,

You are still a legend to me; an incendiary one, admittedly, but a legend in both your boldness and the fact that you still remember me–and my sister. You talked about an arena I had little technical knowledge in, and you drew it back to a region of personal impact. You taught me what it looked like to do something that I thought I already knew how to do. Thank you.

Dear Professor Worrall,

I still want to call you ‘Dr.,’ even after you corrected me. You corrected me in class, too, that first early time when the little bubble of loyalty was pricked and old griefs came spilling out. And you corrected me after class, in the pause between things you had to do and things I didn’t understand. You corrected without saying I should know these things already, and I learned–along with bold declarations of faith, deliciously creative classroom presentations, and absurdly beautiful handwriting–that teaching involved stopping and engaging, if even for a moment. Also, I still remember your teary-eyed delight at the wonder of having children. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Baker,

I think I doodled in the back row of your class quite a bit. I promise I was paying attention–truly. I had no concept of what these motions meant until I was out of the sandbox and onto the shore with waves too big for me. And then I realized that, all along, you had been trying to teach us how to swim. That was the first time I was late on a project, the first time I snuck into Fitz late so I could slip a paper under a professor’s door, and the first time I wrote a note to one and signed my name. I wanted you to know that the class mattered to me, and that you did, too. Also, my sister had said that I would want your sweaters. She was right. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Namaan,

You said you had an extra ‘A’ in your name so you could give us one. I appreciated that, but even more so I appreciated your endless desire to see the world know Christ. While I learned that yes, I could write a four-page paper in half an hour, I also learned that I didn’t enjoy being out of my comfort zone but sometimes I had to. I still remember Habakkuk 3:18-19, by the way. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Lit,

That’s appropriate, isn’t it? I didn’t know what to expect, sitting in the back and wondering what this would be, but while I didn’t agree with everything, I did learn that theology involved lots of humor and the capacity for endless study. I also learned that I didn’t know theology half as well as I thought I did, and it was humbling in the best possible way. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Sauer,

I didn’t know the nickname for your class until I was almost done, but ‘love hour’ wasn’t wrong. I loved every minute. I didn’t know one person could have such unflagging energy for the Word, for life, and for love. You may not remember it or know it, but you were the very first professor in whose office I sat, and said a little, and cried a little, and you flipped through that big Bible on your desk and spoke the very verse that I had been praying for my sister over and over again and never praying for myself. Thank you.

Dear ABD,

I still think of that, and am still rooting for you, however long this journey takes. Thanks for still remembering my name. You recognized our failings as students and sought–even while busy and burdened in ways we never knew–to feed us more information than we could grasp but badly needed to know. I wish I could go back and understand better now what you taught us then. The coffee was delicious, too. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Mathews,

I never understood how you did it, how you managed to teach and preach and speak and steadily love the Lord and His Word and His Church and His work and His children in the same unflagging breaths. I know we were few and listless, but I still have those books sitting on my shelf, because what you had us read could not leave us untouched. You haven’t given up on the vision of work done well, and you resuscitated that vision for us, too. Thank you.

Dear Dr. McDuffee,

I’ve sat under you three times. I think you only remember the last two, but it was the first one that floored me. How do you think of the world with such breadth and with such humility? I finally saw White Cruficixion but it was only after visiting Chagall’s museum and being in tears because I was finally glimpsing a fraction of the way you see the world. I’ll admit that I did sudokus in class to keep my brain grounded to my hands, but I promise the hundreds of pages of notes were from those times when I was able to pin to the page those scraps of thought too vivid to leave alone. I thought you were profound; then I realized you were unforgettable. I had already wept in Yad Vashem, but you taught me that I could weep with both anger and gentleness. And then I wept in your office, and you were kind and still gentle. And you still remember, because somehow your mind can comprehend the full spectrum of color and not forget the specific hue of the people around you. Thank you.

Dear Mrs. Smith,

You were color and sound and always wore something sparkling and glittery. You were the pastor’s wife who never sugarcoated the work of it but never presented it as anything less than the richest gift. You wept in a moment and smiled in the next. You proclaimed conception a miracle and made it all make sense without it ever being made shameful. You gave me my only ‘B’ in 9 years of college. And then you sat across from me at a lunch table and said you could see me. And you sat across from me at a coffee shop and said you could see me again. And then you sat across from me on a plane and saw me again. And in those moments I saw you, a woman, who teaches with passion and loves with ferocity and gives both joy and tears their rightful place. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Weber,

I had heard about you before I sat in your class. So I wasn’t disappointed, and then I wasn’t disappointed again, and then I was surprised because I wasn’t disappointed again. You knew me because of where I sat and you gave us clarity because of who you are and you gave me a fair grade because you would never do anything less. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Peterman (Napoleon),

It only makes sense if you’ve seen it, but then it always makes sense. You were the first person to care about footnotes and margins and the period in exactly the right place. You meant ‘exactly,’ and I learned ‘exactly,’ and in between we were your guinea pigs and we turned out just fine. It seemed like too much reading and too many words and too much knowledge and suddenly it became pastoral because you could do no less. And when I was able to learn from you again, I knew both when to laugh this time and that you were capable of tears, too. And because I knew, I wasn’t afraid to ask, because you never caused us to be afraid of your answer. Thank you.

Dear MM,

I’m sorry I didn’t know how to appreciate you right away. You didn’t pretend that we were better than we were, and up until then I had pretended that I was. And then I was uncertain, and it led to certainty, but I was still uncertain how to bring new certainty to you. And instead you asked, and listened, and let me go with blessing and not complaint. And then I learned that you had taught us to appreciate you, in your own way. Thank you.

Dear Dr. de Rosset,

It feels pretentious to call you anything other than the real thing, but you were never anything remotely pretentious. You had just as many opinions as the next person, but more clarity and gravity in your words than the next fifty persons. And you laughed when it struck you as funny and cried when it wasn’t. You scribbled and marked out and brooked no excuses. You also savored words and named things as good without parsimony. And when I finally sat in your office, you walked straight to my soul, bypassing the masquerade of niceties along the way (and, coincidentally, my name). I treasure your praise, because you are unafraid to both withhold and extend it. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Koessler,

You may not remember that I spoke to you, twice. And the first time you said it was nice and well written and rather boring. And the words I had been so afraid to ask came tumbling out. You went next door to retrieve an awkward fistful of kleenex and gave them, gentleness, and wisdom all with the same generous hands. You had told us to ask what we dare not ask, and I did. And when I saw you again, you asked and were still gentle and I’m still not certain if I can tell what that meant to me in that season. I’m still asking. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Finkbeiner,

You were the nail in the coffin, as it were. Or perhaps the helium in the ballon. Or the instructor on the parachute jump. You made out both soaring and falling to be the greatest adventure of them all, and you scribbled out with pencil and paper those first instructions for how to begin. Then you stood against a wall with your hands in your pockets and asked bad questions and encouraged all manner of fumbling answers and loved theology all the while. And I still am realizing the places we jumped and the things we tasted and what richness you gave us in small, cheerful measure. Thank you.

Dear Mrs. Penfound,

I learned more about the grace of the Word than I did about fitness, I think. Your class meant a lot of pain, which I didn’t enjoy, but you gave a lot of grace, which I needed. You never said our goals were too lofty or silly or that we were not where we were supposed to be. You just did whatever you could to encourage us as who we are as people, people who could do better and people who you encouraged to do yet better still. Thank you.

Dear Coach,

You were pressed for time and persons and yet not pressed for grace. So you gave that to us, and the Lord used you to give us the gift of free time. And in the times you were with us, you didn’t mince words but didn’t withhold engagement. It was a relief and a gift and never a threat. Thank you.

Dear Coach,

I didn’t particularly want to be in your class, until you sat on the desk and took a call and made another one and exposed your love for life and sense of humor. I was reluctant and nervous and in pain most of the time, but even though you didn’t know, you encouraged us in the small ways with a cheer that made it all seem possible. Thank you.

Dear Dr. V.,

I got to know you at your best, didn’t I? Around a table in a little classroom, on the floor around a little living room, on couches in front of Indiana Jones. You said Sys Theo wasn’t your forte, but then you dove into the Greek of the thing with more elan than I had ever approached a language. And the language spoke to the theology, and Biblical theology and Systematic theology settled alongside and within one another better than I had seen before. And you remembered and asked and had a settled, unabashed honesty that stretched my spiritual muscles and helped to heal them, too. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Neely,

I was sorry not to be in class with you, yet I was privileged to sit under you at all. There are moments of you that still strike me; an opening word at FBM that oriented both our day and our lives toward Christ, a sermon at a church in Edinburgh, a conversation around the kitchen table at the Lighthouse, clarity around a campfire. You’ve repeated these moments time and time again in always choosing to greet me. The most striking thoughtfulness is a word you perhaps don’t remember, when your kindness to say how proud you were of me was a ribbon of kindness in a day seamed with grief. Thank you.

Dear James,

You presented yourself with integrity before you ever knew how deeply it would matter. You kept your honesty and welcomed ours and never lost your sense of the absurd, even when you were late to the bus and even when you knew the spiraling troubles ahead. Meanwhile you sat back and crossed your arms and somehow taught us to keep our feet steady when the theology was unsettling. You were honest when you said every passage told us something of God, and you were honest when you didn’t have the answers. And in that restless summer, when all I wanted was answers, I wrestled with God and was finally honest with Him in the end. I left limping and loved anew. I just wish I had more time to learn from you. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Root,

Your knowledge managed to both intimidate and inspire at the same time. Every day was extraordinary and heady and gripping and it felt like we barely scratched the surface. I treasure these moments; a coffee break when you were surprised and blunt in ways you didn’t know I needed; a quiet afternoon in a field when I fell in love with Alice in Wonderland again; a day traipsing in Oxford when you made a doctorate seem like the most ordinary and possible dream in the world; an evening watching and thinking and learning of redemption yet again. I learned to love the Word and its enduring treasures, while you were full of the life of the Word and its enduring transformation. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Goodrich,

I wonder why you never told us quite how difficult it was. Because you taught so steadily, as if was the most delightful and steadfast thing in the world. And it didn’t matter if we were sleeping or staid, because you pressed on and distilled years of study into minutes of teaching. I feel like I skimmed the surface in everything I learned, but I realized that the waters were far deeper than I first thought. I need to learn to swim, and learn to love it, but you helped us begin. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Merchant,

You entrusted us with hefty papers and loaded assignments, and I loved the chance to hear and exchange and begin to see the hands and feet of theology in new and unexpected ways. But what I needed most to hear was that early day, when you confessed and proclaimed that ours was a God of active redemption. In a semester of regret, I needed to know that He was still drawing us up from the deepest places we have wandered. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Schmutzer,

How did you know to ask that first question? To ask if there was something else behind that door that I didn’t want to open? You weren’t afraid to pull boxes off the shelf and name their contents, and in a year when nothing was in order, you spoke truthfully of even the most difficult things. I still feel as if I don’t know and have barely begun to understand, but even when I was uncertain and stumbling for words, you listened and still asked. You were careful with this hurt because you know the Healer so well. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Hong,

I’ve said it before, but I was continually astounded by you. You were tireless beyond comprehension, enthusiastic beyond measure, and prayerful beyond sight. There is much I didn’t say, but what I did you were always careful with in your own way. I didn’t know how bitter I was towards music until I learned to love it again and realized I’d forgotten what it tasted like to sing with both joy and tears in my throat. And you never condemned when my body failed and never ceased to call us higher when we could go yet farther. Thank you.

Dear Dr. C.,

I think of you in terms of honesty, except that your honesty is never unkind. So thank you for your kindness towards those I love, your kindness towards those I don’t yet love, your kindness towards me. I wanted to say thank you first when I realized the way you were gentle and honest in all the ways I couldn’t be, and then you willingly turned towards me with that same grace. Thank you.

Dear Dr. J.,

I have no words to say what you mean to me and what you have taught me. You are my brother and my friend and my teacher and it is forever my privilege to call you so. Thank you.


Letters from an MBI Student – 12/10

Aaaannndd, that’s a wrap.


That’s actually less exciting than it seems. It basically means that now I have to study like mad for finals because they’re happening next week. I only have four finals and two papers due, so it’s actually really easy.

Ahaha, who am I kidding? It’s insane. I’m going to go crazy. Saturday I’m helping a classmate with her philosophy homework, studying for a final with the only other homeschooler in my education class, and meeting another student for coffee to catch up on our incommunicado-ness over the course of this semester before going to the last iNfoRmaL presentation. Wut.

Oh, I’m also writing two six-page papers, finishing my Spanish homework, rewriting my Christian Missions notes, memorizing Spanish vocabulary, reviewing my Studying and Teaching the Bible lesson plans, and drinking several pots of coffee. And doing laundry, washing dishes, making an egg bake, and sleeping for 24 hours. I wish that last one were true.

I also have eight library books that I really want to read, and a coffee date, and things to write and places to see and an ice skating rink I still haven’t gone to and tickets to a Christmas concert and…

Welcome to finals week at Christmas, where everything you want to do is probably nothing you need to do.

See you soon, if I don’t drown in coffee or implode from an overstuffed brain first,


Tell The Truth Tuesday: How To Survive Finals

I’m writing this as an epilogue to my coffee-filled and sleep-deprived week spent doing my straight-from-hell take-home accounting finals, so please note that this is a bleary-eyed, end-of-the-tunnel take on the end of the school year.

But…here’s Tuesday’s dose of honesty in list form:


1. Do what you can beforehand.

I had two massive comprehensive problems that were counted as part of my tax final. We were informed of their requirement two weeks before they were due, and while we had material yet to learn in order to complete them in their entirety, I had the opportunity to do most of them well before they were due. And I didn’t. Worst. Idea. Ever. Or so I realized after midnight on Sunday night as I counted down the hours until they were due and realized that sleep and my 8 hour workday had to fit in there sometime, also.

2.  Sleep.

Don’t believe anybody who says that sleep is overrated. You read better, think better, speak better, function better…caffeine is great; sleep is better. Mother’s Day afternoon I found myself redoing the problems I had been doing at 2 A.M.   It would have been far better to get the sleep needed and only do the problems once rather than spend twice the time and get half the sleep.

3. You’ll do only as well as the time you put into it.

A.K.A. You can’t expect an A+ grade on a B- effort.  I hated my government accounting class, but it was the one I’ve done the best in. Why? Because I struggled so much to learn it. For me, lack of comprehension = more studying = more effort = better grades.

4. Don’t assume.

This applies to nearly everything. But it came up on a final I have to turn in this afternoon; one that I need to discuss with my professor. There’s an entire series of problems that I believe should be answered N/A, because the information given is inadequate. I met with a few of my classmates for study group yesterday, and we discussed the problem. Most of them were turning the final in anyway, having plugged in some numbers using an assumption about the data given. I may be wrong on my assumptions, but I can’t be afraid to ask questions. I’m not just going to school to get a diploma that says I learned something–I’m going in order to actually learn it.

5. School finals are not directly related to the apocalypse.

Or failing at life, or anything remotely similar. You may rock this last week, or completely bomb it. But stressing yourself into old age in exchange for book-knowledge is a highly unfair tradeoff. Like everything else in life: you win some, you lose some, and you count your blessings at the end of the day.

So yeah, I survived. I intend to sleep for a week and start reorganizing my life around something other than an accounting textbook. I’ve got new summer commitments and a lilac bush blooming outside my window. My life is good.

Oh, and I’m signed up for classes next year, too.

Tell The Truth Tuesday: Finals Week Edition

I appreciate and despise take-home finals. While I’m grateful for the fact that I don’t have to be in class for 4+ hours taking a regular final exam, I also struggle with bringing one home and spending upwards of 7 hours on it instead. My government midterm was a 10 hour ordeal. Six of those hours were spent in an afternoon at the library, featuring one bathroom break and no electronics. Regardless of how productive I was/am, let’s face it: accounting finals are long, and without the time constraints of an in-class session, they’re even worse.

So multiply that times 3, add in the usual 40 hour work week, top it off with an out-of-state graduation to attend this weekend, and set a deadline of next Monday…now here is what my life looks like:


That’s all I’ve got today, folks. What about you?

Tell The Truth Tuesday

Full of randomness today.  Here’s the top 5.

1. It’s 80 degrees outside. I don’t know whether to be excited or confused because apparently it’s summer already? What happened to spring?!

2. Only two weeks of classes left. Whew. I can make it. Although it’d be helpful if my professors weren’t so trigger-happy with their quizzes and homework. I know I’m going to receive gargantuan finals in all my classes next week, so could you maybe lay off with the assignments this week? Give me a little time to prep? Please?

3. I drove back to my hometown (again) this weekend. I love everything about my weekends at home, although it’s still hard to have everyone ask when I’m coming back, as if that is still an option. I’m not sure if they truly believe that my move was on a whim or consider it a possibility that I’ll break my work and school commitments here to return.

4. I’ve started trying to write short stories (again). I’ve been on sort of a writing break for a lot of this semester, and I miss it terribly. So of course I’m writing again, with classes and end-of-the-school-year commitments breathing down my neck. Brilliant me.

5. Maybe it’s just the weather (full moon?), but drivers were crazy this weekend. Phone numbers on paper plates and shirtless college guys hanging out of their jeeps to leer on Interstate, gangsters in souped-up Cadillacs trying to chat at the stoplights (no, I don’t roll my window down on command), and prepsters trying to drag race in front of the mall (Okay, so it was the prime racing spot in the city and famous for what happens after midnight, but even still: I drive a 14 yr old wagon with the engine power of a sewing machine. Do I look like I’m interested?!).

What’s up in your life?

Tell The Truth Tuesday

1. I left class early last night because I was falling asleep. I’ve never done that, but last night was impossible. Governmental accounting until 9 pm while running off a weekend that featured less than 4 hours of sleep a night? Not happening.

2. I was planing on getting 8 hours of sleep last night. I overslept my alarm and got 9 hours instead. Whoops.

3. On Thursday I have an appointment with a doctor to go over the results of some blood tests I had done. My mom wants to go with me, even though I’m not dying, and the blood tests are actually pretty routine for me. I suppose I should feel gratified that she’s interested in my health, but having her along tends to complicate things more than I would like.

4. Do you ever feel like you’re dependent on your vehicle? My car may be an ancient, unattractive thing known as “The Green Bomb”, but I’d rather be driving it than the family vehicle that handles like a semi and is not ipod compatible, no matter than 5-years-newer difference.

5. This is my new favorite chart.


What’s happening in your corner of the world today?

Telling The Truth On A Tuesday

I usually try to pick five. You know, like: Here are five random things that are in my face today. Current events, tv-show hangovers, something food related…that’s how it typically rolls. But today? I’m not really in the mood for skim-my-brain truths.

Let’s be honest: how often do we actual tell the truth? I mean, we all seem to walk around with a standard-issue “I’m fine” stamped on our foreheads. We get asked how our day is going, but we rarely tell the truth about it. If we do, we often leave the conversation disgusted with ourselves for pouring out our misery on someone else; all the while, the someone else is completely flabbergasted that so-and-so might actually be having a bad day.

Am I allowed to have a bad day? Please say yes. Please tell me that I am cleared to look you in the eye and say: “Today sucks.” Because, truthfully, some days are genuinely bad. Some days we wake up feeling like we got run over by a bus. Some days we wake up expecting something great to happen and it doesn’t. Some days we open the shades and find the sun actually isn’t shining today.

When those days happen, I really tend to withdraw from social media. Because it all seems so shallow. It’s those skim-the-brain truths that show up on my news feed, and some days I am really not interested. You had cold pizza for breakfast? I apologize to your stomach. Some monikered celebrity wore another above-my-pay-grade outfit? My bank account is choking. Another financial/political/gossip/housewife/child/religious/insert-your-own-descriptor-here scandal occurred in the six hours since I last checked the web? Hey, my phone died. Give me a break.

Sometimes I think we genuinely need to pull back. I remember coming home from a military funeral; a Navy Seal’s funeral. It was for a cousin that I had never met, one who had always been deployed. Now I watched his dog refuse to leave the casket. I saw his family and relatives I knew, weeping for him. I saw his brothers-in-arms pound their trident pins into his coffin.  I cried, and I came home, exhausted. Out of habit, I opened my computer, logged on to Facebook. Saw the miles of drivel occasionally interspersed by a thoughtful word. And I couldn’t take it. I logged out, and was off for several months.

But then there are times when we need someone to draw us back in. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss the entirety of the outside world as sensationalized news, but that would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need to be reminded to care. I know I don’t need to know who’s who in the celebrity world, but I do need to know about social and moral issues that are important to me. I want to know what the Supreme Court is ruling about. I want to know about the latest budget negotiations. I want to know about the heroes in our communities. I need to be reminded of things and people outside of myself. So, yeah, I’m going to check the news. I’m going to take it with a grain of salt and copious quantities of alcohol….I’m kidding. I’ll try to read it with an open mind. I’ll call a friend. I’ll pray. I’ll do something other than shut the shades on the dark, dark world.

Some days we need to be reminded that the sun is shining elsewhere. That the world is still spinning. If you can do that through a Google News feed, fine (although I warn you: it gets depressing pretty fast). If you can do that through an honest conversation with a friend, even better. If you can do it through a blog post dump, join the club. Most often I need to find it between the pages of my Bible. It reminds me to be honest: yeah, today is rough. But yes, the sun is still shining.

So here’s today, truthfully:

1. I feel like I’ve been run over by an eighteen-wheeler. There must be a Rae-size impression on an asphalt road somewhere, because I woke up this morning feeling distinctly squashed.

2. I’m really struggling in one of my school classes. My comprehension is somewhere on a  scale of zero to nil, and I’m barely managing my 4.0. It’s all sorts of frustrating.

3. I have some unresolved issues with people, but I never know how to deal with them. The elephant in the room showed up again this morning, and I was left wondering if the other person was aware that things have changed between us/may always be different? Is it one of those conversations that I’ll never have? Have they moved on? Should I?

4. I am more like my mother than I will ever admit. Every criticism I carry of her is a reflection on myself, and it should keep me far more humble than I allow it to.

5. The moment I forget everything that God has done and will do in my life is the moment that the sun stops shining in my world.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed

That I would see the goodness of the Lord

In the land of the living.”

Psalm 27:13