I've finally got internet on my laptop which means I can show you pictures!! Rather than sending huge digital pictures (and sometimes large amounts of them :)) in the emails, I've created a site where the interested can go just to look at what I've been up to in photos. They start out rather small, but you can click on them and they will come up larger in another window. Please visit if you'd like to see where I am! It's: www.xanga.com/OtobeinEngland
(P.S. If any of you get a chance, please show this site to Grandma sometime as well otherwise she won't ever get to see the pictures : ( You can also share these emails with her!)
School has truly begun now and most of my days are filled with various lectures both fascinating and challenging. I spent last week attending every lecture offered for my year and then all weekend deciding which of them I would take. I went in to the weekend thinking I knew exactly what I would do, then prayed about it for a few days, and came out of the weekend with an entirely different view : ) Nine courses are offered my year this term. I must choose six of them to be assessed in and then I may audit as many of the rest as I would like. So, the verdict for my term will be (drum roll, please)...
Introduction to Acts and the Pauline Epistles, which is two intense hours with Richard Johnson (who likes to make sure we're all quite awake by now-and-again jumping about the room energetically, his unruly, graying hair flopping against his forehead and his long, limp sweaters bouncing about his skinny shoulders :)) every Monday morning looking indepth at not only the books about and written by Paul, but all circumstances surrounding the writing of those books. Very interesting.
Then I have Bible Study Methods and Leadership, 2 more hours on Monday with Richard Johnson, in which we learn to truly study the Word-- analyze each aspect from each perspective. I have never looked at the Word this way or learned so much about the 'read-between-the-lines' aspect of it all. On top of that we must demonstrate our understanding of what we're learning by then leading a bible study with a group in the class. This, I will need huge amounts of prayer for as public-speaking in any venue terrifies me. Praise Him that it's not up to my power to share His wisdom, but His!
Tuesdays will be my longest day this term. I have The Growth of World Christianity with Collin Bulley for two hours in the morning, a class both extremely interesting and long : ) Mr. Bulley seems enduring British, if the entire nation can be generalized, and one might dismiss him as being the rather old, intellectual, boring type if it weren't for one small diamond stud in his left ear, as if he'd forgotten when he was dressing in his nondescript professor-ish sweater and trousers (never say 'pants' here. 'Pants' are strictly a pair of panties in English english!) to hide away the hint that there is a life beyond the teaching, endless knowledge, and classroom : )
Then comes the dreaded Developing Public-Communication Skills with Simon Steer, our school's president. His wife is American, by the way, and he studied at seminary in New York : ) Anyway, this is the course I was dead-set against taking. I figured I'd been subjected to enough fright and humiliation in my high school speech-making class and then again last year at Concordia whenever the courses called for it. This year, I knew I would have no need for a class such as this one. Apparently, God has other ideas because I couldn't find peace over not taking it and therefore, I find I'm enrolled. The course culminates in each student giving a 10 minute talk so I'm praying about a good subject and confidence to deliver it!! I will be begging for prayers as that day approaches, I assure you!
So, then it's World Religions with Rob Cook. Something about the tutor completely intimidated me at first. He has a way of purposely disturbing things in you-- of forcing you to step back and look at everything you once thought was solid as being slightly shifty. I was so uncomfortable with that at first and not looking forward to taking his lecture. But right now we're learning about Roman Catholicism and that's a religion I need to have a grasp of if God does someday/somehow lead me to Ireland. Then that night I went on to discover that he also teaches another of my classes as well as being my pastoral tutor AND my acadmenic tutor!! Of ALL the tutors here, he was both of those... So, it pushed me to really sit down with God and look at this as His Will and question what He might be trying to tell me through this particular person, through his particular style of raising faith questions and my immediate reaction to those questions. What I've decided is that God has huge plans that I cannot understand and He doesn't ask me to understand. He asks me to trust. So... here I am.
The Doctrine of God and the church, led by Rob Cook, is my 6th class and will be fascinating even if it is slightly over my head and intimidatingly philosophical.
Then I'm auditing a seventh, Old Testiment Survery, simply because it's such foundational information-- plus Derek Foster is a riot act who says things quite reminiscent of Monty Python and looks unmistakably like Mr. Bean : )
Coincidentally, in line with school officially starting and all, the weather has also turned this week to what I'm told is a bit more customary for an English autumn : ) It's quite chilly, windy and drizzly-- never real rain, just drizzle-- and quite gray. But the sun comes out off and on as well and none of this keeps me from walking everywhere I need to go and also plenty of places I don't need to simply for the experience of it : )
Aunt Melissa, you will be very pleased to know that I'm singing on a worship team here : ) My neighbor in the room next to mine heard me singing along to my BarlowGirl cd randomly one night and, without my knowledge, went to the powers-that-be to request that I be put on her worship team!! So, due to the mysterious nature of it all, I'm taking that to mean that God wants me there : )
With this being a Theology course and all, I find my classes are deeply intellectual, analytical, and academic and a part of me is grieved that we're picking God apart like this-- even as I realize how vital it is to really dig in and look at Him and all that He embodies in this way. Nonetheless, my heart was more blessed than I can say tonight when I went to the first of a series of student meetings called 'Resonate'. It's a night of praise, worship, and prayer done by students for students and it's just where some of us basically get together after lots of deep study to regroup and refocus our minds and hearts on simply loving God-- the motivation for taking this course in the first place. I love the new worship songs I'm learning here but some are still so unfamilliar that I would find myself standing there eyes closed just listening. I am so struck as I stand there hearing voices from all over the world raised to bless his name all around me. And again I stand in awe of His unfathomable purpose in bringing me here and placing me among them. Me?? I am struck by the divine appointment of it. You have Kalun (originally from China but raised in England), who must be one of the most talented and gifted people God has made, strumming the guitar and singing in a gorgeous, God-glorifying voice, Emmanuel (originally from Nigeria but has been living in England for a number of years now) mastering the guitar, Paul (British, but grew up in the Reunion Islands where his parents were missionaries) leading worship, Claire (Northern Ireland) giving her testimony of God's faithfulness so personably and personally, Leticia (Brazil)-- amazing, amazing girl-- praying God's Word over all of us, and then all these awesome worshippers of The King from places like Holland, Korea, Zimbabwe and everywhere in between, and then there's me, the one and only American... I really don't know why I'm here. I don't know what He has in store. But I'm thankful that He has not lifted/will not lift His hand from me until He's led me to the very streets of gold...
There is forever more to say!! But... too much is just too much so I'll have to save it for another letter another day. Thank you so much for all of you who pray for me. I can tell He's been hearing those prayers...
May you be so very richly blessed as you seek Him!