Monday, September 22, 2008

Culture, Culture, Culture

 Culture, Culture, culture surrounds me and my mind has been running like crazy. I wrote this post on Sunday, but it didn't get posted, so pretend that the date says September and not already October:)

Last weekend I enjoyed some fun times with many new friends. Friday night we took a trip to Jazz Night at the High Art Museum. It took me a while to become acclimatized to the very modern jazz accompanying the classic 18-19th century art. What an overload to the senses! The next day we visited the Puppet museum in downtown Atlanta. They have a lot of Jim Henson's puppets, including this amazingly detailed puppet(should I still use such a passive word?) used in Dark Crystal. I thought it was scary in the movie, but close up he looks even more real. Plus he had a really cool sword.

This weekend seemed a little more low key, since we all stayed in on Friday to watch the debate. Last night, though, I went out with some of my new Korean friends to a Chinese restaurant, and wow, we ate such amazing food. My other non-Korean friend and I didn't really know what we were ordering, so our friend Teddy took control. I'll tell you, he can order for me any day! The soup we had was spicy in just the right way, mild at first and warmer throughout the dish, always enhancing the food and not inhibiting the taste. Afterwards we followed with a Korean tradition of going for the "Round 2," meaning that you go for dessert or coffee in some other place. We ended up going for some wine and had nice discussions about our lives and theology.

We have quite a few Korean-American students; some of them immigrated at a young age and others were born here, identifying with both cultures. I enjoy talking with them about their culture, meaning Korean history as well as the history of Korean Christians. Most of my Korean classmates work part-time(almost like full time) as youth pastors in one of the many Korean Presbyterian Churches in Atlanta. From what I understand their worship services can be pretty intense, and their contemporary services tend to be cutting edge. For the Christian Korean Community church takes a dominant place in their lives. Every morning, they take a special time of prayer. The Asian Student Organization on campus even started a morning prayer service in light of this spiritual discipline. I've been going on a regular basis, and we meet every weekday morning from 6:30-7:40 or so, having a Psalm reading, some singing, someone shares a short devotional, and then intercessory prayer. My friend Daniel describes the prayer time as a "symphony of prayer," because everyone is praying at once, some outloud and some silently, with meditative music in the background.
The first week found me exhausted from praying so intensely and so repeatedly, but now I find myself praying and praying continuously, and I even feel more comfortable praying aloud in groups. One of my favorite things about the morning prayer time is the routine and continuous practice of putting God and others first in my day. Many different people feel called to come and pray; although the idea comes from the Korean tradition, these meetings are all inclusive and people from all walks of life come to pray for our campus, our community, and the world. Again it's the wonderful way of how sharing your own culture or experiencing another's can change your own way of life and challenge you.

If you have any prayers you would like us to pray about, email me, and we'll pray for you. Maybe you feel strange with me making this offer or with the idea of strange people you don't know praying for you. Either way, you don't have to accept the offer, I just felt called to lay it out there.

So, I hope you have a great day and that maybe you too will have the chance to experience the habits of someone around you and be challenged to see the world through their eyes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I made it!

 I just survived my first week of classes at Columbia Theological Seminary and I'm heading into another one. We've already had two quizzes in Hebrew, plus for my Wednesday class we're preparing a group presentation. I'm so excited about all of my classes. Old Testament has turned out to be more than a bible study, more than a history class, something more like Bible enrichment and history of theology. For my first elective I chose a seminar on worship and music. I'm excited about the way we will look at the history of worship in the church and how to find direction for churches in today's world--I know sounds right up my alley, huh? The best part though is that we have to do a project and write a paper, both of which scare me a little bit, but at the same time I was hoping one semester during my studies here to take an independent study in worship to do just this, and now I will be able to do it for a class with the help of others and then present it to people who could possibly use it. My other elective, another seminar, takes a look at the possible ways that a church can take on "public ministry." The professors presented an interesting syllabus to us, showing how we will learn about theory and then have to apply it to a congregation which we will study. I can't tell you how blessed I feel to be passionate about everything I'm studying. Discovering the meanings of Hebrew words and their double or sometimes multiple meanings, learning to read and asses the strength of activities in an average church congregation, being forced to think about theology and worship and God's abounding grace and love as I drink everything in from the wonder surrounding me.
 And yet that's only looking at my academic life. For the last two years, socializing always felt like work; some cultural or language barriers inhibited either myself or my friends. The "work" of friendship never feels wasted and becomes very gratifying, but still, it's always hard. So here I am, living on campus in the building in these pictures with several of the other students in my classes and in the community of roughly 300 students. We eat together, laugh together, study together, and pray together. I've been attending a 6:30am prayer service M-F, MTThF we have worship at 10am followed by fellowship and coffee at 10:30. You all know me and how I love routine and especially eating and waking at the same time. I've been eating with my friends in the refectory(shown here, no,that's not a foto from HP), whether I enjoy their good meals or bring my own, we enjoy each other's company and get to know new people. Wednesday night we had an awesome semi-spontaneous improvisation class lead by some of my fellow seminarians. Imagine "Who's line" where all ten of us were just getting up and taking turns in the game. Incredible, my friends are Hilarious! Plus, I will be part of a woman's bible study and an "intentional community"--something like a bible study, but God's blessings abound everywhere in my life. I could not ask for more.
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