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Pilgrim Journal  

                             Note: If you'd like to skip to Bonnie's Seminary Adventures from 2004, click here.

A Little Schoolhouse of the Past

Introduction

  As I walk about in God's world, I notice some things that don't make sense and some things that make sense for the first time. I collect my thoughts and insights in my pastoral journal. I am happy to share some of them with you. Come, Pilgrim, take this journey with me.

           Bonnie Meadows

Fall 2009 

from the Pilgrim Journal of Bonnie Meadows 

September Update

Unimaginable

September 14    “Unimaginable: The Example of Hurricane Katrina”

It is only when something unimaginable happens that we realize that there are some things that we cannot anticipate. We cannot understand those things that we cannot imagine.

For more than 100 years people knew that the New Orleans area was below sea level and subject to flooding by the Mississippi river as well. It was also subject to serious flooding under catastrophic circumstances. But engineers built levees and put in pumps and everyone hoped for the best. It is difficult for people to believe that something unimaginable can actually happen in their own life. Even though it was possible, no one believed that the worst could actually happen—as it did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans directly on August 29, 2005 and rescue workers were unable to help thousands of people because of the serious flooding: more than 80% of the city under water for days.

For more than a thousand years God has been telling us that we need to follow God’s commands and instructions, even when we don’t understand. Sometimes God gave prophets strange things to do because God knew there was a future before them that was unguessed. (Jer. 29) God knows that there are many, many events and circumstances that are beyond our understanding—outside our imagination—and our only help and security is listening to someone wiser and stronger and more experienced than we. God is all that and more.

September 13

On the NPR station this morning the reporter interviewed the officials at the Port of New Orleans . The port, he reported, was essentially unaffected by the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The wharfs and storage facilities are far above sea level and only the used container storage area experienced flooding. The port was already beginning to receive shipments. However, without electricity, the ship’s containers can only be moved using a generator, and the price of gasoline to run them is especially high now that many of the oil derricks off the coast of Louisiana have been damaged. Also, there is no sewage, gas, housing or food providers for the workers in the area. They have no place to eat or sleep at night and no gasoline to drive—or clear streets to use—to get to and from work. The city’s life—even the part that is untouched—is gutted!

Just as the city of New Orleans is gutted following the hurricane damage, our lives are gutted if we are performing at our jobs, in our families, even in our spiritual rituals—without the indwelling, electrifying spiritual sources that make life meaningful. We need to seek God daily through Bible study, prayer, communion with others and keeping our hearts open to God’s every word for us. Amen.

Trust

Sept 10

While I sleep my cat jumps onto my bed and throws himself against my leg, snuggling peacefully against its softness and warmth. Just so can we cast ourselves into the arms of God—assured that we will be warmed and comforted, fully trusting in God’s love and grace.

On the other hand, my housemate’s cat, Shemit, doesn’t trust me for a second. She purrs as I prepare her food dish, but as I attempt to step across the room to fetch a spoon to serve it, she swats at my foot (we’ve had the intelligence to clip her front claws) apparently to keep me on task. She appears to be afraid that I have abandoned my task and forgotten her in her need. She is often afraid—like many people I know. She hovers close but snarls and swats if you do anything sudden, surprising or advancing—or just step back. Perhaps she is afraid that I will put her in the carrier and take her to the vet (who heals her). [Aside: anyone who things that cats don’s have long term memory has never taken one to the vet a second time.] How much easier her life would be if she trusted me as my cat does and relaxed in my warmth, comfort and love. Now there’s a lesson to learn.   

Marketing

 September 9    “Brainstorming Marketing”

       Q: Why do hundreds of strangers (often the same ones weekly) flock to the Farmer’s Market in the church parking lot on Saturday morning, but less than a tenth of them bother to come on the following day to the church service for worship of the God who brought forth this beautiful produce? What does the church need to do to attract people?

1) Think of what you hear that persuades you to do your work a better way. (Heloise, Ann Landers, therapist, self-help books, training classes, etc.)

2) Think about what you really read and how you read it, especially those things that not only catch your attention but motivate you to learn more and change your habits (eg. Small bits at a time, not overwhelming or strange language).

3) Think about what motivates you to visit a web site: revisit, search, download and learn from it.

4) What kind of materials do you want to take home from a conference or receive before and following such a conference or enhancement presentation. What motivates you to read, study, use these new materials? When do you have time to stop your work and integrate new procedures or products. (When did you find time to program your blackberry, cell phone, DVD player, etc. Why were you able to find the time?) Do you respond better to the things you request? What kinds of materials do you ignore, discard or store away?

Answers to these questions will direct awareness of successful marketing concepts, and churches can become aware of the things they do or fail to do that naturally attract people. For example, I have visited the church with the Saturday Farmer’s Market in the parking lot many times, but I receive very little nurture from the services. I find that I go elsewhere for rich Bible training and spiritual depth. People will go where they are being fed, reminded, cautioned, loved, and nurtured. People are not stupid. They will tend to do what works for them.

 Sept 3   “Extra Stuff in the Bible”

I have often wondered why there is so much extra stuff in the Bible. Upon reading the conclusion of the letter to the Ephesians “Tychicus, a beloved brother…shall make known to you all things: Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose…that he might comfort your hearts. Peace be to all the brothers and sisters and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…” If I had been a scribe long ago, I might have deleted some verses as unnecessary. A thought crossed my mind: no one ever preaches from these words of conclusion; what is their purpose in the holy scripture?

Like many things that God foresaw, there would come a time when the words, passages and books of the Holy scripture would be doubted, analyzed, authenticated, questioned, etc. Little, unnecessary passages like this one help to provide the text critic and the hermeneutical theologian with tools for analysis. As the preacher said, “There is a purpose for everything under heaven.”

Bonnie's Seminary Adventure 

Bonnie's  Seminary Adventures

A Few Notes from my first experiences at seminary appear below.

Bonnie attended Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary for three years (2004-2007) in preparation for her ministry as a pastor. Have you ever thought of becoming a pastor to some of the people God loves? As Jesus said, "The fields are white with the harvest."

October 15   “Surprise of Joy”

As I was rushing toward the library for a few more hours of study, I came upon the three Korean children on the seminary campus. The oldest boy is five, and his brother is two; the little girl was 2 ˝, and was walking with difficulty because her pants were wet. They were on the main campus, several hundred feet from the student housing, so I looked around for an adult tending them, but found no one. I determined to escort them across the valley and back to their homes to safety. There were delivery trucks cruising by the people leaving work, so I clucked them off to the side of the road—aware that they understand little or no English. “These are such adorable children,” I thought. “Why in the world are they alone?”

Finally I was able to walk them home, persuading the little girl to hold my hand while we walked. I shouted to the Dean of Students as she left for home, asking for their names and addresses. She told me as she ran to her car, and I headed for the little girl’s home. The little boys preferred staying at the playground (where an adult had told them to stay, I wondered?), so I took the little girl to her mother first. The mother was happy to receive her daughter, but with few English skills she couldn’t tell me why the children were wandering unsupervised.

I joined the boys and escorted them home only to discover that no one was home! (where could their mother be? Having recently arrived from Korea , they would have no driver’s license or work permit.) So we returned to the playground to await a parent. I set down my heavy books and spent the next hour swinging with the two-year-old, who put his head in my lap and fell asleep. I had planned a long study session, but God had provided me with a restful reprieve with three delightful children—and awareness of the necessity of urgent communication with these parents: We needed to put the fear of America in them!

Somehow the community must discover their needs and help them create solutions. It was an unexpected joy for me, however, to care for three adorable children for an hour—especially since I rarely get to see my own three little granddaughters of the same age. What a wonderful gift from God—for me and for three precious young children.

  Oct 12, 2004 Special Messages:

11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with God's people who are in need.
Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13, NIV)

Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2, WEB)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)

Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NIV)

'Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.' -Mark 11:24

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25, NIV)

October 10, 2004

I'm reading lots and lots about lots and lots of people’s histories and writings. Read Augustine, Luther, Wesley and Calvin last week. This week is Tillich, Channing, Thurman, Williams, Ray.

Also the Pentateuch. Busy times.

Hope I don't get wet because it would all run together.

If anyone wants to know more about Ezra 1, just let me know.

I wrote a paper on it for Scripture 1 (after reading Daniel, II Kings, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and large portions of many other books).

And here’s the question for the week: What passage in Jeremiah was Ezra forgetting in his decision about the people in Ezra 9-10?

October 3, 2004

The almost daily chapel services here are really inspiring. On September 16, one of the OT professors gave a sermon about understanding the vindictive language of the Psalms. Earlier our new president, Dean Thompson, presented a wonderful sermon about how our friends provide for us. Look for his sermon soon on my web site: www.Network4Singles.com. Then, last week the new Moderator for the General Assembly gave a talk letting us know what his community in New Mexico is doing to help those who might die crossing the border. What an opportunity! Coming soon to a web site near you!

I'll be in Virginia a day or so after Christmas for a couple of days but don't know if I'll be there much after that. In January I'll be taking Greek, and in the spring I'll do the NT and Greek exegesis. I have Clinical Pastoral Education this summer: 40 hours a week working as a hospital chaplain all summer. Should be a full schedule.

This week we are learning about sin and social justice. Reading some of the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., Delores Williams and others. We’re planning a Teach-In the end of this month on ending violence.

September 30, 2004

God's word to me about my gifts to Him while I'm in seminary was found in Leviticus 2. The grain offering "shows honor and respect to God" and "acknowledges that all we have belongs to God,"

according to the notes in my Bible. People were instructed to bring 1/10 of a bushel of flour mixed with olive oil and incense to the priest, and a handful of it was to be burned on the altar. The rest was used as food for the priest, but all of it was considered holy and a gift to God. Also, it was to contain no yeast.

So, I'll be giving a "handful" (about 1%) to the seminary as a "grain offering" and use the rest to pay seminary expenses. The olive oil and incense are the other gifts that I give to the seminary (like I brought mugs to all those who had helped me here and volunteered time for the phonathon), and I'm not to contaminate the gift by using any of the money for other things, like investing it in another project. And all of the gifts--to the seminary, to my children, and to the seminary student living in my body—will be a gift to the Lord, thanking God and recognizing that all I have belongs to God.

Learned today that there is no Hebrew word for "obey." When you read the word "obey" in the Old Testament, it can be best translated "listen" or "harken."

Interesting, isn't it! God is still talking. All we have to do is listen, really listen.

September 24, 2004

You won't believe what happened to me yesterday. I've been praying about how to tithe the donations I'm getting. I want to be responsible toward God and toward those who are supporting this work through me.

I'm going to write up a paper on what God has been teaching me, and I'll send it later but I'll give you the short version now. On Friday I got my first paycheck from the seminary (I man the switchboard for the regular person's 15 minute break every day): $6.50. As is my custom, I give a first fruits offering for special work, so I added $20 to the amount and wrote a check to the seminary for $27.

I didn't know how to give it, so I asked someone during our phonathon (to Alumni) for the Annual Fund. We had a good discussion, and she pointed out that though it is an individual decision, I am devoted to God, so using the money donated to me may be the best use. I contributed my little check to the Annual Fund marked "for seminary students."

Since I had already written the donation check, God saw my heart. The wonderful gifts from my church to help with my seminary funding arrived in the mail that day. I'll be writing a thank you note this weekend. But that wasn't all.

I got a letter from my mother, and I expected a little note responding to my thank you for her donation to my seminary fund. But it was a cashier's check from the recent sale of her house (she also sent a check to my brothers)—to put into savings. I was praying about how to tithe it. Praying about it all night, I resolved to ask God to show me what to do through my scripture reading (thinking, I'll be reading Leviticus tomorrow, what message can I get out of Leviticus?). And sure enough, the next morning there is was! Can you guess what answer I got? It's in Leviticus 2.

September 20, 2004

The stranger, "ger" in Hebrew, is the group of people mentioned most often in the scriptures. We are commanded, not only avoid abuse, but to care for the stranger and provide for them in every way as if they were our kin. The woman who is sharing her house with me has welcomed me and continues to treat me with kindness even though I am a stranger. Thank God for Jeanne Heberle; she is a gift from God.

Isn't it amazing what benefits we can bring to one another when we simply do what God would have us do?

I have so much appreciation for all those who have helped me get to this seminary campus and train for the purpose God has designed me for.

I'm learning about all kinds of "men and women of God," and that experience alone is inspiring and challenging. We're turning in more than one paper a week, and tomorrow a 5 page paper on Jonathan Edwards is due. Challenging! But they have so much information to cram into our heads before we can begin interesting discussions.

Our seminary choir is tiny, only about 10 people, but well rounded. Only choir I've ever sung in with too few sopranos! We sing a small anthem every Friday morning for chapel. Still haven't found a group singing Handel’s "Messiah" this year. Hope I don't miss a year. That's the highlight for me.

Let us see what the Lord can do with each of us as we follow His leading.

My favorite quote of the day—from the main desk at the seminary library:
Do not wait for divine intervention:  Ring Bell for Service.

September 18, 2004

Good News! The seminary was able to award me a Presbyterian study grant after all! Yea! Everything will really help. Things are going well financially, but I've still had to borrow about $8,500. Hope to have better results from the scholarship requests this year: they'll already be acquainted with me, and I'll have something to show for my work.

I started my Jonathan Edwards class yesterday. He's one of the earliest, foremost American preachers. You've probably read "A Sinner in the Hand's of an Angry God," but he loved nature and wrote lots of gentler things, too. We're going to have a little drama with important people in his life in a town hall meeting. I'm going to play Jonathan Edwards! Should be fun with my lengthy experience with revival preachers!

I really appreciate all that the CPM committee does. Presbyterians have to get on fire with this if they want to fill our pulpits for the next 20 years. I see several retired people on the seminary campuses because there are so few young people to take their places, and Presbyterians like to have all the offices filled with former seminary students, so there are few for the pulpits. All of them are performing wonderful services for the rest of us!

I agree that the studies are a bit overwhelming, but God keeps telling me to keep my focus on Him. Keep me in your prayers. At my age I have the good sense to "just go to bed" and not worry overly much about stuff.

My favorite quote for the day: (My discussion group was talking about how welcoming this campus is, and especially happy that pets are allowed in the rooms. Finally someone remarked, "This school welcomes dogs, cats and evangelicals!"

September 16, 2004

Our new seminary president says, "When I saw a turtle on a fence post, I knew he hadn't gotten here by himself. Neither have any of us! Someone is always helping us to get where we are today." If you are reading this, you have helped me in a very significant way to get where I am today. THANK YOU!!!

Beginning students (like me) are required to take a two-semester course called Christian History And Theological Studies. We're beginning with Christian History and dipping into the theological writers. In Old Testament we're studying the Torah (the first five books) and how the Bible was pasted together. Very interesting.

Do you know what group of people is mentioned most often in the Old Testament with special commands for the covenant people?

I'm taking a class on Jonathan Edwards, well known American preacher in 1750, and we're doing a drama with several people central to his life. Should be fun! Our professor is an expert and is helping Yale publish all of his writings (25 volumes so far).

The Bible we are required to use in Scripture 1 includes the Apocrypha—a set of books that were not included in the canon that the Protestants use. Canonizing scripture sets it aside as the "authentic word of God" and there has been some dispute about which documents and text deserve that designation through the years. We're reading everything so we'll be acquainted with it. There are examples in the Bible itself, such as II Kings 22-23 and Exodus 24. Check it out.

September 12, 2004

Classes started here at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary on Thursday, Sep 9, and a paper was due the following day covering the intro to a book about all the theologians.

Feeling a little overwhelmed just at first. Have to read portions of the "Confessions" of St. Augustine this weekend and a bit more.

Things are working out well with school and my living arrangements. Lots to read (about 250 pages a night, plus reflection and papers). One of my professors is a real corker (although she's older than I am). She's an expert in Hebrew and is teaching us the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. She's originally from the Netherlands, and remembers the Nazi occupation. She says that the Church owes some apologies to the world at large for allowing Hitler to do so much damage.

Thoughts for the week:

Did you realize that the word "love" does not appear in the Book of Acts?
Did you know that the word "sin" does not appear in the story of the fall of man in Genesis?
Did you know that the serpent is not identified as Satan?
Something to think about.

September 8, 2004

What a delight this campus is! The seminary is surrounded on three sides by parkland—so big that people get lost in them. Within the grounds there is a labyrinth and several private places for an outdoor quiet time. I feel like I’m going to spend three years in a garden with God. I’ll be busy, but the face of God will be always before me.

I’m making some new friends, and the professors and administrators are wonderfully helpful. Last week I got turned around while driving through the city of Louisville. After a while I entered the Cherokee Park and thought to myself, "I can get lost in this park like so many people do because I don’t know where I am." I finally stopped a jogger and said, "If I wanted to leave the park, what would you suggest?"

Believe it or not, traffic is worse here than in the DC area. Auto insurance is about 1/3 higher, too. You’ll know why after a couple of cars miss you by inches. Had two answers to prayer before I got to class the other morning. It’s a delightful place, though, mountains to the east and the Ohio River to the west. Lots of interesting restaurants and sweet people.

September 1, 2004

Things are beginning well. I have signed in at the seminary and applied for a driver's license. I have a new bank account, but little money in it. I have emptied my new mailbox. I ordered several books about Hebrew from Alibris on-line. My favorite is a workbook for adults who are learning Hebrew: Aleph Isn't Tough

I am learning to use my new cell phone. Ahhh. The saga begins. More later!

Here's the verse that I feel is meant for me this semester: "Remember your leaders who have taught you the Word of God. think of all the good that has come from their lives, and try to trust the Lord as they do. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes as a gift from God, not from ceremonial rules about eating certain foods...don't forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need... Obey your spiritual leaders and be willing to do what they say. For their work is to watch over your souls, and God will judge them on how well they do this. Give them reason to report joyfully about you to the Lord and not with sorrow, for then you will suffer for it too." Hebrews 13: 7-8, 16-17

August 20, 2004

Well, I'm off! Or soon will be. Right now my house is full of boxes in various states of fulfillment. (Question: do boxes experience fulfillment when they are filled and fully utilized? Too philosophical for me.)  Moving day is August 25, and all my friend's are invited to a Reception ten days before I leave.

Here's my inspiration for this week: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine?...For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line; here a little, there a little..." (Isaiah 28: 9-10) 

I have a lot to learn, and every little bit counts. Please keep me in your prayers.

 

This is a picture of me cuddling the blouse 
my human wears to pick berries.

Communication

We felines are efficient communicators. As Lillian Braun said, "cats were the inventors of civil disobedience."

  The Garden at the back of the house is like a wild life preserve. The squirrels eat most of the birdseed, but they are so fat and sassy there're not worth chasing. The other night a raccoon wandered through, and the next night an opossum waddled up the steps. But my personal assistants won't let me out at night. They don't trust my instincts.

  My instincts, however, work just fine 24-hours a day, so after I chase a few chipmunks, I bring one in for a little admiration. But do they appreciate my hard work? Not at all! They take the little squeaking critter out of my mouth, shut me inside, and let him go! What gratitude! Oh, well. More sport for tomorrow.

  And the scratching Troll? (see Confrontation below) She sits at the entrance to the doorway into the house while I'm outside and at the bottom of the attic stairs when we want to go downstairs in the morning. Ah, well. Life can be difficult for a little kitty.

  Some days the attendants keep me indoors during play time, so I must attack the bell toy at the top of my scratching post. After a few violent hits and some scratching, I regain control.

  The other night Schmidt got left outside my mistake, so I just nibbled on my attendant's toes until she got up and went to the door to let her in. Aren't I the picture of chivalry? No? Well, maybe next time.

  September Update from Bonnie's Cat, Prince

Confrontation!

  I have met a new cat, and it is not me! Not only that, but it doesn't act like me. It is not friendly, playful, entertaining, etc. Instead, it is confrontational and hisses whenever one (two or four legged) gets too close.

  Unfortunately, it belongs to the house I now live in. Fortunately, I own the attic, where my human has a lovely living space with a large skylight. Unfortunately, she thinks she owns the second floor of the house, so I am somewhat restrained. Fortunately, I look like the owner's previous cat, so I am beloved. (As I should be.)

  The local cat is named Schmidt, and she has an awful temper. She often guards the back door when I want to go out to play in the garden. I often decide to stay indoors where it is safe rather than risk her wrath. I have a rubber band that I have conquered, and several balls that give me a hard time. As you can see below, my human has recovered a picture of me. More later. I am busy. There is an interesting smell in this new closet. So many closets, so little time (before my next nap).

August 2004  Update

The Gray Ghost

Surprises can Happen, Even in the Most Sedate Lives

The day promised to be another violently stormy one, but I'm still not sure how or why it happened. My mistress (Hmmm, wish I had a cat mistress, but then, I'm neutered, so I only do consulting now. Still, a cat can dream.) left the back door open for long periods while moving the piano to another location. Seminary students often do not get to bring their instruments to school, especially if they are pianos. Sure enough, it rained hard all afternoon and through the night, but we were snuggled in her bed upstairs.

However, she came home from work the next day and discovered that I had left the day's treasures in the wrong place: the pellets being upstairs, where she should have been, rather than downstairs, where the cat box is. She has told me repeatedly not to ever think outside the box!

So, the next morning before she left for work, she took it upon herself to show me where the cat box is. (Duh! As if I needed a reminder.) She led me downstairs, walked into the storage room, flipped on the light, and stepped back, gasping, "There's a cat in there!" 

Lying placidly beside the cat box was a large, gray cat. It had been hanging around on the patio for several days, and we guess that it decided to come into the basement on piano moving day because it is quiet and dry.

She had to run off to work, but that night she left some food for the gray ghost, although it would not move or make a sound. It only began speaking to her this morning when she approached it gently. It has a deep, resonating purr.

I'm thinking it may be my Mom. Of course, I haven't seen Mom for more than two years, so I can't be sure, but it sure acts like Mom. All quiet and regal like. Wow! I'm not sure I want Mom in the house, but what's a cat to do?

Update on the Gray Ghost: She is a lovely gray cat with little white mittens. She is smart enough to come out of the rain and find a loving house in which to have her kittens (due sometime this month). Bonnie took her to the Fairfax Animal Shelter where she will be cared for until the kittens are weaned. Then she and the kittens will be available for adoption.

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Network 4 Pilgrims/Christ Covenant Int'l Ministries
"Inspiring personal transformation since 1995"
Bonnie Meadows, Director
6800 Westgate Blvd. #132-105  Austin, Texas 78745
email: bonnietexas at hotmail.com
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