Tag Archives: Virginia Beach

And So The Story Goes, Part 2

Three years earlier I had gone through a time of intense prayer and fasting to determine what future God had for me.  I felt God speak to me very clearly that I was to go to seminary because He was calling me to full-time ministry.  This thought had never occurred to me before and it took some time to wrap my mind around it.  The school I was interested in had a distance education program, so I assumed that was the way I was to attend there.  I would not consider leaving Nashville. 

My job required me to travel extensively and I was often out of town Tuesday through Saturday for weeks on end.  With the hours I worked and the demands of travel, I wasn’t able to focus on school work.  I spent several years applying for other jobs, trying to find something that would pay a little more so I could afford school and stay in town.  With nearly every job opening, I made it to the final cut only to lose the job to someone else.  It was very frustrating and I couldn’t figure out what God was doing.  When I got engaged, I truly hoped that we would go to seminary together, which made a lot more sense to me than going as an unmarried female. 

When my engagement ended and everything else fell apart, I knew that God was telling me to GO to seminary – in Virginia Beach.  He was going to get me there, even if He had to kick me out of Nashville by force.  We moved around a lot while I was growing up: I went to 2 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 high schools – and then I changed colleges three times in four years.  All this transition made stability and security very important to me.  I don’t like to move.  I wanted to live in Nashville for the rest of my life.  Leaving didn’t appeal to me, except that I knew a change of scenery would probably do me some good. 

There was also the huge financial issue of going to school.  I still had debt from my undergraduate degree, plus credit card debt.  I’d worked hard to reduce it significantly, but it wasn’t gone.  I had no idea how I could pay for graduate school, but I applied anyway and prayed hard for financial aid.  I asked God to prove Himself and if He really wanted me to go, I would get a 100% scholarship.  The financial aid letter came back with news of a 20% grant.  I was beyond disappointed, but I knew the minute I read that letter that God was not releasing me from the call.  I had to go.  God led me to the book of Proverbs and showed me many times how Solomon commanded us to get knowledge, get wisdom, and get instruction – and that it was worth any price.  With fear and trembling, I decided to take out student loans.

One thing I had learned well in Nashville is, “It’s all about who you know.”  I knew our church’s senior pastor was friends with the dean of the school.  I tried to set up an appointment with the senior pastor to ask him to let his friend know I was coming to the school.  But our senior pastor was in the middle of writing a paper for Oxford and couldn’t meet with me.  I was devastated, but God reminded me that I knew Him and He is the One who opens and shuts doors. 

My mother and I scheduled a trip to Virginia Beach in July to check the area out and look for a roommate, housing, and a job.  The university hired writing coaches, so I applied for that job.  In the interview it came out that I was a professional meeting planner.  The person interviewing me stopped the interview and took me to meet her co-worker who was trying to hire a graduate assistant to help him plan student workshops.  My background and experience were perfect for what he needed and I got hired.  I was one of the only students who went to school with a job already lined up.  It was such an encouragement to me. 

Not only did that job suit me, but I was put in a cubicle in a large room with other people my age.  We all got along great and had a blast working together.  I used to go in on my days off just to say hi to the friends I worked with.  It also led to a secondary job as the newsletter editor for the university.  Almost everything about that job was a blessing to me and I relished the good atmosphere after what I had just left.  It was healing to my soul.

I had a hard time finding a place to live because housing is so expensive in Virginia Beach and my cat was not exactly a positive thing to perspective roommates.  I prayed and prayed about what to do, not wanting to leave Moses the kitty behind but unable to find a place to live.  Several days before I was to leave for school, I got a call from a woman who rented me a room in her house close to the school and let me bring Moses – all for a really good price. 

After being out of school for six years and struggling with severe depression in college, I was also terrified that grad school would be too hard for me.  I wondered if my brain still worked like it used to or if I’d have to study 2 or 3 times harder than everyone else.  I worried that my professors wouldn’t be interested in teaching a girl.  I was full of fear.  Thankfully I had a few friends who encouraged me and believed in me.  They listened faithfully and repeatedly told me that I could do it.  After all that God had already done to pave the way for me, two weeks before classes started I panicked and seriously considered not going after all.  Through the prayers and encouraging words from my friends, I finally accepted that this was the time I was to go and nothing was going to stop me.  Once my mind was made up, I dove in and gave it everything I had.

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Vacation

Robertson Hall

 

I went on vacation this week (sort of).  As an alumnus of Regent University School of Divinity I am eligible to take up to four masters-level classes for $100 each.  It’s a little complicated, but basically I can take classes I wasn’t able to take before I graduated at a drastically reduced rate.  (A regular class right now costs each student $1575!)  Since $100 for an entire course is significantly cheaper than most weekend ministry conferences and I’d get to go back to one of my favorite places on earth, I decided to take them up on the offer.  I signed up for a class called “Models of Biblical Discipleship” which is being taught by one of my favorite professors.  I worked as Dr. Chandler’s graduate assistant and took several classes with her.  She has been instrumental in forming my thoughts and plans regarding ministry.  She is a wonderful, godly woman who I cannot say enough about.   

Dr. Diane Chandler

 

I needed to go to Virginia Beach for a weekend to take this class.  It’s an eight-week course, but the majority of it is done online with the exception of the 2 ½ days in class.  I looked into driving the fourteen hours it would take and crashing on a friend’s couch, but that did not seem like the ideal way to set myself up for learning.  Let’s see…  sit in a car for 14 hours, sleep on someone’s cramped couch, then sit in class for 8 hours a day before you get back in the car and sit for another 14 hours.  I don’t think so!   

So I decided to do the “grown up” thing – I booked a flight, got a hotel room, and rented a car.  I found the best deals I could on all of this stuff and found creative ways to pay for it.  I also decided if I was going to be at the beach for a few days, I’d extend the trip a little longer so I could actually enjoy the beach.  I haven’t been on a vacation that didn’t include driving home to South Carolina in six years, so I figured it was time.  Then it crossed my mind that this trip might not be so fun by myself…  I’d booked a hotel right on the beach and it would sit empty most of the time with no one to enjoy it.  So, I mentioned it to a couple friends who I thought would probably be able to go with me and suggested they book their own flights and join me.  Amazingly, they both agreed and without a whole lot of thought or planning, we were off to the beach.  

View from our hotel room

 

After sitting in class for the last 2 ½ days, I’m ready to do something fun and spend the next 1 ½ days enjoying the beach.  Of course, it’s raining, but I’m still on vacation!  I’m planning to visit the church I attended while I was here and take each moment as it comes.  I also got to reconnect with some old friends.   

My sweet friend, Janna, the first person I met at Regent.

 

With friends in the Student Center.

 

As for what I learned this weekend, it was all about how to build relationships with people and nurture them in their relationship with Christ.  It’s a beautiful concept and I’m looking forward to implementing it in a more intentional way in the future.

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Life Has Snuck Up on Me…

Life has snuck up on me recently and prevented me from writing,  As the church’s Community Groups Minister, I was asked to launch small groups church-wide and given very little time to do it.  I also planned a Ministry Fair and a women’s event.  Oh yeah, and I had my regular daily work to do as well. 

The Ministry Fair is over.  The women’s event is this Saturday and I’m just tying up a few loose ends with that now.  And God gave me the grace and energy to write the curriculum, recruit leaders, train them, and get 20 new groups started for the church’s Community Group Ministry – in about a month.  (Thank you to all the wonderful friends who helped me.)

So why am I writing this and not some fun, interesting story?  Because tomorrow I leave for Virignia Beach to take a class at Regent University School of Divinity.  I graduated from there a few years back, but I didn’t get to take all the classes I wanted to take.  They have a great alumni program for continuing education, so I decided it was time to take another class.  This class is called Models of Biblical Discipleship and it’s all about effective ways to disciple people.  While I was at Regent, I worked as the graduate assistant for the professor who is teaching the class.  I’m so happy to be able to take another class from her. 

I’ll go to Virginia Beach tomorrow and will be in class Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  The rest of the semester the class will be online.  I feel a little nuts trying to take this on right now, but I’m also excited about it.  I’m also making a mini-vacation out of it, staying a couple days after the class to enjoy the beach.  Hopefully I’ll get some sunshine! 

Before you get too worried about me, I want to acknowledge the amazing friends that God’s given me.  They have been wonderful during this time.  They’ve listened to my ideas and given me great feedback, brought me meals, researched, edited, and made sure that I keep working out and taking time to laugh.  Even in all this craziness, I made time to get a sunburn because I was having such a good time talking to friends on the patio of Starbucks that 3 hours passed and I have a lovely farmer’s tan and peely arms to show for it.  I am greatly blessed.  (By the friends, that is – not the peely arms…)

I’m hoping to return to actively writing very soon.  Now I’m off to pack!

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Girl Meets God – Book Review

My church is about to enter a new series called A Journey to Pentecost.  This seven-week series is a way for us to prepare our hearts for Pentecost – the day when the Holy Spirit rushed in as a mighty wind and appeared with tongues like fire upon those who were gathered in the upper room (Acts 2:1-4).  We are preparing our hearts for the Holy Spirit to visit us on the Day of Pentecost. 

 

As part of that sermon series, our pastor will reference a book called Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner.  For this reason, my blog today is a book review of Girl Meets God.  For those of you who do not attend my church, I hope you’ll read it anyway and consider adding this wonderful book to your reading list.   

 

Book Review – Introduction

 

Lauren Winner is a young, single woman with several degrees from prestigious universities, ending in a PhD from Cambridge.  She’s currently teaching at Duke Divinity School and has published three books.  From reading this book, it’s safe to say that my own reading list (which my family and friends often tease me about because it has too many intellectual books and too few fluffy romance novels) is as fluffy as they come.  She reads things like out of print church history books (for fun), biblical commentaries, Chinese history, and guides to American Supreme Court decisions.  I’m kind of proud of myself for reading Dante’s The Divine Comedy and my working knowledge of Shakespeare.  I don’t read biblical commentaries for fun or care much about the history of other countries.  Winner’s obvious intelligence doesn’t get in the way of her ability to tell good stories and engage the reader though.  She’s a talented writer and I enjoyed her book.

 

The book is about her personal spiritual journey toward God.  She’s the daughter of a Jewish father and a “lapsed Southern Baptist” mother who divorced when she was young.  She was raised to be Jewish, but she had to officially convert to Judaism since her mother isn’t Jewish.  She became an Orthodox Jew – a strict and traditional form of Judaism – wearing long skirts, keeping the Sabbath laws, and learning Hebrew.  Nearly all her closest friends were Jewish.  She dated Jewish guys – although those guys wouldn’t marry her because she was a convert and for various reasons they wanted to marry a girl from a traditional Jewish home.  She ate Jewish food.  Her Judaism engulfed every aspect of her life. 

 

Even though she officially converted to Judaism, Winner had a fascination with Christian things.  She read Christian books and wrote papers on Christian topics.  She knew this was strange behavior for a Jew, but that didn’t stop her.  She eventually had a dream in which Jesus appeared to her in person.  She knew it was Him and writes,

 

I knew, as soon as I woke up, that the dream had come from God and it was about the reality of Jesus.  The truth of Him.  That He was a person whose pronouns you had to capitalize.  That He was God.  I knew that with more certainty than I have ever known anything else (p. 56). 

 

This was one major step in her journey toward God.  Because her entire life was centered on Judaism, it took her several years and several other major steps to make the decision to convert to Christianity. 

 

Sometimes when a person’s entire life is centered on something they want to change, the best way to make that change is to move away for a time.  (It worked for me after the breakup of my engagement when I went to Virginia Beach for a couple years.)  Winner graduated from Columbia University and went to Cambridge in England.  It was there that Winner found the courage to declare her faith in Christ, be baptized, and become a member of a church.  Her father was horrified, her Orthodox Jewish friends did not understand and many turned their backs on her entirely, and she faced the judgment of those who thought she would tire of Christianity the way she had Judaism and become a Buddhist.  But she took great pleasure in eating pork, casting off the long skirts, and embracing the amazing fact that God had sent His Son to earth to become a man who could understand us and live among us. 

 

Much of the beauty of this book lies in the comparisons that Winner weaves between Christianity and Judaism.  She sets up the book in sections that coincide with the seasons of the church – beginning with a Jewish holiday called Sukkot (an 8-day Jewish festival celebrating the harvest), then moving into the Christian seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide, and Pentecost.  Winner writes about how she misses the Jewish traditions that she grew up with, pointing out similarities and differences between Jewish and Christian holidays. 

 

Pentecost

 

The main reason that our pastor is referencing this book in our new series is in regard to her section on Pentecost (makes sense, since the series is A Journey to Pentecost…).  She starts this section by explaining that “Pentecost, which means ‘fifty days’ in Greek, was once just another name for Shavuot, the Jewish holiday that comes fifty days after Passover” (p. 227).  She then goes on to explain the significance of Pentecost for Christians, which you non-Pentecostal readers can find in Acts chapter two.  (Those of us raised Pentecostal or Charismatic had no choice but to memorize this moment in Christian history a long, long time ago.) 

 

Jews traditionally stay up all night the night before Pentecost studying the Torah because they commemorate God’s revealing the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai on Shavuot.  She and her friends decided to do the same thing, studying to find the reasons that the days (Shavuot and Pentecost) coincide.  In Acts, the followers of Jesus were gathered all night to celebrate Shavuot.  The next day, the Holy Spirit fell on them. 

 

The author and her friends take turns teaching each other what they’ve discovered and this all night study leads them to the conclusion that when God gave Moses the Torah, He gave “a living tradition.  He gave not just a book, but a way for His children to read and interpret that book” (p. 236).  When God gave His followers the Holy Spirit, He gave “the thing that would make His revelation stay alive for us, stay with us, even though the moment of revelation is over.  He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us build the church even though Jesus has ascended into heaven” (p. 235).  The parallel is that at both events, God gave His people a gift that would keep on giving, growing and developing our understanding of Him and our ability to know Him.  “At Pentecost and Shavuot, revelation becomes a human responsibility” but “the authority of people to unfold revelation here on Earth will always be held in check by His will” (p. 237).

 

After establishing that the Holy Spirit is given for the on-going work of the church, Winner (now an Anglican) has a chapter devoted to speaking in tongues.  She writes frankly about the gift of tongues and what she has learned about it.  A friend of hers told her that it’s the best way she knows to express her gratitude to God because words often fail her.  Overcome by gratitude toward God and unable to express it the way she wished, Winner writes,

 

I sat on my couch and I began to pray for a prayer language.  I wanted to make the creek-rushing sounds.  I wanted to thank God with words bigger than any words I had.  I wanted to praise Him effortlessly, to not have to think of sentences all the time, to not be constrained by my own small vocabulary” (p. 257). 

 

In her prayer, she turned her request into a test of God.  If He was real, He would give her a prayer language.  When the prayer language did not come immediately, she realized how ridiculous that test was and that God would give her the gift of tongues when she could ask for it without making it a test of her entire faith. 

 

The Holy Spirit is also the Sanctifier.  In a chapter entitled Sanctification School, Winner tells of the day that one of her best friends announced she was having a baby.  This friend’s marriage had gone through a fiery trial and had been on the mend for about a year.  The author, still single and wanting to be married, did not handle the news well.  While polite to her friend, she went home and cried out to God about her own jealousy and asked God to give her the grace to stand with her friend during this time.  This is one of my favorite parts of the book – probably because I can identify with the author.  I feel that many people see marriage as THE Thing God uses to sanctify people, to purge them of sins.  But are singles not also sanctified through the trials we face – loneliness, uncertainty of the future, celibacy, childlessness?  Winner captures this sentiment so well by writing,

 

Hannah’s pregnancy is my own school of sanctification.  God is sanctifying Jim and Hannah through marriage and parenthood, but He is not just blessing them and leaving me out in the unblessed cold.  He is using my ridiculous jealousy and my endless self-pity to sanctify me…  God does not cause our suffering, but He uses it. (pp. 280-281). 

 

Conclusion

 

Like her thoughts on sanctification, there are some other wonderful gems in this book that I hope you will discover for yourself.  Winner writes candidly about her own life and experiences.  She opens herself up to the reader and shares very personal details of her life.  She struggles with the restrictions of Christianity in some of the same ways she struggled with Judaism, but the gracious mercy of a God who would send His Son to be our brother draws her back in.  Those things make her want to be a better Christian. 

 

One topic in this book that I found refreshing and surprising is her openness about the difficulty of celibacy as an evangelical Christian.  As I did a little research on her, I found that she has recently published a new book called Real Sex:  The Naked Truth about Chastity.  In this book, she discusses the topic in more detail and helps modern evangelical Christians get a handle on the theology of chastity.  I ordered a copy immediately and look forward to reading it as soon as it arrives. 

 

I guess that’s the best praise I can offer for the book – I immediately ordered her newest book.  If you enjoy reading at all, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this book at your local bookstore and get to know Lauren Winner.  Hopefully in reading her journey, you will discover something of yourself and come to a fresh understanding of all that God offers to His saints.

 

Girl Meets God:  On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren E. Winner

Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, (c) 2002.

ISBN:  1-56512-309-3

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