Reflections on Bible Quizzing

This is for those of you who are, have been, or are thinking about being involved in Bible quizzing.  For someone who has never heard of it, it’s a little hard to explain.  Suffice to say that it involves junior high and high school students memorizing massive portions of the Bible, word for word.  The main reason I thought of it today is because I had to write out Ephesians 1:15-23 by memory for the Ephesians class I am taking.  Was it a difficult task?  Not at all!  You see, I memorized the entire book of Ephesians for quiz team back when I was in eighth grade.  Today, fourteen years later, all I had to do was to read over the passage a few times in order to write it from memory.

The point here is not to awe anyone with my powers of memory.  They’re really not exceptional.  The point is that what you learn well when you are young sticks with you, and that is why it is so valuable for young people to memorize the Bible.  To all of you who are involved in Bible quizzing right now—cheers to you!  It is entirely worth your time.  Bible quizzing is one of the best things I ever did, and the work of those years continues to pay rich dividends in various ways. 

Gems from Class

Sometimes I miss being a teacher, but most of the time I love being a student again. Winter term classes are great, and I am especially enjoying Reading the Bible class taught by Steve Brubaker. If you ever have a chance to attend winter term at Faith Builders, by all means take this class!

A few words from class notes:

The primary purpose of Bible study is
Not to interpret it accurately,
Not to become walking Bible encyclopedias,
Not to discover laws and principles to live our lives by,
Not to discover God’s will for our lives,
But to come to know and follow and enjoy and obey and worship and love the Lord.

“Knowing the Scriptures is not the same thing as knowing Jesus.”

“If I can find life in a text—formulas, rules, etc.—that’s safer, that keeps me more in control, rather than having an out-of-control relationship with the Lord of the universe.”

Parable of Contentment

(Please note that this is called a parable for a reason. Although it is, in a way, a personal testimony, I only used first-person because that is what sounded best. It is not true in a factual sense.)

Have you ever felt as though you are always the one pedaling a rusty bicycle while everyone else zooms by in shiny red SUVs; the one crossing the river in a rowboat while everyone else drives across the bridge; the one out picking dandelions while everyone else gets roses; the one playing an old-fashioned harmonica while everyone else gets to play an organ in a grand cathedral? I’ve spent too much of my life feeling that way. I guess I’ve always been the odd one out.

I used to feel sorry for myself. I used to wish for an SUV. I’d gaze up at the immensity of the bridge and wish I could pay the toll to cross it. I would stare longingly at the roses when someone else got some, while hiding my silly little dandelions behind my back, hoping no one would notice them. And the harmonica—well, mostly I didn’t even play it. I only listened to the majestic strains filling the cathedral, and my own music seemed like a pathetic imitation.

But let me tell you a secret. It’s different now, even though you might say that not much of anything has changed. I sort of like my old bike. I fixed it up with some paint, and it’s really not too bad. When those SUVs zoom by, all I think about now is the fact that those people are going too fast to enjoy the pleasant summer evening, the sound of the birds, and the smell of the wildflowers. When I’m paddling my rowboat, I really feel sorry for those people up on the bridge. They don’t get to listen to the gentle splash, slap, splish of the water against the boat. They don’t get to see the way the oars bring to life a thousand tiny jewels as the sunlight strikes the water droplets that fall from them. They’re too far away to see Mama Duck and her family swimming by.

It took me awhile to get over the roses. I love roses. What flower could be so beautiful or smell half as sweet? Besides, when people got roses sent to their door, it meant that someone cared about them. But then I got to thinking about the sun-dappled meadow where I pick dandelions. I could spend a happy afternoon out there with the wind and sunshine and golden flowers, while those other people were stuck in the house with their roses in a vase on the table. Their roses would wilt in a few days, and who knew when they would get more. I could go out and pick more dandelions whenever I chose. Soon I was so busy thinking about all the possibilities of my meadow with the delightful little stream running through it that I forgot all about roses and even what the roses meant.

This afternoon I’m going for a bike ride. I’m going to bike down to the river and cross it in my little boat. Then I’m going to sit among the dandelions beside the stream, pull my harmonica out of my pocket (It’s difficult to carry a cathedral organ with you, you know), and play to my heart’s content. And those silly SUVs can just keep racing off to nowhere if they like.

Contrast

Recently I needed to renew my Pennsylvania driver’s license.  It was an amazingly simple process: Park in front of the license center and walk in the front door.  Talk to the lady at the counter who directs me to the next room.  Go to the man at the desk and answer a few simple questions by touching the computer screen.  Sit down to have my picture taken.  Sign my name on one of those ridiculous screen thingies that make my signature look like a first grader’s.  Sophisticated printer spits out little plastic rectangle that authorizes me to drive for the next four years.  Walk out.  Total time inside: approximately five minutes.

Then my mind went back to the time when I needed to renew my Kenyan driver’s license about a year and a half ago, and I had to laugh at the comparison.  In Kenya: I roam the street looking for a parking spot.  Park as closely as possible to the large building that houses the license center as well as many other business establishments.  Wander along the front of the building trying to find an entrance, because the main front entrance is blocked off for some reason.  Friendly guard man finally guides me around the side of the building to show me an entrance.

 I climb several flights of stairs and enter a dusty, cramped office area.  Join approximately twenty people waiting in line on several benches.  I am the only white person.  And the only female.  More guys walk in.  Room for a few more on the benches?  Why, certainly!  There’s always room for one more.  I slide along the bench and try not to snag my dress on the rough spots.  Hmmm, well, there’s nothing to do but wait.  I watch how long it takes one person to get their license renewal done at the little office window.  A few quick mental calculations tell me that I’ll be waiting at least an hour.

 My mind goes back to the time when I sat in this office once before to get my license in the first place.  Same scenario: me waiting in line with about twenty guys.  Only that time one guy tried to gyp in line, whereupon all the others were immediately on their feet surrounding him, yelling and waving their arms (while I shriveled on the bench, unsure whether to be amused or frightened).  They continued the ruckus until a lady came sweeping out of another office and bawled them out, like a teacher correcting a bunch of naughty schoolboys.  All the men slunk guiltily back to their seats, cowed into submission by one big, angry mama; and inwardly I was giggling.

 My mind returns to the present.  No such excitement this time.  Time ticks away, and at last it is my turn to go to the little window.  I present my documents and pay the required shillings.  In exchange I get a little piece of paper glued inside my existing license—a little cardboard folder.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I exit the office, descend the stairs, and find my way back to the street with a feeling of accomplishment.  Total time inside: Approximately 75 minutes.

Living in Kenya taught me to find humor in stories like this, rather than to be frustrated by them.  Life is not all about efficiency, you know.

The First Few Days of Winter Term (Through an Introvert’s Eyes)

(This is the way I laugh at myself.)

Day one:  Boatloads of strangers.  Get me out of here!

Day two:  Venture out of the dorm for mealtime and classes but little else.  I’m really not so sure about this whole deal, but at least the classes are great.

Day three:  Learn to know a few people.  Spend a little more time socializing.  Hmmm, this actually could be kind of fun.

Day four:  This is THE most hilarious mixture of people ever.  I think I just might be liking this.

Day five:  You say I dreaded the thought of meeting all these new people?  Whatever. 

(You see, it’s not that we introverts don’t like people.  We just need a little time.)

 

 

This Is Your Life

“This is your life, this is your real life, and you are living it.  Your life is not going to start later.  This is it, it is now.  It’s funny how a person can be so busy that they forget this is it.  This is my life.”  Lee Smith

This quote comes from Strong Women, Soft Hearts, a book I am reading for one of my classes (a great book, by the way, but this post is not meant to be a book review).  Have you ever been so busy getting life done that you forget to live?  I have.  This is why I make a conscious effort to enjoy the NOW.

And I find a peculiar sort of enjoyment out of the contrast.

My life a year ago:  I awaken with the sunrise to the sound of birds singing.  I am alone in my own little house.  In the full blaze of morning sunshine, I walk the short distance down the street to the schoolhouse while soaking in the beauty of the sapphire sky, the palm trees, and the bright hedges of bougainvillea.  My flip-flops crunch on the gravel, then crackle on the dry grass.  I pause outside the schoolhouse to pick up a few plumeria blossoms that have fallen from the tree just outside the door.   I stand in front of a classroom; I am the teacher.

My life now: It feels like the middle of the night, but my alarm clock is telling me that it’s time to get up.  My morning routine must be maneuvered around the four other ladies in my dorm.  In the semi-darkness of a pale wintry dawn, I traverse the sidewalk and steps up to the cafeteria, my senses sharpened by the bite of the frigid air.  My shoes crunch on the snowy walkway, and I am careful not to slip on the icy spots while soaking in the beauty of stillness, icicles, and sparkling whiteness.  I pause to catch a few drifting snowflakes, but the cold soon drives me indoors.  I sit in classes and listen to the teacher.   I am the student.

That was my life then, and this is my life now.  I am amazed at how much I love both.  Yet if someone had told me a year ago that I would be at Faith Builders now, I probably would have thought they were crazy.  But that is all another story.  Wherever I am, I want to live the life I have.

Taking the Plunge

After the dozens of times I have thought about starting a blog, this is an odd time to be doing it—a time in my life when I have a rigorous academic schedule and do not have an overabundance of spare time. But I have realized that I need to write. On the last day of English Composition class during fall semester, Mr. Mullet gave a little pep talk about developing our writing skills and not burying them, because the Mennonite community needs more writers. It was a revelation moment for me. Sometimes words beg for utterance in writing, and I need to find an outlet for them. I’m not sure what all may end up on this blog. Perhaps some thoughts from the classes I am taking, excerpts from writing assignments, and some newsy sorts of things for my friends who want to know what I am doing. Sometimes I may also post memories of Kenya and bits and pieces of things I have written before. We shall see. For now, I take a deep breath and jump in.