Category Archives: seminary life

It’s the Little Things.

On Friday, May 2, Jonathan had his last class of seminary. Ever.

For four years we have celebrated “last class day” each semester with friends and neighbors. It was one of my favorite traditions. But Friday was different. As Jonathan emerged from his computer streaming for the last time, I was overwhelmed with a tremendous sadness that this grandest last class of all those last classes would go uncelebrated. I had tears in my eyes as I washed the lunch dishes and remembered our friend Chad playing the Hallelujah chorus across the shared lawn in our seminary neighborhood. It seemed so wrong to miss that today, of all the days.

Jonathan had suggested we get ice cream to celebrate and I had posted that to Facebook on Thursday. When we arrived at the Dairy Bar this was what greeted us:

008So I am still missing our seminary friends today, but I am overwhelmed at how blessed we are that after only four months here, these people would come to celebrate a moment that they didn’t share. They weren’t there out of a shared experience, they were there to celebrate with us (and enjoy that ice cream, because OHMYWORD!) because they love us. We are blessed, and the Lord is good.


Signs of Spring

spring Spring is finally coming here to New Brunswick. Some of the signs of spring are universal no matter where you live on the continent. I sweep the floor three times a day and still find mud tracked from the door halfway to the bathroom. The snow is slipping away in streams and the air is slowly getting warmer. Bits of green are beginning to insinuate themselves into the color palate of the landscape.

However, in our new rural, Atlantic Canada, life, spring has also brought with it some new experiences. The Vessey’s seed catalog is a regional sign of spring and is now popular reading at our breakfast table. While the children discuss the value of yellow corn or yellow and white corn, Jonathan and I are having serious discussions about possibly raising our own meat chickens. In fact, the schedule of chick delivery days at the local feed store is in my purse.

As I drove home from the grocery store a few days ago, eagerly scanning the bare trees for any hint of color, I caught sight of some smoke rising from a clearing in what looked like an uninhabited wood lot. Smoke is another universal sign of spring. People are out doing yard work, or getting a head start on grilling, or burning off some grass to prepare for new growth. That wasn’t what was happening here, though. The smoke was rising from a small shed in the center of a maple grove. Someone had tapped their trees and was boiling maple sap for syrup and sugar.

117It was possible during the snowy winter days to believe that other than the weather and proximity to friends, not much had changed in our life; but with the blue bells and green shoots, there is blossoming in me the understanding that our life has, fundamentally, changed.  We are in a new place, and like the spring around us, we are having the privilege of watching the tiny buds and tentative shoots of what will, Lord willing, grow into a lifetime of friendship and ministry. This is the spring of 2014, and it is the spring of our new life. In every way, I am eager to see what will pop up.

The Beginning of the New Beginning

Ten years ago in march, Jonathan left his youth pastor position with the hope of attending a reformed seminary before re entering the world of vocational ministry. That was God’s plan, too, but it was a much longer path than we could have ever dreamed. The Lord had a lot to teach us personally, and theologically and a lot of sanctification to work in us before he led us back to that original goal. We have changed dramatically in this decade in so many ways: from infertility to three children, from Baptist through the Home Church movement into confessional Presbyterianism, from angry conservative into dependent humiliation, from the people we were then into the people we are now.

But in that decade of being led through change, change and transition became the new normal for us. Every year we wondered what the next year would bring. We made plans loosely, not having a definite aim for our future; and even in the plans we made, we found ourselves waiting some more. Seminary was both a blessing and a curse, in that we had a fixed date for our next transition (turns out even that was more flexible than we thought) but the temporary nature of seminary always hung, like a shroud, over every relationship and conversation. The Lord has blessed these last 3 years and allowed us to love deeply and be loved well, but always knowing it was one more stop on the journey. This decade has pointed me to the shadow of sin that taints every hello with goodbye until the final restoration when there will be no more wandering or goodbyes.

So here we are, on the brink of that original dream and I fear the goodbyes and the hellos. I fear that having said goodbye so often and having anticipated this goodbye for three years, I will disregard the people who have been so treasured to me as I turn my face to the next thing. I fear that reaching our destination, I will find that a decade of wandering will make it harder to put down roots. I fear that despite having yearned to stop and stay, this now rambling soul won’t find it so easy to stop on a dime.

Can I ask you friends, old and new, here and there, for mercy in the journey?

Book Review: The New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker

For almost a decade Jonathan and I have been active participants in the broadly reformed Christian community, or movement, or culture that has been identified as “young, restless and reformed,” despite not being so young and restless as we were in the early days. Reading The New Calvinism Considered was difficult, and writing this review even more so, first, because the book is about my people, and secondly, because much of the things said were things Jonathan and I have said ourselves. In fact, Chapter 3 – “Commendations,” contained all of the things we not only appreciate about this community, but the very reasons we were drawn here to begin with. On the flip side, I found myself reading in Chapter 4, which is really the heart of Walker’s criticism, words of caution and even complaint that have been said more than once in my own kitchen.

I do disagree with the author on several points. First,  Walker gives John Piper a far more prominent role in the current resurgence of Calvinism than he is due. There is no doubt that Piper has been influential to a great many men and women in my generation. Like so many, Piper’s book Desiring God was one of the first books that put my husband on the path to exploring this theology of God’s sovereignty in all things. But to define the “New” Calvinism as not really Calvinism, but more”. . . Jonathan Edwards mediated through John Piper.” (p. 17) is a stretch. Piper is a “big dog” in this little pond, but he is in no way the sole arbiter of popular Calvinistic theology.

Secondly, in Chapter 2, “Characteristics of New Calvinism”, Walker includes “. . . a movement of characters (or figureheads . . .)” (p 17) and “. . . a tendency to pragmatism and commercialism.” (p. 38)  There is no doubt that those things are absolutely true of the men and churches and organizations about which this book speaks. It is, however, also absolutely true about almost every other type of church in America. That the movement is a product of its culture cannot be denied, and that these particular cultural qualities are undesirable is  without question, but they are not, in themselves, specific and unique to this community.

Several of Walker’s concerns are, however, very insightful. On page 44, in chapter 4, he raises concern with the habit of re-defining terms. His example is a redefinition of regulative worship, but I would suggest that confessional has been blurred around the edges, and with these softer definitions comes the blurring of the lines of denominational distinctions. Walker goes on to make that same point (p 51 ff.), saying that it is all fine and good to say we won’t divide over secondary issues, but who gets to draw that line? Who gets to define which issues are primary and which are secondary. The inevitable conclusion is that everything falls into one category or the other. There has been the perception that in the past reformed camps tended to err on the side of putting everything in the primary issue category, forming ever smaller denominational fractures. The “new” Calvinists have swung the pendulum to the other side and relegated everything as secondary.

I think Walker’s real home run is his evaluation of antinomian legalism (p 47 – 51). I cannot do it justice, but I wish that section had been its own chapter, or even its own book. In this case I believe he identifies not a symptom, but a root error in the camp – this false notion that grace is negated by obedience. He also illustrates beautifully how the shift is not from law to grace, but often from law to a different law.

Finally, while laying the title “New” on this movement, Walker makes no effort to compare it to whatever he would call “Old” Calvinism. What makes this new group of young-ish, restless-ish and reformed-ish not just Calvinist? Where do they step away from the old guard and mark themselves as a new version of an older idea? The real problem for Walker is that there is no clear cut answer to that. The very fact that men like John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon and, in fact, Jeremy Walker, could disagree with John Calvin on church government, the sacraments, worship, and other major portions of his Institutes yet still feel free to identify themselves as Calvinists illustrates that there have been “New” Calvinists for as long as there have been Calvinists. I wonder if the title “Contemporary Calvinism Considered” would have been a more appropriate title.


I received no compensation for this post. I was provided an electronic edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.

The Myth of the Organized Move

This is our 13th move in 18 years of marriage, and you would think that we would have it down to a science by now. You would think that I would have a schedule and a plan and would be facing this with no sweat. You would think.
In reality, I am convinced that an organized move is a myth. There are several factors to this. First, you reach a point in each room in which packing actually creates more clutter. You remove every item from a bookshelf or a cabinet or a dresser, and place it in a box. Then, in a room in which you once had full furniture, you now have empty furniture, and full boxes. There is no way to make that not inconvenient. Secondly, there is almost no way to avoid the box of “weird random miscellany.” We have to clearly label and inventory every item we bring with us across the border into Canada. I do not have the luxury of a box labeled “Misc.” In a scrawled hand. Yet, inevitably as soon as I determine a box to be complete, and seal it, I will find, moments later, another item that belongs in that box. Sometimes those items can collect together and I can create a second box labeled “office supplies.” But usually I am looking at a packed box and wondering how I can fit one more thing into it. Sometimes it fits. Sometimes it doesn’t and the random things pile grows a little. But the real issue is just that the only way to truly have an organized move is to be able to remove things as they are packed, or no longer needed, but that is just not a reality for most people in most moves. Instead I am packing around the towers of things already packed, or assigned to trash or donation. There is no organized solution to this. It is just the nature of the beast.
So my goal is no longer to have a tidy move, or even an organized one in the way I picture it. Instead, I am just aiming to have a complete move in which I am not throwing things into garbage bags and screaming for everyone to slow down. I think that is a reasonable goal.

Beautiful Book End

In 2010 we had our first seminary US Thanksgiving. We weren’t going to travel, and our new neighbors, the Baudhuins, had just brought a baby home from NICU, so they weren’t traveling. We decided to celebrate together. (I posted about it here.)

I remember vague things about that Thanksgiving, but mostly I remember that the subject of how long 4 years really was came up a lot. There was no real way of knowing that we would walk closely through these years together. For two years Bliss and I and our children ate dinner together every Tuesday evening while our husbands worked, or were in class. We have celebrated other holidays together, and birthdays and the ends of semesters and the ticking down, class by class, of those four years that seemed so daunting this time in 2010.

This summer as we were meeting the church that would become our new home, the Baudhuins were doing the same and when we came back to our neighborhood with the news that we would be leaving a semester early, Chad and Bliss literally jumped in delight, because they, too, had abbreviated their four years to three and a half. So we arrived together and will step out together. It only seemed fitting to celebrate this Thanksgiving, our last Thanksgiving, together like we had our first.

Here we were then:

Thankful for friends we didn't know six months ago.

And here we are now:


Some People We Think you Should Know

064 These are our seminary friends, the Davises. We have been walking this seminary walk together in a pretty close way. Jonathan and Michael go to class together, and we go to church together. Our oldest daughters have been in Sunday school and ballet together, and Michelle and I have connected in our shared history of pregnancy loss and infertility. See that beautiful pink bundle sitting on her Daddy’s knee?  I cried when we found out she was on the way!

Shortly after we all arrived here in this city, to do this thing called seminary, a man named Michael Oh spoke at a Covenant chapel. Oh noted that while men graduate from seminary in the U.S. every year without churches to pastor, there are many churches worldwide begging for pastors. When he heard that, our friend Michael Davis promised the Lord that he would go wherever he was needed.

This summer, while the Lord was guiding us to a church in New Brunswick who has been praying for a pastor,  the Lord made it clear to Michael and Michelle that He was calling them to serve a congregation in Northern England with no pastor. (you can read Michelle’s words on her blog here and here) We are just so excited to see the Lord guiding and moving them in this endeavor, and we would sort of like some of you to get excited about it to. Michael and Michelle need prayer, and they need financial support to make this all final.

If you want more information about the Michael and Michelle, the church to which they are going, or their specific needs, click here and make contact with them. If you have been supporting us through seminary, and are wondering where to redirect those funds in January, we would be delighted if you chose to move that support to the Davises.