An Adventure

There’s about ten different projects going on in the back of my mind right now. The trouble is that none of them have to do with my comprehensive exams that I will need to take before Fall. These are, for the uninitiated, a set of four 3-hour essay tests on four different subjects. The subjects I’ll be taking are pneumatology, ecclesiology, theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg, and 18th century Anglo-American church history (with an emphasis on Quakers, Methodists, early Baptists, and some of the requisite Anglicanism). I was going to take my exams at the end of this present quarter, but Fuller was kind enough to provide some extra funds for me this year and that meant another quarter worth of active study. Which pushed back my exams until the end of Summer. I still should be thinking about them, and studying, but other tasks have intervened. Not least of all is the need to focus more on Moltmann than Pannenberg this quarter. Since that’s how I’m using the extra funding.

Since Fuller gave me extra money, but I’m done with regular course work but can’t quite start my dissertation, I figured I might as well make the most of this quarter. So, we’re going to Europe. I’m going to be consulting with Moltmann about my dissertation concepts for about four days. I’ve had some curious interactions with Moltmann over the years. He endorsed my first book, which letter to the occasional exchange of letters. He’s a big reason why I’m in a PhD program, both as a subject of study and as a distant mentor of sorts, whose words to me when I started — “have courage” — have prompted a few distinctive decisions of directions during my studies that have popped me out of funk. So, this is my chance to spend some focused time with him and see if I’m on the right page in my efforts. I think I am, he has, after all, affirmed me in the papers I’ve sent him. But my area of study is, as he put it, a “necessary but somehow dangerous project,” so the counsel, wisdom, and insight are definitely welcomed.

Since I had to go, Amy thought she’d come along. We’re making the most of our visit, landing in Paris then taking the train down to where she has a lot of friends, and memories, in the area near Toulouse. She lived there for about four years. Then after Tubingen, we’re going to Leipzig to visit another friend of Amy’s, then over to Prague to visit yet another friend. A busy three weeks!

So, I’m trying to get caught up with my Moltmann studies, reading over some secondary literature as well as some of his key influences like Bonhoeffer, the Blumhardts, and some others. I’ve all his major works and a good portion of his other writings, so I feel like I’m going in somewhat ready. I wrote up what became an initial 30 page dissertation outline a few years ago, before I started my Phd program, so that and a few other papers and concepts will serve as the source of our conversations.

I’ve also spent the last few weeks trying to sort out what it means to understand the presence of spirits in history, not just what they do but how we might best understand their being through historical studies. A wee bit of a challenging topic, to be sure.

My mind then drifts to a course I’m teaching online in the Fall, marketing for my new book, thoughts on a minor book I might try to write in my spare time on the topic of how to write a theological essay, over to more expansive studies of the work of the Spirit in History (an essay is just too short), thinking I should really hone even more my understanding of Wesley’s writings, which drifts into thinking about another book project on Susanna Wesley and Mary Fletcher. I also need to take Latin this summer, so that I can take my exams, and… well, the list gets very long and then I want to lie down for a while with a damp cloth on my head and cool jazz playing in the background. I have a whole lot to do and very little time to do it. And a lot of hoops I still need to jump through before I can really even get started.

Fortunately, at least one of the hoops will take Amy and I on a grand adventure and provide me a chance to spend a little bit of time with someone who I do consider a true, even if distant, mentor. That he has replied consistently, put some of his reputation on the line on my behalf on two occasions, and has graciously opened up his home so that we can talk about my dissertation project is really a blessing and one that I am so thankful for. That I get to go with my beautiful and talented wife is another wonderful blessing. Both beyond anything I could have imagined just four years ago.

I would have laughed if someone told me this is what I would be doing in May ’11. Never laugh at what God promises, I’ve learned. He’s quite surprising in how he works out his calling, and you feel really humble when he displays his plan.

I’m still not in my place of rest, my place where I can call home or even feel settled. I’m still in the wilderness. But it’s a lot more lush nowadays.

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