Pray for Lara’s Migraines and Eye “Floaters”

About two weeks ago Lara started noticing some spots in her vision. It started out as a small shadow that would move about in her left eye, but wouldn’t last for long. Soon, however, the shadows became more frequent, and they even started showing up in her right eye. On top of this, Lara started having headaches for days in a row. As we observed the situation getting worse and worse, we decided it would probably be good to see a doctor.

Our doctor was fairly concerned when we saw him, and said that we need to see an eye specialist immediately. Apparently these shadows are called “floaters,” and might be a sign of a torn retina. So we were referred to a clinic in the city, and booked an appointment for Friday morning.

The day before the appointment Lara was home all day with a really terrible migraine — the worst one in a while. She rested up, and felt a little better in the morning. She came to work with me in the morning, and spent time in our café until it was time to go to the appointment. I have an incredible boss who covered for me for two hours so that I could take to take Lara to the specialist.

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It was a short drive away from my work, and soon we were filling out paperwork. We were fairly optimistic at this point, very thankful that we had gotten an appointment so quickly. Yet alongside the relief of being able to see an expert, I couldn’t help feeling uneasy about the office itself. The ladies who helped get us checked in were not very kind or helpful (or professional), and I was reminded of how rough and insensitive the city culture can be.

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But soon Lara was in to see a kind nurse, and had her pupils dilated so the doctor could see inside. She came back out to sit with me and we had a good laugh about how strange her eyes looked. I am thankful for a wife who understands the power of laughter to cure anxiety and apprehension!

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Then she was in to see the specialist, who shone bright lights into her eye and poked them every which way. After a few minutes of his inspection, he told her: “Usually when someone is experiencing floaters I can see what the problem is; but I can’t see anything.” And then, just like that, we were whisked off to complete paperwork and pay our copay, and in shock and confusion found ourselves out in the parking lot.

So the good news: Lara’s retina is not torn.

The bad news: We have no idea what is wrong with her eyes.

The doctor gave us no next steps nor offered any advice on how to proceed. No one scheduled a follow-up appointment nor planned more tests. We felt like their general attitude was, “oh well.” Whether Lara’s vision changes and migraines are linked or not, I don’t think that unnatural vision changes should be so quickly dismissed. The appointment was all very confusing and frustrating.

Our next steps are to try and get a second opinion, and hopefully see a specialist out here in the suburbs. But we would definitely appreciate your thoughts and prayers for Lara as she still deals with vision changes and increased migraines. She is pushing through, and we are trusting that God will continue to care for us and reveal the problem in His timing.

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Today I Read a 15th Century Torah Scroll

Today I read a 15th century Torah scroll.

We weren’t allowed to touch it, but I got as close as I could. What you see in the picture below are the first words of the Bible (read right to left):

בראשׁית ברא אלהים את־השׁמים ואת־הארץ = “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

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This was an incredibly exciting day for Trinity, as the school became the recipient of this Torah scroll gifted by the Larson family. Dr. Caroll, a prolific collector and expert on biblical manuscripts, was on hand to dedicate the scroll and explain some of its unique features to the interested faculty and students.

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This type of scroll has been dubbed a “Giant German Torah,” and is unique in its particular ink color, style of writing, the size of text type, and size of the scroll leaves (or sheets). It is a magnificent thing to behold. The manuscript was copied by a professional scribe in the 15th century onto treated calf-skin, and then used in a variety of Jewish communities over the centuries. This truly is the Word of God for the people of God, the central part of a faith community.

Dr. Scott Carroll drew our attention to some of the scroll’s unique features, like enlarged letters (emphasizing the reading of a portion of the text), patches and corrections (where a scribe made a mistake and had to go back and fix it), replacement panels (when sheets became too worn out to read), unusual orthographic features (like unique writing of letters פ and ח), and formatting choices (like four empty lines signifying the end of a Book). After speaking for a while, he then invited us back up to inspect the scroll and find the features he had highlighted. Professors and students alike were giddy like schoolchildren, especially when recognizing a familiar portion of Scripture.

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I was especially excited to find the “Song of the Sea,” a poem that appears in the first chapters of Exodus (Exod. 15:1-18). This is one of the earliest examples of Hebrew poetry in the Bible, and it is a beautiful reflection on Israel’s recent rescue by Yahweh from Egypt. In this 15th century Torah scroll, it is laid out in a unique “brick formation.” By setting this piece apart from the rest of the text, the scribal tradition was not only highlighting its poetic nature, but also its significance to the faith community. They are basically saying, “God will display his mighty works of salvation on our behalf as he did to our ancestors in the Exodus.”

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This is an incredible gift to Trinity. Hebrew students will for many years to come be able to have access to this treasure and experience Scripture in a whole new way. As I myself continue studying the Old Testament, I am humbled by the powerful reminder of those who have faithfully gone before me in preserving God’s Word.

UPDATE:

If you are interested in reading more, Trinity has some great information on their website: http://news.tiu.edu/2014/09/19/torah-scroll/

Also, here is a picture I found on the post of me listening carefully to Dr. Younger as he makes observations on the scroll.

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Two Books a Month–The OT Reading List

Last time I wrote a little about my love for reading and the narrative of Scripture. From a young age I learned to value reading, and it’s a good thing! Doing a Master’s means that books are a very important part of my learning and development. I am especially thankful for an amazing wife who will patiently sit with me while I pore through all my required reading!

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Two weeks ago during Trinity orientation, we all split into our respective majors to hear more about our program and its requirements. The OT Department Chair, Dr. Magary, spoke at length about his hope for students who go through the OT track. Old Testament graduates, he said, are given a thorough foundation (linguistic, textual, theological) that prepares them like none other for continuing study. Trinity students have a great reputation when moving on to other top institutions, because of the intensity of their Master’s level work.

A huge part of this is the outstanding faculty and integrative classroom experience. But another important aspect is the work that the student does on his/her own, namely reading.

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In order to develop a holistic foundation for our area of study, the OT department has compiled a reading list that is to be completed before we are able to take our Comprehensive Exams at the close of our program. The books cover a range of topics: from biblical archaeology to biblical theology, linguistics to ancient Near Eastern history, grammar to hermeneutical interpretation. The list totals about 42 books of varying lengths (usually between 300-800 pages each).

I did the math — if I want to finish my MA in two years, I need to read ten books a semester — two books a month — in order to get through the entire list. This is in addition to all my other coursework!

I am so thankful for the ways that I am already being challenged in my program. Luckily I already own about 3 or 4 of the books on the list, and happened to have just finished reading a particularly lengthy book on Old Testament Theology (900 pages!). I am starting to make my way through, but there is still a lot of work ahead.

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If you’re curious to see what I will be reading, I have compiled an Amazon Wish List to keep track of what books I still need. You will notice that I describe next to each entry what kind of material the book covers.

Tyler’s OT Reading List Wish List

I thought of a fun way for you to stay connected to this whole process. As you browsed the Wish List, maybe a book caught your eye. Maybe you yourself are curious about what a particular book has to offer, and are especially excited for me to read it. Pick one! Would you consider sending me this book? It would be a huge help to my ability to work through this reading list.

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Anytime I receive a book, I will put your name in the cover. Once I have finished reading, I will add your initials next to the title in the “completed book column” to the right. This will help me keep track of my progress and give you the chance to be a very important part of the process!

Here we go — good thing I love books!

From Pooh to Biblical Theology

Ever since I was little I have loved stories.

My mom loves to tell about the year when dad was getting his Masters at Wheaton. I was two years old, and we lived in an apartment close to campus. Since dad was a full-time student, mom spent a lot of time just with me — playing at the outside playground, climbing stairs inside, and most importantly reading books.

My two year-old self would snuggle up to mom, captivated and content as she read. I could sit there forever. And sometimes we would indeed sit for hours, re-reading Winnie the Pooh over and over again. When Uncle Mike visited, he picked up mom’s role, and we would continue reading Pooh for the hundredth time. And it never got old.

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After moving and settling in the Czech Republic, mom started teaching me how to read myself. She knew I would get Czech reading skills in school, but knew the importance of learning to read, write, and think in English too. We started with books like Go Dogs Go and Curious George, and before you knew it I was on to my first chapter books, The Boxcar Children series.

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The years continued to pass, and at 13 I picked up the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. When we would vacation at the beach, I would bring a stack of books with me, and was content to sit under the shade of our campground and become immersed in the magical literary world. There was one summer that I managed to read one book a day for those 10 days! From George Orwell’s 1984 to Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, I loved stories full of adventure and danger, full of tension and redemption.

I have always loved being swept away in a glorious narrative that widens my perspective and opens my horizons. 

But sadly, I was never really captivated by Scripture. It never drew my imagination, never grabbed my attention, never sparked my passion. Especially in my High School years, it felt very dull. The Pentateuch was demanding, the prophets were depressing, and most of the Psalms were disturbing. The Gospels offered some relief, but soon Paul was confusing, and Revelation was a convoluted mess. I had very little interest in the Bible. What did it have to offer me?

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By God’s grace I found myself enrolled in a Bible college! 

I still remember the first day in my Genesis class. It was August 26th, 2011, a little over 3 years ago. I had heard good things about the professor, but honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from the class. But when the professor opened the semester with a bold challenge to the students, I was struck as if with an arrow to the heart. That day I wrote down a prayer in my Bible in response to his challenge: “God, give me a hermeneutic of humility, in which I am primarily concerned with what the text is saying to us from its contextualized place.”

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I had always approached Scripture asking what was in it for me. I had a hermeneutic (a method of reading the Bible) of pride. I had never known how to let the Bible speak to me on its own terms, and to allow God to use it to shape me. 

That semester in Genesis was one of the most challenging and transformational seasons of my life. As I sat under this professor’s teaching, God’s story was enlivened like I had never experienced before. I had never heard the Bible taught so dynamically: where it was approached on its own terms, in all its beauty and messiness. 

I was hooked. The whole rest of the semester, I was literally on the edge of my seat. The pages of my Bible filled with copious notes as I sat under the transformational Word of God being proclaimed through this teacher. I encountered God’s character like I never had before, was taught how to read Scripture, and was introduced to (what I now know as) Biblical Theology.

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That professor was Dr. Andrew Schmutzer, and for the next two years I would have the privilege of continuing to learn from him through Hebrew classes, directed studies, and becoming his Teaching Assistant. We would talk in his office on a regular basis, and after dynamic conversations about the Old Testament and Biblical Theology, he would gently (but persistently) encourage me to look into continuing my education. At first I resisted, but slowly began considering the option. Soon we started talking about specifics, and he suggested Trinity.

If it wasn’t for Dr. Schmutzer’s teaching and discipleship, I would likely not be on the path I am today. 

I still love stories. In fact, I probably love them more now. And no story is better than that in God’s Word. It has all the qualities of good narrative — adventure, love, sacrifice, defeats and victories, tension, miracles, promises, heroes, villains, and more. Yet it is the way that this story corresponds to reality that makes it so profound. The God revealed in these pages is real, and he desires His character to be known from them. 

Now this is a book worth committing your life to!

To the Esteemed Faculty and Staff — We Thank You

On a rainy morning at 7 am, Tyler and I woke up quietly, pondering what the day was to hold. Hoping for it to be an exciting, confirming day, we drove off into the unknown world of orientation at Trinity International University. 

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Throughout the day we learned so many things, but my favorite part was being in a room filled with the students and professors in Tyler’s specific degree. We both learned a lot more about his program. I am not as much of an academic as he is, but his classes sound incredible, and even more so the professors he gets to study under. There are seven professors 100% dedicated to graduate students studying the Old Testament, and they have a thriving love for it. 

Tyler will be doing his Master’s in Old Testament and Semitic Languages. When we had told the admissions counselor this, he looked at us and said, “You know that’s one of the most difficult ones right?” Tyler lit up with excitement, ready for the challenge. I just smiled at him and thought, “I’m so excited that you’re excited, and also excited that I don’t have to study this too!” 🙂 

The main thing, along with many others, that we came away with from the orientation day was that the professors and staff are incredible. We felt so loved and surrounded by them as we start this journey. We felt how close they are to each other, and they all have an amazing sense of humor too! They said throughout the whole day: “We having been waiting for this to year to start, and for you all to be here. We are here for you, to help you.”  

We left more excited than ever about this next chapter. Feeling surrounded and supported by the professors was exactly what we needed! 

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So, to the esteemed faculty and staff, we thank you!