Professor for a Week

A couple weeks ago I was emailing with Dr. Schmutzer from Moody about an essay he had written, and as we were interacting on some theological points, he threw out this generous invitation:

Before I forget, would you like to teach my Genesis, Psalms, 1 Samuel, or Hebrew Reading for a week? I know you’ve never been busier, but I wanted to ask.

Every year Dr. Schmutzer and thousands of other scholars and professors meet for a week with the Evangelical Theological Society. Usually this means that a week of classes has to be cancelled, but not if you can find someone to sub for you! So while Dr. Schmutzer got on a plane to San Diego for a week of fellowship and scholarship, I got to drive back down to my alma mater and return to the classroom.

I felt super honored to have been asked. I got to do some teaching for him last year when I was his Teaching Assistant, and it’s really a little surreal. Last year my brother Caleb was taking a class on the Psalms, and he snapped this picture while we were talking about the Songs of Zion, a collection in the Psalter.

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This year was just as exciting as I got to teach 6 classes. It was a ton of work to prepare for, and I was exhausted at the end of it, but teaching was a blast. Whenever I have the opportunity to teach on the Old Testament, it confirms that this is what I want to do with my life. I love digging deep and highlighting the theology in the text, allowing it to illuminate our understanding of God.

I was really impressed with the caliber of the students and their grasp of the text, which made for some fantastic discussion. Caleb is taking “Biblical Theology of 1 Samuel” this semester, so he was in my class again this year! He even had a presentation on a passage, and he made me a very proud brother as he engaged with Scripture with such depth and conviction.

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My favorite class to teach always ends up being Genesis. I was so formed in that class as a Junior at Moody, and the text is just incredibly foundational to theology and God’s Story. The students in this class have spent the first 3 months working through Genesis 12-50, and now that they have acquired the proper reading skills, they are going back to the beginning and reading Genesis 1-11. I had the privilege of teaching Genesis chapter 2: God’s creation of man and woman. In this text God is portrayed as Gardener, Craftsman, and Builder in order to complement the transcendent and all-powerful God of chapter 1. God gets his hands dirty as he plants a garden, forms man, and builds woman. From the beginning, humanity is placed, given a vocation, and expected to share in God’s work. It’s a beautiful passage that shapes so much of our understanding of God’s character and our own purpose for life.

I’m so thankful for opportunities like this to grow as a teacher. And I am especially thankful for Dr. Schmutzer, who continues to invest and believe in me, allowing me to practice being a professor for a week!

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Receiving God’s Strength

Last Tuesday I was talking to a friend named Dan about how busy the next couple weeks will be. It is all really exciting things, but it was starting to feel a little overwhelming. I get to teach some classes at Moody next week, I’m doing a Scripture recitation at church, I have a lot of Hebrew homework to catch up on, there is lots of reading I need to stay on top of, and finally I was working on a sermon for my Hermeneutics class. This is on top of a full-time job and responsibilities as a husband.

Dan asked what my upcoming sermon was about. “It’s on Isaiah 40:27-31,” I said. “It’s about God’s sovereignty and receiving his strength in the midst of trials.” Dan replied, “It sounds like you need to use this sermon preparation as a devotional exercise. Apply what you are learning through this class assignment.”

I am thankful for the men God has placed in my life to give me the right perspective. God spoke through Dan’s simple exhortation that afternoon. I approached the sermon preparation completely differently when I was asking God to convict me before I was to try and preach Scripture to others.

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What I learned in Isaiah 40 is that indeed, there will be times where we will feel hopeless and powerless. We will feel like victims. We will feel inadequate. It is easy in those moments to cry out to God, “Don’t you even care? Can you even see what I’m going through?”

Isaiah points us back to the magnificent power and sovereignty of God.

40:28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

Our understanding of who God is (=theology) gives us a firm foundation to stand upon when trials come. When the waters of life are up to our neck, the unchanging character of God is our relief. The mind-blowing thing is that God does not exist with all these great qualities in isolation. No, he has freely chosen to enter into covenant with us and extends his very resources to us who are weak.

29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Aligning ourselves to God in hopeful expectation allows us to draw on God’s very own strength. Even the most qualified individuals will fail. But another reality is possible. Once God’s power is received, the most amazing things happen. Such men and women will be able to endure and flourish in all spheres of life. These people will have sufficient strength to face whatever is necessary to endure: if flight, then wings; if running, then stamina; if walking, then endurance.

This week I am reminded of the necessity to root myself in the character of God as revealed in Scripture. This is a good reminder of why I am studying at Trinity. I have been called to study his Word to the best of my ability, so that I may know God better, and be able to serve him more faithfully. But as I study to teach, or learn Hebrew vocabulary, or make lattes at Intelligentsia, may I never forget that it is the Lord’s strength that must sustain me.

Let’s all make sure our foundation is secure in the character of God — one with limitless power and resources, yet who extends his very own strength to the weak. 

Celebrating in Tennessee

This past weekend Lara and I took a couple days off work in order to drive down to Tennessee. Before I met Lara, I didn’t even know where Tennessee was, but it has since become one of my favorite places in the world. Although I still experience culture shock (the South is very culturally unique!), there are few things as comforting as driving across rolling hills and into the valley where Chattanooga lies. After a good 14 hour drive, Lara and I found ourselves at the doorstep of her parents’ beautiful home.image

We were visiting to celebrate a very exciting occasion — Lara’s dad’s 50th birthday party! Despite all the old man jokes (and tombstone birthday cake!) he is full of youth and vigor!

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It was such a fun time with the whole family, and we were so happy to celebrate him. He is an amazing husband, father, and father in-law, and I continue to learn so much from watching how he loves his family, his ministry at AMG, and the Lord. We love you! Happy 50th!!

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The Small World of Intelligentsia

I work for a really amazing Chicago coffee company called Intelligentsia. Intelligentsia puts so much time and resources into sourcing the sweetest and most complex coffee in the world, roasting it to bring out its best natural qualities, and educating their staff to prepare that coffee with the utmost care and precision. I started working for them right after I graduated last December, and have loved every minute of it. I’ve grown exponentially in my skills as a barista, have developed amazing friendships with coworkers, and love being able to serve people through a fantastic cup of coffee.

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Intelligentsia is a name that will be familiar to coffee enthusiasts around the world. Because of this, I’ve gotten to meet a wide array of interesting people, all the way from Italy (the homeland of espresso) or Japan (where “pour-over” coffee has its roots). But although I’ve made coffee for Barista Champions and famous musicians, the best moments are when an old friend walks through your doors.

Most recently, Brad Nickerson moved into an apartment right around the corner from my shop. Brad and I grew up as missionary kids together in Europe, but now it’s quite common for him to be drinking a “Black Cat Shake” in our shop on a Saturday afternoon. (Brad is in the Toronto Maple Leafs cap in this picture from 2005!)

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Two weeks ago I was startled by a perceptive question by a guest: “Are you a Patty??” This guest was Joshua Longbrake, a photographer who did some work for JV a couple years ago. Josh also held a photography workshop for us teenagers at a Josiah Venture conference back in 2007 (Josh is in the white in the picture below). I hadn’t seen him since then! He and his wife had recently moved to the Logan Square neighborhood as well.

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But the craziest story is from this last Sunday. Sundays are generally our busiest days at work, so I was running around getting things done, and was pretty distracted. All the sudden someone leans over the bar and yells at me: “Hey!” I turn to deal with the crisis, and lo and behold, Kha Do is there smiling at me. Only one problem: Kha is from Arizona, and now lives in Louisville. There’s no way that is Kha. I stare dumbfounded at him for a few seconds, only to start freaking out from the absurdity of the situation. Kha has served with Josiah Venture a number of times doing English Camps in Czech, and that’s how I first met him back in 2010. His new bride, Melanie, served with Lara and I in Czech last summer, and a funny story about Kha was told and re-told dozens of times over the course of those months, achieving the status of legend. And here was the legend, standing right here in my coffee shop!

Turns out he was passing through Chicago on his way from a wedding, and only stopped in Intelligentsia to charge his phone. When he saw me, he texted his wife Melanie: “I think I’m looking at Tyler Patty…” to which she responded, “No, that’s not possible. There’s no way.” We were both glad it was!

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The world feels very small – especially at Intelligentsia!

Weekend Classes and Fresh Air

This week has been busy for Lara and I. Friday was a good example — I said goodbye to Lara at 4:30 AM to leave for work, and didn’t see her till I got back from an evening class at 9:30 PM.

But we are making the most of it. Once a month I have this weekend class on Christian Ethics, so today my whole Saturday was spent in a classroom. Luckily it is spent with some good friends who are taking it with me, and the things we are discussing are super important. But after being inside for 7 hours listening to a lecture, all I wanted to do was get out and enjoy these final beautifully mild Illinois days.

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When I rolled up into our driveway after class, I noticed a beautiful apple lying by the side of the road. It had fallen off our neighbor’s tree. I couldn’t just leave it there to go to waste! It was still in perfect condition, so I snapped some pictures, gave it a good wash, and ate away. We had taken my sister Claire to an apple orchard a couple weeks ago, but this definitely brought back memories from Czech, where you don’t have to pay to pick apples from an orchard — you just visit your cottage in the countryside!

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As I ate my apple I walked to Highland Park to meet Lara as she got off from work. We went and got some nachos from a local Mexican restaurant, and then spent some much-needed time soaking in the brisk Fall air. It’s about a 30 minute walk back to our house, and although Lara walks the route every day to work, I think she enjoys it the most when we are together! We are truly loving where we live, and are thankful for moments like these to reconnect after a long week.

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Thinking of My Grandparents

Although I grew up half-way across the world, my grandparents have played a very important role in my life.

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I never could just run across the street to visit them, but they always made it a priority to fly across the ocean to visit us! One of my fondest childhood memories was getting to have both my mom’s parents and my dad’s parents present in Czech at my baptism at age 15. It is quite extraordinary that despite growing up on the other side of the world, my grandparents have been a part of some very important growth points in my life.

Another such moment was when I was 16. Grandma and Bapa (my mom’s parents) knew that I really liked this band called Switchfoot, and they decided to fly my out to Oregon to see them play live. It was my first time traveling on my own, and ended up being an incredibly formative experience. Having your grandparents take you to a rock show is pretty awesome (!), but even more awesome was their love and intentionality toward a maturing teenager.

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At age 19 while I was a student at Moody, Grandpa and Nana (my dad’s parents) invited me to come spend my two-week Spring Break with them in Colorado. We ate many incredible meals thanks to grandma’s cooking. My grandpa is an incredible gardener, and I got to help him shovel manure and plant potatoes. But the big transformative experience was having grandpa teach me how to drive on his manual VW Jetta. I passed the test and received my driving license, and have been changed ever since through this learning experience with grandpa.

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I’ve been thinking of Grandpa Patty much in the recent days. He just went through open heart surgery — the same surgery my dad had four years ago. A problem with his mitral valve has left him with very little energy due to restricted blood flow to his heart. Other than this, he is a healthy and active 88 year-old, still maintaining his garden and discipling men! I saw him recently at our Patty family reunion last December, and he continues to be such an engaged and caring man of God. His story is far from over yet.

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The surgery went incredibly well. But now the very difficult work of recovery has begun. He will likely be in a lot of pain over the coming days as his body re-calibrates (this was true of my dad as well). He is stable in the ICU, and they are hoping to have him sitting up in a chair tomorrow morning.

Lara and I have been praying for grandpa, and it is times like these that I am reminded of how amazing my grandparents are. They have left a permanent mark on my life—directly by their investment in my life, and indirectly by their life of faithfulness to Christ—and I do not take this for granted. They continue to leave a mark, even as my 88 year-old grandpa voluntarily goes through this surgery, desiring to continue living boldly for Jesus.

A Date and a Bike Ride

First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who has been praying for Lara. Her migraines have been better, but is still experiencing the floaters. We are hoping to see a doctor up nearer to us in the next couple days. Thank you for standing with us in this!

With all the transitions that have been happening recently, Lara and I really needed time together to just let loose and have some fun. The weather made a sharp turn toward winter today (40ºF!) , but just a couple days ago it was absolutely beautiful in Highland Park. Lara had the day off, and while I had to work early that morning, I was off in time for a late lunch. We decided to make it a date!

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Some dear friends of ours welcomed us to the neighborhood by giving Lara a bike, so we got to test it out for the first time. We rode along quaint streets and charming forest paths, until we finally made it to downtown Highland Park.

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(the forest paths reminded me a lot of Czech!)

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Lara had heard raving reviews from her coworkers about a local hot dog stand called Michael’s, so we had to check it out.

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After lunch we walked around town, just as the elementary schools were letting out for the day. You never saw kids in the city much, at least not where we lived. We are really enjoying living in a small town!

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Once back on our bikes, I noticed a sign for a bike path to the beach, so of course we had to take it. After several wrong turns and lots of laughs, we made it to Lake Michigan.

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It was the perfect day, and just what we needed!

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.

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.

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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!