Cost Update

I am terrible at following my own blog homework. It’s been quite awhile since I calculated my theology costs for your folks yet. Here’s an update.

After tracking down all my receipts, including my new clothes (I gotta look good), my dorm decorating, my bus tickets, and my need for milk shakes, my expenses add up to around $1200.00. This doesn’t include housing, seminary fees, or anything like that. Books are going to eventually end up costing me more than $500 (which is more than I originally thought) and one of my classes represents around 60% of my book budget for this semester. I almost dropped that class because of the book load but, sadly, it fit my schedule too nicely. I really hope I find all these books useful or else it is going to annoy the hell out of me that I had to buy them. I’ve already bought and sold/trashed/thrown-into-alligator-pits one academic library that I built and I’d really hate to do it a second time. Though there might be more gators in the sewers of Astoria. I hope they like theology tombs.

Lock Out

I did have one bit of excitement today, I locked myself out of my apartment for the first time. With 30 minutes to kill between meetings, I ran to my apartment to take care of some of the applications necessary for my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) summer program. While gathering everything together, I ran out the door and left my keys on my desk. This is the first time I have locked myself out of the house while at seminary but it is the second time I’ve done this in the past two months. I hope this isn’t a pattern. I think the next time I lock myself out, it will cost me 5 dollars. That’s 5 amish whoopie pies. I need me some chocolaty cream filled deliciousness.

Back in the Big House

I woke up this morning quite early. I had stayed up late playing Teen Titans (for the Gamecube) with two seminary classmates of I and I planned on sleeping in, rolling out of bed, into the shower, and then arrive at opening day Eucharist service right before it started. I was really hoping I would be able to do all of this in one smooth motion as well. Alas, it was not meant to be. Instead, I woke up two hours before the time set on my alarm due to a nightmare. I hate nightmares not because I mind being scared but because I hate not being able to go to sleep after them. I dreamt that I was being driven around by my pastor through a strange town. We missed our exit and we were driving quite fast before hitting a curve in the road, missing it, and landing in a lake. The car began to sink, I undid my seatbelt, took off my shoes, and watched as the water began to creep higher on the window pane. I put my hand out, grabbed the window roller and was about to start my escape (though quite aware that I most likely would drown) when I woke up. And then, for shits and giggles, my brain tried to remember the Hebrew alphabet. I got seven letters in before I gave up.

So that’s my first official, non-prologue/orientation day at Seminary began.

My pastor drove my wife and I down to Seminary on Labor Day. He graciously took me to target where I bought new speakers, some wall hangings, and a few odds and ends so my room would no longer look like a hotel room. My pastor and wife left yesterday evening, I went to the gym, I worked on some Hebrew, and then I received a facebook invite to help desecrate the statue infront of campus. No one has to ask me twice to do that.

I like our handiwork

I actually did none of the real work on our project. It is an annual tradition that the Junior class dresses up the statue (a tradition not one of us heard we were suppose to do until a few days ago). I wrote “BACK” on one of the signs. Others supplied the decorations, the hats, the lightsaber, and beards. You might not find it very funny but the decorations pretty much sum up our prologue experience and education. And it only took a few hours to dream it up and execute it. I think we did an okay job.

Today consisted of opening Eucharist, convocation speakers, a picnic, advisor meetings, and standing outside having lovely conversations with new friends. Tomorrow is when classes really begin and I currently only have one scheduled, Introduction to Christian History. I am excited to experience Dr. Wengert. The amount of stories about that man on campus is wild and I have no idea what he looks like. But any person who actively disengages with his advisees, admits it, and refuses to change that situation, must be quite fun in class. Plus, he is currently IT when it comes to academic Lutheranism right now. It should be a good time.


When I arrived home on Friday at 3:30 in the afternoon (door to door travel time was 5.5 hours), after saying hello to the dog, the wife, and the cat (not necessarily in that order), I immediately turned on the WiiFit to see how much I weighed. After 2 weeks of seminary food, I wanted to see the damage.

I lost 4.5 lbs.

Now, I’m of two minds about this. First, I’ve actually wanted to lose some weight since I gained quite a bit over the last few months (I am now a kept man). This weight loss then can be a good thing. But this weight loss is a TERRIBLE thing because it just shows how bad the food at seminary is. I have just stopped eating.

I told this story to quite a few of the people I saw here in New York that many of the themes of our meals are by color. Before we left, one of the themes was brown: chicken in brown sauce, brown rice, and vegetables in brown sauce as well. And everything was encrusted in salt. I couldn’t eat it. I believe that living in New York, and having a lovely chef for a wife, has ruined me on processed food. The workers at the Refectory do a good job but they just have terrible tools to work with. At least while I’m at school this time, I won’t need to worry about the freshman 30.

Since my return to NYC, I have done nothing but eat. Fondue, burgers, lamb sausages, spicy chicken salads, ball park hot dogs, popcorn, booze, and a red velvet cake from Martha’s Country Bakery (which was the special surprise my wife bought me). In fact, I think I will finish that cake for breakfast this morning. There is a fat man inside me that just wants to come out.

On the road again


I’m on the bus heading back to New York! Not only was my Megabus 45 minutes late, it also waited a few moments to allow a man to run off the bus and buy a soda to go with the lunch he brought on board. I’m really not feeling Megabus anymore.

I should share a few interesting stories over the last few days. On Wednesday night, our chapel service was a Holden Vespers service. I’ve never participated in that type of service before and I found it very beautiful and moving. The amount of incense used during the service was a tad excessive but, eh, it seems to be us high church Lutherans do. Also, the sermon was preached from an iPad which is new trend in preaching that I have noticed recently. Tip for all pastors out there. If you want an iPad, convince your congregation to buy one for you as a “tool for ministry”. I have seen that done.

Tuesday night class dragggged. In an attempt to help find our voice, the professor asked everyone to name their favorite tree or mountain (the content of the lecture that night was to be the professor’s ideas behind the metaphors of God as Vine and God as Rock). Everyone in the class told their favorite story. My story lasted 12 seconds. The average story lasted around 3 minutes. Some folks felt the need to tell about every flower in their garden. I don’t think the professor expected that this would happen (the story-telling time lasted 90 minutes) but it just dragged on and on. Luckily I brought my laptop into class with me so I kept myself entertained. I think there is a problem with equating story telling and voice finding. How one tells stories is important in the voice finding process but finding one’s voice does not mean that every experience of yours should be told. To open the sea gates and not manage how stories are told leads to excessive sharing and a mistaken practice of equating life-story-telling with what a person’s voice is. To find a voice is to learn a personal style of conversation and writing. In honor of upcoming NYC fashion week, you learn what designs work on you, which don’t, and you learn how to personalize your presence so that you look good but you are always you. But no one enjoys a style of excess, over sharing, and being a mess. Skinny jeans are in, relaxed are out. Fit is key, especially in class discussions. Fashion metaphors might become my thing now.

Wednesday night was the last class discussion day and the highlight was the short insights our guest theologian, Dr. Katie Day, gave in our discussions about Cities of God. Her work in South Africa and her work studying the evolution of congregations along Germantown Avenue was fascinating to listen to. She’s an amazing asset to LTSP and I wish I had learned about her before I arrived on campus.

Thursday afternoon and night was devoted to part one of our professional ethics workshop and evaluation forms for the Prologue course. I also participated as a worship assistant for the first time in the Chapel at LTSP. And I now seem to be the new photographer for the Seminarian, the student body publication on campus. I’m not sure how that will work with my limited schedule on campus but we’ll see. That is what I get for telling folks I’m an amateur photographer. And don’t get me started on what happens when I start telling folks about my web design experience. It seems that I have many gifts that the church would like to use.

My first paper and Krishna

I am a college student now.

I haven’t had a chance to update in the past few days – I’ve been busy reading, writing, sitting in class, and listening to presentations. I’ve heard conversations on Interfaith, Ecumenical communities, the different degree concentrations here, etc etc. My first paper was due yesterday at 6:30. I wrote a theological critique of the US-Mexico border fences. It was 4 pages long with another page of works cited/end notes (33 to be exact). The max pages allowed was 5. It took some formatting wizardry to get the works cited/end notes to work but I did it. And I turned it in with 7 hours to spare.

The different thing about the paper, however, was that I posted the paper on the course website and it is now, maybe, being read by other students. I think I actually have to comment and participate in class discussion by reading and commenting on other students papers. I haven’t done this yet. To be honest, it makes me a tad uncomfortable (says the kid who blogs). I think my hang up is that I am not sure if what I wrote was any good and what the professor expected in terms of format, my thought process, etc. If I blew that, I want to make sure that I did not blow it in front of my own peers. I am trying to develop a positive reputation here since I just met these people 😉

The food in the Refectory is terrible. I eat half of my lunch and dinner (breakfast is too early in the morning for me so I miss it), throw out the rest, and dream about eating food in New York City. There has been one great food experience here however. On Sunday Night, for class, we attended a Krishna temple.

There is a Krishna temple one block away from LTSP. It is located in an old Hotel. The old restaurant has been converted into the temple space. The class arrived after worship started. We walked in and, on an altar that was the size of an entire wall, sat 3 sets of idols. One set consisted of 3 idols of Krishna, overtly dressed and with HUGE GIANT EYES. Near the back of the temple sat the missionary of Krishna that arrived in the US in the 1960s. Elaborate rituals were accompanied by music and chatting. Women and men separated themselves on different sides of the room (this is how they do it in India but usually not in the US). The women danced in away that reminded me of dancing the electric slide. The men, however, were much more vibrant. The men threw themselves, jumped up and down, swung arms, danced in circles, and other such things. It took me sometime to get comfortable with the worship but, near the end of the musical portion, I was pulled into the dancing and I had a great time. More Lutheran Churches should do this.

The sermon was an hour long and was a story about Krishna’s “Christmas” which is coming up this September 1st. Afterwards, a huge feast was held in the courtyard. This was fellowship on steroids. The food was offered to Krishna and then fed to the people. This was the first time I ate food offered to idols before. It made some of Paul’s letters very real to me. And the food was delicious. Vegan Indian food with a little kick to it (some of my peers thought it was reeeeaaaaaaaallllly spicy but it wasn’t). A nice book on yoga and a program from the temple was given to all the visitors. And we were asked to come back whenever we want, whenever we want a meal, and whenever we want fellowship. I know that several of the leaders of that temple do worship, sometimes, in the chapel at LTSP. There is a relationship between the temple and the Seminary which I really like. I like the engagement with a religious tradition located in the neighborhood that is not my own. I believe these types of things is one of the reasons why LTSP stands out among the ELCA seminaries and why quiet a few of my peers came here. I didn’t realize what that really meant until I visited the Krishna temple on Sunday. I’m glad I went.

Library tip of the day

Da Library
Krauth Memorial Library

Yesterday morning, after waking up from a NiteQuil induced sleep, I woke up, found the fitness room, and slowly worked out to try and wake myself up. It tends to take me hours to recover from a nitequil dose but I do what I need to do to be able to breathe while I recover from a cold. Once I finally woke up, I realized I had a few hours to kill so I did what any good seminary student would do. I went to the library and photocopied some of the pre-reading I need to do for Old Testament I.

Before I left NYC, a friend of mine told me his experience of graduate school – “As an undergrad, I had all the time but none of the study skills. As a grad, I had all the skills but none of the time.” I really am finding this out to be true. I’m taking initiative, meeting professors, figuring things out, and trying to crank out papers and reading as soon as possible. My younger self would not recognize me today.

As an engineering student, I never spent time in the library. I never really wandered the stacks, look for research books, photocopy material, or anything of that sort. All I needed was one book, the professor, a TA, and my computer. But everything is brand new now. I wandered around the Krauth Library, a beautiful building built before electricity was wide spread. The floors are translucent to allow sunlight from above to filter through to the basement. The stain glass windows inside are amazing. But it is a maze in there. And their copy machine can be temperamental. But I did learn something while using it.

When I wanted to scan two pages, I used the ledger setting which costs 20 cents a page. But I didn’t need to do that. A legal sized piece of paper works for most two page spreads from books and those only cost 10 cents. To select the legal option, press the “manual feed location” on the screen and save yourself a few pennies. I spent four dollars on copies – more than my entire copy budget for the last decade. Nickels and dime man, nickels and dimes.

Whoop Hoop Hooray!

An Amish Whoopie Pie
Whoopie Pie

Every Tuesday, from 3pm to 7pm, a small farmer’s market takes place in the plaza at LTSP. The plaza was built after a twelve foot retaining wall between the chapel and the community was torn down. The market consists of four tables with one being served by an Amish/mennoite family from Lancaster county. By 3:15pm, there was a long line at their table. I hovered around, looking at their food, until I spotted this. Amish whoopie pies and shoofly pies are one of my many, many, many, many weaknesses.

It was delicious.