Thursday, January 29, 2015

15 - My Story, God's Story - Getting My College Education

I see it's been just over 10 months since I made my last blog entry in this series of "My Story, God's Story".  I have made some update entries, but overall I just haven't been motivated to blog, or to continue on with this series.  I thought about dropping it, but that seems like up.  God has been with me my whole life, and I want to continue to acknowledge ways in which He seemed to be at work shaping me into the person He wanted me to be.  So as I begin this 15th chapter, I plan to focus on my college years at Lee (College) University.  I'm trusting memory and God to help me cover the highlights of those years.  

I initially enrolled to take some classes to get me back into the mainstream of life...didn't necessarily have a goal to graduate.  I just knew I had regretted not completing my college degree back after high school.  It didn't seem like I was fit for any job, so going to school was my next logical step in progressing with life.  I chose Lee as it was a Christian institution in the town we lived in.  It was Pentecostal...Church of God, Cleveland, TN, and part of me was a little afraid of what I was getting into.  I didn't have a good taste for Pentecostalism, from my limited exposure and knowledge.  However, when I attended chapel (and I felt like that was my class with God...I didn't want to skip), I found the Holy Spirit to be alive and well...and not that different from my theological background in the Nazarene world.  We both came out of the Wesleyan tradition, so the beliefs were very much the same, with the exception of how "gifts" were handled...particularly the gift of tongues.  Nazarenes did not accept that gift...saying it was meant only for the New Testament times.  But I had been deeply hurt by Nazarenes, and I was open to whatever God wanted to show me.  

One of the best things that happened to me on my journey through depression was the exposure I received to other denominations.  We attended a Baptist church for a year, and then when I started at Lee we attended a Church of God.  Guess what!  I found out that God couldn't be put in a box!!  He was so much bigger than any one denomination.  His children seemed to be fighting over who was His favorite...and He doesn't have favorites!  

Chapel was full of joy for me...the choruses, the freedom to worship, the presence of the Holy Spirit manifested in various ways.  I even made a comment back then that when I get to heaven, I was going to move to the Pentecostal corner as they just had more fun worshiping.  I loved learning to clap with the songs.  I already was comfortable raising my hands when worshiping.  I found myself swaying a little with the music...just totally focused on praising Jesus, the Lover of my soul.

I only took a couple of classes that first semester at Lee, but I had discovered a whole new world.  I began to meet so many people and enjoyed hearing their stories.  A study trip to Israel, for class credit, was announced in one of my classes.  Even though I knew I could not afford that, it's like God said, "Pay attention!  I want you to take this trip!!"  So I put out my fleeces...give me a friend to go with, and send the money.  Both fleeces were answered, and the next spring, 1989 I believe, I spent two weeks with 25 other students and professor walking the land that Jesus walked.  Wow.  I can't tell you how life changing that was for me.  I have written a journal on that trip, so I'm not going to take time to rewrite all the ways God intervened in my life during that trip...but let's just say Jesus was the Friend with me, making it all so vibrant and alive.  The Sea of Galilee is where I most felt His intimacy...I worshiped at the shore line early morning and late at night.  He was constantly with me.

When we came back home, I knew I wanted to get my degree.  That meant I had to take a foreign language.  Since I didn't think I would ever use Spanish or French, I decided New Testament Greek was what I needed to take.  I came away from Israel wanting to know God's Word better, because it had come so alive for me while in that land.  So by fall of 1989 I was a full fledged student, seeking a degree in psychology, with a minor in Greek.  That opened a new world for me!

My first class had 24 students, with the professor's wife and me being the only two females.  Most of the students were Bible students, preparing for ministry, and Greek was required for them.   Some of them were taking it for the second or third time...just having a hard time grasping it.  For sure, studying Greek was time consuming.  When I thought I couldn't cram any more into my head, I would just kneel and ask God to make more room in my brain to comprehend it.  We met an hour a day for five days a week for two semesters.  By the end of the second semester, there were only 11 left in the class, and I was third in line for having the highest score!  I had so much fun competing with Mark and Jeff, trying to get that number one spot.  Even the professor got a kick out of us.  

Second year Greek we met three days a week for two semesters.  We had a different  professor in second year Greek.  He became a friend of mine, as his son was in the same Little League as our sons, so I would see him at the baseball games.  Eventually I would end up working in his office...he was the Associate Academic Dean.  When I needed to do an internship for my seminary degree, I wasn't allowed to be a teacher's assistant in the Greek class, because I was not a Church of God church member...still just a Nazarene.  I didn't agree with that decision, nor did my first Greek professor, but I had to submit to the powers that be at the seminary and at the college.  So working with the Associate Dean was the next best place for me.

I did graduate in May of 1991 from Lee, and I was both exhilarated with reaching my goal, and sad to leave the oasis of my life.  I had made so many good friends during those few years, and I loved the challenge of doing well in my classes.  

By the time I graduated, we had gone back to a Nazarene church, located down in East Brainerd/Chattanooga...a new church filled with people that weren't "accepted" in the traditional Nazarene churches in the area. It was a 25 mile commute for us, but that was a good time to allow driver's training practice for our first son.  Paul traveled quite a bit, so it was usually me doing the training, but we survived!  God watched over us!!

The boys excelled in school and baseball.  I spent a lot of my spare time studying.  One summer the older son broke his leg playing baseball, so it seemed like a good thing to teach him Greek right along with me that summer.  I can tell you today that he loves languages and is working on his dissertation for his PhD in philosophy.  So Greek was just a starting point for him.

During those college years, Paul and I enjoyed attending the Lee basketball games.  Our sons would go and take books to read!  One year our youngest son actually became a towel boy with a friend of his (son of my second year Greek professor).  Basketball games were our social outlet.  We were all very involved in East Brainerd Church of the Nazarene also.  Both sons were given opportunities to preach.  We became good friends with the pastor and his wife and kids.  He recently had a heart attack and passed sad.  It has been several years since we have seen them.  He had become the district superintendent of the Kentucky district.

From the depths of clinical depression to the heights of receiving my college degree at age 41, I have had quite a journey.  Friends have come and gone, but God has been in my life's journey every step of the way.  He has helped me to learn to surrender to Him those things I could not understand.  I knew I could make it through as long as I lived pleasing to Him.  Heartaches are healed by the touch of the Master's hand!

I honestly thought I was getting my education so that someday I could have a career that would help pay for our sons' college education.  When I finished my undergrad degree, I knew that I would need at least a master's degree to obtain employment in the counseling field.  I didn't truly believe I would be a counselor, but I wanted to somehow be equipped to work in the college setting...I just couldn't see what or where.  So the next step for me was to go to seminary to get a master's degree.  I didn't want the secular college degree...I wanted to study God's Word and find His directions for my life.  Church of God School of Theology was just across the street from Lee College, and they gave me a $1,000 scholarship to enroll.  So I did.  Next chapter.

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