08 April 2016

Another view of the red light district

Having lived in the Red Light District for a number of years, I thought I'd pass on this blog which talks about what it's like to work in the Red Light District: Behind the Red Light District.

As a disclaimer, the woman writing it is rather frustrated with some of the propaganda related to cleaning up the Red Light District. Although I disagree with her often enough, I do think she has a lot of valid points and thus deserves to be heard. I especially agree that the whole 1012 project has not resulted in better businesses in the neighbourhood, although I would argue that the fashion/design place at Oudezijds Voorburgwal 93 was actually doing quite well (or at least it was when I lived next door).

06 April 2016

Free Online Hebrew Bible Resource!

I've been participating in the ETCBC (Eep Talstra Center for Bible and Computer) for a number of years now. If you've used any Hebrew text in Logos Bible software, you might know the ETCBC by its former name: WIVU (Werkgroep Informatica Vrije Universiteit). They are the ones responsible for the parsing of all of the Hebrew in the BHS. 

Thanks to grant funding, those resources are now available on the internet, free to whoever would like to use them. They are available as part of the Bible Online Learner. Once you have selected a text, you have access to parsing and translation of each word in the text, including the verbs! If you look on the left side of the screen (you can also use your mobile phone for this site - the display works really well!), you'll see a button that says "clause." The options "type" and "indentation" are quite helpful, and they also give a glimpse into the research that I've done (I've focused on indentation). The Shebanq website shows the actual research of the ETCBC group and allows for doing one's own searches on the text, although I haven't entirely figured out how to use this interface. 
As I figure this resource out, I'll hopefully post about what I find. 

04 April 2016

Learning from the studies I lead

One of the delights of leading studies for my work has been the things I've learned as we study a passage together. Often the model for studies, especially with a pastor present, is that he/she be the expert and everyone else then learns. This is a similar model to what we're used to in school: the teacher as lecturer, passing on information. Yet there are questions of how effective this "banking model of education" really is.

I like a different model, one in which we all approach the text and the study of it as a place where we all (including me) can be challenged and learn from each other. I come to the studies with the biblical knowledge I've learned, time spent learning more about the text we're looking at, and a list of questions to help guide the discussion. At the same time, I also need to bring curiosity and a spirit of intellectual inquiry to the discussion as well as model humility, recognizing that I, too, have much to learn and should be open to being convicted by the text. The challenge of this second model is that it asks a lot more from those participating, and at the end of the study it's less easy to list off all the things we know. At the same time, I believe that what we learn together communally is much more profound than what we would come up if I was expected to provide all the answers.

In the last few weeks, I have learned and been convicted by the following things:
- Most of us see the disciple Thomas negatively, calling him doubting Thomas, not realizing the ways in which he is both courageous and realistic. While the rest of the disciples were hiding after Jesus' death, Thomas was courageously risking his life by going out into the open. When Jesus goes to Jerusalem (John 11) to raise Lazarus from the dead, it was Thomas who was willing to join Jesus despite the potential risk of death, both for Jesus and the disciples. It deserves more pondering - what do I have still to learn from Thomas? Father Mark at St. John's Student Center reiterated these points in his sermon yesterday.
- In talking about Mark 9, we talked about how scary demons are and how uncomfortable most of us are with the thought of demons. Yet, we don't seem to have the same fear in relation to the spiritual forces that are working in our lives here and now. This seems like a pretty big disconnect. Why/how is it that I can be convicted of the need for prayer and fasting in relation to the spiritual forces found in the New Testament and yet I'm blind to and even lazy when it comes to confronting the sins in my life and potential spiritual forces leading me astray?

03 April 2016

A weather inspired april fool's joke

Although it's a day late, the weather today feels like an April fool's joke. It's April 2nd, the first day of spring was two weeks ago, the cat is shedding, and the first day of Easter was almost a week ago. It should thus be warm, sunny, and the beginning of biking season!

Instead, this was the view out my window at work late this afternoon:

On the bright side, it was quite pretty. There's nothing quite as beautiful as snow glistening on trees, especially when you know that it'll melt within a day or two (and biking will once again be enjoyable).