Monday, October 30, 2017

Exegetical Work - The Spirit of God at Work & Contemplation

In BLT2163: Methods in Biblical Study - we spend most of the semester focused on "read, research, repeat" as a frame within which I present the various critical methodologies for engaging the Bible within the academic context.  I teach learners to read the Biblical text closely and carefully.  I introduce them to places (in libraries, commentaries, dictionaries, journals, articles, word-studies) to engage critical research, and then I tell them to repeat this process - over and over again.  (Here's a video of my method summarized!)

I make clear that *this* course is not focused on spiritual readings of the Bible nor contemplative discernment (in some ways) - and - I make clear that exegesis is not proclamation (preaching) even while our hermeneutics contributes to our homiletics.

About 2/3rds of the way through the semester, with the critical methods and "tasks" for reading and research in place, I begin to do more work in exploring the dynamics and "fun" of what good exegesis produces when we read Scripture well.

Today I spent time using the Ignatian method of contemplative prayer as an invitation for learners to "imagine themselves" in the setting of the Biblical passage they are exploring.  While not a "critical methodology," it does "expand" the way we can ponder "the world" of the story - and who/how/persons interact.  And this is critical to our discerning care! :-)

I shared with them a phrase I picked up from a Presbyterian pastor I engage from his podcasts, Kirk Winslow with Jesus@2AM.  He says something close to this which I share with my learners. 

"May the Spirit who was present at the writing of Scripture be present at its interpretation."

A great phrase.

For more on praying or reading with the "method" of Ignatius - do some research, though here is one simple frame copied from Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Ignatian Contemplation – The Process:

This method is especially appropriate for scenes from the Gospels, but also possible with other biblical narratives.
  1. Begin: consider how God looks upon you and loves you; become aware of being in God’s presence;
    stand for a moment, bow if you wish, then be seated comfortably for your time of prayer
  2. Preparatory Prayer: offer to God all your will and actions, especially in this time of prayer;
    ask God for a specific grace that you need and desire right now (peace, consolation, hope, etc.).
  3. Contemplate the Biblical Story that you have selected:
    • Read the text slowly and carefully; recall what it is about; then let it come alive for you!
    • Place yourself inside the story, using your imagination; become one of the characters in the scene.
    • Participate in the dynamics of the scene, dialoguing & interacting with Jesus and other characters.
    • Observe what is going on around you in the scene: What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, touch?
    • Dialogue with the other characters: What do they say or ask you? What do you say or ask them in reply?
    • Notice what is going on inside you as you pray: joy, sorrow, peace, confusion, love, anger, etc.
    • If you get distracted or your mind wanders, gently return to the biblical text and re-enter the scene.
  4. Colloquy: enter into a short personal conversation with Jesus (or God the Father, or the Holy Spirit); speak heart-to-heart, as if conversing with a close friend.
  5. Closing Prayer: conclude by praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, or another familiar/favorite prayer;
    you might stand, kneel, bow, raise your hands, or adopt another posture to mark the end of your prayer.
Afterward, briefly review what you experienced during this time of prayer (maybe journal about what happened),
and look forward to your next prayerful encounter with God (when? where? which biblical text will you use?).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Podcasts - Peace Talks Radio, Other Podcasts & Apps

I want to "promote" the Peace Talks Radio podcast.  

I engage it routinely - and it has great content.  It's "lesser known" than other podcasts and I want to "inspire others" to find it.  

Additionally, for those who might be interested, I'll share a few non-religious podcasts I listen to frequently (in no particular order):

  • Sincerely X
  • TED Talks Daily
  • Conflict & Resolution with Tammy Lenski
  • Quirks & Quarks
  • 99% Invisible
  • Stuff You Missed In History Class
  • TED Radio Hour
  • ON Being with Krista Tippett
  • Peace Corp Stories: The Unofficial Podcast
  • My Peace Corp Stories

Podcasts I find meaningful for religious connection (in no particular order):

  • Kingdom Roots with Scot McKnight
  • The Meeting House Audio (Canadian Brethren Church)
  • Word of Life Podcast (Zahnd)
  • College Church of the Nazarene (Nampa, ID)
  • Jacob's Well (since there are many with this name: )
  • Office of Rabbi Sacks
  • The Bible for Normal People
  • Jesus at 2AM: A Humorous, Intelligent . . .
  • Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene
  • Lake Shore Baptist Church
  • 60 Seconds of Solitude:  Mindfulness Meditation

I'm not big on being an "APP" user on my Apple Brand iPod . . . though, I do value the following:

Overdrive (for my library books) - I use this every.single.week and have been known to require family members in other States to get a library card in their local library and let me borrow their digital books! :-)

Breathr and Breathe have great mindfulness meditations.

Pocket.   (I'm new to this app, but a professional colleagues promises me I'll love it as I add content to it and use it to "read to me.")

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Web Log, not a Book Review Site

Two students in one of my classes have recently engaged me with various bits of content from my blog.

Additionally they asked, “Dr. Michelson, Why don’t you post about all the books you talk about in class, the ones you share with us here in lecture and class work?”

I answered:  “Great Question!”

And then I offered a reply close to this.

First, a “blog” you may not know derives from a “web log” – an online journal, really. ‘Back in the day’ this was the way that persons gave information to family members or others about their daily events.  When I started this blog, it was very intentionally just for me to “log” books I’ve read.  I had (and have) no academic agenda on this web log.

Two, a main reason for logging the books I read is because fully 80% of them are library books.  Unlike books I buy within the field of Biblical Studies – the books I blog about (1) do not get annotated (as that would be vandalism!) and (2) I don’t maintain these books on my bookshelves (or, piled neatly around my reading chairs at the home and office!)  The books that make the blog are books I simply want to remember from what I have borrowed.  [And, it serves as a good “jog” to my memory when I think to myself, “I know I recently read about XYZ . . . what book was that in again?”]

Third, within the academic community, there has been a long standing accepted form of Book Review - published, peer-reviewed, in many reputable journals.  I intentionally do not want this blog to be that – as that form is precise, clear, and has a sustained intention and critique for scholars within the scholarly community.  While I benefit from and read books within Biblical Studies every month, I have no intention to mirror anything like the formal Book Review that on my blog.  In fact, I have in many cases avoided writing about books within Biblical studies on purpose, to avoid appearance of credentialed Book Review.

Finally, this web log also intends to capture personal bits and pieces, anecdotes, ideas and other detritus of my random thinking.  On some occasions I intentionally want to capture aspects of my life for our children into their future and perhaps for our grandchildren, one day.

Having noted these issues.  In the past couple of months I read two great books within Biblical Studies – that are not “within my area” as they are they cover New Testament books.  I’ve been shaped by and have been recommending to colleagues both:  Jonathan T. Pennington’s The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary and Beverly Gaventa’s When in Romans:  An Invitationto Linger with the Gospel according to Paul.  Delightful.  Each has impacted the way I think about the Gospel and our living today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Students earn C's and B's in my class.

I do not "give" grades.

I assign grades based on the quality of work that is submitted.

And, not only do I have high standards for good work - when I teach for another University (online, as I do for our denominational Nazarene Bible College NBC) assignments are preset with preset rubrics - and I honor these.

In the most recent Biblical Interpretation course I taught for NBC - as with any course- some learners got C's and B's and a few earned A's.

I'm most delighted - and a bit surprised - that I got another (nearly) all 5's in review of me as instructor for this course.

Honestly, my experience is that you really can NOT please all the people all the time!

And, even when I try to share evaluations in a kind and generous way - no student likes seeing their work "marked down" . . . so I'm accustomed to some students "marking me down" for how I offer instruction or feedback.

That's fine. I get it.

And, in this class - they have a lot of work to accomplish.  They turn in a full exegetical paper.  So, many "do not like the class" or "do not like me" as they have had to "work too hard."

I'm not perfect! For sure! I am not perfect!

Still . . . I like being able to archive and save a nearly perfect set of course reviews from students who did not all earn A's and yet who recognized the value of my instruction/work with and for them.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Travel to Palestine & Israel - June 4-15, 2018

Travel to Israel and Palestine with Drs. Stephoni Case & Marty Michelson

What kind of trip is this?

This is offered most intentionally for Christian persons who are interested in an learning about Palestine and Israel from the time of the Bible to the present.  Educational in focus, some daily Christian reflection will be offered at Holy Sites in Israel and Palestine.  This trip will be educational for all participants - regardless of familiarity with the Bible, though History and Bible knowledge will inform one's appreciation of each day's learning. Additionally we will explore political, archeological, social and cross-cultural components as part of our daily travel. 

Is it safe? 

Given the contemporary world, no one can ever assure anyone’s complete safety anywhere in the world. The Holy Land is no exception to this sad reality. However, travel to and within Jordan, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories does not place one at significantly greater risk of being a victim of violence than does travel to and within any major American city. In my own travel to the area no one with my group has felt threatened by violence.

What sites will the trip visit? Some locations will include:

Sea of Galilee Dead Sea Jordan River Bethlehem
Jerusalem Mount of Olives Golan Heights Nazareth
Masada Jerash Caesarea Maratima Sepphoris
Madaba Mount of Olives
Mount of Beatitudes Church of Nativity Church of the Holy Sepulchre

What are the dates for the trip?

June 4 to 15, 2017.  We will depart into and out of Dallas-Fort Worth airport though persons *may* construct other alternative travel dates to/from Israel to “meet the group” - and/or - persons may arrive early or later.  [Supplements for travel in other gateway cities - will have separate support travel necessary, and obviously persons staying extra days will have additional costs.  If persons need to fly to/from DFW, their flights to/from DFW will be an additional cost.  The trip is designed for all to “arrive and depart” as a group for all days though some flexibility can be framed, but it is not ideal and can not be complex.]

Who will lead the tour?

Dr. Marty Alan Michelson will guide for Education on each day.  Two days for some participants will have special University Travel with Dr. Stephoni Case - including Bar Elan University and Hebrew University. 
( See more here: and )

Why do you lead trips to the Holy Land?

I lead trips to the Holy Land because I love the experience. I love introducing people to the traditional holy sites and to the lands of the Bible. Also, I love helping Americans to learn about the contemporary culture and struggles of the people who populate the lands of the Bible today. My trips actively engage questions of peace-making in the Middle East. I make no profit from the trips.

How much does it cost?

$3872 which will cover all airfare, every night of lodging, all busses/vans, all entry fees, breakfast and dinner while in Palestine/Israel (not in airport meals), entrance fees, border fees, guide fees, taxes, tips.  [Hotels are 2 persons per room or supplemental fee.]

When is the money due?

Full payment with the registration will be due ten weeks before the departure date. Participants are encouraged to pay in monthly increments up until all fees are due in Spring 2018.  Payments can be made directly to SBS once registered with them - and/or through Dr. Stephoni Case.  Persons can sign up NOW!

Aren’t many similar trips to the Holy Land cheaper?

No. Many travel companies practice a “bait-and-switch” method of sales. They either advertise a price that is eventually either is unavailable or is later inflated with additional “fees” (like taxes, tips, entry fees, domestic air, oversea ground transportation, visa fees, meals, etc.). Our pricing policy is realistic and does not inflate after you have committed to travel. I have, in the past, had the US Department of Travel add last minute fees for security excise fees, however.

What all is covered by the cost of the trip?

The price of the trip includes all transportation, lodging, taxes and governmental fees, all morning and evening meals (lunch is not included), admission to all sites, and tips. The price does not include the price of lunch each day or the price of keepsakes and a few personally chosen tips.

Is this trip sponsored by the university where you teach? And can I get college credit?

Yes, SNU, where we each, is associated with this trip. Yes, college credit is available though with University level work required in addition to the trip itself.  Contact Dr. Marty Michelson.

Who may go on this trip?

Any person ready to adventure in education in Palestine and Israel. The main ingredient is a gracious attitude, willing heart, studious mind, and ability to walk/hike or willingness to sit behind while others do their walking/hiking to/from locations.

Can I be baptized in the Jordan River?

It is likely this will be available, though not guaranteed. Dr. Michelson will baptize anyone who has not been baptized before and who professes Christ as Lord. For those who have been baptized before, they may renew their baptismal vows at the Jordan River.

Will we celebrate the Lord’s Supper at any point?

Yes. For those who wish to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we will offer the sacrament while on the Mount of the Beatitudes (overlooking the Sea of Galilee).

Are there a limited number of places available on this trip?

Yes. The trip is limited to the number of people who can comfortably travel in a single bus on location.

Do I need a passport?

Yes. You will need a passport at least six months before we travel. You start the passport process at Do this early, NOW!

What kind of meals will be available?

Some meals will be served as buffets with traditional Arabic, Jewish, American dishes from which to choose. Other meals will be served in sit down style with service to your table. Lunch will be purchased at local restaurants (at the traveler’s expense). Meal portions will not be “all you can eat” but will be a full portion meal, often served in several “courses.”

How much cash should I take?

The answer to this question largely depends upon each individual’s personal spending habits. The only direct expenses that travelers will incur are lunch time meals and beverages (other than water) at meal times. (In the Middle East, hotels traditionally serve only water and charge a nominal fee [about $1] for any additional beverage.) I have traveled with people who spent less $100 on a fifteen day trip and with people who have spent more than $500 in the same length of time. (Most outlets take credit cards and ATMs are widely available, but I do NOT recommend traveler’s checks—many places will not accept traveler’s checks and many others add a surcharge to traveler’s checks). As a general guideline, I would recommend about $300 in cash for most travelers.

Will the trip offer time for personal prayer and spiritual reflection?

Yes. Most days will include a few hours in the evening when travelers can engage in unstructured activities ranging from personal prayer and meditation to walks along the Sea of Galilee.

What are the hotel accommodations like?

Our accommodations are generally in three and four hotels, comparable to moderately priced American hotels. All are clean, safe and professionally staffed.  Standards of room size, bathroom size and full amenities are not equivalent to the same class of hotels in America and akin to European experiences with better hospitality.  All have private bathrooms and comfortable beds.  Each two person in any room will share one private bathroom.

Will we meet with any local people?

Yes. We will connect with people who represent the diversity of political and religious opinions in the Middle East. The programs allows the travelers to meet local Christians, Jews and Muslims from both Israel and Palestine. Travelers will be able to dialogue with a wide spectrum of opinion.

How do I register for the trip?

Contact Dr. Stephoni Case ( or Dr. Marty Michelson ( for paperwork on how to register.