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Surprised by Delight

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About this blog

The Rev. Michelle J. Bartel, Ph.D., serves as Coordinator of Theological Education and Seminary Relations for the ministry area of Theology, Worship, and Education in the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

“Surprised by Delight” is a blog of the Office of Theological Education of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is designed to celebrate the joy of our Presbyterian heritage as we live out our Christian faith in thanksgiving for the mighty acts of our loving God. Our hope is that possibilities for theological education and formation will pop up and surprise us anywhere and everywhere.

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June 9, 2016

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April 26, 2016

Theological Education as a Herd of Elephants

Each morning I check Facebook for animal videos, because animals are endlessly interesting, and, since I was raised on the Peaceable Kingdom, endlessly evocative.

I’ve been intrigued by elephants for a while, (limited) exemplars of Peaceable Kingdom ethics, because they work in groups to solve problems. One video shows a herd crossing a brimming creek, and a baby tugged away in the rushing water. One elephant goes to the baby quickly and keeps it near, but can’t get it back to safety alone. You see the rest of the elephants become aware, and they return. I suppose technically ...

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April 18, 2016

Springsteen, God, and Me

by Charles Wiley

 I always hesitate to mention Bruce Springsteen and the Lord of the Rings in anything I write.  I love Springsteen’s music and have listened to almost everything he has recorded, and I’ve read Lord of the Rings at least a couple of times. And in relation to the general populace, that makes me something of an expert on these two things; however, in relation to the true fans, I am a rank amateur.  I cannot speak Elvish, and I cannot tell you the differences in the set lists the last time Bruce played Madison Square ...

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April 14, 2016

Dogs 1

“Old English docga, a late, rare word, used in at least one Middle English source in reference to a powerful breed of canine.” This is the etymology of “dog,” from

  AJ and Xena might not look like a powerful breed of canine.

 In fact, they take up about four square feet of space altogether, and we don’t usually equate “small” with “powerful.”

 Their power is vast, though. It just manifests in a teeny compartment. Seriously: I have scores of photos of these two (and a photo montage video of Xena with her tongue sticking out) and they ...

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October 5, 2015

How 'bout those Cubs?

My hotel window in Chicago at the recent COTE meeting (the Committee on Theological Education) gave me a view of Soldier Field, so I was able to watch constant replays of a really cool defensive play that brought a win to the Cubs over the Cardinals. And now they’ve clinched a wild card spot.

Chicago is a great city, and for the most part we had great weather. None of that, however, is as significant to me as the existence of so much shared passion and commitment around one table. To be fair, it was many tables because there ...

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