Joyful Expectation | December 3

Joyful Expectation | December 3

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;  and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:11-13  

When you are a seminary student, you learn about God constantly. You read textbooks on Jesus, you listen to lectures on the Gospels, you write papers on theology. As a seminary student who has taken most of my classes online, I have completed most of this work on a laptop or smartphone. I would not trade my seminary education for anything. Studying theology at Luther Seminary has been a tremendously enriching and rewarding experience. It has expanded my theological horizon in ways I never would have imagined.

And yet, learning about God and experiencing God is not the same thing.

I suppose I am like many in my generation who would point to an experience of God in creation. When I think of the place where I have felt most connected to God, two places come to mind. The first is Pine Lake Camp. Many of you are likely familiar with that wonderful retreat up in the Waupaca woods. The second is Rock Island State Park. While Rock Island is not a Bible camp, it is out of reach of a cell tower, and rugged enough where I would not want to pack my laptop.

I try to get up to Pine Lake when I can these days. I make the trip to Rock Island every summer. Both places afford me the opportunity to silently reflect on what God has done in my life. Since I cannot haul my seminary textbooks with me, getting away to Pine Lake or Rock Island provides the chance to see how the grace of God discussed in my theology lectures is in fact very much at work in the world, and that this grace extends even to me.

The thin spaces in my life are places where digital distractions are unavailable. Without the chatter of my apps and notifications, all I can hear is the voice of Christ – along with the occasional howl of coyotes or rustle of whitetail deer. I could read all I want about God’s calling in abstract. I need to unplug and venture out to actually experience it.

by Ryan Panzer

This post is part of a series of Advent Reflections – “Joyful Expectation”
Learn more about the series at

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