It’s been almost two years since I last wrote a “life” post. After last year’sMarch furnace fires, things quieted down… briefly. After the fire Mari and I moved into the on-campus missionary housing at SBTS and finished up our semester there. At the end of that my parents came up to help us move everything into a friend’s garage. We surprised my parents with the good news they’d been waiting for: Mari was pregnant.
They were, of course, ecstatic, and there was, of course, a catch: after we heading back to Norway for the summer, I would return alone to Louisville in the fall while Mari would work in Norway to get maternity leave. Because I need a Master’s degree in theology to get a visa to do any theological work in Norway, I couldn’t even intern at our church in Norway. Getting a master’s degree, then, was top priority for me, and I would have until the end of 2019 (when Mari will finish).
Mari and I had a good summer in between. We drove around Jotunheimen National Park where Norway’s tallest mountain stands.
Fall and Winter 2017-18
In the fall, my parents helped me move into my new efficiency apartment, just big enough for one person, and I smashed five classes together. I came back to Norway for the winter break to my wonderful, very pregnant wife. Now, our son was “supposed” to be born on January 3rd. That being so, our plan was that I would head back to KY on the 19th, and Mari and Micah would visit sometime later that semester. But then Micah didn’t come on the 3rd, but on Sunday the 14th. My plan changed the instant he was born. How could I leave on Friday?
After emailing Southern and making numerous class changes, I was able to stay in Norway for another month and help Mari take care of our newborn baby boy, Micah Jonathan Robinson. It was the best sleep deprivation I’ve ever had trying to figure out our little boy. When I had to head back to KY, I was then leaving two loves. Thankfully, I only needed to wait five weeks to see them again.
Spring and Summer 2018
I crammed all of my Systematic II and III work into those five weeks and then relished the six weeks I spent with Mari and Micah when they visited. We drove all over to see friends and family, but unfortunately we could not fit everyone in (always the problem).
M&M flew back to Norway. I packed up our apartment, and two weeks later I followed. Mari had had two online classes with Southern this past summer while I spent time looking after Micah and tried to let Mari do her schoolwork. We went through Philippians with our church’s youth group on Wednesday evenings, and I was able to teach a Bible study through the book of Colossians for three weeks at our church in July, which was good fun. This semester I am taking three classes (a light, easy load), and Mari had an online class. Micah sleeps well and is a now-crawling, cute, happy, patient ten-month-old who likes to laugh.
Visa issues still abound (for now). Mari is not yet an on-campus student, so she is only “visiting” (and is thus on a visitor’s visa). Thus she can only be here for 90 days. 90 days in-90 days out, that’s how those visas work. I was in Norway for 90 days in the summer. All that to say, Mari has to leave the country by Nov. 11, and I can’t enter Norway until Nov. 21. What will we do in the meantime? Go to one of our dearest, favorite places on earth: York, England.
We’ll spend the winter in Norway, and when we return to KY Mari will be a student again and I will be working at home and watching a one-year-old trying to figure out our future. We’ll see how that goes.
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It’s one thing to know the structure of the language, it’s another to be able to speak that same language to others. While Norwegian Grammar has many good helps with idiomatic phrases, it’s incredibly helpful to have a few Norwegian books with exercises in them. Colloquial Norwegian is one of those books.
Each chapter includes two Dialogues, one in Norwegian and the other in English. After this is a Vocabulary which contains new words found in the norsk dialogue. Then there are fill-in-the-blank, true or false, or writing exercises. Some chapters have a Culture section that explains an aspect of the Norwegian way of life related to the subject matter of the chapter. There are Language Points that explain some of the grammar from the chapter. There are charts and lists throughout the book, and in many places if you have the CD you can listen to the pronunciations of words (such as with the Dialogue sections).
After Unit 14 there is a short reference grammar, a few pages on nynorsk, the book’s answer key, and then both a Norwegian-English glossary and an English-Norwegian glossary.
You should begin learning Norwegian by working through Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day. It gives basic understanding of the pronunciation by actually translating it phonetically next to the ‘norsk ord,’ and it teaches you a lot of basic Norwegian terms and phrases dealing with food, time, work, play, etc.
Then move on to Colloquial Norwegian and then to Teach Yourself Norwegian. Personally, I favor TYN over CN, although with TYN the dialogues are mostly in Norwegian, with the occasional English sentence given for guidance. TYN also has sections on grammar and how to say a wealth of phrases in Norwegian. Both books are very similar, through they have their differences, and both books would serve you very well.
The back cover of Colloquial Norwegian says that after completing this book, “you will be at Level B1 of the Common European Framework for Languages, and at the intermediate level on the ACTFL proficiency scales.” I think this is well worth working through so that you can be at that level. I didn’t receive the CD that comes with the book, but it would benefit you to use it. You might even impress your norsk neighbors (naboer) with your fancy pronunciations (meaning you don’t sound too American and you can actually roll your R’s).
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Learning a new language is exhausting. Reading, writing, listening, recognizing, speaking – it will make you tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed. You don’t understand the road signs, you can’t tell if your neighbor is a gentleman or a shyster, and when you try to relax with some TV, even the children shows seem to be mocking you. Åse-Berit and Rolf Strandskogen are professors at the University of Oslo, Norway, and they teach Norwegian as a foreign language. Thankfully, from their experience has come a book for us foreigners (utlandinger).
IParts of Speech
Why is this book important?
Test Case: Prepositions
You don’t think much about prepositions until you have to learn another language. In Norwegian, the word “om” means “about” in English. So the phrase “Boka handler om en stor hval” would mean “The book is about a great whale.”
Yet propositions are tricky.
In English, you can sit in a chair or you can sit on a chair, but books always go in a bookcase and on a shelf.
Or, you were born in 1990 on July 4th. You wouldn’t say you were born on 1990 in July 4th.
That sounds wrong, and when you hear a foreigner mix up their prepositions you know they’re either still new to the country, or they have a ways to go in the English language (unfortunately, this fault is also found with many Americans themselves). But in order to impress your Norwegian neighbors and family, learn your prepositions (and everything else for that matter).
So what about Norwegian? The word “om” doesn’t always mean “about.”
“Jeg skal på ferie om to uker”=“I am going on vacation in two weeks”
It does not mean “I am going on vacation about two weeks.”
If you don’t know any better, hearing this in a sentence will throw you off, and you will lose precious words in the conversation leaving you wondering why everyone except for you is nodding their heads. Reading this book as you continue in your Norsk immersion will help you to nod your head and laugh right along with everyone else, and [as well as] it will help you avoid sitting in a corner alone eating the rest of the lefse at the next juletrefest.
The grammar and terms in which the book is written was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. I could actually understand the grammar the authors were explaining. This is essential in a grammar book. It is a huge help to be able to read this book and understand how the grammar works without needing a teacher to explain it to you (though if you’re living in Norway and learning Norwegian, you will probably need go to through a language course. However, reading this book will put you much farther ahead than if you began school without any prior knowledge of the language). The authors not only provide many examples, but they also provide plenty of subtle, idiomatic phrases. You’ll never need another Norwegian grammar (though others would be beneficial as well).
Section I (which is made up of 10 parts) is 169 pages. Each piece is filled with explanations, examples, and comments. Sections II-IV are only a few pages long each, but they’re essential. What goes first in a sentence? Why? Where do the adjectives go? Adverbs? Time references? All are essential to becoming a pro at reading, hearing, writing, and speaking Norwegian.
The Stranskogen’s aim has been to provide the non-Norwegian with a “simple, step-by-step presentation of the grammatical rules and systems of Norwegian” (Preface). It is a “practical guide to modern Norwegian as it is used in an every day context” (Preface). Grammar is essential to learning a foreign language, and this book is essential if you are learning on your own, if you want to be ahead in class, or if you just want to understand what your mail says. And for me, if I ever want to be able to express the gospel to anyone, it’s best to learn their mother tongue or else I”ll be just another American with wacky ideas.
After a wedding in January ’13, my friend Elliot and I drove from Tuscon, AZ, to Houma, LA in 19 hours. With no need to watch out for party vans, alligators, or drunk cajun drivers, driving through Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas quickly became a long, dead-boring journey home.
This picture above is Norway. Besides ice, mountains, and moose, Norwegian roads aren’t so scary (they’re the safest). After learning stick shift, these roads have become a little fun. What’s more, if you’re going to drive for 5 hours, many roads will keep you focused and awake while you drive.
Speaking generally, the straight roads that run throughout much of America are easy; the spine-bending roads of Norway take more focus. When it comes to reading the Bible, we tend to treat the Bible as if all doctrines and ideas (the ones we accept) are an easy straight line from Point A -> Point B.
We give the “I-can’t-believe-you-don’t-understand-my-position” argument while our readiness to pull out our “Haven’t-you-ever-read-the-Bible?” card looms in the background.
We want our interpretations to be more like Arizona’s roads than the Trollstigen (pronounce it before you drive it). We prefer simple, straight answers over nuance. Why? Because it’s easier. It requires less thinking. We can sleep better at night because we have a firm grasp on all the Bible has to say, even though when when we crack open our Bibles we still don’t understand… what it has to say. We don’t know the story or the framework, and looking at timelines and prophecy charts aren’t helping.
We must remember that reading the Bible is no easy journey. We are thousands of years removed both from the New Testament and even more so the Old Testament. These books were written by people who did not have a western mindset. They spoke differently. They argued differently. They told stories differently. They used wordplay, allusions, irony, and humor (and humor, and humor…). But interpretation takes work. Peter Leithart explains how reading and interpreting the Bible is like catching a joke:
I tell a joke, and you get it. I include a veiled allusion to, say, [“Shrek”] in a casual conversation, and you catch it. Whenever the hearer “gets it,” he establishes a sometimes thrilling bond with the speaker. They exchange a mental wink.
This is how revelation works, too. God speaks and writes, and the more we “get” the inside jokes, the more inside we get. Having the mind of Christ is like sharing a joke that outsiders never understand. The Spirit who gives the mind of Christ is, after all, the Spirit of joy, the Mirth-Master, who makes fisherman preachers sound like early-morning drunks. The Church is not merely an “interpretive” or “hermeneutical” community, it’s a communion in humor.
Proper interpretation of Scripture ought to lead us not to think too much of ourselves, but to know God more. It should lead us to love God and serve each other, even to those with whom we disagree.
If a Christian commits suicide, would they go to hell?
Can I believe in evolution and still be a Christian?
Why should I evangelize if God is sovereign?
Why should I pray if God is sovereign?
Will there be a rapture? w
What’s happening in Revelation, and why is it terrifying?
Explain this whole Trinity thing to me again.
Are spiritual gifts still around today?
Is Genesis 1-11 historical?
Is Adam real?
Now that I’m a Christian, I don’t need to read the Law, right?
How old is the earth?
Where did cain get his wife?
Did Jesus die for all people everywhere?
Do Christians need to observe the Sabbath?
How much of this really affects me every day? Is it enough to know the gospel; Jesus Christ and him crucified?
This isn’t to chuck anxiety-stones at your life. I have opinions on these questions; some I hold to firmly, and others are high up in the air. This isn’t to say that there are no answers, but that we ought not play so hard-and-fast with the biblical text that we break fellowship with those who interpret a text differently than us.
“But that takes too much work.”
God gives us work not to keep us busy, but that we may work alongside him. God created, and Adam was a “son of God” (Lk 3.38). Adam and Eve pro-created, and Seth was a “son in [Adam’s] own likeness” (Gen 5.3). God showed his authority by naming the light and darkness “Day” and “Night.” Adam named the animals (and Eve too, but they would work in tandem with each other). God laid out the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were to fruitfully multiply and expand the garden as their family grew, teaching their children to glorify God until the earth would be “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2.14; cf. Num 14.21; Ps 72.19).
That clearly hasn’t happened yet, but God has deemed us responsible to work for and with him. Working hard and working well as Christians glorifies God before the world. Working hard to understand the Bible glorifies God as we understand the one who loves his children as he loves Christ (Jn 17.26).
It isn’t enough to know about God. We must know him. Facts may help you win Sunday morning Bible Trivia, but mere facts don’t tell us about God’s character as he works with his people. How do those facts fits within the larger portrait of God’s story? How do we discover the Bible’s storyline, and how can we use it to make sense of both our own individual lives and our corporate life with the rest of the Church?
How does Numbers 8 help me to love Christ more? How do I find God’s character in Nehemiah 4? What does Lamentations tell me about God’s mercy and patience? What, if anything, does Isaiah 36-39 tell me about Isaiah’s message that Yahweh is King? Does it matter whether or not I ever read Obadiah? (At least I read Jonah). How does Revelation teach me how to interpret the world around me? Or to help those who suffer? What does it mean to be in Christ, and how am I different because of it?
Reading, studying, and knowing the Bible isn’t driving down a straight two-lane highway in a Tesla. It’s driving up, down, and around a one-ish lane mountainous road in Norway in standard transmission in an old jalopy. In the snow. With a moose.* Inside the car.
The Bible is difficult, and we should be humble over our interpretation of the many texts we hold in our hands. We should continue in the truths of the Gospel and study to know God through his Word, even if there appears to be no immediate applicational value. Just because we didn’t “get” anything out of what we read, or because what we learned seems to be purely information, it doesn’t mean we’ve wasted our time. All that we read helps to reinforce the broad storyline of Scripture, its deep treasures, and the unfathomable love of our faithful King and Savior.
At no point am I suggesting we must sit around and read theological books all day. While I enjoy reading, I can’t (nor want to) read every biblical book and commentary out on the shelves. We have jobs, hobbies, and off-time. But we must be willing to discuss matters without treating each other as imbeciles. There are core Gospel issues, secondary issues, and the rest. Don’t berate someone just because they don’t see things eye-to-eye with you.
You’ll never know everything in this life, but you can still enjoy the view.
Prekestolen (The Preacher’s Pulpit)
*I’ve seen only one moose in Norway thus far. I saw it last summer while driving home from Oslo.