Monday, December 22, 2008

Grace and mercy following me

There is something to be said about grace and mercy. I truly give it credit for helping me through my first semester. Cause it really wasn't me! I'm glad to say I ended it -- a week ago -- with two A's and a B- (you know this had to be Old Testament! There was that time I went on that reading strike, remember? Never really did quite recover. When you lose ground here, it's almost impossible to regain your footing. You just pick up from where you are.)

Just four short months ago, I was wondering if I would even make it through. My head was dizzy from trying to remember the two accounts of the creation and flood stories and how they relate to the Ancient Near Eastern accounts, the make up of the Holiness Code, the Sinai and Davidic covenants and which Biblical scholar said what about Joshua and the battle of Jericho and whether the walls of the city really did come tumbling down. The teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, Walter Wink and his perspective on the Powers and their place within the Domination System fought for space in my brain as I struggled with doubt, battled insecurities about my intellect, my writing ability (if you can believe it) and waivered in my faith.

I sat in classes not knowing what the hell people were saying, barely slept at night and produced papers, almost consistently, at the 11th hour. And even now, I wonder if anything really stuck. Some say it'll make sense by my third year. Let's hope so!

In the midst of all of that, I've attempted to make sense of where my new found ministry -- the homeless and destitute -- will lead me. I question how my experience there will manifest itself in my overall ministry. I wonder if I should already be designing some sort of ministry. And I battle with feelings of angst and disappointment at the current systems which seems to perpetuate what I see rather than offer solid solutions. The encounters prompt me to want to act. Maybe because I've come to realize they could be me. Maybe because I realize they -- at some point in their life -- was someone like me. They just fell on hard times. In seminary we recognize these calls to action as an epiphany of recruitment -- the point at which you feel compelled to respond to a need of humanity. And lately, my sensitivity meter has been so keen that it's had me nearly crying in Publix at the site of deli workers tossing hours old Rotisserie chicken in the trash.

Now that I think about it, maybe that's what part of me being here is all about -- learning how to recognize the voice of the world calling for help and me being prepared to respond. Maybe it's not really all about which stories in the Bible are fables, sages or short stories, a narrative or whether the event happened in the postexilic or exilic period. Maybe all of this is really about the overall ministry experience, a preparation for what is to come. I used to think I knew where God was leading me, now I'm not so sure. But after what I witnessed this semester, I know at least grace and mercy will be on the heels of my tennis shoes.

I'm counting on it to be there when I stand in that pulpit on January 4 in the Bahamas. Cause at this point, only God knows what I'm going to say.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Breezing through the night . . .

People think when you're in school you have time on your hands. You really don't, but I took some time last night to do something out of the ordinary -- at least for me. In the late night hour, around 10:30 p.m. (after I left work) I took off on a motorscooter with one of my seminary friends flying . . . or riding high through the streets of downtown Atlanta and it felt GREAT!!! There I was in the cold of the night making my way, rounding curves down Ponce de Leon when I thought to myself, "I am actually riding on the back of this thing on my way to I have no idea where." For a moment, I thought about the reading assignment I had to complete for my 9:30 a.m. class and the radio interview I needed to listen to. I thought about how this had to be one of the craziest things I've done. And in the next moment, the thoughts vanished. This ride, which was supposed to last 45 minutes turned into a 2 1/2 hour adventure. We stopped by a place to watch the rest of the Cleveland Browns football game and the Portland basketball game. We later drove to Barley's to shoot two games of pool (I'm pissed that I lost!) before jumping back on our bike to ride out again.

It was a freedom I haven't experienced in a while since being here. For just those few hours, I forgot about the responsibilities, the obligations, the late night hour and even the cold breeze of the dark night and just lived. For just a few hours, as James Baldwin suggested in his novel Fire Next Time, I took notice of what everybody else was doing and went in the opposite direction.

And it felt sooooo good!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama win means . . .

Here is what I know for sure now that Obama is President:

That today, I ceased to be invisible because when the world looks at Barak and Michelle Obama, they will see me.

That today, I ceased to be irrelevant.

That today, my voice is no longer inaudible.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Just another day in midterm hell . . .

It's October. It's mid-term season. I've had even less sleep than I was getting -- so you know I'm worn down and a little cranky. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. this morning to write a 5-8 page paper for my Unlearning Violence, Learning Non-Violence Class. I had to critique a movie that had elements of violence and write a lesson plan from the movie that I could use with youth. I chose Save the Last Dance. Although I have seen it probably more than 20 times, watching it for critque is different. I found myself falling asleep on it last night, hence the decision to get a few hours of sleep and wake up at 3:30 to get the work done.

And that's what I did. Turned in the paper, via email by 9 a.m. It was due at 9:30 a.m. I didn't make the class, but probably wouldn't have stayed awake through it anyway. I did drive all the way to the campus to hand over the hard copy only to realize it didn't save to my thumb drive.
Thanks to the inventors of email!

My mid-term Old Testament test is behind me and I'm still wondering what were all of those questions and essays were on that exam! Let's just say, I've been praying seriously for God's grace and mercy. Not sure if my explaination of the Holiness Code will hold up. (Hey Lord, it's me down here, don't forget to look out for a sister!)

Now, it's on to paper #2, the 8-10 page literature critical essay. Still got to finish the second book for that one. But that won't be happening tonight. I'm going to sleep.

Such is the life of a seminary student.
Thank goodness mid-terms are almost over.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

1. I've realized something: It's not a good idea to have me or anybody flip the lights in class to watch any documentary of the sort. Why? Cause I'm going to sleep. Never fails these days, lights off = me knocked out. The sleep demon falls on me kinda like it used to in church -- right when the preacher begins to preach and by the time the message is over I'm fully awake. I probably need to have an exorcism!

2. Remember when I said seminary is just a microcosm of the larger world we live in? Well, I just learned how much like the world it is. Can you believe one of my peers popped a brewski during one of his classes and another told me how she would down glasses of Sherry before getting into her theological discussions? Wow! I mean I eat snacks in my class all the time, but I've never thought to bring a Smirnoff to go with them. Hmmmm.

3. I'm off of my reading strike now. For a few weeks there, I just stopped reading. No reason other than I just felt like it! Now this week I'm paying for it. But hey, sometimes you just gotta make a stand.

4. I gave my first speech at Emory last Tuesday and it went extremely well. I almost cried and so did the audience. I even got a possible internship out of it. Seems Harvest UMC in Bradenton is interested in having me intern there this coming summer. I'm praying about it. And in the meantime, I still am hoping to land a spot on this evangelism tour to the Bahamas in January.

5. I ended up getting an "A" on this paper I wrote for Urban Ministries. I didn't think I did that good of an analysis of the book we had to read. But I'm certainly going to take it. Now if I could just land a similar grade on this 8 -10 page critical literary essay due next week.

6. I found my hats!!!!!!! Hallelujah! My hair is a mess and I'm still looking for a hairdresser.

7. I hate I'm missing my homecoming in Charlotte this weekend. Oh well, I guess Morehouse will have to do.

8. Since when did convenience stores sell white tee's, thermal socks and shoes and boots? I remember there was a time you could buy a pair of pantyhose, which was great for the woman who had a run in her stockings on the way to church, but a whole line of shoes is a new phenomenon. And sitting out on display like in a shoe store at that. I went to get gas at the Texaco the other day and noticed this sign on the front door advertising shoes and boots on sale for $19.99. Only in Atlanta. I wonder if this is just in Lithonia.

9. I haven't hit the club scene in a while, but I'm sure dancing it up in chapel these days. I'm performing in the morning and for this dance, I need stamina. Running and steps are part of the routine. Pray for me.

10. Next Tuesday, mid-term exam in Old Testament. What is a suzerainty treaty again?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pushed to the forefront

I just got one of the biggest compliments Saturday -- a member of the Uhuru Dance Company, here asked me if I would consider joining the dance troupe. Needless to say, I was blown away. I mean, this was my second class and it's not like I was trying to bring attention to myself. I was actually hanging in the back, trying to get back into dancing regularly, be more of an observer than anything. But the invite brought a few things to mind -- that's it's not really neccessary for us to do the work of bringing attention to ourselves or the hard work we do. God, in his own, way, will put us out front and introduce us to the right people at the right time.

That same hanging back I had attempted to do in that dance class was the same thing I have been trying to do at Candler, but to no avail. It seems as though people have been seeking me out to become a participant in this, that or the other. So what I thought would be a year of getting acclimated to being back in school is turning out to be a year of leadership building. I'm now a member of the Sister Circle Coordinating Committee, a member of the Candler Women Coordinating Council, a participant in the chapel's dance ministry, the black student caucus dance ministry and a member of the intercessory prayer team. And this doesn't include the ministry I'm building at M.U.S.T Ministries, the homeless shelter where I minister and council residents every Tuesday. (Whew, that's a lot, particularly when you see it in print!)

My aunt says it's Proverbs 18:16 being fulfilled: "A man's gift makes room for him and will bring him before great men." Maybe. I am speaking at a banquet Tuesday night to members of the committee that gave me my scholarship. I'm told about 100 people -- that I should get to know -- will be there. I am honored that I am among those asked to speak and share the story of my journey to seminary.

Wish me well. They gave me 3-minutes. And anybody who knows me, knows talking for only 3 minutes will definitely be a challenge.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

God visited Room 252 today . . .

I just experienced one of the most emotional chapel services today since I've been here. I mean it was one of those services where I just wanted to Shout "JESUS!!!!!" from the top of my lungs and run and jump up and down. The spirit was just that heavy, but I held back. My tears didn't. For a few moments, my eyes were like a running faucet. I just couldn't seem to turn them off. And we weren't even in the chapel today. We were in the lecture hall where I take Old Testament and that was the strange part. I felt God there more than any other time I've been in chapel. (Now, I don't necessarily feel him in Old Testament, but he was hanging out in the room today.)
I felt God through the liturgies, through the confessional prayers recited openly and through the singing -- even those in languages I did not understand, but knew were being shared with the same God I serve.

And the good thing about it was I wasn't the only one feeling what I felt. In talking to my other sisters following the service, they too, expressed their urge to jump and shout and call on the name of Jesus in foreign tongues. They too experienced a deeper, more intimate worship with Jesus today.

I think we all agree we needed it. I know we felt better after it, lighter and less burdened.

I hope that won't be the last of those classroom services! Who knows, next time, I just may break out into a full sprint or at least a shouting dance. Let's hope when I do, I don't scare my Anglo brothers and sisters or worse knock them down and run them over!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

1. Is it just me or does Tuesday's come by really fast these days? Oh, well, now it's here and as usual I'm wondering what to say . . . Oh yeah, I choreographed an African dance piece for chapel today and while it went well, the heavy breathing afterwards reminded me that I'm definitely 37.

2. Speaking of African Dance, I finally found a spot Saturday to get my drum and dance fix on -- I'm hanging out with the Uhuru Dancers in downtown Decatur. If you get a chance, drop by sometime on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., I can get you a pass for a $1 class. What workout can you get for $1? The best thing is that I met a former Tallahassee resident who I used to dance with. I guess I do know a lot of people . . .

3. Got my reflection paper back from my Urban Ministries class and happy to say I got a 4 out of 5, or a "B". I was supposed to do a critical analysis on Intimacy and Mission, the book written by my professor. I got a B because I spoke more on my convictions and didn't include enough information on his book and how his research formed my thoughts. I thought I did a great job throwing in comments from M.L.K. Jr.s comments from a A Letter for A Birmingham Jail. You can bet I won't be making that mistake again -- professor/author work trumps M.L.K. Jr. insight any day!

4. First gas was $3.79, then within a two-hour period, it dropped to $3.69 today. Maybe by week's end, we'll be below $3.50! A girl and her gas-guzzling truck can only hope.

5. Okay, how crazy am I? A friend and I went to Atlantic Station Friday on the MARTA after classes to hang out at the Cheesecake Bistro. We didn't know any other way to get there other than walk across the 17th street bridge. I found out on Saturday morning a shuttle runs to Atlantic Station every few minutes. Now, I understand why people thought we were tourists and gave us a map of Atlanta.

6. When we got there, I got this great art piece, "Eargasim" by David Patterson. And it was $5. You know I love GREAT DEALS! Brotherman said "Economic times are hard, I'm trying to get all I can get!" His pieces are done entirely by pen. Check him out at or email him at

7. How do good people turn evil? What transformations are at work when two 10-year-old boys kidnap a 2-year-old from a shopping center and kill him in cold blood? (That actually happened in England) Those are the questions we are pondering this week in my Unlearning Violence and Learning Non-violent Strategies this week. The Lucifer Effect is the book we're reading to gain some insight.

8. Got two more days until I get my Old Testament test back. Just learned about 60 people got 100s. I know I wasn't one of them. But I'm still hopeful for an "A".

9. Still haven't managed to find my hats in that storage unit. You know I'm going crazy, right? Me, without my hats, just isn't normal. Besides, it's getting cooler by the day.
10. I'm going to bed. It's already after 2 in the morning.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

1. Of course this had to make the top Ten on Tuesday: My house sold, y'all!!!!!! In less than 30 days and before it was even put on the market. That's right. At 1 p.m. today in Tallahassee, 5500 Green Meadows no longer belonged to this chick. Just after I signed the papers earlier this month to release it to be sold, owners put a bid on the house, although there were at least four other houses on my street that had floor plans like mine with signs in the yard -- some had been on the market for at least a year. How do you explain that? If you're standing on faith, you just say, "That's God and that's how he works!" If only I had listened to him earlier when he told me to put on the market. So, what's the lesson for the day: When God tells you to do something, get like Nike and "just do it!"

2. I felt peace when I went into the Old Testament test today and peace when I came out. That has to mean something, right?

3. There is no way to read all these assignments and read them fully. So, I've stopped trying.

4. How is that I moved to a state that has no water and no gas?

5. Speaking of gas, somebody needs to send me a care package -- no food, just gas, please!

6. While we're on the gas theme, it was almost rare tonight to not see lines at the gas pump. I guess we're back on the mend.

7. I'm bewildered, excited and frustrated by this journey through seminary. I think they call this adventure.

8. If words could flow from my pen like Donald Shockley I would be one bad writer and storyteller. His work just lets me know I still have a ways to go.

9. I still haven't figured out what was going on with the dizziness on Monday. It felt like my equilibrium was off. I'll blame it on being in seminary. Seminary gets the blame for everything these days.

10. I'm feeling this Bahamas travel seminar sponsored by the World Methodist Evangelism Institute in January is calling my name. I'll work on the essay this weekend.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What was I called into?

I struggled earlier this week not so much about whether I was called, but wrestled with what I was called into. And on Monday, I wasn't so sure I could endure this pursuit of my Master's of Divinity degree. Yes, the work, the theological concepts thrown at you and just the transition into this particular graduate program is just that heavy. Or at least it can be, particularly because it is on a much higher level of any graduate program. Here, you're trying to make intellectual sense of one who can not be fully explained within the contexts of the human mind.

I mean, he calls himself, "I am." How do you wrap your brain around that?
You don't!

Of course the thought crossed my mind to maybe leave the program -- but only for a split second. I mean where was I going to go? It's not like I could go back to my old life, lest I lead one of unfulfillment. At the time, I just felt that I had to get the hell up out of here. But like the child running away from home with his little sack thrown behind his back, who only travels as far as the curb in front of his house, I too had no other place to run, save to the curb and stairwells of Candler.

So here I sit, pondering and praying without ceasing for the Lord to bring me through. I'm only about a month in and got three years to do.

But I was reminded last night and today of what it really means to accept this call. First and foremost, it means releasing my will for my life to do a greater work that only God knows I will do. It means availing myself to the journey and what it will reveal. And it is a calling I must submit to daily as I'm subject to waiver back and forth on whether I am willing to go the distance.

Today I am, but there are other days, I'm not so sure. And that's because the burden is so heavy and the responsibility so great. I'm caught in that space as one theologian describes, the confusing nowhere of in-between.

But around Candler they say this is normal.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What I'm thankful for today . . .

* Friends who don't even really know you, but notice when your spirit is broken and give you their legs to stand on.

* The random card from a friend that says, "I believe in you!" just at the time when you're having trouble beliving in yourself.

* An Almighty God who delivers and showers favor at will.

* Family who steps in to take you in when you have nowhere else to go.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What I meant to say on Tuesday . . .

1. A funky $17 faux black leather crop jacket and $10 hobo bag is the perfect cure for Old Testament blues.

2. I tried out my first hairdresser on Saturday and let me say, just because it's Atlanta doesn't mean that every hairdresser got skills. That visit was another stress altogether.

3. I experienced my first worship service in the park Sunday and I'm still on a high. The morning was crisp, the praise team was singing and jamming and we were all up and praising while the Mallard Ducks were swimming on the pond in the background, creating a scene reminiscent of the one in my First Bible Story Book of how the Garden of Eden looked. The only thing missing from the service was a good old fashioned baptism. I just knew the pastor was going to have us don some white sheets and head wraps and start singing, "Take me to the water. Take me to the water. Take me to the water . . . to be baptized!" We had a cookout instead. That was great because I love a good barbecue!

4. I think there is a theme emerging now that I'm here in seminary . . . and it's always centered around food. Hmmm

5. Kudos to the cute guy at the gas station who helped me get closer to the pump. I could have waited an entire hour for gas instead of 45 minutes and missed the season premier of "Hero's". I hope I can take at least an hour out to see my favorite show this season.

6. I'm finding seminary is a cure for many things -- like television addictions. I don't know what Nikki and Victor are doing on the Young and Restless, Stephanie and Eric on Bold and the Beautiful or Clark Kent on Superman or who Tyra is cutting from America's Top Model. Somebody needs to give me an update or better yet. . . I'll be paying a visit next week to the woman in Emory's Student Union. She at least has the soap opera update.

7. I noticed I'm becoming one of those stressed Atlanta drivers, who either forgets to use or uses her turn signal too late. (I gotta change that quick!) The traffic here just begs for you to grip the wheel and hold on for the ride -- especially at 6 a.m. in the morning. And don't let there be construction going on. . .

8. For a young lady who didn't want to be assigned to the homeless shelter to do ministry work (I wanted to go to the women's prison), I'm now finding my way and niche at M.U.S.T Ministries in Marietta. And I'm loving my assignment. The ladies and I are having a ball talking and praying with each other, so much so, they want me to start a support group for them. So, in two weeks, every Tuesday night, we'll be lighting our candles, sipping our tea and having real talk as we kick off our Waiting to Exhale Women's Support group.

9. My first Old Testament test is coming up on Tuesday.

10. The sound of the African drums are calling my spirit. Let's hope I can make the jam session on Saturday. Still need to find a new lapa. But my feet are ready to dance!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Seminary 101

When you tell people you're going to seminary, inevitably the question comes up regarding what it's like. Well, let me tell you what it isn't: all these spiritual, God-loving holy rollers walking around with Bibles in their hand -- well, actually they do, but everybody's got a Bible in seminary. We need them for class. But it's like I said a couple of days ago, the study of the Bible ain't nothing like Wednesday night Bible study or Sunday school. Scholars study it from a historical and literary point of view. It's a piece of work that theologians have picked apart and given commentary on. Some you may agree with. A lot I don't.

And seminary, well, it's the place where some of those theologians are born.

This place is really a microcosm of what we see in the much larger society. Unfortunately, what you see happening in the world, happens between these walls. I say it's unfortunate, but I have to reconcile that everybody doesn't come to seminary with the same intentions. Those of us who are here aren't perfect, but definitely in need of change. We're heterosexual, homosexual, transgendered, black, white, African, Asian, Latino, a melting pot of the face of America. Some of us know God and have a relationship with him and others of us simply know about him. Some of us are searching for God here. And many of us are grappling with this concept called faith -- trying to gain it, trying not lose it or trying to build upon it.

I'm going for the latter and let me tell you it's hard.

There is a running joke that seminary is really a cemetery and I guess in a way it kind of is. Old doctrines that you may have grown up with can die here. You die here -- at least levels of you. But new levels of you can be born here too. For me, this place is becoming a place of transformation. My theology, whatever it was, whatever it is, is deconstructed daily only to be reconstructed into something -- and not necessarily in a bad way. God is dealing with my biases here. I find myself meeting him in the most unlikely places and seeing him in the most unlikely faces.

Seminary is challenging my beliefs and definitely rattling my faith. But more importantly, it's pushing me to seek God even more. It's a constant reminder that the journey through this place isn't easy.

Three years. Three years.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

1. Who doesn't love getting care packages? One of my best friends from Tallahassee just sent me one on Monday. This is what showed up in it . . . this cool T-shirt! And in my favorite color . . . HOT PINK!

2. I think I should be throwing a party or something. Or at least be in line for a certificate or something; I just hit the 100 Facebook friends mark . . and I'm glad to say that I actually know many of them personally. This from the person who didn't even want to join Facebook and asked, "How can a person have 200-plus friends?" Wow, just to think I'm half-way there.

3. Hey, it seems I got another speaking engagement . . . the Dean of Admissions asked me to speak about my journey to seminary at a scholarship banquet next month. Crazy me told the dean I would get back with her after I checked my schedule. You know I must have been sleep deprived that day. Who tells the dean they'll think about it?

4. How about there are 55 people in the U.S. with my name. That's what says. When it comes to my first name, some 70,187 people are named Juana and 238,027 have my last name. Although people I've met lately find "Juana" unique, apparently, it is the 656th most popular name in the country, more popular than my last name, "Jordan" -- it's the 110th most popular last name. How many people have your name?

5. Can I just say God always deliver and right on time. How about I officially started my work-study last week (5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and had no idea how I would eat in the evenings since I couldn't leave my job. It so happened one of my classmates shared earlier that day he liked to cook, but always cooked too much food. When he learned that I was working a late work-study shift, he bought me dinner . . . seafood jambalaya, grilled corn on the cob and snacks!

6. The next night the Korean Student Association and the Graduate School students had events and invited me to eat with them. The scripture does say, "And my God shall provide all my needs . . . "

7. Studying the Old Testament in seminary ain't nothing like Bible study or Sunday school class.

8. The Bible story about manna from heaven is true. Just today, the Center for Ethics threw this open house luncheon, right at the time I was thinking, I have no money for lunch and I can't get back home in time to eat. I get a text about the luncheon and then some friends come to drag me off to the open house. "Give me this day my daily bread . . . "
9. Homeless residents have a new face in my mind now that I'm interacting with them every Tuesday night -- they look and sound just like me.

10.I've decided to officially become part of the Candler praise dance team. My debut in Cannon Chapel didn't go off without a hitch. . . I stood frozen in one spot when I should have been running and praising throughout the chapel to "Go Down Moses" but thank-goodness God covers a multitude of (mistakes)!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Am I my sister's keeper?

I sat amongst the N-word this weekend -- at Candler's Women in Theology Women's Retreat, if you can believe it. How ironic that I would take up residence with this word up in the North Georgia mountains, where I am told it's a frequent guest. I'm still in shock, moreso that it would show up at a women's retreat -- with an invitation at that. It knocked on the door late Friday night right in the middle of story-telling hour.

There we were sitting around on the floor in our pj's listening to an audio of an interview from a woman who is a part of Candler's oral history project. The project chronicles the lives of Candler alumnae and community leaders in an effort to preserve their stories and those of other influential women. The facilitator of the story-telling hour wanted us to hear some story of the "red apple." Don't ask me what the red apple story is about, because all I remember hearing was the "N" word spilling out of this woman's mouth on the computer . At least that's what I thought I heard, but didn't want to think I heard. The word was never put in context, nor were we warned that the language from the interview might be somewhat jarring and insensitive and offense. It just showed up, knocking us across the head like a baseball bat.


Immediately, those of us of the browner, darker persuasion looked at each other as if to say, "I know I didn't hear what I think I heard." No one said a word. Again, we didn't think we really heard the word uttered, especially in this setting. I mean, it was a Christian-related retreat meant to bring us closer together as women of Candler -- not divide us. This was the place where we should have felt free to share our stories, share insight into who we are. Surely divisive and insensitive language would not be found in this place.

It wasn't until later -- around midnight -- when my other classmates and I retired to our bedroom that we began to dissect the conversation: "Hey, did you all hear the word nigger come out of that woman's mouth?"

"Did she say that, " I asked. "I thought I heard it, but wasn't sure. I was in the back and wasn't as close in as you all were."
"Oh, no, that's what she said," said one of my roommates.
"Well, we need to address this," she said. "We can't let this go or they will think that this is okay."
"Well, let's put it on the floor in the morning at breakfast," I said.

And that's what we did -- had a good old fashioned as we say in the black vernacular, "Come to Jesus meeting". For nearly an hour, we shared with the rest of the group our thoughts on the word and the dehumanizing legacy it carries. We confessed to being instantly disengaged from the activity the night before and our reluctance to re-engage. But I must admit, what baffled me and others was the fact that there was a discussion over whether the clip should be used. So it wasn't an oversight.

You know when you have to ask a question like that, that's the answer. It's like when a woman questions whether her skirt is too short. If you have to ask the question, again, that's the answer. "Yes, the skirt is too short."

In preparing for my Old Testament class, I was just reading about the story of Cain and Abel. Cain asks, after being confronted by the Lord for killing his brother, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The Lord responds, "Yes!" We are all our brother's keeper, which means we have a responsibility to one another. And part of that responsibility means that not only are we our brother's keeper, but held accountable for the way we treat and relate to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

This weekend was eye-opening of a much larger problem that exists and must be eradicated within the walls of Candler. My hope from this weekend is that the message was heard and internalized. My hope is that -- as a friend of mine shared -- there was a realization that our liberation is bound up in each other. It was a good opportunity to engage in honest dialogue and set the stage for improved racial equality and relations. We can no longer act like the Cain's of the world, pleading ignorance to what's going on around us and being oblivious to the effect our actions will have on someone.

We are bound as Christ followers to become our sister's keeper. Isn't that what ministry is all about

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One of those days . . .

There are days I wake-up tearfully happy (although I rarely get much sleep now) and in awe of how God is moving in my life and how blessed I am to be his. Today is one of those days.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Good first day

First day of work wasn't so bad. It was quiet. Not too many interruptions. The memorial service started. It was over in an hour, but somehow I still didn't get any studying done . . . you know I had to be talking to somebody, right?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ten on Tuesday . . .3 days later

1. I'm beginning to quickly learn that Candler is all about food . . . providing free food at that. Just about every other day, some office or department or organization is having a free food event. Today, it was Candler's Opportunities Fair in Rudolph Courtyard. On Thursday it was the Religious Education department and Thursday night it was the Baptist barbecue. I had been planning to attend that. Hate I missed it!

2. My senior advisor says it's actually possible to have a "life" in the middle of the mountainous reading assignments. We'll see. This coming week, I have 153 pages to read for one class, 22 for another (that's light) and 166 for Interpretation of the Old Testament. And that isn't exactly pleasure reading. That's not including a paper I have to write for Thinking Through Theological Education. Sorry, but new girl isn't seeing this "life" yet!

3. I've landed a job. I start work on Saturday as an assistant manager of Cannon Chapel, where we Candler students hang-out between classes, have our church services and a few classes. Great thing is that it's a perfect work-study job, I get to actually study on the job.

4. When I shared with my Candler classmates that I had taken African dance classes for years, I didn't think they would contact me so soon. How about I'm dancing -- or at least supposed to -- in Thursday's chapel service to Go Down Moses. Now if I can just get rid of the nervousness. Dancing in the club is nothing like dancing for the Lord.

5. Okay, I'm really becoming a free food junkie now. I've just looked at my calendar and realized I'm scheduled to attend quite a few luncheon events this coming week. Then on next Saturday I'll be headed to a women's retreat in North Georgia. And that's FREE too, including my transportation there! I love this school.

6. I'm told the life of a seminarian is similar to that of Christ -- the first year you're cruxcified, second year you die and in the third year, you resurrect from the dead.

7. My truck put me out the other day. The battery had no juice. But Emory has a full-time employee who's job is to jumpstart batteries, unhook locked keys from your car and give damsels in distress auto advice 101. He even found a battery for me. Have I mentioned how much I love this place!

8. Okay, so you know I'm missing my kickboxing class, right? And my class schedule and responsibilities right now seem to conflict with workout classes I would like to take at Emory or anywhere else for that matter. So I guess in the meantime, I'll just have to take the steps. But I really don't have a choice. That's all Emory has here.

9. I'm feeling Sweet Potato pancakes for Saturday.

10. Why didn't anybody tell me the one must-have school item is flip flops? After the first day of orientation, my feet let me know quickly, cute heels are not welcome here. I've been sporting flip flops ever since. In fact, I see Khol's has some cute ones on sale. I think I'll be dropping by there on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

But I haven't got my MDiv yet . . .

If another person asks me if I'm thinking about pursuing my Ph.D, I'm going to scream!
Okay, it's out now and I do feel better.

Classes hadn't even got started good and people are inquiring about whether I'm lining up classes to support my pursuit of a doctorate. I look at them with that wide panicky deer-eyed look and think, "What? Ph.D. Can I get a chance to get my head wrapped around this Master of Divinity first?"

A few years ago, going back to school wasn't even part of the plan, let alone, going to seminary. I'm still in disbelief that I'm here. But God ordered my steps this way. I didn't make the decision, God did.

I just shared what I felt was purposed in my heart -- to write books that would inspire and heal and talk to people about how they could find liberty in Jesus. And God said I needed to go to seminary to prepare for that kind of work. I needed to know that I know that I know what I'm talking about.

See, for me, this is a step-by footstep process. I'm literally walking by faith with few details of what else lies ahead. And right now, all I can see is the next three years at Emory. Everything else is black. This is the way God deals with me. He knows that for some of us, he can't reveal the entire picture because, like he says in Habakkuk 1:5 "For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe though it were told to you."

If God had showed me 5 years ago I would be going to seminary at Emory University, I would have laughed hysterically in disbelief. Kind of like Sarah did when she heard that she and Abraham, who were nearly in their 90s, were having a baby. In fact, when people shared their thoughts with me that I should do that, I laughed at them too. (Get this though: when I was a freshman in college on Thanksgiving break, my aunt took me to Emory University to see the campus. I mentioned under my breath that if I ever decided to pursue a Master's degree -- which I didn't plan on as a broadcast journalism major -- I would go to Emory. I loved the campus just that much. But I didn't remember that until I after I got accepted.)

Funny how God works.

So, I don't know if a Ph.D is in the plan or not. I'll have to ask God about that. Or better yet, why don't you do it. Maybe he'll talk to you, cause he ain't said nothing to me yet.

Can the church say, "Praise the Lord!!!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Back to the beginning . . .

I just realized I never really introduced this blog: "Goin' Broke . . . for the Lord." So let me go back to the beginning and first let me say, "Welcome". Welcome to my new life as a seminary student at Emory University Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Ga. and a disciple in training -- at least a more informed one.

Goin' Broke. . . for the Lord is my way of saying "I'm sold out for Jesus" and it's my take on the call Jesus gave to the four fisherman he called as disciples in Luke 5. When Jesus called, they left everything behind and followed him, believing in a better expected end. I've pretty much done that, taken the risk to leave behind what is comfortable, i.e. my job as a journalist, my home, my friends, to pursue something better. (Although, I wasn't so quick to obey like the fisherman.) It took God more than a few phone calls to get me to accept his invitation. I'm kind of hard-headed.

But now that I'm here, Goin' Broke is where I will chronicle my three-year journey through my theological studies. I'll laugh here, smile here, vent here, definitely cry here and pull out my hair here. But I'll be here, as often as I can, pulling back the curtains for you to take a full view into my world.

So hop aboard the trolley and take a ride with me. This journey promises to be quite an adventure.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sisterhood of the traveling Bible toters

I was glad Saturday finally came. I had been looking forward to it for the past two days. It marked my first sister circle fellowship -- an opportunity to meet some of my other Candler sistahs who have gone through and are going through what I'm about to go through, starting on Tuesday. It was a chance for the new to fellowship with the old and begin friendships that we hope will see us throughout our ministries. And what a beautiful sight to behold -- nine of my black sisters who are on a mission to change the world. I felt honored to be in the circle.

Of course you know women and food go hand-in-hand. That's the way we conversate and relate. And we had some of the best at The Flying Biscuit, this quaint restaurant just outside of "Little Five Points" where lines of patrons waiting to get in are commonplace. Let me tell you, the food is just that good! And the price is right. In fact, it's my new best eatery. (I suggest you order the sweet potato pancakes, although you pretty much can't go wrong with anything on the menu.) And I'll forever remember it as the place where the formation these budding friendships began.

That was really the hope for the meeting. That it would create bonds that would last far beyond our days at seminary. That it would be the formation of that support system that we, especially as black women, need in a ministerial world that can be often racist and sexist and just downright lonely.

Anybody who knows me, know I love my girlfriend fellowships. In Tallahassee, we had girls night and similar to Saturday morning,(although minus the alcohol, or drinkypoo's as my best friend would call them) it was the time when we would let our hair down and talk about the issues of the day, our fears, concerns and successes. And inevitably, the conversation would always go back to a discussion about our faith, lack of it or struggle with it.

And on Saturday the conversation was no different. We giggled, we laughed, shared some of our convictions, educated and encouraged one another and loved on each other. In that space of time, we just were -- not necessarily the sisterhood of traveling Bible toter's, but women. Girlfriends. Sisters.

And it was a beautiful thing!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Steals and Deals in the bookstore . . . Not!

Is it possible I answered the wrong call. Maybe I really should have been a textbook bookstore owner, since that seems to be who's making profits these days. Let me just say, for this journalist-turned seminary student who now looks to the grace and mercy of others to provide occasional free meals, the job of textbook bookstore owner is looking quite appealing.
(Okay, I just broke a commandment, there. Old Testament 101: Coveting is not allowed.)
I need to repent. And I need to stop the hating and be glad somebody's getting paid in this economy.

Let me say this again, the textbook bookstores are making money. Cokesbury is faring quite well.
They made $100 off of me today. And that was just for a few books for one class. Can you believe that? ONE CLASS! I still have at least three more classes to buy books for -- all of which require four to five books.

All week, I had been avoiding Cokesbury, acting like somehow these books would magically appear on my bookshelf. I would see my classmates leaving Cokesbury lugging at least two of those blue, white handled shopping bags. You remember, like the ones we used to get in the department stores at Christmas time. And I would say to myself, "There is no way, I'm buying all those books." At least not at one time. I decided to use the same strategy I use in buying gas -- purchase it in small increments so that it doesn't come as much of blow as if I had spent $60 at one time.

I did manage to find three books for my Old Testament class on my cousin's bookshelf. Hallelujah!! (Let's just hope the differences between a 1st and 2nd edition are minor. I would hate to buy the Introduction to the Old Testament for just a few words or sentences that have been added or deleted.)

When I was in undergrad, book prices didn't really phase me as all I had I do was swipe that Visa my mom gave me to use for school. I never saw the bills or even asked about them. But now, I feel the swipe and these books are pricey. Oh wait, I did get that one book for $5. That was a steal.

I ran out of the bookstore -- you know the way you do when you realize you got a hookup and want to get away as soon as possible before the manager or something discovers you were given some sort of unauthorized discount. I'm still afraid the book wasn't rung up correctly. Maybe it was, either way, let's just hope I don't become headline news: "Candler student and Up-and-coming minister makes "Most Wanted" list"

But that will only be because I robbed somebody's piggy bank to get more money to buy these books!
(Oops! That would mean I broke another commandment. Old Testament 101: Do not steal!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I got questions, very few answers

Orientation is over!!!! Yippee!!!!
I wanted to scream that from the rooftops today, but I just couldn't seem to do it. The activities this past week just wore me out and all I wanted to do was come home and put my feet up. Instead, I walked in with a long face that had my cousin asking, "What is wrong with you?"
"I'm tired, "I said.
(Keep in mind that I have been getting up at 5 a.m. for the past two days to leave the house by 6:30 a.m. so I can get to campus in time for my 8 a.m. sessions.)
"You haven't even started classes, yet," she said.
"I know, that's what makes it so bad. I'm wondering how I will get all this done."

What I really was thinking was "Can I really do this?"

Since accepting my call, all I've seemed to have are questions: "Will I be able to handle the work? Am I really in the right place? Am I crazy? Can I really write five papers at one time and read more than 100 pages for one class and 80 for another in two nights? Can I . . . Will I . . ."


Then I took a breath . . . and remembered I accepted this call, which means, as one of my fellow seminarians shared, that I have signed on to pursue a different form of life that is unlike my natural inclination. I accepted God's invitation to transform me into who he wants me to be. And I knew upfront that it wouldn't be a cakewalk. Growing pains are just as they sound -- a pain. And I seriously need some 800 mg Tylenol, right about now.

A professor reminded me of that this morning, but that information somehow got lost by 6 p.m. -- that was until I started to pen these thoughts a few hours ago.

That professor reminded me that it's perfectly normal to be fearful, to have questions and ask questions. We just shouldn't be so quick to look for rapid-fire answers. That's kind of what twentieth century author Rainer Maria Rilke, in his fourth letter in Letters to a Young Poet, was saying when he said:

" . . . have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
So why am I crying again?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Friendships in the making . . .maybe

I woke up to the power off this morning and the sounds of rain pelting the sides of the house. But as I looked out my bedroom window to witness what would appear to be another gloomy day, I strangely felt upbeat . . . and loved. It made me reflect on what God whispered in my ear on Monday -- that he wouldn't hold any good thing from me.

It's never easy moving to a new place and as I packed up to leave Tallahassee, all I could think about was how this journey would affect my friendships. Would they remain or would they fall apart. Many people told me and now I'm beginning to learn that some people I've called friends won't be traveling on this leg of the journey with me. Even Jesus had to travel alone sometimes. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just a realization -- to everything there is a season -- even in friendships.
But it doesn't diminish the hurt we feel when we lose them.

My mother told me about a month ago that she believed God had people waiting to meet me here in Atlanta. At the time, I took the message as a mother simply trying to console her daughter and say something that would lift her spirits.

I had forgotten the old adage that "mothers are always right!"

So, you can imagine my delight when three young ladies -- one in her first year, like me, and two in their second year, would offer me their hand in cultivating a friendship. And this was on the first day. They even went so far as to ask me for my phone number and asked me to put theirs in mine. I liked them. They seem cool. Like my kind of people.

Who knows, they just might turn out to be the ones my mother said God had waiting to meet me. They just might be "that good thing" that God said he would give me.

He delivered in Tallahassee. So why doubt him now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What do you mean, I can't talk . . .

It would be on the day that I begin this journey toward a Master of Divinity degree that I would be asked to be quiet . . . not speak . . . not talk -- for 3 1/2 hours. Not even during lunch. Eat in silence. That's what the Rev. Lynnsay Buehler, who led the Quiet Day Retreat on this first day of my orientation to Candler School of Theology asked of me and others who decided to break away and breathe for a moment from the hustle and bustle of getting financial aid matters ironed out and picking up parking permits.

And anyone who knows me, knows that was a tall order for me. I'm a talker. I know it. I accept it.

Sure I signed up for the retreat, but I didn't think we would be asked to not utter a word -- certainly not for 3 1/2 hours. Well, we could talk, but only for brief moments when Rev. Buehler asked a question or opened the floor for us to share. I spoke for about a minute when I introduced myself and even that felt like I may have been talking to long.

But nonetheless, I took part in the exercise that offered the opportunity for me to get some spirtual nourishment and spend some alone time with God. I needed to center myself and prepare my mind for the work that lies ahead. I'll admit that first, it felt kind of strange, as though someone had lowered a muzzle over my mouth or cut off my air passage. The fact that I was forbidden to talk made me want to talk more. And you know I finally did -- briefly, after I tired of the head nods and smiles at lunch that took the place of "thank-you's" and "hello's" and "how are you's?"

I just couldn't take it. So, I leaned over to the young lady at the other end of my table and whispered, "Hey, did you get your computer configured, yet?" But not before I had heard the small still voice of God whisper in my ear "I love you and no good thing will I withhold from you."
Good thing I had shut up. I would have missed what God had to say.