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.