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 HowManyofMe.com 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.