Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Second year blues . . .

A friend of mine from seminary called me today -- just to say hi! She said she had been praying for me. She had been praying for God to mend my brokenness. At first I thought, "I'm not broken." But then just as quickly as that thought occurred, I heard, "Yes, you are!"
And I am. And not just broken, but shattered. That's just how bad this semester has been. That's just how trying this semester has been. That's just how exhaustive this semester has been.

I shouldn't be surprised. I was warned my second year would be this way. I was warned this would be the year of my Crucifixion -- the year I would die. I feel like I've died. It's taken everything within me to just make it through these past four months. And it's taking everything within me to gather up the strength to press forward toward the next.

At least twice today, I had someone tell me what I good decision I made to pursue a life of ministry. And both times I responded that it wasn't my decision. No, this bright idea to become a minister, wasn't mine. It was God's all along, even when I didn't see the signs. There are times, I still question, "What was God thinking?" These are the days when I find it would be so much easier for me to just get a job at Home Depot, Lowe's or a book store. These are the days, when I feel death the most -- when I don't want to be so extraordinary.

But yet, here I am -- halfway through seminary. Halfway through earning my Master of Divinity degree and so many miles away from the young woman who thought, ate, drank and slept newspapers and bylines and front page stories. I'm not that woman anymore. I'm fast becoming the woman who reads and studies the style of preachers and who takes notes on how to establish various ministries and who cries at injustice and the plight of those less fortunate. I'm the woman who now instead of picking up the latest newspapers, picks up the latest theological textbooks and study Bibles wondering how they will better inform my sermons. I'm becoming this "preacher person".

Some days I like the journey. Some days I don't.
Today is one of those days, where I'm not sure how I feel.
I'm just glad I don't have a class to attend.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I journey on . . .

I had to be reminded today that life is about journeying . . . waiting . . . living a number of experiences that build upon themselves to provide lessons -- if we grasp them -- that allows us to move with more wisdom into the next phase of our lives. I'm just coming off some hellish weeks of mid-terms with a sad disposition because I'm not doing well right now. The last exam, I struggled through it this week (It was a take-home exam that should have been completed with 20 pages of answers. I only turned in 12 or something like that after staying up all night trying to finish.)

So, right now, the grades are not good. I'm behind and in trouble in the bulk of my classes and I'm wondering once again, "What is the lesson? God where is this going? Am I really equipped for this? Who in the hell thought they should let me through the doors of this place?"
And I've yet to really hear all the answers.

I would love to run away, but sadly I cannot, because I recognize that there is nowhere else for me to go. Candler is where I'm supposed to be . . . even on the days when I'm frustrated about being here. . . even on the days when I have more questions than answers about my life's direction and capabilities.

So, I'm attempting to regroup and establish a plan for how to move forward -- one of which is to hone my synthesizing skills to better understand the information -- and I'm trying to live in the many questions I have right now. I'm preparing for a girl's night featuring a movie documentary showing and discussion with members of Sistah Circle, a ministry group for women of the African diaspora that I head up at Candler. And as I have been preparing, I was reminded of a reading from Rainer Maria Rilke's fourth letter he wrote in the Letters to a Young Poet I want to share with them about being in the midst of life while grappling with the questions about an uncertain future. I think all of us find ourselves in that place from time to time. But Rainer Maria Rilke has wisdom to share:

"be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
So, with that sage wisdom I journey on . . . trusting and believing that I will live into the answers at the right and appropriate time. In God's time. I journey on, carrying with me the words God spoke to Jeremiah, when he too was not certain about the mission he was called to take up: For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope." 29:11

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Liberation bound . . .

I started at Spelman today . . . attended my first worship service in Sisters Chapel . . . four days after Spelman sophomore Jasmine Lynn was shot and killed as a result of an altercation between two men that sent bullets flying in the direction she was walking on Clark Atlanta's campus. The service was about her. . . the life she lived . . . and the memories and impact she left behind on those who knew her. What a way to start my ministry there. When I heard the news on Thursday morning, I knew my experience at Spelman, coming in as an assistant chaplain this year would be marked by much more than I expected. So, I'm praying God will prepare me for ministry within this context -- one where a university complex exists within the urban core of a community struggling to survive. A community that is riddled with this type of crime. A community where some of the countries brightest, shining black students -- some who are part of a legacy of Spelman women come to come into their own. I question how my experiences here impact where I go next? How they will shape my ministry?

The preacher for the day reminded us all of what Ephesians 2:10 says about us: that we are masterpieces of art God created to do good works and those works were created well in advance for us to carry out to perform.

Jasmine Lynn, say her friends, performed those good works, even though her time seemed short. She lived life freely and showed love to those who did not always show kindness to her. She encouraged those whose path she crossed to live their life purposefully. And she challenged all of us to consider: "What gifts will I leave behind?"

Ephesians 2, as the preacher pointed out, reminds us that we were all created to change and transform the world. And so I pray over this next year to discover why God called me to Spelman and what gifts I'm to leave behind in its halls that will hopefully change and transform a small part of the world of the girls I come to meet. And I pray that within the process, I come to understand the changes God needs to bring about in me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

1. I realized this morning, I'll be heading back to Atlanta a week from today, finished with my three-month internship at Harvest UMC in Sarasota/Bradenton. . . with a clearer perspective on where this journey in ministry is taking me and feeling a bit more comfortable about the trip. I learned this summer, I'm meant to be a pastor . . . I'm meant to preach and teach, inspire and empower and set the captives free. Wow! That's so far from where I was when I started seminary.
2. A week from this Friday, I'll be flying on a non-stop flight to Johannesburg, S. Africa. I wrote this on my list of 100 things I'll like to do before I die about 1 1/2 years ago and the dream is coming true. I think there is something to be said about the "bucket list".
3. I started my research and prep work on the sermon I hope to give in S. Africa on the 16th. Still got a lot of work to do, though, but excited I may be sharing the word some 7,000 miles or 16 hours by plane away from home.
4. In less than a month, the new semester starts and I'm not sure if I'm ready. The thought of it tires me out, but I'm also excited about working at Spelman as an assistant chaplain.
5. Speaking of, I already know that I'm preaching there on Feb. 14.
6. A Web site I'll be writing for has launched. I know my bio is already there, so check it out!
7. I'm looking forward to moving into my own apartment this fall, just not the act of moving right after my S. Africa jaunt. Can we say jet lag. God help me!
8.I've seen this place here called heavenlycupcakes but have missed them by 20 or 30 minutes after they've closed. The plan was to go there last Saturday, (after I missed them on Friday) as a treat to myself following a day of shopping and store browsing, but alas, they closed as 4 p.m. just as I was leaving this boutique with a new sweater and pair of Nine West wedge heels. So, I'm making a point to head there again. . . this Friday. Right now, my flavors are between Love Ya Dolly (lemon cupcake with buttercreme icing), Red Velvet Delight, the Double Stuff (a cookies and creme, Oreo lovers cupcake) or the Rudy (a carrot cake with cream cheese icing). Or maybe I'll get one of each! Heck I think I deserve it!
9. It would be just as I'm leaving Sarasota, I find the rib and fried fish man on the corner.
10. I'll probably hit that corner too this weekend before I leave. Got ribs last week. I think fried fish is calling me this weekend.

Monday, August 3, 2009

So what is prayer . . .

I preached on prayer last Sunday. It was the second part of the Prayer series that we kicked off here at Harvest. The week before, I opened with "The Goal of Prayer" answering the question of why do we pray by examining why Jesus prayed. Last week, we discussed the "Spirit of Prayer" by taking a look at how we define prayer. This is a snippet of what the Lord had me to say about prayer:

Prayer. A word that we hear frequently. Some of us have heard it since the time of our birth, since the time we were children:
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Prayer. An act that we carry out every Sunday – at least five times during each service: at the beginning, during the prayers of the people, before the message, after the message, during Holy Communion.
Prayer. The thing we feel we can’t do until our lives are “just right.”
Prayer. A six letter word that the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary describes as “an act of petitioning, praising, giving thanks, or confessing to God.”
Prayer. Something we assume we should master like a difficult math problem or playing the piano.
Prayer. A word that manifest butterflies in our stomach and slight sweat on the brow at the moment we have been asked to do it – publicly.
Prayer. An experience that we participate in daily, but often fail to recognize.
Prayer. A word that baffles us, but yet amazes us with the power it generates.
Prayer. A word that attracts us, but yet repels us.
Prayer. A word that calls to us, but leaves us speechless – at times.
Prayer. A love relationship we have with our creator.
Prayer. The key to God’s heart.
Prayer. The solution to our sorrow.
Prayer. Sometimes a moan.
Prayer. Sometimes a groan.
Prayer. A mind reliever.
Prayer. An invitation.
Prayer. Simply, a conversation with God.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Coming into acceptance . . .

A new member at Harvest referred to me as Pastor Juana yesterday . . . . and I didn't cringe . . . didn't wince . . . or turn my head to see who this person was. I just accepted it as such . . . rested in the knowledge of this new emerging person and thanked God for using me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Forever a child . . .

It's amazing how God talks even when you don't want God to talk . . . even when you have made it clear you're not in the mood for a conversation . . .God talks anyway. Now whether we listen, that's a different story. And yesterday evening, I wasn't in the mood to listen -- at least not at the time God was trying to get me to talk. I could hear God asking me to pray . . . talk to him, but I didn't feel like praying. And God didn't push. He just walked with me, kind of like the tag along kid that you wish would go away.

I was just coming out of a conversation with someone who had my brain so overloaded with these thoughts of how ministry should be approached in this age of IM'ing, Twitter and all of these other electronic forms of gathering information instantaneously, that I began to think that maybe I'm not fit to do ministry in this age. I started to wonder why would God pick this 38-year-old woman who rather write her notes in class in her notebook than on her computer or listen to the lectures downloaded and who'd rather still listen to her music on CD's than on an ipod and who'd rather comb through books in the library to research her text for her sermon. How do I do ministry that captures those who respond to information so differently?

I was preparing for my prayer class last night and I knew I needed to focus. The topic was Prayers of the Heart . . . the prayers that move us to become more intimate with God . . . the prayers that moves us into the presence of God. . . the prayers that the Jesuit priest Jean-Nicholas Grou says is the prayer the heart prays and the voice that God listens and responds to. Prayers of the Heart are the heart-to-heart talks we have with God. As I sat there listening to the other members talk about their heart experiences or lack thereof, I found myself drawn in by one revelation that was lifted up. It was the reminder that: "You don't have to be grown up with God!"

The woman who shared this took this from the image of God who is a nurturing parent . . .a God who is described in Hosea as a Father who takes his children into his arms, and leads them with "cords of compassion" and with "bands of love" and bends down to feed them. A God who is described in Isaiah as a mother comforting her child. A God who invites us all to crawl into God's lap, receive his love, allow his healing and strength to overflow onto us. A God who allows us to laugh and cry freely in arms that wrap around us tight.

I like that image. I like knowing that this "big kid", who still struggles and is often frustrated with the twisting, turning, winding roads in her life, can still snuggle into the arms of her parent and be loved on, hugged and caressed until all is better. I liked that even though I wasn't talking to God, God still chose to talk to me.

And it was what I needed.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Just being" in the presence . . .

I was supposed to attend a yoga class on the beach this past Saturday. I thought it might be a good way to relax and calm myself before Sunday's sermon, but a communication snafu with the woman I was going with resulted in us both missing the class. Still, I decided I would head to the beach anyway. I was already dressed -- at 7:45 a.m. -- and in the car in the direction of the beach and wide awake. I hadn't been to Anna Marie Island before near Bradenton Beach and thought that maybe I could find the class. If I did, that would be great! If not, that would be fine too. I figured I would have at least found my way to the beach. Suffice it to say, I didn't find the class. But I decided to park and walk a little bit anyway.

As I was walking along the beach, I just knew that some revelation to something would come. I was even looking for one. I just knew God would talk to me and tell me some secrets that I hadn't been told before. Because what better place to share than on a semi-isolated beach with the waves lapping at the shore. I remember even asking, "Okay God, don't you have something to say to me? Shouldn't I be thinking of something right now or shouldn't you give me something profound to share in a sermon or something? Shouldn't I come away with something great to write about about my time on the beach?"

Then, in a still small voice, I heard: "Just be."
I didn't even know what to make of that at first. How do you just be?
But as I sat on the rocks a little longer, playing with my camera, it dawned on me: God just wanted me to enjoy his presence, enjoy being a part of what he created. I had passed a sandhill crane earlier standing at the water's edge looking out into the surf. It seemed to be taking it all in. It was just "being."

So, I followed suit and did the same.

How amazing that the following day in church, right before I was to preach, the worship leader invited everyone to participate in a centering prayer that called for us to "just be".

I guess you could say that was my revelation!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sit down, take a load off

Why is that we have trouble just relaxing? Resting?
I'm always amazed how much clearer my mind is afterward. But yet, I still have trouble doing it.

I got a text message from a good friend this morning who graduated this past May from seminary who tells me she is having the most wonderful summer, even though she is completely broke. In her words: "I recommend EVERYONE do this: Nothing for the summer after graduating."

It sounds enticing. . . even appealing . . . and like a plan I should follow after these next two years left in my Masters program are up. But what quickly comes to mind is how easy will it really be for me to do that? Just do nothing and life free for a few months. Without any planned days or feelings that I should be doing something.
It'll definitely be a challenge.

My friend's pronouncement took me back to the days after I graduated from college. I was frantically running around trying to convince some news station or news organization to give me a job. All of my friends had graduated with jobs and I had not one prospect. After spending two additional weeks in Charlotte on the job hunt, I returned home just as panicky and frustrated as the day I was when I crossed the stage to get my degree. Then I remembered I had read this magazine that featured this beautiful black meteorologist who worked at the Weather Channel. I decided to call her up. I actually felt as though something was telling me to call her. Somehow, I felt she would understand and give me some insight on my next move.

Surprisingly, she called me back and gave me the most shocking advice:"Take this time and rest. You've just spend the last four years working on this degree and there is nothing wrong in taking some time to relax." she said. "I wish I had done that. The fact is, you'll have the rest of your life to work."

And she was right. We're so used to just going and going like the Energizer Bunny and feeling like our time needs to be occupied just about every minute of the day doing something meaningful that when it isn't, it registers in our brains that doing absolutely nothing is just unacceptable. It's not normal.

But yet it is normal. Psalms 116:7, "Be at rest, once more my soul, for the Lord has been good to you," is a reminder that our soul actually yearns for rest. And it's only in God that our soul can rest easy and be at peace. Whether we know it or not, God and our souls are like magnets constantly drawn to one another. When we're weary, tired and burdened our soul instinctively knows where it can be refreshed and revived. I've gotten some amazing revelations when I've taken the time to take it easy. And I suggest you do the same.

Never know what that rest may birth forth.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A hug, a touch . . . priceless!

I think by now Harvest knows I'm a hugger.
I do it every Sunday and even encourage them to do it too.
I say what I always say when leading worship: "As we prepare to meet and greet each other, I want each of you to get at least three Holy hugs, cause hugging does the body good!"
The first time I did it, I think it caught the congregation off guard, but they did it just the same, although cautiously. They had never been invited to hug their neighbor before, even though the neighbor might have been their husband, wife, daughter, son, grandchild or the church member and friend they see each week.
But they accepted the challenge and commenced to hugging.

And in doing so, I began to notice something as the weeks progressed. I began to see members expect it, maybe even look forward to it. I started to notice the heightened laughter, wider grins and more outstretched arms beckoning for an embrace or open to offer a slight squeeze or even a full on bear hug. I started seeing more people scurry across the room to greet a face they had not seen before. I noticed a more receptive spirit, an unencumbered spirit.

I started noticing this eclectic bunch from all sorts of backgrounds, including those who had been churched, unchurched, Catholic, Presbyterian, United Methodist and United Church of Christ, transform into this bubbling group of what I now call, "happy huggers" who find that a simple handshake just won't do. One church member shared that she felt it gave them permission to do what had become somewhat of a socially unacceptable practice. I think she's right.

Needless to say, I love kicking off worship this way. I think it puts everybody in a more open frame of mind ready to receive what God has for us to hear that day. Because after all, hugging does release those brain endorphins in our body -- said to be more powerful than heroin or morphine -- which generate those feel-good, happy feelings.

Now, mind you, I haven't always been a hugger. Nor was I always receptive to the embrace, particularly when it was introduced by one of my former pastors. It just wasn't something I grew up doing. But now that I've read the reports and practiced it myself, I've been converted. I guess you could say I'm on a mission to convince others they too should become a happy hugger or at least one who is a bit more open to sharing a simple touch.

I was reminded this week of how powerful a simple touch can be. I was visiting a woman in the hospital who told me she has no family here in Sarasota, save for her husband, who is suffering from dementia. She has no children to speak of or family that is remotely close to Florida. They all reside in Michigan. As we talked, she shared with me how alone and deserted she felt. "God has forgotten about me she said," as tears rolled down her cheeks. "After all I have done. I was a nurse for more than 30 years. I helped people and was a good person and now God has left me!"

She shared her feelings of hopelessness with me and doubts that she would survive her illness. She suffers from bad kidney's, which were beginning to shut down and had water around her heart. She feared she would die in the hospital without seeing her husband again and worried who would care for him in her absence. But more than anything, she said," I just wish someone would come by from time-to-time and hold my hand!"

In the midst of all her complications from a body that was badly bruised and seemed to be turning on her, she wanted most to feel the touch of another human being. She needed to be comforted and reassured. She needed to know that someone cared. That's when I was reminded of the healing power of a touch. And that's when I reached out and grabbed her hand, caressing it gently.

I read in an article that a touch is "like the Internet," in that "it allows high-speed access to another soul." That's what Jesus calls all of us to do, provide that access to soothe another's soul.
Jesus did it when he reached out and physically touched the man covered with leprosy, who had likely not been touched in years. And it was the same touch Jesus gave that restored the sight of the two blind men and healed Peter's mother-in-law.

Sometimes the healing, be it physically or even mentally, is in the touch or comes by way of a simple hug. Because it is often in the touch that someone receives compassion, has their dignity restored and comes to understand that they are of value.

Jesus constantly affirms that we are of value and if we are modeling our life after him, we should affirm that in others too!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday heart talk . . .

It wasn't more apparent than later this week, following the news of Michael Jackson's death that I began to really understand what it means to have the courage to listen. It requires a selflessness attitude and pushing aside our own voice and yearnings to follow the call to our spirit. This was the message I knew would be preached today, but didn't really understand it until now. So often we are consumed by the world's voice that we fail or even miss that of creation . . . the voices of those who need our help. . . the voices of those whose words have been muted . . . the voice of the one who calls us back to himself . . . thus missing the voice of our liberation and insight into who we really are. Somewhere along the way we as a people have missed the voice of the Michael Jackson's of the world. We have missed opportunities to pull them out of their exile. We have missed the voice that frees us from our own exile. From that, my heart murmurings, crafted this as our prayers of the people today:


God you talk to us throughout the day,
But somehow we don’t hear.
We find it hard to listen
To that still small voice
That may come as one rustling as the wind through the trees,
Or as the clouds opening up and the sun hitting our face
Accompanied by a gentle breeze.
Or as the cardinal outside our window singing your praises
Or in the gentle face of our children, laughing, playing.
Or the touch of someone’s hand that says “I understand” or “I am here for you!”

Perhaps our minds are too focused on the world that is in despair
A world that reflects the messiness of our lives,
A world that that does not seem to offer hope or promise of a better future
A world that our hands have distorted to look far from the one you created.
A world that does not love you freely.
Or heed your commands.
A world that does not even recognize your existence
Or acknowledge the miracles of your healing hands.
A world that is so busy, it doesn’t have time – to listen.

Forgive us today, God for turning a deaf hear towards you,
For making all else a priority, save for you.
For living not as we ought, with a concern or ear bent toward
the hurts of our neighbors, our family members, our spouses
our friends.
For assuming we have another day, another 24-hours to get it right.

Lord, we admit that we have lost our moral compass
And struggle to find our way back to you.
Guide us, O, Lord, back to you.
For we long to hear your secrets
We long to hear your voice
We desire to see your glory manifested in our lives.
We desire to be more than just “good people.”
We desire to your obedient children whose Word
is etched upon our hearts.
And becomes a part of our daily lives.
Here we are, O God!
We’re ready to hear you!
We’re ready to listen.
Speak to us today!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Frolic . . .

As one minister reminded me this week, "Sunday comes early" and it always comes. So with that in mind, I decided to make Friday count for something. I headed to MOTE, the aquarium on the coast, hung out with the fish, turtles, mesmerizing jellyfish, sharks, manatees and dolphins for the day. Then I winded down here:

At the Salty Dog enjoying a blackened grouper sandwich and fries . . .

and this beautiful view . . .

And this delicious key lime pie!
These are the times when I really miss being in Florida and realized how I blessed I was to grow up here!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

1. Woke up Sunday morning and didn't have one drop of vinegar in the house for my science experiment for the children's moment to show how a tarnished penny dropped in the vinegar/water solution is a illustration of how baptism works -- it cleans us up and makes us shiny and new. Had to go with some boiled eggs and crayons instead. I used the crayons to color marks on the egg shell to illustrate mistakes we make or sins we commit as we grow older, but when we are baptised, the old shell or our old selves are peeled away and we become all clean and pure again. The egg illustration worked right up until it was time for me to crack the egg and peel the colored shell off. I couldn't crack the egg! But then one kid spoke up with a solution . . . Give it to me," he said, "I'll just step on it and smash it!"
2.Went to pray with a church member this morning who was having a heart catheterization to check on why her mitral value wasn't working. Doctors initially thought that she may have a blocked coronary artery, which would require bi-pass surgery. We prayed. I remember asking the Lord -- if it was God's will -- to perform a miracle and knit her back together the way God originally formed her. Got word later today the tests were clear.
3.I made it to Zumba last night. . . making plans to head to kickboxing tonight . . .I hope I make it . . . I need to make it!
4. Realized something this weekend at the beach . . . in that scorching hot sun: 1.) I don't like being in the sun. 2.) I don't like being in the sun. 3.) I don't know how I'm going to survive South Africa this summer. I will be taking lots and lots of hats!
5.Crazy as it sounds, I haven't cooked or had spaghetti in forever . . . actually in more than a year, that is until last night when I made it Italian night at Juana's summer estate. And it was so good! Leftovers tonight will be even better in front of TNT's Hawthorne.
6.I'm really trying to hold off from eating Five Guys Burgers and Fries until I get back to Atlanta. . . hence the need to adhere to #2, if I can't hold out.
7. I saw a Japanese Steak House today and thought of my friends in Tally town. I miss them!
8. Miss girl's nights too!
9.Still trying to figure out which scripture will fit my sermon on prayer and why we pray. Suggestions are definitely welcome!
10.Got a coupon for a $20 massage for 50 minutes this weekend . . .you know where I'll be headed Saturday morning.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reality check . . .

I had another strong dose of the reality of what I'm doing today . . . well it actually started yesterday when I had the opportunity to sit in on the memorial plans -- on Father's Day of all days -- with the family of a former member who committed suicide over the weekend. The gravity of my position hit me when I saw his step-daughter's face -- she was lost, overwhelmed and devastated. The only father she knew was gone. And in that moment, I was reminded of what it means to say that you're a minister -- the one who is called to hold it all together for those who need a steady place to stand and someone on which to lean and help them make sense of their disrupted world.
There is something about standing in that type of call. It's a humbling place to be. A position that, if you're honest, shines a light on your own weaknesses, inabilities and insecurities and reminds you that you alone can't make things better, only the one who you stand on behalf of.

I received a letter from a new minister friend of mine the other day who reminded me of who I am -- at least this summer. In the letter, my friend pointed out that I am Harvest's "pastor" for the summer (the senior pastors are gone on vacation for a month) and I will have some good opportunities to deliver pastoral care -- some that will be easy, some not so good and some that may be hard and painful. But that in the midst of all of that, I won't be alone -- that God will be along for the ride and in place to handle whatever comes.

I'm glad she reminded me of that, particularly on a day when I find all of these yellow slips of paper in my inbox -- prayer requests . . .for all kinds of issues . . . that a missing granddaughter would be found . . . that a healing would come to cancer-attacked bodies . . . that God will bless the healthy arrival of a new baby . . . that families who have lost loved ones will be strengthened. . . that God will accompany the doctors in surgery. The concerns are many. And they bring into full view of how real all of this is. It brings into full view how many people really need a safe place to park their fears and doubts. And how many people need someone to speak, petition and fight on their behalf.

It's not so much different than being journalist.

Having a heart talk with God . . .

These penned prayers are becoming one of my favorite assignments . . . one of the times when I feel even more connected to God and seem to be able to hear just a little more clearly to the murmurings of my own heart. Here is what it spoke this past Sunday:

Prayers of the People

Most merciful God, the lover of our souls,
The caretaker of our hearts
The custodian of our being
The curator of us, your masterpieces
We praise your name!
We sing of your bountiful blessings!
We extol all that you are.
The great I AM!
The Lilly of the valley
Our bright and morning star
Our strength and our redeemer
The one who saves us.
The one who washes us anew.
The one who calls us to die to the nastiness of our sin.
Cleanse us again, O Lord!

On this day, bring to our remembrance
the day of our baptism,
the day we united with you to walk in a newness of life,
the day we surrendered
the day sin ceased to hold us bound in chains.
The day Jesus proclaimed us as shiny and new.
Worthy of grace
Worthy of mercy.
Worthy of everlasting love.

Lord strengthen our faith so that we may live this free life in you.
Without fear of condemnation and criticism,
Without fear of being rebuffed and rejected,
Without fear of being deserted and discarded,
Without fear of standing alone on our convictions.

Help us, O God, to live as we have never lived before for the good of others.
Help us to choose to live boldly and unswervingly in the belief of your Word.
Help us to be your living Word.
Look upon us with compassion as you mold us to be compassionate.
Help us to remember that we are ambassadors of this movement of Christ followers
Called to a mission to bring more into the fold.
Called to a mission to continue what Jesus started.
Called to a mission to simply serve.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ten on Tuesday . . . later in the week

Okay, this was supposed to be done by last week, but I didn't get it posted in time. Here is what I was up to . . .
1. I finally got a cleaned up version of my story in the East County Observer. The editor must have sent me at least three different versions before "Juana Johnson" was thoroughly removed from the story. The sad thing is I know exactly how this reporter/editor feels -- totally embarrassed and horrible. You're writing the story, looking at your notes, but thinking about this other name.
2.The pastors are leaving out for a month long vacation with the family after Sunday . . . Juana the intern left in charge . . . priceless!
3.I attended the staff appreciation luncheon today. . . had a great lunch . . .heard why I was appreciated . . . shared what I appreciated about others . . . and got a great gift . . . handmade. A church member here designed this, even putting HUMC beading on it. She's also designing me a matching honey spoon to hang on the side of my tea. See: 4.I'm really trying to get back into this exercise thing. Went to Zumba on Monday . . . trying to make an effort to go back tonight.
5. I still gotta write a Prayers for the People for Sunday.
6. I think I've figured out my moment with the children for Sunday. Since we're talking about baptism, I'm going to use the image of a tarnished penny as an example of how when it's dipped in vinegar and water, it's washed clean, made all shiny and pretty. That's what God does to us through Baptism, washing off all the dirt and yucky stuff in our lives and makes us clean again and shiny and new like the penny. I hope it works. Got at least 80 to 100 kids coming up on Sunday.
7. I'm heading out to Clearwater Beach this weekend to hang out with a girlfriend and her family at their family reunion. The time away should be nice . . . relaxing . . . rejuvenating for Sunday.
8.Trying out a new hairdresser . . . we're starting with a wash and set first . . . then maybe chemical application if all goes well. I really hate looking for new hairdressers.
9.I really need to learn how to swim. What good is it to live in this great home for the summer and not really take advantage of the beautiful pool outside my door . . . well, I do dip my feet in after I workout sometimes.
10. I just learned how to use DirectTV . . . not sure if that's good or not!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

In the news . . . again

Having been a reporter, I know the barrage of questions we ask can oftentimes be disturbing, make one somewhat uncomfortable, but evoke excitement at the same time -- more so because you come to realize that someone is actually interested in you and your life. Sounds great, but the bottom line is: I'm used to doing the asking, not answering.

But, I got a chance to sit on the other side of those feelings and the following story below is what was birthed. I was giving this interview about a month or so ago while driving down I-285 on the way to take a friend to the Atlanta airport. So, I was kinda paying attention to the phone call and the road. It wasn't until after I finished the interview, which had to be cut because I wanted to see my friend off properly, that I began to panic and question, "What did I really say?"

Well, apparently here it is in black and white!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

His faith, my faith, our faith . . .

I had lunch today with the man who said on my first Sunday here, "I wish I had faith like you have!" This was before he told me that he wasn't sure if he believed in God, but felt it necessary to continue to come to church to be around "people like me."

In that brief moment, I shared the true story of a pastor who had once lost his own faith and was so broken he felt that he could no longer preach or be an effective minister to his congregation. He asked his church board to accept his resignation. The board declined, saying instead, they wanted him to continue to go into the pulpit every Sunday and preach to them his doubts and his struggles. So, that's what the pastor did and months later, through the preaching and teaching, the pastor realized his faith had been restored.

My lunch date, this white man in his mid-60s, recounted this story to me today and right then I was reminded of seed planting and harvesting. I was reminded that God's word doesn't return void and that at some point, if it has been planted and watered properly, you'll begin to see little buds peeking through the earth. You know, honestly, I had forgotten that I shared that story with him. But he didn't. Apparently there was something there that struck him, stuck with him and had him evaluating his own faith struggles. In that moment I was both honored and humbled that he would want to have this conversation with me. That he thought there was something I could offer. It wasn't until my reflection on the lunch that I was reminded that God reveals himself in many instances and today, at that very moment over plates of breakfast and lunch, God sat and helped me walk through that pastoring moment. I remember sitting there praying that God would tell me what to say if I needed to say anything. And of course, God did. God helped me navigate the conversation -- which included stories about my childhood, his grandchildren and children, my beliefs, his struggles with belief and his view of himself in the world --in such a way that it prompted my lunch date to inquire whether we could meet again.

He wants to talk about the purpose of prayer and the benefits of praying as our next table topic.
How fitting! We will have a conversation on the very topic I'm teaching in my Wednesday night class and will be preaching as part of a series on July 19 and July 26.

I remain constantly amazed how God uses us. How God makes it possible for a simple get-to-know you lunch to become a ministering moment that serves both parties at the table.
My lunch date doesn't know it, but talking about my faith that day in all actuality helped strengthen my own a little bit more. Cause sometimes just in talking about it, you're reminded of what God has already done.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Praying penned prayers . . .

So, I've been tasked with writing and praying the Prayers of the People. This has been my second week at it. The purpose is not so much to take the spontaneity out of the praying moment, but to become more proficient in using different language to pray. Oftentimes, we find ourselves saying the same thing, sometimes omitting the larger world and environment at hand. So, this is good practice . . . gives me time to really get my thoughts together and be more deliberate in what I want to say to God. Plus it will be a great help when I take my liturgical writing class this Fall.

Here's what I composed and prayed this Sunday. It's centered around the Trinity -- the three-in-one Godhead. I would love to hear your feedback!

Prayers of the People
God of all generations who brings forth your light
In the image of your son,
We praise you.
Who brings forth truth of your Word
And call him Jesus,
We praise you.
Who brings forth your spirit
and calls it Holy
We praise you.
Holy, Holy, Holy are you, Lord
Whose earth is full of your glory.

In the midst of the gathering of your people today
We call out to you.
For our families and our children
We call out to you.
For those who suffer and are in need – here and in countries some of us may only see
color-coded on a map
We call out to you
For this nation, its leaders and our people.
We call out to you,
Pleading for the safety of those who fight for our liberties and the rights of others.
We call out to you,
Seeking peace,
Begging for relief
Needing clarity
Desiring understanding
Longing to hear your voice that says everything will be okay.
Knowing we haven’t always been worthy.
But thankful we’ve been given another chance by your grace.
Even though, we at times, like Thomas, doubt you.
Even though, we at times, like Peter, deny knowing you.
Even though, we at times, like Jesus, accuse you of forsaking us.
We are thankful that you still find us worthy of your love.
Thankful that you came in the image of your Son.
Thankful that your spirit blows as the wind throughout a world
In constant need of your redeeming power.
And we are so ever grateful that you give it all freely.


When God steps out of the shadows . . .

So, I led worship today . . . gained a little more experience of how they do things here at Harvest . . . got an opportunity to share how I experience God . . . how I experience the Spirit's dealing with my soul. When I came to this congregation I wasn't sure how they would respond to me . . . this United Methodist who isn't really a traditional United Methodist, who worships quietly. . . who worships without having intimate engagement.

I'm somewhat different. I'm a shouter. It's not uncommon to hear me shouting "Amen" or "Praise the Lord!" I'm a jumper -- depending on the service -- I'm fully engaged and moved easily by the Spirit's leading. When I came here, I wasn't sure how to react in the service, made up mostly of congregants who were Catholics or who had no or little history of attending or participating in church until they came to Harvest. So on my first and second Sunday I was reserved. I felt like backing the ministers when they said something I agreed with, but didn't. I felt like clapping more and jumping to the worship songs, but I didn't. And I felt in bondage -- that was until I had a conversation with the pastors and one of the District Superintendents for the UMC church here who convinced me that I wasn't doing anyone any good if I failed to be my authentic self. My being there is an opportunity for me to share me with the people I am in ministry with . . . it's a chance for me to share my worship tradition . . . an opportunity for them to see and experience God differently than they have before. . . an opportunity for all of us show God in our own unique way.

Today, a woman's husband told me his wife cried when she heard me pray. And she herself, said, "When I heard you say continually, 'Thank-you, Lord!' It made me want to say it. I felt it!"

Another shared that they love the vitality I bring to the worship service. And many others have shared their joy in having me there.

What a wonderful testament of how faith works. God tells us to do things and trust. When we do it works out far better than we could have imagined. That's how these past Sunday's and weeks have been -- a realization of God's answered prayers and some pleasant surprises in between, such as confirmation that apparently I'm on the right path. In fact, more than one member lately has said I should consider work as a minister.

More and more, it's not sounding like such a bad idea. So maybe I will!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Still in the waiting room . . .

Just got the word . . . the fellowship committee is still in deliberations . . .decisions won't be made until Friday. So that's got to count for something, right? It means I have two more days to offer up prayers that the decision is in my favor. Since my prayer class kicks off tonight, I think I'll throw my fellowship application on the table. Doesn't hurt to pull in more praying people. Scripture says, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be in the midst . . ."
Sounds good to me. In the meantime, I'll get back to my sermon. I'm still trying to pull it together . . . at least now I hear God talking. Had me nervous there for a while.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

I know it's been a while, but I'm trying to make a comeback: Here are my ten for today!

1. When I got up at 4:30 this morning, the plan was to finish the prep work to write out my upcoming sermon. I finished up this other blog instead and then prayed I could finish building the curriculum for my prayer class that kicks off tomorrow night. By 6 a.m. the ideas of how to build the 9-week class just started flowing and within 1 1/2 hours I had lesson plans to present to the pastor for our 10 a.m. meeting, complete with movie clips and songs to use as examples.
2. I'm determined to finish this sermon . . . well I gotta finish it . . . draft due tomorrow!
3. I hear Bruce Almighty might offer up some great lessons on praying -- at least that's what my pastor here at Harvest says. So, I'll check it out. I really love how the church never misses an opportunity to incorporate some different form of media into the service to deliver effective timely messages. I'm working on an activity calling for congregational participation during my June 14th sermon so we'll see how that goes.
4. Speaking of media, I just got turned on to spoken word artist Amena Brown's "You". Check her out on this YouTube clip. I'm going to use this during one of the sessions in my prayer series. What you think?
5. I was on a roll with these free workout sessions. Now maybe I've worn out my welcome . . . the phone has stopped ringing from the gym managers vying for my business. Is it just me or is $216 for the next two months a bit pricey? Sad thing is I need to do something . . . school got in the way of me working out.
6. I found my $1.50/$2 movie theater. . . reminds me of Tallahassee.
7. It's free ice-cream day on Friday at all Friendly restaurants! I'll stop there first before heading to the Aquarium. A church member gave me a free ticket and $20 bucks to have lunch at this cozy restaurant across the street. They really know how to treat a intern here!
8. I'm moving into my own summer home next week. Pool included. Like I said, they really know how to take care of an intern here.
9. Tomorrow is D-day -- hopefully my email will say I got the fellowship.
10. Now, if I only knew how to start this sermon. Excuse me, I gotta go hang out in the bathroom. God always talks to me there.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Catching the spirit's fire . . .

Today we celebrated Pentecost Sunday -- the Biblical account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit talked about in Acts 2 that fell so heavy on the people it had them speaking in different tongues! Had them doing things -- performing acts they probably wouldn't have done on their own. This is one of the two paintings one of the members, Callie painted while Pastor Catherine delivered the sermon. (She painted during each service) I've never experienced a service like that before. It kind of reminded me of being at a spoken word sect, which is where I would expect to see something like that -- an artist painting to the rhythm of the words being spoken. But it was church. And it was nice. . . out-of-the box! What made it even more spirit-filled were the 20-plus doves that were released after each service as a sign of the Holy Spirit going out into the world. (I'll try to get pics posted soon)

Interestingly, before the service started, a parishioner told me he wished he had courage like me. This was the second time I had had this conversation with someone at Harvest and I found it interesting that they automatically assumed I had this character trait.
So I asked, "What makes you think I have courage?"
The man replied, "You must, to do what you're doing. To follow this call."
I guess some would think that. But the truth is I don't really have that much courage. I actually have that much fear -- fear of what would happen it I didn't follow it. Fear of what my life would look like -- mediocre at best. Definitely unfulfilling. (I had seen glimpses, got a t-shirt and wasn't interested in revisiting.)
But just like I shared with that parishioner, most of what I do these days surrounding my foray into ministry also has a lot to do with the Holy Spirit's influence. Just as one of my professors pointed out in her book, there has to be some higher calling that would have one open themselves up to being castigated as an impostor or pimp, or giving up their jobs and homes to go back to school at nearly 40. There has to be something higher operating that would have someone go places they never thought they would -- sometimes into uncharted territory.

So I can't say whether it's really courage that I have, but there is definitely some level of faith.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Waiting and anticipating . . .

So I've been back from Atlanta for about three hours now -- had to make an impromptu trip to interview for this fellowship. I'm praying through Wednesday that God will have the judges give me favor. Wednesday is D-day, the day the committee will decide whether I will be one of the recipient's of the Black Women in Church and Society Black Women in Ministerial Leadership Fellowship. I don't feel the most confident that I did well . . . the ministry project I proposed to do in conjunction with my work at Spelman next year needs a bit more work. . . I also needed to articulate more clearly what I could bring that is different than what the women at Spelman have now . . .I've really been thinking about that. All I know at this point really is that God told me that I am needed at Spelman. And I'm in need of the experience Spelman will offer me. Honestly, it was the only place where I felt called to do ministry next year outside of my work with the homeless. Now this committee has me wondering what my purpose is there. What among my passions will meet their greatest need?

But there was some good news to emerge from the meeting . . . the team that grilled me during the interview thought I could bring a lot to the ministerial leadership program . . . so let's hope they scored me high enough to get in.

I'll find out on Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I've been re-affirmed . . .

So we just celebrated Confirmation Sunday -- when 17 of our 6th graders and a few 7th graders confirmed their faith. The celebration was a first for me. I had always heard about confirmation ceremonies, but never quite knew what they were or what they were about. Now that I've seen them, I think they're more like "coming out" parties. Kind of like the debutante ball, where we young girls are introduced to society as young ladies. Only this coming out party says a bit more than just I'm moving into a more mature phase of life. This one says, "I've made a decision to follow Christ" or "I'm riding shotgun with Jesus and that's my story and I'm sticking to it."

As I watched the kids -- barely in their teens -- answer questions about prevenient grace -- the grace that is given to us before we were born . . . justifying grace -- the grace that we are given when we accept God's call on our life and sanctifying grace, which sustains us as we continue to walk with Christ, I was reminded of how big of deal it was for these youth to take this public stance. There they were dipping their hand in the bowl to douse water on their forehead as a sign of remembrance of their baptism, then kneeling before the church to have hands laid on them by their parents and family for prayer, symbolically saying that they too believe in this God of their parents. That they too have a foundation in this Christ who died for them. That they too wanted to live for someone other than themselves.

And I thought, that's a big deal. A huge commitment -- one that takes courage to admit. It was sort of akin to the the day (in my early 30's) I put the "God's girl" sign on my car, which too was a public proclamation of who I am and what team I play for.

Now I'm not naive enough to think that they'll always live accordingly. I mean part of being confirmed is agreeing to turn away from evil, work against it and accepting whatever call God has over your life. Frankly, that's a tall order -- one I haven't always adhered to. But at least somewhere along the way seeds have been planted and at various times I'm reminded of what the sign reads on my truck. Sunday was one of those days. It was their confirmation ceremony, yes, but I left service that day thinking it was most definitely my re-affirmation ceremony.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making rounds . . .

I visited the hospital for the first time today . . . as a minister. And it's quite a humbling experience. At least it was for me, a newbie to the whole chaplin experience, who was welcomed with open arms by families who didn't even know me. You have to understand being the only African-American at Harvest and in this congregation, I can't help but wonder what the socialization has been of those I now worship with. If race had been an issue, it wasn't in that moment, where all that seemed to matter was that their minister was there. The one who could get a "line" through to God and usher their loved one through a safe surgery. The one could share words of encouragement and help them shoulder their fears and handle their tears.

And it seemed to mean more that the minister-in-training had come along.

So, I should not have been surprised when the families bypassed my handshake and went straight for the bear hug and thanked me profusely for my presence.

Sometimes, that's all one needs -- for someone to be there. And I'm glad I could oblige.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

That God . . . quite a comedian!

For the past few days I've been in awe of this Creator of ours . . . simply astounded by how he just puts things in place. Here I am, my third official day on the job as a pastoral intern at Harvest UMC down here on the Florida coast in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, being constantly amazed at how God lines things up. I must admit, at first I thought it was "all about me" and the impression the pastors and worship ministry team wanted to make on the new intern -- the new African-American intern at that. It had to be for that reason that on my first day (this past Sunday) the youth choir would be singing a Swahili worship song, "O Sifuni Mungu" with drums included and all. I thought, I must have shared at some point my affinity and love for African dance and drumming. I must have indicated that I have been dancing for nearly 10 years to the beat of the Dijimbe. How nice it is that they would incorporate this song in worship just for my liking. As part of my welcome to Harvest party!

However, the pastor knew nothing about my love affair with African dance. So I chalked it up to a God-thing!

Then there was the message: The Power to Embrace, which focused on racism, sexism, classism and all the other ism's we battle that keep us from fully accepting each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. The pastor urged parishioners to be aware of the Holy Spirit's nudge, which could take "them places they may not want to go." I mean that message had to be about me, right? It had to be about laying the foundation of acceptance and training the congregation in being more diverse-friendly so the new intern -- the only black woman in the congregation --would feel welcome and a part of the family.

But, this too, had nothing to do with me. In fact, the sermon was the continuation of a series being preached from Acts. Again, another God-thing. Or maybe more of a God-incidence. Just like the talk I had with one of the parishioners who shared with me his work with homeless populations. I figured the pastor had shared with him the work I had been doing at the homeless shelter for the past year.

The parishioner knew nothing of my volunteer history. This was definitely a God-thing -- one that confirmed I'm in the right place. I'm where all my passions can be further explored.

As one parishioner put it, God did just enough to keep me humble and more than enough to make me feel comfortable here. He brought me all the comforts of home while I'm away from my home. And he reminded me of just how 'Big' he is. And how small I am.

He's quite a comedian when you think about it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Whatcha call me?

Oh my goodness! It just dawned on me. . . people will probably start calling me Minister or Pastor Juana! So that means I have five days left (up until the wee hours before the first church service starts) to get over the name change, accept it and be ready to walk in it.
Sunday is fast approaching. On May 17, I'll officially be the pastoral intern at Harvest UMC in Bradenton. And for the next three months I'll be emerged in all things pastoral. So yeah, I'll probably hear Pastor or Minister Juana more than a few times.

A few days ago at Candler's graduation, one of my former high school classmates -- who is also a pastor -- approached me saying, "Hey Reverend, how you doing?" My eyes got wide. My head turned from side-to-side and I wondered for a split second who he was talking to. Then last night I get a call from another high school classmate who wanted to know how he should address me this weekend at the class reunion. "Should I call you "Bishop, Reverend, Pastor, what?" he asked me.

"Juana is fine, " I said.

As I've shared before, the reason I struggle with the title is because of the weight of the responsibilities and expectations it carries. I'm in a insulated environment inside Candler where it's normal to hear Minister this or Reverend that. It's largely outside of that bubble that I squirm uncomfortably in my skin when I hear the prefix added. You never know what's coming behind it -- a joke, a snide remark, or a challenge to see whether you know what people think you should know. "So, what are apostles and are they still in existence today?"

What does that have to do with what's happening in the world right now? Nothing.

But more than anything, I often think it just doesn't sound like me. Every now and then, I go rounds with God, like Moses, offering objections to why this idea of being becoming a minister possibly won't work. Of course these are the days when I am extremely frustrated and overwhelmed by it all. Overwhelmed by what God is saying I must do. Moses gave 5 objections. I've probably given about 10 to 15 (some probably repeats) and none of them have been able to stand up in court. It's amazing who God calls. I still wonder sometimes why God chose me. Being a pastor was not what I wanted to grow up doing. I just wanted to write a few books and travel the world telling people about the liberation I've found in my relationship with Jesus.

Uhhhh, kinda sounds like a minister, huh? Yeah.

I have to remember that I prayed for God's will for my life to be my will. And God's will is for me to walk this road. And his gift in this obedience is to help me meet my greatest passion with the world's greatest need. Sure, I fight from time-to-time and wrestle with this. I'm told I probably always will. But there are the in-between times when I remember that I have been called "for such a time as this" to aid a world that hurts in a way that it didn't when I started this journey. God must think me some kind of special! And that's pretty cool.

So, Minister and Pastor Juana it is!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reflections of a first-year graduate

Today is graduation day and honestly I'm dreading the sea of people I'll be forced to wade through -- more than 3,800. That's just the graduates. So you can imagine the burgeoning numbers with the families following behind. But I'm putting all of the anxiety of the day aside to celebrate the ending of a three-year journey for a select group of those 3,800 -- new friends at Candler I've met whose business card now reads with Master of Divinity (MDiv) behind their names. Today is about them -- about their ending of a chapter in their life story and the beginning of another.
But I guess it's also about me and where I have journeyed from and where I'm going.
Today officially marks my ending as a first-year MDiv student who came here wondering if she would even understand all the theology jargon. I still don't although I've picked up keep words here and there: christiological, eschatological, hermeneutical, homiletics, pedagogical.
Now if I can just use them all in a sentence!

Then there are the names of ancient theologians -- some who haunt me in my dreams -- Arius, Athanasius, St. Augustine, Cyril, Ireanaeus, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Nostorius, Origen. All of these now make up who I am becoming -- a theologian. Just saying that sounds strange. Me, a theologian! Not what I grew up wanting to be -- but who I am becoming. And when I reflect on the journey thus far, it's not so bad. Sure, I now approach the Bible differently, look at it differently, and sometimes even wonder what I believe. Because as a friend reminded me, in seminary we don't embrace the Bible, but rip it to shreds, tear it apart to examine its skeleton, to make sense of that which oftentimes can't be explained.

Some of the knowledge is rich. Some, quite simply, is troubling. But in it all, I am becoming a richer minister, preacher and theologian for it. And in some way, the doubts I have, the questions I ponder over are becoming the places where I am finding God.

A few weeks ago, I scribbled a note about how even after a whole school year, I find myself wondering why Emory let me through the door. At the time, I was reminded of what a dancer said to me following our dance class. She told me that there would be some dances I won't get no matter how hard I try because my body isn't made for that dance. So, all I could do is simply study the movement and go through the motions as best I can. But there would be others, she said, I would pick up quickly and move about gracefully as if the dance was made for me.

I thought about that and compared it to my seminary experience. There will be aspects of my learning that I simply won't get. My brain just won't compute. But that's okay, because there will be some theological dances I'll pick up with little effort.

And those I don't. . . well, I'll just have to rely -- like I did much of this year -- on my dance partner to sashay me through the ending of the song.

Happy Graduation Juana! One year down. A lifetime of learning to go . . . .

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Okay so here is the latest --- I got the internship at Harvest UMC near Bradenton, Fl. Yippee!!!! I got the call yesterday afternoon from the pastor and it looks like I will be back in Florida for the next 12 weeks after I finish this semester. My first day will be May 17. (The only thing about that is I will miss my classmate from high school preach that Sunday. That's also the weekend of my 20-year high school class reunion.) Let me just say this is what I prayed for. I prayed for God to help me to make connections. This pastor, Catherine Fluck-Price, is the chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry for the Florida Conference. Now if that ain't a connection, I don't know what is . . . Keep me in prayer. This promises to be an exciting summer. Maybe I can get some of my friends to drive over and come hear me preach. I'll preach at least twice while I'm there, possibly more . . .

. . . Speaking of preaching, I delivered my third sermon yesterday preaching on the 2 Samuel 1:1; 17-27 text which was about the lament or song that David wrote about Saul and his best friend Jonathan when he learned that they were killed in battle. The gist of the sermon focused on how David was able to stay focused on the heart of Saul even though Saul sought to kill him. I'm always amazed how the sermons manifest, particularly when you stay up all night. I say that because most often I am not really aware of the process to compose them, nor do I have a particular structure in mind for putting them together. But of course my classmates seem to think so. It's only after their careful analysis and critique that I am able to see how the sermon came together. I didn't even look at as a sermon that explained how David became "a man after God's own heart." But I guess that's exactly what it was -- at least that's how my classmates saw it.

. . . I participated in my first communion service this past Tuesday and that was interesting. Of the many things I have done in the church, giving communion wasn't one of them. I believe I have a whole new reverence for the Eucharist and ultimately what it means to share in the Lord's Supper. It feels quite different to be on the offering end.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

1. God granted favor on the Christian Thought mid-term, which by the way wasn't the easiest open book, open note test. Today, I earned two more points to the 24 I already had. There were 30 questions in all. Blame it unclear wording. The answer I checked could be right, but then so could one of the others. Either way, at least now I may have a high B.

2. It's bad enough to hear the word, but to see the word nigger written on the front cover of a book can be just as jarring. The word is the title of a new book I'm reading by Randall Kennedy. It's part of a discussion about language I will be having with my TCP group (Transforming Community Project), which meets every other Monday to discuss race issues at Emory. The author takes a look at the racial epithet and the controversy surrounding it. On Monday, one of the facilitators encouraged us to observe people and their reaction when they see the book. I took it the homeless shelter tonight where I minister and it certainly turned quite a few heads, so much so, a few guys want to purchase the book for themselves. It's not a bad read.
I'm looking forward to the dialogue, especially with my white brothers and sisters.

3. I am loving the new duds I got for my computer. Found out about these laptop skins and ordered one from this artist in Singapore. This is a Lily Pang original. Check it out! Also, check out her Web site:

4.It never fails, just when I think I'm going to the Elizabeth Inn to minister, the guests there minister to me.

5. There are about 55 days left in this semester.

6. I learned today that I can actually write a precis on an ancient theologian's writing in 30 minutes. I hope I don't have to do it again, but at least I know I can.

7. Seminary is like pledging -- you know you won't get any sleep! Got two hours last night.

8. It's nearly 1 a.m. and I still have two assignments to finish. One's due at 8 a.m.

9. My favorite consignment store is calling me -- I just got an email it's holding a $10 bag sale as part of a charity event this Saturday. How many ever pieces I can stuff in a bag will cost me only $10. So, African dance class may have to wait until next Saturday.

10. Let me get back to work. It'll be time to wake up in a few hours.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just a thought . . .

So this question was posed in Sunday School class on Sunday: How is it that Jehovah Witness and Mormons are able to witness and evangelize daily without being affected by the rejection they receive from those they witness to?

The woman who asked this wondered how we even witnessed, if we witnessed at all. Her point was that even though she knew it was not her the people would be rejecting, rejection, nonetheless, is hard to swallow.

I came across something this evening that may answer how the Jehovah Witness and Mormons do it. St. Gregory of Nazianzus (an ancient theologian I'm studying whose known for his writings on the Trinity) beliefs may explain it best as well as present a challenge to us all as Christians:

True Christians don't accept failure but merely see it as an allowance that God permits; for we only experience setbacks, not failures, which are designed to enable us to become more successful in the art and science of serving God and others.

Something to think about . . .

Sunday, March 15, 2009

So now I'm a teacher . . .

On at least two occasions this weekend, someone asked me if I were a teacher. Both times I was told that I had "the look" of one. Both times, I found that baffling. What does a teacher look like? Of course I certainly didn't think I possessed the look, whatever "the look" is. But funny thing, this isn't the first time I've been asked if whether that is my profession.

Maybe it is. Maybe it has been all along. And now, I'm growing into it.

A friend of mine this week shared with me and another friend how important it is when a man gives the woman he is seeing, a name. How she takes on a different role in his life when he introduces her as "his girlfriend" or "his woman." My friends and I mulled over that and concluded that sometimes we don't always recognize when our name is being called, largely because we haven't really been paying attention or come to accept our name. It's kind of like the first time I saw Minister next to my name on a program and heard it called out loud. I didn't recognize it as being me. Still don't. It's a work in progress. Why I've toyed with this in my head, I don't know. I mean, Jesus was called teacher -- Rabboni. And so being called that can't be a bad thing. And I am going to "Jesus" school.

Nonetheless, I reflected on that conversation today and it dawned on me, people are calling me by a name I didn't recognize as my name largely because I haven't wanted to accept it, even though it's been an answer to prayer. Gotta be careful about what I pray for. As I have shared before, I've wrestled over who God is calling me to be and my prayer has been that I began to see myself the way God and others see me. Apparently this past Saturday and Sunday, two men saw me as a teacher. They didn't ask me what kind I was. They just figured I was.

Guess what? They're right. I am. And today, I feel good about walking in that name.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Taking a break . . . kinda

So today officially ends my Spring Break! And before you ask the same question that everybody asks, "How was your break?", let me quickly clarify something -- it wasn't really a break, not in the real sense of the word or at least not what I envisioned. I didn't go anywhere special, do anything special or even dream about doing anything special. I kind of feel like I didn't have an option to do any of that. I mean how can one plan when there's a mid-term exam to finish (which I just finished up at 11:20 p.m. I had 90 minutes to take it.), and papers to write, a debate to prepare for and assignments to read -- some of which require multiple readings in order to understand it. I haven't even started on those yet. But nonetheless, you can probably understand my disappointment. A Spring Break just doesn't seem like such a break if you can't take a break from the work you were hoping to break away from.

I was actually feeling that way about an hour ago. And in the midst of all of my complaining I didn't realize that maybe this time actually did afford me a break from the norm. Again, it wasn't like I would have envisioned. But a call from a friend a few moments ago put my week into perspective. My classmate was sharing details about her quiet retreat experience. Candler made it possible for a few students to get away on a silent prayer retreat. (Of course you know that I wasn't doing that!) Now my classmate didn't actually follow all the rules. She had her DVD's and computer in tow -- distractions which weren't really encouraged on the retreat -- after all it was meant to be a time of prayer and reflection. "I didn't know I wasn't supposed to take my things," she said. "I didn't even know we weren't supposed to talk, but I had my own room, so I could sit up in my bed and watch movies and paint my toes."

She said it was great! Just the break from her hectic schedule was enough to rejuvenate her.
I thought about that. This time off hadn't been all bad. I had somewhat of a quiet prayer retreat of my own. This past week, I slept past 5:15 a.m. sometimes to almost 10 a.m., didn't leave the house if I didn't want to, although I had dinner out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday -- I was invited to a birthday party at this swanky chic restaurant that's become my new favorite place -- and on Thursday I had a girlfriend's brunch at my other favorite spot, The Flying Biscuit Cafe.

You know, it's funny how the simple things bring joy and a measure of freedom. And it's funny how easy it is for us to overlook these moments as just another day, instead of an opportunity to take a breath and enjoy the scenery, enjoy the time. Spending those few hours with friends was just what I needed. Having that time alone during the day was just what I needed. For a moment I was reminded of aspects of my life before the demands of professors and classwork. I was reminded of the times when I just enjoyed being.

And it was a wonderful memory. But more than that, for a few hours during my so-called Spring Break, it was my reality. And I thank God for that!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

1. This is the second day of Spring Break and I'm still wondering where the break is . . . gotta take a mid-term this week, prepare for two papers due on Tuesday, a preaching assignment due next Wednesday and Old Testament readings to catch up on.

2. The North DeKalb Mall parking lot takes on a whole new meaning for me and two of my other seminary friends now that the Lord led us to pray there last night following our dinner at Applebee's. It was amazing to say the least. There we were praying for one another -- loudly I might add -- and God shows up answering all kinds of questions each of us had and killing doubts we were wrestling with. Funny. One of the messages that came straight to me was, "Juana, stop wrestling with me! You won't win!" What's so amazing is that in my Monday blog I had just written about things I wrestle with. My sister, who shared this message with me through her prayer didn't even know I had been wrestling. Now that's God! Who said he doesn't speak?

3. Today was just a beautiful sunny day. Already hitting 80 degrees and it's just the beginning of Spring.

4. I'm missing my kickboxing class in Tallahassee.

5. So I just got the word that the pastor of Harvest UMC in Bradenton wants to interview me on March 23 for an internship this summer at her church near Bradenton, Florida. I'm hoping I can land this. I'll get the full ministry experience and a chance to preach at least twice while I'm there. They'll also take care of my housing and give me a stipend . The good thing is that the pastor called me and reminded me to apply. So, maybe God will grant me favor!

6. I didn't study anything today, just looked at the cover of the books . . . tomorrow, I have to get on it.

7. I started this list around 10 a.m. today and it's now after midnight.

8. I interviewed with the chaplain at Spelman College to see whether she would take me on as a chaplain assistant next semester for my contextual education class. Unfortunately that means I have to leave behind the work I do at the homeless shelter. I'm really bothered by that. I like working there.

9. So I went to see Madea Goes to Jail last Friday and still can't tell you about the entire movie. I feel asleep midway through . . . guess I'll just wait for the DVD now. Never fails, lights go out, I go to sleep, but that's the life of a seminarian.

10. I'm going to bed now. Getting more than 2-3 hours of sleep a night is a privilege I gotta take advantage of before classes resume next week.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tests, tests, tests . . .

I should have known the first sermon -- well, really the second -- I preached during my preaching class was a set up for God to teach me a lesson. And I should have known the test would come sooner than later. It came the next day -- that Saturday, Feb. 28.

The day before, during the 8 a.m. hour, I had just preached the sermon, "Check Yourself, Before You Wreck Someone Else" taken from the I Corinthians 8:1-13 text, which essentially challenges Christians who are farther along in their faith walk to live in such a way that it doesn't cause those who are "babes in Christ" to stray away from their faith. The text is a letter from Paul who uses the question regarding whether it is still appropriate for the members of the church at Corinth to eat the leftover meat that is used for sacrifices to idol gods as a larger lesson on moral behavior. In essence, the church is asking, "Can I still go hangout in these questionable places now that I have turned my life over to God and am no longer affected by what happens in these places? Don't I have the right to do that?"

In the letter Paul basically says that we do have the right to do what we want, but as a Christian must be mindful that our actions, while not harmful to us, could be harmful to someone who's faith foundation isn't as strong. The message is really a more comprehensive take on being "our brother's keeper". We are. And that's the bottom line.

So on that Saturday, I found myself wrestling with this revelation. Wrestling with the fact that I was asked to attend a function at a place that I knew was questionable and just not the proper environment for me to be in. Wrestling with this new role that God is prepping me for. Wrestling with the fact that what I do could cause someone to turn their back on God. Wrestling with the fact that I didn't want to disappoint my girlfriend and be seen as this "self-righteous", all holier than thou Jesus fanatic.

Wrestling with the fact that God is calling me to be a minister.

Sometimes the lesson has to be learned after the fact. After the experience. And so that was the case with me. I took the coward's way out and obliged my friend. I could have stood my ground, but didn't. I'm sure she would have understood. But maybe a small part of me didn't want to have to reflect on the fact that I am different. In Christian speak, they call it "set apart." I don't always like that phrasing -- it's loaded and carries much responsibility. It's the mirror image I don't always want to see. But I'm beginning to accept.

That night, it became much clearer that I do have to be mindful of how I walk and where I'm walking. Even the people in the place knew I didn't belong there. They may not have know the why's behind it, but they knew it wasn't my scene. Normally when I'm in places where I shouldn't be, God tells me, "You don't belong here." God didn't do that this time. Didn't have to. I knew before I left, before my car rolled in the parking lot, before I stepped in the place, that I was in the wrong place.

And after I left, I knew I would have to take a stand for what I know is right for me. As I heard a minister say earlier that day, "There comes a day that it's undeniable who God called you to be."
She's right, cause on Friday, he called me to remember that I am my brother's keeper.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Back in the news

My blog made the Candler Admissions page! Check me out:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Behind the cold piece of steel

I found a new way to relieve my stress on Wednesday: I picked up a Glock 22 and 35 and commenced to firing.
Yes, seminary has driven me to pick up the cold steel of a firearm. All the tension it brings and frustrations of classwork that I can't seem to grasp left my body and flew straight toward my target. He got it four times to the head, once to the neck and a few to the chest area.
And that was the first time I ever shot. My target was definitely dead.
My frustrations, my anger and depression I found myself under were definitely dead . . .at least for a day.

This was my first excursion to the firing range, at least for the purpose of learning about gun safety and usage. I figure if I ever find myself in a situation that requires I use the weapon for my safety, at least I'll have some knowledge of how it works. The trip was one that I had added to my list of 100 things that I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime and so when my cop and seminary friend offered to take a few of us girls -- we're now dubbed the newer, prettier version of Charlie's angels -- I hopped at the chance to go.

The firing, while scary, felt good. Kinda. I had a mix of emotions. Funny thing happened. As I stood behind the firing line with my arm extended out and my Glock aimed toward my target and started to think about how powerful I felt and how I "could get used to this feeling," the Lord spoke. And in a quiet still voice he said, "You should never be comfortable behind the back of that gun.There should always be a feeling of discontent."

I thought about that. And as I pulled the trigger to see the bullet escape the chamber causing a mini volcanic explosion, I thought about the many young brothers on the street who have become comfortable being behind the arm of that weapon. At that moment, I gained more of a reverence for the power that I was wielding. At that moment, it became very real that I could take a life -- decimate one with a simple pull and "Click". Just like I had taken my anger and frustration and killed off the demons I had been battling for the past few weeks.

In those moments I stood between the stalls of the firing range, I became aware of others who hurt and have no way to express themselves than through the cold steel of a piece like the Glock I held. And I silently weeped for them because no one saw their pain. I was reminded of how desensitized we have become to the suffering of others around us. And it was in that moment I prayed for eyes to be opened to pain other than our own.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lift ev'ry voice . . .

I was back in the Bahamas yesterday . . . not physically, mind you. I'm still trying to rest up. But I was there via the radio airwaves. I, along with a few of my other seminary friends, Michael Hunt and Quentin Samuels and some Bahamian Morehouse students and a Spellman sister got a chance to be a part of the live radio show: The Audacity to Hope: Do Dreams Really Come True? The show was a part of the Matters of the Heart radio program, my new friend Kirk Johnson broadcasts internationally from the Bahamas. This past weekend, however, he took the 2-hour show on the road and headed straight here to Atlanta to do the broadcast live from the place he felt the dreams we're now realizing in President Obama's election began.

Kirk and I met when I was at the zns station,, finishing up a radio interview two weeks ago. Once he realized Michael and I were from Atlanta, he shared how he wanted us to be a part of his broadcast and invited us to bring others along.

So there we were sitting in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel on Morehouse's campus, surrounded by the thousands of photos of the Great Dr. King, Jr. and glimpses of the civil rights movement expounding on how one takes their dream from just the "concept" stage to reality. I was honored to be there, be a part of the conversation. I felt particularly esteemed to be in the company of these young black men who spoke their convictions and shared their insights of what is now being demanded of them in this moment and time in history. There were only two of us women at the table. At first I wondered if Kirk failed to find others. But as I sat there, it quickly became apparent that that time on the airwaves was really moreso about the men. It was their time to speak.

We women have always shared. Our men, more specifically, the collective voices of our black men, have not always been afforded that opportunity nor have they always taken advantage of it when presented. And Kirk's show was their time to be at the table and share their knowledge and relish in the fact that they do have something to say and it's not only their responsibility to share, but their responsibility to encourage their other brethren to do the same. Many others are waiting to hear what they have to say.

And on Sunday, a portion of the world was listening, including me. And I couldn't have been happier and more thrilled to have a front row seat.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

God in the details . . .

A funny thing -- funny ironic thing -- happened in Old Testament II class today. I think I got a glimpse of the Holy Spirit hanging out in there. Yes, I said it, the Holy Spirit. This class may turn out not to be so bad after all. The fact that the professor shared tidbits of his faith foundation (giving indication that he believes in God) and we started the class with prayer tells me there is hope for Jesus to show up in class this time. I know for some it may even sound strange that I would write something like this. I mean, I'm in seminary. It would stand to reason that the Holy Ghost would be in every nook and cranny of this place, practically hanging from the ceilings ready to pounce. But sadly, that isn't the case. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit only comes by invitation. And sometimes I think that even if an invitation were sent out, we might find that the Holy Spirit's address was no longer valid.

It's only the first day -- Introduction Day -- and already I'm thinking . . . hoping . . . praying that this class will actually live out the truism the professor proclaims: that "scripture is he word of life" and that there can't be proper interpretation unless there is empathy and evaluation in dealing with the text. One without the other either lends itself to superficiality or cynicism.

I saw enough of that last semester. And frankly, I wasn't sure I would see too much of anything else. But God always gives us a glimpse of a shining light. This semester his name is Dr. Mark Strawn.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ten on Tuesday . . . a day later

1. I'm back stateside! Yippe. I'm connected, once again! My phone was the first thing I grabbed when the plane touched down on the tarmac Tuesday night. And when I got my bags, I headed straight to the nearest Waffle House to grab me a waffle. Just can't get that kind of good cooking in the Bahamas. I'm not saying my Bahamian brothers and sisters cooking isn't and wasn't good, but let's just say I've had my share of peas and rice . Besides there's nothing like a good waffle over great conversation. That was just what I needed.

2. I decided I'm not leaving the house today -- especially not to head toward Emory. I'll be there soon enough tomorrow. So, in the meantime, I'll just hang with myself and enjoy my solitude. I may finish up my reading, maybe not. This trip has really worn me out and today I just need to rest. God know there will be little of that once classes resume . . .

3. Well, it's back to classes tomorrow. My Spring semester begins. I'm barely finished with my January term (we call them J-term) courses. I still have three papers to write, two books to read and updates to do to my journal and organize my notes. The work never stops. But such is the life of a seminary student. Pray for my endurance.

4. Speaking of endurance, I'm resolving to get back to my kickboxing classes this year. In fact, I'm starting tonight. Found a free cardio class at the hospital.

5. I still can't believe that one of my professors assigned or "strongly suggested" a week ago that we begin assignments for his class. I didn't realize this until after a friend who was also in the Bahamas with me shared this tidbit of information this past week. Get this, not only did he want us to read the books for the class, but watch some John Wayne movie, "They Were Expendable" and "In Which We Serve" with Noel Coward (I don't even know who that is!) to prepare ourselves for the "struggle that lies ahead". Then he tagged on the end, "Time to join Netflix . . ." See why I'm going to kickboxing class!

5. At least I don't have to work tomorrow. I'm not sure I could make it anyway.

6. Okay, can I just say, I'm now a huge fan of all things Conch -- fried, stewed, in conch salad. That conch's some good eating!

7. Pastor Catherine Fluck-Price of Harvest UMC in Bradenton, Fla. is interested in possibly taking me on as an intern for the summer. She suggests I throw my hat in the ring for the summer position. I'm considering. It's either there or the Bahamas. Only thing with the later opportunity is I'll definitely have to have the phone situation worked out. This woman can't live off of IM'ing or email alone. I wasn't connected for 10 days and nearly lost my mind. Imagine two months!

8. One thing I like about the Bahamians is they really know how to live within their holiday's. They still have Christmas decorations up-- nativity scenes and all. I didn't see not one Valentine or red-colored nothing anywhere. Maybe they'll display those things in say . . . February, right after they take down their Christmas trees and lights. Apparently that's about how long they keep them up!

9. I might find myself on another Bahamian radio program. A talk show host I met there, Kirk Johnson is heading to Atlanta to do a live broadcast this Sunday from the King Center on "The Audacity of Hope: How do I make my dreams come true?" He invited me and other friends of mine to join and share our thoughts. You know I'm really feeling this is not a coincidence (which I don't really believe in anyway) that I'm coming face-to-face with all these radio personalities and meeting up with these radio opportunities. A friend of mine and I have been talking about putting together our own show. Maybe these opportunities are the open door we have been looking for . . .

10. Call me crazy, but I'm glad to be back home . . . cold weather and all. Something just didn't feel quite right with me wearing shorts and summer dresses in the middle of January!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dreams revealed . . .

Imagine taking a sabbatical from your cellphone. Well, I did -- not by my own accord, mind you. It was forced. Altell doesn't work on this side of the ocean and for the past nine days I've been without the ability to make or receive phone calls or text. I was so distressed that for the first few days, I would just turn on my phone to see if it still worked. I secretly hoped maybe a text would find its way through or I would see the bars light up on my phone saying I could make a call if I wanted. No such blessing. (Cost for just a minute would have been too high anyway). For a while, I couldn't even link up to the Internet. By all accounts, I felt as if I were a woman without a country to connect to. The ironic thing about that, is that that's how I've felt since being here. In that in-between place, where I struggle to find out where exactly I fit in the grand scheme of what I see taking place here.

I shared with my fellow seminarians and workshop participants that I'm beginning to see what God is doing with me here. This seminar is the fulfillment of prayers I have prayed in regard to my ministry and and a fulfillment of the promises God made to deliver on my desires. I didn't realize until a few days ago that the list I have been compiling of the 100 things I would like to accomplish in my lifetime is dwindling somewhat as God is crossing some of those things off the list. Here I am beginning to see the marriage of my journalism skills with that of ministry and I am in awe of how God works. I've desired to connect with people of other cultures and have the opportunity to speak and minister internationally and have them share their faith with me. This trip has allowed me the chance to do that.

I prayed that I would be able to travel and fill my passport with stamps. This trip is the beginning of that dream. I have also prayed to be able incorporate my love of radio within my ministry. Since being here, I have networked with people who may be able to offer advice and help in that area and have even asked me to be a part of their radio broadcasts. I've done two interviews since being here. And been asked to speak at other future events and churches.

All of this happens and I have no one to immediately tell. Maybe that is where the lesson lies. Maybe I'm just supposed to sit with something and bask in the Glory of God's goodness alone. Being without my phone has forced me to look within and rest with God awhile. It has forced me to really take stock of my surroundings and ask God, "What's next?"

It's prompted me to live my life with the expectation that God has so much more in store for me.
I must say, this isn't a bad start. Today the Bahamas, tomorrow . . . maybe South Africa.
I'm praying!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Answered prayers . . .

I'm so behind on my blog posts for this week. There has just been so much going on -- the seminars that last all day and events into the night -- that I haven't been able to keep up. But I did want to get this one in. That radio show that I was on this week . . . well it'll be streaming live tonight on at 9 p.m. So if you get a chance, log on.

It so happened that I, and two of my seminarian colleagues, Michael Hunt and Lance Eiland were asked to be on the radio program Vision, which is a broadcast by the Methodist Conference of the Caribbean and the Americas all over the Caribbean and even in New Zealand. The show, which is a 30-minute weekly program gave us an opportunity to share a little of who we are, how we were called into ministry and our thoughts on this past weeks seminar. For me, it was a answer to one of my prayers to God. And it was evidence that all my skills and desires to use my journalist tools and pursue my radio dreams in ministry have been heard.

I didn't think I would go international so soon. But that's what I get for putting God in a box.