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.