Thursday, September 24, 2009

mad, mad world

i am wasting time on facebook (as ever) and off to the right there, where the powers that be are usually trying to find me an atlanta apartment, convince me of a favorite new artist, or sell me tickets to hear rob bell speak, there is a t-shirt ad. these pop up every now and again, as i'm sure you're aware, but i think you crossed the line this time, fb.

there is a girl with cute, curly red hair looking off to the side coquettishly. she is wearing a t-shirt with your typical, arms-spread-warmly depiction of Jesus...and the letters 'BRB'

i am in seminary now, so i have an official licence to joke about things that border on sacrilegious, but come on.

my question is--is that somehow based on my interests? yikes.

another sign that the world's going to pieces--i'm at the gym the other day, working out on the elliptical (which apparently is making my butt get bigger, in fact) between two emory undergrads. and we three are all positively ENAMORED with the ridiculous MTV show 'parental control.' this was completely unintentional on my part, but i couldn't not look away from the bad accident of humanity. here's the scene: girl takes girl (who is dating another girl) on date where they cover themselves in animal feed, lie down in a pile of mud, and let various species of livestock walk all over them and eat.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

phrase turner

i just received back my first paper from our mandatory first-year course that has been alternately referred to as a remedial writing class or a waste of time. i actually have been nervous about this supposedly silly class because i'm not familiar with Turabian citations and this first paper prompt was too broad for my liking and i've just generally been feeling like a little fish in an entirely new and overwhelmingly large academic pond.

but the feedback i received from this paper included the nicest academic complement i think i have ever received: "Whitney, thank you for your paper. It's an absolute pleasure to read your writing--you turn a beautiful phrase." i think i like that so much because it puts to words exactly what i try to do when i write, whether it's here on the blog, in a school paper, or even in a letter or email.

i've been needing that confidence boost. sometimes i really do feel like i'm in over my head--and i probably am. but if i can stay afloat on the preliminary assignments, hopefully i'll fare better in the future. and i won't have to ask myself, "now why did i come back to school again?" quite as frequently.

this is actually the second time that a teacher has thanked me for my observations, for my work. how nice is that? is that a grad school thing? how great to know that your contributions are appreciated, not just another notch in the gradebook.

alright--i need to get back to it. we've been given a window of studying opportunity due to our OT lecture being cancelled on account of the flooding. apparently our professor is trapped in his neighborhood by a river of water across the road. perhaps God is trying to teach Gen. 6-9 by object lesson instead of by lecture...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

i like the word 'diluvian'


i've realized that i don't like them. i like church without bulletins. both churches i attended today (still being extra pious) didn't have an order of service handed out at the door. a couple of years ago, chapel hill bible church, though usually they hand out such a bulletin, did not one sunday as part of a bigger effort to engage in a worship service likened to the early church of the disciples. ever since then, i've really latched on to that idea--worship being free-flowing and natural and following the Spirit. now i know that these services today DID have things planned out, and maybe their reasonings for not passing out bulletins are as simple as saving paper & minimizing copying costs. but it's so much better to not have people flipping and turning pages in unison during an otherwise somber moment during the service, to not have noses buried in announcements.

it's weird that i don't care to know what's going on, that i don't like to have a structured plan laid out in front of me. i'm generally so structured, so organized--i like lists. i make many of them to keep my life in order...and what is a bulletin but a list for the service? hmm, but i like the idea of God being the chaos in my life--how could any aspect of His majesty ever be captured and put into a box or a list? He is unorderable. i try to keep myself ordered and neat and together--i try to plan things (my future, for instance) and then God often comes by and knocks things off center. a beautiful collision. there is definitely beauty in God's chaos.

i think that's it for this week's installment of the continuing saga,"Is Whitney a Methodist?" i've got at least one friend now labelling me as a "non-denom-er." and i talked with a newer friend tonight who is looking for a church similar to what i am, so i think we might journey together. (she attended vintage 21 in raleigh, which is worthy of a Jesus video shoutout. please click that link--it will make your day a little better, i promise).


it has not stopped raining here for days. does anyone else find it ironic that we've been reading the flood narratives in OT?

Monday, September 14, 2009

in need of a good squashing

good news! i don't have bronchitis (anymore), pneumonia, OR H1N1! i went to student health this morning to get checked out because i've been coughing & wheezing for a month, and of course by the time i finally made it to the doctor, it had worked itself out. apparently they don't treat bronchitis anymore anyway, you just have to tough it out. but i hate the feeling of sitting in the doctor's office with the doctor looking at you as if to say, "why did you just waste my time? you're not sick." but it is AMAZING news that the wheezing is indeed gone & i can breathe & talk normally & exercise. i look forward once again to the prospect of attacking life with ferocity :)

the weekend was good--lots of reading, of course, but so far, it's being managed well enough. i just put down a book on the history of the Biblical world, which i'm sure will be a great resource. but the chapter i read was basically a rehashing of my undergrad course in Ancient Near Eastern archeology--a course i would liken to running your brain through a meat grinder. so that was enjoyable to relive. paolo friere's pedagogy of the oppressed for my religious ed class has been great though, a really foundational read. my paper for our "remedial writing" class, however, was not quite so enjoyable, but it's done.

other points of interest for the weekend: i got asked out for sushi via facebook chat at about 6:30 Friday evening...for Friday evening. let's not abuse our technologies please friends. did not go but might take a raincheck. (any and all dating advice is always welcome :) arden & i found our go-to local sketchy Chinese place. and church! sunday was an epic day of church--did double-duty. in the morning i went to St. Mark's Methodist downtown with a group of friends from Candler. random fact: first church choir i've EVER seen with men far outnumbering the women. it was a good service--great message--but i've got A LOT to think about as far as worship style goes. i can't do traditional, not right now at least--at best i'll have to grow into it through chapel services. but in the larger scheme of things, not being able to do traditional put me at odds with the vast majority of UM churches. that's not the only reason i'm considering exploring and searching and finding out where i truly am called within the Church...but it is one more to think about. fortunately sunday night service was a little more like what i'm used to and definitely what i needed. we sang some crowder AND "All Creatures of our God and King" (albeit crowder's arrangement...), we read a creed of sorts aloud together AND had space and quiet to reflect and pray alone to God. and it was casual and natural and worshipful. so i'm getting there--finding a home. it's such a search, and it should be i think.

and now, a reflection. (warning, i may be getting back into the constant reflection mode since i'm back in a education class again...shudder). i think i've been having some self-worth issues lately. we did this exercise in said education class that started with a complaint about a ministry each of us is/was involved in. i decided to complain about the "Hotel YouthWorks" mentality that accompanied our evals this summer--not really the point of the exercise though. next you go through a series of steps that shows you where your real commitments lie and ultimately what big assumptions about life and the world and God you hold onto. my big assumptions from this exercise are as follows:
  • others' impressions of who I am define my identity
  • being successful at my job means that I'm a good person; failure means I shouldn't be in ministry

Needless to really say, those assumptions are quite off the mark of God's truth of who I am. but it just hit me like a ton of bricks--i still don't get it, not really. these are still the ideals i operate underneath, despite the saving grace i have receieved in Jesus. i'm thankful that we did this exercise now, during my second week of seminary, because clearly those are not good foundational thoughts on which to build a lifetime of ministry. i think it's time for the clay of my assumptions to get squashed by God's hands (jer. 18:4) so that He can remold me into someone whose identity and worth is based in Him, not in my own actions or on other people's opinions.

relatedly, i've really been tough on myself lately on the body image side of self-worth. just when you think you might be moving past that rears its ugly head again. sure, a YouthWorks summer was not extremely kind to my figure, and my complexion is still a bit temperamental, but i've definitely grown a lot in love for myself and the person God created me, just me, to be. then i come to Candler and am meeting all these new people...and okay, i'll just say it, i'm meeting guys. guys that i am interested in, that i am attracted to. and when i ask myself, what if? what if he likes me, too? i stop and think to myself whether or not it would be possible for someone to like me. am i really pretty enough for him to notice me? am i skinny enough? is my hair too thin, are my clothes okay? and some days, the answer to those questions is no. i could wax poetic here about how wrong and detrimental these ideas are, because i know those things, i do (come on, i HAVE read captivating *stifled gag*) but that's where i am, unfortunately--still.

it's funny, isn't it, how seminary won't be as much about the making of a minister as it will be about the making of a person, a child of God.

enough heavy thoughts for now--i might have to turn towards bed soon and read myself to sleep with a little more friere. tuesdays are epic.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


maybe i should just blame it on the cold medicine, but lately i've been feeling a little bit disembodied. i feel like i'm going through the motions of all this seminary business, this new life in Atlanta--but my feet aren't on the ground, i'm not rooted yet, i'm not grounded in what's going on. i'm just spinning somewhere up in the atmosphere amidst all the assignments and the meetings and the requirements and the new faces and friends.

everything is so good, it really is. sure i miss friends and UNC and family and my preschoolers and YouthWorks--but this is good and right. it is a lot though. i know i've only been out of school for a year, but i think that's a part of my disorientation. i had to redefine my identity as a non-student last year (though i still used my student ID at the movies, shh don't tell), and here i am again, shoved back into that role and having to relearn certain things. like microsoft word 2007 on my new computer...what IS that?? and a whole new system for source citations in papers. and what it means to put aside books that i want to read for books that i have to read.

and oh, good grief, i've got a headache over all this UMC ordination stuff. there are so many hoops to jump through and i'm not sure i even want to do the jumping! i'm not sure if i'm all in on the methodist church. as far as i know, i'm on board with their doctrine and theology--but mostly because it's what i've been raised to believe. i don't know if i'm ready to tie myself to a denomination so permanently. what does it mean that i feel more at home at a nondenominational, organic church that i attended this weekend over all the traditional services i've been going to lately? as we were leaving church this sunday (it's called veritas and i will definitely be going back), arden commented on how she missed the prayer recital and call and response elements in the service. i had just been thinking earlier in the week, during chapel, about how uncomfortable those recitations make me feel. i like the idea of the congregation reading as one, and of course they're always beautiful, Scriptural prayers. but i don't feel like i'm talking to God when i'm reading off a sheet of paper someone else typed up for me. maybe that's a personal fault and a way for me to grow in worship while i'm at candler.

the main points on my 'pro' side for going through with ordination have been things like standing up as a woman in church leadership. and my scholarship...i just can't kick that reason. and there're some really dumb 'con' reasons, too--like not wanting to restrict myself to living within the Western NC conference. maybe i really should make a pro/con list. that might help me. it's hard to feel like i've got to make all these HUGE decisions when i'm definitely not ready, and for goodness sake, i'm just a clueless first semester first year.

last night i spent my first shift volunteering at MUST ministry. it was great--i'm so excited about spending a semester there (though i was DEFINITELY feeling disembodied due to a pounding sinus headache). some hard stuff went down right away though--a young guy got kicked out of the shelter for failing his drug test, and he had nowhere to go. a family of 4 didn't have $16 to pay for their mandatory drug tests. what a seemingly insignificant amount of money, that i easily would blow on a new top or a nice dinner out--and they didn't have it. with 2 kids. i wanted to simultaneously melt into the floor and dig out my wallet to sneak them a twenty. that's going to be a hard lesson to learn--you can't loan everybody a few bucks. i think it'll be a life lesson in ministry--MUST is in the business of teaching the man to fish instead of handing him a fish, of repaving the road to Jericho so the no one else gets beat up and left for dead along its path. fortunately for this family, some of the other residents chipped in and they had a place to stay for another night.

with all this going on, i guess i shouldn't be surprised that i'm spinning, trying to catch all my juggling balls and sort them neatly into piles. i hope that happens soon--i hope i settle. hmm, if you'll allow me to shift my metaphor slightly, i feel a bit like Peter who has seen Jesus walking on the water--he's had this vision, right, he's seen something clearly. but as he scrambles out of the boat and makes his way forward, he looks around at the wind and the waves, and overwhelmed by it all, he begins to sink. how quickly he forgets that Jesus is standing there--i mean, Jesus is right there! "Lord, save me!" he cries out. "You of little faith," the Lord replies.

so whether i'm floating overhead or swimming with the fishies, i hope the day is soon coming when my feet will be on solid ground, walking next to Jesus on this journey. somehow, though, i feel pretty certain that this spinning is a part of my growth process here.


PS--today in my scary class, our professor, in his continuing efforts to build community in our classroom (which would probably work beautifully except for the fact that he's got half of us shaking in our skin and the other half sitting paralyzed for fear of sneezing too loudly) asked each of us what skill we felt, uh, skilled enough in to teach someone else to do. my reply was blogging. i felt it would be kind of cliche to say 'Bible study' in a seminary class (though someone else did say 'Greek') and that potty training would be a little too much information, so there you go--blogging. is that my skill? hmm, i do LOVE it, but i'm somewhat useless, aren't I? my life has been an adventure in mediocrity in a lot of things, which is okay with me. a little soccer here, a little theater there, throw in a couple of years of flute playing, some amateur baking, some pretty sweet zumba moves and i'm a well-rounded gal, no? maybe i should change my blog title to adventures in mediocrity...i kind of like that :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

back to school

i did it! first week of grad school down! and despite the lingering symptoms of bronchitis (at least it's not H1N1...), the dangers of Peavine parking garage and Atlanta traffic in general, the disappointment of not making the chamber choir at Candler, and one broken television set, i think it was a pretty good week--i think i remember how to be a student. plus the promise of a 4 day weekend for the rest of the semester, not just Labor Day, is not too shabby in itself.

right now i'm enjoying my Old Testament class the most. of course, we haven't even gotten to the actual Biblical texts, but our professor is so dynamic and engaging and funny. that is, he's funny if you're a seminary student and can laugh at jokes about the spirit of Marcion possessing disgruntled church members as they wade through Leviticus during Disciple Bible Study. which i can. it's good to know that reli studies degree is good for something.

i have two classes that span across an entire afternoon--3 hours long. the good news is that both will be managable! the first may be my most difficult, taught by an extremely intimidating man...but there is a cute boy in there, too. (yes, i am still in middle school.) the second three-hour course is my religious ed class, and we'll be doing a lot of "movement"--stretching & releasing our bodyspirit & interacting with one another on somewhat odd terms. i'm excited about it--who doesn't like a class that is different from all the others? plus, we're discussing education, which is my career of interest (at least at this point), so i'm eager to hear what our teacher has to say. something tells me it will be better than all those three hour Ed. classes at UNC...

i need to pause here for a moment to say how exceedingly impressed and inspired i am by all the second career/later in life folks who have become my classmates at Candler. one of the men i met at Leadership Candler--his wife had a baby this week. a baby. during the first week of classes. and they have two others! another woman i spoke with during one of our ordination sessions--she has 3 kids under the age of 5 and her husband is also a first-year MDiv. and they live 1.5 hours away! there are countless other stories like these among my classmates, and i just have to stop and admire their faith and courage and dedication...and also remember the others who have done it, like my own mother, when i was one of the kids waiting at home instead of one of the students.

we've had two chapel services thus far, though one was technically convocation. i love the idea of worshipping with my classmates every week--taking communion together. it's really beautiful, and so new for me. and, get this, our professors pray before class. yes, it's true. i love that! but again, so different. it's part of getting used to this new environment i've stumbled into. one of our pre-class devos included a prayer for the sojourner--asking God to help us remember in situations that are new and unfamiliar, when perhaps we feel like strangers, that we are in fact but strangers on this earth. i know that Candler and Atlanta will soon be home, will be comfortable and dearly loved, routine and familiar--but then eventually I will again be on to the next thing: more new relationships, perhaps a new city, a new job. we are always sojourners, watching the seasons change, moving ever onward to Home.

i;ve also had another day of work: i spent 3 hours reading a 26-page essay on the development of African American studies at Emory, then summarizing it for the book introduction. i don't know if it should have taken me that long (it did--i wasn't wasting time, but perhaps being too thorough??) but my boss wasn't there & that's all i was left to do. then she got back 10 minutes before i was scheduled to leave, and starting handing me more essays to summarize. i had to awkwardly excuse myself, just as i had to do last time--it will be nice to establish my schedule so we can be on the same page, the two of us. but i still enjoyed myself, really--i'm not quite sure how i happened upon this overwhelmingly literary job, but in a lot of senses, it's just perfect for me. and i like having my own little desk, and working with purpose, and hearing the clip clop clip clop of my stilletos on the tiled floor of the President's Office hallway. it's something to get used to, this being a big girl ;)

tonight there is a "invite a first year" party that i am intending to attend. something about the terminology makes me feel like i should be walking around at Hogwarts in the world of Harry Potter. but don't worry, i won't make the classic movie mistake of showing up in costume. hopefully i'll just meet some more fun people :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

seminary, day one

the day is here: i am an official student of theology. a grad student. a seminarian.

and it is so where i'm supposed to be. sure, it's just the first day, and i know things will get much harder & much less easy to love, but i really do love it right now. talk theology to me all day long. it's good to feel that rightness, that sense of being in just the place you should be--and i think at the graduate level, you have to love it that much. this is it--you picked a speciality and you better be all in.

also today--my first shift at the Office of the Pres. i thought it was just going in to fill out paperwork, and by some miscommunication, ended up being asked to stay for the afternoon. that was fine in that i didn't have anymore class, but i was totally unprepared mentally to go in & get started, and i was superbly underdressed for parading around the offices of the university bigwigs. but when i finally got down to work for an hour and a half, again, i loved it. i sat there with two manuscripts, and each had an edited copy and a revised copy. my task was to check the revised copy against the edited one to make sure all the revisions had been made. simple, easy, fabulous. i poured over 30-40 pages total and could've kept going. my little red pen was marking away where things were missed--what a feeling of power, no? and the promise of being the one to make the edits in the computer somewhere in the near future--even better.

the two things i've learned about myself (confirmed about myself, more like): i am a dork for both theology and grammar. go figure.