Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Today, as I lapped around the walking track built above the gym in the YMCA in Mount Vernon, I listened to and watched a group of boisterous (some might say wild) chocolate children having relay races. I watched them with awe, amazed by their energy. I watched them with envy, wishing I could sprint and laugh and leap the way that they did. I watched them with a sense of regret, mourning the loss of such moments in my own childhood where I was either too scared or lazy or insecure to do such things. Truth be told, I didn't learn to hula-hoop until I was 33 and I still cannot do a cartwheel. Anyway, as I walked and ran and looked at the children playing I found myself filling in the blank of this statement: If I had known then what I know now, I would have...
I don't condone or suggest living a life of regret. I am who I am. I did what I did. I did not do some things, and frankly I cannot change that. Perhaps, even, it wasn't for me to do. I mean, would I be the scholar (adult word for nerd) that I am had I been interested more in athletics than books? I don't know. But yet this statement still lingers, begging to be answered. Here are some of the things I would have done differently if I had the wisdom I have now. So, if I knew then what I know now, I would have...
Monday, December 28, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
In preparing for this class, I experienced an incredible surge of ideas and questions, most of which made their way into my journal, and some of which are written below. Considering all of what was brewing inside of me, to produce a cohesive work, It was natural for me to write thematically. The bolded words are those that I just couldn’t shake. Here are my reflections.
The situation, or set of circumstances that allows for physical, spiritual, emotional, creative, and academic reproduction. It involves wholly giving of oneself as a vessel for the nourishment of a human being, dreams, and ideas, who bears resemblance to you. The process involves more than production, but rather it is reproductive, the creation of some form of life that may look, sound, act, or think like you in some way. It involves transformation, both for that which is being nurtured and the one carrying. It is exciting, scary, challenging, and beautiful to say the least. When I asked my friend, Liza, a thirty-five year old mother of two whose youngest is nine months old, what emotion was strongest for her when she first knew she was pregnant, she answered, “Security.” Nurturing and caring for her unborn child, both in the womb and when he or she made their way into the world, affirmed her purpose and made her feel secure. I feel much the same way when I am carrying works of art, dreams, ideas, and papers waiting to be birthed.
My spiritual and creative fecundity mirrors that of my maternal grandmother’s physical power to reproduce. She was a vibrant woman, and for the better part of her late teens, twenties, and thirties, she was pregnant. In a twenty-one year span, she gave birth to seventeen children. While I have yet to have physical children, I often have visual and written work, dreams, ministries and ideas living on the inside of me.
Although I don’t remember when I conceived, I remember vividly when the body of work for my MFA at Howard was in my womb. Conception was difficult. There are failed attempts that still live in my sketchbook. One day, I knew that the idea to be birthed, the one that would come out and make an impact on others, was growing on the inside of me. I felt different, like there was life inside of me. With this particular work, my angel came in the form of a dream where I had seen the work. I could not see everything, but I knew that it included photographs, but it was bigger than photography. I saw light, movement, and heard sound. After writing what I saw in my journal, my mind began to race. My first response was much like that of Ericka, a twenty-one year old mother of a bouncing nine-month old boy. When she first knew she was pregnant, she was scared. Her biggest fear was not being prepared to raise a child. When the grandiose ideas for the project began to grow inside of me, I feared not having the time, financial resources, space, or capacity (creative, spiritual, and emotional) to finish the work.
Radiance & Glow
I was not the only one who knew there was life inside of me. Claudia Gibson-Hunter, a professor, mentor, gifted artist, and friend noticed my glow. There was a radiance on the inside that oozed from my pores. When I wasn’t feeling fearful, I was so excited about the life that was taking shape inside of me. I poured over books, spent countless hours in the studio, wrote incessantly in my journal/sketchbook, and talked with other artists to get feedback and ideas. Like Mary, I was glowing. Also like Mary, my soul magnified the Lord.
I was excited when reading Luke 1:45-56. In an effort to get a clearer picture of the circmstances, I started my study with the first verse of Luke 1. My interest was peaked when I read Luke 1:41, “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Elizabeth, through the activity of her own child and the presence of the Holy Spirit, recognized Mary’s glow. Dreamers recognized dreamers, thinkers recognize thinkers, ministers recognize ministers, and so on. Elizabeth believed in the “fruit” of Mary’s womb and also understood that Mary believed in that which grew inside of her. Belief is key in the process of generativity. It was Mary’s belief that caused her to swell with joy. Pushing fear aside, it was belief in my dream that not only cause me to be filled with joy, but also guided my decision making. I did what was necessary, even commuting for two years between New York and Washington, DC to make sure my dream was nourished. I also love the idea that ministry, idea formation, dreaming, and so on does not happen in a vacuum. When Mary and Elizabeth connected, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb danced.
Instead of reading only one translation of Luke 1:45-56, I read five, four in english and one in french. I started by reading the entire passage in the New king James Version.
After reading that version, I did a verse study to note important translation differences. Because of the format of the text, the Message translation was not included in my verse study. The three english translations had similar language for verse 46, but the BDS versions had a slightly different twist, one that made sense for me as I thought about what it means for my soul to magnify the Lord. The french version reads, “Mon âme chante la grandeur du Seigneur.” Here, the soul was not simply magnifying or praising the Lord, but rather it was literally singing the Lord’s greatness. My soul often sings when I am nourishing and nurturing that which God has placed within me so beautifully, melodically, and loudly, that it naturally starts dancing as well. It floats, twirls, boogies, and grooves to the praise song. The song and dance are evidence of my grateful heart.
Mary knew that there was no ordinary life inside of her. Although she was not aware of the magnitude of the inspiration, influence and impact her child would have on history, she did know that her child would be a great person. Mary, a humble girl at the time, was honored that she was chosen by God to be a vessel, a source of nourishment, and a source of love for this child. It is from her personal humility, her trust in God, and her anticipation that her child was going to bring about a change that “her soul magnified the Lord.” Her soul sung and danced in great expectation.I also love the fact that Mary was not alone when she praised, but in the company of another. Our praise is not only for God and for ourselves, but also for the encouragement and inspiration of others around us. I believe that we should praise out loud and praise often.
Kicking, Stretch Marks & Scarring
When I’m grooving to my soul’s magnification of God, for the most part, it literally looks like I’m dancing. I can’t keep still, and when my body is still, my mind continues to move. Even when I am asleep, my dreams bear witness of the life inside of me. The life inside of me is constantly kicking. Kicking is a method of communication between mother and unborn child. At first, it can make you nervous. Once accustomed to the feeling, it feels good to know that your child is aware of your presence and to make him or her aware of yours. You develop a secret language. Liza and Ericka both shared with me stories from early in their pregnancy when only they could feel the child within them kicking. Liza thought she was going crazy, until she realized that the baby was having an intimate communication with her that no one else was privy to because their connection was so strong.
During the process of carrying and nurturing the body of work for Howard, I developed stretch marks in the form of challenging questions I had not considered (or ones where I thought the answers were obvious, but they weren’t) and sleep deprivation among other things. During the process they were annoying, but after the fact, I realize that not only was the work that would have some of my features growing, but I was growing as well. I am forever changed by carrying tat work. I think more deeply as a result and have learned how to function well on less sleep than I was used to.
Expectation & Seeing it to Term
Preparing for this course was a very intimate and sensual act. In fact, I’m pretty sure I got pregnant. During my first semester my classes went well, but I did not feel like I was actively engaging in ministry. I brooded over my lack of clarity, and tried some of everything possible to figure out what I would be doing in ministry upon leaving Drew. Interestingly enough, as I read When the Heart Waits and reread Go Tell it On the Mountain and Showing Mary that I was rushing to get pregnant, when it was time for me to relax and wait. When I began to relax, it became obvious to me that not only was I pregnant, but I was carrying twins. The most difficult piece for me it the act of waiting. After five months of carrying her second son, Liza was eager to give birth so she could see what he looked like and hold him in her arms, but she waited. Ericka was eager to give birth to relieve her pain and discomfort, but she waited. I am eager to know my ministry, but I too, must wait. I am excited to do God’s will, and therefore, I don’t want to give birth to a premature baby or induce labor because of my own desires.
In addition to reflecting on the posed questions, thoughts, and ideas, the following ideas surfaced during my thoughts of generativity either in dreams or through chance experiences.
Last week I saw two sets of twins and each time my heart flutters. What happens when there are two lives (or more) growing inside of you? I’m convinced (as is my mother and older sister) that I am going to have twins when I do get physically pregnant. It is something I can feel. Maybe it’s the Gemini in me. Maybe it is the fact that we have had any multiple births in my family since my uncles Eddie and Freddie fifty years ago. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll be pushing around a double stroller when it is all said and done. I’ve noticed, in my other experiences of birth, including my thesis work, that there are always two lives growing in my at the same time. When I was developing my thesis work, I was also simultaneously growing campus-wide diversity initiatives at the school where I was teaching photography at the time. This time around, I’m not only carrying and waiting for my ministry, but also a book about my struggle with seasonal depression. They are fraternal twins. While they will not look exactly alike, they are both conceived from the same idea: a quest towards wholeness, deeper faith, and sharing those experiences with others so they, too, can taste of it.
Egg Donors, Surrogates, and Midwives
I was procrastinating. Some of my most creative work happens when I am avoiding other tasks. In this case, I took a break from writing my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) applications to create a collage for the cover of my notebook for my Ministry and the Imagination class. I scanned the pages of an old issue of Glamour Magazine, tearing out words that I thought best described the journey I had recently embarked on: miracle, light, change, deep down, and breakthrough. As I was tearing, I stumbled upon the following quotation, “There are people who can’t conceive, and I can help them.” Physical child rearing aside, I thought about what it means to help others conceive and give birth to that which is inside of them. For me, that means anything from gently encouraging a friend to go to graduate school, processing the pros and cons of a change in vocation for another friend, creating a peaceful yet energetic environment for my best friend to write, or packing the apartment of a friend who was somewhat hesitantly moving across the country to follow her dreams.
Abortion, Miscarriage, and Stillborn
What happens when the life inside you dies? Metaphorically, what happens when the ministries, dreams, and ideas that we carry are aborted, miscarried, or stillborn? Should we mourn and then let go? Do you ever fully move on? This idea haunts me so. I had a dream on January 9th where I met face to face the unborn child of a woman I know. She had named him and carried him everywhere that she went. I was so overcome with sadness that ran away and vomited. When I woke from the dream, my heart was racing and I could still feel the sadness in my body. I feel the same sense of sorrow, grief, and despair when I talk to people who have had dreams, for whatever reason, that did not come to life.
[divine guidance]): via
The situation, or set of circumstances that allows for physical, spiritual, emotional, creative, and academic reproduction. It involves wholly giving of oneself as a vessel for the nourishment of a human being, dreams, and ideas, who bears resemblance to you. The process involves more than production, but rather it is reproductive, the creation of some form of life that may look, sound, act, or think like you in some way. It involves transformation, both for that which is being nurtured and the one carrying. It is exciting, scary, challenging, and beautiful to say the least. (excerpt from a paper I wrote in January 2008)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
It is amazing how you can hear something over and over again, but one day it just clicks. It makes sense. It doesn't go in one ear and out the other, but rather it lingers for a while and has a way of changing your mind and heart. My God!
My pastor, Rev. Dr. Allen Paul Weaver, is a wise man. I am blessed to be a hearer of his preaching, a student of his teaching, and his daughter in ministry. He is a real teacher. His preaching is didactic, but not boring. He can jump with the best of them, but he reserves the jump for when it gets real good. In fact, he doesn't plan to jump. The Spirit moves him to jump. He doesn't put on a show when preaching, but rather he lets the Word of God excite him. And when he gets excited, it is genuine and contagious. But I'm not blogging/bragging about my pastor today, but rather I want to lift up something he said on Sunday morning...
Now, don't get me wrong, I love to have church. You know—hand-clapping, foot-stomping, hallelujahs dancing in the air, tambourines clanging, somebody just might break out in a run—church. I love when people are excited about the salvific work of Christ, when folks are praising God for just how good He is, and when people are expressing their gratitude in body and voice. Here is where the wisdom of Dr. Weaver comes in. He said, "It is not how high you jump on Sunday morning; It is how straight you walk when you come down." Can I get an amen?
So many of us put on on Sunday mornings. We jump and shout and run and wail and sing about love and then leave the sanctuary without being changed. We leave without having had an experience with the living God. We leave with the same old mess we came in with. We leave walking just as crooked as when we came in. But, as Dr. Weaver would say in jest, "Chile, we sure did have church this morning."
I don't know about you, but I am tired of having church and playing church. I want to be the church. I want to be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. I want to be one who daily is being conformed into His image. I want to be one whose life witnesses to the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. I want to have a renewed mind—renewed by the power of the word. I want my life to bring glory to God. I want to, in the words of the prophet Micah, "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.(Micah 6:8). I want to, in the words of Jesus, "love the LORD my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, and with all my mind,’ and ‘my neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).
And, I want to jump and shout and run and wail and sing on Sunday mornings...but only if it produces a straighter walk on Monday morning.
(Amen Painting by Sheila J. Hall. Taken from http://fineartamerica.com/featured/amen-sheila-j-hall.html)
Monday, August 31, 2009
Today I was in retreat with my Summer Shalom cohorts. We spent the day together sharing stories—insights, challenges, gifts, shalom moments, etc. It was an amazing day of communion, with God and with one another. One of the most profound experiences for me was when, after we ate a hearty meal prepared by the sisters of St. John the Baptist retreat house, we walked a labyrith. The Labyrinth is an ancient spiritual discipline practiced in the medieval church that predates Christianity. It has been practiced by seekers and disciples in various religious traditions. It is a mystical experience mirroring the spiritual journey that we find ourselves on. One by one, we entered the labyrinth, modeled after that 11 circuit labyrinth found in the Chartres Cathedral in France, and walked toward the center. At first glance, a labyrinth looks like a maze or a Ms. Pacman game. But the difference is, in a labyrinth you cannot get lost and there are no dead ends. You are always walking to the center, always on the right path. There are times when the center seems so close and a few steps later you are back on the outside.
We were told, before we entered the labyrinth, to walk in an attitude of prayer. So, before taking my first step I gathered my thoughts and focused on the prayer of my heart. My prayer was simple: "Lord, what is it that you would have me to do?" And so I walked, and prayed, and walked some more, and prayed some more. At some point I started to sing, first in my heart and then audibly, "Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come."
That was it. God wants me to come, just as I am, to love and seek and serve Him. The answer was as simple as my prayer—at least on the surface. Come. But coming to God isn't as simple as it seems, especially with all of life's distractions and attractions. Lord knows, I've been distracted lately. I've also missed out on the sweet communion that is only found when one bathes herself—when I bathe myself—in the presence of God. And so, I will come.
After that revelation, I still had some walking to do. I hadn't yet made it to the center. And so I continued to pray. I arrived in the center and thanked God for speaking to my heart. I placed all of my emotions before God—fear, anger, anxiety and the like—and asked Him to remove them from me so that He would be magnified in my life. And then I left. It was time to journey back out to where I had started. As I walked I found my steps were hastened. I was rushing out. (Typical behavior for me.) And then the Spirit whispered to me: "The journey out is as important as the journey in." Wow. What a word. I've been focusing lately on life after Seminary, but the truth is, although I am on my way out, I am not done yet. We spend so much time on the what's next that we don't relish in the what's now. I mean, I've been counting down the days until I leave for Tennessee, graduation, and my birthday. Those days will be here when they get here. But until then I have now to cherish and be better. And so, as I journey out of this place called Drew, I will pace myself, remember to breathe, and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my walking in.
All that to say, prayer is not limited to Sunday mornings or on one's knees. Prayer is for anytime and anywhere your heart, mind, soul, eyes, and ears are open to hearing a word from God. And, if you haven't walked a labyrinth, I would highly recommend it. Each and every time I've taken that walk of prayer I have heard from Heaven.
(image taken from http://www.angelvalley.org/assets/images/angel_valley/labyrinth_chartres.jpg)