Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why I am doing this.

            Next week I will be graduating from the University of North Texas which of course prompts the question: “What are you doing next?” I typically have two different answers, to my own shame response 1: “I’m going to Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary for a dual-degree in Divinity and Social Work.” Response 2 is, “I’m going to grad school in Austin.”
Response 1 typically elicits these replies:
a.      “Oh you’re going to be a pastor/priest that’s great!’
b.      “Oh…you’re going to be a pastor – what do you think about the Church’s opinion on __________?”
a.      Homosexuality (DOMA, Prop 8, marriage equality, LGBT homelessness, LGBT suicide, etc.)
b.      Women
                                                                                  i.     Ordination
                                                                                 ii.     Reproductive Rights
                                                                               iii.     Pay inequity
c.      Race Relations/Slavery
d.      Palestine/Israeli Relations
e.      War
f.       Other Religions
g.      Etc.
c.      “You’re too smart to waste your talents on the Church.”
d.      “Good luck with that…”
Response 2 typically elicits these replies:
a.      “That’s great! We need more social workers.”
b.      “You’re going to UT, my grandkid goes there too, look out for __.”
c.      “You’ll be so great at that.”
Honestly I like giving the second response more, not only because I like being encouraged, but I am also tired of defending the Church. I went to Christian school from Pre-K to 8th grade, and we were constantly being taught apologetics, or ways to defend the faith. Quite frankly, I am so tired of defending God, God is supposed to be my shield and my defense (Psalm 7:10) not the other way around. But I digress; my faith should not revolve around defending God or defending the Church. So for years now, I’ve given up defending that God and defending the Church. One of the reasons I want so much to faithfully live out my call is to help make the Church an institution that no longer needs defending because it faithfully living out the call of following Christ’s example.
            Now to the questions of why I am going to seminary and why I am seeking ordination; the answer is really simple and easy: Because I am called to. Isaiah said it best, “Here am I Lord, send me (Isaiah 6:8)” and like Isaiah I may have accepted God’s call on my life without fully knowing what I was getting into. I am going to seminary because I felt called to, this was the next step I felt the Spirit leading me to. Wherever He (or She) leads me I’ll go…

I first felt/heard the call to ministry in the Summer of 2006 – I had no idea that I would wind up in the UMC or that I would wind up staying in the South, that the Presbyterians would be successful at luring me into their seminary, or that I would wind up so socially progressive in comparison to my upbringing. I had no idea that God would lead me through Baylor, to ACC, to UNT, to APTS. I honestly had no idea that I would actually have to move somewhere in this faith journey, I thought that being called meant I had already arrived; thank God that I haven’t arrived yet. Thank God that this journey is never ending. I am thankful to God, that I have been called to walk alongside others as they walk this journey as well. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My 1st Beyoncé Concert Experience!

"God is real, and God lives inside of me and inside of all of us and it doesn't matter where I am, I know that, and I feel it, like right now I'm hot - it's a tingling. It's love. I feel it when I look at my child, I feel it when I look at my husband. It's God." 
Beyoncé Knowles Carter from Life is but a Dream

            I love Beyoncé, for anyone that knows me knows this is the biggest understatement of all-time. Since 1998’s hit single from Destiny’s Child “No, no, no”; to 2000’s “Jumpin’ jumpin’” and “Say My Name”; to 2001’s “Survivor”, “Independent Woman Part 1”, and “Bootylicious”. I loved her in Destiny’s Child then in 2003 my favorite song, “Crazy in Love” was released I did that “uh-oh” dance almost every day. I have every one of her albums, I collect magazines with here on the cover, I even have a book about her, plus she’s Methodist, I love Beyoncé.
            Last night my deep love for Beyoncé came to a climax as I got to witness her perform live for the first time ever! Dallas, TX 8PM American Airlines Center and the place was packed. We had made the pilgrimage from across Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and a few other states to see the woman heralded as the best live performer of my generation. I was seated in section 117 row A seat 1, directly facing the 2nd stage (yes she has two stages). Someone yelled in my ear, “Is that Jay-Z?” I looked and sure as the sun rises there was his definitive nose, and his goofy grin starting at the stage waiting for her wife, and partner of 13 years. I screamed, “Hey Jay!” He turned and saw me jumping up and down frantically, laughed then waved back. I was star-struck, not because I’m that big of a Jay-Z fan, but because I love his wife more than I love ice cream or sweet tea. Loud drum noises starting coming from the stage and the whole area was filled with piercing screams and tears as we saw a canvas drop then get pulled away into the rafters. Boom. Boom. Boom. Up pops Beyoncé with flames and sparks and the crowd looses that last remains of sanity they were maintaining. She didn’t speak she just stared at us, almost like she was absorbing the applause to charge her batteries from the show she did the night before. “You ready?” she questioned as Run the World started. She just started dancing and singing as if it’s perfectly normal for a woman in heels to sing and dance and maintain perfect pitch without running out of breath or taking an intermission. From the Run the World she seamlessly transitioned into End of Time, I was trying to keep up with the moves, since I was fortunate enough to have no one sitting next to me. I and the drunken White women behind me were dancing like we were Beyoncé, singing loudly, as if people had come to see and hear us.
            “This isn’t a show for you to sit down and get comfortable in your seats! I want you to get up and dance like you’re the only person in the room.” I honestly had no patience for people last night, showing up late as if they didn’t pay a ton of money to come, saying excuse me to get past me when they saw I was dancing, Instagraming and Facebooking when they should have been dancing, screaming, laughing, and crying. I was too through, until this mother in my section noticed the empty seat next to me and sent down her daughter who had to be around 9-10ish and this little girl was getting it. When I say getting it, I mean she could have been on the stage and people would have gone nuts to see her dance and hear her sing. She and I were kindred spirits, yelling to gain the attention of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, the dancers – we danced together and high-fived after Single Ladies. I have no idea what her name is, but for two hours she was my best friend, we were like peas in a pod, enjoying the concert together.
            What’s that? Not a bird or a plane, it’s just Beyoncé flyng across the arena to get to the second stage. That guitar starts up and we all knew what song was next. “Now’s my favorite part of the show, cause y’all get to sing to me. I know y’all know the words – sing!” Our response, “To the left, to the left, everything you own in the box to the left…” It was almost like a liturgical call and response. Yet more than any church I had ever been to, this was a place of freedom, freedom to dance like no one was watching, freedom to sing loud and of key, freedom to trust a stranger with your child,  freedom to laugh and cry without judgment, we were all family last night and it was beautiful.
            Harnessing the power of your body requires responsibility seduction is much more than beauty, it is generous, it is intelligence, it is mysterious, it is exclusive.” And just like that Queen Bey gave kids a better reason to save sex for marriage than the public school system in Texas, she busts out with Naughty Girl, and as she danced flirtatiously for all to see, everyone in the arena knew that her body was her own, and that it is exclusively for one man in the room, as his was exclusively for hers. I have problems with abstinence only sexual education in schools, because it makes sex something shameful, which only means that it is talked about in hushed tones in locker rooms and bathrooms without adult guidance and wisdom, Beyoncé bypassed every parent in the room and said to every little girl in that room, love yourself, love your body, but use it responsibly. Your body is to be exclusive; your body is a temple. “When you are with the right person it brings out the best in you.” It could have been a light sermon on sexuality and the importance of marriage, but it was unassuming and vulnerable, and personal like all discussions of human sexuality should be.
            “If I should stay, I would only be in your way…” the tribute to Whitney Houston lead into her ultimate closing song Halo. She ran across the stage serenaded thousands of us, sticking the microphone in the face of this young man who took it away, hitting every note like he knew she was coming for him, he did a victory dance as she left for the other side of the stage. She held up the mic to a fearful girl, “Don’t be scared lil mama”, the girls sang softly at Beyoncé’s urging. Screams came from off to my right, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s family were sneaking away before the show ended so of course I yelled out “Bye Jay!” we’re best friends he just doesn’t know it yet. The show ended and I was shocked it had been slightly over two hours. I just sat back, after dancing and singing my heart I felt even more energized, more gleeful, more excited, more me than I felt coming in.
             I wouldn’t be a good Christian blogger if I didn’t somehow tie this in with a moral of the story. Which quite frankly I thought I was doing throughout the whole blog, but lest you forget let me end with this: like Beyoncé, other Christians should be vocal about their faith, yet not shoving it down people’s throat; they should be humble, yet not feigning modesty – if your bad and you know it please stand up and own it; they should create safe spaces for people to be vulnerable, yet be responsible; they should love who God made them to be, “Flaws and All”. Most of all, they should be prepared to work tirelessly for the sake of the Kingdom, like Beyoncé works tirelessly for her fans (mostly me) – and  be prepared to answer the question God asks all who are listening, “You ready?” May our answer always be “Yes”.