Another one done

Wow, Brock, isn't it crazy that we've finished three semesters of graduate school already? Well, I finished last week. You might be still be slaving away over some biblical text from centuries ago. As for me, I have spent my last few nights binging on sugar cookies and falling asleep in my comfortable chair at unspeakably early hours. Gosh, I really hope you are done with school.

So far, I feel like I've had a relatively easy run in my graduate program. Someone unlike me who hates reading and writing may have another opinion, but I enjoy the subject matter. It makes the very narrow focus of graduate school so much more bearable when you are interested in the topic. One caution I have for those considering moving on to pursue a further degree after college is that you need to be passionate about what you are going to study. Without that excitement, you are in for several long years of life.

This semester was filled (yet again) with such valuable classroom interactions for me. I have so much fun getting to know other graduate students and hearing about their paths in life. As an undergraduate at Drury, those enrolled in courses with me were almost always of the same age range. Now, I have the opportunity to learn with others who have quite different histories than I. Having this diversity in my classes has really been an unexpected bonus of graduate study.

But, yep, another semester is over, and I am one away from finishing my Master's. What does the future hold for me? Keep visiting, and you'll know shortly after I do.


How Promising/Stressful: A New Semester.

Hi, *your name here.*

It's been a while since Charles and I have updated. Never to fear; I am back once more to enlighten you as to the goings-on of grad school (aren't you lucky?). My schedule this semester is packed. By "packed," I mean pretty much the same as always except streeetched out. Yes, I did a terrible job scheduling classes. I have 1-2 hour gaps between classes and because grad students are not allowed to live on campus, I do not have time to go home. Nor do I have enough time to get anything constructive accomplished.

Speaking of "constructive," one of my classes this semester is Constructive Christian Theology I. This class is supposed to get us acquainted with the nuts and bolts of theology, other theologies throughout the church's history, and provide us with the theological tools we need to develop theologies of our own. We have two lectures a week (Monday and Wednesday), a colloquy session on Friday, and we've been asked to form a reading group outside of class just because we don't have enough time to discuss the readings during lecture.

I'm also taking a class on Mondays and Wednesdays entitled Religion and Social Movements. We study the role of religion in (guess what?) social movements--both the role religion can play as an antagonizing factor but also how religion provides the impetus to fight for social justice. A theology we've been reading in Constructive that I'm particularly in love with is known as liberation theology. In it, Jesus is seen as a liberator and provides the model we must follow to free our brothers and sisters from oppression.

Another class: Pastoral Care and Theology. I am not a touchy-feely person. Hopefully this class will get me in touch with the warm fuzzies needed to be a good listener/caregiver. I'm looking especially forward to one of the reads in the class: Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers. Rogers came to Drury campus a couple of years ago (I believe either via ALLIES or the religion department). He even mentions the speech he gave, the amazing Dr. Peter Browning and my good pal Jolie Cave (who was vice-president of ALLIES at the time) in the foreword.

Speaking of ALLIES, my final class this semester is my seminar on ministry and field education. All students in this seminar are enrolled in some kind of field education work. Most are in ecclesial settings, but some of us (like myself) are working in more secular environments. I am serving as divinity intern for the K.C. Potter Center for LGBTQI life on the Vanderbilt campus. I will act as a religious resource to students, faculty and staff and hopefully learn just as much from them as they learn from me. So far, I am acting as the KCPC's liaison for GABLE (the divinity school's gay-straight alliance), the divinity school's Office of Women's Concerns, and the Human Rights Campaign on the Vanderbilt campus. I have also been enlisted in organizing the visit of Reverend Mel White, an openly gay pastor who formerly ghost-wrote for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. White is the author of Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America and Religion Gone Bad. His experiences in trying to reject his homosexuality due to his belief that it was "sinful" culminated in the proverbial dark night of the soul in which White reconciled his sexual and spiritual identities. He co-founded Soulforce, an organization emphasizing nonviolence that campaigns for LGBTQI rights and the freedom from political and religious persecution.

Needless to say, this semester will be busy and stressful; however, I have high hopes. I think these experiences will all be enriching, maybe even transformative, and I think that if I do survive the semester, I will come out all the better for them.


Burning Question: How Do You Say "Crunk" in Hebrew?

Chris (our Biblical Hebrew instructor, for those not up-to-speed) is probably the coolest professor ever. Whenever we approach the end of the semester or an extended break, he lets us relax by doing take-home assignments over the weekend and spending the class time hosting small "parties." Katie, our usual party-planner, decided our end-of-Hebrew bash would occur on Monday at noon in our regular classroom. She will pay for the pizza, Jeff will order it, someone else will pick it up, and Kitty will provide the cups, plates, napkins, and utensils. I have decided, since music is a frequent topic in our class, to contribute a Hebrew soundtrack. I'm taking songs that have been brought up in class and re-titling them so they fit into the subject matter slightly more comfortably. Here's what I've come up with so far.

Song: Theme from "The Facts of Life"
New Name: The Story of Job
Sample Lyrics:
You take the good, you take the bad,
You take them both and there you have
The facts of life, the facts of life

Song: "Turn Turn Turn (To Everything There is a Season)" by The Byrds
New Name: Qohelet in Ecclesiastes
Sample Lyrics:
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

Song: "Jerusalem" by Matisyahu
New Name: Psalm 137
Sample Lyrics:
Jerusalem, if I forget you
Fire not gonna come from me tongue
Jerusalem, if I forget you
Let my right hand forget what it's supposed to do

Song: "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley
New Name: Isaiah's Message of Comfort
Sample Lyrics:
Don't worry about a thing
Cuz every little thing is gonna be alright

Song: "Sensual Seduction" by Snoop Dogg
New Name: The Threshing Floor
Sample Lyrics:
Sensual seduction-duction
Sensual seduction-duction

You get the idea.

Let's see... what else is on the agenda? Studying for finals. Mostly. And trying to survive. Also have a meeting with my potential future employer next week. Can't forget that.

My New Testament discussion group is tomorrow. We'll be discussing our textbook's and professor's take on the book of Revelation, as well as our own. We were also given two articles to read in order to deepen the dialogue. My only worry is that my teaching fellow's focus area is in Revelation and other apocalyptic literature. He might go off on a tangent leaving us in a fog of master's student ignorance.

I'm out.


Jumpin' יְהוֹשָׁפָט: Today was a Long Day

Today started like any other: I hit the snooze button nine times, rolling out of bed with a disgruntled expression and a cowlick--forty-five minutes later than I should have.

8:10 AM arrived, and along with it, Biblical Hebrew II.

I absolutely love my Biblical Hebrew class. We have been meeting since last semester (same professor, same classmates, just easier--although once the soul-destroying final exam was over, several people dropped). Today we focused on using our BDB (The Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon). We've been working on three very difficult translations outside of class, and some of us had complained to our professor (Chris, a doctoral student working on his dissertation) that we had difficulty using it. We also read through some passages in what I can only guess was 1 Kings; there was a lot of death and dying--and eventually God issued a "lying spirit" which was intended to deceive. I can only wonder how certain Bible literalists can get through God's explicitly killing certain people, hardening certain people's hearts, and issuing spirits of deception without wondering if they need to contemplate this "interpret everything literally" thing.

We never fail to have a good time during Hebrew. When we translated the Book of Ruth, we made it through that awkward threshing floor scene only by choking on our laughter. Then Boaz told Ruth to cover herself and sneak back home under the cover of darkness, before anyone was awake. I whispered to Kitty that it was an ancient equivalent of the "walk of shame." Apparently my voice carries, because the entire class heard. During Job, we came across a particularly hazy verse that made translating next to impossible. Even our professor was a little perplexed by it. He said, "It's kind of getting across the idea of... you know... you take the good, you take the bad..." The rest of the class chimed in, "You take them both and there you have the facts of life--THE FACTS OF LIFE!!!" And then there's Jane. Jane is a southern mother with an immaculate sense of humor. Today, as Evelyn was reading she came across the word "יְהוֹשָׁפָט" (Yehoshafat). Jane screamed, "YEAH!!!" excitedly, followed by a meek, "That's Jehosephat, right?"

After class, I raced upstairs for what I presumed would be a 9:00 AM meeting with my field education advisor. After knocking twice on the door and confirming that the light in the room was not on, i wandered downstairs to the cafeteria scratching my chin. A quick check of the e-mail on my cell phone verified that the 9:00 AM appointment had been the one she had proposed on Monday, but I had rejected because of a meeting with the dean. I was actually scheduled to meet her at 4:00 PM today, meaning I had no reason to still be on campus.

I quickly got sidetracked when I ran into some friends (Andy and Ben) from my Hebrew class, who seemed a little shocked that I wasn't "at Starbucks" (blast--I really am giving them all my money!). We quickly got carried away, discussing our favorite episodes of "South Park" and "The Simpsons." I had just seen the Easter bunny episode of "South Park," which I felt bore high theological relevance in an establishment like a divinity school.

I also showed them this little gem from FailBlog.

After going home for a few hours to work on translations and have lunch, I returned to Vanderbilt and met with Viki, my field education coordinator. She explained to me that there are generally two field placements throughout the MDiv track--one in a congregational setting and one outside of one (although if I was uncomfortable with a congregational setting, it wasn't set in stone). She asked me to tell her about myself: my prior education and work experience, my time at Vanderbilt, and where I wanted to go.

I explained to her that my interests are all over the board: I graduated with a BA in English, writing, and philosophy/religion. I could see myself going into fields related to any of those. I was heavily involved in ALLIES while I was at Drury (I have a thing for social justice).

When I mentioned Drury, there was a quick segue way.
Viki: "Drury? So you know Teresa Hornsby?"
Me: "Yes! I love her to death. She is one of the most amazing professors I have ever had."
Viki: "I know! She's fantastic. Are you taking her class this summer?"
Me: "Yes! I can't wait!"
(Dr. Hornsby's name has that effect on pretty much everyone at Vanderbilt, students and faculty.)

Viki quickly honed in on a job for me. Apparently, Vanderbilt has opened a new center for GLBTQI life called the K.C. Potter Center. Only moments after I left my meeting with her, she shot me an e-mail saying that the director had agreed to allow me to work under her. We'll be scheduling a meeting very soon to plan out my schedule. I couldn't be more excited! This is right up my alley.

I also got two major paper grades back today. One was for my religious pluralism class and the other was for my seminar on the canon of French existentialist Albert Camus (although I would argue that he does not fit the classical definition of "existentialist").

I was highly satisfied with the Camus grade; the pluralism one left a lot to be desired.

Let me warn those undergraduates out there: I'm not entirely sure if all graduate schools are this way, but when you go, be prepared to get lower grades than you're accustomed. It's definitely not "pay your fees, get your Bs." You've got to work exceedingly hard just to scrape by with a B sometimes, and if you get an A, your material is probably publishable. Be forewarned. ;)

Alright. I've spent enough time procrastinating. Time to get some work done.

Love life. Live love.


My BFF, Norton

Well, I did it. I've tried to stay away from the stereotypes. I never thought that I was "that guy". But yesterday I slipped up and let my B.A.-in-English monster surface after almost a year of being repressed.
To fund my pursuit of a Master's degree in Higher Education Leadership at Mizzou, I have been working as a graduate assistant in their student leadership office. Students come in and out of my office all day. I hear about their relationships, their roommates, their hangovers, their roommates' hangovers, and a whole lot of other things that make me feel a lot more prude than I know I already am.
One surprising aspect of the position is that I don't get to talk much with students about their academics, which really is unfortunate because I love to talk about learning and ideas (typical English major, right?). Well, yesterday that changed and provided me with an opportunity to bring my B.A. to the surface. As I was walking past a lounge area near my desk, I saw a student who often hangs around our office sitting on the couch reading a book.
"Hey Justin," I said to him as I walked quickly by him. What was in his hands caught my eye and made my typical quick stride (caused by my incredibly long legs) grind to a halt.

It was my dear friend, The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume E. What was going to be a short, polite greeting turned into something that was totally unexpected (by me and Justin). I pounced on him, unleashing a barrage of questions at him about the authors in the book, his favorite stories, other English classes, Shakespeare's sonnets, and Chaucer. The kid was probably terrified, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk for a few minutes about a subject that once took up so much of my life. And the short reunion with my academic past was refreshing.
Since graduating, several times I have reflected on those great conversations that occurred in the classroom about so many fascinating topics. While I don't really miss most of the strains and deadlines that were often attached to those conversations, I do occasionally long for those stimulating moments where we sit around and discuss the good stuff: a feeling I did not quite expect. For now, I've got Justin to chat with about American Literature post-1945. That is, if I didn't scare him away from our couch.