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Dawntreading: Dr. Nora O. Lozano

Dawn Treading: A Monthly Blog Dedicated to New Experiences and Practices in Faith Development

Editor’s Note: In the coming months we will post a blog each month in hopes of deepening our experiences in Christian education and faith development. We will seek to share insights on how one might grow in her/his relationship with Christ. We will use a variety of methods but each month we will visit with a professor from a different university or seminary to explore what is happening on his/her campus in relation to faith development. In addition to learning about what is happening in theological education we will also ask for recommendations on what folks are reading at their seminar.

This fall I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Nora O. Lozano. I found her to be extremely bright, gracious, articulate and passionate in her calling. Dr. Lozano is professor of theological studies at Baptist University of the Américas.  She received her Ph.D. and M.Phil. in Religious and Theological Studies at Drew University, Madison, NJ, her M.Div. at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, now Palmer Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA, and her BA in Social Communication at Universidad Regiomontana in Monterrey, Mexico.

Her academic interests are centered in the areas of systematic, Hispanic, Latin American, and women’s theologies as well as leadership studies. Her writings include chapters in books, essays in theological dictionaries, devotionals, and Bible study curricula. In addition, she is a monthly columnist for Baptist News Global.

Dr. Lozano is executive director and co-founder of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute. The work of the Institute is devoted to the discovery, development, nurturance, and empowerment of women leaders from a Latina perspective to be transformational agents in church and community settings.  The Institute offers a three-year certificate in Latina Leadership Studies. The CLLI is housed at Baptist University of the Américas, and has sites in United States in Texas and North Carolina, and In Mexico in Metepec and Monterrey.

Professor Lozano is part of the Baptist World Alliance Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity and was a member of the second Baptist World Alliance delegation that held theological conversations with the Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) in order to find ways to understand each other better and to promote collaboration on issues of social justice and religious freedom.

She attends Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, where she lives with her family.

DT: I asked Dr. Lozano to tell us a bit about herself and her call to ministry.

NL: I grew up in Monterrey, Mexico and attended a conservative Baptist church. I was quite active in the youth group and had been nominated to become the president of the youth group.

About that time our church called a new pastor, who was quite different than those in the past. He came to our youth group just prior to the elections of officers. He then pulled out a Bible and began to quote I Timothy 2:11-14 where the subordination of women was advocated. It was obvious that he did not want a woman to be the president of the youth group or any other organization in the church. Knowing that the president of the youth group had to work closely with the pastor, I withdrew my name for consideration. However, it was that encounter that began a calling for me because I immediately began studying the bible with an intense desire to know what it says.

I enrolled at the Baptist Bible Institute and began a journey into formal education that was punctuated by a holy curiosity to know what the bible says about women, and especially women in leadership. I loved my interpretation classes and the opportunity to ask questions, however, I could not find the answers that I was looking for. Even though I continued to study the bible, I found a different source of comfort in secular feminism. However, my life was split between my Christian and feminist perspectives.

In 1986, with an earned B.A, I felt the distinct call to the ministry and began to look for places to further my education. Trusted pastors advised me to study outside of Mexico due that the main seminary there had a double standard for men’s and women’s theological education.  Thus, I turned my attention to the United States. I came to the Baptist University of the Américas where Dr. Daniel Rivera advised me to go to an accredited seminary to get my Master. I solicited information to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but they took an exorbitant amount of time to reply to my request. During that period, I heard about Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and applied there. Immediately, I heard back from them and was offered a full scholarship to come and study. I went there and pursued a Master of Divinity. It was there that I was able to put my Christian and feminist perspectives into a coherent understanding.  I was so excited with my new findings that I wanted to study more. Thus, following my time at Eastern I entered the doctoral program at Drew University where I eventually earned a Ph.D. in theological and religious studies.

DT: Tell us about your calling into academia.

NL: Following my doctoral training I moved to San Antonio and began teaching at the University of the Incarnate Word. In 2000 I was called to the faculty at the Baptist University of the Americas where I have taught for the past eighteen years.

DT: Have you considered teaching elsewhere?

NL: People have talked to me about that, noting that I could go to a larger school and get paid more money, but I believe God has called me to BUA. While my official role at BUA is to impart knowledge, the simple fact that I am there as a Latina woman theologian and leader serves as a way to open the students’ imagination. If I, as a Latina woman who came as an international student, was able to obtain a doctoral degree, they can do it, too.

DT: Share a bit of BUA with us, and give us a sense of what is going on at BUA these days.

NL: Baptist University of the Américas is an institution that educates people in preparation for ministry (lay and clergy). There are four B.A. programs – Biblical/Theological Studies, Business Leadership, Human Behavior, and Music. BUA is multi-cultural with more than twenty nationalities represented. Thus, we are a working laboratory in preparing our students for the world.

DT: What are the areas of study for BUA students?

NL: Many of our students go into church ministry, beginning at the Bachelor degree level. 85% are Hispanic. Thus, they receive a solid biblical and theological education. In addition, one of our major foci is to inform and further educate them in regard to their Hispanic identity. They so often come with a damaged cultural self-esteem that is the result of the negative messages that they hear from the predominant culture. We give them an empowering understanding of their heritage in ways that build up their general self-esteem, and thus, transform their future.

DT: Go on with that a bit in regard to formal education. How much personal engagement do students get with faculty?

NL: Our student body is small, so there is a lot of opportunity for personal time between students and professors. Everyone knows everyone by name at BUA. Our classes are small and we as faculty have office hours and other times to assist our students in their pilgrimages.

DT: Speak to us about the discipline employed in training your students for the ministry.

NL: Everyone is required to do some kind of ministry or community service. We want to give them a practical understanding of their callings, but we also want BUA to be a “stepping stone” to the next steps in formal education. We want to push our students to go further.

DT: Can you give an example of that?

NL: Yes. Recently I went to a Wabash workshop at Baylor University where I represented BUA. In preparation for this event, I was asked to reflect in experiences that represent my teaching at its best. I talked about an experience with a Latina student. She arrived to BUA and to the Christian Latina Leadership Institute with low self-esteem as a Latina. She came from a particular Texas Hispanic background where acquiring an education beyond high school was foreign for both her family and friends. In this setting, high school counselors often discourage Latino and Latina students from considering attending college.

Unfortunately, many of these students hear    something like this: “You are not college material, find something else to do.”

Given this environment, after her high school graduation, her goal, and that of her Latino and Latina friends, was only to climb the work ladder of fast food restaurants.

After attending BUA and the Christian Latina Leadership Institute, and observing me and other Latina faculty, her academic, gender, and cultural self-esteem was nurtured and developed. The teaching at its best moment was one that I did not know about until much time had passed.

During an informal conversation after one class, I asked her: Are you planning to attend a master’s program after college?

Given her background, she was shocked by my question. Eventually, this question opened her imagination and her dreams. Last spring, she graduated with her master’s degree, and now she is dreaming about starting a doctoral program.

DT: What an amazing story! What an affirming story! Resonating with that can you describe some of the issues challenging your students these days.

NL: Immigration is, of course, a major discussion on campus. It is not just an academic subject to study but a way of living. It is a dramatic example of how to put theology and life together. Then again, there are the women issues. I have been fervent in speaking in favor of women rights and women in ministry, encouraging and empowering our female students to strive for the best.

DT: What are some of the teaching strategies you employ to do that?

NL: We use the lecture method, of course, wanting to disseminate the knowledge that our students need for ministry and further education. But we are also group-oriented, encouraging everyone to learn from everyone. This is especially true in our advanced classes where we do more seminar work. We want our students to be able to be knowledgeable but also to effectively communicate that knowledge.

DT: What are you suggesting for the students to read?

NL: I like to introduce them to authors and theologians who write from different theological and cultural perspectives. I want them to feel empowered by reading theologies that mirror their own experience.  In addition, my job is to help them understand gender, class, and race dynamics that will affect their ministerial and leadership roles. Of course, they read, too, traditional theological books, but the uniqueness of BUA and the Christian Latina Leadership Institute is that the students are able to learn from the Hispanic perspective – perspective that unfortunately many times is ignored in other educational institutions. One of my primary goals is for the students to start thinking theologically for themselves. This is a life changing experience at many different levels.

DT: I want to go back to something you just said. You want them to think theologically for themselves. Can you expand on that a bit?

NL: Yes, I don’t want them to just repeat theological formulas. I want them to think theologically in order to explain the reasons why they affirm a particular doctrine or belief. This new skill will empower them for life, and will prepare them for graduate studies.

DT: Nora, I think it would be a privilege to be one of your students. Thank you for your time and insights.

God Says, Yes

Week of Love

We give thanks for the perfect love of your Son, so that we may, with grateful hearts, love one another.  Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Garrett Vickrey

John 3:16-17

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

Christmas is God’s ultimate amen.

In a world of ‘no’…
No room in the Inn.
No hope for the poor.
No food for the hungry.
No sleep for the anxious.
No peace among nations.

God says, ‘Yes.’

Not everyone heard it at first. Perhaps, it was a whisper only Mary grasped. On the way to Bethlehem, Joseph must have come to hear it too. Shepherds and wisemen heard the echo of amen.

Can you hear it today?

God’s amen resounds in the words of messengers and signs of earth. In song. In light. In kindness. God’s yes resounds.

In Jesus, God says, ‘Yes!’ To a world too busy to turn aside to notice the message of angels, God says, ‘This is who I am.’ God is with us. In the child born in a war ravaged country, God comes to a people poor in spirit. God comes to us before the dust settles.

 

Celebrate

Week of Love

We give thanks for the perfect love of your Son, so that we may, with grateful hearts, love one another.  Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Sandy Peters

Luke 2:11-14

Hmmm! Reverence and celebration! Wow! I’m looking at the two Advent themes for this year surrounded by the two prevailing themes of outrage and hatred portrayed daily in press.  How can I think “reverence and celebration” when the world is screaming that I should “hate and destroy” those who disagree with me?

Whew!! The Spirit nudges my thoughts: Maybe I should be thinking of “who” not “how”! Maybe I need to “turn your eyes upon Jesus” (those would be great lyrics for a song).

When I remember the love and compassion God sends my way daily, I am brought to my knees in reverence for the King of kings, the Lord of lords!  He is Creator and Omnipotent.

I celebrate with thankfulness that in reality God is in control of the universe and not the screaming folks that appear on TV!

 

God with Us

Week of Love

We give thanks for the perfect love of your Son, so that we may, with grateful hearts, love one another.  Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Curtis Peterson

John 6:33

“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  

At first glance, one might not notice how rich this verse is with the message of Christmas. It echoes the message of Emanuel-God with us. It is a message not limited by time or space.

This truth is the reality that David acted upon around 1000 B.C. when he had the courage to challenge and slay Goliath. This same truth — God with us — is a timeless truth we can still act upon today, over 2000 years after His incarnation. The stories of Scripture, from the garden to the gospel and beyond are all relational.

The message of Christmas, God with us, is not meant just to be a physical truth, but a spiritual one as well. Here in John and especially John 6, he tells us that the incarnation is not just about the historical fact of Christ physical presence but a promise of God’s presence in the spiritual realm as well. We can act boldly and with confidence because God enables us through His presence and power through the Holy Spirit.

The power and wonder celebrated in the incarnation of Christ that was heralded by angels and told of in the heavens still exists. Today it gives eternal life and power to all who seek it.

 

True Joy

The Week of Joy

At the birth of your Son, you whisper to our hearts, Father, as you fill us with the joy of our salvation. We thank you. Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Tina McCartney

Psalm 40:16

When you are going through the worst experience of your life, a life-changing experience, can you still find joy?

As Mom and Dad lay in their hospice beds together, holding hands, Mom would ask Dad, “Jerry, are you all right?” Immediately Dad would reply, “I’m great, Barbara!” Then a few minutes later, Dad would ask Mom, “Barbara, are you all right?” She would immediately respond with, “Don’t worry about me, I’m doing just fine, Jerry.” This went on many times a day for two days. When Dad closed his eyes for the last time, Mom woke up and we told her of Dad’s passing. What was her response to losing the love of her life? Without hesitation, with a smile on her face, “I am so happy for him and I’m next!” This is one of the last phrases she ever spoke. That’s when I knew it was going to be okay. Her joy for Dad was so evident and she couldn’t wait to join him.

During the time of their sickness, I found such comfort in God as I experienced the worst life-changing five days of my life, an experience I was not prepared for nor could I change. I was helpless and in deep despair. During this time God blessed me with good memories, support of family and friends, scripture embedded in my heart and soul, and laughter of family as stories were being told. The more I sought Him during this time, the more joy I was able to experience. He provided what I needed, and I knew He was thinking of me, helping me through it all.

My prayer for each of you this Advent Season is that you can find true joy and happiness in Him. Know He is great and is always thinking of you.

 

Love in Action

The Week of Joy

At the birth of your Son, you whisper to our hearts, Father, as you fill us with the joy of our salvation. We thank you. Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Debby Murphy

Romans 12:9-12

When God called Mike and me to move to San Antonio two years ago, we didn’t know anyone here except our daughter and her family. Then we found Woodland and experienced the sincere love, devotion, and joyful hope that Paul highlights in Romans 12:9-12. People welcomed us, prayed for us, and invited us into their lives. We cherish the new friendships we have made.

With the birth of Jesus, God once again invited His people, all people, into a love relationship with Him and with each other. When Jesus ascended from our world, He left the mission to us to share with others the news of this incredible love relationship. As Christians, He equips us with the Holy Spirit who gives us the power of God and His resources to share the great message of salvation and envelop each other in love, patience, and kindness. God is love in action, and He invites us to join Him where He is already working so He can involve us in building His kingdom on earth and accomplishing His purpose.

Because God first seeks us, we are able to experience His infinite grace, love, and peace. As believers, our love for fellow Christians and others in our world is a manifestation of Christ’s love in us and gives us that satisfaction and joy of spirit as we respond to God’s call. And herein lies the potential. When we are so utterly loved by our Father, and when we find the sincere, accepting love of a community of believers such as at Woodland, we are blessed and eager to share and extend that love and service to others with the spiritual fervor Paul describes.

 

The Greatest Gift

The Week of Joy

At the birth of your Son, you whisper to our hearts, Father, as you fill us with the joy of our salvation. We thank you. Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Kay Dabney

John 1:14

“The Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love, grace and truth. We have seen his glory, the glory of the only son of the Father.”  John 1:14 (NLT)

This is one of my favorite scriptures of the Advent season. To better understand the miracle of God’s Word becoming flesh in the form of Christ we turn to John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Jesus was sent by God to live among us. He came to show us God’s love and his grace and to show us the truth. Living among us, Jesus understood us, he identified with us, he felt our pain, and he hurt. He was “despised and rejected” by some. And yet, through all of it, he proclaimed the gift of grace.

God’s glory shone brightly through Jesus as he lived among us. People could see God’s presence through Him. They saw the importance of God in their lives. John recorded seven miracles that declared the glory of God. Among them, the feeding of the 5,000, the healing of the lame and the sick, and the turning of water to wine at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. John tells us that “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2:11 NIV).

Jesus stepped down from heaven, coming for you. He brings with Him the amazing gifts of grace and truth. He is the One present we can’t live without. Christmas is celebrated as the beginning of the Word becoming flesh in the birth of Jesus Christ. Let the person of Jesus be the greatest gift we celebrate this Christmas.

 

 

Wired to Love Music

The Week of Joy

At the birth of your Son, you whisper to our hearts, Father, as you fill us with the joy of our salvation. We thank you. Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Patty Villarreal

Psalm 98:4-9

“Tell everyone on this earth to sing happy songs in praise of the Lord.” V. 4

This week’s emphasis is on Joy. From cradle to grave, music is an integral part of our human nature. An infant coos to music, a toddler begins body movement from head to toe to match joyful tunes. Teens and adults automatically hum and bob their heads in timing to songs that may even be heard in an elevator! Even when unconscious, people in a coma or as they lay dying — medical and grief experts encourage that music is played or sung to them. My mom, as she lay dying from Alzheimers, visibly reacted when we played southern gospel at her bedside, a staple music in our house since early pastorate days.  Rhythm and music is a part of our very being from beginning to end. God wired us that way!

Verse 6 says “Sound the trumpets and horns and celebrate with joyful songs for our Lord and King!” God directed the writer, David, to write what comes natural for David, music and his love for God. For those who love Christ, this is natural for us. Wired biologically to love music. Wired spiritually to hunger for God and REJOICE in Him! As His children, what brings Him joy brings us Joy! This season we celebrate the greatest Joy to and from God, the birth of His Son on this earth. He wanted us to experience true Joy by knowing His Son so that we know God’s Unconditional Love. Be Joyful in that knowledge! Share the good news. Jesus is the Reason for the Season!! Sing happy songs in praise!

 

Entrusted with a Treasure

The Week of Joy

At the birth of your Son, you whisper to our hearts, Father, as you fill us with the joy of our salvation. We thank you. Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Diana Bridges

Luke 2:8-10

Shepherds in first-century Palestine understood their status in society. It was low and upward mobility wasn’t a possibility. Their work was necessary, but neither glamorous nor celebrated. If you pause for a moment, you’ll be able to identify those in our world who would fall into the same category.

If we hadn’t known this story our entire lives, it would be shocking that the angels gave this most important of messages to shepherds. (You might want to pause again to imagine the President delivering the State of the Union to an audience of migrant workers or the Queen of England giving her Christmas Day Address exclusively to day laborers.) Their response, however, was textbook — abject fear. The appearance of angels out of the blue seems to be one of the great levelers of humanity.

They soon followed orders and headed toward Bethlehem and the Baby. I wonder if that other piece of information ever took root in their overwhelmed minds. “I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide.” (The Message) Did they hold their heads a little higher, do their work with a greater sense of pride, teach their children and grandchildren this very good and inclusive news?

Where do we find ourselves in this bit of the gospel? We don’t occupy the high place of angels or the shepherds’ place on the margins. However, the meaning of the word angel is “messenger” and that actually is us. We’ve been entrusted with this treasure for the sake of all people everywhere, including those most often overlooked. This Advent and beyond may we find our joy multiplied as we embody the gospel to people in unexpected places.

Promises

The Week of Joy

At the birth of your Son, you whisper to our hearts, Father, as you fill us with the joy of our salvation. We thank you. Amen

Weekly Advent Prayers by Betty Claire Jackson

By Jerome Malek

Luke 1:46-48

Then Mary said, “My heart is overflowing with praise of my Lord, my soul is full of joy in God my Savior. For he has deigned to notice me, his humble servant, and after this, all the people who ever shall be will call me the happiest of women!

Cross my heart.” This is a universal saying of children around the world. If we want to give even more credence to our promise, we include “hope to die”. Promises should be sacred, with the assurance that what is promised will be fulfilled. No room for doubt. The entire Christian faith is founded on the belief that the promises of God found in the Holy Scriptures are to be trusted. Some promises are easy to believe: “I’ll take you to the movies this afternoon.” Others are much more difficult to believe: “If you go to college you will be wealthy.”

Abraham was promised that his family would one day become a great nation. Mary was promised that she would be blessed above all women as the mother of the promised Messiah. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

Mary’s response to the angel’s message was to lift her voice in praise to God.

Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word,
in God my Savior shall my heart rejoice.

-Timothy Dudley-Smith