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Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited.
Above photographs by Myron McGhee.


This section of the website is set aside for reflective writings by Juana Clem McGhee, with the hope that it will provide a bit of inspiration and encouragement to readers.

A Call to Consciousness, A Litany of Questions
Remarks by Juana Clem McGhee, Classroom on the Quad, Emory University
Presented March 2003

On the evening of January 16, 1991, I stood in the pulpit of Glenn Auditorium to read scripture for an annual gathering of clergy. What was to be a celebratory event changed in the afternoon hours leading up to the worship service, as the U.S. began military action against Iraq. Now 12 years later, I stand in the midst of this learned community with U.S. troops again at war in Iraq. What can I possibly say that will make a difference?

On this particular occasion and as often is the case in these middle years of my life, I find myself stretched somewhere between what is seemingly so simple & what is actually quite complex, between theory & practice, between my head & my heart. I like to think that as I grow older, I also grow a bit wiser. But the more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to learn. I seem to have more questions than answers, about many things and especially about this war.

I'm skeptical anytime I hear "either or" language, that tends to oversimplify a given situation and overlook many significant matters. I no longer see the world in terms of opposites, or extremes that tend to polarize, or ultimatums that cause great harm. I believe that there are always alternatives, options, possibilities & choices, if we will only look & listen, near & far, one & all.

We are part of a long history & interconnected relationships. Situations seem to re-present themselves time & time again. We continue to try to resolve them, with the same kinds of approaches, with the same kinds of results. We head down the same path & we end up at the same destination. Perhaps it's time to select a different route, to choose another way, if change is really what we're after.

Is it really only a choice of going to war or not going to war? Of taking military action or taking no action? Is that truly all there is? Are those the only choices we have? Is there nothing else we can do? Or is there something else we can try?

Would our perspectives & decisions be different, if we lived in closer proximity to the Middle East? If we could hear the sirens screaming in our ears day & night? If we could feel the earth shaking below our bellies on the ground? If we could smell the smoke burning in our nostrils? If we could see nothing but sand swirling before our eyes?

Would our leaders choose differently, if there were no safe underground shelters for them to hide in, here & abroad? If they themselves were on the front lines of the battlefields staring the stranger in the eye, with their finger on the trigger? If they were the ones who buried the dead, treated the wounded & consoled the mourning? Would they then make the same choices?

Is there nothing better we can do with our time, our money, our lives? Is there no other, more beneficial way to spend $75 billion in 30 days? Is it the case, as it was in 1991, that 146 U.S. deaths are equivalent to 158,000 Iraqi deaths? How do we honestly & responsibly justify such actions?

How can I possibly explain any of this to my young daughters, as we read the magazine covers in the check out line of the grocery store? As we stand on the courthouse lawn, raising candles in a vigil for peace? As they share a classroom, a playground, a lunch table with children from Ethiopia, Sudan, Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan & Iraq?

What can I offer them as a guide as they learn from the past, live in the present & hope for the future? What can I offer you on this day that might make a difference?

Only thisÖ
Think critically, imagine with creativity. Listen attentively, speak with wisdom. Act responsibly, respond with compassion.
Ask yourself this question: Not, what are you willing to die for? But rather, what are you willing to live for?

Birthing Christ
Poem by Juana Clem McGhee (composed 1998)
Added to website December 2002

her full body had become a sacristy for life
what was once entrusted only to her had to now be shared
pure, sustaining water flowed forth
she pulled breath deep inside
she pushed power down within
rich, nourishing blood poured out

his warm body emerged, unblemished
he was gently bathed by strong hands
he was tenderly wrapped in soft cloths of purple and blue
he was lovingly placed in her arms, at her breast

they looked adoringly at him and one another
they whispered words of joy and hope
exhausted, they fell asleep together
with a lamb curled up beside them


Autumn Awes
Reflection by Juana Clem McGhee
October 2002

I moved from Houston to Atlanta in 1988, and each year I am mesmerized by the visual change of seasons in North Georgia, especially during autumn and spring. It is as if I am seeing it for the first time. I watch in awe as autumn transitions from lush green to vivid yellow, orange, red and purple. It is such a strong contrast to the evergreen pine trees I grew up with. In Houston, there was not much visible sign of change from one season to the next, only a change in temperature, a matter of degrees on the thermometer. But here, the reading is more dramatically observed in the foliage of the trees. The colors send a splendorous message that autumn is on its way. It is a reminder of the cycle of nature's beauty, and our life in its midst. It gives me reason to pause, to enjoy the sights, to ask questions of myself. What colors will I reveal during these next months, to show what I am made of? What leaves will I let fall away, to prepare for the days and nights to come? Here is to a season of putting forth the best, and letting go of things that hinder growth.

Learning Patience
Reflection by Juana Clem McGhee
August 2002

As a mother of young children, I often hear myself saying things like:  ďWait.  Slow down.  Be patient.Ē  Patience is indeed an important lesson, one I am still learning as I try to teach it.  There are some situations in which I have a tremendous amount of patience; and there are others in which I seem to have none.  What is the nature of this attribute that is considered to be such a virtue?  It is a discipline of waiting.  Sometimes what is needed most, especially when we are faced with so many competing demands, is to be still for awhile.  Or it may involve moving slowly, considering various alternatives.  In this sense, patience is an art of understanding and discernment, of knowing what to do, when & how.  After a time of stillness, after a time of consideration, we are ready to act responsibly and faithfully.  Trust, act and see what happens!

Welcome the Unexpected
Reflection by Juana Clem McGhee
February 2001

I expect a lot of myself and other people.  I anticipate that things will go a certain way.  I hope for so much.  Sometimes the expectations, anticipations and hopes are fulfilled.  And I am ecstatic.  Other times, things donít turn out the way I thought they would.  And Iím deeply disappointed.   When that happens, I try to see the situation from a different perspective.  What am I overlooking?  Whatís here for me to see?  What am I to learn from this experience?  Set aside the preconceived notions.  Too often they hide the beauty, truth and power of life.

Putting the Pieces Together
by Juana Clem McGhee
January 2001

One of my favorite activities since I was very young is putting together jigsaw puzzles.  Spreading out all the pieces, looking for patterns, figuring out what goes where.   Some parts go rather quickly, others require a fair amount of searching.   Spend a few minutes as you pass by the table, or pull up a chair and sit for an extended period of time.  Sit quietly alone or share a conversation with a family member or a friend.  Finally itís complete.  You see the whole picture.  You leave it out for awhile, to admire what youíve accomplished.  You take it apart, put all the pieces back in the box, and store it in the closet until the next time.  Or you glue the pieces together and find a place to hang it on the wall.  This puzzling process is important for me.  Itís a metaphor for my life.  God takes all the pieces of my life and assembles them into a whole.  Nothing is wasted.  Everything fits together.   When I step back to see the progress, I am filled with a sense of awe.

Reflection by Juana Clem McGhee
December 2000

There are times when I have a compelling, persistent feeling about something.  That I should call to check on someone.  That I should take a different route.  That I should pause, wait for a minute.  That I should take action immediately.   Itís an inner voice, sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting for my attention.  Itís an intuition, guiding me in particular ways.  Over the years, Iíve learned to listen to it, trust it, act upon it.  Iíve come to believe itís Godís spirit dwelling in me.  Itís God with me.  Itís God with us.  Itís Emmanuel.

Revising the List
Reflection by Juana Clem McGhee
November 2000

As far back as I can remember, Iíve been a goal-oriented person.  Make a list of things that need to be done, figure out how to get it done in the least amount of time as possible, and then get it done.  As a result, Iíve accomplished many things in my lifetime.  And Iím proud of my achievements.  But Iím not sure Iím happier because of them.  In recent years, it seems as if the list is making me and doing me in.  I get to the end of it all and Iím exhausted.  Whatís the good in that?  I seem to be missing much of the joy and beauty of life.  I find myself asking:  If today is all I have, how do I want to spend it?  Not running errands, not cleaning house.  I want time to be alone with my husband, to play with my children, to talk with friends, to help someone, to read a book, to listen to music, to take a walk, to sit in a quiet place.  That feels like a very different list.  Not a to do list.  But a to be list.  To be in the presence of God, love, joy and beauty.  Every moment is a gift, precious and sacred.  Take delight in it.  Give thanks for it.