I Believe in God’s Time, by Adriana Arbeláez

I believe in God because he held my hand when my father left me alone. I have had a happy and wonderful life, but when my sister and I were children, my family experimented difficult situations, which made us stronger. Our father left my sister and I when we were born, and our mother lived through difficult times because she had work hard to afford all the expenses that my sister and I had.

My sister and I grew up and my mother gave us all that we needed, but one day everything was dark for us: The money that my mother was earning, was not enough for all our expenses, and we lived difficult times. She worked as a language therapist and in my country, Colombia, that job does not pay well, so when my sister and I finished our high school our mother did not have money to pay the tuition. For that reason, we decided to demand our father for abandoned us when we were children. This situation was difficult because our father is a bad person who does not love us. I remember that one day we received a counter demand from him saying that my sister and I just wanted to steal his money, and in front of a lot of people in the court our father said he hates us and that he said to our mother that it would be better if she had aborted us. Our heart was broken but we heartened ourselves to forget that situation.

But when everything was so dark, one cousin invited me to a Christian Church called Rock House, which is near my house in Colombia. I went with my mom and it was amazing because we felt how God touched our heart through the Minister’s words. My mother and I decided to join the church, and one day, during a praying meeting, we started to cry and I heard the voice of God saying to me that every issue would be solved with our father only if I pray for him every day. I believed God’s words, but I thought it was strange because I hated my father and it was difficult to pray for someone who hates you, but I did it and everything related with the demand was solved. It was a miracle. The lawyer called and told us that our father called her because he had paid all the money. My mother and I cried and prayed for a long time. Since that day I am thankful to God for everything he did. I believe that even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the impeccable love of God is with us, and even when we are trapped in the middle of the storms of this life, we won’t turn back because God is near, he never lets us go.

…………………………………………………………..

a-arbelaez-photoAdriana Arbeláez is studying English in the TCU Intensive English Program.  She is from Bucaramanga, Colombia.  She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and corporate communications from the Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga.

This I Believe, by Shane Battis

I believe that although religious faiths can and have helped many people find inner peace and motivation throughout the globe, I view both my life and that of others from a purely secular perspective. Though my family on my mother’s side is staunchly Christian and my father’s agnostic, I was raised in a very neutral atmosphere as neither of my parents wanted to pressure my sister or myself into committing to beliefs we didn’t yet understand. Instead, they decided to let us figure it out on our own over time.

Growing up in Kennesaw, Georgia—like most other places—allotted me plenty of outlets to explore different faiths without pressure. Together, my sister and I listened in on sermons at our local church and partook in several youth group activities. Though the Christian community was receptive and everyone present appeared to be happy, I just didn’t feel like I had found a spiritual connection—the whole point of a faith. I decided that religion, or Christianity at least, simply wasn’t for me and that was and still is okay with me because I find that removing religion from my life doesn’t lead to me to cynicism or immorality. Rather, it has just locked my focus on the here and now. Without any expectation of an afterlife or rebirth, I feel the drive to be completely present in every waking moment and to live the way I know is right and can be proud of whether or not it aligns with beliefs of the many faiths throughout the world. Over the years, I have developed my own code of ethics I can call my personal creed. This is to be kind to those deserving, appreciate all the little joys in life as well as have patience with the annoyances, and hold myself to my responsibilities. Instead of seeking out religion for guidance in the face of moral ambiguity, I look inward for answers which has led me to even more self-discovery than I think I could ever have found in a temple.

I have heard criticisms from several different people that I’m missing out by living outside of religious communities and that atheism is all negativity. It is true that there is a plethora of individuals who are vengeful and unruly in their expressions thwarting those who think unlike themselves, but these are actions of individuals and cannot generalize an entire following. Personally, I don’t feel that being an atheist means embracing a culture of negativity, but simply stepping away from all religions passively and upholding secular ideals instead. By doing so, I am not trodding on other lifestyles; I’m just choosing an alternate one.

I don’t feel disheartened about my spirituality since I am still able to find purpose and love in a secular world. As far as I can tell, at the core of every religious faith and every practice and every prayer is the desire to feel a sense of belonging and direction as life can often be daunting without something steady to rely on. For this reason, I think everyone is entitled to believe in whatever makes them happy and atheism does so for me for several reasons. Firstly, I love that I have unlimited freedom to choose my virtues and fulfill them on my own conscience. Like so many other members of my generation, I strive to be a free thinking individual and by building my own pyramid of thoughts and convictions I am successful in that. It feels far more rewarding to me knowing that whenever I do something for the greater good I am doing it because I know it is right and not just because that’s what has been preached to me. This makes all my actions speak for who I am. Now I’d like to be clear in that I do not think religious people would be without a moral compass if they gave up their faith; their nature is innate and I admire their kindhearted spirits. What I’m saying is that I take pride in my personal brand of morality because I arrived at it independently and that these are simply two different routes leading to the same ultimate goal of finding humanity.

………………………………………………………..

img_3623Shane Battis is a journalism major in the Bob Sheiffer School of Journalism at TCU.

 

I Believe in Something, by Hannah Canterbury

I believe in something and I am not quite sure how to put that something into words, to fully encompass what that something is but throughout my life and especially in this past semester of college, I have been challenged on many occasions to define and verbalize what I believe. I have been asked what values and ethics I hold true and how they will influence my future career and life. The majority of the time the questions do not end there. I am asked to dive deeper into where I gained those beliefs, how I choose them and probably the biggest question, why do i believe in this something?

These questions and conversations are challenging but so important. Through these conversations not only am I, the individual challenged to look deeper into myself but I am asked to respect and ask questions of others beliefs; that is not always the most comfortable thing to do. I don’t want to say the wrong thing or end up with a question I can’t answer. But as I have been continually faced with these conversations I have thought more about the purpose of believing in something.

I believe in something, I believe in something because something gives my life meaning, it gives my life purpose and gives me a daily drive to strive for my goals and aspirations.

Everyone believes in something, whether it is rubbing a horned frogs nose for some extra luck on a test or belief in a religion or faith that dates back thousand of years. Those beliefs give an individual what they need in their life, and in a specific moment.

Knowing this has provided me with great comfort and allowed me to respect others beliefs despite how foreign they may seem to me. I think it is still vital to ask questions of ourselves and our beliefs and start conversations with others about our own and theirs, building those conversations on the foundation that everyone believes in something. I may not have all the answers to why I believe that something, I may be stumped and challenged when faced with deeper questions but those questions have allowed my beliefs to strengthen and transform.

I believe in something, and that something guides my heart and my mind to do what I feel is best and the understanding of “something” allows me to respect and appreciate others.

………………………………

Canterbury, HannahHannah Canterbury is a senior social work major and religion minor. She is currently the President of Disciples on Campus and is actively involved with the religious and spiritual life office of TCU. She is also the Social Justice chair for the Student of Social Work Association. After her senior year she hopes to attend graduate school for social work and pursue a career in mental health.

I Believe in Ordained Ministers, by Rev. Jill Sullins

You there.  Yes, you.  I know that look in your eyes.  The wondering if what you’ll say on Sunday will make a difference.  I know that fatigue and I know that….”this text again?  There can’t be anything more I can say about this.”  I know the energy it takes to create something new from something old and listen to the same tired argument for months on end.  I know that feeling of uncertainty and if your leadership is absolutely taking your church to where it needs to go.  Yes, You.  I know you.  And I believe in you.

I believe in ordained ministers who tirelessly seek ways of preaching in order to speak justice in a way that is kind, but challenging.  I believe in ordained ministers who take that call in the middle of the night even though every bone in their body says to ignore the call.  I believe in ordained ministers who carefully let their best selves be invaded by the Holy of Holies.  I believe in ordained ministers who speak truth into a world when everything seems uncertain.  I believe in ordained ministers.   I believe that the words you say do matter and do make a difference.  I believe that taking that call has shown someone a love beyond boundaries and limits, a love that mimics the Christ on the mountaintop who came away from his prayer in order to heal and to listen.  I believe that what you do speaks to justice even if it felt like a watered down point of view.  I believe that who you are is exactly why God called you to ministry.

I believe in ordained ministers.  I believe you are God’s gift to the Church and that gift is opened every day with new exciting opportunities to be who you are and exactly how God made you.  I believe you are called.  I have watched you reach into the depths of your hearts in order to make strong decisions for your congregations.  I have watched you open your eyes to the pain in your neighborhoods and empower your congregations to heal that pain.  I believe in your call even when you do not.  I believe your call has led you at times into depression, and at times into amazing joy.  I believe in ordained ministers because I have followed your examples of love and life.  I have followed your footsteps in maintaining your integrity while walking the tightrope of peace.

I believe in ordained ministers because of the strength you’ve shown in faith.  Your passion to share the Good News and to do it at all costs.  I believe in ordained ministers because when hands were laid on you, you did not run, but instead you cried knowing that God saw you for who you are and designed your life to do important, sacred things.  I believe in ordained ministers because of the numerous camps you’ve counseled and directed empowering youth and children to seek a greater faith.  I believe in ordained ministers because of the ways you’ve served regions and greater Church.  I believe in ordained ministers because you reach beyond the tradition and found a whole new world opening up in which God is doing great things.  I believe in ordained ministers because you’ve been my friends, you’ve been my mentors, and you’ve been a challenging voice when the road has become too rough.

I believe in ordained ministers because I’ve watched you love recklessly, extended grace boundlessly, and healed the brokenness around you.

So YOU…..I believe in you.  God believes in you.  The Church believes in you.  You are loved, there is hope, and I believe in you because you are exactly you.

……………………..

GA TIB BOOK Jill SullinsRev. Jill Sullins serves as senior minister at South Summit Christian Church.  She joined South Summit CC on December 1, 2013 with her husband, Eric and daughter, Maddie.  She previously served congregations in San Marcos, Texas, Independence, Missouri, Fort Worth, Texas and Grand Prairie, Texas. She earned her bachelors’ degree in Religious Studies and a minor in music at Texas Christian University and her Master of Divinity degree at Brite Divinity School. Jill finds God in lots of everyday things. She spends her free time playing volleyball, punching numbers on a remote control, conquering the world of tutu making and other nonsense crafts, cooking, and of course being a mom and a wife.

I Believe in My Sister’s Jesus, by Rev. Ryan Motter

Just one year before “The Facebook” came to TCU, many students used an online service called “Xanga,” (pronounced Zayn-gah with an inflection of irony and a hint of regret).  Xanga was an “open journal” blogging site, a place where millennial angst could spill out for all to see.  As a Freshman living in Clark Hall, I used Xanga for two reasons: first, so that my mom and sister could have print evidence that I was still alive and, second, so that I did not have to confront social anxiety and make new friends.

Xanga became the space where new ideas related to my major, Religion, played out.  Just a month into school, I wrote: “How do we know that we’re Christian?”  Mid-semester, the words were different:  “What if God is fallible?”  Then, at the start of my second semester, it was just flat out: “I don’t believe in Jesus.  Got no issues with God.  Just Jesus.”

That last one sent my sister, Kate, into a tailspin.  She lashed back with comments about how she didn’t know me and that Jesus believed in me even if I didn’t believe in him.  Back home, the church that I had grown up in, the same one in which Kate was still growing, had descended into terrible conflict.  What had been a source of faithful strength in my youth became, in Kate’s youth, a place where followers of Jesus acted as embittered hypocrites.  For her brother to move from “church camp all-star” to “deserter of the faith,” was betrayal to Kate.  When I stopped attending church at the end of my first semester, that betrayal became real to both of us.

After that, my sister and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on much about Jesus.  As our home church disintegrated, Kate became involved in Young Life.  The Jesus she came to know became vastly different than the Jesus, historical, theological and ethical, that I was coming to know through my coursework.

Slowly, Jesus and I found each other again, for the first time.  In my Junior year, I returned to a church because there was a hole in my heart that nothing else could fill.  I heard sermons from a minister who used both her bible and her brain, and she helped me to know an intimately personal Jesus who had intellectual integrity.  I sang in a church choir that was forgiving of my angst and gentle with my spirit.  My coursework in Religion encouraged me to be less critical and more generous, both to the material and myself.

In the summer after graduating from TCU, Jesus brought Kate and me back together.  She and I began to talk about this man who we had come to know separately.  She practiced the hospitality of Jesus that her Young Life groups instilled in her, and I found the vulnerability of Jesus I’d learned through doubt and grace.

Together we discovered that we believed in each other’s Jesus.  We still do.

……………………….

GA TIB BOOK Ryan MotterRev. Ryan Motter, ’07, is a minister at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Smithville, Missouri.  After his time at TCU, Ryan earned his Master of Divinity degree at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and was ordained to Christian Ministry.  He and his wife Rev. Suzanne Kerr Motter, ’00, MDIV ‘04, are expecting their first child, a baby girl, in November.  They can’t wait for her to meet their fur child Jeff, a female Yellow Lab Mix named in honor of two of Ryan’s TCU roommates. 

I believe in thought and the quest for truth

Author: Jenelle Salisbury, TCU Student, Neuroscience major, Published fall 2012

When I was stopped at the “This I Believe” tent at TCU, they said all I had to do to win a prize was to write down one thing that I believe on a note card. Sounds easy, right? Not for me. I wanted to write something that I truly, actually believed without a doubt. However, for me, doubt seems to be intrinsic. I considered just writing something cliché to get the prize, but decided against it. Another part of me wanted to just lay the card and the pen back down on the table and say, “I’m sorry. I just don’t believe in anything.” Why couldn’t I think of just one thing that I believed? I believe in skepticism; I believe in questioning everything in one’s external and internal realities on the quest for truth. But does the quest for truth really lead anywhere, or will I always be left not knowing? Epistemologically I have always felt that the one thing I can know for sure is the simple fact that I am conscious, so on my note card I simply wrote “thought.”

This is not to say that I don’t have beliefs in relation to my own life. I believe in love, I believe in family, I believe in honesty. I believe the things I do in this world matter and I love to help people. I have all of these beliefs in the moral and social realm. However, as a philosophical thinker, I am hesitant to say that I believe them 100%, i.e., that I know them. This is because I think that the only things that can truly be believed or known are things that are true in every possible world, not just the one we are in. Why? Because then the beliefs are fully general and thus relatable to every situation, even a situation that I cannot comprehend. Every belief I have is relative to the human brain, and who am I to say that this brain reflects reality? Some people think that skepticism is a sad and ignorant mindset to have, but to me, nothing else makes sense. Moreover, I am not a classic skeptic – I have one strong foundational, Cartesian belief that I feel is enough to live a bountiful life.

If one wanted to fully doubt, he/she could ask the question “How do you know that you are conscious?” and to me, this is a question that simply does not make sense. To illustrate, imagine a possible world in which we are not actually conscious. Instead, we just “invented” the idea of consciousness when in reality it doesn’t exist. However, in order to “invent” or “imagine,” one must in the first place have some form of consciousness. Whether all humans that have ever lived are one collective consciousness, or whether we are indeed in the matrix and this is all in our heads, consciousness in some form must exist because thoughts, although difficult to place one’s finger on, are undeniably real.
Well, okay. So we know we are conscious. What then? Even if we are bacterium in jars cultivated by an alien species we could still possibly have consciousness, so how does the knowledge of this fact benefit us at all?

I also believe one more thing, from which I feel I can derive all the knowledge I will ever need. I believe consciousness is a physical entity or collection of entities in the human brain. This is why I chose to become a neuroscience major. I believe we can know nothing of the true nature of the self or of reality until we know everything about the mechanisms with which we perceive and process it. I believe the human brain is this mechanism and thus the study of which is our portal to truth.

I suppose to most people I sound like a person with no direction, no beliefs, no happiness – nihilistic perhaps. I cannot emphasize enough that this is not what I am or the point I am trying to make. I love the processes of life, and I believe what I do matters. I just think to say that I know anything in any sort of absolute sense is illogical given that I have only experienced the world I am in, and only experienced it through the senses I developed as a human. I love these senses and I love this world, I just hesitate to relate it to any sort of absolute truth. I find comfort in the absolute truth that is consciousness. I am passionate about defining the physical bases of this phenomenon and ready to dedicate my life to it. This is my quest for truth.

I believe in faith

Author: Laurie Burton, TCU Staff member, Nursing Department

My belief system began as a child and was greatly influenced by my family. I don’t remember attending church regularly until around the age of nine. My oldest brother started going to church regularly and I noticed a change in him. He was excited about an experience he had that he called salvation. He treated me differently, more loving and friendly. His change, from him being basically self-absorbed to this new personality, created a desire in me to change too. I started going to church with him and learned about the gospel.

I began reading the Bible and it came alive to me and made sense. I was convicted about my sin when I learned how Jesus, God’s perfect son had given up his life and substituted himself to redeem mankind. It amazed me that God loved us so much he would sacrifice his own son for corrupt people. When I realized how much God loved me, and that I could never be good enough on my own, I understood that I needed Jesus as my savior. By faith, I accepted his gift and confessed and repented of my sin and was baptized.

This experience completely changed my life. My desires were to please God, know his will for my life and serve him. My belief simply stated is that Jesus is God’s son, the Christ, Messiah, Savior and Lord of all creation. Sin separated people from God. God sent his son Jesus to be born of a virgin and was crucified on a cross as an atoning sacrifice. Jesus reconciled man to God through his death and resurrection. When we believe and put our faith in him, we are born again of the spirit. He rose from the dead three days later and ascended into heaven to prepare a place for those who put their faith in him. One day he will return.

It gives me peace to know that no matter what happens; God will never leave or forsake me. My husband and children are all believers too, and I am so thankful for God’s blessings. My parents and oldest brother have since died, but I know I will see them again. These were times of testing for me and put life into perspective. God didn’t heal them physically, but gave them ultimate healing. I miss them, but I know where they are, and that one day I will join them. My mother used to tell me that death is graduation day. We have a God that understands our struggles because he came down to earth and lived as a man. Through the trials and storms of my life, God has always proven faithful. My heavenly father protects, provides, accepts and loves me. I look forward to graduating from TCU, but most of all, I look forward to the day when my heavenly father says “well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into your father’s rest.” Will you join me?