I Believe in a Better Tomorrow

How wonderful life is.

Life is seriously complex. From the intrinsic nature of organic life to the scientific blend of an atmosphere, life all around us is complex. But it doesn’t have to be. Is there really any benefit to such a thing? It can be simple. A simple life with simple beliefs.

I believe those who want to will find a way. Those who don’t will find an excuse. How bad do you desire something? How far are you willing to go to get it? And what if you can’t? I bet you have a reason why. And that’s natural, it can be applied everywhere.

While of course there will always be exigent circumstances, this is sufficient for the general majority of life. I don’t intend to be witty, or profound, or even knowledgeable. Today, I believe I found a way to express this concept.

Tomorrow, I believe I’ll find a way to get through that day as well. It may be easy or it may be hard. It may be enriching, it may be agonizing. I don’t know. There’s a lot I don’t know. But if there is something I want to know…I’m pretty sure there’s a way to find out.

And maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s all that’s really needed. Just a simple belief in knowing that you don’t know. But I do know that I’ll find a way, long before I ever find an excuse.

Today may have been a bad day. May have been a good day. Maybe even a great day. But the days don’t last forever. Nor do they have memories. Which is why it is important to live for and believe in… a better tomorrow.

-Author’s name withheld

I Believe in the Church, by Rev. Allison Lanza

Dear Church,

I was watching you this weekend. It was early on a Saturday morning. 20 of you were holding hands in a circle in that old fellowship hall.  I noticed how diverse you were.  In that circle some of you were children, some young adults, some weathered and wise from many years on this planet.  Some of you were black and some white. Some had large houses, some 1 room apartments, and some of you had nowhere to call home.  Some of you have been going to church since you were babies and others walked into this strange community just a few months ago. In that circle you were CEO’s, janitors, marathon runners, chemo patients, addicts, granddads and moms.  I saw how different you were, but I don’t think you noticed the differences.  I could see in the way you treated each other that you saw the other faces around the circle just as fellow church members, as equal, beloved children of God.  Standing there you prayed that God’s love might be known through bread and smiles.  Then you went outside.  You spent the morning giving out free fresh produce to your neighbors.  When folks asked if they qualified for food, you told them, “yes, this is for everyone!”  When they asked how much food they could take, you said, “as much as you want, take some for your friends and neighbors too.”

Church, this weekend, I saw you at your best.  You were following in Jesus’ footsteps as you gave food to the hungry and loved your neighbors as yourself, no questions asked.  You trusted in God’s abundance and generosity instead of trusting in your own fear that there might not be enough.  It was beautiful.

A lot of folks are losing faith in you church.  I see where they are coming from.  Too often you have chosen shame instead of grace.  You have closed your doors and told some members of the body of Christ that they are not welcome because of who they love, or because they ask questions, or because they do not believe exactly the same way that you do. You have tried too hard to be cool and powerful and in doing so you have sometimes left Jesus and his teachings behind. You have gotten stuck in your ways, unwilling to change.

In spite of this, I still believe in you.  I don’t believe this is who you really are.  I just think this is what you act like when you are afraid.  You are better than this.  Church, I believe in you because I have seen you when you are at your very best.

I have seen you baptize a child and promise to raise them in God’s love, and then I have watched you follow through.  I have seen you bring casseroles to a devastated family and read psalms beside the hospital bed.  I have seen you show up when the tornado hits and stay long after the news cameras have left.  I have watched you help teenagers hear God’s still, small voice and I have seen you whisper to the outcast, “you are God’s beloved child and you are welcome here.”

I have heard your prophetic voice crying for justice, your hymns sung out in praise and your quiet prayers whispered into the silence.  I have watched as you fed the hungry, visited the imprisoned, healed the sick, and let the oppressed go free.  I watched you knock down the walls that divide us and invite us into one community as sisters and brothers in God.  When the world says, be afraid, I have heard you whisper, love.  I have seen you proclaim that love has overcome hate, life has overcome death, and that hope will have the final say. I have watched you live as if you really believe, in spite of the evidence otherwise, that this might be true.

I believe in you church.

I believe in you because you raised me.  I have seen you come alive.

So, let go of your fear.  Be God’s church in this world again.

We need you.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

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GA TIB BOOK Allison LanzaRev. Allison Lanza serves as an Associate Chaplain at TCU.  Prior to this she served at Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh NC.  She graduated from Trinity University and Vanderbilt Divinity School.  She is a part of Ridglea Christian Church in Fort Worth.  The daughter of a TCU professor, she has been a horned frog since birth!

I Believe in Doors Closing, by Cara Doidge Kilgore

I believe in doors closing, or at least I do now. For a long time, I was embarrassed by how long it took me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, wondering what people must think and why everyone else seems to have it figured out before me.

In high school, my friends made decisions about college months before graduation, while I signed my letter of intent and had to ship it overnight. By the end of my first semester of college in Washington, D.C., I found myself crying in a counselor’s office as I realized that the school wasn’t the right fit and I couldn’t believe a door was closing. I was terrified as I made the decision to leave.

I found myself at TCU as a sophomore, still scared I had made the wrong decision. I had to work to find my niche on campus, but a door finally opened and I found my place. I still remember the moment when I stood in Dr. Grant’s office while he signed the paper to allow me to change my major to religion. I felt for the first time like I had truly made the right decision. Maybe not on my first or even third door, but I finally found the right door. I thought I had finally figured it out.

Then, I started social work graduate school and by October, I realized that I had made another mistake. I closed the door and left after a semester. I was embarrassed and desperate to hide this mistake, but relieved because it would have been a bigger mistake to stay. The following year, I started anew at Vanderbilt Divinity School and loved it. I still managed to close doors while I was there, but I started to realize that these doors being closed behind me were helping me find my path.

After graduating, I taught civics and world history. I loved discussing pivotal moments in history and how my students had a part to play in shaping their world, but I knew I hadn’t found the right door yet. In 2011, my husband and I moved to Chicago. I didn’t even know what doors to look for, and then my husband told me about a non-profit in town whose mission is to make interfaith cooperation a social norm.

It’s now been almost 3 years since I began working at Interfaith Youth Core and every day I have the privilege of doing work that I deeply believe in. It may have taken me a while, but I’ve finally realized there’s no need to be embarrassed. Parker Palmer wrote, “there is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does — maybe more.” On paper, I’m still a mess and I know there are doors yet to be closed, but I finally know that’s okay. This is why I believe in doors closing.

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GA TIB BOOK Cara Doidge KilgoreCara Doidge Kilgore holds a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School and earned her B.A. in religious studies with a minor in social work from Texas Christian University, class of 2004. She works for Interfaith Youth Core and manages their Interfaith Leadership Institutes and the operations of the Better Together campaign, a national network of student-led interfaith action on college campuses. Cara lives in Chicago with her husband, Billy, toddler whirlwind, Henry, and canine whirlwind, Jolene.

I Believe in Failure, by Rev. Robyn Bles

I believe in failure.  As a self-avowed perfectionist I have come to accept failure as a lifelong companion and teacher.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I hate failure.  Always lurking around the corner, failure was the long time the frenemy who I dreaded showing up to sabotage my big plans.  My first real experiences of failure happened right on TCU’s campus.  Breezing through high school I showed up to my freshman year thinking my usual good attendance and class participation were adequate tools for the academic rigors of college coursework.  While C’s and D’s are not technically failing, I’m sure most TCU students would agree with me that these sorts of grades were not the level of success I was accustomed to.  That first year of academic embarrassment made me check my arrogance at the door and grace the walls of the library, finally developing those much needed study skills.  Thankfully, my friend failure taught me the appreciation of hard work and the value of a truly earned A.  Though I only achieved one A on a paper in the Religion Department’s God in Modern Thought, taught by Dr. Grant, that A is still one of my greatest academic achievements.

Failure was not only my hardcore academic teacher, but also saw me through the heart-bruising affects of dissolving friendships and breakups.  Those four years at TCU were some of the happiest and most difficult years of my life.  Who knew that failing so often and with such humiliating flair would actually be good for you?  I certainly didn’t think that was part of the process, and when it happened I sure wasn’t capable of asking for help – failure wasn’t part of the achievement plan … right?

I can’t say exactly what caused me to change my perspective; perhaps it was finally being too tired of hiding my failures behind a perfectionist shroud, finding a good counselor, or just really beginning to embrace these moments as part of my life.  When I thought my life was all about avoiding failure I couldn’t fully face what was behind those moments; but when I started to accept them I began to see failure everywhere.  Not only in my life, but in everyone’s!  From the very beginning we start out falling down, again, again, and again, until we’re finally capable of taking that first independent step.  It’s through a series of failures that we finally grow, learn, and develop compassion for others and ourselves as we all struggle in the process of becoming.

Though I was fortunate enough to experience my first devastating failure at a point when I had a little maturity and life experience, this past year my daughter experienced failure at a much too young age.  At 3 days old my healthy baby suffered a heart attack and stroke due to a series of failed surgical safety precautions.  Through no fault of her own, failure has dramatically changed the course of her life.  My husband and I are providing all the therapeutic and medical assistance she needs to recover, but as her mother, one of the greatest ways I can help my daughter is to teach her that failure is not the enemy.

Almost every day I still wish this hadn’t happened to her and our family, but I also remind myself that not only do we fail many times in our lives, but the failure of others also affects us.  What is important to remember, however, is that these failures do not define who we are.   The sum of all our failures is not the value of who we are, but rather, how we respond to these failures shapes the people we become.  I still can’t say I like failure, and there are times that I downright hate it.  But I also know that while my daughter has a long road ahead of her, at 8 months old her strength and tenacity have already proven stronger than any failure.  We are years away from knowing the full extent of her recovery and I worry about how her peers will perceive her difference, but the results of this failure remind me many good things are still to come.  The people that surround her and our family have shown me that rather than hiding, sharing our failures allows authentic community and support to come alive.  Her story and courage have quite literally created a global community of prayer, support, and celebration of her many mighty accomplishments.  Her whole life might have changed on that day because of failures, but that does not mean she will fail at living a full and rich life.  We might be connected to one another through our failures, but we’re also interconnected in our shared growth and discovery because of these moments.  I believe the ways we hold one another in these fragile moments makes us better people and a better community.  I hope you’ll fail boldly and compassionately.

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GA TIB BOOK Robyn BlesRev. Robyn Bles was a TCU student from 1999-2003 and no matter where she has lived remains a Horned Frog fan. She currently lives in Des Moines Iowa with her husband Jordan, daughter Milly, and extremely friendly golden retriever Stella.  She gratefully serves with the fabulous people of West Des Moines Christian Church.  Go Frogs!

I Believe in Knowing About the Past, by Dr. Jim Atwood

I Believe in Knowing about the Past, by Dr. Jim Atwood

I believe that the study of history is very important.  History is the memory of civilization.  Without a working knowledge of the past, we are less likely to embrace in the present that which is meaningful, ethical and lasting.  We are also more likely to fall victim to what many see as popular, “normal,” and acceptable, though it may actually be misleading, superficial or dehumanizing.

We need context for our lives—individually as well as corporately.  To evaluate messages we receive or movements we may witness, we need firm grounding in what has happened over the long haul.  And we must evaluate.  Not to do so is to surrender both freedom and responsibility.

Imagine what it would be like were we to wake up one morning and not know anything about who we are.  What if we were to find ourselves with no memory, not knowing our name, not remembering our family, knowing nothing about our skills, values, commitments or beliefs?  What if we had no personal memory?  No memory of what we stand for, nor of what we stand against.  I suggest that most would agree that, in this situation, we would be lost, vulnerable—without foundation, without direction, just not whole and, perhaps, without hope.

Just so are nations, cultures, civilizations and communities of faith.  Our essential identities, who we are as individuals and as communities, rest not just on who we are at the present moment.  For our identities are shaped by our history and histories.  And our vision for the future is, in turn, energized by who we have become.

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GA TIB BOOK Jim AtwoodA Fort Worth native, Jim Atwood serves both as an Instructor in the Department of Religion and as Assistant to the Dean in the Office of Admission, where duties include chairing the Committee on Student Selection for incoming TCU freshmen and acting as liaison for Disciples of Christ students, parents, and ministers as they explore opportunities available at TCU. After receiving the B. A. degree (summa cum laude) from TCU, he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in church history (with emphases on religion in America and American history) at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Research interests include new religious movements in the Americas, history of the Disciples of Christ, and United States church and state issues.

An ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Atwood is frequently invited to speak at local churches, church youth meetings and community organizations. Atwood currently serves on the Committee on the Ministry for the Southwest Region of the Disciples of Christ as well as on the board of trustees of a seminary foundation. He is married to Kris Larson Atwood, an accomplished educational consultant who holds two degrees from TCU. The Atwoods reside in Fort Worth with their twin sons. As a family, they are deeply committed to education; they also enjoy the arts and travel (especially to England and Austria).

I Believe in More

Author: Courtney Heier, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in MORE.

I believe in doing more, in giving more, in being more. I was raised in an area where everybody did the same thing—everybody went to college, got a degree, got a job, got married, raised a family, and lived a life “happily ever after.” But I’ve been stuck. What if I can do more? What if that doesn’t seem like my “happily ever after” life? I want to be more. Maybe I’m involved in something every night of the week. Maybe I don’t sit down until 10PM some nights. In all reality, though, I can’t function otherwise. But now, I’m surrounded by people who live up to this dream of “doing more.” And that’s exactly where the distinguishing factor is—that dream. That dream isn’t so much a dream anymore. It’s reality. I have this dream of traveling to a developing country to volunteer in a clinic for children with developmental disabilities. I have this dream of opening my own occupational therapy clinic and operating it for a few years, ultimately working towards a goal of a bakery in the entrance, staffed by the kids who have grown up in the program. Some people will say I’m crazy, they’ll say that it’s just a dream. I won’t accept that. I live a life dedicated to fulfilling one single word’s expectations: agape. Agape: an unchanging love, a love that expects no re-payment, a love so generous that it can be given to the unlovable, a love that gives everything it has to give. So why let dreams be just that—dreams? Why settle with the ordinary? Maybe dreams are trajectories; maybe they’re plans for the future. Who says dreams have to stay in that realm of imaginations and impossibility? If you want to do more, do more. If you want to give more, give more. If you want to be more, be more. The only limitations for your dream are the ones set in your own mind. You’re worth more than being ordinary. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”—Romans 12:2.

I Believe in Not Being a Statistic

Author: Ashley Aguilar, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in not being a statistic, and overcoming those stereotypes that are placed upon oneself because of those statistics.

The statistic I face is the one that says “fewer than 2 percent of young mothers will finish college by age 30.” Or, the one that says “young women who give birth while attending a community college are 65 percent less likely to complete their degree than women who do not have children during that time.”

I am a young mother. I have a son named Nolan who is absolutely everything in my life. He was unplanned, unexpected, and unwelcomed by many people in my family. I was constantly being told how difficult it would be to finish school with a baby, and how I would never be able to achieve my dreams. At that time, I was enrolled in a local community college, unsure of what my next move would be. I tried to put on a brave face and say that I had a plan. However, the truth was that I did not know what I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, and how I was going to achieve my goals while also being a mother. Its like once you become a mother, you are only allowed to be a mother. You cannot have goals and dreams, and if you do they will be placed on the backburner. However, I refused to believe that. I wanted to be a mother, and a student. I still had dreams, and goals, and a future in my mind that I knew I still wanted to live. The only difference was that my future was no longer solely my own, but also my son’s. What really pushed and motivated me though, was the idea that my decisions no longer affected only me but also affected my son, because now not only am I a statistic but he is too. His statistics state that “only about two-thirds of children born to young mothers earn a high school diploma, compared to 81 percent of their peers with older parents,” or “children of young mothers perform worse on many measures of school readiness, and are 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade.” I refuse to allow society to pre-determine my son’s and my future. However, the only way I can overcome those statistics is by working hard, completing my degree, and creating a life for us that has, up until I had come to TCU, seemed unimaginable.

I want my son to see that our future’s may be pre-determined by society and the data they have collected, but that does not mean that we have to coincide to those numbers. I want him to see that success is achieved through hard work, and perseverance, and that he too can overcome any difficulties.

I Believe in Living Moment to Moment

Author: Danielle Howard, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I did not have a typical High School experience. After dropping out of school and returning a year later, my only goal was to graduate as fast as possible. Senior year, I spent all of my time going to school and work, and going home to study. I wasn’t concerned with building relationships or having the social life that most teenagers have, and I didn’t realize that I was missing out on so many memories. Many people have stories of near death experiences and life-changing moments that led to clarification and inspiration, but my experience was much more than that. One single moment caused me to completely change the way I live.

Early one December morning during my Senior year, I woke up in excruciating pain. I could hear the steady beep of a heart monitor, and the muffled whispers of people nearby. When I opened my eyes, the fluorescent hospital lights made my headache spike to an unbearable level of pain. My mind was racing as I tried to summon up any memory from the previous night, but I came up blank. When I tried to turn my head, I realized that I had a neck brace on, and I was strapped to the bed, restricting my movement. This was the scariest moment of my life. My body was numb, and I was terrified and alone. I could hear the beep of the heart monitor picking up speed with my panic. When I opened my mouth I couldn’t form words, I could only cry.

Late the night before, I was in an accident that resulted in a Grade 3 Concussion. The impact paralyzed my diaphragm, leaving me unable to breathe. When I ran out of oxygen, my heart stopped. I didn’t regain a heartbeat for the eight minutes that it took the paramedics to arrive and begin defibrillation. When they shocked me for the fourth time, my heart miraculously restarted.

I don’t remember most of that night or the following weeks of recovery, but I do vividly remember the overwhelming regret that filled me when I realized that had the paramedics arrived just a few minutes later, that would have been the end of my life and up to that point, I hadn’t accomplished anything significant. I was stuck dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, and I was so busy trying to grow up that I forgot to live.

Because of that moment of impact, I am a living, breathing cliché. I believe in putting my all into everything I do, and never turning down an opportunity to make memories. I believe in living moment to moment and making peace with the past. I believe in acting now and thinking later, but never looking back with regret. I believe that sorrow is just as significant as joy because every experience we have shapes who we are. I believe in taking advantage of every moment we are blessed with, because one instant of impact can end everything.