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.

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

 

I Believe in the Power of the AHA, by Mikaela Miller

The patient sat on a piece of plywood resting on two school desks, hand exposed through sterile blue sheeting. The surgeon leaned over, allowing the sunlight streaming through the barred window to be his guide as he carefully pulled a scalpel through the skin around the man’s knuckle. The man stared calmly off into the light, willing his stomach to settle, but there was a certain look of relief and thrill in his eyes. Today was the day that a piece of shrapnel that had made its home inside his thumb for 8 years would finally be removed. There was a resounding ding as the sliver hit the bucket, and the man glanced down and expelled a sigh.

Fast forward a few hours and we are packing up for the day, passing boxes of prescriptions, glasses, and linens towards the bus assembly line style. The man reappears, a huge grin consuming his face despite the pain that is slowly overcoming him from the fading anesthesia. “Gracias, gracias” are the words falling, falling from his mouth when the ‘aha!’ moment strikes.

This is what I want to do. This is who I want to forever serve.

For a girl that had dreamed of doing anything but medicine, this was a huge revelation. It came exactly two weeks before I checked “Biology — Pre-Med” on my first college application, and long after that life-changing trip, I am still wearing the pre-med badge and dreaming of the day that I can return and be the life-changer.

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TIB Mikaela Miller

Mikaela Miller is a junior Biology major, minoring in Mathematics and Chemistry, on the Pre-Medicine track. Originally from Chandler, Arizona with roots in Seattle, Washington and a new home in Fort Worth, Texas, she hopes to find a little piece of “home” across the nations through travel and medical mission work. 

 

I Believe in the Power of Fine Arts, by Kyra McGuirk

I’ve never been particularly logical. Sure, I like to have order in my life, but in terms of my goals, none of them really make a whole lot of sense to most people. At TCU, I’m studying to get a degree in musical theatre. That’s right; I’m going to an incredibly expensive private school for a fine arts degree. You’re allowed to call me crazy. I’m well aware.

I’ve loved performing ever since I can remember. I was serenading my parents’ friends at cookouts at the age of three, and I still know lyrics to songs I used to listen to in elementary school. My parents love to tell the story of how I sang a slightly inappropriate song for my Sunday school class while we were visiting a church… We didn’t return, as you might imagine.

As I begin my senior year of college, my mind is plagued with doubts about the degree I’m getting, and I wonder what my life will be like a few years from now. The lack of any sort of plan that accompanies the type of degree I’m getting is absolutely terrifying to me, and when people ask “So what are you going to do with your degree after you graduate?” it usually puts me in a rather snarky mood. That being said, I don’t know what else I could do with my life.

I truly believe that God put me on this earth to perform. Not for any kind of personal gain, but to use the gifts He has given me to make the world a better place. Art is so important. When times are tough, people turn to the theatre, music or film to take their minds off their hardships. Good stories bring people together and fill the world with a kind of joy that can’t come from anywhere else. Theatre itself can be a tool to teach, and people can learn so many life lessons or moral or ethical issues just from watching a well-produced play. Music is proven to be therapeutic, not just emotionally but in certain physical ways as well.

These gifts can be used in church settings too; theatrical skits can add so much to a service or a camp. Music completely affects the way a service goes; to me, music is the most important part. Everyone is different of course, but I connect with God most through music. Nothing fills my soul like leading a contemporary worship service. That may sound strange, but it allows me to connect with God on such a deep level, and also allows me to spread the joy I feel to others.

So, while my BFA may seem silly and illogical to most of the modern world, I’m proud to embrace it. I may not know where I’ll be in five years, but I know that I’ll be filling the world with God’s love in the best way I know how.

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GA TIB BOOK Kyra McGuirkKyra McGuirk is a senior at Texas Christian University working to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in Music. She is originally from Indianapolis, IN and was raised by Greg and Linda McGuirk, with an older brother, Ian. Kyra has attended Geist Christian Church for most of her life.  ALTARed, the young adult worship service, is where she began her path in contemporary worship music. While at TCU, Kyra attends Ridglea Christian Church and is the Music Director of the TCU Worship Team. After she graduates, Kyra hopes to pursue some sort of career in the fine arts, and eventually hopes to be able to start a fine arts school in an area where public schools have cut funding for the arts so that kids will have the opportunity to explore their talents and pursue their dreams.

I Believe in Getting Dirty, by Abby Henegar

As I type, I am currently waiting out these next few hours before I can enroll in my fall semester classes for my senior year. It is crazy to believe that in just a few weeks, I will be a senior in college. I am graduating early in order to save a few bucks but mainly I am graduating early to have a few years to get my hands dirty. For once in my life, I finally understand what it means to get your hands dirty.

This past spring break I had an amazing opportunity to go to Nashville, Tennessee to learn about social justice and putting faith into action through TCU’s Faith Acts organization.  Over the course of the week, I was able to meet some of the most amazing, God loving people.  I hung on to every word these passionate and inspirational people spoke.  The most important word of advice this diverse group of people gave was: jump right in, be willing to scrub toilets, and don’t be afraid to get dirty.

I’ve never been afraid of a little dirt, but I always had this feeling that the world was telling me that I should be afraid of dirt. Dictionary.com defines dirt as any foul or filthy substance. Our world is terribly afraid of getting dirty and being seen as foul or filth. The term dirty is used to describe the sick, the poor, mentally ill, minorities, and the marginalized.  There is pressure in today’s age to rid ourselves of all our dirt so that we can be perfect, clean individuals.

It took long conversations with God for me to accept and embrace myself getting dirty.  I realized that the desire to be a perfect, clean individual was something that I didn’t want. The desire for perfection came from the world around me.  Perfection is impossible and it takes too much effort to be constantly giving off the impression that I have my life together.  Life is messy and the wasted time and effort spent trying to clean up life can be used for something more important and in line with God’s purpose for my life.   Real, honest life requires getting dirty.  While I have learned some things in the classroom, I have learned so much more about myself, others, God, and the world outside of the classroom, with my hands in the dirt.

I believe in getting dirty.  I prefer it.  It doesn’t line up with what society deems a perfect clean life, however I’d much rather spend my life with my hands in the dirt trying to make sense of the world than have the world tell me how to make sense of myself. Getting dirty, serving others and putting my faith into action is what I want in life.  It is all I’ve ever wanted.

So while I’m still waiting for that class portal to open and for senior year and all that it brings, I’m looking forward to getting dirty the most. Get dirty with me.  Go try something you’ve always wanted to try but were too afraid to go through with.  Go smile at a stranger.  Go call  someone you haven’t talked to in a while.  Go volunteer. Go make disciples. Go for a run.  Go do what your heart tells you.  After all,  the Lord God formed a man from the DIRT of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being [Genesis 2:7].

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GA TIB BOOK Abby HenegarAbby Henegar is a rising senior at Texas Christian University from Centralia, Illinois.  She is a psychology major, sociology minor involved in Disciples on Campus and Faith Acts.  She is very thankful for the amazing opportunities TCU has and will continue to provide for her to live out her faith.

I Believe in the Power of the Human Spirit, by Rev. Trey Flowers

In January of 2010 I went on my first-ever mission trip. Our church group traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, not having any idea that four days into our trip one of the most devastating earthquakes in history would take its toll. Had the earthquake struck five minutes sooner or five minutes later instead of while we were in the car, everyone in our group would have been counted among the more than 200,000 lives that were lost that day. Never have I seen so much destruction and so much loss as amidst those crumbled buildings over the next few days.

There’s a story in I Kings that seemed quite random for me until that day. The prophet Elijah was out in the wilderness, and suddenly a great earthquake shook the ground. However, the scripture tells us that God was not in the earthquake itself but rather in the “sound of sheer silence” that followed. That story seems random no more, for while God was not in the violence of the earthquake in Haiti, I believe so strongly that I saw God’s presence in the human response during the following days. The power of the human spirit triumphed over an unexplainable, unspeakable tragedy. Even in the following days when we had no food, no water  and no shelter, the people of Haiti opened their hearts and homes to us. I’ll never forget the Haitian stranger who shared the last of his food with our group when we had nothing else to eat. In the strangeness of that first night after the earthquake when we slept outside with nowhere else to go, our cries of fear were silenced by the Haitian men and women joyfully singing old hymns in a language we scarcely knew – but still fully understood. Despite living in poverty, the Haitian people showed me that when put to the test, the power of the human spirit brings light into the darkness – if only we will let it shine through.

I believe that each one of us is created in the image of God, which means that – even in the people we can’t get along with – our ultimate responsibility is to find the presence of God in our neighbor. Our daily question is whether we choose to harness the power of the human spirit to see what God sees in other people. On the darkest of days, my memories of the Haitian people are consistent reminders that hope always wins out whenever the true power of the human spirit is unleashed.

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Rev. Trey Flowers is the Minister of Youth and The Bridge at Woodmont Christian Church in NashvGA TIB Book Trey Flowersille, Tennessee.  He is a 2007 graduate of TCU, where he majored in Religion and Political Science.  Rev. Flowers also received a Master of Divinity and Master of Public Policy from Vanderbilt University.  He is married to Merillat Flowers (TCU class of 2010) and named their dog “Beasley” after the TCU religion building

I Believe in Love by Rev. Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg

I am awed by the expanse of the ocean, humbled beside the great redwood tree. I am healed by down pouring rain, alive when standing on the mountain top.  I am renewed when quieted by the depth of the piney woods, hope filled by the song of the birds. To learn to be still and content is itself a precious gift – a pearl, rare and beautiful.

This I believe, God is in and through all things. God is within the still quiet moments and in the strenuous trek to the mountain top. This I believe, we are made whole in relationship to one another. We cannot be fully human without the experience of love in relationship, friendship and companionship.

As a child, I grew to know God in a loving home nestled beneath the Rocky Mountains. There, in nurturing love, I learned that it is okay to question and grow, falter and fail, try and succeed. In this nurturing love, I learned there is no need to hold onto fear. Fear is the root of our pain. When we give up the power of fear, we also find the joy of hope.

This I believe, human beings are created for love and out of love. Wiser people than I have taught me, through the years, it is not nonsense to think and act out of love. Is love an elusive and impossible notion? I think not. I have come to believe, in every language and in every heart, love is the only real experience of wholeness we can offer or receive. It is the anecdote to our pain -the balm in Gilead.

As an adult, through college years and growing into middle age, I have come to understand that love cannot and will not allow us to stand aside when injustice claims the life or hope of another. True love is compelled to act. True love will stand when others cannot, speak with others are silenced, and carry the wounded all the way…through the valley of death to a place filled with new life. This I believe, a life “on fire” is a life full of giving. The generous heart never runs empty and is filled and refilled with inexplicable peace.

A child beneath the awestruck mountains, an adult traveling through distant lands, and an older woman peering through the woods of middle age, the child taught to explore is the same child quieted within who as an adult stands on the strength of nurturing love, an arbiter of justice and vessel of hope. So when asked, what to do I believe, I will undoubtedly answer, I believe in love.

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TNR_8695-2The Rev. Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg is Brite’s Vice President for Advancement. Dr. Rodenberg recently completed a two-year intentional interim presidency at the Disciples Seminary Foundation, Claremont, California, where she gave leadership to the completion of a successful capital campaign. From 2006-2009 she served the Foundation as Dean for Southern California. She has also served as a missionary in Swaziland of the Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, as a congregational minister in Kentucky and California, and as a campus minister at the University of Kentucky. In addition, she has taught courses in Christian Ethics, Inter-Cultural Studies, World Religions, the Sociology of Religion, and History and Polity of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as an adjunct member of the faculties of Claremont School of Theology and San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Dr. Rodenberg holds degrees from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkley, CA (Ph.D. Christian Ethics/Religion in Society), Lexington Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Texas Christian University (B.A.). She has also studied at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, Switzerland, and United Theological College, Bangalore, South India.

She is married to John Rodenberg and they are the parents of Heather and Matthew.

I Believe Little Things Make a Big Difference

Author: Gregory Chambers, TCU Student, Spring 2015

Growing up as a minister’s kid, I often heard the phrase to whom much is given, much is expected.  As with a lot of things that my parents said when I was younger it went in one ear and right back out the other.  Yet as I grew in both size and understanding of the greater working of the world, this simple yet complicated phrase began to become ingrained in me, a part of who I am.

I believe in giving back, I believe in happiness, I believe that the little things make a big impact, I believe that God calls us to do His works here on Earth.  As I reflect on my twenty years on Earth many great memories come flooding back, yet the ones that are the most memorable, and the ones that have had the deepest impact on me, are the ones where I was in the service of others.

One of my most cherished memories occurred when I was helping my father prepare for a Maundy Thursday service.  The night before the youth had done an Easter musical, so my dad and I were not expecting a very high attendance, yet we carefully prepared for whoever came.  As expected only fifteen or so came to the Church to pray and partake in communion, yet one individual stood out from the rest.  An older woman in the congregation came to the service; she sat down in the pew and prayed, then took communion.  As she was leaving she came back to where my dad and I were standing and said “This is the most beautiful service that I have ever been to.”  She then left, as I was standing there it hit me, if we had not prepared diligently even though we were not expecting much we would have never received the greatest gift of all that night.  The fact that we made a difference for just one person was all the satisfaction that we needed.  Just by opening the sanctuary for a time of pray and reflection, we had made a huge impact.

I learned a lesson that night, the lesson is that the little things we do for others in life, often have the biggest impact on our lives.  As I stood their listening to the clock tick in the quiet of the sanctuary I realized that although our time on Earth is short in the grand scheme of things, it is up to us to use that time to make little impacts on the lives of others.  I believe that the little things we do for others have big impacts, and I think back to all the times I heard that simple, yet complicated phrase, to whom much is given much is expected

I believe in Servitude

Author: Alex Nied, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in servitude.

How do you define a great person? Is it by their education, wealth, power or maybe accomplishments? I believe that in order to be great one must be a servant to others. Martin Luther King Jr. said that everyone can be great because everyone has the ability to serve.

I had the opportunity to work with women in the RISE program this summer. These ladies have 3 or more felony counts of prostitution against them. They chose to enter the program rather than going to prison and are now healing from year’s worth of psychological and physical damage with the help of therapy, group classes and service. I understood my job to be helping them, but it turns out they became my teachers. I was getting the most out of the relationship – not the other way around. These women have lost everything – their families, jobs, privileges, even themselves – and yet they continue to love and serve with their entire beings. MLK also said all you need to serve is a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love. The RISE ladies revealed to me the importance of serving others. They taught me that service is a privilege and if you are able – you must serve. The feeling of helping someone and receiving no fame for that service – is the ultimate reward we will ever attain. The women continually reminded me that when they lost themselves in the service of others that is truly when they found themselves.

I believe that service to others is a privilege and a path to greatness. We don’t have to have everything figured out to serve. There is no college degree or manual for servitude, all we need is a heart full of grace. As the author of 1st Peter says, everyone should use their gifts to serve others in order to administer God’s grace. So ask yourself, what have you done for the service of others lately?

I Believe in the Power of One

Author: Linda Milburn, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in the power of one. The power of one can make a difference. More specifically, I believe in the power of my canine companion, Tatum. When my daughter was in college, she rescued Tatum from a shelter. Eventually, she realized Tatum was happier in the country than in an apartment, and decided it was best to leave her with my husband and me. I started taking Tatum to the park in town to walk and I realized that people were drawn to her. They would comment on how it appeared that she was smiling and that her tail was always wagging and welcoming. I began taking her to a park in Fort Worth where I was doing homeless outreach and I witnessed something magical. People migrated to her, both young and old. She allowed for walls to come down and it enabled me to start building relationships with the homeless residents that had not before been approachable. Part of Tatum’s charm is that she is ball motivated. She decides who needs to interact with her, even if they do not always welcome it in the beginning. She continues bringing the ball to them until she gets a shrug and a smile, and eventually, the toss of a ball. I watch in amazement at her gentleness with children, even with chaos surrounding her. I watch the hugs and the rubs she receives as she is giving her welcomed kisses. To some of these people, she is the only physical touch that they may have or the only unconditional love that they get to feel, even if only for a moment. I witness the smiles that she brings to the eyes of the suffering and lost. Over the last several years, Tatum has touched many lives and has created her own little ministry. While she has been able to make a difference in many people’s lives, she has had the biggest impact on mine. As a result of our homeless outreach, I decided I wanted to take it further. Tatum and I became a registered therapy team through Pet Partners, an international nonprofit organization. We also became a registered Reading Education Assistance Dog team and have participated in children’s reading programs. Additionally, Tatum and I have had the opportunity to participate in crisis response and group therapy for substance abuse. I credit her and her spirit with influencing me to go back to school. I have since received an associate’s degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling. I am now working towards a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, with plans of pursuing a master’s degree.

Tatum has a gift. She has touched so many lives, but she has given me the courage to empower myself with the knowledge to help others. This special four-legged friend exemplifies that just one can make a difference in someone’s life.

I believe in America’s fraternity

Author: Steven Hofmann, TCU Student, Business Major, Published Fall 2012

I am in America’s fraternity.

It’s not Greek. It was born right here on U.S. soil. It’s the biggest, the toughest, most selfless, most accomplished, and most respected fraternity you can imagine. We’ve never lost anything we’ve been involved in. In my fraternity, uncommon valor is a common virtue. My letters don’t resemble the ones you’re familiar with. My letters read “U.S.M.C.,” and they stand for the United States Marine Corps.

Being a part of this fraternity means more to me than proving I’m the coolest guy, than being the one that can drink the most, meeting a bunch of girls, or being the most connected person in my circle of friends. To me it’s about going through both an internal and external transformation. During my “rushing” process, I not only earned the esteemed title of “Marine,” but I also became a part of something much greater than myself. I became part of an elite history of discipline, loyalty, leadership, and gallantry. My “rush” week was 12 weeks long, 7 days a week, twenty-four hours a day, and even after all that I was STILL a peon! To me it means having a brother. Not a brother who gives me his notes to class, or lets me borrow his fake ID. I’m talking about a brother that gives you his last canteen of water when you’ve been on a patrol, in 117-degree heat, with no sign of your next re-supply opportunity.

I mean a brother who runs out of any cover or concealment, into the screaming of rounds whistling by his ear. With no concern for himself or his family, he comes and picks me up, both of us in 80lbs of gear, and puts me on his shoulder. One hand on me, one hand on his weapon and the rapping of death at our door, he carries me back to the cover of our vehicle. Without a doubt, he is the only reason I am here today. That’s the type of brother my fraternity produces.

In my brotherhood, community service means service to my country. Service to my country means protecting my fellow Americans. Protecting my fellow Americans means being a part of America’s Fraternity and being a part of my fraternity, means that you have the freedom to be a part of your fraternity too.