I Believe in Gratitude, by Rev. Angela Kaufman

I am one of those people….the person with the “life is good” sticker on the back of her car, the one who’s coffee mug says “half full” and who’s currently wearing a shirt that says “happy camper”. I’m the one who sings the “rise and shine “ song from church camp first thing in the morning – much to the chagrin of my wonderful not-so-morning person husband and my half-asleep kids. I’m the person who in our house reminds us before meals to offer up one thing we’re thankful for from the day, and the one who even on my crankiest, most exasperated, most frustrating days finds myself most days hitting my “reboot button”.  I’m like this on the outside because on the inside I believe in gratitude.  I believe in gratitude not because life is always easy or good, but rather because in fact life is often difficult, hard, and even exhausting….and yet is beautiful nonetheless.

This belief was made very real to me at a young age as I grew up with both the “beautiful and the messiness of life” in my own house. One on hand, I was the product of one hard-working, steadfast parent who taught me by example the virtues of commitment and responsibility, faith and friendship. My dad taught me how to fix my own car and just about anything else, how to value a life of learning and appreciate a good book, and most importantly what it meant to live a life committed to God and to the church. But the other side of the coin was very different, and through the anger and volatility of my mom I gained a different set of life-skills.  I learned as a youth how to quietly sneak out the house at night to find peace, how to make friends with people who had spare couches and how to navigate the landmines of an unstable parent. I learned like many others do, how to talk around public conversations that would reveal that I lived with someone whose illness robbed her of her mind and whose anger shut the door to her heart. And while it’s made for a difficult story in certain chapters, that rocky path taught me that life can be just as beautiful in the valley as in the mountains. It showed me how to give thanks on the days when it rains as well as those when the sun shines.

One of my favorite bloggers once said, “a crisis shakes things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most.” For me, what’s left when the crisis, the loss or the grief of our lives has taken hold and shook everything else off? Gratitude. Gratitude for a God who loves us as beautiful and worthy people filled with promise. Gratitude for family and friends who help us live life with humor, love, grace and second chances. Gratitude for the chance to start each morning anew.  I believe in gratitude, and that deep, authentic, sincere gratitude is the product of an imperfect, messy, and beautiful life. It’s birthed out of hope and from it comes joy, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a mobilizer. It calls us not just to sit still and admire the view, but to realize that with every new morning comes the responsibility to care for others, to serve a world in need and give thanks to a God who loves us and reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And with that in mind, nothing can keep me from singing, even if it is early in the morning.

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angela-kaufmanRev. Angela Kaufman serves as the Minister to the University and more recently also as the University’s Church Relations Officer, supporting connections between the church and the campus. She received her bachelors from TCU and her Masters of Divinity from the University of Chicago. Angie has been or is currently active on the boards of the Tarrant Area Food Bank, National Assoc. of College & University Chaplains, University of Chicago Disciples Divinity House, the TCU Wesley Foundation and the General Board for the church.  She is the lucky other-half to her wonderful partner in crime and IT genius Jack and co-parent to two amazing, adventurous boys and a husky-shepherd mix named Bailey.

I Believe in Music, by Rev. Chris Stillwell

I believe in music. Of course I don’t simply mean that I believe music exists, rather I believe that the existence of music is the greatest gift we have in this world. While the stomach needs food and the lungs need air, the heart and soul need music above all else. I believe that the reason that the caged bird sings is because that is the only time when it is free, and when I sing, my spirit is free to soar to places that my body can never know. I believe that when I listen to music, I am transported and moved and when I play music I feel a holy communion.  The true gift of music is that I don’t have to be gifted in music to receive music’s gift.

A person who cannot paint can appreciate a masterpiece, and someone with no athletic skill can marvel at an athlete, but even someone who sings like I do can not only like music but actually and actively participate in it. This I have believed from a very young age when I learned to play my Walk-man. I sang along to every note of every cassette I owned blissfully unaware that when I sang, I sang loudly and poorly. It didn’t matter. The ability to sing united me with the song, its structure and movement, its meaning and feeling. It lifted my spirit and exercised my soul.

Even more amazing is experiencing music together. At a U2 concert surrounded by 60,000 people, most of whom I imagine sang as poorly as I do, we all united in singing the words of the 40th Psalm. “I will sing, sing a new song,” and together we sounded much better than we ever would have sounded alone. The transcendence of that moment was a striking lesson, and ever since then music has been my daily devotional.

I believe in music to inspire and uplift, to sooth and comfort, to release and build emotion. But more than anything, I believe music is the greatest gift because it is the most enduring gift. As a minister, I have often I gone into nursing homes to see people who have lived long lives full of loved ones and events that they can no longer remember. I have set with people who cannot remember my name or why I am there, but sing or play a few notes of an old cherished song, and they remember.  I won’t say it comes back to them because it never left them, and in that way I believe that music is our surest sign of God’s steadfast presence in this world.

I believe, I know, that when the day comes and I am in their place whatever else I have lost, music will still be with me. My hope is that anyone who visits me in the nursing home will know the first line to “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I believe that I will be able to take it from there.

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stillwellRev. Chris Stillwell is from Wheeling, WV and now lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Jessica, and his children, Owen and Charlotte.. He attended TCU from 1999-2002 where we earned his Master of Divinity degree from the Brite Divinity School. He is a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where he has served as the senior minister of the Christian Church of Connellsville for the past twelve years.

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.

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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 the Church, by Rev. David Mallory

With a trumpet of shock in her voice, the young woman said to me, “these people don’t even know me and yet they are constantly asking what they can do to help.” Her and her husband had been casually visiting the congregation for several months when he was severely injured in a boating accident. Members of the church had been showering them with food, cards, companionship, prayers and love. She was dumbfounded by the response.

Over the last number of decades, a great deal of criticism has been pointed at the church for being archaic and out-of-touch. Much of this is deserved. However, even with her many shortcomings, I still believe in the church.

Human beings are created as social creatures. Particularly in times of hardship and struggle, we cope most effectively when we are rooted in safe and meaningful relationships. Yet there are so few arenas in which these healthy relationships can be nurtured. Schools are often fractured  by bullying and social ladders. Corporate America is more concerned with profits than with people. Even local neighborhoods are often fenced by mistrust. In a world in which rampant individualism and crippling isolation are commonplace, the church is a sanctuary where all of God’s creatures can gather at the same table. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free. The leopard can lie with the goat and the cow can feed with the bear. With all of her faults and failures, the church is still one of the few venues in which our commonness as the beloved children of God is celebrated. For this reason, I believe in the church.

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GA TIB BOOK David MalloryDavid Mallory is the Senior Minister of Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to that, he was the Senior Minister at the First Christian Church of Albany, Texas. A second career minister, he graduated from Brite Divinity School in 2000. He is the husband of Amy, father of Robert and Stacey and soon to be a granddad. Wow, he’s old!

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 the Power of Connection, by Sam Baxter

I believe in the power of connection. Connection is defined as a relationship in which a person or idea is linked to another mutual interest. Growing up as a member of First Christian Church of McKinney and continuing to be actively engaged in the Disciples of Christ denomination I have felt a sense of connection. Starting with my childhood I began loving my church community through my once a week visits to the church nursery, which led to me becoming an active vacation bible school go-er. Growing up I became a leader of the church youth by attending mission trips and serving through youth ministry council throughout my middle school and high school years. During all of these engagements I have felt the support and love from my church family, which taught me what it means to be One Body serving Christ.

During my senior year of high school, when I was searching for a college to attend, I wanted to find a place where I could have the same sense of family and connection at my new home away from home. Being the sixth member of my family to attend TCU, I knew about the Connection Culture TCU had to offer. When I stepped foot on campus for my own tour, I began to understand what the TCU family is all about, and the pride that comes with being a Horned Frog through all the friendly faces on campus. The tight knit community of learners, scholars and friends is what makes Texas Christian University unique, and is what led me to continue my family’s tradition of being a Horned Frog.

When I arrived on campus, I took the sense of connection to heart, and began to learn more about the organizations I had the chance of joining. Not too long after attending welcome events, I easily found my schedule to be filled with an overwhelming amount of activities going on outside of the classroom, but I accomplished my personal goal of becoming as involved and connected as possible. Because of my connectedness on campus, I have been able to love my first two years at TCU. This experience has been much more than simply going to class and reaching for that 4.0 every student desires to have. I have interacted with first year students by serving as an orientation leader, am a member of a social fraternity and connect with future frogs by giving tours on campus. Through these interactions I have met multiple people that have their own story to tell. I am a firm believer that the more connected a person is on campus, the more likely they are going to be engaged in the opportunities and relationships able to be formed with people from all walks of life. The more engaged a person is, the greater the chance that they will feel a sense of purpose, which will lead to them feeling connected to the TCU community. TCU has the ability to challenge each student to become an “ethical leader and responsible citizen” if they take the time to engage in the Connection Culture.

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GA TIB BOOK Sam BaxterSam Baxter is a junior Supply Chain and Business Information Systems double major from McKinney, Texas. He is involved in a variety of things on campus including a fraternity, the BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program, and facilitates a number of programs with the Office of the First Year Experience. Sam has been a member of First Christian Church, McKinney all his life.

I Believe Hospitality, Real Hospitality, Can Change the World, by Rev. Dani Loving Cartwright

I learned hospitality from Patsy Forbus.  She was like my second mother. She lived three houses down and knew me since the day I was born.  Her daughter was one of my best friends and we played between our houses almost every day.  Funny thing, we almost always ended up sitting around Patsy’s kitchen table, enjoying a little treat- a sip of water or (if we were lucky) a glass of Coca Cola- and talking about the day.  Patsy had this way of opening up that table to include as many of us as had stopped in.  There was always plenty; there was always a space; there was always time for her to sit and listen….really listen…to what we had to say and ask questions, and laugh with us, and talk through the stuff of childhood with us.  This comfortable, kidney-shaped table in the middle of her warm kitchen was just right for squeezing in and sitting close, and, making room for each one and paying attention to everyone. She taught us, in how she opened that space, that hospitality – real hospitality – provided comfort and calm and refreshment, even for our souls.

That kind of hospitality I learned at Patsy’s table was practiced, too, by a first-century Rabbi whose Table was wherever he was, and the “treat” whatever was there.  Loaves and fishes, or water and wine, he made a space so that those around him could be welcomed.   Space where they could be heard, ask questions, and listen as they found refreshment, even for their souls.

This has become the way I live. Making space for conversation around tables – some physical and some metaphorical- where sustenance and openness and welcome can be found.  Making a place- with a cup of coffee, or over a delicious meal, or sometimes simply the gift of time and space- where whoever is present can squeeze in, and share their story, experience comfort and calm, and be heard and be welcomed.

This I believe: real hospitality – “Gospel Hospitality”- is changing the world- one table at a time.

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GA TIB Dani CartwrightDani Loving Cartwright is a 5th-generation member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  As an alum of both TCU and Brite Divinity School, she bleeds purple! She has served the Christian Church (Disciples) as a congregational pastor, as a Regional minister, and now serves with the National Benevolent Association – the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as the Associate Vice President of Operations.   She is married to the Rev. David Cartwright and proud co-parent of the Rev. Douglass Anne Cartwright.  

I Believe a Home is More than Just Walls, By Celia Thomason

I believe that a home can be anywhere. By the time I was 12 years old I had already lived in 7 different homes. But what is a home really? The definition of home is the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. But when I think of the word home, I never think of the permanent residence, instead I think of the people in the home or the memories the walls have seen.

I have many places that I call home: my house in Huntsville, AL; my church in Madison, AL; Camp Lakey Gap at Christmount in Black Mountain, NC; Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX; Camp Hargis (the church camp where I grew up – by the way I was born there too) in Chelsea, AL; and the list can go on until I have listed all the places where the people I love live or where the memories of those people were made.

I believe that a home is all about who is there with you in those places. I think of my home in Huntsville because of my mom, dad and sister. I think of my church because of the people who fill the sanctuary. At Lakey Gap I think of all of the campers and counselors I have met the last three summers. At TCU I think of the people I met in my service organization, my best friend and the people in my Education Program. At Hargis I think of climbing to the cross on senior night with the other graduates or playing pranks on the boys.

I may have lived in over 10 homes in my 22 years but I expect to have well over 1,000 homes by the end of my life because of the people who have or will touch my heart. I will always carry them and that special place with me when I go on to find a new home over the years.

Thank you to all of those people who have made simple walls or spaces more than just concrete  and dry wall.  You have made my heart a traveling home with unlimited space. Because of you I know I can always make a home anywhere.

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GA TIB BOOK Celia ThomasonCelia Thomason will graduate from Texas Christian University in May 2016 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. While at TCU Celia became heavily involved in Alpha Phi Omega, a national community service organization. Celia has also spent the past three summers in Black Mountain, North Carolina at Christmount’s Camp Lakey Gap, a camp for individuals with autism. This summer Celia is working with Disciples Peace Fellowship as a Peace Intern traveling to different CYF conferences around the country.

I Believe in Presence, by Dr. Don Mills

Independence is a good thing.  Taking care of yourself is what adults do.  Adversity is a challenge best overcome with your innate strength and talents.  Generally that has worked for me throughout my life.  Or so it seemed to me.  When I was recently diagnosed with a serious illness, my attitude was “ok, I can do this.”  I researched, prayed, planned and plunged forward with surgery, radiation and drug therapy.  I did what the science said, missed as little work as possible and decided that this was another battle that I would win using the skills and strengths I have.

The doctors told me this was difficult and that I should consider a support group.  Not me!  This was my battle and I would fight, with my family by my side, and win.  I was in for a surprise – an awakening no doubt but not a rude one!

The physical part of my fight was relatively easy.  There were symptoms and side effects, but basically not too difficult.  But I was unprepared for the emotional journey.   I tried to keep this bottled up.  After all, this was my problem and I would solve it.

I began to get calls and notes from people who had experienced a similar challenge in their lives.  I thought that was so kind and considerate.  Then I began to realize that each time, I felt a little better.  My colleagues at TCU were phenomenal.  Their genuine care buoyed me when I really needed propping up.   It really hit me when I went to radiation.  There I met many people in the same situation as me.  People who I would not normally meet.  Engineers, truck drivers, school teachers, politicians, ranchers.  And we talked.  About our families, our careers, our hopes, our fears.  We laughed.  We cared about each other in very significant ways.  I began to realize that I looked forward to radiation every day.  Not for the treatment.  But for the company of these strangers who had entered my life – and had made it richer and better.

This experience reconfirmed to me what I believe and now know with absolute certainty.  God gives us what we need, when we need it.  The key is to know what we need.  As I reflect on the many years at TCU, I remember again and again that when I needed it, it seemed the right person entered my life, whether student, colleague, mentor or parent. I rediscovered that the delivery vehicle of God’s grace and God’s goodness and God’s compassion is packaged in thousands of different ways.  And in packages I might not have picked if it were up to me.  I know the corollary to this belief as well.  I must be prepared to be the vehicle of God’s grace for someone else who needs it – even if they don’t know it.  That, I believe, is how God works in this complex, noisy and fragile world.

Author: Dr. Don Mills, Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, Spring 2015

 

Mills, DonDon Mills has spent the last 46 years at TCU.  After 42 years in administration (the last 18 as Vice Chancellor), he left administering for professing in 2011. He is now Distinguished Professor of Higher Education Leadership where he initiated the doctoral program.  He is especially interested in the concepts of community, higher education renewal, and engagement.  Don has a wonderful wife, two terrific children and three beautiful, talented grandchildren.