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.

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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 the Power of Connectedness, by Dr. Nadia Lahutsky

Because life is hard, I believe in the power of connectedness.  Not connection—suggesting a link between two items or things.  Connectedness, rather, implies multiple connections.  Think of many hubs each with many spokes, each spoke reaching out and making a link to one or more other hubs.

Life is hard.  Don’t let media images of the carefree college student life fool you.  Students today face enormous stresses.  Parents who demand perfection, faculty who seem to increase their work load each day, personal relationships that take more than they return.  And this doesn’t begin to include worry over their own personal stake in the mounting student debt load!

Life is hard.  Take the case of a former student of mine, a young man I’ll call Kyle.  In less than four weeks he went through a lifetime of grief.  He watched his friend and roommate attempt to take his own life; he went back to his hometown for the funeral of a close high school friend; he returned only to endure the death of another friend, this one from campus.  After the first two events, he was in my office to explain his absence from class.  I could offer him a tissue, some schedule relief on an upcoming assignment, and a sympathetic ear.  After he returned to class, I watched as his personal appearance slumped downward and his steps got more plodding.  Two weeks earlier, I would have been more hesitant on this next point than I was, but the time seemed ripe.  I then offered him my prayers and those of others.  I told him that, in fact, I had asked my congregation’s prayers for “my student who is having a hard time.”  This self-described (almost an) atheist nearly swooned in gratitude.  “Thank you.  I need them.”

Life is hard.  I was grateful in this situation for the people at the TCU Counseling Center, capable of doing so much more professionally for Kyle than I could, as well as other staff on campus, many of whom could both be another set of ears and help him maneuver through the bureaucracy in order to get the proper help.

The hubs and spokes are already all around us.  I believe that’s the kind of world God created for us.  Sometimes we’ll be the ones supported in the strong joint created by a spoke and a hub; other times we’ll join with additional hubs and spokes to become the support.

Life is hard.  Don’t let others do it alone.

Life is hard.  Don’t try to do it alone.

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GA TIB BOOK Nadia LahutskyNadia Lahutsky has taught for 34 years in the TCU Religion Department, where she is currently Chair.  A graduate of Hiram College and Vanderbilt University, she is an historian of Christianity, with a special interest in modern Roman Catholicism.  She has been married for nearly 40 years to Edward McMahon, New Testament scholar, and is the proud mother of Jean McMahon, a doctoral student in social psychology.

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).