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Jewell Chapel, a weekly time of spiritual focus for the College community, is essential to the identity and mission of Jewell.  Persons from across the campus are invited to prepare and share the weekly “500 Words”.  The general theme for “500 Words” is spiritual growth.  Speakers approach the theme in different ways.  How do you define spiritual growth?  What things contribute to spiritual growth?  What are some obstacles or challenges to spiritual growth?  Describe a time when you experienced spiritual growth?  How has the Jewell experience affected your spiritual growth?  Thanks to the members of our community who have contributed their “500 Words.”  I hope you enjoy and are inspired by their thoughts.

 


Chriska Francois
May 1, 2013

I’ve been asked to reflect on my spiritual journey while here at Jewell… in 500 words. Initially, I thought it might’ve been easier to go to the moon and come back.

Just because within these past four years… I’ve experienced the most spiritual growth I ever have in my entire life. While here, I’ve seen both the essence of struggle, and the essence of success. And the thought of recapitulating everything in 500 words seemed implausible.

But, nonetheless, I’ve decided to take you on a journey with the few words I have left….

—Starting from the first day I walked into this chapel and listened to Dr. Walters speak about JEWELL breeding the finest leadership, and the spirit of pure excellence on this campus… I realized I was in for it… This was going to be no walk in the park. Dr. Walters concluded his remarks at that matriculation ceremony with the motto, “Deo Fisus Labora”----Trust in God, WORK.
I left that ceremony petrified and anxious, yet... ridiculously inspired.

My Jewell journey has been full of wonder. I’ve been very thankful for the amazing camaraderie, the ever-supportive faculty and staff mentors, the laughs, the smiles, and now I’ve reached a point where I can say I’m also thankful for the tears.

…Sometimes, it seemed like an uphill battle.
There were days where I wore inferiority like it was a new skin color.
…But something very small within me kept uttering: Trust in God, Work…

There were moments where it seemed the beating of my heart was the only thing working in my favor.
But… Trust in God, Work…
I stand before you today…speaking…. but you must know: it hasn’t always been this way.
There were times where I was my own audience, and even then… my confidence was about the size of an adolescent ant. I never knew my mouth was capable of speaking words worth listening to,
Never knew my presence would make the slightest difference anywhere. 

                        Trust in God, Work…

It’s like I wanted to succeed, but I didn’t know how.
I wanted to be GREAT, but at the same time… feared what would come of it.
I wanted to reverse—dream and reality, but was hesitant in my wishing.
I was conflicted, and in this contradiction, I finally realized I wasn’t trusting God at all.

 I was working, and I was trusting in my own capacities but not in that of the God who held my potential in His hands.

Trusting God meant that… even if the rain didn’t come for years, I would still WORK DILIGENTLY on the ark I’ve been instructed to make.

Trusting God meant that even in the driest of seasons, I should still have hope of plenty.

Trusting God meant I had to be humbled like Hannah and know that God raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; setting them among princes, and placing them in seats of honor. Like Moses: No matter what I think I’m not capable of, I will GO and the Lord will EQUIP me with things to say.

Trusting God meant… I had to surrender all, leaving nothing in reserve

So, I trusted.
I finally fell to the foot of the cross and I learned patience.
I kneeled, and I found solace as the concept of growth had its way with me.
I meditated alone and found understanding as inspiration set my soul ablaze
I called on the Lord wholeheartedly, and I found contentment as maturation chopped and restructured me into who I am.. today.

Over the course of 4 years, much like a virgin bride walking down the aisle to her groom, inspiration slowly met with courage and they ignited. I’ve been refined. I’ve taken the Jewell motto to heart, and now, with the grace of God I STRIVE each day like every breath I take is reimbursing nature for my very existence. My belief is firm that I can do all things through Christ… who strengthens me...(pause)

These four years have been a journey, one of struggle, and one of success, but not once was I forsaken by the God who holds my heart. I trusted, and I was made whole and I was made to challenge even the greatest difficulty.

So I’ll leave you with the same words I was left with: Trust in God, Work. J

Thank you.



Amy Kerzmann
April 24, 2013

Reflecting on an image of Earth from a distance of six billion kilometers, Carl Sagan said, "There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.” 
(Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1994) 

Satellite imagery of the U.S. at night produces a revealing image of our energy usage, mostly as a function of population distribution. Major metropolitan areas light up, drawing our attention and challenging our geography skills to identify the cities without aid of borders. Despite being a proud North Dakotan, I struggled to locate my hometown amid the relative darkness of the sparsely populated Great Plains. But recent satellite imagery has made this game shockingly easy. Why, in this area of the country known for cattle and wheat, would my hometown light up? Oil. Well, more specifically, gas flares. A constellation of hundreds of new drilling rigs scattered at two-mile intervals over the prairie burn off natural gas in such quantities that the area is visible at night.

Oil production is not new to the area. In the early 1980s, my dad worked multi-day shifts as a nurse on local drilling rigs, teaching the “roughnecks” how to survive toxic gas leaks and providing medic services. It was honest work that made good money. Until his three-year old daughter didn’t recognize him when he returned home after many days spent on the rigs. My dad questioned the sustainability of this life, the cost of financial security, the oil. And he traded the rigs for hospital surgery. It was good timing, as the oil production was waning.

The resurgence of oil production is due to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. Using high-pressure injection of fluid to fracture the shale rock and displace the oil and gas within, North Dakota’s Bakken formation is yielding nearly 700,000 oil barrels a day. That’s a barrel a day for every resident of the state. However, the environmental consequences of contaminated water and air have yet to be seen.

And yet social consequences are already acutely felt. The infrastructure of my hometown cannot cope with a population that has tripled in five years. There is no housing for those seeking work. Men live out of vehicles, hotel rooms, or “man camps”, separated from their families back home. Violence increases with the population. Vegas showgirls arrive to cash in on the 2:1 male-female ratio. Many questioning the sustainability of this life are paralyzed by economic desperation. My family was blessed because my dad had other opportunities. Many others don’t.

Next time you’re asked to consider the cost of meeting our nation’s growing energy demands, consider not only environmental pollution, but also the toll on social structure. Factor in violence, prostitution, and families torn apart. Let us remember the many sacrificing time with family for the means to support them – and our thirst for oil.

I pray for a restoration of the land and community that I call home, that we may be better stewards of not just the Earth and her resources, but of each other. Healing and nurturing. But my little light of faith burns faintly against the gas flares of the Bakken…for now. I take comfort in the knowledge that those wells will eventually run dry, but my fuel source is eternal.


Kevin Garner
April 17, 2013

“The Great I Am,” “Provider,” “Healer.” We  come across God in many names and personalities. For me, this list is incomplete. The list doesn’t include a name describing the radical, disruptive nature of God and Christ which Scripture speaks. So I add to the list, “God is queer.” Let me pause to allow some to evacuate. But, before, you choose to, let’s be clear the meaning of queer. Queer can be used as a derogatory term and for empowerment. At its core, queer means disruption. As an action, queering means to thwart. I contend that not only has our faith been used to treat queer persons like Jesus was treated, Christ engages in queering actions that we are to model.

“Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples, hungry, began to pick some grain. The Pharisees said to Jesus, ‘Your disciples are doing what is unlawful.” Matthew details examples of religious authorities finding ways to condemn Christ for breaking Mosaic Law.

I sat, waiting for my spiritual mentor to ask me how I violated God’s law. As a 3 year member in ex-gay therapy, I felt daily pain, being pulled between my born self and the self my religious mentors wanted.

“Then they brought Jesus a demon-possessed man, and Jesus healed him. The Pharisees called Jesus the prince of demons.”

Years of self-hatred, separation from God, thoughts of suicide, yet still putting others first. But since, my sexuality had not changed, it’s considered an act of chosen sin; my choice to live in depression, and exclusion.

“After Jesus called himself the bread of life, many of his disciples no longer followed him.”

After years of trying to change, I found the courage to proclaim myself, made in God’s image. Yet was rejected by my closest friends and church.
It’s impossible to separate the stories of rejection by friends and religious authorities from one another. For Jesus symbolizes the modern-day queer.
However, the response of the LGBT and allies community must not be bitterness toward Christianity, or apathy. Christ responded by queering the traditional hierarchies.

When Jesus, enraged at the focus on profit over people, entered the temple and turned over the table of money changers, his actions to thwart the religious authorities didn’t bother him. When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, he embraced an outcast for whom she was completely.

We must burst Christ out of the closet of comfort and circumstantial love. There is nothing comfortable about the Gospel of radical love and justice. God’s radical love does not say, “I love you, but” it says, “I love you. Period.”  Radical justice means not remaining silent in a society of groupthink, but standing up for the least of these. Christ’s example of queering, thwarting, the traditions of exclusionary religion is our model of radical love and we must act! And when people try to silence you, much like the Pharisees told Jesus to quiet his disciples for being outspoken. When the people call you queer to attack your sexuality or as a slander against your radical love, point to the sky and say “Hallejuah, I’m in good company.”



Jennifer Cotter
April 10, 2013

I would like to open 500 words today with a quick word about openness, specifically about the openness of the idea of community, although openness requires anything but quickness. It is often through quickness that openness quickly becomes closed. The truth is, we live in a time when the idea of community, rather than opening, is becoming increasingly closed to those whom are declared "wholly other."

To explain this, I'd like to turn to Jacques Derrida's essay "Faith and Knowledge” (in Acts of Religion) which, through patient deconstruction of Immanuel Kant's essay "Religion Within the Limits of Reason," provides some time to think about the quickness with which we exclude the other.
According to Kant, there are two modalities of religion: a “passive faith” that seeks “favors from God” without acting, and a moral “reflective faith,” which is based on active knowledge for transforming our ethical conducts and practices. Kant rejects the prior which he regards as “cultish” and, ultimately, argues that Christianity is the only “truly” moral religion because it focuses on what “man himself must do in order to become worthy of [God's] assistance."

Derrida, however, asks us to consider the consequences of this binary between "active" and "passive," which places whomever is declared "passive" outside of recognition and unworthy of friendship. For Derrida, the concern is how the foundations of our communities, such as the one Kant describes, are often based upon a fundamental, silent and quick exclusion of the other. For example, we need only to think of the violence against Muslims and Sikhs since September 11th, especially after it was declared in newspapers around the world that "We Are All Americans." It seems that "we," as Derrida would say, too often requires "them."

To be clear, Derrida's deconstruction is not a simple reversal of the binary; it's not rejection of Christianity or an argument to now privilege “passive faith.” "To deconstruct," he writes, "is not to reject and discard…but to re-inscribe …otherwise" (Margins of Philosophy 215). What Derrida proposes is the opening up of a very different understanding of community as openness to otherness, what he calls the creation of “a universalizable culture of singularities,” or an opening up to the “wholly other” that cannot be known in advance and that is outside of our easy paradigms of recognizable difference (Acts of Religion 56). Derrida uses this idea to expand our understanding of religion, not only beyond Christianity but beyond the Abrahamic religions, to include the excluded. But the “wholly other” also has broader implications regarding all of the excluded, the marginalized, and the exploited.

Thinking about religion in today's global world, Derrida's argument for openness to otherness, I believe, should be contrasted with Augustine's perspective in the Confessions, in which he suggests that the only “true friendship” is centered on God and Christianity. Augustine, of course, is reflecting critically on his “pear-stealing” adolescence, with a commitment to develop higher principles. Yet, I question whether this model—that the only true friendship is centered in Christianity—is adequate for building higher principles in a global world. Instead, openness to the “wholly other”—what Derrida describes as a “community of alterity”—is urgently needed to break with the current exclusions that define social life. “True friendship,” I suggest, begins by reaching across the borders which divide us, to open up the possibility of a different framework of global community, one that embraces all of humanity and is built on the full development of differences.



Peter Hanman
April 3, 2013

When I was asked to give the 500 words, it was suggested to me that I write about how Jewell has affected my faith journey. Ironically enough the situation that I think about the most on this subject did not actually happen at Jewell, but it was a result of Jewell’s course work and constant questioning of the really big conundrums of life. Courses such as responsible self led me to question some of the “facts” that I grew up with and like all humans on a journey of discovery I started to doubt. I started to ask: Was my choice God’s choice? Was I doing his will and what he wants me to do? How do I know? You know . . .the biggies. In order to answer these questions I turned to the person most boys do and the wisest man I know: my father. After hearing the questions that I told you, I don’t know how a father who raised his son in the church would or should react to that son losing his faith, but my father’s reaction was typical of him. He just smiled turned to me and said “yeah, that’s normal”. Then he gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. You must bloom where you are planted.

 As I look out in the audience today, I see people who have been given many talents from God. People here who could be teachers, track stars, preachers, performers, artists and succeed in any one of these positions to glorify God. So the question does not become “Am I doing God’s will?” but “Where will I do God’s will?”, “Where can I fill the greatest need?” and “How can I allow my talents to be used anywhere for God?”

 Some of the greatest peace makers of our time came to the position that we know them for by ways of another profession. Mahatma Gandhi came to India to be a lawyer, but how could he represent his people if the government wouldn’t even let him in a court room? Martin Luther King was a preacher, but how could he teach his congregation about love, kindness and forgiveness, when their only reward to this was hate and rejection. Mother Teresa was charged by her sisters to be a teacher to poor children, but how could she talk to the children about reading and writing when they were worried about their next meal or bath. Each one of these people came to do a job where they were needed and ended up filling a need that I don’t even think they thought they would do. In life we must be open to God taking us on a path to greatness we don’t see for ourselves. In my faith, the question that governs my actions is where can I fill the greatest need and what skills that I have can God best use and work through me?  So I ask you this, where will you be planted?  And how will you bloom in this world?



Abby Blevins
March 13, 2013

Scripture Used: Matthew 18.1-5//Luke 18.16-17

Good morning! It’s so refreshing to be back on Jewell’s campus sharing Chapel with you. I’d like to start with a piece of scripture this morning.

            Matthew 18.1-5 reads:
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.
3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me…”

            While reflecting on my walk with Christ and where He has led me in this exact moment, that piece of scripture immediately captivated my thoughts. What does it mean to have a child-like heart in the eyes of God?

On the surface, we may define a child-like heart as Saturday morning excitement when Looney Tunes is on. Feeling “giddy” when we see the first snow and imaging the perfect snowman and sledding...Clinging to the hope of the Easter Bunny’s visit. And some of my Jewell friends know that feeling when Toy Story or The Lion King comes on and we update our Facebook statuses or tweets.
God calls us to maintain and share a child-like heart to enter the kingdom of Heaven. I feel blessed, every day, knowing I get to experience pure child-like hearts through teaching. A child’s laughter, innocence, genuine honesty (sometimes too honest), and their small proportion of worry for their little world surrounding them. Their plead for love, acceptance, encouragement, and reassurance. Their forgiveness and compassion for others. Their hearts accept all friends no matter their home lives, their clothes, or culture.

Where, along the way, have we lost our child-like hearts? Maybe, sometimes, yours gets lost in the crunch for making grades, finals, appointments, family responsibilities. Where, along the way, did our child-like hearts transform into the horrific news stories we see and hear on our televisions, radio, and social media?

Luke 18. 16-17 tells us:
16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

            There is so much substance and depth in this scripture, but I wanted to interpret it with a challenge for all of us. So here it goes:

            “I want to tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God with forgiveness, honesty, acceptance, love, encouragement, laughter, and genuine innocence for the good will of our brothers and sisters will not be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven like a child would.”

            As you communicate with your world today and the days after, remember to have a child-like heart. I’m not saying a child-like heart comes without the stresses and responsibilities of our every-day lives. I just want our world and our future generations to watch a little more Looney Tunes, laugh a little more, forgive a lot more, and accept one another for who we are…to have child-like hearts.

 

 



Stephen Whitmore
March 6, 2013

There’s a wonderful scene in King Lear when the Earl of Gloucester, having had his eyes put out by Lear’s daughter for his faith to the senile king, comes upon a beggar and asks to be led to the cliffs of Dover, where he intends to end his life. Unbeknownst to Gloucester, the beggar is his banished son Edgar in disguise. After guiding Gloucester some way, Edgar convinces his blind father they have reached the edge of the cliff, when they are really on flat ground. Asking to be left alone, Gloucester offers a final prayer:

“O you mighty gods!
This world I do renounce, and, in your sights,
Shake patiently my great affliction off:
If I could bear it longer, and not fall
To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
My snuff and loathed part of nature should
Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him!
Now, fellow, fare thee well.”

And he falls.

Edgar returns and, in a different voice, tells Gloucester that he has miraculously survived falling from the cliff.

 “Think,” he says, “that the clearest gods, who make them honours
Of men's impossibilities, have preserved thee.”

I find this moving, not only for Edgar’s love and pity for his father or his scheme to cure Gloucester’s despair, but for its profound illustration of subjectivity. Shakespeare’s work is full of deception, disguise, and double-meaning, all of which are at play in this scene, and his worldview is one in which individuals are limited by their perspective and reality, as it is experienced, is ambiguous. What better to evoke this than a blind man stumbling forward into the arms of gravity, in a single moment experiencing both his believed fall of hundreds of feet from a cliff and the reality of a short fall to the ground?

I am falling.

Rendered blind by my inexperience, pride, apathy, and self-doubt, I am stumbling toward an uncertain future, hoping the world will lead me to whatever ambitions I believe myself capable of. But I don’t have the whole picture. There’s potential I can’t see; opportunities for growth, empowerment, and selflessness; a reality that defies and exceeds my expectations. God has a plan for my life and is leading me toward a more fulfilling future than I can imagine. And the people in my life are helping to guide me along the way. My experiences may be limited by my expectations, prejudices, and ignorance, but the wisdom, perspective, and insight of my friends, family, peers, and professors allow them to encourage, advise, instruct, and correct me, pointing me in the right direction even when I think of giving up. I am so grateful for the love and faith these people have shown by investing in my potential and particularly to William Jewell for pushing me beyond my cultural, intellectual, and spiritual limitations.

With graduation approaching, I am on the brink of another momentous fall; but I trust that God and those with better sight will make honors of my impossibilities. 



February 27, 2013
Steve Hemphill

Perhaps the reason Andy invited me to speak this day is because I'm old and white haired so he thought I could give some personal remembrances  about our Founders.  Well, I'm not that old but, as a lawyer, I always have something to say.  In fact, you can forget about that 500 word business...hah.  I'll have you outa here by lunch.

I'm a retired Diplomat but, before that, I was a practicing lawyer.  One of the many nice things about no longer having an active practice is that I no longer have to go to continuing legal education seminars all the time.  Those things can be as boring as classes with Milton Horn!

Let me tell you about a Big City Law Firm.  The Law Firm of Rabinowitz, Goldstein and Rabinowitz.  The old man Rabinowitz, was a very successful lawyer who was very serious about making money.  The younger two; Goldstein and the younger Rabbinowitz.....not so much ...did I mention it was  Jewish law firm?

......anyway, the two younger guys were of a new generation and really wanted to do a lot volunteer legal work.   When they heard this very popular law professor was coming to town, they wanted to close the office and go his seminar. 

Of course, the old guy had a few questions....like "at vhat law school does dis professor teach?....

Weeeellll, Goldstein chimed in...he doesn't really teach at a school...he is more of a traveling seminar presenter.....humph.....the old man wasn't impressed but he had heard this guy was some 'out of town expert'...he let the two younger guys go....he knew he couldn't stop them anyway and besides, he could make more money with them out of the office.

Editorial footnote:  If you ever want to be an expert in your field, you've got to be at least 50 miles from home, otherwise nobody will believe you.

When they returned from the seminar, they had an amazing glow about themselves.

The old man was not impressed.  "I vant to zee zee handouts from zee seminar" he barked at them.  

Weeellll, there weren't any." the younger Rabinowitz told his Dad, "

"NO HANDOUTS....vhat kind of a seminar is dis?!?"  

"It was the best law seminar EVER!" they exclaimed. 

"Really, vhat did you learn that will make us money, the old man asked."   

"Weeeeellllll, nothing in that department...in fact much of the emphasis was about redistributing the wealth." 

Oi vey!!, the old man retorted, is dis guy a comedian or some kind of trouble maker?

 "Weeeelllll, I don't think he's a comedian but he is going to cause a lot of trouble....he told one guy to sell all his belongings to please God...and if he were a camel he'd have a better chance going through the eye of a needle than a rich man would have of getting into Heaven.

At this stage, the old man was about to have a heart attack.  "Vhat did the real legal scholars have to say about dat?" 

Weeellll, that's when it got really interesting.  The Dean of the University Law School stood up and asked him a trick question, "Which is the most important law we should follow?" and you know what the teacher said to him....

"Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind and soul is the most important law and secondly...love your neighbor as yourself.   

WOW, that really got the whole law school faculty steamed!!!"

Well, the bottom line about this law firm in Jeruselem a long, long time is that old man Rabbinowitz died rich.  The 'out of town expert' died not long after that, penniless.  And yet, the two younger guys remembered everything they learned at that seminar and lived prosperous and happy lives. 

Ironically, these two lawyers felt as if they had been freed from the Law.

Founder's Day--smounders day....it's not about the old guys....it's about you and what you are going to do with your life.  The torch has been passed to you.  Run or get outa the way.



February 20, 2013
Cynthia Hartwell

Through reflecting on my past four years at Jewell, I feel and fortunate to see how much I have grown as I’ve explored the wonderful world our God created. During my study abroad experiences, I was repeatedly reminded that our world is vast and diverse. The glimpses of God I was able to see internationally reminded me that continental divides and language barriers are our struggles, but of no significance to Him. But the spiritual aspect of my Jewell journey really began before my first class.

In the weeks leading up to the beginning of this adventure we call college, I prayed that I would find a community of faith to integrate into. I envisioned that as a church to call home, but found it even more in my campus community. I landed among a great group of spiritually conscious peers who have served as a solid support system as I make my own journey through spiritual growth.

With this faith community as my foundation, I was able to step out of my comfort zone—out of my country even—on multiple occasions, and was amazed at what I found. During the summer after my freshman year, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table of my temporary home in Guadalajara, Mexico, hashing out ideas with my host mom about how we, as Christians, are called to live our lives. Last year when I studied in southern Spain, my roommate and I sang familiar worship songs in a way we never had before – in Spanish. Throughout my travels in Europe, and even through my experiences right here at home, God’s unbiased love and unending presence are clear to me.

At the same time, everyday in Spain I saw pain and injustice as we passed the blind, the homeless and the suffering on the street. On a trip to Morocco, my heart ached when we drove past the poorest slum I have ever seen. In Mexico and in Spain, young children in dirty rags were sent out to sell candies and flowers on the corners. And right here at home I bypass panhandlers with sad looks and cardboard signs, trying to ignore the guilt in my heart, still not sure what action I should take.

As I think about where my journey of spiritual growth will go from here, I hold the words of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi close to my heart:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

The world—across the globe, across the nation, and right here in Kansas City—is full of hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness and sadness. But there is also plenty of love, pardon, faith, hope, light and joy to go around. There just has to be someone to spread it around.



February 13, 2013
Carroll Bogert

What does it mean to bear witness? A few months ago, I was in a remote part of southeastern Turkey where the Kurdish people live. As you know, the Kurds are an unlucky people, spread among Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, stateless and discriminated against. We were sitting with a woman whose husband had been taken away by Turkish security forces almost twenty years ago. We had come with a cameraman to make a short video about this issue. It’s so hard to get attention to it, even within Turkey. It’s an inconvenience to talk about justice for the past. We thought, maybe we could help people understand the issue if they could see and hear the victim talking about it.

So she told her story. How they had only been married for a year so far. How she had a new baby.  How the police came to their home, how terribly frightened everyone was of the police at that time, the height of the armed struggle between the Kurds and the Turks.  And how they took him away.  And how she never saw him again.

A few days later, the police told her to come and pick up his personal effects. She laid them out on the floor in front of us: his comb, his wallet, his keys, his ID card, the simple, ordinary things from his pockets. He went in alive and he came out dead, she told us. And they tried to tell me they weren’t responsible for his death.

And after the interview she took us to the gate of her home and said the thing that touched me most of all: “I’ve been waiting 20 years for someone to ask me what happened.”

It’s such a simple thing: listening to people’s stories. Hearing of their suffering. Bearing witness. Telling them they are not alone.

The poet Archibald Macleish once said that the basis of human decency is empathy, or what he called the “feeling-life of the mind.” He called upon Americans to feel the spittle running down the little black girl’s cheek.

Turkey has a statute of limitations. After twenty years, even very serious crimes like torture, disappearance, and extrajudicial execution can no longer be prosecuted. So within a matter of months, this woman’s case, her husband’s murder, will recede into history. It will go unpunished.

After many years of guerilla warfare, Kurdish terrorism, combat in the remote mountains of the southeast, Turkey is making a serious effort right now to negotiate an end to the armed conflict with the PKK, the Kurdish armed separatist group. That’s good! And it’s not a convenient moment to recognize and adjudicate long-ago crimes. But you know, it’s never a convenient moment.

In the hullaballo of international diplomacy, with politicians posturing and commentators bloviating and everyone jockeying for power at the highest echelons, we must remember. We have borne witness. We cannot ignore the human cost, the human story. Those stories are so important. Even, I would say, sacred.



February 6, 2013
Chuck Hoffman

Painted Prayers

Peg, my wife and artistic partner, and I recently completed a body of work for the Skainos Chapel in East Belfast, Northern Ireland. We consider them prayer paintings, of which there are 13. They are reflections on the writings of Genesis and the Book of Revelation. One piece, Healing of the Nations, is a reflection on Rev. 22:2, and the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations. The work is also contemporary as it is influenced by the times in which we live. In this case, the period is the time that led up to the 2012 US elections. With months of angry words, images and personal attacks, we were stirred to contemplate healing. These paintings are the result: prayers of hope that we are not as divided and cynical as the media demonstrates. Our reflections on healing are delicate and spiritual, like peace itself. We literally paint together. In the act of creation, we turn towards one another, which gives us the feeling that life is being generated. The act of art-making opens a space where the possibility for a transcendent experience can take place. Witness the display of our work in the
Stocksdale Gallery. It forms a circle of creativity and wholeness that opens a dialogue between the divine, the viewer and the artist and can be a profound mystical experience. When we are open to one another and connect our relationship to the divine, we travel the rapids of creativity together on a raft over which we have no control. We’re being borne along by the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting the journey to be a process of renewal.

In the Thirteenth Century, St. Thomas Aquinas said, that the same spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation hovers over the mind of the artist at work. The Creation, whether it unfolded 6,000 ago or 13.7 billion years ago, is still active today. We, as humans gifted with creativity, have a role in continuing this wondrous work. But there is a shadow side. We are also radically dangerous. We carry the capacity for destruction within us, as well as the divine power of creation.

When Peg and I imagine healing between us, and all creation, we see art as a visual language that helps transform divergence into dialogue. Creativity empowers us so that what was separate becomes whole, what was severed becomes healed, what was uninvited difference becomes welcome diversity. In some small way, the result may move us closer together, for the healing of all nations.

In the journey of our work – and in the workshops in which others may join us in painting as prayer, we push back the boundaries of the familiar and move into areas of the unknown. Art illuminates the way. This path invites us into an experience that we may not know was in us – surprised by God!



January 30, 2013
Charlotte Belshe
Chris Reimer Chelsea Taff

Most of us know the answers to the what and the how and our actions. The why is what tends to stump us. TOMS One Day Without Shoes was an event. We made it happen through tireless planning and marketing. The why is what empowered us. The why is what empowered students to attend. It seems that the cause is what drove Jewell on April 10th, 2012. It wasn’t the concert, the free tattoos, or the act of dipping your feet in wet paint that brought us together. It was the act of raising awareness for those in need, the act of putting ourselves in a less fortunate child’s shoes, that made our community participate. It’s the WHY that drives us as humans.

It is important to note that each person’s why differs… One might be passionate about helping those less fortunate in developing nations, while another might be driven to gain power and wealth, something they never had as a child growing up in a poor family. However, every WHY is deeply rooted in the pursuit of happiness. It is our passions that evoke a sense of self. Theologian Fredrick Buechner states, “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” As a community it should be OUR deep hunger to support our fellow classmates in their search for deep gladness. As a Jewell community we should be intentional about encouraging one another in our quests of self-actualization. Last year we were the crazy hippies that asked you to go barefoot for an entire day, to raise awareness about children without shoes in developing countries. It was hard to understand how going barefoot thousands of miles away would spark change, but as a community you rallied around us to promote a cause beyond life on the Hill. We thank you for that. Without our community, our event wouldn’t have been one of the largest One Day Without Shoes in 2012. We were passionate about promoting the event and our community supported us.

It is also important to remember that the WHY that drives us changes throughout our journey. As we enter different stages in our lives and continue to discover more about ourselves, it’s only natural that our actions become more deeply rooted in meaningful purpose. It is important that we remember to continually question the motives of our actions; for there are times when we diverge from our WHY and fall victim to a lack of authenticity and intentionality. Once you become aware of a change in your WHY, make sure to let it be known. For those who don’t know about the change, won’t be able to help you. If there is one thing we hope you take from our speech this morning it’s this: Use your community as a support system and don’t be afraid to rely on their help. Foster your fellow Jewell community member’s dreams and aspirations. Pursue your passions, never lose sight of your why and you better be barefoot on April 16th.

   


January 23, 2013

Dr. Cecelia A. Robinson

A Reflection on My Teaching Life

In 1875 my maternal great-great grandfather George Hill, a former slave, purchased 33 1/3 acres of land in Second Corinth, in Waller County, Texas. He was among the first free African American settlers and landowners in the county following the Civil War. A year later, in 1876, the state of Texas appropriated Waller County land through the Morrill Act to build a land grant college to train black youth as educators. That college, located five miles from the family farm, was Prairie View A&M University, my alma mater, and the second oldest institution of higher education in the state of Texas. Five generations of my family remained in Waller County to live, work, and some to attend Prairie View. My roots are deeply embedded in Waller County and Prairie View soil, and they are deeply embedded in William Jewell College soil. Little did I know that 100 years later, I would find myself teaching here in Missouri.

My teaching life and spiritual journey at William Jewell has been thirty-four years of giving and receiving abundantly. I have spent a career nurturing and addressing the academic needs and expectations of Jewell students, addressing the needs of my church, and addressing the needs of the African American community of Liberty. I have tried to do this well, and my faith has sustained me.

After working more than 70 semesters under five Presidents: Drs. Field, Kingsley, Tanner, Sizemore, and Sallee, the college has continued to progress. I have worked with three women administrators of power and authority during my career: Drs. Anne Marie Shannon (deceased), Nina Pollard, and Ann Dema. Although I am the only African American Professor to receive tenure in the history of William Jewell, I believe someone is holding binders full of women and minorities to hire and promote, on this campus, in the near future.

From the hundreds of students I have taught, and the thousands of papers I have graded, I have learned that the twenty most common errors made by students in correctness will remain the same, whether written by a first year or senior student. Challenging students to become readers of literature, critical thinkers, and exceptional writers with open minds, has been foremost among my goals. I have taught some of the brightest, most talented, and dedicated young people anywhere in this country. Many of them have become leaders on their jobs and in their communities; they are being the change they want to see in society.

William Jewell College has provided me the opportunity to grow and expand my horizons as an educator. It has allowed me to research, write, publish, travel, create and produce annual programs, and to teach at Harlaxton College in Great Britian. I have worked for the Educational Testing Service, written grants, and led the College annual fund more than five years. The teaching life extends itself outside the classroom and beyond our hallowed “Hill.” There is a larger world and community wherein I have attempted to make a difference. I chose to share my knowledge and expertise not only within the academy, but also with those who needed a voice to represent and speak for them: the marginalized, the poor, and those in the minority. My faith has given me strength and sustained me.

Life’s journey allows us to meet people, go places, and participate in events we can only imagine. I can look back on a wonderful anthology of pleasant experiences and people during my tenure at Jewell: attending the Harriman Fine Arts Series, and being a part of the audience when Luciano Pavarotti made his American debut in Gano chapel; watching Judith Jamison dance in bare feet with the Alex Haley Dance Troupe in Gano; sitting mesmerized while listening to my Delta Sigma Theta sorority sister, Leontyne Price, perform and then shake her hand afterwards; serving as a “gofer” for Mrs. Coretta Scott King and Maya Angelou when they spoke on our campus; having dinner with Alex Haley before he addressed our student body. How can I ever forget these kairos moments?

I can never forget my loving friendships with colleagues Judy Rychlewski and Sally Powers: we have been friends over thirty years. We celebrate our birthdays together, and exchange Christmas gifts, and check on each other throughout the year, so I can truly say, “Some of my best friends are white.” I can never forget Dr. Ian Munro, Kim and Lois Anne Harris, and so many more that I cannot name due to time limitations. These people have enriched my life and helped me become the woman I am today.

Although I will surely embrace the extra time I will inherit, there are things I will miss in retirement: the daily contact with young people, the contrast and variety that congenial work can bring to a life;the camaraderie of colleagues. But looking forward to the years, experiences, and people that lie ahead, I have a freedom and responsibility to make decisions regarding my sense of self and my sense of accomplishment. My desire is to leave William Jewell a better place than I found it in 1979. “I have crossed the river, the ocean lies ahead.”  I challenge each of you to be the change you want to see in society, and become a peacock in the land of penguins.



December 5, 2012
Brendon Benz

As you may or may not know, Advent marks the beginning of a new Church year.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion that for most of us here, this is not the calendar that is occupying our minds.  2 ½ more days of class - a week of finals - and we will finally reach the mid-way point of the all-important academic calendar – that coveted period of the year during which we get to rest. 

Of course, this so-called rest is inevitably overshadowed - if not defined by - thoughts of how we as individuals achieved or fell short of achieving over the past four months.  And, these thoughts are accompanied by concerns over what we must do during the break to prepare for the coming semester in order to successfully meet the demands it will bring.  And when that new season begins, I am sure that many of us will lament the fact that we didn’t quite accomplish all of the goals that we set for ourselves. 

Isn’t this the general tenor that defines our commemoration of time?  The governing principles of our contemporary world largely define time by what we have accomplished, by what we have failed to accomplish, and – of course - by what we should accomplish in the future.  This has direct bearing on how we identify our selves and others. The calendar that dominates our frame of mind represents a never-ending race against time that ultimately defines who we are.  In this situation, true peace is a commodity that is very difficult to find.

The Church calendar represents a radically different way to observe time.  The holidays of the Church year that we anticipate and celebrate subvert the way we define a year and our selves in relation to that year.  These holidays revolve around God’s mysterious redemptive acts in history undertaken for our benefit.  Let me be clear: these acts were not motivated by any achievement that we may or may not have attained.  On the contrary, they were motivated by God’s unrelenting desire to be in relationship with us – a desire informed first and foremost by God’s unfailing love for us. 

The Advent season, which culminates in Christmas, is a beautiful way to start a new year. I beseech every one of you to stop, and to enter into this season in an authentic way.  I entreat you – in spite of all of the other ways by which we can evaluate our selves and others according to the passage of time – to contemplate the sublime mystery of God becoming flesh in Jesus.  As you marvel at this grand wonder, I want you to remember that God decided to limit God’s self in this way not because you were an A student this semester, or a star player last season, but because you are a child of God.  This realization will bring the true peace proclaimed by the angles on high at Jesus’ birth, because this reality will not change over time.



November 14, 2012
Scott Falke

An Embodied Interpersonal education

After 6 years of fast-track undergraduate education and a stellar final GPA of 2.7.  I was accepted at every graduate program to which I applied.  How in the world did I accomplish that?  As an undergraduate, I gave 6 poster presentations and a platform presentation at national research meetings.  I had three years of undergraduate research and two publications under my belt…I had letters of recommendation from experts in the field of Protein Structure and Function.  One could say that I turned myself into a scientist…man, was I a science stud.

…there is a lot of “I” in the story I just told you…but what is missing is the “they”.  “They”, were my faculty mentors…they are the ones that wrote me letters of recommendation, they are the mentors that invited me to the pub for a beer, they invited me to their house for dinner, they introduced me to their friends.  They sent emails to colleagues to get me into labs with excellent instrumentation, they taught me to give a good presentation, they taught me to talk about science, they taught me to design experiments, they introduced me to scientists all over the country. They made me the perfect graduate student…all I really did was show up, work hard, get educated, and try to keep up.  They were the mentors to whom I tried to aspire… I had excellent mentors that made sure I received an embodied interpersonal education…at an institution that generally lacked that Spirit.  The story of my education is really as much a story about they, as much as it is about me.  While I would not encourage you to shoot for a 2.7 GPA…I would encourage you to recognize that your GPA represents a small part of an embodied interpersonal education.

You reside on a campus that is steeped in the history of embodied interpersonal education.  This history is centered on the idea that knowing how to think is every bit as important as what to think.  This history, this Spirit of the Campus reflects generations of Faculty and Students working together to build an embodied interpersonal education in the whole of life…building an education that lasts a lifetime.  When you leave WJC, a part of you remains…a part of you adds to the spirit, the aura, the embodiment of this campus.  Your education at WJC cannot only be about acquiring knowledge, it has to be about an embodied interpersonal education regarding the whole of life. 

If you think of education only as gaining the knowledge required to get a good job when you leave WJC, I fear you are going to be irritated when you wake up one day to the William Hunting inspired revelation that you spent $100,000 on the same education that you could have got for $10 in late fees at the local library.  An embodied interpersonal education is not simply about knowledge, it is an adventure that entraps the body, mind, and spirit in a transforming covenant that is centered on figuring out how to think about your place in the World.  This education takes place in the classroom, on trips to Omaha, at professional meetings, in Haiti and Honduras and Scotland, it takes place in the cafeteria, and here in Chapel…and don’t tell the Trustees, but it also takes place in local pubs.

The growing trend in higher education seems to be centered on a neatly packaged education that is easy to acquire, and minimally disruptive to one’s life…but an embodied interpersonal education is messy…it wriggles and wraggles, heads down one path, only to reverse in its tracks and take you in another confounding direction.  Education is painful, it puts you in a position of vulnerability that is uncomfortable, it forces you to rethink all that you think you know, it makes you feel stupid at times, but every once in a while – it makes you feel brilliant. 

If your time at WJC  - as a faculty member, or a student - is not an adventure in an embodied interpersonal education that challenges your mind and spirit…I think you may be doing it wrong.



November 7, 2012
Dr. Sallee, President

A paraphrase of Ephesians 3:20 says, "God can use the ordinary to do the extraordinary."

On Saturday afternoon I went to the funeral of an ordinary man.  James Allen Brooks was 89 years old.  He lived at 422 N. Gallatin.  He attended First Baptist Church. He had a wife and five children. By most measures, he was an ordinary man.

Mr. Brooks served in the United States Army for three and a half years during World War II.  Near the end of his time in the service, he needed to get a new pair of boots, but he was not allowed to shop in the post exchange because he was black.  A young white lieutenant recognized his situation and went in and bought the boots for him. 

When Mr. Brooks returned to Liberty, he worked three jobs in order to feed his wife and children.  He worked in the ConAgra mill in Kansas City, he was custodian at the bank, and he delivered furniture for the furniture store. His children were not allowed to attend Liberty's white schools and when they went to the movies, they had to sit in the balcony…unless a white person wanted that seat. 

Mr. Brooks maintained a positive attitude throughout, however.  When he told the story of the white lieutenant buying boots for him, he always focused on how lucky he was that the young man was willing to do that for him, to get him those boots that he desperately needed.  He saw it as a blessing.  He ignored the obvious discrimination under which a man who had served his country for three and a half years could not shop at the post exchange. 

Mr. Brooks was an ordinary man.  He was an ordinary man, that is, until he had a chance to do something extraordinary, until he had a chance to reach across the divide, to reach across the line that separated white and black.

In the 50's, there was no greater divide than the chasm between whites and blacks in America.  Common ground was nearly impossible to find.  Blacks were asserting their right to ride in the front of the bus, to drink from the same fountains as whites, to live where they wanted to live, to earn the same wages as whites, to go to the same schools, to vote.  And many whites were not interested in granting or respecting those rights.

In 1961, Mr. Brooks and several other men, black and white, came together and determined that this place, Liberty, would be different. They determined that racial tensions were not going to destroy this city.  They determined that the poor would have champions.  They formed a group called The Fellowship of the Concerned, a group that continues today to work for harmony and provide support for the needy in Liberty.  Mr. Brooks was president of that group when he died.

But Mr. Brooks never let formal organization limit his reaching across the divide to love others.  At the funeral on Saturday, when the pastor asked everyone to stand who had been mentored by Mr. Brooks, fully half the congregation, people of every color, stood in tribute to an ordinary man who chose to live an extraordinary life. 

Mr. James Allen Brooks chose to start where he was, in his house on North Gallatin Street, in his three jobs, in his church, in Liberty, Missouri, and to do what he could every day, every day, every day to close that gap that separates people. May we follow his example.



October 31, 2012
Michael Cook

First Case Study on Economic Justice

As you read this case study of the mortgage market, think about the concept of economic justice from different perspectives.  Would the home owner see justice in the same way as the financial institution that made the mortgage loan?  Would the government bureaucrat see justice the same way?

As part of its goal of increasing home ownership, the federal government created a series of agencies that bought home mortgages and thus provided more funds to finance home mortgages.

As a result, some financial institutions, sought out more individuals who could take out a mortgage.  This created the subprime mortgage market where mortgages were given to individuals who would not normally qualify for a traditional mortgage.

Financial institutions could make a mortgage loan and, after holding it for a brief period of time, sell the mortgage to a federal agency.  This led some institutions to make loans where the interest rate for the first two years was very low but then jumped to above average levels.  Individuals were able to make mortgage payments while the issuing institution still held the mortgage, but were unable to make the higher payments that began after the mortgage had been sold to the federal agency.

In February 2007, one of the federal agencies created to buy mortgages announced that it would no longer buy subprime mortgages.  This caused a crisis in the mortgage market.  Financial institutions were no longer able to sell mortgages which they did not want and had made only to sell at a profit to a federal agency. 

Initially the Federal Reserve let financial institutions that had made bad loans fail.  As more and more institutions failed however, it became clear that these failures threatened other financial institutions.  It was estimated that more than one third of the financial institutions in the United States could fail and other, basically sound institutions, would be weakened.  This last happened in the United States in 1932 and was one of the causes of the Great Depression.  Faced with the prospect of a depression, the Federal Reserve intervened to “bail out” many of these financial institutions.

Financial institutions, including the federal agencies, were left with hundreds of thousands of loans where the borrowers were unable to make their mortgage payments.   As a result banks increased fees on depositors to try to increase their profits and use these profits to offset their mortgage losses.  Banks then foreclosed on the mortgage and sold the home at a loss.   Hundreds of thousands of families lost their homes. 

This process has taken years.  It was estimated in July 2012 that over 500,000 families are still threatened with the loss of their homes.  It was also estimated that between 150 and 200,000 families could make mortgage payments, and thus not lose their homes, if the mortgages were restructured so that families made lower payments over a longer period of time.  Some banks have made some effort to restructure mortgages, but the federal agencies, which own most of the troubled mortgages, have consistently refused to do so.  They argue that the people who took out these mortgages made a mistake and should pay for that mistake.



October 24, 2012
Travis Snyder
When I first sat down to write these five hundred words, I turned to Shakespeare, that eternally quotable friend. When I went to think about it again, I decided that baseball perhaps more suited the moment. For, you see, I am a Kansas City Royals fan. I can say that I love the Royals, but as I want them to be good, I’m also critical of them.

As a liberal artist, I actually place a premium on being critical. As a student of literature who pains hours over words, I need to be critical to succeed.

I should clarify something here. I study literature in college because I love it, because I truly want to delve into it. It is not an unwavering affection, of course, but it is among the most constant loves of my life. To “criticize” in this context becomes bound up in what it is to love. I love literature, therefore I criticize it.

Does this spill into the non-academic aspects of my life? Yes. Is this good or bad?

Well, unfortunately, the critic doesn’t like that question. It is not simply good or bad. I love my school, but I criticize it. I love my country, but I might contest its behavior, its politics.

It’s hard to just stop here. I am critical of my churches, of my God, of the ones I love.

I am the sort of person whose faith is really just the best pieces of his doubt. My criticism is thus also bound irretrievably to faith. I am critical, but that’s how I love—“love” being an expression of faith.

In writing and in speaking this, I’ve become deeply suspicious that this doesn’t make sense or that it doesn’t “work” somehow. It’s not a neat bit of systematic theology or some piece of wisdom or truth onto which I’ve stumbled in my twenty-one years. It is a question.

Can I be critical and still say that I am loving?

Of course, the critic could never answer this question in this form. The critic is problematized by specific examples. The critic is skeptical of the meta-narrative, of the idea of systematic theology, or of fundamental, unchanging principles. The balance of criticism and love cannot be a hard and fast rule; it is fluid, nebulous, adaptable.

This is not, as you can tell, a lesson, sermon, homily or “truth.” It is an honest admission of the complications of life. I don’t have an answer here, and sometimes an answer isn’t even the point. I have rather that question: how are we critical and how do we love in such a light?

At my very first game of the year, my Royals were defeated by the end of the first inning. The criticism came then. But, then something else happened. In the midst of losing, my favorite player, Salvador Perez, hit his first homerun of the year. Some purely exhilarating thing so as to unseat my criticism, to suspend it, then to make it new, basked in love.



October 17, 2012
Caty Compton
Thanks to the John and Mary Pritchard Humanitarian Service award, Emily Gates and I were blessed to spend a little over a week serving and living among the people of La Victoire, Haiti.  Partnering with Haiti Missions, Inc., our project primarily consisted of performing basic healthcare screenings on over 300 villagers. We lived in the mission home, and it was an immersion experience at its finest. Villagers brought meals to our door, and we had a seemingly endless supply of mangos and pineapples. Every morning, we awoke at 5am to the sounds of the Haitian villagers praising the Lord with songs of joy, and every night, we fell asleep to the hum of the ground keeper’s favorite Dominican radio station, broadcasted for the whole village to hear.

While performing screenings, we saw many health problems that could be alleviated with things as simple as a balanced diet and clean drinking water. 

It was common to see symptoms of malnutrition, such as kwashiorkor and distended bellies, manifested in bodies of the young children. In serving these people, we felt a unique juxtaposition of duty and despair about the wide chasm that divides the rich and the poor.

Like the countless blue Unicef tarps that were still being utilized for makeshift housing, so were our questions about suffering, justice, and dignity. What is the purpose of all this suffering? Where is God amidst this pain? How can we even begin to help? Using Christ as our guide, our answers could be found in the suffering and glory of His cross. Though Jesus accepted His cross, he did not carry it alone. The people of Haiti should not carry their cross alone, nor should anyone else who bears a burden so heavy that the only destination seems to be a crucifixion at Calvary instead of a life of marvelous redemption. When we join with the poor and the powerless and stand with them in their suffering, we are not only working to restore the dignity of human life, but we are helping to bring the Kingdom of God to this Earth.  The Kingdom of God, more fondly referred to as the Dream of God, can be found amidst the rubble, the corruption, the starvation, and the blatant suffering, Glimpses of hope and restoration are found in these unexpected places, and through suffering, the dream of God is realized and made whole.  The Haitian villagers revealed to us the Kingdom in their generosity, honesty, compassion, and unabashed faith.  They made it clear that cross was merely a via point on their destination to life eternal. Through our experience in Haiti, we learned that the chasm is wide, the water is deep, the ministry is messy, and the workers are few, but the dream of God can become a reality, for the people of Haiti, and for the rest of the world.


October 10, 2012
Beth Ann Hendrickson
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Washington, DC thanks to the generous support from the John & Mary Pritchard family. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or in less syllables, NAMI, is a grassroots mental health organization with State and local affiliates spread across the U.S. with the goal to improve the lives of people living with mental illness and their families.

As a Policy Intern, my main purpose was to work on the Mental Health Care Gets My Vote! Campaign, encouraging NAMI members across the nation to get out the vote and to become active in campaigns and debates by engaging candidates and officials on issues of mental health.

Diving into the internship, I quickly discovered just how much I did not know about health care, but what I learned stretched my thinking about these systems in new ways. I learned how policy decisions directly affect mental health in general and the lives of people living with mental illness and their families, and I was shocked by the scope of impact that has on our country. One in four Americans experiences a mental disorder each year. This includes medical conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and major depression. Though these illnesses are highly treatable, less than a third of adults with a diagnosable disorder actually receive mental health services, and the gap increases for racial and ethnic minorities who are less likely to have access to services and who often experience a poorer quality of mental health care.

I began to notice the pervading stigmas in our society that seem silly to question but are actually alienating and quite real to people experiencing mental illness: advertisements, movies, books, and themes in our culture that falsely portray, stereotype, and demonize mental illness. Such messages in our society prevent people from getting treatment when they need it for fear of being associated with those images and labeled as “crazy.” These negative messages affect not only our perceptions but also what policies are passed and how funds are spent. One of the most sobering moments of my summer was a Senate hearing in which I heard an exonerated man relate his utterly horrifying experience with mental illness and solitary confinement, which opened up a conversation about how mental health funds are appropriated to increase prison capacity rather than to bolster preventative mental health services in communities.

While trying to grasp the matrix of institutions affecting mental health, on a smaller scale, I found my own thinking and faith challenged in new ways. As humans we decide arbitrarily what’s normal, correct, what it looks like to be healthy or mentally stable. But we are frail, all of us, physically and spiritually, and equally needy of grace and of a Savior to make right what’s so broken within us. We’re all equally loved by a God who declared from the beginning that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. We were created to walk alongside each other and to look after one another, and to point to the power of Christ, made perfect in our weakness.



October 3, 2012
Fr. Mike Roach, St. James Pastor
Tomorrow, Oct. 4, we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, this is an important figure in the Catholic faith, as well as throughout time---he had such a love of all God’s creation and just felt that creation was holy, sacred!   He also had such a love of animals---in fact there is a tradition in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, that the circus animals, the elephants, tigers & lions would be brought into the church and praded down the center aisle for a blessing!!

What really strikes me about  St. Francis is the prayer that is attributed to him, that I’d like to share with you this morning:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith
And where there is despair hope,
And where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be consoled, as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying
That we are born to eternal life.

I feel this prayer is fitting for the world in which we live today!  We live in a very polarized environment---whether it’s the turmoil within family situations, whether in the political arena, which is very notable during this election year, certainly within our world, and the examples of war, violence & terrorism. 

It seems many people live in such fear & anxiety about the present and the future.  But if we read the Scripture, and if we study any  Church history, we know that turmoil and unrest are part of the human condition.  Sometimes it seems extreme, and certainly with the onset of technology and the ever-present news stories from around the world being reported immediately and long-lasting  it seems even more anxious & trembling.

But if we take the lead of faith, and remind ourselves of the prayer of St. Francis, we are called to be people of PEACE.  That’s not a polly-anna kind of laissez-faire, but it’s a deep and abiding TRUST that God is always there, and will always see us through, if we are faithful to God.  And the person of Jesus, and the spirit of those who have gone before us whom we call saints, were people of tremendous hope & always being that person of non-violence and peace in all that they did!

God doesn’t promise us that the road will be easy, but that God is always walking with us, every step of the way!  May our actions speak of the Peace that only God can bring!!

I’d like to close with what Francis always encouraged the men & women who became his followers, whom we call Franciscans, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words’.   



September 26, 2012

Edward Scott
Trusting the Potter

What is life if nothing more than a series of opportunities to work through tests, trials, and hardships? What is a purpose of having a God if nothing more than to trust it? I came to William Jewell College for many reasons, but as I reflect on my spiritual journey at the College, one reason really stands out amongst them all: the motto, deo fisus laboara. But what does that even mean? Please do not misunderstand me; I recognize that the phrase translates into something like work trusting God, but I believe that people too often breeze over who’s to be trusted and too often overlook when the working and the trusting are suppose to take place. During my time here at William Jewell, I have encountered some trials that truly have forced me to remember a lesson my Grandmother taught me about rightly directing my faith; time at this College has presented me with ample opportunity to work on this whole trusting God while working thing.

You see, Grandma is the person who took me to Sunday school every Sunday morning, choir practice every Tuesday night, and back to bible study every Wednesday afternoon; She loves her some work for Jesus, which shouldn’t be confused with saying she loved the church. (I feel as though I just made somebody uncomfortable, but I am okay with that.) By my grandmothers example, I was able to recognize, at an early age, that there is a difference between working to establish, maintain, and develop a loving relationship with Jesus Christ and working to do those things with the church because, to state it plainly: You only rarely can trust people, but you can always can trust God, so that is who I should be living for, that is who I should be working with, and that is who’s will I should be walking in – ALL PRESENT PROGRESSIVE, BECAUSE THIS REAL-DEAL CHRISTIAN WALK IS AN ONGOING PROCESS.

Although, I must admit that during my adolescent years such  concepts were hard to believe and practice wholly, especially when in one ear the church is saying God loves all, and we should love each other just as God loves us, and then in the other ear comes God hates. That is so right. Apparently God hates. Apparently the ultimate Love and hate can exist within the same spirit, the quintessential lover; God apparently is not love. (Wait, now I’m confusing.) Confusion continued to corroded my trust in God during my adolescent years. It continued to diminish my desire to believe I could please God, could honestly live in God’s will. Eventually, I asked the question. Why am I still even keeping myself here, after all, God hates me just like society, just like man? 

I am thankful for my Grandmother guiding me to that cross early, because only for that reason was I able to reconnect and realize a small portion of his promised Plan for me. It is that Plan, that Vision that moved me to William Jewell where I rediscovered and confirmed my passion of giving, service, uplifting humanity, and not tolerating, but loving and accepting ALL people during those endeavors. As I fast, as I pray, as I work at learning  of to make justice, love kind, and walk humbly with him, he continues to bring me through the struggle, and it helps with the whole trusting god thing. Three first-years and I beginning in a car at 2 am and getting hit by a drunk driver so hard that the rear bumper fell in line with the rear windshield: That contributes to the whole trusting God thing. This time last year, thinking I was going to have to drop-out of College, but a few meetings, a fast, and a couple phone calls later, well I’m still here, and it’s contributing to the whole trusting God thing. Oh yes, and reflecting back on where I can from, a rat infested duplex in Petersburg Virginia and how my circumstances have evolved to being paid to live in Miami, Florida, just to use the gifts given to me to do what I love, that helps just a little too.  He must not think I’m all that bad. As I continue to living, working, and walking with Him, I – now more than ever – wholly, completely, without any doubt, trust that he’ll get me through. No passions undiscovered. No promises unfilled. No vision lost. All the way through. 



September 17, 2012
Tamara Still
Reconciliation

“Want less.” I see this bumper sticker often in Oregon. It reminds me of the contrasts between conspicuous consumption and poverty, between the Kardashians and neo-hippies. I make certain assumptions about the driver based on Portland demographics—she’s a middle-aged lesbian who wears Chacos that she has resoled twice, uses gray water on her lawn, volunteers at the food bank, and sends her children to private school, even though she avidly supports the public school system. She and her partner have been together for 20 years, drink local wine and eat a vegetarian or grass-fed beef diet. They lead boring lives; the most exciting thing in their neighborhood is the occasional pot party hosted by college students. They are trying to “want less,” and Jesus loves them.

Ten miles west are more of God’s people, living in the ‘burbs and working in high tech. They drive Suburbans, golf on courses kept lush with potable water, and design some of the most advanced technologies of our time. Their production allows hospitals and businesses to serve God’s people in larger numbers, with less waste, than we could have imagined a few decades ago. They hope to provide us all with “more,” and Jesus loves them, even the Hindu, Muslim, or typical non-affiliated Oregonian.

These two subcultures are facing the same challenges—anxiety about fuel supply, climate change, businesses moving over seas, low returns on retirement funds, and a behemoth national debt.

Sometimes we find ourselves defined as part of a subculture. Jesus was identified in various ways--to the Jewish authorities he was an agitator living on the fringe, and yet, he spoke with authority at his synagogue. Jerusalem’s 98% honored him when he arrived for Passover, but political powers persuaded them to renounce him. Jesus was defined and redefined by others, and so he models for us an approach to bridging cultural divides. We cannot find solutions by being intransigent and adhering to our extreme Facebook rants. Like Jesus, we can let others label us while we simply follow our calling. Jesus knew what his role was; you may still be searching for yours.

As you work to define your path, you may find that the public noise is distracting. Serving God’s kingdom is difficult when surrounded by polemicists. Every few decades, Americans dig cultural trenches and settle in for a messy skirmish. It’s usually creative young people that break through the barriers, blazing a new path. The Millennium Generation will bring us out of gridlock. The difficult task will not be in reconciling to Christ. With arms open wide, he has made that easy. We are called to sit together at his table, a motley crew of subculture product. The difficult reconciliation is amongst ourselves. How can we dialogue while ridiculing and engaging in hyperbole? Let’s begin reconciliation this way:

            Listen
            Speak without pejorative
            Stretch beyond our prejudice

Learning to want less we will reap so much more—the world is counting on it; others are waiting to assist us in Kingdom work. They don’t all look, or smell, or think as we do, but Jesus loves them, and we can find common ground.



September 12, 2012
Hannah Ebling
We are nearing the season when we can pleasantly wander through a patch and see bright orange pumpkins coming into full color amidst the green vines. Those vibrant orange spheres are something tangible and recognizable. They promise that fall, cool weather, and holidays are approaching. However visit a pumpkin patch in July and you will be greeted by a yellow flower. Confusing? Yes, very. That’s because growth of any kind is a process. Pumpkin seeds must be allowed time in the ground to benefit from the rich soil, sunny rays and fresh air. When I consider spiritual growth I oftentimes forget about the process. I forget that much like a pumpkin, I need to be content in the stages of my growth. Every pumpkin begins as a planted seed that develops into a sprout, followed by a strong vine that produces a yellow flower and then a green pumpkin before finally becoming the radiant orange pumpkin we look forward to every autumn. I get impatient. I want to be a full grown pumpkin, but I am stuck going through the phases. What’s more is that I cannot just sit stagnant and stubborn. Instead, each phase requires energy and nutrients. Pumpkins need direct sunlight, water and oxygen. We know this because past seasons have shown us that a constant supply of these nutrients will lead to flourishing.

In these phases of my life I must be willing to create space for experience and exposure—(the nutrients) that nurture my development. As I open myself up to such things, it is through engaging with creation, both nature and relationships, that I experience spiritual growth. In the midst of my living and learning I forget to embrace the process. I become fixated on a destination, my vocation, calling, or having my faith questions sorted out. Everyday I’m learning that faith is not determined by the endpoint, but by the journey. In Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoir An Altar in the World, she expresses the profound ways that we can live fully everyday by being present and embracing the process ofpiritual growth and development.

She shares: “To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger--these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, chop, reach, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life."

It is through the process of growing and working out my faith through active involvement with God’s creation that I am reminded of dynamic faith. In times when I feel like a yellow flower, far from being a pumpkin, I recall that it is in the small everyday processes, where I engage with people and creation, that I am living into who I am in Christ and cultivating a call. I’m living into the process as I become a pumpkin (or maybe even a jack o lantern, pumpkin pie, or fall decoration)



September 5, 2012
Rob Quinn
There is a verse in the Biblical text that has profoundly challenged me, and frankly, has haunted me for years.  Found in the Book of Luke, chapter 12 verse 48 it states:  “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much.  And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.”

The words come from Christ and have been described as the principle of accountable stewardship.  And they are deeply disturbing to me.  Primarily because I know that I have been given so much that I have absolutely no excuse for not using it for the good of others, for the good of God’s kingdom.

By any standard of measurement I have been given much.  I was raised in a secure loving nuclear and extended family.  My father, a pastor, and mother, exposed me to a Biblically based moral and ethical code that taught love, forgiveness, and service to others.  Though of low middle class income, they personally sacrificed so that my two brothers and I would have material comfort and educational opportunities.

And so, I have had no excuse if I fail to use my knowledge, skills, experience or resources to make a difference in the world.  Understand that this is not about social expectations, socio-economic status or western middle class guilt.  This is not about a level of materialism or a quantity of material gain.  The heart of it is the expectation from God that we all are expected to use whatever we have in meeting the needs of others.  And admittedly for me, this heightened awareness now comes from a middle-aged-driven, introspective, life examination that wonders what my legacy will truly be, and how God will judge me for the faithfulness of my stewardship.

Today, we here have all been given much.  By fortune of birth, blessing of God, achievement from work and initiative, we all have a great deal.

Jesus said, “To whom much has been given, much is required.”

Where do you stand?  College student with limited resources and focused on getting a degree - you have a lot – you have no excuse!

Busy young professional owing student loans, other bills, and trying to get on with life? – you have a lot – sorry, no excuse!

Stressed out college art professor, husband, father, son, grandfather with limited time and competing expectations?  - tough, no excuse! 

To whom much has been given, much is required.

What will your legacy be?  How will you be judged for what you did with what you were given?  In reality it will be about finding a balance in life, and I believe the secret to a life well lived is finding that balance. 

It won’t be just about career achievement or building material wealth, but will be about service to others, not just out of obligation, but done in love, as Christ did.

So, how do I think I will be judged?  Well, I’m not finished yet.  But let’s just say I’m also counting on the principle of God’s grace and forgiveness!



August 29, 2012
Melissa Stan
“I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things. In the wonderland of the mind I could be free… The lecture halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and wise, and I thought the professors were the embodiment of wisdom... But I soon discovered that college was not quite the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the dreams that had delighted my youth became beautifully less and "faded into the light of common day." Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages in going to college. The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I. We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent. But in college there is no time to commune with one's thoughts.” Hellen Keller

As Jewell students, we all face stressful times when we feel buried in homework and other responsibilities.  Still, if we plan on graduating with the promised 4 year guarantee, we persevere and push ourselves to overcome these obstacles.  Yet in the midst of our academic pursuit, we must never lose sight of what is really important to us.  One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned during my college experience was the ability to set my priorities in order.  Though I’d really like to get a great grade in Birth by any means (wink, wink Dr. Armstrong) I know that debating ethics is not what makes me truly happy.  I’d carved out a place for vocal studies and academics in my life, but I began to notice certain other priorities being swept to the side waiting to be picked up when I had time for them.  The problem was that there never seemed to be time.  Family, friends and faith were all, at one point or another, pushed aside.  Considering that these three elements all needed to be present and vibrant to ensure my happiness, I felt a small void.  Life is too fleeting to let the mundane distractions of our routines draw us away from what really matters.  I encourage you to avoid falling into a routine that is not emotionally and spiritually fulfilling.  I encourage you to seek out time to be with family and friends.  I encourage you to make faith a priority.  Above all, I hope that you can find time to be at peace… if only for a moment.                   



August 22, 2012
Andy Pratt

Reconciliation.

“He’s going to talk about reconciliation.” 
“What happened?  Was there an incident?”

Nothing happened.  Nothing new, that is.  A mosque burns in Joplin, Missouri.  Sikhs are shot to death in Wisconsin.  A racial slur muttered at an intramural game.  Hateful words painted on a residence hall.

It’s part of the human situation; us and them.  Women and men; rich and poor; Catholics and Protestants, Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians; Hutus and Tutsis; straight and gay; and dare we speak it, Republicans and Democrats.

It was fellowship meal time at church this summer.  I was sitting with a friend at the table.  He was talking and I was listening.  I guess I was not agreeing enough because he turned to me and said, “You’re not a Democrat, are you?”  For a moment I was afraid that our friendship was hanging in the balance.

What happens when we face someone different from us?  If we are relatively equal and there is not much at stake, things usually go well.  Much of the time there are significant things at stake:  power, land, or nation.  One group is the majority or one group holds more power.  Must the ideas of the dominant become the dominant ideas?

I want something different, do you?  It goes beyond wanting, you see Christianity contains the directive:  “God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”  The challenge is how do we get from where we are to where we want to be? 

First, we resist labels for persons and groups.  And we resist the tendency to associate the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ with particular groups.  This is a distortion that if left unchecked leads to disdain, that leads to discrimination, that leads to persecution, all of which are forms of violence.  If one group is deemed ‘good’ then everything done by that group is considered to be ‘moral’.

Second, we hold unwaveringly to boundaries and justice.  We maintain our boundaries (for therein is our identity) but the boundaries are used for peace and not for violence.  Boundaries can make for peace when we hold on to justice.

Third, we practice reconciliation, reconciliation between us and them.  Or more specifically, reconciliation between me and you.  Reconciliation begins with repentance, feelings of remorse and regret for wrongs done.  Then comes forgiveness.  Forgiveness is blaming and judging. 

If you say to me, “I forgive you.”  What you are saying is that I wronged you, and you are acknowledging that wrong, and I need to acknowledge that wrong, but whether or not I acknowledge the wrong, you forgive me.  In forgiving me, you are blaming and judging me.  I might respond, “If your group would share privilege and resources and opportunity with my group, I would act differently toward you.”  We remember our hurts and wrongs.

Reconciliation is difficult work.  Reconciliation means we acknowledge our wrongs, commit to justice, and live together in peace.  This is going to take time, patience, listening, honesty, and God’s help.  God help us.


   

 

 

 
   

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