A moment for our graduates

Now it is a time of grand celebration! Our graduates are on the cusp between a work coming to completion and a new work begun. Though there is much to be thankful for, our 2020 graduates have been deeply affected by COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, they need our support and encouragement like never before. We should take a moment to honor our graduates and uphold all the emotions they might be feeling at this time! 

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Upon entering freshman year, the dream of graduation looked nothing like this! It is okay to be disappointed at this moment.  

With the economic uncertainty, colleges reinventing their learning strategies, and not knowing what the future looks like, it is okay to be afraid at this moment.

With the unusual way the school year ended, and the vast open space of the future, it is okay to feel lost at this moment.

Friendships that have been made distant by the stay-home orders may be even more distant as you move into new experiences. It’s okay to feel sad at this moment. 

Many have lost loved ones, and their absence at this time will deeply felt. It is okay to mourn at this moment.

Mistakes will have been made, and due to the circumstances, they may be unable to be corrected. It is okay to have regrets at this moment.

What’s done; is done. It is okay to forgive at this moment.

…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts… Romans 5:3-5

You had a dream and lived it; you had a goal and accomplished it, so also, at this moment, it is more than okay to celebrate!  

 Because God is God, and God is good! God has your past, your present, and your future. He cares about your hopes and dreams.  

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

A moment for What Now?

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So many mixed messages are coming at us as the stay-home directive begins to lift. So we ask, “what now?” Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no easy questions, no simple answers, and the incoming information changes daily. Some are protesting, with good reasons, and they ready to go out. Others, also with sound reasoning, are reluctant to leave their homes. 

If you were to ask me, “what now?” I have to answer with what I decided would be my take away from this time of COVID-19. Be deliberate in love. As I watched some people in public places wear masks and others chose not to, I realized I often make choices that affect others without thinking. As we move out of this crisis, I hope to be more intentional about my decisions. I hope to recognize and understand the ripple effect of my choices in my home, my community, and the world in which I live. I want to respect the dignity of those around me better and preserve the unity that will come as a result.

I was recently reminded by a dear and wise person in my life that the experiences I have are not only about me; they are about “we.” Every encounter we have with others is an opportunity to both learn and teach. We have the opportunity and obligation not only to grow but to help each other grow as well. 

I am currently reading Isaiah and unpacking some of the correlations between the challenges in that time and the challenges we are currently experiencing. “Set apart to become a blessing to all humanity, the People of God are now coming to the point of inevitable judgment. They are now on the verge of being dispersed into exile in order to emerge, through suffering, capable of deeper forms of learning inaccessible by any other means.” (Foster)

And I ask myself? Have I learned anything?  

Will I personally begin to go out or continue to stay home? Yes, to both. I will choose to stay home when I can because this isn’t over, and I want to do my part, not only to stop the spread but to express my respect for those who are in places where the threat is too close for comfort. And, I will go out when I need to because beginning to return to the routine of life is essential to our economy and mental well-being. I also, however, want to move into something better post-COVID-19. In the book of Isaiah, we witness the journey from loss into hope. But, we are not to merely be receivers of that hope, we are to be participants in the creation of hope. We are to be good neighbors, loving each other by choosing to pay attention, and by choosing to both learn and teach more compassion and grace. By this intentional living, we will see the promise of hope realized.

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever    in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. Isaiah 65:17-19


Foster, Richard J., editor. “The People of God in Rebellion.” The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible: New Revised Standard Version with Deuterocanonical Books, HarperSanFrancisco, 2005, p. 976.

​A moment for questions

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So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”   John 20:25-27 (NRSV)

As many of us do, I live with a heart like Thomas, asking “show me.”  What specifically am I asking for?  In the Bible, there are many stories where the proof is shown.  Am I asking to see the wounds of Christ? Am I seeking a burning bush, a rainbow or to be swallowed by a whale until I have an understanding?  Maybe really I am just asking for some clarity.  How important is it that I believe in God and Satan or burning bushes and rainbow promises.  It doesn’t seem likely that we will ever have the privilege of the certainty that Thomas received.  So, what can we be sure of?

Perhaps more important than certainty is being able to recognize love and hate and to know that good and evil do exist.  We may never see a burning bush, hear the audible voice of God, or be swallowed by a whale.  But we can recognize the power of love, the peace that comes after a storm, and the push of our conscience to follow our gut.  Sometimes the stories in scripture frustrate me because the literal interpretation makes them implausible.  The intended message, however, is not.

When I see the sadness in the world, I think “There can’t be a God,” and the despair I feel brings me back to the story of Thomas. The disciples gathered in a house after his death.  They were full of the desperation they must have felt for the loss of Jesus and the leadership they had come to rely on.   Jesus entered and in the act of love and understanding showed Thomas his wounds and offered comfort.

The absence of God leaves despair, and the presence of God brings peace.  That is clear enough for me.  God is Love.  Jesus shows us what love looks like.  By our loving each other and bringing comfort and peace and we remove doubt and despair.

A moment for Shelby

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It all began with the mental health unit in my eighth-grade health class at Hamilton Middle School. I had self-diagnosed myself with depression and anxiety earlier that year and had been assuming I was mentally ill since I was in elementary school. Besides researching coping mechanisms online, I had never done anything about either issue. Yet, for some reason, reading signs and symptoms in a textbook impacted me more than the repetitive results of severe depression I received from free online tests. I was tired. I found no pleasure in things I used to enjoy. I was hateful towards myself and others. I blamed myself. I didn’t sleep. I was impulsively hurting myself when upset. I was only thirteen, and I had been struggling for years. Reading all those terms on a page given to me by a teacher hit me harder than my ‘perfect score’ online in twenty different tests. It was a real problem. I needed to do something about it.
Two obstacles prevented me from reaching out to my family. The first was fear. I imagined two extremes and each equally terrified me. I thought they would blow me off, tell me I was being overdramatic, and say that everyone goes through this. Maybe I was just weak. I was also concerned they would take it to the other extreme. Lock me up in an institute and throw away the key because no one wants a crazy daughter. The other aspect that was hampering my cry for help was the concept of how to even begin the conversation.
“Hi, I’m so depressed and anxious I can’t sleep or eat. Could you maybe put me in counseling or on medication, so you won’t have to pay for my funeral?”
However, Mrs. Feight had given me an opportunity to talk to them when she handed me that sheet of paper. I never thought to thank her until I put it all down on paper.
Sitting at the kitchen counter, I could feel myself shaking. It was a common occurrence for me until I received anti-anxiety medication. It was worse than usual as my mother turned around to look at me in the midst of her cooking dinner.
“Do you need something?”
“Could you help me study for my health test?”
“Sure. Give me a second.”
The classic case of waiting for her to stop cooking changed from annoying to dread-inspiring. The longer she kept cooking, the more I desired running away. I could just go study in my room. Sizzles and warm smells from the stove-top made my stomach turn. I wasn’t going to be able to eat regardless.
“Ok,” she announced while wiping her hands dry. “Do you have a study guide?”
“Yes, ma’am. Could you quiz me in the blue room?”
My home’s little island paradise was in the room beside the kitchen, separated by double glass doors. It was the only room in the house that was painted blue, and we had filled it with succulents, grasses, and two trees acquired from my mother’s friend. It was a safe place. My mother sat on the cream-colored couch with her back to the bright windows, and I kneeled on the rug. She began to quiz me, and my stomach dropped to my feet when she read the question I had been waiting for.
“What are the ten signs of depression?” I easily listed them, and my mom looked into my eyes with concern as I finished.
“Blames self or others, low mood, thoughts of death, irritable, pessimistic, low energy, sleeping issues, eating issues, loss of interest, trouble concentrating and remembering.”
My abdomen was twisted into irreversible knots as I watched her try to compose her thoughts into words.
“Shelby,” she began slowly. “Did you realize you have most of these symptoms?” Against my will, I began to tear up. My mother always made me cry. I could hold them back around anyone else, but the environment her presence surrounded me in always bought my emotions out.
“I have all of them.” A weight lifted, and another put on my chest. Now she knew. Now I waited for the response. Luckily for me, neither of my two imagined outcomes came true. Instead, she asked me what kind of person she should look for to be my therapist if I thought therapy would help. We sat in the sunlight, surrounded by windows and green plants. I felt safe and terrified all at once, but I’ve always been glad that it happened. I’m very grateful for the way she handled my problems at that moment. No one is perfect, but the time I needed her the most, she was.

Shelby