I believe in Sourdough

Author: Bethany May, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work Graduate Student, Ministry Associate and Social Work Intern in Spiritual Life, Missions and Public Life

“Well, well, well, bucket in a well! Just add a little flour and some milk and a little yeast—lordy, why are you trying to measure this? Just throw it in there.” I can still hear my great grandmother speaking this to me in a tone a few notches too high for being inside and a few inches away from my ear. I would be annoyed, but she was right; a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and a little yeast is all you really needed. Well, not the “one cup,” part, I just found over time that was what she probably meant when she told me “just a little bit.” This concoction of ingredients is what has sustained the sourdough that has fed me growing up along with my past 80 years of relatives. Eighty years of kneading and feeding—both the mouths of people and the sourdough itself—has kept me in relation with relatives I have never met. From early mornings with jam and honey, to cinnamon rolls with butter, this sourdough has created memories for me that remain sweet in my mind.

The memories I have made around the sourdough connects me to the memories made around tables I have never seen and among relatives and friends I have never met, but throughout the years we have all benefited from the fruit of the same sourdough. It binds me to the relationships made before me. By building relationships now, we build communities that extend past our own lifetime. Like building relationships, creating sourdough is a tedious process. If you are patient and willing, about five days of babysitting the sourdough starter results in a lifetime supply of sourdough. Maintenance, patience, and feeding is what sustains the dough. You must invest in it to sustain it so that in turn, it can sustain others. This is what sourdough has taught me. I must feed myself grace and love so that in turn, I can show others grace and love that extends beyond myself and my own life.

I may not understand or ever recognize how far love and grace goes when I feed it to others, but my family’s sourdough has made me reflect on how my great-grandmother did not make the sourdough thinking about who it could feed in the future. She made it simply because it was what her family needed in the moment, and in turn it poured out into extended families and fed relatives for the past eighty years. This is the illustration of generosity; this is the illustration of a generous love that is present through the teachings of Jesus. Compassion for the needs of those right now, and being gracious on how we view others, overflows abundantly in ways that lives beyond us. Because it is through the unhistorical acts of you and I right now that are forming, kneading, and refining history in the future.

“Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

Luke 6:38 (NASB)

I believe in Sabbath

Author: Kayelee Ellis, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work Graduate Student, Ministry Associate and Social Work Intern in Spiritual Life, Missions and Public Life

I remember the first time I truly felt rested. In 2015, my best friend asked if I wanted to join her and her family for Labor Day Weekend. She was going to her grandparents’ house in a small town (the particular town was known as the place where adults go to retire, just for context). When we got there, there was no agenda. We had dinner, talked, slept, woke up to breakfast and coffee (my favorite!), swam at the neighborhood pool, got sonic, got our nails done, ate again, watched a movie, and lounged for 72 glorious hours.

This is in stark contrast to what I grew up with as “normal”. In my family of 12-20 people, our mantra was “you are more capable than you realize, so let’s see how far we can go”. We were always running, pushing ourselves to our limit, and making sure no experience was left behind.

In 2016, my English teacher made us read “Doing Nothing is Something” by Anna Quindlen. The premise of the article challenges the reader’s idea of what we have lost in this generation as a result of a society encouraging constant stimulation and the danger of this mindset. Quindlen argues boredom is the greatest harbinger of creativity, and without taking time do absolutely nothing, we lose our greatest capacity for imagination as well as a great deal of our ability to rest.

After reading Quindlen’s article, we were sent outside for thirty minutes to do absolutely nothing—no phones, pens, paper—just our mind and the sunny sky. To this day, most of the class laughs when reflecting of the day we sat around and did nothing, but I do not. In fact, I’ve shared this article in three separate groups I’ve led because of the impact the article made on me.

Almost five years later, I am beginning to bring language to these simple, life-changing experiences I’ve lived. I now see 2015 as the very first introduction to what the meaning of resting in God’s presence means. Looking back, my weekend in the “town of retirement” was the first time I did all of my favorite things with no agenda: waking up on my own to the smell of breakfast, spending time with those closest to me, practicing self-care by taking care of my body, basking in the sun (especially near bodies of water), and drinking my favorite drink (Dr. Pepper or vanilla Coke, in case you are wondering). 2016 was God’s introduction of “Shabbat”—of stopping, resting, delighting, and worshipping. As I’ve progressed forward, I lean into these simple pleasures, to this command from the Lord to stop and delight in his creation, and to truly acknowledge the power to intentionally see—to intentionally believe—to do nothing is to do something. I believe in Sabbath.

I believe Love Bridges the Gap Created by Hate  

Author: Brandon Williams, Truett Seminary Graduate Student, Ministry Associate in Spiritual Life, Missions and Public Life

This is such a profound but simple statement. For me, I remember back to the time when I realized the power of love. This experience has happened a few times, but I will talk about the time I was a high school teacher being educated by my students. I was speaking with my students, who were predominately African American, and they began to share with me what it was like to be a black citizen in the United States. I was humbled by their willingness to share with me, and I was also hurt and discouraged by their stories of pain and struggle. Great story Brandon, right??  

 My next question changed the game. I asked them, “What makes you all feel loved?” and they simply replied, “You are asking us questions and listening.”  

Wow. 

Sit, ask questions, and listen. 

Equals love. 

This is not a moment to gas myself up or get a pat on the back. I am genuinely broken by how effective it was for me to sit and listen to my students. All they desired was a chance to speak up and be heard.  

As I type this, I encourage you to wonder and be curious, “Who should I sit with and listen to today?” Should you find someone who believes differently politically, maybe religiously, or maybe just a friend who is going through a hard time? As you get older, you understand people love to talk especially about themselves. The problem is that often people just don’t feel like they have someone to listen. I was taught by a bunch of high school seniors who didn’t look anything like me the importance of listening.  

This is why I believe that love bridges the gap created by hate. This I believe to be true.

I believe in Rollerblading

Author: Kamrie Rhoads, Baylor Student, Communication Major, Religion Minor, President of Baylor International Justice Mission (IJM), Community Service Director for Chi Omega, Social Media Coordinator for Mission Waco

The days are long yet short, exhausting yet life-giving, scheduled yet spontaneous. Suddenly they’ve all blended together and you’ve forgotten to take a breath, a moment, a time to care for yourself- as cheesy as it may sound. How am I to go on in this life lived for others if I have exhausted my energy, the last of my resources, this broken body unable to keep on? Then I see them, laying in the corner. Eight wheels, well worn, a reminder of the few times in life where I took the time to slow down. I pick them up, put them on, call a friend, and tell them to get in the car. It’s time to take a break, feel the sunshine, the self-created wind of speed, laugh a little, do something good for myself for once. I believe in taking a break. I believe in doing something fun that does not include giving myself away for others. I believe in the earnest attempt to stop, if even for a minute. I believe in slowing down by speeding up. I believe in rollerblading.

“Come on Dad, let’s go outside! Stop working for a minute! Take a break!” I never understood why he took so much convincing, I do now. I can see it in his eyes; the desire to serve, to provide, to love his people well by doing all that he could, harming himself in the process. I saw it so clearly because I see it in mine now.

I believe in the sound of my laugh, I hear it as my blades rush down the street, leaving my friends in the dust. I believe in my hilarious dance moves, somehow made more comical by the fact that I am simultaneously rollerblading through them. I believe in those few moments I took a break, took a lap, got distracted, talked too much, wasted key productivity time. Except I don’t always believe in those things. I want to, but when it feels as if the world is on your shoulders, when it is not, this becomes more difficult. If I take a break, will the show still go on? Will the funds still be raised? Will the people still feel loved and cared for? Will I be able to do all of those things better if I care for myself as well? The rollerblades say yes as they scream down the street, laughing with me, happy to be finally taken for a spin. “Your worth is not in your productivity or what you can do for people”, they say. I still struggle to believe them, but I’m trying to. I believe in rest in unconventional ways, because I would not be me if they were not a little different. I believe in rollerblading.

I believe in Standing on My Hands

Author: Elise R. Manning, Recent Baylor Graduate, Psychology Major, Leadership Studies Minor, Baylor Acrobatics and Tumbling Team, Research Assistant in Social-Personality Psychology Research Lab

The one thing I am sure of in life so far, is that I believe in standing on my hands. In other words, my most certain belief is in doing handstands. Although this may sound silly, I truly believe in the power of perspective, and I have learned over and over and over again that EVERYTHING looks different from upside down. Just like everything looks different with change.

And upon returning to a normal orientation after being upside down and finding balance between your own two hands, everything seems a bit clearer than it did before. Maybe it’s just the fact that doing handstands provides me with distance, but either way distance is the road to perspective. Learning to rely on yourself for the right balance in life is a skill for ANY domain. Handstands are what taught me to find balance when I was just six years old, and they have continued to do so ever since.

Handstands are also my personal example that I and all people can do so much more than what their minds think they can do. I now have embodied proof to quiet the inner critic in my mind because if I can literally use my hands to bear the entire weight of my body without falling and to walk across the floor like anyone else would on two feet, then I know I can do ANYTHING. Doubt cannot stand up in a world where I’m able to walk and stand on my hands.

I believe in Mindfulness

Author: Maddy Lang, Baylor Student, Psychology Major, Kappa Chi Alpha

Have you ever sat outside on your back porch as the sun sets on a beautiful 70 degree day, the trees are blooming in springtime and each different tree has its own shade of green with the sun hitting it, the hills are sitting quietly in the back, and you take a deep breath? That’s mindfulness. You might not have those hills, maybe you were on a walk, or maybe you were more focused on the rainstorm instead of the sunshine. Either way, you were focused on it, in that moment.

I believe in mindfulness because of the awareness it brings to my surroundings. It stills my mind and helps me focus on what is going on right in front of me. Mindfulness has been something I just recently started practicing more intensely in the past couple of months, and since being home and quarantined due to the coronavirus, I have a lot of time to practice it. It’s odd; during this time things seem to be moving so fast, but somehow so slow. The days are longer, I have more free time, and ultimately, I’m up to my own devices – commitment free, as the hopeful college student would say.

Most people, when you ask them why they practice mindfulness, would say that they do it to stop their mind from its racing thoughts. I have never really found that to be the case for me. I’m not generally an anxious person, which is why a lot of people practice mindfulness, so I don’t particularly practice it to slow down my thoughts. In fact, I practice it to gather my thoughts – to reflect on what is going on, and to yes, be still. I find that I often don’t think about what is going on, rather I go with the flow without stopping, or I have empty thoughts (like daydreaming or wishing I was doing something else).

Mindfulness puts my mind at ease. It reminds me that I am not in control of everything that is happening. It teaches me to appreciate the small things, like the different shades of green on every tree in my backyard, the sun slowing moving through the branches while setting, the quiet hills in the back, and the birds chirping away as I take a deep breath to let out the tension and let go of control. That’s why I believe in mindfulness.

I believe in Disposable Cameras

Author: Emma Hearn, Baylor Student, Political Science Major, Religion and Arabic Minors, Chi Omega, Baylor IJM, Alexander Hamilton Society

I have grown up in a time where devices are less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Everyone has a smartphone nowadays, and with it comes a camera embedded. This has increased the number of photos people are taking of themselves, of others, or of their memories. When you take a photo of someone on a digital camera or phone, they immediately request to see it. If they think they look bad in the photo, they plead for it to be deleted so they can take another one that is more “postworthy.” In some cases the desire to take photos of ourselves has been amplified by the instant gratification of digital cameras. As a generation, we have become obsessed with perception and image, but I think this obsession is worth combating.

So I believe in disposable cameras. They capture the moment in a way that is raw and real. They remove focus from how you look and place it on the memory. They remove the availability of instant gratification. They build up patience as you wait for your film to be developed. They build up commitment because you have to complete the whole role before taking it to be developed. They break down narcissism driven by the need to post every photo on social media. They leave less room for insecurity since people are less focused on how they look immediately after the photo is taken. They make taking photos way more intentional about capturing the memory for what it is, not just how you looked.

You see, the beautiful thing about disposable cameras is the waiting. In this waiting an anticipation grows. Nostalgia forms. Once you can finally see the developed photo, you are less worried about how you look in it and instead you rest and reminisce on the memory pictured.

I believe in Discipline

Author: Juan Carlos Cruz, Baylor Student, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core

The term Discipline carries a lot of meaning. Some definitions are good, some are bad. Everyone experiences discipline in one way or another. Discipline could mean the response of a parent to a disobedient child. Discipline could be art, skill, or trade. Lastly, discipline could be a repetitive action that brings about a desired outcome.

I experienced discipline very differently as a child compared to now. For the most part, I experienced discipline externally. And when I say externally, I mean my parents. My house had a clear set of rules and boundaries. Mom and Dad held the authority and ability to impose discipline on my sister and me. I think most kids would say they do not enjoy the discipline of their parents. Yet in hindsight, we realize that those rules, boundaries, and consequences were for our good.

Once I got to college, I experienced discipline in a whole new way. I learned that no one was going to be around to set those rules and boundaries for me. For a while, I enjoyed the freedom. The fun ended when I discovered that a lack of discipline results in a lack of fruit in your life. I started to implement new physical and spiritual disciplines in my life along with my friends. Learning discipline in the community is a great way to grow. As I implement more discipline in my life, the fruit grows. It hasn’t all been perfect though. My greatest struggle with discipline is that it is not congruent with immediate results. Discipline rewards time, consistency, and patience. You may not see the fruit in the short-term. In fact, you will probably have to sacrifice more than you receive. But I have come to learn that the fruit of discipline is always more fruitful than short-term satisfaction.

I’ve only begun to learn discipline as art and skill. As I gain experience in my passion and purpose, my skill and talent grow. This is another facet of discipline that shows itself through time. Talent and skill can only grow over time. Practice is discipline manifested.

I believe part of what draws me to discipline is the character of God. I know him to be a loving father, who corrects and forgives. He provides boundaries for us so that the fruit of our lives may grow, and he provides boundless Grace through his son Jesus so that we might know him. I have come to know Jesus intimately through the spiritual disciplines I have formed in my life. Like any other relationship, knowing Jesus takes time and intentionality. Finally, I get to be a part of God’s beautiful purpose and creation through my own creative expression. What an honor!

I believe in Walks

Author: Ambree Meek, Graduate Student, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work Intern, One Heart Ministry Associate, Spirituality and Public Life, Office of Spiritual Life

Walks with great purpose, rushing upward or downward toward a beautiful destination. Walks that lead you to the highest peaks or bring you to the edge of the ocean, enjoying the vast diversity of creation.

I believe in walks in circles, those with no destination in mind. Around your neighborhood, looping the Bear Trail, walking just to walk—exercise, sunshine, and maybe a furry friend using the bathroom.

I believe in contemplative walks alone. Time to meditate, pray, and observe the world around you. Smiling as others jog by, waving to the front porch sitters and cars driving along.

I believe in walks with friends. Those with two legs or four, enjoying time together and catching up on everything under the sun. Arriving at your destination, or back where you started, being surprised by the time and distance that flew by in blink.

I believe in walks. Those with a destination in mind, those without. Those centered on centering yourself, or supporting and caring for another. Those for exercise, those for sunlight, those for leaving the world, and those for entering it.

Take some time to go on a walk…you won’t regret it…

I believe in Sacred Space

Author: Tyler Conway, Coordinator for Recruitment and Training, Office of Spiritual Life

When I say I believe in sacred space, I’m not merely talking about the space in which we occupy. I’m talking about those moments in time where everything seems to stop, and God’s presence becomes so overwhelming it’s undeniable.

I’ve had my fair share of religious experiences, but few are particularly out of the ordinary. I’ve been to many worship services. I’ve been moved by the music and the sermon. I can even recall the intense emotion I felt when I was called to ministry the summer before my senior year of high school. I remember feeling scared, excited, and even somewhat confused about my future considering I had decided to drop my plans of going into the medical field. That loss of security felt like a punch to the stomach, but a good punch, if that makes any sense.

The ironic thing is that I still found myself working in a medical setting, except not as a medical practitioner, but as a hospital chaplain. I guess God really does have a sense of humor.

Despite having what I would call numerous religious experiences, I’ve hardly been one to give much thought to the sacredness of particular moments. I believe God is always present wherever we find ourselves. However, there is one moment where God’s presence felt unusually intense during my time as a hospital chaplain.

When I had received a call from the nurse on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I was informed that a newborn baby was declining and that the mother wanted her baby to be baptized. When I arrived to the unit, I discovered that the mother was a patient I had visited earlier that week. The first time I visited her she was still pregnant and asked me to pray for her baby, and now I was meeting her baby face to face.

I remember all of us gathering around the baby boy as I approached with the water for baptism. I suddenly felt many emotions all at once. I saw the baby struggling to stay alive, a distraught mother, a frantic father, and a comforting grandmother. As I looked upon their baby boy, tears began to well up in my eyes along with the tears of the family and nurses. I dipped my finger in the water and made the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead, and as I was doing so I spoke the child’s name and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

When I spoke these words, I remember feeling something of a tremendous peace in the chaos of emotions. Even now, the only word I know to describe what was happening in that room is holy.

Now, how can something be both tragic and holy? I still haven’t quite figured that out, but I believe that’s what it was. Nothing else seemed to matter in that moment, that moment I was sharing with the medical staff, the family, and their precious child. In that moment, I had all the assurance I needed that God was present and that what was happening was something sacred. I was standing on holy ground.